There is a wonderful scene from the sketch show comedy ‘That Mitchell and Webb Look’ in which Jesus is telling his disciples the story of ‘The Good Samaritan’. Half way through, one of the disciples perceptively notes the inherent racism of the story. The fact that a Samaritan doing something ‘good’ – by Jesus’s standard – warranted a story, implies that Jesus doesn’t consider Samaritans good in the first place. As if it’s a big shock that a Samaritan could do a good deed. I was reminded of this clip this morning, after reading David Wilson’s article for The Stop The War Coalition.
Wilson’s article blurs the lines between two separate issues, as if they’re one in the same. He begins his piece by mentioning the protests against recent Israeli action in Gaza, before quickly switching to the issue of existence of a state of Israel in the first place:
“Numerous Jewish groups joined the march. They marched as Jews to show their opposition to the state of Israel, which for 66 years has endlessly stolen Palestinian land and imposed the most brutal occupation and siege on Palestinians. Jewish marchers saying “not in my name” included, the Jewish Bloc, The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Jews Against the war on Gaza.
These Jewish marchers were part of a long and honourable tradition. Many prominent Jewish figures over the past century — from Albert Einstein to holocaust survivor Primo Levi — have opposed the idea of an ethnically exclusive Israeli state.”
– There is a manipulation going on here. Those Jewish protesters – such as “Jews For Justice For Palestinians” – marching to protest Israeli foreign policy in 2014, are conflated with more radical groups like The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and names from the past who to some degree disapproved of a state of Israel existing in the first place (though the article massively oversimplifies Einstein’s beliefs). Despite the plethora of views represented, they are one long tradition, according to Wilson. This is clearly not the case, when we note what “Jews For Justice For Palestinians” say on their website:
“Jews for Justice for Palestinians is a network of Jews who are British or live in Britain, practising and secular, Zionist and not. We oppose Israeli policies that undermine the livelihoods, human, civil and political rights of the Palestinian people.
We support the right of Israelis to live in freedom and security within Israel’s 1967 borders.”
– Despite Wilson’s implied unity between Jewish groups at the march, and the list of Jewish names he throws forward opposing the existing of the state of Israel, “Jews For Justice For Palestinians” represent a web of views from the Jewish community, and support the existence of a state of Israel. Conflating the two – Israeli policy toward Gaza in 2014, and the existence of a state of Israel in the first place – betrays Wilson’s willingness to manipulate the thoughts and motives of a diverse community for his own ends, used to strengthen his own prejudices. Blurring the lines between the two issues also allows for the false suggestion that those of us critical of the STWC tactics and rhetoric are in fact using the cry of anti-Semitism at any criticism of Israeli policy in Gaza. I’ve seen that excuse a lot recently.
The obvious conclusion most of us would make, is that the Jewish community – like atheists, Christians, Muslims, tall people, people with blue eyes – are a vast group of individuals, all with different beliefs, motives, experiences, memories, from different cultural, economic, and social settings, differing hugely at some points or with more nuanced differences at others depending on the issue. From left to right, from orthodox to non-practicising. This is true of all communities, not worthy of a story in itself, and so I’d suggest Wilson’s article – a sort of patronising “this might surprise you…” article – is his very own ‘Good Samaritan’ moment.
After manipulating the thoughts and motives of such a vast and diverse group to appear to confirm his own ideals, Wilson then goes about creating a false dichotomy that only digs his increasingly anti-Semitic hole much, much larger. Those Jewish folk who opposed the existence of a state of Israel, he refers to as “honourable“. The good Jews, if you will. The implication being that if Jewish folk do not oppose the existence of a state of Israel – or as it seems, disagree with David Wilson – they are less than honourable. The bad Jews. Wilson’s own political beliefs are now the benchmark to judge the ‘honour’ of the entire Jewish community against. A framework of right and wrong for Jews alone, with the moral base being David Wilson’s own political beliefs. If they conform to Wilson’s beliefs, they get a spot at the ‘honourable’ Jew table. In the meantime, he’s prepared a handy “look at these good Jews!” list for Jewish folk everywhere to aspire. It isn’t a new dichotomy, it has its roots in a view of Jews as inherently bad, and has been commented on by Ilana Angel of New Jersey Jewish News:
“It is offensive when people say I am one of the ‘good Jews’. What does that mean? Is the implication that Jews are bad people, but I managed to somehow not be? Is there a private club of ‘good Jews’? How do you qualify to make it into this elite group of chosen people?”
– This is what David Wilson’s article works to accomplish. At first, it blurs the lines between two completely separate issues, secondly it manipulates the plethora of views of the Jewish marchers to seem to be in line with his own, and thirdly it creates a dichotomy of good and bad, right and wrong, based entirely on his own political thoughts. In short, if you’re Jewish, you might want to check with David Wilson at The Stop The War Coalition to find out if you’re the right kind of Jew or not. If you’re lucky, he might even pat you on the head.