9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN31 Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Israel and Zionism II Building II, C5.05

'As a jew...' Identity claims and the critique of Israel

A feature of public writing in the letters pages of the 'liberal' newspapers in the UK and elsewhere has been the invocation of Jewish identity as a legitimising force in offering critical opinions of Israel before, during and after the war in Gaza. The invocation of this identity has played an important role in the formation of a number of organisations and campaigns critical of Israel. Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Independent Jewish Voices are two prominent examples from the UK. Other supporters and campaigners for Palestinian rights have also made specific and explicit use of Jewish speakers as part of their campaigns. This paper will explore the uses made of these statements of Jewish identity and their place in arguments about anti-Semitism and anti-zionism. Potential tensions exist between criticisms of Israel made from standpoints of universalistic values and those made from a particularistic position. The question is posed as to whether Jewish critiques of Israel are coherently grounded in notions of "universal human emancipation" from jews who have transcended the limitations of a jewish identity (or "gone beyond jewry" as Isaac Deutscher put it) or whether these are cases of a jewish identity that is defined mainly (and negatively) by opposition to Israeli policies or to Zionism in general.