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An open letter to the Cork Conference on Israel’s Legitimacy

This is a guest post by Claire Finn

Dear fellow participants of Conference Cork

I was asked if I wanted to speak several times this weekend but despite Oren Ben Dor’s assertion that zionists want to be hated, I thought it best to decline. Though, as I am not a European Israeli Jew, that probably confirms his hypothesis. Before the conference I knew that I was never going to agree with most of what was said and I knew there was going to be anti-Semitism. One only has to look at the title of Ben Dor’s paper and his bio in the programme to know he is itching to discuss the “Jewish question”. But what truly took me aback is something that I know very few – if not none – of you will see. I know this as I spoke to several very nice, well intentioned people who genuinely could not see the problem when I discussed it with them.

I heard a lot about love, inclusion, solidarity, engaging with the “other” and living in harmony with your neighbours. My genuine question to you all is: why do you want to be neighbours with a group of people – European Zionist Jews – that were depicted unrelentingly for three days as people – and it was people, not the state – without one redeeming quality. Not one. You could not allow yourselves to afford them one shred of humanity. We heard how they abuse Palestinian children, abuse their own children (by deliberately starving them of affection to harden them up), abuse the land, water, the trees – Palestinians on the other hand are uniquely connected in a deep spiritual way to trees and the land. We heard how they abuse other religions and abuse their own religion. This was a favourite topic indeed. How they simultaneously give true Jews a bad name and express the true nature of the European Jewish tradition. The words of the Passover Seder were scrolled out on screen to show how the Zionist paranoia and desire to be hated is deeply connected to the Jewish need to have an enemy to sustain its identity. Not being aware of the tradition, I have to assume, given the attitude displayed, that “good” Misrahi and Sephardic Jews have different wording in their Passover rituals. We learnt that Ashkenazi Zionist Jews abuse philosophy, epistemology and, through their evil Zionist/US Military Industrial Complex, the entire safety and ecology of the globe. They abuse language. Arabic has been removed as an official language (news I’m sure to Israeli schools where Arabic has become compulsory for Jewish students) and even their own language is suspect. When asked by a rather sweet, naive man whether it might be nice to see some Hebrew/Arabic poetry collaboration both Atif Alshaer and James Bowen were quick to point out modern Hebrew was beyond the pale. Possibly biblical Hebrew might be okay. But that’s a Palestinian language so belongs to the acceptable people. (Palestinians being the original Jews, you understand. European Jews are nothing but foreign invaders notwithstanding that I’m guessing the biblical Hebrew they retained for centuries in Europe came from the same source) But Hebrew in its “colonial guise”? That’s an “other” we can’t engage with.

We were told (in a particularly poor “academic paper” even by the standards of this conference) that the end of times were here environmentally and our days were numbered unless we stopped Israel in its tracks. Why you might ask? WARFARE (threatening the whole Middle East – Iraq, Syria) was shouted, followed by “9/11″. This passed without remark. Indeed in the question period, John McGuire, Professor Emeritus from UCC continued the theme of Israel’s involvement in all things nefarious by connecting Shannon Airport, US troops passing through and CIA torture. This opened the floor for Joel Kovel to take the floor again to expand on his 9/11 theories. Did we know that when the towers were burning there were 5 mysterious “painters” cheering in the shadows? Arrested at the time but soon “disappeared off the face of the earth”? “Mossad” was shouted by audience members and “academic ecosocialist” speaker alike. Embarrassed management finally took steps to shut him down saying it was inappropriate for an academic conference. But my question to the organisers is this: given the information portrayed over and over throughout the 3 days of how Israel  (sometimes in cahoots with the US) is responsible for so much evil in the world, for the wars in the rest of the Middle East, for plotting to blow up the Dome of the Rock, for false flag tactics to encourage Jewish migration to Israel (who owes the Arab countries justice for stealing their Jewish communities by the way (!)), for using Gaza solely as a lab for its global arms sales while treating Palestinians as “untermenschen” and devising a “final solution” for them, and seeing as Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims are peace loving communers of nature: who else, in your world view, could possibly be responsible for 9/11? You talk about academic freedom, about “Samud” steadfastness, about bravery. Have the bravery of your convictions and let the man rant about 9/11!

Richard Falk accurately stated that Israel had hard power but was losing the soft power of public opinion. And others talked about Zionist paranoia. Do you honestly think that if these – humour me here, Oren, I know they still have to learn how to be human beings – people heard the sentiments at this conference it would disavail them of the notion that the whole world is against them? Would they be persuaded to give up their hard power? I highly doubt it and I don’t blame them.