Whew. I just spent about 20 minutes on Sue Blackwell’s web site (just Google her). Blackwell, a highly energetic and apparently clever teacher of English and Linguistics at the University of Birmingham in the UK is one of those responsible for the intifada being waged against Israel by British academics. She is ‘disinterested’ in the conflict, being neither Arab nor Jewish, just motivated by her sense of justice.
Much of the material on her site refers to the treatment of Palestinians by Israel. There are links to articles ‘proving’ that Israel is racist, colonialist, etc. Blackwell is very much a socialist, writing that
Other than in self-defence the only war worth fighting is the class war. We live in a world where global capitalism is constantly exploiting the people who produce all the wealth, and wars between countries or peoples are an indirect result of that. For instance, Bush’s war-mongering against Iraq is not a war against terrorism, it’s a war for oil. Israel is a key player in the Middle East because of the oil in surrounding countries and the USA’s dependence on it.
Strange that Israel is a key player because of other nations’ oil, but the importance of Israel in Blackwell’s mindspace is overwhelming. When asked why she targets Israel when there are so many ‘other oppressive states’ in the world, including Arab states, she replies
I would say simply that two wrongs don’t make a right. The fact that there are other dreadful regimes in the world doesn’t make Israel any better. In my view, the sooner the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the rest are overthrown by their own people, the better. If they are, one of the reasons will be because they are seen by their subjects as having collaborated with the USA and Israel. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the US and British governments are happy to do business with these disgusting regimes while condemning Iraq? But then they were happy to do business with Iraq a decade ago when it was fighting Iran.
Her answer is a massive non-sequitur which avoids the question, that is, why she singles out Israel. Of course she singles it out because she’s obsessed.
A strange section is a list of links to “Palestinian and Arab [women’s rights and] LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] organisations, and also to non-Palestinian LGBT organisations which prominently support Palestinian rights”. Given the fact that women and LGBT people are often arbitrarily subject to murder in the Palestinian areas, the irony is considerable. For example, there’s QUIT (Queers against Israeli Terrorism) who wouldn’t last 10 minutes on the streets of Gaza regardless of their position on Israel. But anyone who will say something negative about Israel is welcome, regardless of the irony.
There is a huge list of hundreds of links to every imaginable accusation, slander and calumny that has ever been thrown at Israel. I’m imagining Blackwell lovingly collecting them, putting together her large website, serving on numerous committees, boards, councils, etc. all concerned with attacking and delegitimizing Israel in one way or another, maintaining the correspondence this entails, etc.
Is it possible that someone of her obvious intelligence and education can fail to notice that Palestinians and other Arabs have been violently trying to expel Jews from the Middle East for almost a century? Can she miss the context of murderous terrorism by Arabs against Jews that is the background of the occupation that she so decries? Apparently it is and she can.
Why? I think that the obsession and the blind spots have a common root, a particular kind of mental illness. Here is what she says about antisemitism:
Anti-semitism means discriminating against people because they are Jewish, which is a question of ethnicity and/or religion – usually, but not always, both. I am not an anti-semite; on the contrary I am an active anti-racist as my colleagues, students and friends will attest. I am an anti-Zionist: Zionism is a political philosophy which some people choose for themselves to adopt, just like Thatcherism, liberalism or Marxism. I think it’s fair game to criticise people for their political beliefs: people criticise mine all the time!
If criticising the Israeli government constitutes anti-semitism, then all I can say is, firstly, there are an awful lot of anti-semitic Jewish people in the world; and secondly, by extension of the same logic any criticism of Robert Mugabe’s atrocious government in Zimbabwe is racist just because it’s a black-led government. Wrong is wrong, whatever the ethnicity or religion of the people doing it. If you are a consistent anti-racist you have to be an anti-Zionist as well as an anti-Nazi.
I don’t think she and I agree about what Zionism is, but that’s another article. For purposes of argument, it’s probably safe to say that the “anti-Zionism” that she advocates would eliminate Israel as a Jewish state, replacing it with an Arab majority entity.
As I’ve said before, while not all criticism of Israel is antisemitism, there is a certain extreme form of ‘criticism’ which is irrational and can only be called antisemitism. And Sue Blackwell’s site meets every one of the conditions:
- Israel’s actions are seen as more reprehensible than far worse things done by other nations
- Israel is bashed in all contexts (in this case, academics) even when the connection to politics is tenuous
- Every imaginable accusation against Israel is given play, no matter how unreasonable (see her list of links)
- There is a blindness to any possible mitigation (Arab terrorism is ignored, Israeli democracy minimized)
- Israel’s motives for any given action are always assumed to be the worst possible (the security fence is to steal land)
This is not normal politics. It’s hatred, and there is a name for it.