These hatreds must not be allowed out of the shadows
I ATTENDED all three days at the conference in Cork. I went to every one of the 12 sessions, and paid close attention to the words of each of the 39 speakers.
There were some who deserve credit. Geoffrey Alderman for example, who was Israel’s lone flag-waver. He stood his ground in a well-delivered speech, and in handling the hostile questions that followed. Dr Catriona Drew from Soas and Professor Ugo Mattei from the University of California, both gave clinical, professional presentations.
But, for the most part, I felt I was watching a highly educated lynch mob, with the participants stirring each other up, and the audience, too, with ever-increasing tales of absurdity.
The Palestinians were called the real Jews, Hebrew was described as a Palestinian language, and it was claimed that Israel should compensate the Arab nations, for having “taken” the Arab Jews away from them.
It doesn’t matter which academic said what, each of these comments received loud applause from most of the 160-180 people in the audience.
Israel’s charge-sheet was read out with an almost never-ending list of pejoratives. Zionism is guilty of everything, of imagining antisemitism, of creating Islamophobia, of apartheid, genocide, ethnic cleansing. One speaker claimed Israel is at the heart of the global environmental crisis.
The actual lines between pathological obsessions, exaggerated activism and raw antisemitism can become difficult to distinguish, but the Israeli state was stripped entirely of all humanity. There were constant comparisons with Nazi actions, and references to Nazi terminology, that came from almost every single panel.
There were classic antisemitic slurs, too. One audience member asked the panel “if Zionist mothers deliberately starve their children of affection to create the callousness necessary for them to become killers”. The response was “yes”, later to be changed by a declaration that the question had been misunderstood.
Another of the antisemites’ favourite global Jewish conspiracies appeared with the accusation about the “dancing Israelis” — allegedly Mossad agents —who celebrated the 9/11 attacks.
Free speech is a bedrock of our society. Yet we must also recognise this hatred is a malignant force, that mutates, spreads and infects. We must stay united, and ensure these ideologies are never permitted to come out of the shadows.
David Collier is a researcher and blogger