Con­fer­ence turns into anti-Is­rael ‘hate-fest’

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

A BRI­TISH-BASED aca­demic has de­fended com­par­ing the State of Is­rael to Nazi Ger­many at a con­fer­ence in which an­ti­semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries were openly aired.

Dr Ghada Karmi, who lec­tures on the Mid­dle East at Ex­eter Univer­sity, in­sisted that the term un­ter­men­sch — used by the Nazis to brand “in­fe­rior” non-Aryan peo­ple — could be le­git­i­mately used to de­scribe Is­rael’s re­la­tion­ship with the Pales­tini­ans.

Speak­ing at the con­fer­ence, in Cork, Ire­land, Dr Karmi also claimed Jews had flocked to Man­date Pales­tine be­cause they were “an un­pop­u­lar, unloved peo­ple”.

In fur­ther scathing re­marks, the Pales­tinian aca­demic and author de­scribed Euro­pean Jews who fled to the Mid­dle East as a “group of for­eign im­mi­grants try­ing to be­have as they were in­dige­nous”.

Board of Deputies Pres­i­dent Jonathan Arkush was among those to con­demn Dr Karmi’s out­burst. He told the JC: “We pre­dicted this con­fer­ence was go­ing to turn into a hate-fest and Dr Ghada Karmi’s dis­grace­ful in­ter­ven­tion has en­sured that it will be re­mem­bered as ex­actly that.”

More than 40 aca­demics, along with a fur­ther 100 hard-core pro-Pales­tinian cam­paign­ers, ar­rived last Fri­day for the gather­ing, which was held over two days at Cork City Hall, and moved to a hired venue on Univer­sity Col­lege Cork’s cam­pus for the fi­nal day.

Among the or­gan­is­ers was ex-Is­raeli law lec­turer Oren Ben-Dor — whose own univer­sity, Southamp­ton, had can­celled the con­fer­ence on health and safety grounds in 2015. Ad­dress­ing the au­di­ence, which in­cluded for­mer Labour front­bench MP Clare Short, Pro­fes­sor BenDor said: “Jews need to be­come hu­man again” and claimed Jews pos­sessed a “vic­tim men­tal­ity” and a “sup­pressed de­sire to be hated… to be boy­cotted”.

In a fur­ther con­tri­bu­tion, Marx­ist pro­fes­sor, Joel Kovel, de­clared that, af­ter the 9/11 New York ter­ror at­tacks, “as the tow­ers were burn­ing, five painters were cheer­ing on the process from across the river — they were Mos­sad agents.”

Mark Gard­ner, direc­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Com­mu­nity Se­cu­rity Trust, said the ex­treme an­ti­semitic na­ture of the some of the speak­ers’ com­ments con­firmed his or­gan­i­sa­tion’s ini­tial fears over the event. Speaker Dr Ghada Karmi

Mr Gard­ner told the JC: “When this con­fer­ence was first planned at Southamp­ton, CST warned that it was not sim­ply just an­other “anti-Is­rael hate fest”, but some­thing fun­da­men­tally worse. To no­body’s sur­prise, we were proved cor­rect. The only sil­ver lin­ing is that no Bri­tish univer­sity would agree to host it, but it was Bri­tish-based aca­demics who made it hap­pen.”

Dis­cus­sions over the word “un­ter­men­sch” were sparked at the event at on Saturday af­ter an “aca­demic pa­per” writ­ten by Pro­fes­sor Yosefa Loshitzky, from the School of Ori­en­tal and African Stud­ies (Soas) used the Nazi ter­mi­nol­ogy to de­scribe what she called Is­raeli “crimes against hu­man­ity” in Gaza.

Dr Karmi, a re­search fel­low at the In­sti­tute of Arab and Is­lamic Stud­ies at Ex­eter, rose from her seat at the front of the hall to state: “Un­ter­men­sch’s equiv­a­lent in English is ‘sub-hu­man’. And sub­hu­man is how peo­ple in Gaza feel they are be­ing treated by the Is­raeli army.”

She con­tin­ued: “We are not al­lowed to use words the Nazis used as if they were true and unique only to what the Nazis did to the Jews. It is not right. For Pales­tini­ans, I don’t think they make a dis­tinc­tion be­tween what hap­pened to the Jews in Ger­many and what is hap­pen­ing to them. That is some­thing we need to re­mem­ber. ”

Ms Karmi, who was born in Jerusalem but has lived most of her life in the UK, had ear­lier of­fered her thoughts on Jewish im­mi­gra­tion into the then Pales­tine af­ter the Holo­caust. She claimed: “Most of those Jews wanted to go to the US or to Europe — they did not want to go to Pales­tine. How­ever, we know western states were un­will­ing to ad­mit them. Pales­tine seemed a good so­lu­tion.”

She added: “The Jews were not wanted in Europe, they were an un­pop­u­lar, unloved peo­ple, who were off-loaded into the area.”

Piaras Mac Éinrí, one of the event or­gan­is­ers and a ge­og­ra­phy lec­turer at Univer­sity Col­lege, Cork, de­cided at one stage to take the floor to ex­press his dis­plea­sure at the tone of the de­bate.

He said: “Com­par­i­son be­tween Is­rael/Pales­tine and Nazi Ger­many is not only his­tor­i­cally un­founded, it is also un­help­ful. I feel strongly about that. I think we should stop do­ing this, it does our move­ment no favours.”

In a sep­a­rate lec­ture — in front of aca­demics from other UK uni­ver­si­ties in­clud­ing Cam­bridge, King’s Col­lege Lon­don and the Univer­sity of Kent — Mr Ben-Dor hit out at what he called “ex­treme sep­a­rate­ness”, sug­gest­ing “sep­a­rate­ness” and “ex­cep­tion­al­ism” were “the State of Is­rael’s rai­son d’etre”.

Asked later by the JC to ex­plain his re­marks, the aca­demic said he was re­fer­ring to “Euro­pean, not Arab Jews”. He added: “Ju­daism it­self is in­ter­acted with Greek mythol­ogy. It’s com­plex — it can­not be re­duced to a sound bite.”

Claim­ing that Is­rael was “worse than South Africa”, he said: “Is­rael is an apartheid state built on apartheid. Is­rael is not like South Africa at all — the kind of le­gal­ism in Is­rael is the kind to use tricks of law to pre­vent look­ing from within.”

“Self-ha­tred is lev­elled at any Jew who crit­i­cises Is­rael.”

Mr Ben-Dor’s com­ments were con­demned. Barry Wil­liams of the Ir­ish4Is­rael group said: “Once again we see Oren Ben-Dor de­hu­man­ise Jewish peo­ple. While we are re­peat­edly told crit­i­cism of Is­rael is not an­ti­semitism, Oren crosses the line and seems to en­joy do­ing so.”

There was a fur­ther at­tack on Is­rael’s foun­da­tion from Richard Falk, who called the coun­try’s cre­ation the “most suc­cess­ful ter­ror­ist cam­paign in his­tory”. Mak­ing the con­fer­ence’s key­note speech last Fri­day, Mr Falk ac­cused Zion­ist lead­ers of es­ca­lat­ing a cam­paign of vi­o­lence around the world.

Mr Falk, who re­cently au­thored a re­jected UN report that at­tempted to la­bel Is­rael as an “apartheid state”, also claimed Western “guilt” over the Holo­caust al­lowed the state to come into ex­is­tence in 1948.

The only pro-Zion­ist speech over the three days was made by Ge­of­frey Al­der­man, a pol­i­tics pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Buck­ing­ham and a for­mer JC colum­nist. Prof Al­der­man spoke of the need to recog­nise “Jewish rights” un­der the terms of in­ter­na­tional law in the Is­rael. His 15-minute speech was heard with­out any dis­sent from the au­di­ence.

Prof Al­der­man later told the JC: “I have ab­so­lutely no re­gret about com­ing to Cork and de­liv­er­ing my speech.

“Sev­eral peo­ple came up to me af­ter­wards, and I have also had emails, from peo­ple who say I have made them think dif­fer­ently on the is­sue.”

Fol­low­ing the con­fer­ence, when asked about Dr Karmi’s re­marks, a Univer­sity of Ex­eter spokesman said: “We have an un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to tol­er­ance, re­spect and in­clu­siv­ity. These qual­i­ties are at the heart of who we are and what we ex­pect from ev­ery­one as­so­ci­ated with the univer­sity.”

The Is­raeli em­bassy in Ire­land ex­pressed dis­may that a plat­form had been pro­vided to peo­ple ques­tion­ing Is­rael’s right to ex­ist.

Com­par­ing Is­rael with Nazi Ger­many does us no favours’

Cork City Hall, the venue for the gather­ing

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