Islamophobia and antisemitism: What is, and what isn’t, bigoted?

April 27, 2016

There's currently a great deal of talk about Islamophobia and anti-semitism in the UK press. You won't be surprised to hear me say I am very firmly against both forms of prejudice. However, I suspect many would consider me guilty of one or other. I suspect many Muslims or Muslim-supporters would consider me Islamophobic because, say, I consider the religion of Islam one root cause of much contemporary terrorism. On the other hand, I don't doubt some Jews or Israeli-supporters would consider me anti-semitic because, say, I think the attacks on Gaza were disproportionate and unjustified, or because I am broadly sympathetic to non-violent methods of Palestinian resistance, such as their BDS campaign - Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. It may well be that I'm just mistaken about what is and isn't Islamophobic/anti-semitic, and I genuinely want to be guilty of neither, so I thought I would arrange various claims according to whether I consider them Islamophobic or not and anti-semitic or not, to get your feedback.

I DO consider the following claims Islamophobic:

All Muslims should be forcibly removed to Arab countries (e.g. from the U.S. or from Israel)

Muslims all want to take over the world (and place it under sharia)

The Muslims are secretly plotting to take over the world (and place it under sharia)

Muslims are cockroaches and rats

Muslims are a source of moral depravity

Muslims are bigots (homophobic, racist, sexist, etc.)

I DO consider the following claims anti-semitic:

All Jews should be forcibly removed to the USA (e.g. from Israel)

Jews all want to take over the world (and place it under Zionist control)

The Jews are secretly plotting to take over the world (and place it under Zionist control)

Jews are cockroaches and rats

Jews are a source of moral depravity

Jews are bigots (Islamophobic, gentile-phobic, etc.)

However, I DO NOT consider the following claims Islamophobic (that is NOT to say I agree with them all, or consider them all unobjectionable, please note!)

It would have been better had Islam never existed

Islam is a major cause of terrorist attacks and atrocities

Islam is a poisonous and destructive religion

Many Muslims are horribly bigoted against Jews, women, and gays.

There should be a boycott/sanctions against countries like Saudi Arabia that engage in such violent attacks in Yemen (and spread violent wahabist ideology).

The pro-Saudi lobby has had an undue and damaging influence on Western foreign policy.

Similarly, I DO NOT consider the following claims anti-semitic (that is NOT to say I agree with them all, or consider them all unobjectionable, please note!)

It would have been better had Israel never existed.

Israel is a major cause of terrorist attacks and atrocities

Israel is a poisonous and destructive state

Many Jews are horribly bigoted against Palestinians.

There should be a boycott/sanctions against countries like Israel that engage in such violent attacks in Gaza.

The pro-Israel lobby has had an undue and damaging influence on Western foreign policy.

Of course I acknowledge anti-semites might well say such (I think) non-anti-semitic things. But what I do currently deny is that their saying such things automatically qualifies them as anti-semites.

Similarly, I acknowledge many Islamophobes say similar things about Muslims. But that does not automatically make them Islamophobes.

But am I right? I am offering this as a platform for discussion. For example, many consider the Palestinian BDS campaign against Israel intrinsically antisemitic, whereas I do not. Nor do I consider the claim that it would have been better if Islam had never existed, or that Israel had never existed, Islamophobic/antisemitic. That might suprise some of you. If you think I'm mistaken, why am I mistaken?

P.S. Notice I understand Islamopohobia to be a prejudice against Muslims as people, not mere criticism of Islamic belief, in the same way as I understand anti-semitism to be prejudice against Jews as people, not mere criticism of Jewish religious belief or the State of Israel.


#1 Gurdur (Guest) on Wednesday April 27, 2016 at 5:52am

” 1) It would have been better had Islam/Israel never existed.
2) Islam/Israel is a major cause of terrorist attacks and atrocities.
3) Islam/Israel is a poisonous and destructive religion/state.”

These 3 statements seem way overboard, and only too redolent of phobia. They are also factually wrong, in that:
1) This doesn’t come with any counterfactual or alternate-history analysis; it remains an unsupported assertion, and one that may well be impossible to support in any factual way, given the analytical difficulties. Therefore simply a statement of prejudice.

2) Ignores a very real difference in different nationalities of Muslims. You don’t see all that many Turkish terrorists operating outside Turkey. This ignores a huge factor - the enabling of narcissism. Origin of terrorists operating outside their own countries often bound up with a constant education in narcissism and putative victimhood.

When blaming Israel, it’s like blaming women for being raped.

3) Like (2), this ignores big differences within Islam. Again in both the case of Israel and Islam,. it seems mere unsupported prejudice.

The rest of the statements underneath those seem at least tentatively more open to rational discussion.

#2 Corine Buechner (Guest) on Wednesday April 27, 2016 at 6:13am

I disagree that the term Islamophobia is a predudice against Muslims, since Islam refers to a religion, not a people, and phobia is an irrational fear. Fear of the harms of religious doctrine can be completely rational. But I agree with your examples of statements which reveal predudice and those which don’t, though I don’t agree with all of them. If we are opposed to destructive ideas and behaviors its important for us to be clarify that carefully in our discourse to avoid predudiced speech. We also need to be careful to avoid calling others racist when they have criticized ideas. Criticism of all ideas is essential for the progress of our species. So, thanks for pointing out the sometimes subtle difference between legitimate criticism and prejudiced speech.

#3 Nathan (Guest) on Wednesday April 27, 2016 at 6:32am

I broadly agree with your categorisations, but I think that some of the things that you have listed as not Islamophobic/anti-Semitic are somewhat context dependent. On their own they are all fairly sensible, but if they were coming from someone who held Islamophobic/anti-Semitic views, then they probably should be considered as examples of it in that context - of course, that certainly doesn’t mean that other people using them are Islamophobic/anti-Semitic.

One easy to describe example is where someone says that “Islam is a poisonous and destructive religion”. If they only hold such disdain for Islam and not other religions, then it seems quite Islamophobic to me. If they hold such disdain for all or several religions, then they would be considered more anti-theistic or anti-religious rather than Islamophobic. The context here is the thing that conveys whether the statement is discriminatory or not.

Without context, I think that we should be somewhat charitable in our interpretations of people’s statements when they are reasonable (ie. there is a reasonable way to arrive at them) and withhold accusations of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism until they are supported by clear evidence. People can also be challenged by asking them to explain their statements a little without levelling accusations (which often derail conversations), and usually the result will give more context and clarify whether or not they are bigoted.

#4 DougEBarr on Wednesday April 27, 2016 at 6:42am

The claims you do not consider anti-semitic should have begun with, it would have been better if Judaism never existed. If all religions and philosophies never existed humanity wouldn’t be so fatally divided.

#5 Gurdur (Guest) on Wednesday April 27, 2016 at 6:48am

If all religions and philosophies had never existed, we wouldn’t be human. There are two defining traits to being human; mental creativity and independence. Division as such is not necessarily a bad thing; and to pretend humans could be magically united were it not for [insert fav here] totally ignores all the evidence from biology, zoology and experience.

#6 Phil (Guest) on Wednesday April 27, 2016 at 7:15am

- It would have been better had Islam never existed
- Islam is a major cause of terrorist attacks and atrocities
- Islam is a poisonous and destructive religion

I’d say that these *are* Islamophobic statements. Apart from anything else, a poisonous and destructive religion which would have been better off not existing is the kind of thing one might reasonably seek to ban, and whose adherents it might be appropriate to discriminate against.

On the other hand, I struggle to see anti-semitism in the statement about relocating Israel to the USA; it’s interesting that none of the mainstream media commentary on the Naz Shah story has come right out and called it anti-semitic. It’s certainly anti-Zionist, and as such demonstrates disrespect for an awful lot of people (although Herzl himself considered alternative locations, Uganda included). But I can’t see how it directly attacks Jews *as Jews*, in the same way that denouncing Islam attacks Muslims as Muslims.

#7 Stacey C. on Wednesday April 27, 2016 at 9:56am

I think that one of the big issues vis a vis Israel is separating antisemitism from anti-Zionism. For instance, I am anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian but not antisemitic. I think that there are tons of really great people who just happen to be Jewish. But I would not count illegal settlers and those who support them among that group. I think you’re broadly right about the general list but as others have mentioned the statements are sometimes different depending on context. I *am* of the opinion that people have been fighting over things other than religion since the dawn of civilization and so religion cannot be uniquely singled out for recrimination. And as always, attacking an idea is not the same as attacking a person who holds an idea. The former is important for rational discourse but the latter is usually counter-productive at best.

#8 Piers Benn on Wednesday April 27, 2016 at 11:01am

I think I agree with all, or at least most, of your judgements of the statements on your list. I wonder whether it would be better to clarify at the outset, and not at the end, that you consider Islamophobia to be prejudice against Muslims rather than against Islam - an interpretation that I agree with. (All too often, criticism of Islamic beliefs or practices are confused with prejudice against Muslims as individuals). If you don’t clarify that from the start, people might start reading through the list and think (e.g.): ‘Yes, I agree that Islam is a bad religion, so therefore a certain degree of Islamophobia is perfectly justified, and not a prejudice at all - although of course, that doesn’t justify prejudice against Muslims’.

A few other thoughts. One of the things that bedevils comparison between anti-semitism and Islamophobia is that there is an asymmetry at the outset: with regard to Islamophobia, the distinction is between dislike of Islam and dislike of Muslims, whereas with regard to anti-semitism, the distinction is between opposition to Israel’s policies or even existence, and dislike of Jews. The Jewish religion is rarely mentioned. I wonder if it’s worth working in that point, just to clarify things.

Next, we all know that accusations of anti-semitism or Islamophobia arise, not always because the accuser thinks that it is anti-semitic/Islamophobic to say certain things *per se*, but because saying those things is taken to be strong *evidence* of the prejudice in question. You are rightly appealing (implicitly) to a principle of charity - don’t accuse people of these prejudices unless they actually state them. I think you would well to hammer this point home, since many readers may think you are just nit-picking. Make it clear that this is a very important kind of nit-picking, if that is what it is!

Next, here is a thought you might want to work in somehow - there are times when it is quite difficult to separate our dislike of a view from a dislike of the person holding it. Imagine someone said ‘I hate neo-nazism, but I have nothing against neo-nazis’. That would be odd, because choosing to be a neo-nazi does appear to say something about your character. But then, what about someone who chooses to be a Muslim? If there are objectionable things about Islam, it would be hard to separate completely the judgement of the religion from the judgement of the person. That might explain why people might see prejudice against Muslims as underlying opposition to Islam. The strictly logical thing to say here might be: ‘yes, if someone adopts a bad religion, that says something bad about them’. Understandably, few people want to say this publictly, because of the accusations it would draw and the distraction it would cause. But *should* they be afraid to draw this conclusion?

Still, I think what you say here is all very much worth saying.

#9 Damian (Guest) on Wednesday April 27, 2016 at 1:47pm


You cannot see how the suggestion that more than six million Jews be banished from their homeland and transported to another continent might be anti-Semitic, or discriminatory against Jews, but you’re concerned that criticizing Islam in the way that e.g. Richard Dawkins regularly does amounts to anti-Muslim bigotry? Could it be that you need to give all this a little more thought? (This is the mildest possible way I can think to say that I am absolutely flabbergasted by your comment.)


It’s nice to hear that you’re “anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian but not antisemitic”. This makes me wonder, what do you think about Hamas? Do you think they’re *not* anti-Semitic?

#10 Damian (Guest) on Wednesday April 27, 2016 at 2:05pm


Why use the term “Islamophobia” (rather than e.g. anti-Muslim bigotry) when you mean to refer to “prejudice against Muslims as people”? Don’t you think there are far too many people trying to demonise critics of Islam as racists or bigots as it is? Unless you have good reasons for using “Islamophobia”, I’d urge you to change this to “anti-Muslim bigotry”.

#11 Stacey C. on Wednesday April 27, 2016 at 2:30pm


I am not pro-Hamas. However, Hamas has become a symptom of an apartheid state made all the more convoluted and complicated by the division of religion between the two parties. I watched videos of Israelis, who are largely protected by Iron Shield, setting up couches to drink beer and watch Palestinians be bombed during the last conflict. I see Palestinian *and* Beduin homes and villages being razed to make way for *forests* and settlements. I see Palestinian children, who *have* been taught to hate Jews, I don’t argue that, being carted off to jail and *tortured*. So, it’s a complicated thing. I don’t think Hamas is good for Palestinians. But I don’t think that the Palestinians will magically do better by disavowing Hamas.

#12 Old Rockin' Dave (Guest) on Wednesday April 27, 2016 at 2:54pm

What are we to make of Gazan children interviewed by the BBC saying they want to kill the “Yahud”, or Jew? And then what are we to make of the BBC voiceover changing every “Yahud” to “Israeli”?
The simple fact is that Palestinian and other Arab leaders, clergy, and media pump out endless anti-Semitic hatred. They repeat every anti-Semitic trope, right on down to the horrific blood libel. Children are taught in school and in children’s TV shows to hate, and want to kill, “the Jew”. Their leaders speak differently when they are speaking English, French, or any other language except Arabic. In English it’s “peace, peace, peace” but in Arabic, it’s “Jews are pigs and apes, Jews must die. Jews are solely responsible for your plight, Jews are committing genocide”. Jews often enough, not only Israelis or Zionists. Many Israelis can tell you about this, since so many of them can speak and read Arabic; it’s there for anyone else who does to see and hear. This poison spreads throughout the greater Islamic world. Nazi war criminals found asylum in Syria and Egypt. Is there something anti-Semitic about that? Bookshops in Arab countries sell “Mein Kampf”, a book that never mentions zionism or Zionists. Is it because they want to teach how evil Hitler was, or could there be another reason?
Palestinian and other Muslim extremist terrorists go abroad not just to target Israelis, but to massacre Jews. There are too many incidents to list here.
How about the labeling of Western governments as “Zionist” or “Zionist controlled”? “Zionist” is often used as a codeword for Jewish. Just look and you will see it.
From there it goes abroad. BDS supporters attack kosher stores. Jews are demanded to take a “loyalty oath”, swearing that they don’t support Israel, before they are permitted in student governments, or music festivals.
It’s very hard to tease out the anti-Semitism from the opposition to Israel or its policies. Certainly, not all critics of Israel are anti-Semitic, but too often “I’m not anti-Semitic, I’m anti-Zionist” is merely pro forma, the equivalent of “Some of my best friends are Jews”.

#13 Mark (Guest) on Wednesday April 27, 2016 at 3:18pm

Quite fair.

I had an internal thought the other day, that I might at some point, be asked if I “like” Islam. It occurred to me that in my 54 years, I’d never been asked if I “like” a religion, but now this could happen it seems and the answer in the case of Islam should apparently be “Yes”.

If you say no, you are, by default, without even explaining your case, an Islamophobe. But who decides that? Nutty clerics? Muslim “social commentators”? Muslim organisations? The BBC? Channel 4? Possibly all of them.

I don’t like Islam as written. I do not consider the koran perfect. I do not consider Mohammed perfect. I do not like how it is implemented around the world. If it has tenets to look after the elderly, I would say that you don’t need submission to a god in order to do that. And so on.

Otherwise, like all wishful thinkers regarding “Islam” I might point at the nice people I have known and say if they are doing Islam, then we’ll go with that. But historically, textually and country contemporary, I do not like it. So shoot me.

#14 Damian (Guest) on Wednesday April 27, 2016 at 3:31pm


Thanks for your clarifications. No doubt there are Israelis like the ones you have seen on videos, but then there are also many who would strongly condemn such things who do not make it onto such videos. There are also Palestinians who will celebrate the “martrydom” of their own children when they kill themselves along with Israelis in “sacred explosions”, and who say they’d like to see all Jews exterminated, but likewise, there are also many who would strongly condemn such things.

So yes, complicated it certainly is, but for that very reason I think one has to be careful not to simply “take sides” as if it were a matter of supporting one or another football team, and I do worry that you might be doing this when you proclaim your “anti-Zionist pro-Palestinian” allegiances. Do you also take clear sides when it comes to the conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims?

Anyway, this is all way too much to get into here, and we’d be derailing the thread, but in view of the complexities you mention I’d urge you to beware of biased sources (and when it comes to these matters virtually *all* sources are biased), consider all sides of the argument, try to avoid confirmation bias on your own part, and be wary of falling for what Bertrand Russell once called “the fallacy of the superior virtue of the oppressed”.

#15 Paul M (Guest) on Wednesday April 27, 2016 at 9:27pm

“It would have been better had Islam never existed”

It would be possible to argue this without hating Muslims or others who disagree. It is possible to make a case that Islam as too-often currently practiced is the direct cause of too much suffering in the world (the majority of it inflicted on Muslims themselves). Presumably the people who are Muslim in this universe would be blissfully unaware of what they were missing in that alternative one and would probably be members of some other religion—most likely Christianity.

The corresponding statement on the antisemitic/non-antisemitic side would be “it would have been better had Judaism never existed” and you can argue similarly for that one without hating Jews. Perhaps you could even make a stronger case as, without Judaism, neither Christianity or Islam would exist—so a world without Judaism would automatically be a world without Islam too.

“It would have been better had Israel never existed” is something different. Better for whom? If you mean better for the Jews, you would have a tough time showing that continued existence as a diaspora only, with the all too well known consequences that attend perpetual dispersal, minority status & powerlessness would be better than our current situation. You would also have to explain why your opinion of what’s “better for the Jews” should carry more weight than our own, overwhelming opinion of what is better for us. On the other hand, if you mean “It would have been better for the rest of us had Israel never existed” then the unspoken part of that statement is “... and to hell with the Jews.” I would call that antisemitic, yes. And I think I’m tempted to add that offering that question as the counterpoise to the existence-of-Islam one is a demonstration of how easy it is to slip accidentally across the line into bigoted ways of thinking especially, for some reason, when it’s Israel being discussed.

#16 Jurek Molnar (Guest) on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 1:07am

The equation between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism is wrong. They are two completely different phenomena and pose completely different problems.

First of all, what is called Islamophobia is a problem that has a reference in reality, while anti-Semitism has not.
Bigotry and racism against Muslims, which exists on a large scale, is a problem that concerns real people and can be negotiated. There is mass immigration and there are social issues connected to them. I have been part of anti-racism initiatives where people in difficult areas where tensions between migrants and native populations were discussed in large gatherings, which were moderated and managed from this initiative.
The native people could express their concerns and their anger, the migrants as well. In the end migrants learn how certain behaviour is interpreted by the natives and natives learned what the migrants originally had in mind. Racism exists, but it can be tackled through negotiation, dialogue, social engineering.

This is not the case with anti-Semitism. First of all, because most anti-Semites regard themselves not as one, and second, because anti-Semitism does not have any connection to whatever reality.
Never has been an anti-Semite cured from his delusion by talking to Jews, because there is not a social or any other problem, but the fact that anti-Semites employ a fantasy about the subject no fact checking reasonable mind can dissolve. Anti-Semitism is a desire to hate, Jews mostly, but also any other who doesn’t conform to this mindframe.
The problem is not what kind of critical opinion on Israel is anti-Semitic or not, but that the mainstream of “critical opinion about Israel” does not distinguish between accurate or anti-Semitic arguments. The goal is to demonize Israel, becasue only the equation Israel is the new Nazi State or Gaza the new Warsaw ghetto, does even generate media attention.

Critical opinions on Israel are mostly anti-Semitic, because every realistic and fact based criticism was shit down and made silent, because it has no sensational news in it, other than the conclusion that the situation is complicated and is not done by a simple sentence. Only a Nazi comparison makes Israel critics visible. Only the constant demonisation as “apartheid state” and worst human rights violator in the world guarantees Israel critic a place in television and media.

Since anti-Semitism has nothing to do with reality the ignorance of any real problem and crazy exaggeration of maybe otherwise legitimate concerns is the daily business of Israel critics.

#17 Mark Jones (Guest) on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 1:35am

My interpretation of the post suggests a certain amount of point missing from one or two commenters. When Law says ‘their saying such things automatically qualifies them as anti-semites [/Islamophobes]’ I take that to mean that there is something about the phrase that is automatically, irreducibly, anti-semitic/Islamophobic; the phrase ‘Jews/Muslims are cockroaches and rats’ surely is such a phrase. But if a phrase is ‘redolent’, for example, of anti-semitism’ or Islamophobia, that seems to concede Law’s point, because it suggests the phrase reduces to another, anti-semitic, or Islamophobic, point.

If someone makes a demand that Israel should never have been created it could be that is because they have a political objection to the founding of the state; or it could be because they think that Jews are cockroaches, and don’t want them there. The first doesn’t seem to me to be *automatically* anti-semitic, while the second is. Of course, someone could arrive at their political anti-Zionist position because they think Jews are cockroaches, but that is to allow that the anti-semitism of the anti-Zionist reduces to another, more basic, anti-semitic position.

What is needed, then, is a reason to believe that saying ‘It would have been better had Israel never existed’ is anti-semitic *in itself* in the way that ‘Jews are cockroaches and rats’ is obviously anti-semitic *in itself*. It’s not obvious to me that it is, while acknowledging it is often a claim of anti-semites.

That’s just my reading of the piece, however. I may be misreading the writer’s intentions; it’s a very easy thing to do!

#18 Phil (Guest) on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 2:50am

Damian - I can certainly see how the statement posted by Naz Shah might be antisemitic - in the same way that if I tell you I hate Mohammed next door, that might be Islamophobic on my part (I might hate him for completely different reasons, and might not have any problem with Muslims as a group).

Do we know it’s anti-semitic? No. It’s anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli, and offensive to anyone who identifies with or invests emotionally in Zionism or the state of Israel - which includes most Jews. But it doesn’t attack Jews or Judaism as such.

You may say that there’s no difference between attacking all Jews and saying something that’s offensive to the majority of Jews. In that case I must respectfully disagree, for the simple reason that I believe that opposition to Zionism is a legitimate political position - with Jewish as well as non-Jewish adherents - and one that shouldn’t be outlawed because of the offence expressing it causes to its opponents.

#19 Tony Vance (Guest) on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 3:05am

I think you are correct.

#20 Stephen Law (Guest) on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 5:20am

A first brief response. Yes I agree that someone’s saying something that is not intrinsically antisemitic might be evidence they are antisemitic.

Here’s an analogy. Suppose that someone continues to insist the evidence shows same sex couples make less good parents then hetero couples even after the vast bulk of the evidence contradicts this. The claim that same sex couples make less good parents is not intrinsically homophobic. However, continuing to hold that view when the evidence clearly contradicts it is evidence that the person saying it is homophobic, I think. Why else would they continue to maintain the position in the teeth of good evidence to the contrary?

However, I am not sure that the evidence is sufficiently decisive re those claims I suggest are not intrinsically antisemitic or Islamophobic to establish that someone making a particular claim is very likely a bigot. It seems to me, currently, that someone might very well honestly maintain such a position and not out of bigotry. They might be mistaken. Their mistake might even be fairly obvious to others. But that doesn’t entail they’re a bigot.

For when it comes to politics, the fact is that rational, fair-minded people do disagree, and not necessarily because of unacknowledged prejudices on one side or the other.

In any case, I do maintain that there’s nothing intrinsically bigoted about the last two sets of remarks, and that the onus would be very much on those making an accusation of bigotry to provide considerably more evidence.

#21 Jurek Molnar (Guest) on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 5:47am

@Stephen Law

I think you do gravely misunderstand the problem here.
The debate what makes a certain sentence anti-Semitic or not is completely meaningless and does only refer to the speaker himself, how moral as a subject he or she perceives his/her language.

One who writes: <quote>I don’t support “Israel”</quote> is an anti-Semite, although the content of his sentence is not. You cannot reduce ideology to the meaning of words, ignoring the space in which they are expressed.

What some may call Islamophobia is a conflict of real people who identity themselves as “us” and “them” in a social reality. Racism can be tackled through politics, by encouraging dialogue and cultural exchange, where people learn to judge by positive experience.

Nothing of this sort is possible in the case of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is a fantasy. It is a delusion about the fabric of the world, which does not refer to social realities, but the ideological horizon of the speaker. The sentence “Zionists are responsible for earthquakes” is in your definition not an anti-Semitic sentence, because it does not refer to Jews and offers a speculation about a certain perception, but in any perception which is not blatantly naive it refers to a delusional mind. People who think that Hitler was a supporter of Zionism does not make derogatory comment about Jews, but is clearly an anti-Semite. Also people who describe Gaza as the new Warsaw ghetto, and honestly spoken, all people who use the term Zionism in any way than to refer to a nationalist ideology of the 19th century invented by Theodor Herzl.

Anti-Semitism as the great German philosopher Adorno once wrote is the “rumour about the Jews”.

An anti-Semite may not refer to Jews, or even Israel, but he expresses anti-Semitism because the ideological space in which anti-Semitism happens is vast. A fantasy has no limits.

#22 Stephen Law (Guest) on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 6:05am

Jurek - see my previous comment. “Zionists (or Jews) are responsible for earthquakes” is not intrinsically antisemitic but is very, very good evidence we are dealing with an anti-semite because it is so completely ludicrous and contrary to all the evidence. Though it could yet conceivably turn out to be true. I take it true claims cannot be antisemitic.

#23 Stephen Law (Guest) on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 6:10am

PS I propose a new term: Zion+ist. A Zion+ist is someone who believes Israel is entitled to more territory than lies within its pre-67 borders. If I zionist is someone who thinks Israel should exist, I am a Zionist. But I am not a Zion+ist. And in fact I consider Zion+ists who consequently support Israeli settlements on Palesinian land a real menace and obstacle to peace.

If critics of the project of a Greater Israel start using this term to characterise the views of those they oppose, that would be very helpful, I think.

#24 Stephen Law on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 6:19am

PS To suppose it would have been better had Israel never existeed is not to suppose that there shouldn’t be a Jewish State or that Israel should not cease to exist, please not. Prof Ted Honderich takes the former view but not the view that Israel should now cease to exist.

#25 Jurek Molnar (Guest) on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 6:41am

@Stephen Law

Thanks for responding. It is a pleasure to have such an educated discussion.
I have no special opinion about Ted Honderich, although I didn’t like his book “After the terror”, but the point is: it is not my concern how to qualify a certain opinion. It is also not my favourite occupation to call a person an anti-Semite, because I don’t like his or her ideas. The problem of anti-Semitism is not the speaker or what “evidence” points to the contrary. The problem of anti-Semitism is that reason or proof or thinking becomes meaningless and has no say. The idea that a sentence about Zionists and earthquakes is not “intrinsically anti-Semitic” reflects a focus on the speaker, and the idea there must be a reason for the expression, a reason that can be determined by your intellectual abilities.

There is no question of “evidence”, because someone who thinks that Zionists are responsible for earthquakes will not be impressed by evidence against it. the more ludicrous the thought the more plausible it is for such a mind. Your problem seems to be that you think that anti-Semitism can be negotiated on the level of reasonable debate and what kind of proof you display. That’s a very dangerous attitude.

#26 Damian (Guest) on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 6:51am


When you say “I believe that opposition to Zionism is a legitimate political position”, what do you have in mind by “Zionism”, exactly? Does support for the existence of the State of Israel in the Middle East qualify? In other words, do you think that the statement posted by Naz Shah represents “a legitimate political position”?

#27 Damian (Guest) on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 6:58am


Since I take it you wrote this post in light of the furore surrounding Naz Shah, I’m curious to know what you think about it. Was she guilty of anti-Semitism, in your opinion? Do you think the content of the graphic she posted was in any way anti-Semitic?

Oh, and you didn’t address my question about use of the term “Islamophobia” above.

#28 Paul M (Guest) on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 7:15am

@Stephen Law

To suppose it would have been better had Israel never existed flings the door wide open to all those people who are quite happy to try to make Israel cease to exist now. Unless people who hold the former position are willing to be remorseless in their opposition to the latter, they are too casual about the antisemitic consequences of their opinions.

But going beyond that, try to defend the claim that “it would be better had Israel never existed”: Explain precisely why; how it would be better for Jews; or, if it wouldn’t, why it’s right to make the Jews pay the cost of someone else’s comfort. Then come back to the question of whether it’s an antisemitic thing to say.

#29 Stacey C. on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 7:32am

I agree heartily with the idea of Zion+ism. That is what i am opposed to as well.

@Jurek Molnar

Can you clarify somewhat? Are you suggesting that one can’t criticize the settlers and the destruction of Palestinian and Bedouin settlements without being inherently anti-Semitic? Without also acknowledging the validity of Israel as an autonomous state within the pre-67 borders? And that the majority of Israelis and Jews are probably perfectly lovely people? And also to acknowledge that the Palestinians are not totally innocent players who have also acted in bad faith but against a technologically far superior foe?

This to me sounds very dangerous and also seems to be more and more popular here in the US where the Israeli lobby is rather powerful. This is not conspiracy nor is it a moral judgement, people have every right to be nationalistic and support their causes of choice. What is a problem is when they use that power to try to silence genuine critics, those who support BDS, for instance.

#30 Jurek Molnar (Guest) on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 8:45am

@Stacey C.

I can clarify that your words are telling what’s on your mind. The common ground of all anti-Semitism is the idea to be the victim. Self victimisation is the key to identify with the Palestinians. They must suffer, so you have good conscience. So you are a victim of the Jewish Lobby for instance, which is of course no conspiracy theory but that’s what every lunatic tells me.
The Jewish Lobby is so powerful, that Iran got its nuclear deal and Obama turned away from the Middle East, holding hands with Sunni Extremists in Syria. It is so powerful that UN councils only target Israel for human right violation while all the torture dictatorships like the one of Assad is a partner for the West against ISIS. So powerful that Israel critics pop up every corner, claiming that Gaza is the new Warsaw Ghetto and their only thought is, how oppressed they are by the Jewish lobby.

Let me tell you, this is so ridiculous and miserable, that a word like anti-Semitic doesn’t even occur to me. This is just the usual weak mind that has never thought anything through.

Anti-Semitism is a fantasy. The propaganda against Israel relies on fantasies and is the occupation (no pun intended) of people who have no spine and are just too stupid. It is most of all intellectual poverty.

The same goes for “the destruction of Palestine”. There is no destruction of Palestine. If anything the Israelis built Palestine. And the rebuild it every few years when Hamas is going for war. The settlers are just one obstacle to peace, but land can be turned over and houses left. It happened in Gaza, it can happen again. The settlers could also be partners for Palestinians providing know-how in agriculture, water desalination, cultivating the land. But that’s against the anti-Zionist narrative which wants Jews dead or out.

What you are totally missing is, that the Palestinians are claiming Jerusalem and the temple mount for themselves. For them there is no Jewish history and legitimacy in the Holy Land. They are fighting a religious war and their clerics preach to repeat the Holocaust, but the settlers are of course the biggest problem. The totalitarianism of extremist Islam is obviously no obstacle to peace, killing Jews is no obstacle to peace, but of course the settlers are. How would I call that? Stupidity, naivety, a boring mindframe.

The Palestinians are just puppets of foreign powers, their leaders are corrupt oligarchs and what propagandists of the Palestinian cause usually do is to fight to the last Palestinian, because that’s what they understand as the solution to the Jewish problem.

In other words: this bubble of lies and deluded fantasies that keep the pro Palestinians going is to continue to be the most unsuccessful political movement in history. They have done nothing, they have achieved nothing and they like to sacrifice again and again every Palestinian child, man and woman to satisfy their mindlessness.

Calling this anti-Semitic is just a question of wording. It is most of all idiotic.

#31 Stacey C. on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 9:22am

@Jurek Molnar
This is a complex problem and I have tried to make clear that I do not believe it is some sort of black and white conflict where one side is *right* and the other *wrong*. Yet you contend that my beliefs are intellectually lazy, the product of a “weak mind” because they do not match yours. I see, then, that you are not interested in a real discussion because you are a True Believer (TM).

#32 Paul M (Guest) on Thursday April 28, 2016 at 10:04am

@Stacey C

I’ve known Jurek (online) for a long time. He’s no true believer. He’s one of the most rational & reasonable people you can find in the Israel/Palestinian arena, but he’s been fighting the uphill battle against the excesses of Israel-hate for a long time and, apparently, he’s short on patience today.

At the risk of making you feel ganged up on, I want to respond to your comment #29:

The debate reached a point a long time ago such that defenders of Israel almost always feel obligated to preface their defense with something to the effect that “I don’t agree with everything Israel does” or “I’m against the settlements” or some other qualifier to show their moderation & sincerity. Given that so much of the BDS movement and the “criticism” of Israel is explicitly or implicitly eliminationist, it wouldn’t hurt at all for you to make clear that you support Israel within the Green Line, if you do.

The problem is that there is such an obsessive focus on Israel, such excessive blaming of Israel and so much desire to punish it as a result, that people throw caution to the wind in their accusations and are unable to see the antisemitism inherent in their own opinions and fail to see it (let alone oppose it) in others. Your comment contains examples:

- What Palestinian settlements have been destroyed?

- It’s popular to rail against the destruction of ad-hoc Bedouin villages and attempts to settle them in towns, but only if Israel does it. No one has said a word about the same process happening to Bedouin in Egypt or Jordan, nor the other nomadic populations similarly affected all over the world. So it’s not the treatment of nomads that is motivating people, is it? It’s Israel.

- It’s more than popular to complain about the “Israel lobby.” Do the oil rich Arab states not have a powerful lobby. How about the billion and a half Muslims of the world? Both groups are united by their loathing of Israel though by little else; they have numbers, and they have money which they spend — but no-one has been railing about the power of those lobbies. The notion of a supremely powerful Jewish lobby is old, false & dangerous, and “powerful Israel lobby” is barely a step away from “powerful Jewish lobby.” You do not have the right to ignore that context and pretend that your words are free of that freight.

You are entitled to have an opinion about the conflict, but it’s time to rethink what you think you know and what you think is fair to say. Anti-Zionism has been fueling, excusing and masking antisemitism for too long and it’s why we are where we are today.

#33 Damian (Guest) on Friday April 29, 2016 at 8:24am


You made what you called a “first brief response” and I hope you’ll find time to respond to some other points that have been raised — not to my questions, necessarily, which are hardly penetrating, but to some of the others: Paul M. puts some excellent questions to you about the “It would have been better had Israel never existed” statement, for example.

Assuming you don’t mind receiving a little further feedback, it seems to me that criticism of Israel on the Left is often motivated less by anti-Semitism than by by a different kind of bigotry — namely, the so-called “soft” bigotry or racism of low expectations and double standards.

This may seem a little tangential to the issues addressed in your post, but I do think it helps to shed some light on the issues you raise about bigotry regarding both Israel and Islam, so I hope you’ll take a moment to hear me out.

It seems to me that one of the principal reasons there are suspicions of anti-Semitism when people on the Left single out Israel for criticism is precisely that they *single out* Israel for criticism; that is, they fixate on it, on this one conflict over this small piece of land over and above all others, while entirely ignoring or else excusing the atrocities not only of e.g. Hamas or Hezbollah, but also of every other government or group in the region (or indeed anywhere else, in many cases—at least unless Western involvement can be demonstrated).

This is not true of everyone who criticises Israel, of course, but it is true of very many, and some of the most prominent and outspoken of such critics (e.g. Ken Livingston and George Galloway) not only fail to criticise other governments in the region, and Muslim leaders who call for a new Holocaust against the Jews (as well as e.g. supporting the death penalty for apostates from Islam, homosexuals, and even rape victims), but actively *befriend* them. Galloway embracing Saddam Hussain, Hassan Nasrallah and the Iranian regime, and Livingstone embracing and voicing support for Yusuf al-Qaradawi (even long after his view on e.g. Jews, homosexuals and women were made clear to him) are only two of many, many such examples I might cite.

But leaving aside for the moment the fact that so many critics of Israel seem happy to support virulently anti-Semitic organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, another important question for me is why so many on the Left are so vociferous in their criticism of Israel yet rarely have anything to say about the many other, far more oppressive, tyrannical, anti-democratic regimes in the region. Though I do not rule out anti-Semitism (at least as part of a narrative they buy end up buying into rather than as a psychological affliction they bring with them from the outset, as it were)—Jews have often been made the scapegoats for the world’s ills—I also often suspect that another kind of bigotry is in play, one that seems to go hand in glove with a kind of unreconstructed Chomskyism: that is, the all-too-common position on the Left that tends to blame all the evils of the world on “Western power” and “malign Western influence”, which neatly divides the world into imperialist Westerners on the one hand and their virtuous victims on the other, and which regards Israel as nothing but a US-backed Western colony in the Middle East. And the kind of racism I am suggesting often goes hand-in-glove with this is the racism of low expectations and double standards I mentioned above; that is, the kind of racism that implicitly regards “white” people (taken to include Jews) but not “non-white” people (taken to include all or most Muslims) as responsible for their own actions, and which even goes to the length of holding “white” people (and/or “Western power”) as somehow responsible for crimes committed by “non-white” people and their governments.

Thus, just as few of those in the “Black Lives Matter” movement ever seem to mention the fact that the vast majority of black people in the US are murdered not by white policemen but by other black people, and when this is pointed out to them seem to treat it as somehow less worthy of concern or outrage — as if black people killing other black people is to be expected, or as if black murderers are somehow less culpable, the assumption being that they too are victims of some form of systemic oppression — so it is with those who disproportionately fixate on Israel: that is, they rarely consider the fact that the vast majority of Muslims are killed not by Israelis, nor Westerners (and again, Jewish Israelis are always regarded as white Western colonialists rather than people native to the region), but by other Muslims, and when this is pointed out to them they tend to regard it as somehow less significant, as less worthy of outrage — as if Muslims killing other Muslims is to be expected, or as if Muslim murderers are somehow less culpable, the assumption being that they too are victims of the West and are only killing each other in some sense at the behest of Western powers (because e.g. “they’re Western-backed dictators” or “we helped to train them” or “the West sold them the arms” or “it’s because we invaded Iraq” etc.).

While it is of course true that some Western powers have at times supported some terrible regimes and organisations in one form or another, just as one should not overlook the fact that “black-on-black” violence is obviously strongly correlated with socio-economic deprivation, the problem is that there has long been a form of discourse on the Left that tends to treat “non-white” people (I use the scare quotes because I actually think there is a kind of “one drop rule” racism in the very categorisation) as if they were not agents at all; as if they were only ever the passive, virtuous victims of circumstances imposed upon and things done to them them by “white” people or “Western power”. And in my view this is not only a reprehensible form of racism in itself, one that is every bit as pernicious in its consequences as more explicit forms (indeed, perhaps even more so in several respects), but it also helps to explain why it is that well-intentioned people on the Left can treat a call for six million Jews to be banished from their homeland and transported to the United States with complete insouciance (or even joke among themselves about what a good “solution” it would be), yet regard any outspoken criticism of Islam (or even Islamism)—a religion/political ideology that richly deserves a whole lot of criticism of the kind that used to characterise Enlightenment, leftist, liberal and socialist discourse alike—as nothing less than a form of racism or hate crime, and thereby wind up doing the work of the OIC for them in their attempts to have criticism of Islam made a globally punishable crime and a violation of Muslims human rights (thereby in effect subordinating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to Sharia Law as in the so-called “Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam”).

All that said, I’m entirely open to being persuaded I’m wrong on some of these things and would be very interested to hear what you may have to say in response.

#34 Damian (Guest) on Friday April 29, 2016 at 8:29am

[Apologies for all the typos in the above.]

#35 Damian (Guest) on Friday April 29, 2016 at 12:46pm


How about this, a comment just posted on another blog:

“If someone says, in effect, that Israel is the only nation-state in the world that should pay for its real or imagined transgressions by ceasing to exist, that person is indeed antisemitic.”

That’s a very succinct way of putting it, and more would need to be said, but it sounds at least prima facie reasonable to me. You?

#36 stephen law (Guest) on Friday April 29, 2016 at 2:16pm

More response coming soon - sorry been tied up.

#37 Damian (Guest) on Friday April 29, 2016 at 2:52pm


Okay sure, take your time — I likely won’t get a chance to look in again till the end of the Bank Holiday anyway. Thanks for letting us know.

#38 stephen law (Guest) on Saturday April 30, 2016 at 2:55am

I’ll post this up in meantime. Since I wrote the post, Ken Livingstone has been suspended by The Labour Party having been accused of antisemitism. I can’t see that Ken has said anything intrinsically anti-semitic and have said so. Nigel Warburton - good friend of mine - pointed me at an article arguing that Ken’s anti-semtism may not be explicit but its there when you read between the lines. To this I have responded like so:
Yes I read that. It’s not the move I am making though (my point is the remark is not intrinsically antisemitic, not that there is definitely no antisemitic motive behind it, which is what this guy is claiming). Moreover, this chap fails to actually make the case that that IS Ken’s motive. And, having now looked at what Ken said, I am pretty confident it isn’t. Ken was attempting, poorly, to illustrate the difference between Zionism and antisemitism (Hitler antisemitic but not anti-Zionist - see?) by means of a dramatic example. He should have probably avoided using that illustration given it was bound to piss off some people. Why did he use it? My guess is: because he wanted to piss off those people - the kind of Zionists he opposes - and he knew using this example would do the trick. The whole tone of his piece is very very combative in their direction, and would have pissed them off anyway. Now choosing that example is very ill advised, given the antisemitism witch hunt mentality that’s currently out there. But again, it doesn’t make him antisemitic: just a poor strategist. I don’t think he is antisemitic. So to summarise: the comment is not intrinsically antisemitic. 2. The comment could conceivably indicate antisemitic prejudice. However it’s not at all clear that’s the case here, and in fact my best guess is Ken was merely using a dramatic example to illustrate a non-antisemitic point, an example that he should have avoided given the entirely predictable backlash. NONE of this makes him anti-semitic. It is not enough to say - “Well, he might still be antisemitic - often such prejudices aren’t explicit - you have to read between the lines’. True enough. But the onus is on his accusers to demonstrate that that clearly is the case here. And no one has done that. Certainly not this guy. They’ve just immediately jumped on the antisemitism bandwagon on the basis of crappy evidence. I strongly disapprove. That is as bad as shrieking ‘Islamophobe!” at Mariam Namazie when she points out many Muslims have a homophobia problem and that Islam isn’t a religion of peace, etc.

#39 Paul M (Guest) on Saturday April 30, 2016 at 9:15am

“Antisemitism witch hunt mentality” and “antisemitism bandwagon”? In other words, the accusations aren’t serious — or, at least, you’re not going to address them seriously. They’re just words people fling around to insult other people. Maybe to stifle debate?

You’re part of the problem, Stephen, and I wouldn’t have bothered commenting here if I’d realised that. You ask disingenuous questions about what constitutes antisemitism, when you already have an answer: Your criteria are so stringent that anyone not actually yelling “I hate Jews” can weasel their way through as far as you’re concerned.

There a thousand ways you can attack Israel or Zionism if you choose. Even if you’re going to go for something false or merely excessive, you can liken it to, say, Pol Pot. But people find themselves drawn irresistibly to linking the one, great Jewish collective enterprise to — of all things — the Nazis. Why the Nazis? Why would you want to twist the knife in the nearly-mortal, still fresh wound? Even if, for the sake of argument, it’s not _because_ you want to twist the knife, can you not see the antisemitism in not recognising how foul an act that is and taking care to avoid it? What would you say if it had become a commonplace to compare black people to the KKK?

#40 stephen law (Guest) on Sunday May 01, 2016 at 5:21am

Paul M

I will happily talk about an ‘Islamophobia band bandwagon’ - there are plenty of people who make dodgy accusations (against Mariam Namazie for example, in order to try to gag her). But then consistency requires I be prepared to say the same about those making dodgy accusations of anti-semitism.

I have explained why I don’t require proof, just pretty good evidence, before I will point a finger and accuse someone of Islamophobia and antisemitism. And I have explained why there appears to be a lack of such evidence supplied by Livingstone’s comment re Hitler and Zionism. If saying such things gets me accused of antisemitism, well that’s kind of ironic, isn’t it?

Of course I do recognise that there are many Jews who will be made uncomfortable by Ken’s remark, and some who will be downright upset and offended. I sympathize, and I think Ken should have avoided that example for that reason. But I am afraid the fact that people are upset and offended doesn’t make him guilty of antisemitism, any more than the fact that many Muslims are upset and offended by what Mariam Namazie says about Islam makes her guilty of Islamophobia.

What fundamentally bothers me about this debate is the weird double-standards in play. Those at the front of the queue exposing dodgy allegations of Islamophobia (against Mariam, say) are ironically, also front of the queue of those making dodgy accusations of antisemitism against Corbyn and Corbynites.

BTW are you based on the UK? If so, you should know that dodgy accusations of both antisemitism and Islamophobia are regulalrly made to try to shut down debate. Which is not to deny there are are not also many genuine instances of both Islamophobia and antisemitism.

#41 stephen law (Guest) on Sunday May 01, 2016 at 5:25am

PS a double standard is also employed the other way. Some of those who rightly object to dodgy accusations of antisemitism are among the most enthusiastic of witchunters when it comes to Islamophobia. Both sides have their McCarthyites, and in both cases that is a threat to free speech because it result in widespread self-censorship.

#42 Paul M (Guest) on Sunday May 01, 2016 at 12:03pm

I don’t have enough time to persist with debates that go nowhere, so this will most likely be it for me. You set this up as a request for input to help you form your opinion, but it’s clear now that your opinion is already set & not amenable to change.

I won’t comment on the Islamophobia debate; I’m not familiar enough with the pro’s & con’s of it to have a proper opinion, and it’s not clear to me that it’s a similar enough phenomenon to antisemitism to be able to simply switch out the words and have the same arguments still apply. So I will confine myself to talking about antisemitism.

No one is an antisemite pure & simple. Nobody ever said “I know it’s irrational but I just really hate Jews.” Even Hitler had reasons: The Jews were trying to destroy Germany & the rest of the world. They had already caused Germany’s defeat in WWI, they were pulling the strings of every conspiracy, they were behind both communism & capitalism, all they wanted was to dominate everyone & everything else.

This was enough to attract a nucleus of like-minded fans and get the Nazi Party rolling, but it was too strong stuff for “normal” Germans. So how did it happen that Germans en masse (along with a large number of other Europeans) were swept up in the mad fantasy of Jew-hate? It happened because they were given reasons too, ones they found easy to believe: Jews were subverting German culture, taking over the presses & the banks. There was enough of a grain of truth there for people to hang prejudice on if they chose to, and a great many did: There were prominent Jews in the media, in commerce & banking, in the arts & sciences. These Germans didn’t see themselves as bigots. Theirs wasn’t unreasoning hate, they _had_ reasons.
By your exacting criteria, they weren’t antisemites—but then, by your criteria neither was Hitler.

In the present day, there’s an extra layer in the mix: Israel & Zionism. People who know enough to at least try & steer clear of antisemitism readily & happily follow the same path as the everyday Germans of the 1930s & ‘40s when it comes to Israel. They know that Israel is racist, Israel practices apartheid & Israel is the new Nazi oppressor, because they all tell each other so & because there’s a steady drip—a torrent now—from the media telling them it’s true. And so Israeli Jews get treated like pariahs, diaspora Jews get spat on & excluded, and British Jewish community institutions need police guards and security cameras. But it’s not antisemitism, is it, because there are reasons.

Meanwhile, well-meaning people like you explain it away & insist that Livingstone’s words aren’t antisemitic, just ill-chosen. They’re not. They were gratuitous, without relevance to the subject under discussion, they were historically totally wrong, both in detail and in overall meaning—Hitler was profoundly anti-Zionist from his earliest days—and they weren’t the first time Livingstone has used Nazi allusions, let alone other antisemitic tropes, to bait Jews.

Meanwhile people on the left, which I assume includes you, who are so ready to damn Israel and so unready to acknowledge antisemitism among your own, are simply dead silent about the antisemitism of the Palestinians whose cause you adopt, and of the wider Arab world, where it is of such uninhibited clarity and such well document ubiquity, virulence & persistence that even your blunted sensitivity couldn’t fail to see it. And yet, concerned for justice & human rights though you all undoubtedly are, and as focussed on happenings in Israel & the territories as you are, you’re none of you moved to mention it or consider its implications.

No one has accused you of antisemitism—I certainly haven’t—but there’s an old saw that you’re undoubtedly familiar with that applies: All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. You are standing aside as evil passes under your nose.

#43 stephen law (Guest) on Monday May 02, 2016 at 3:47am

There are a lot of falsehoods in what you just said. For example that I am blind to the antsemitism of Palestinians and wider Arab world. I am very aware of that and have even pointed it it comments online! I am fairly sure I am not guilty of explaining away genuine cases of Islamophobia and antsemitism, I just want to see pretty good evidence for each beofre I will point a finger and accuse someone bigotry, and I cannot see that we have that when it comes to this particular comment made by Ken Livingstone.

#44 stephen law (Guest) on Monday May 02, 2016 at 3:55am

ps I agree Ken’s words were probably designed to offend. That’s not the same as being antisemitic. I know I’ll offend Muslim’s by saying Islam is not a religion of peace. But saying it doesn’t make me Islamophic, and is not even good evidence that I am. Not even if my intention in saying it is to upset Muslims.

#45 Damian (Guest) on Monday May 02, 2016 at 4:32pm

Lots of very good points by Paul M; some very feeble replies which fail to address any of the these points by Stephen Law. [But hey, count yourself “lucky” Paul: at least he deigned to respond to you!]

I sincerely apologise if I misled anyone by linking to this post and suggesting that Stephen Law might be an open-minded interlocutor—someone who, unlike the vast majority of people one finds discussing these things online, I had suggested—would be willing to revise and update his opinions in the light of cogent counterarguments. I had formed this opinion of him on the basis of my acquaintance with a couple of his books (popular books on education, critical thinking and how not to be taken in by bullshit which I consulted when teaching sixth-form philosophy/critical thinking some years ago), along with the fact that he seemed genuine about wanting to hear different points of view on this issue, suggesting he was willing to be persuaded he might be wrong (see e.g. “It may well be that I’m just mistaken” in the post above).

Sadly, it turns out that I’m the one who was mistaken—mistaken to have so naively taken these words in good faith. Very clearly, Law is no more willing to listen to and seriously think about other points of view on these matters than your average Guardian reader. His main concern here appears to be reassuring himself that certain Labour politicians are thoroughly decent folk and fully worthy of his support after all—never mind the fact that they actively support demagogues who would have all Jews, homosexuals, apostates from Islam, free thinkers and feminists killed and then roasted in hell for all eternity. You have to expect this sort of thing from the Muslims, you see—they’re really not like us, and you can’t expect them to live up to our standards. Indeed, it’s probably a bit racist and neocolonialist of us to expect them to. And in any case, hell, we’re no angels: just look at what we allowed the Bush and Blair administrations to do in Iraq and Afghanistan! No wonder they’re pissed! It’s all our fault really; that is, the fault of us Westerners and Israel.

Sadly, this is what the mainstream soi disant Left has become, and the likes of Stephen Law are above all concerned to make sure they are seen to be in step with that mainstream, even if it amounts to regarding Muslims as volatile intellectual, moral and political infants and treating them as such. My impression is that while he might be prepared to concede that the likes of Paul Berman, Nick Cohen, Pascal Bruckner and Bruce Bawer “make some good points”, he is evidently not prepared to confront the thoroughgoing moral, political and intellectual bankruptcy of the contemporary Left for what it is. My suspicion is that many of these people will only concede that, if ever, when it’s far too late to do anything about it. 

Oh well, there goes the Enlightenment….

#46 Stephen Law on Tuesday May 03, 2016 at 2:44am

Damian - isn’t that just an extended ad hominem against me? I am asking for good evidence that ‘The Left” have an antisemitism problem, etc. Take a look at this new post at Then insert “the Left” for X and “are antisemtic” for Y and you’ll hopefully see where I am coming from. Go here:

#47 Damian (Guest) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 at 4:12am


“Take a look at this new post at Then insert ‘the Left’ for X and ‘are antisemtic’ for Y and you’ll hopefully see where I am coming from.”

I clicked on the link but it said I do not have access to view the page. In any case, it’s clear from the fact that you didn’t bother to respond to the vast majority of points made above (by myself or others) that you’re not remotely interested in where anyone else is coming from, so really: why should we be interested in where *you’re* coming from, especially given that you seem to think these things can be decided by setting up hopelessly oversimplified analogies between “Islam” and “Israel” which beg way more questions than they could ever possibly help to clarify? I had hoped that you had done this only as an opening salvo to initiate conversation, but it now appears that this is about as far as you’ve got on thinking through these highly complex issues. In other words, you seem to be a typical armchair philosopher: that is, someone who thinks that they do need not actually *learn* anything about the highly complex matters they discuss (or rather, refer to) because they think one ought to be able to arrive at satisfactory conclusions about reality by merely analysing the concepts involved and how they are used.

You know, there are good reasons why you could not get away with trying to arrive at substantive conclusions about highly complex moral and political realities on the basis of setting up facile formal equivalences between statements containing nouns that designate those realities (in this case statements involving “Islam” and “Israel”) in any other area of human discourse than academic philosophy, and you might want to think about why that is the case (though I doubt you will). 

And yes, that’s ad hominem if you like, but really, people have already responded to what you have said at length and you’ve ignored them, so you really ought not to expect them to respond to yet another of your facile little blackboard exercises (“Replace X by Y in this statement and hey presto!”—if only matters were anywhere near that simple…).

#48 Stephen Law on Tuesday May 03, 2016 at 4:15am

Go to

or here:

I don’t expect a response…

#49 Damian (Guest) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 at 4:19am

That’s just as well, since it’s not worth responding to.

#50 Paul M (Guest) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 at 7:10am

@Stephen Law

I really don’t have the time to keep this going, and I’m losing enthusiasm for it, but here goes one more time:

It’s nice that you’re aware of, and against, Arab antisemitism, but it’s cold comfort. To repeat myself, the overwhelming picture of the left — the people for whom fairness & truth is the reason for being, remember — is of a body that doesn’t give a damn when Israel or Jews is concerned. As a quick exercise for yourself, Google “Palestinian anti-semitism”. When I did it yesterday I got 6,200 hits. Essentially none of them were journalism from major news organizations & half seemed to be about how it doesn’t really exist or why it should be excused. “Arab anti-semitism”? 28,000 hits. These are real phenomena; virulent, vicious & documented by poll after poll. Now Google “Israeli apartheid”, which is a fabrication: 390,000 hits, many of them approvingly _from_ left-wing sites or sites that enjoy broad left-wing approval.

Meanwhile, the same people who think today’s Israel & Botha’s South Africa are as close as makes no difference and for whom Nazi smears are routine indulge in angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin arguments about what constitutes antisemitism.

A Left that is worth the name — which I assume includes you; correct me if I’m wrong — should be saying “To hell with the sophistry; this is wrong, it’s an attack that’s tailored to Jews & only to them, and if it’s not antisemitism the atmosphere & the effect are indistinguishable from it.”

That Left used to exist, a long time past. Where did you go?

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