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My name is Daniel Waterman, I am Jewish and have lived in Israel-Palestine. I am an author and social-critic with a keen interest in Ethics. 

 

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  • Daniel Waterman

The New Inquisition: Campaign Against Antisemitism drops its mask.


Copyright Daniel Waterman, February 1, 2018


This article is really about free speech and the extent to which social media platforms like

Facebook and Twitter have become a new front line in political activism. My thesis is that

the free exchanges of opinion as well as the slanging matches that frequently characterise

posts on Social Media present an important challenge for political parties championing free

speech and more democracy, and that the examples I am about to present, of an

interference by a registered UK charity, pose an extra challenge to those who believe free

speech is more important than strict, ideological discipline along party lines — that it is

actually a fundamental part of the political process that political parties should encourage

and participate in rather that discourage and suppress. Indeed, I will go further and claim

that the transparency of Social Media exposes each and everyone of us to dangerous

levels of ‘thought policing’ and that state political institutions need to adopt rigorous

guidelines on how to respond to this growing potential for frank and direct exchanges as

well as to attempts by various organisations to exploit such exchanges as a way to limit

free speech, monitor and control behaviour.


What follows is an e-mail I received from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, a registered

UK charity that acts as a self-appointed watchdog. I am not qualified to hazard guesses as

to who exactly funds the CAA however it is well-known that the adoption of the particular

definition of Anti-Semitism referred to in this e-mail (reproduced in its entirety) is

controversial, and that many experts warned the UK government that adopting a definition

that included criticism of Israel would not only increase the number of accusations and their

arbitrariness but also undermine the credibility of the definition to such a degree that it

becomes entirely useless. Lets begin with the CAA’s e-mail and accusations:


The CAA’s accusations


Mr Waterman,

I am writing to you from Campaign Against Anti-Semitism to seek your urgent comment on

a matter about which we will shortly be publishing an article. The matter is set out below.

Please respond by 17:00 UK time on 1st February.


We can reveal that author, Labour Party member and Momentum activist Daniel Waterman

has, for a number of years, been making extensive use of Facebook, posting anti-Semitic

material under the pseudonym Dolong B Blavats.


As long ago as August 2014, Mr Waterman claimed that compulsive behaviour related to

the Holocaust was causing Israelis to behave like Nazis. It is a theme to which he regularly

returns, asserting only last month, while referring to mandatory military service for young

Israelis, that “Our young people are still mindlessly following orders just like the Nazis!”


The International Definition of Anti-Semitism clearly identifies “drawing comparisons of

contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” as a manifestation of anti-Semitism.

In November 2015, Mr Waterman condemned the wearing of a kippah or a star of David in

public, comparing it to the waving of the Nazi flag during the Nazi ascent in Germany, and

demanded that Jews eschew the practice in order to distance themselves from what he

described as “Israel’s terrorism against Palestinians”. He went on to insist that failure to

follow his advice would mark Jews as “provocateurs” and “belligerent fools”, and render

them responsible for any hostility they encountered.


In January 2017, he accused a Jewish journalist and “the entire rest of the pro-Israel pro-

Zionist community” of being “the real self-hating Jews”, and made the assertion that their

protests against the anti-Semitism that is now prevalent within Labour are a conspiracy to

fear-monger and silence criticism of Israel.


In February 2017, he posted an apparent reference to the six million Jews murdered by the

Nazis, writing: “Breaking News: 6 Million Jews Found Unharmed! Apparently it was all a

prank!”


In September 2017, he accused “other Jews” of “s***ting all over the Holocaust”, adding

that he was “ready to give it up and ‘just’ be a human being”.


In the same month he posted what was presumably intended to be a joke: “Hey I have a

good idea! Why don't we have another World War? I missed all the good bits at the end of

the last one!” On being told this was not funny, he replied “Really, I thought WWII was a

gas!”, in an apparent reference to gas chambers used by the Nazis to industrialise the

genocide of European Jewry.


Mr Waterman has also given fulsome praise to Gilad Atzmon, who was disavowed by

Palestinian activists because of the virulence of his anti-Semitism, and whose book, The

Wandering Who, was described as “...quite probably the most anti-Semitic book published

in this country in recent years.” Despite this, Mr Waterman appeared to be overjoyed that

Mr Atzmon had agreed to review the drafts of his new book and at the possibility of his

contributing a chapter.


These examples are just a small selection of comments representing views that have no

place in our public life.


The Labour Party and Momentum must now expel Mr Waterman.


Mr Waterman is also manager at Dutch locksmiths Slotenmaker Den Haag.


My response:


Dear all, its great that the CAA finally got its facts right, except for one or two minor issues:

Since I am Jewish, the proper term is not anti-Semite, unless you believe, seriously, that I

hate myself, the proper term to use here is “self-hating Jew” which is, as you know, an

accusation Jews most often use against each other when they have any sort of disagreement, ranging from the taste and temperature of humus to the meaning of the

Holocaust.


Secondly, the way the CAA have quoted my remarks unfortunately does not clarify whether

they were meant in jest, cynically, or responses to things other people on social media

posts were saying which one might echo and amplify to demonstrate how absurd they are.

This is the problem when quoting out of context, as the CAA does in its hysterical witchhunt

against perceived Anti-Semitism.


I had been wondering how long it would take for the witch hunters to finally respond to my

posts and I welcome the opportunity to respond to their absurd accusations any time, as

long as it is in a public hearing and they pay all the expenses for making false accusations.

I hesitate to add that my credentials as a campaigner against the CAA and other

organisations witch-hunt as well as against racism, conspiracy theory, distortion and denial

of the Holocaust are above question. I can refer to any number of online discussions and

publications if you need a more extensive look at my work, my ideas, etc. Critical inquiry is

definitely part of my repertoire but it certainly does not extend to Holocaust denial or anti-

Semitism. Indeed, the casual way in which the CAA makes use of what it terms

“International Definition of Anti-Semitism” is enormously demeaning to the term and the

phenomenon itself. All my grandparents died in concentration camps and my mother was a

‘hidden child’ just like Anne Frank, and I take exception to the distortions inherent in the

CAAs definition of anti-Semitism which extend the term not only to criticism of Israel but

also across the past 80 years, which means they are trying to compare the situation of

Jews prior to and throughout the Nazi reign to that of Jews today, an absurd idea.

Criticism of Jews as Jews is markedly different from criticism of a national entity like a

nation state, especially when one criticises that state for not living up to its obligation under

International agreements. Whether or not a state does actually honour international

agreements is of course one of the criteria for its being considered a legitimate state at all.

But the simple fact is that one can criticise a state without criticising its citizens because

these are two entirely distinct things.


In sum, I urge you to treat the accusations of the CAA as the absurd childish, vindictive

overreactions they are. We have far more urgent matters to take care of in Labour UK.

I hope you will agree with me that cutting words and short sentences out of a persons social

media posts is not exactly a good way to go about establishing anything beyond a shadow

of a doubt as social media is usually conversational, and in conversation people make use

of jargon and all kinds of shortcuts and snappy responses that sound very strange when

taken out of context. I am, and will always be, critical of Israel, as I am critical of all other

countries that regularly flout human rights and international conventions. I also have

certainly made comparisons between developments in Israel and the rise of Fascism in

Europe. I will continue to do so, though not as arbitrarily and without grounds as the CAA

use the term anti-Semitism.


One last point: the CAAs use of the term anti-Semitism is so broad as to discourage Free

Speech. The CAAs snooping around on Facebook to ‘gather evidence’ also acts as a

constraint op Free Speech. As an activist I believe it is good that Social Media provides a

space for confrontation and debate on a wide range of issues, and I do not doubt this

occasionally also includes people who espouse ‘tropes’ and ‘conspiracy theories’. I myself

have confronted such people on many occasions. My exchanges with Gilad Atzmon

concerning some of his more controversial statements have been challenging, but having

read The Wandering Who? I have difficulty imaging that anyone could gather from his

criticism of Israel and the way some groups use the Holocaust to stifle criticism that Atzmon

is an anti-Semite. I have on many occasions taken him to task on his generalisations and

his general lack of knowledge as well as his cynicism, an attitude I am all too familiar with

as I lived in Israel for 5 years and I understand the disillusion that many people there

experience.


My aim in these exchanges with Atzmon has always been to encourage reconciliation with

a broader group of left-wing critics who are concerned about Labour policy re. Israel and

the occupation. At no time during these exchanges have I ever made a secret of my

criticism of Atzmon’s more radical statements which the author unfortunately borrows from

the so-called ‘alt-right’. There are others within the circles I frequent on Facebook that

espouse altogether more silly or extreme ideas. The whole idea of social media is that one

frequently rubs shoulders with people one disagrees with. Hardly incriminating stuff, really,

unless we were living in East Germany during the communist era.


Yours sincerely, Daniel Waterman


Preliminary remarks:


The CAAs investigation of my posts on Social Media represent to me an intolerable and

unjustifiable invasion of my privacy, particularly with respect to the potential threat implicit

in their e-mail to ‘expose me to the Labour NEC’ and demand my expulsion from the party.

This represents, in my opinion, an unprecedented level of interference with my political

freedom of choice since political party’s have never before concerned themselves with the

private thoughts of the electorate or even their public statements, nor, quite obviously with

their criminal records, past behaviour, moral status, or what the neighbours say about them.

The policies of the Labour party are public knowledge and one can vote for them or abstain

or vote for another party but they are in any case, we hope, determined on the basis of a

democratic transparent process of debate, reflection and collaboration that would,

hopefully, eliminate anyone who disagrees with their policies or discourage them from

voting. I therefore do not see how it could possibly benefit the Labour party to snoop

around on people’s Social Media posts, or for that matter eavesdrop on their private

conversations, except perhaps in the hope of better attuning policy to the needs and

expectations of the electorate?


The CAA’s use of the term anti-Semitism and its threat to have me expelled from Labour

thus represents a priori, an attempt to interject itself into internal party political affairs which

is at the very least remarkable as this ‘charity’ by no means has any legal authority to

determine who is allowed to be a member of the Labour party or who the party should or

should not accept as a member.


One may argue that the CAA’s role herein is merely advisory, but the amount of snooping

involved in compiling its accusations suggests that the CAA takes its role much more

seriously, that it is actually involved in compiling evidence so as to prepare the way for

legal action or for some sort of exercise of power rather than merely drawing attention to a

matter of Labour internal policy. Its aim is clearly to bring pressure to bear to force the

NEC’s hand.


Be that as it may, and I am by no means condoning or belittling anti-Semitism, I have

already argued in my reply to their accusations that the quotes were taken out of context.

The CAA selectively picked from texts and posts to make their point that I am either an anti-

Semite, or that something I wrote on Facebook is anti-Semitic, or that I am guilty by

association.


I do not intend to counter these accusations as I have already responded to them in my

reply to the CAA and they are completely unfounded and spurious. Neither does the CAA

have any particular authority in the matter of what is or is not anti-Semitic or who is or is not

an anti-Semite. Indeed, being an anti-Semite or making anti-Semitic statements, shameful

and stupid as it is, is not a crime in itself. Incitement to violence and statements clearly

intended to cause harm are crimes. However, here too, a fine lines separates statements

that are merely hurtful or insulting, including criticism, from ‘hate speech’.


The CAA: a self-appointed Watchdog


The problem here is that the CAA is a self-appointed watchdog that is attempting to do the

work of the Labour party itself, not merely by ‘gathering evidence’ and bringing it to the

attention of the NEC, but also by using a contested and overly broad definition of anti-

Semitism that includes legitimate criticism of Israel and Jewish organisations and also

includes jokes, sarcastic statements, and a great deal of other things that political parties

should not, in my opinion, have to police, precisely because these are already policed by

the police, secret services and media, and furthermore because political parties primary

work is to create favourable conditions for the peaceful arbitration of social conflicts, in

other words, conditions that reduce social conflict and racist xenophobia. Policing these

things is not within their ambit.


As an example of the way the mandate for defining something anti-Semitic may become

overly broad and imprecise consider e.g. the name of the US based ‘Anti-Defamation

League’ (ADL) which views its mandate as extending, as its title suggests, to any statement

or communication that can be considered ‘defamatory’ to Jews, Jewish organisations,

Jewish culture, the Jewish faith, Zionism, Israel, perhaps even Jewish cooking.

By formulating a definition of antisemitism in an overly broad manner, the term can refer to

both acts like defacing or damaging tombstones in a Jewish cemetery or encouraging

prejudices and violence toward Jews as well as to referring to someone of Jewish ancestry

as a ‘dirty Jew’ following a disagreement or because the Jew in question is actually ‘dirty’. It

may not be tactful to call someone a ‘dirty Jew’ but it may be factually correct. By blurring

the lines between ‘hate-speech’ and ‘incitement of violence and discrimination’ and mere

insult (defamation) the ADL has granted itself a wide-ranging mandate to police anything

and everything it considers anti-Semitic, including criticism of Zionism and Israel and of

Jewish organisations that fund and support the occupation, that lobby governments and

support all kinds of activities that critics view as perpetuating injustice and suffering of

Palestinians. E.g. calls to boycott Israeli products as a means of bringing Israel to the

negotiating table are now classified as ‘anti-Semitic’ or even ‘enemy actions’ by the ADL

and other Zionist and Israeli organisations.


The International Definition of Anti-Semitism (IDA)


The definition of Anti-Semitism to which the CAA appeals, proposed by the International

Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, is one that has only recently been adopted by the UK

government. The manner of this adoption as well as the contents of the IDA have been

severely criticised as too general and vague to provide an effective means of policing or

identifying anti-Semitism and distinguishing it from ordinary insults that are not of sufficient

gravity to warrant intervention or from legitimate criticism of Israel and of Zionist or

nationalist organisations. The most serious criticism of the IDA focuses on the needless

and illegitimate conflation of anti-Semitism as a form of hatespeech and incitement to

violence and criticism of Israel, subject I and others more qualified than myself have

addressed elsewhere — suffice to say that Jews are human beings while Israel is a nation

state, two different things entirely and that one can perfectly well criticise one or the other

without being anti-Semitic.


  • The IDA is particularly overreaching its ambit when it refers to the following acts as anti-Semitism:

  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination (e.g. by claiming that th existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour).

  • Applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.


As this list, from the CAA website shows, Jews and the state of Israel are effectively

construed as being synonymous without reference to the many Jews worldwide and in

Israel who actively protest the current policies of the Israeli state, particularly its occupation

and its violation of Palestinian Human Rights etc. I quote from the Free Speech on Israel

website:


“There are already many examples of attempts to illegitimately stretch the use of the

definition to censor legitimate political and moral debate. A particular target has been the

non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement – a mass non-violent civil society

campaign to hold Israel to account. Already Israel’s UK supporters have rushed to preemptively interpret the Government’s announcement as shielding Israel and its foundational political philosophy of Zionism, rather than protecting Jews.”


To address each of these points specifically:


There can be little doubt that Israeli media and many pro-Israeli, Zionst and or Jewish

institutions do in fact emphasise the Holocaust at every conceivable opportunity. I

feel it would be entirely superfluous to even attempt to substantiate this just use

Google!


The right of Jewish people to self-determination does not extend to the kind of

dereliction of international agreements and violations of Palestinian Human Rights we

are witnessing today in Israel, the West-Bank and Gaza.


I know of no cases where anyone has demanded of Israel any other kind of

behaviour than of any other state. What this point actually refers to is the question of

the extent of Israel’s use of force and whether its responses are warranted,

necessary, proportionate etc. Israel actually demands of the International community

that it turn a blind eye to its continued violations of Human Rights and International

agreements while its policies more and more overtly destroy the chances of reaching

a negotiated settlement.


First of all, Israeli institutions, politicians and Zionist organisations continually draw on

the Holocaust and the sordid memory of persecution of Jews in Europe and

especially during the Nazi era. So, these organisations actually continually make

comparisons to the Nazi era, including associating politicians and Palestinians and

Arabs of collaboration or of somehow perpetuating the policies of the Nazis.

Secondly, comparisons are highly enlightening, especially since they also reveal

significant differences. Since most people would agree that the State of Israel owes

its existence in many ways to the urgency of finding a safe place for Jews, it seems

logical to also consider the ways in which the politics and outlook of Israeli and

Jewish organisations might have been shaped by the Nazi era as well as to consider

the manifold ways in which modern democratic states might actually evolve or

perpetuate mistakes that led to the rise of Fascism.


All of this is of course perfectly legitimate and not implicitly anti-Semitic. One could, for the sake of argument, point out, e.g. that many policies currently implemented by the Israeli state, including segregation, including the de facto creation of Arab “Ghettos” and collective

punishments, isolation, making health care and education unavailable to Palestinians,

etc etc. do resemble closely policies implemented by the Nazi’s prior to their

implementation of the “endlössung”. As Zygmunt Bauman argued in Modernity and

the Holocaust, the Nazi’s “endlössung” required a modern state machinery and

careful gradual dehumanising of the victims through segregation (the construction of

walled ghettos) and the “compartmentalisation” of all measures so that none of those

involved felt personally culpable for the final outcome.


The CAA: not a charity!


I therefore conclude that what the CAA actually has done in their e-mail undermines their

claim to be ‘merely a charitable institution’ — the e-mail and the threat and interference

implicit in it are an attempt to exercise power over free speech and over that of a British

political party. Again, I refrain from any speculation as to the actual motives for such

interference save to say that it is clear to me that engaging in criticism of Israel and

Zionism and particularly of Jewish organisations that support the occupation and the

continuing dispossession of Palestinians and the trampling of their human rights seems to

have incurred the CAAs wrath.


It does not appear incidental to the case that the board members of the CAA, Stephen

Silverman, Nathan Hopstein and Gideon Falter all have their Facebook pages plastered

with material denigrating the current leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, making

false accusations and implying that he is somehow allied to ‘terrorists’ (i.e. Hamas). This

suggests at least the possibility that the CAA is actually less a “Charity” than a political

organisation attempting purposely to harm the image of Labour UK by implying that those

supporting Jeremy Corbyn, or members who are critical of Israel, are anti-Semites and

forcing the NEC to expel them, a strategy that has already led to a number of expulsions

(e.g. Ken Livingstone, a person whose credentials as an anti-racist campaigner are beyond

doubt but who made the unfortunate mistake of mentioning an uncomfortable truth about

relations between Zionist organisations and the Nazis prior to the Second World War).

From Stephen Silverman's Facebook page ...


From the CAA website by Gideon Falter ....




And Steve Silverman ..




The CAAs criticism could discredit me in the eyes of those who have not read my posts or

any of my communications in full and who do not know me, do not know I am Jewish, do

not know I am an Israeli passport holder. Nonetheless, these accusations could get me

expelled from the Labour party, despite my clear and outspoken stand against racism and

for human rights as well as FOR many Labour policies I hope to see fulfilled.


That I occasionally indulge in sarcasm, in reflecting and ridiculing ideas I disagree with,

making jokes, engaging with people whose beliefs and communications are disagreeable to

the CAA, or making legitimate comparisons between political conditions in 1930s Germany

and Israel today, is in my opinion entirely my own business, even though it now, thanks to

social media, occurs in public. Indeed, the CAAs investigation constitutes an illegal and

unethical interference with my political sovereignty, for in order for me to be a political

subject I must also have a right to do more than just vote once every four years, I must also

have a right to engage with others in frank communication, unimpeded by self-appointed

watchdogs.


I hereby request that the Labour party remove the CAA as an advisory on anti-Semitism,

that you declare their use of the International Definition of Anti-Semitism as ‘not fit for

purpose’ (since it is obviously this definition the CAA is employing as a mandate) and that

you act to have the CAAs registration and a ‘charitable organisation’ removed on grounds

of political interference, spying and coercion.


—Daniel Waterman, 1st of February, 2018. The Hague.

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