UPDATE: I just did a radio interview for KPFK’s Middle East in Focus on the Israeli surveillance state and the methods and products it uses and exports to shady police states to penetrate the privacy of targeted individuals. Give a listen.
Here is the former president of the Board of Deputies publicly calling for people to “sacrifice” Jeremy Corbyn “for the trouble that he has caused” pic.twitter.com/Ud8mGLmb7d
— James Wright (@wrightismight) May 28, 2019
Last May, in an incident barely reported in the British media, Dr. Lionel Kopelowitz, former president of the UK Board of Deputies, called for the assassination of Jeremy Corbyn. To be specific, Kopelowitz, who fancies himself a linguist of sorts, noted that the name “Corbyn” sounds like the Hebrew word korban (which has a number of meanings–among them “animal sacrifice” or “victim of crime” or “murder”). In the days of the Temple, the animals sacrificed were called korban. In more modern terms, the victims of the Holocaust are called korban. The word is generally associated with violence or killing, usually in pursuit of a “higher” cause. In Kopelowitz’s case, that seems to be ridding British Jews of the scourge of Jeremy Corbyn.
During his public Board of Deputies presentation, the current president warned him that his remarks were being “live-streamed.” Not that his remarks were objectionable. Not a word of criticism.
It’s remarkable that the UK Israel Lobby takes umbrage at the so-called anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and calls it a threat to all Jews (when it isn’t). Yet when a senior leader of that community calls for Jeremy Corbyn’s death, there isn’t a word of remorse. As The Canary noted in its report, when contacted for comment the Board of Deputies did not respond.
Later, the good doctor did apologize and ‘clarify’ that his words didn’t really reflect what he actually said:
He since apologised for his “clumsy rhetoric”, adding that he did not mean to suggest carrying out a physical attack on Corbyn.
“I deplore political violence and I am sorry that I phrased this so inelegantly,” Kopelowitz said. “I have been saddened and concerned to see increasing physical attacks on politicians, including Corbyn.
“I would hate for my own clumsy rhetoric to be erroneously understood as any sort of vindication of this alarming trend.”
“While […] I believe that Corbyn’s departure from his post would be in the best interests of Jews, anti-racists, the country and the Labour Party, I would want this to be by strictly democratic means.”
He added: “We need to protect our precious democracy and mediate our disagreements through civil means.”
Apparently, calling for the death of the leader of a British political party is “inelegant” and “clumsy.” But not criminal and not an incitement to political violence. It’s also deplorable that Kopelowitz was a physician in his professional life. The notion that a doctor of the “healing arts” would say such a thing is unfathomable.
Anti-Semitic Dog Whistles on the GOP Far Right
Now moving to another form of hatred: a few days ago, Sen. Josh Hawley spoke to a national conservative convention. There he lambasted the left as champions of cosmopolitanism, as MSNBC recounted:
“The cosmopolitan agenda has driven both left and right. The left champions multiculturalism and degrades our common identity….It’s time we ended the cosmopolitan experiment and recovered the promise of the republic.”
It was a word the senator returned to, repeatedly, in his remarks. The Republican lamented the “powerful upper class and their cosmopolitan priorities.” He condemned “the cosmopolitan consensus,” which includes its support for “globalization.”
Hawley proceeded to decry the “cosmopolitan elite,” the “cosmopolitan class,” and the “cosmopolitan economy.”
Though Hawley attended Stanford, he seems not to have studied any Russian history. If he had, he would’ve known that a code-word for anti-Semitism in Russian nationalist politics for the past century has been “cosmopolitanism.” Stalin himself decried the “rootless cosmopolitan” Jewish doctors during the Doctor’s Plot. Hitler and the Nazis used similar language to paint Jews as an international conspiracy to undermine German identity and culture.
And make no mistake, when neo-Nazis attacked synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, it was this image of the Jew that they had in their minds.
And if you had any doubt who Hawley’s referring to, this Think Progress critique should clarify things for you:
The enemy is a “cosmopolitan elite” that looks “down on the common affections that once bound this nation together: things like place and national feeling and religious faith.”
This is nothing if not an appeal to the Nazi notion of Blood and Soil. With an added fillip of America as a Christian theocracy. You know who that leaves out in the cold? We Jews and Muslims who exist at the sufferance of the majority Christians.
This isn’t all that different from the approach of the Israeli Jewish majority to its Palestinian minority. If the following passage sounds familiar, it’s because Bibi Netanyahu used quite similar ideas to justify the Knesset’s racist Nation State law, which excluded Palestinian citizens as full, equal members of the Israeli polity. The law also made clear that non-Jewish citizens existed at the sufferance of the Jewish majority.:
…Hawley writes that “government serves Christ’s kingdom rule; this is its purpose” and that “Christians’ purpose in politics should be to advance the kingdom of God.”
That does not, in Hawley’s vision, involve using the awesome power of the state to force every American to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. But it does involve using the state to build a society rooted in Hawley’s version of Christian values.
Returning to Hawley’s vision of non-Christians ‘cosmopolitans’ as enemies of the state:
America’s enemies, in Hawley’s vision, are not external. They are a fifth column of “cosmopolitans” — he uses that word over and over again, a word that often plays a starring role in antisemitic hate speech— who “dislike the common culture left to us by our forbearers.”
In American politics, right-wing politicians often elide Democrat and Jew into the same phrase. When ideologues like Hawley talk about Democratic coastal elites, they are talking about Jews. Of course, there are non-Jews among these coastal elites. But the lion’s share are Jews. These are the donors who provide over 50% of all gifts to the Democratic Party. Jews are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. Upwards of 80% of Jews vote Democratic in most elections.
So it was with bemusement and then indignation I read that Viktor Orban’s favorite white supremacist intellectual, Yoram Hazony, took James Fallows to task for remarking on the anti-Semitic dog whistle in Hawley’s rhetoric:
Sorry but “cosmopolitan” is a normal term in political theory, history and other academic disciplines. It means “citizen of the world” and has no anti-Jewish valence. @HawleyMO used it correctly in his National Conservatism speech. Let’s take a little tour of how others use it: https://t.co/JbesGcLY2F
— Yoram Hazony (@yhazony) July 19, 2019
There is so much disingenuousness in this tweet that it’s difficult to know where to start. First, Hawley’s remarks had nothing to do with political theory or history. Nor did the original meaning of the word have anything to do with the way in which Hawley used it. Finally, the term has over 100 years of “anti-Jewish valence.”
As many of you may know, Hazony is the scion of a far-right Likudist family. He was once the president of a “liberal arts” college established by the Likudist Shalem Institute. Despite writing many books, he hasn’t held an academic appointment in years, if ever. He is championed by the European far-right and is known as Orban’s favorite public intellectual. He serves to put a respectable veneer on venomous white supremacist policies adopted by ruling parties in Hungary, Poland, Italy and elsewhere.
Nevertheless, it is shocking to find a Jewish apologist for anti-Semitism on the far right. The closest example I can think of is Roy Cohn, who was Joe McCarthy’s capo. Both of them were willing to make political alliances with anti-Semites, just like Hazony. The latter is not only a case of intellectual fraud, it is a case of a Jew betraying his people because he disdains some of their political views. Not even Hitler could find such a person to whitewash his evil. Not that the rightwing Euro-trash has such ‘ambitious goals’ for Jews or Muslim refugees. But it may not be for lack of trying. And the wave of such uber-nationalism is by no means over yet.
P Spot says
No one can accuse this nonagenarian of being a cunning linguist.
As for Senator Hawley, he had made clear his opposition to anti-Semitism and his support for the State of Israel.
Richard Silverstein says
@ P Spot: Hawley hates Jews, but loves Israel. It’s the same with the far-right Euro-trash in Hungary, Russian and the Ukraine. We can quibble about whether he hates all Jews or only most of us. But he surely hates the 80% of American Jews who support liberal, secular political values. No one anywhere uses terms like “cosmopolitan” in the context he has, without recognizing the dog whistle it invokes.
P Spot says
“You’ll have to carry me out on a slab before I compromise my defense of the Jewish people, their greatness, their history, their safety, and the state of Israel”–Senator Josh Hawley.
Senator Hawley must be some kind of new, hybrid anti-Semite. He’s not like any kind of anti-Semite I’d ever seen before,
Richard Silverstein says
@ P Spot: He’s not defending “the Jewish people.” I am the Jewish people. THe other 80% of us American Jews are the Jewish people. He hates us. He wants to rule over us with a Christian theocracy. That’s anathema to me and all the rest of us. He knows that. He hates us.
You are done in this thread.
[comment deleted: comments must be on-topic and directly related to the post]
Guillaume Dohmen says
It is these dreadful people that help the anti Jewish movement. The constant attacks on Corbin look very much as though the Deputies want to be in charge of the Labour party. Sooner or later their ridiculous attacks will cause an anti Jewish movement for after all the Deputies represent a tiny part of the population and they want to lay down the law.
Joe Blow says
Mrs Kopelowitz, he’s doing it again, running down the street without his trousers, can you come and collect him?
Much appreciation for your writing Richard. Linked your article in a post of mine and added some observations. How the discourse about Israel and a Palestinian State has hardened over the last three decades – Several Prominent British Jews Boycotting Solidarity Conference | JTA – March 1989 |..