It is widely accepted within Jewish historiography that the ‘Six Day War’ (1967) had a profound effect on the British Jewish community’s relationship with Israel and Zionism. While this scholarship touches on the affective nature of this relationship, it rarely gives this aspect sustained consideration. Instead of seeing Zionism as an ideology or a political movement, this article argues that the hegemonic way that Zionism has existed within British Jewry since 1967 is as an affective disposition primarily lived out on the planes of popular culture and the British Jewish everyday. As such, it can be more accurately labelled Popular Zionism. In order to make this argument, this article uses a theoretical framework developed by Lawrence Grossberg that brings the thought of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari to bear on British cultural studies and supports it by drawing on 12 semi-structured interviews with British Jews and original archival material.
It is now well-known that each time there is an upsurge in the Israel-Palestine conflict there is a rise in violent and other abusive incidents against Jews around the world. So it was in 2014 with Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ military action in July and August. Numerous backlash incidents against Jews in the UK and elsewhere in the world were reported by news media. The news reporting mainly focused on physical acts: violence and the daubing of insults and slogans on synagogues and other communal buildings. This time around, however, there were also numerous instances of anti-Jewish abuse on social media, to the extent that by the end of July 2014, the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz reported “an explosion of anti-Semitic abuse on social networks, including Facebook and Twitter”. There has, however, been little sustained or in-depth analysis of the problem of antisemitism on social media. Using the methodology of corpus linguistics, we carried out a rapid response analysis of the phenomenon on Twitter to inform the recent report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry against Antisemitism. In our paper, we discuss our methods of analysis, the key findings, and the potential we see for the future in using corpus approaches for the analysis of antisemitism and other manifestations of discriminatory discourse.
The BDS mantra appeals to those who vehemently oppose the occupation. Yet what is the meaning of their doctrine of anti-normalisation? Some will see this as a necessary pressure to force Israel to the negotiating table and relinquish territory. Others understand anti-normalisation in terms of delegitimisation—rooting out a poisonous Zionist weed growing on Arab land. Netanyahu’s policies and the acquiescence of many British Jews therefore suit the latter. If a new Rabin were to arise, and sign a fair agreement with the Palestinians, this would produce such political fissures that the BDS movement would be consigned to an irrelevant limbo once more. Like many a Jewish leader in the UK, the advocates of BDS fear a different narrative that draws confused Jews away from their orbit.
The ripples of this situation will continue to be felt in the UK, the US, and the wider Diaspora for the foreseeable future. Jewish organisations will continue to be seen as merely appendages to the official view, despite the inner turmoil of many a Jewish leader. Public relations in Britain will be a welcome diversion from public reality in Israel. Howard Jacobson’s “ashamed Jews” and the US equivalent will continue to verbally flagellate themselves in public. The traditional approach of debate, discussion and dissension will not disappear. But it will take a period of calm, and a disappearance of provocative acts in the Middle East, to allow the peace camps in both Israel and Palestine to once more gain the upper hand from the reactionaries in progressive clothing. Only then will British Jews, American Jews, and all Diaspora Jews, have a genuine role to play in securing a just peace.
This article examines the social experience of belonging to the British section of the international Socialist Zionist youth movement, Hashomer Hatzair. The study is based on interviews conducted with 10 former activists across four generations and focuses primarily on the movement in London. It will be argued that Hashomer Hatzair represented a unique alternative youth culture based on a model developed by the movement’s founders in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This model synthesized Robert Baden-Powell’s Scouting, the Jugendkultur of the German youth movements, Socialist Zionism and Marxism. Imported to Britain by young German and Austrian refugees from Nazism, this youth culture was reproduced initially in the English countryside, and after the war plugged into the pre-existing politics of Jewish radicalism in London and the general Zionist fervour that anticipated the establishment of Israel. Hashomer Hatzair emphasized autonomy from adult society. By creating autonomous youth spaces, the movement opened a portal for young Jews to shape their own identities. Through a process of politicization and education, the movement’s adherents would identify life on Israeli kibbutzim as an ideal future in adulthood. In tandem with the projection of heroic Jewish role models, this process encouraged Hashomer Hatzair’s followers to define their Jewishness in secular and existential terms, in opposition both to contemporary consumerist and urbanized capitalism, and to the traditional communal associations of the past.
Louis Jacobs identified the Holocaust—and the creation of Israel—as the two most significant events influencing contemporary Jewish consciousness. Yet his engagement with the theological implications of the Holocaust is notably limited. Since many of his writings are focused on issues facing those he termed “the Jew in the pew,” this absence of detailed consideration of the theological questions posed by the Holocaust seems particularly perplexing. This paper will consider if there is an explanation for this lacuna.
Vanessa Freedman, Librarian, Hebrew and Jewish Studies Library, UCL
Moses Gaster and the Anglo-Jewish community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
G08 Chadwick Building, November 27, 2014, 18:30-20:00
Moses Gaster (1856-1939) was born in Romania but expelled due to his political activities on behalf of the Jewish community. He emigrated to England and was appointed as Head of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community and later Principal of the Judith Lady Montefiore College in Ramsgate. He was one of the leading figures in the Zionist movement in England and played an important role in the negotiations that led to the Balfour Declaration. As well as his communal and political activities, he was a prolific scholar in both Jewish and non-Jewish fields. Gaster left behind a vast archive of over 170,000 items, which his heirs deposited at UCL. It includes correspondence, diaries, notebooks, unpublished memoirs, photographs, press cuttings and more. There is also a large collection of ephemera. This talk will use items from the collection and extracts from the memoirs to describe Gaster’s life.