Oh dear

I would have thought that saying the Israeli state was racist was just the bleedin' obvious; but apparently it is controversial. Odd. Maybe the "totally" was OTT. I suppose having the Iranians saying it must be irritating. So what was the conference for? To discuss racism without at any point admitting that anyone is?


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I had got a dream to start my own organization, but I didn't have got enough amount of cash to do that. Thank heaven my close colleague proposed to use the loans. Thence I took the sba loan and made real my desire.

Are you really that naive?

Do you really think the purpose of Iran is to improve human rights by condemning Israel for racism?

Do you think Iran will balance its accusations by also discussing racism in any Arab or Muslim nations?

Do you think the nations applauding Iran's accusations would applaud Israel making similar accusations against any muslim nation?

Do you think the nations applauding Iran would even sit through a speech by ANY nation that discusses Muslim racism?

[Like I say, "oh dear". Do I think Iran'spurpose is to improve human rights? No. Is that a reason to walk out? No. Do I think Iran will balance? No. Is that a reason to walk out? No. As far as I can see, there appears to be a rule stating that Iran (and perhaps everyone else) isn't allowed to criticise Israel. But anyway, since you're here: do you think that Israel is not a racist country? -W]

As far as I can see, there appears to be a rule stating that Iran (and perhaps everyone else) isn't allowed to criticise Israel.

Jim seems to be right - you really are that naive.

Do you genuinely believe that there was not in Durban and is not now a ganging up on Israel? This has nothing to do with Israel being immune from criticism, but has lots to do with a badly unbalanced view of Israel vs. the sizable number of non-democratic, anti-semitic, and self-marginalized countries that propose and support the anti-Israel resolutions.

There's lots of blame to go around, and Israel is far from innocent. But until there's some semblance of rational and evidence-based balance in the criticism, these conferences are not worth the powder to blow them to hell.

[You too have failed to make an argument for a walk-out. You've made an argument for not turning up at all, which is entirely different. As for views of Israel - oh yes, I entirely agree that views are unbalanced -W]

By Scott Belyea (not verified) on 20 Apr 2009 #permalink

Jim, sometimes even things said by a hypocrite are things that are worth saying and are worth hearing. Judging the comments by their reception, especially based on the supposed positions of the listeners regarding other statements, is probably less defensible. It would be better to have Iran call Israel racist (and then have Israel or someone else call Iran racist and sexist) than to have everyone close their eyes and cover their ears when someone threatens to make a truthful statement.

Scott, how do you propose countries should get together to discuss problems and exchange rational and evidence-based criticism? There were apparently lots of other delegates there to provide "balance". Instead of crafting articulate responses, there were clowns' noses and walkouts. Pretty weak.

Perhaps if Israel was "merely" called racist, there wouldn't have been much of a fuss. Did you bother to actually listen to the speech. The clip in the video you linked to went well beyond calling Israel racist. Later in the speech were gems including:
Efforts must be made to put an end to the abuse by Zionists and their supporters of political and international means... Governments must be encouraged and supported in the fight aimed at eradicating this barbaric racism and moving towards reforming the current international mechanisms.

This type of language has no place anywhere and especially not at a conference trying to unite people to common, peaceful goals. Add in the fact that the speaker is someone who has actively called for action against Jews (international Zionist conspiracy doesn't just refer to Israelis) makes the statement highly inappropriate and the people who walked out every very justified in their actions.

[You appear to have missed the point: these fine people walked out after 1 minute, so what was later on in the speech is irrelevant -W]

It isn't bleedin' obvious to me that Israel is a racist state. Like every country in the world, it has its fair share of racists, some of whom are quite prominent in the international news.

To make a blanket statement like that with no evidence is rather unscientific, don't you think? It certainly doesn't belong on a science blog. Criticism should be evidence based.

[I don't know if you noticed, but this post was under that "chatter" category, not a science one. You appear to be verging close to telling me what I'm allowed to post -W]

Its not as if he just said "gosh folks, I really think Israel is, like, totally racist", William.

He accused them of genocide and Zionism of being the driver of international racism. It's not like you to skip the detail.

[I was going by the BBC report. I didn't listen to the speech because it was in Iranian, which I don't speak. You appear to be under the impression that I'm agreeing with everything his speech. I'm not. I'm disagreeing with French Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Mattei said: "As soon as he started to address the question of the Jewish people and Israel, we had no reason to stay in the room," which is twaddle. Do you agree with the French ambassador? -W]

By Alan Woods (not verified) on 20 Apr 2009 #permalink

Wow! Naked antisemitism right here on ScienceBlogs! What's next? Blood libel?

By I am Jewish (not verified) on 20 Apr 2009 #permalink

Wow! Naked antisemitism right here on ScienceBlogs! What's next? Blood libel?

Wow! Criticise Israel and the anti-semitic accusations start! Point to recognise: Being critical of Israeli internal (and external) policies is not necessarily anti-semitism.


Martin -- You are correct, being critical of Israeli policies is not necessarily anti-semitism. But in this case, Occam's razor suggests that endorsing Ahmedinejad's attacks on your blog is best accounted for by anti-semitism.

By I am Jewish (not verified) on 20 Apr 2009 #permalink

Antisemitism is rare in modern America. Criticism of Israel is more common. Occam's razor, please.

By I am also Jewish (not verified) on 20 Apr 2009 #permalink

IAJ, you're being silly. And Occam's razor suggests that you don't know the meaning of 'endorsed'.

By Alan Woods (not verified) on 20 Apr 2009 #permalink

Actually, anti-semitism is on the rise in the UK, where William lives. And I think that linking to a speech and calling its main thesis obvious constitutes an endorsement of its essence. Moreover, William does not generally write about foreign policy -- he seems to have reserved his condemnation for the state of Israel.

By I am Jewish (not verified) on 20 Apr 2009 #permalink

Let's see...you have a country that offers citizenship to all members of a single ethnic group, regardless of where they are born, while denying full privileges of citizenship to members of another ethnic group, despite the fact that they are born within the boundaries of the country, and have lived there long before the country was established. The state of Israel defines itself as a Jewish state. When Fiji denied rights to its Indian majority (as it was at the time), we called it a racist state. When South Africa denied rights to its African majority and Indian and mixed-race minorities, we called it a racist state. When Israel denies rights to its Arab minority, while extending rights to people who have never set foot in the country...on the basis of ethnicity...we call it a racist state.

Recognising that doesn't mean support for Ahmadinejad. Quite frankly, William has made his name (as a blogger, at least) pointing out the ridiculousness of denialists. Surprisingly, it looks like he has a crowd of denialists for readers...

In 3 years of blogging at Sb, William has never commented on the alleged racism of any other nation, as far as I can tell. And Arab citizens of Israel have greater democratic voting rights than Arabs in any other Middle Eastern country (with the possible exception of the new democratic Iraq).

[You're missing the point old fruit. That the Iranians say nasty things about Israel is hardly news. That Israel is racist is hardly news. That the poor dear ambassadors are so shocked by this astonishing news that they cover their ears and run from the room screaming is noteworthy -W]

By I am Jewish (not verified) on 20 Apr 2009 #permalink

You don't have to be Jewish to identify the bleedin' obvious...

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 20 Apr 2009 #permalink

If by racism, you mean they stand up for principles that their race and nation represent when their ideals come into conflict with others' ideals, then I guess you would be correct. However, this is a mislabeling.

Is the statement "Israel is a Jewish state" any more racist than the alternative "Palestine is a Muslim state"?
To my mind they are both equal - or equally objectionable.
I say that as a supporter of Israel - a state with large numbers of Jews, but not a "Jewish" state. Correct me if I'm wrong but the Palestinians are currently being asked to recognize Israel, not as a state with a right to exist, but as a "Jewish state". Isn't a state simply the ideal of the majority of the individuals that live there? Israel and the occupied territories are close to 50:50 Jewish and non-Jewish. Bring back the dispossessed Palestinians living in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan and there's a minority of Jews living there.
William is writing on scienceblogs, not bibleblogs. If it was bible blogs I would say its perfectly correct that Israel is a Jewish state since that's what God said in the bible - indeed lets extend it to the full area God gave them taking in most of Syria and a substantial part of Iraq up to the Euphrates!
However, since I happen to think the bible is a mythical tale with as much basis in fact as stories of Zeus or Thor then I prefer to deal with the modern democracies in modern down to earth terms, not on the basis of a story that God 'gave' the land to people of one religion in perpetuity.

Ahmadinejad seems to have spent the majority (entirity) of his speech blaming Israel, "the Jews" and their Western backers for all racism in the world (I'm making this statement based on http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8008850.stm ).

This is so blatently absurd that I find it hard to understand why you seem to think it is a reasonable statement. It is true that Israel is far from a perfect example of a racially integrated society. Big deal. It is no worse (and probably better) than Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Iran itself to list just a few nearby nations who clearly discriminate against ethnic minorities.

Part of the problem with this conference is that the people who seem to have controlled the Agenda seem determined to attack racism by certain groups of people (e.g. Israel) and ignore racism by other groups of people (e.g. Arabs or Iranians) which makes the whole thing a waste of time and money. There is a book somewhere that talks about taking the plank out of your own eye before trying to remove the speck in your neighbour's eye - it might have been a good idea if these people had read it.

["This is so blatently absurd that I find it hard to understand why you seem to think it is a reasonable statement" - I don't. You're not reading what I'm writing. Fortunately I'm used to this. "It is true that Israel is far from a perfect example of a racially integrated society. Big deal. It is no worse ..." notice how you are carefully avoiding saying that Israel is racist.

"the people who seem to have controlled the Agenda" - the Iranians sent their Prez. No-one else did. Naturally he got given a speech - how could it be otherwise? Or are you saying that the Iranians, obviously, don't count so don't get a speech? -W]

William, I didn't think you agreed with everything in his speech. But I do think you're naive or ignorant if you think that you can take 'the Israel is racist' bit in isolation and without its context.

The context is in both what else he said in his speech and what he has said in the past regarding his intentions towards Israel and his thoughts on the Holocaust. The French ambassador would have known what nonsense was to come when he decided to walk out at the Israel is racist bit.

[Speaking of the FA, I asked you if you agreed with him and you've pointedly not replied. However... yes the FA would have known what was to come. Of course. Are you arguing that the FA thought "oh well, I've heard this all before, may as well go off and get a coffee?" No, of course not. The walk-out was a deliberate political gesture and it was pre-planned. It wasn't because A was talking "nonsense", it was because he was saying something that we have decided not to hear. A makes it easy for his opponents by going well over the top, which allows you to ignore his obvious correct points. -W]

By Alan Woods (not verified) on 20 Apr 2009 #permalink

Ahmadinejad said a number of inflammatory things in his speech, some of which would justify a delegate walking out. However, none of those things are why delegates walked out, or refused to attend. It's simple realpolitik.

And yes, of course Israel is a racist state. Not as evil as Iran, on balance, but certainly racist.

By Nick Barnes (not verified) on 20 Apr 2009 #permalink

Carl, I'm curious. When exactly does the belief in a particular brand of religion make one a member of a different race? To be perfectly pedantic, Arabs and Israelis are both Semitic peoples.

Have the Arabs misbehaved? Of course. Have the Israelis? You bet. Frankly, I'd like to pick them both up by the scruff of the neck and send them to bed without any supper. If they are going to behave like children they should be treated like children. Both groups.

And as for the little twerp from Iran ... who the devil gave him time at the podium? He's had his 15 minutes of fame.

The page you linked to contained a video of the speech. There was a translator so you could hear exactly what he was saying when people started to walk out. Did you bother listening to it? Did you hear what he said even in the first minute? He started quite fast and didn't bother with many niceties. Do you agree with what he said during the first minute of his speech? Do you still consider it surprising that people walked out rather than listen to any more?

[I've just noticed your earlier comment assuming I'm clueless. I shall make the assumption that was an error on your part, and you really were interested in polite discourse. So I've deleted it.

No, I haven't listened to the speech. As I've said several times already, I don't endorse A's (all of) opinions. I think it is regrettable that he goes so far over the top that you get to ignore his valid points by being outraged by the nonsense. As to the walk out: that was a stunt. People didn't leave because they couldn't bear to listen: A says this stuff frequently, and they have heard it all before -W]

William, you can't separate a statement with significant moral baggage like "Israel is racist" from the person saying it, as if he's merely iterating a known mathematical equation.

It's a political statement being made by a man who has previously called for the destruction of Israel, amongst other things. With his significant history, no-one is in any doubt about whether Ahmadinejad's concerns are genuine, and thats the basis on which delegates either boycotted or walked out.

[You're still ducking the question regarding the FA. If you're refusing to answer, could you just say so please? As for "It's a political statement being made by a man who has previously called for the destruction of Israel" - indeed. So given that what A was going to say was bound to be political - he is there as a politician, after all - you are saying, I think, that all these delicate ambassador folk should have walked out regardless of the content of what he said? In which case they have the delicate problem of timing. Do they sit around for 1 minute not listening before faking outrage, or 10 seconds, or would it have been better to walk out before A even starting speaking? That would have been more honest, no? -W]

By Alan Woods (not verified) on 21 Apr 2009 #permalink

"previously called for the destruction of Israel" is a very tired canard.

But this is irrelevant to Stoat's point.

By Nick Barnes (not verified) on 21 Apr 2009 #permalink

I just rechecked the article. The did NOT walk out in the first minute. They walked out within MINUTES of the beginning of the speech. The BBC video cut in when the protest begins.
I found a full translation of the speech at:

You can read what was said before the walkout. Here is the line where people started to walk out, "Following World War II, they resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering and they sent migrants from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world in order to establish a totally racist government in occupied Palestine."

Reading the preceding text and that line would you have stayed in the room?

[Most certainly. While the style is, as I've said before, well over the top the substance - the displacement of the pre-existing inhabitants because of a combination of guilt at what we (the west) did in WWII, and a desire to establish a (racist) presence in the region, seems entirely fair. And indeed the outrage would be far less if what A was saying was entirely false -W]

Perhaps the line "under the pretext of Jewish suffering" doesn't stand out to you, but it does to me and many diplomats. He's saying that there was no real reason to move the Jews anywhere (i.e. Holocaust denial... unlike the destroying Israel comment, this is something that he clearly follows and the diplomats there know it). Even the implication at a conference on ending racism is disgusting.

[No, he is entirely correct. The suffering happened *before* the move, not after. There was no holocaust after the war. There was no need to move the jews after the war. And if there had been a need, obviously, they should not have been moved onto land already occupied. "pretext" has nothing to do with holocaust denial; you are over-interpreting -W]

The history in that region is too complex to put in a few sentences, but a claim that the European nations actively forced the Palestinians out of their homes that also happens to ignore ANY Arab aggression is false. Also the fact that many Palestinians remained in Israel and are still citizens makes the claim of making an "entire nation homeless" a bit weak, but that's nitpicking.

[Yes, "entire" is wrong, but "entire nation" is correct, because as a nation they became homeless. "a claim that the European nations actively forced the Palestinians out of their homes that also happens to ignore ANY Arab aggression is false" - no, you're wrong. Such a claim is correct, but incomplete -W]

Um. Please check your history. I don't vouch for every number of wikipedia, but
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aliyah#Statistics seems to have some reasonable numbers:

From 1919-1948, 377,381 were from Europe and 40,895 from Asia (with another 52,786 not known) (higher up on the page, 174,000 of those were from 1933-1936 after the rise of Nazism, but before the British close the borders. I'm sure the pre-Holocaust numbers would have been higher if the Brits didn't shut block people fleeing Europe.)

Between 1948 and 1951 332,802 were from Europe 237,704 were from Asia, and 93,282 were from Africa

Note that the majority from Asia were Jews fleeing Arab nations after the creation of Israel.
Higher up on the wikipedia page also has some more detailed history. Also note that many of the European immigrants after the Holocaust were essentially homeless. It wasn't European nations helping them get to Israel OR preventing them. It was just a place they were able to go.

The Palestinian nation argument is also a bit weak because they weren't a nation before 1948 either. "Oppression" by the British was preceded by oppression by the Ottomans. At worst 1948 was a change in who was ruling, but not the removal self government from the Palestinians.

Is Israel a racist state? (1 mark)
Justify your answer. (4 marks)
(0 marks for tearing up the quiz and walking out)

very tough to discuss such things via e-mail/blogs as certain word combinations cause outright emotional distress for readers independent of the real point being made. this is seen here and at the subject of the posting (U.N.). As RP Jr once amusingly quipped on this blog when considering "touchy" abrupt climate change lingo - "i'll see you in prison."

This all begs a very important question presented by a brave anthropologist several years ago: "How can one 'celebrate diversity' and be 'politically correct' at the same time?" Answer: you can't, and you need only peel back a few layers before you figure that out, or watch well-intentioned U.N. conferences unfold.

Naive? No. You don't have to walk down too long a pier before you realize that almost every nation was created in the shadow of racism.

We need to think anew - but the answers aren't simple, again.

William, I was 'ducking' the FA question because I didn't see how it was relevant. You seem to want to narrow this argument down to a specific point that is much narrower than your original statement. Your point that I was objecting too was 'that Israel is racist is obvious so why do people object'.

But since you want to know - I'd say his actions are justified. As for timing, I find it hard to care.

Nick Barnes: Ahmadinejad stated that he agreed with Khomeini's statement that 'the occupying regime' which 'the world oppressor has legitimised for over fifty years' should be ended. Add up 'over fifty years' and tell me its only referring to occupation of gaza etc.

By Alan Woods (not verified) on 21 Apr 2009 #permalink

My understanding of the history is that up until 1948 CE, the new settlers from Europe and elsewhere bought the land they then used. So they hardly were forcing others out of it.

By David B. Benson (not verified) on 21 Apr 2009 #permalink

Alan Woods: Ahmadinejad clearly believes that the present Israeli state should be ended, not because of recent offenses but because of the circumstances of its creation - al-nakba - and its continuing racism. Commentators who ascribe to him expressions such as "the destruction of Israel", or "wiped off the map", are abusing colloquial English to imply that he seeks Israel's military annihilation and/or a genocide. They are mostly either ignorant or lying.

Compare: apartheid South Africa has been destroyed, and wiped off the map.

Ahmadinejad is a Holocaust denier, and non-executive head of a somewhat oppressive state. So he is of course a scumbag. But there's no sense in demonising him.

By Nick Barnes (not verified) on 21 Apr 2009 #permalink

Meh. Staying away from what will inevitably be another worthless (if not counterproductive) UN meeting is one thing. Trying to have it both ways, theatrically walking out on the bits where you want to be seen walking out, is another. So it goes.

["worthless (if not counterproductive)" - like the climate ones :-(? -W]

By Raymond Arritt (not verified) on 22 Apr 2009 #permalink

would have thought that saying the Israeli state was racist was just the bleedin' obvious; but apparently it is controversial. Odd.

Consider the meaning of the word "racist". It is usually not used for religious bigotry, or for cultural clashes, or for disagreements between boaters and swans.


Did you use the correct word?

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 22 Apr 2009 #permalink


Webster says "Racism 1. The belief that certain races of people are by birth and nature superior to others "

A group of people, who have maintained their racial uniqueness (purity), and claim that they are the "God's chosen race" are not racist?

These are the people (the Israelis) who have walled in the Palestinians into the Gaza Strip and then bombed their schools and hospitals. Even if their action was not as bad as the Warsaw Getto, surely it must be one of the closest of the recent attempts to emulate that atrocity.

Electing a president descended from the two emigrant races does not absolve Americans from their genocide of the native people of the USA.

Despite what Vice President Cheney thought, you Yankees are not God's chosen people.

President Obama has admitted that he is not. When are the rest of you Americans going to accept that too, and renounce your blind dotting on the only state in the Near East region to have weapons of mass destruction?

Cheers, Alastair.

By Alastair B. McDonald (not verified) on 22 Apr 2009 #permalink

1. The text of the speech had been distributed beforehand (it was actually rougher than the speech as given)so everyone knew what was coming.

[I see: you are denouncing the theatricality of the walk out? They knew what was coming: this wasn't true anger, this was a pre-arranged gesture. Well I agree -W]

2. The European countries walked out at the point where they were accused of being complicit in violence against the Palestinians on behalf of Israel. Obviously they were making a point quite different from your wild assed guess. Care to rethink?

http://wtopnews.com/?nid=104&sid=1626773 among others.

[Don't understand your point. No, I don't think the EU should walk out because it is being criticised -W]

A group of people, who have maintained their racial uniqueness (purity), and claim that they are the "God's chosen race" are not racist?

A group of people that accepts converts from other groups is not a racially unique group. It is a group bound by religion and custom, not biology (aka "race").


Jews range in skin colour from black to white, however note that there is some racism between Jews of different backgrounds. An Israeli soldier:


I'm not Jewish, I am American. The treatment of some of the native people in the USA was genocide. I've never thought of Americans or any one else as the "chosen people". I'm hardly a "blind dotting on" for Israel.

My point is that getting a honest view of the problems might prevent mistakes. Use the correct words. Hint: "Racist" isn't the correct word. Start with that and rethink your points.

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 22 Apr 2009 #permalink

I really don't get your point about theatricality. The whole thing is theatre! It's theatre to invite an outspoken anti-semite to give a major talk at a conference against racism. It's theatre for that person to use the podium to give a speech that he knows will derail the goals of the conference. It's theatre for countries to not attend. It's theatre for people to walk out during the talk. It's theatre to applaud as he's talking about Zionist conspiracies. Frankly the goal of the conference is theatre since I doubt anyone really thinks that Saudi Arabia will start allowing Jews in the country or Japan will not paying "foreigners" to leave regardless of the outcome. The draft conclusions are filled with unmeasurable platitudes. (Unlike the climate conferences where, even if the treaties are unenforceable, it's possible to precisely measure whether out not signatories are following them)

But that wasn't the point of your original posting. Your originally said that Ahmadinejad's statements were bleedin' obvious. Especially if the attendees had printouts of the speech and knew what he was going to say, do you still think what he was saying was all true and reasonable? Considering everyone there was participating in theatre would you be one of the people walking out or applauding?

[You could read what I wrote, though I appreciate that isn't as amusing as making things up. I said "I would have thought that saying the Israeli state was racist was just the bleedin' obvious; but apparently it is controversial" -W]

I've read everything you've written here.
Your definition of controversy seems to be that people walked out and made a big fuss over his speech. I've tried to explain why there were very good reasons to walk out beyond just him saying "totally racist." You still seem to hold to the idea that the only reason they walked out was those two words. Assuming they are walking out over more than just two words (i.e. the context of those two words within the rest of the speech and the history of the speaker) do you still think the actions of the other diplomats were wrong/controversial?

[Trying to address what I think is your point: I don't think the diplomats had good (let alone very good) reasons to walk out -W]

What bsci said. Eli was not denouncing the walkout. He was pointing out that it was a diplomatic response to an insult. Please don't attempt to put words into my mouth. You prefer a machine gun response? You are now in the process of digging in. Don't

The whole conference is pure theatre. I wish it wasn't, but it is what it is. A theatrical thumb-in-the-eye of the stated goal of the conference was responded to by a walkout of people who at least claim to be there to work on a serious conference. You seem to think of this walkout as some major and hugely dramatic response, but it's well within typical actions of diplomats. I wish they could all behave more maturely, but criticizing the walkers, but not the other theatre participants is a weak place to stake your position.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but have you yet acknowledged that there's anything in Ahmadinejad's that was grossly inappropriate for the forum or plain wrong? What would be a good reason to walk out or would you have preferred that they all just didn't show up in the first place?

[A moment ago, you assured me that you've read everything I've written. Now suddenly you've missed "I didn't listen to the speech" and "the Iranians say nasty things about Israel" and "A makes it easy for his opponents by going well over the top" and "As I've said several times already, I don't endorse A's (all of) opinions. I think it is regrettable that he goes so far over the top that you get to ignore his valid points by being outraged by the nonsense". Ah well, it looks like I fail the Loyalty Oath -W]

William, you're a Wiki admin ffs. You should know better than most that there are some subjects that you can't touch online without triggering a firestorm of criticisms, misrepresentations, complaints of misrepresentation, etc. etc. etc. no matter what opinion you express. You already have one foot firmly in one of the worst of these - climate change; what on earth possessed you to stick your other foot in another?

For what it's worth (ie not much), I think your objection to the grandstanding is spot on... but so is bsci's observation that the whole conference was a bit of pointless ego-massaging theatre to begin with (and that's something I'd have thought you'd agree with too, since it's a bit akin to all those climate conferences that change oh so much). The whole thing seems a bit of a farce, and not worth the 5500 words of largely vituperative comment that your initial 250 word initial post has rather predictably spawned. (Oh, and you're being very charitable to A - unnecessarily so, frankly. He doesn't really need or deserve your defence.)

[This thread is getting rather long. If you have new things to say, that's great. But please don't just repeat the old things -W]

I'll skip anything related to previously made posts, but I'd like to say that I've found it much easier to understand both Zionism and Judaism if you think of Jews as a tribe whose religion is Judaism. (I don't mean a figurative tribe, I mean like Apaches or Yanomamo.) You can join the tribe if you really want to, but there are considerable initiation hurdles. Your children (matrilineal line) inherit membership. It's certainly not a race (which I believe is a much more recent human concept) but it's not identical to a religion. (It's also qualitatively different to being either Arab or Palestinian, both of which are very interesting identities in their own rights.) It's all quite confusing, and as Jews are a lot more spread out and culturally diffuse than other peoples that have an essentially tribal identity, I'm not sure we're much like anyone else.
Zionism is both the result of a 2000 year old dream of getting our land back and not living on the sufferance of other people, and the product of specific 19th and 20th century historical events. I'm not sure how valid the whole rationale is in the post-Hiroshima world, and not only due to The Bomb (it's not actually OK to conquer territory at this point in history), but we are where we are. I could go on in much more length, and you might get to read me argue with myself, but this is William's blog, and I come here because I trust his judgement on matters related to climate science.

By Antiquated Tory (not verified) on 23 Apr 2009 #permalink


A group of people that accepts converts from other groups is not a racially unique group. It is a group bound by religion and custom, not biology (aka "race").

I didn't know they accepted converts. They have never invited me to join :-) So, as far as I know the converts are few, mainly through marriage, thus the descendants do have Jewish genes. In other words they are not pure racists, only mostly racist. Sorry, but I think William is right for once :-)

Cheers, Alastair

By Alastair McDonald (not verified) on 23 Apr 2009 #permalink

Alastair: "I didn't know they accepted converts. They have never invited me to join :-) So, as far as I know the converts are few, mainly through marriage ..."

a) You just contradicted yourself and b) you obviously know nothing at all about Jews so I suggest you shut up until you learn something. For a start, there is no such thing as conversion through marriage, and Orthodox Judaism actually forbids conversion for the purpose of marriage. Also no-one gets "invited", or even encouraged, to convert.

Though there were periods and places when Jews did proselytize. It was quite common in the Hellenistic period. This practice ended when conversion to Judaism was declared an act of treason in the Byzantine empire and non-Moslems were forbidden from proselytizing Moslems in the Islamic lands. Various similar laws were passed here and there in the (far less centralized) Western Christian states over the course of the Middle Ages. I suspect that subsequent Jewish disavowal of proselytizing is to some extent making a virtue out of a necessity, though being on the receiving end of state-sanctioned proselytization has to be a large part of it, too.
Have you been invited to become an Uzbek or a Kazakh? Or an Apache? For that matter, have you ever been invited to become Welsh? Or Cornish? I guess all those people must be racists.
Now, let's say that Welsh identity was inextricably linked to their religion, such that the origin of the one is the origin of the other, and membership of one is equal to membership of the other. Do you see why converting to that religion would be different than converting to, say, the Catholic Church?

By Antiquated Tory (not verified) on 24 Apr 2009 #permalink

I didn't know they accepted converts. They have never invited me to join :-) So, as far as I know the converts are few, mainly through marriage, thus the descendants do have Jewish genes.

I think that "Jewish genes" is a racist statement.

Would you say "Catholic genes"? Or "Protestant genes"?

No? Then think it through.

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 24 Apr 2009 #permalink

Phil, see the discussion of genetics here:
As a population geneticist, I would say that "Jewish genes" is a more useful phrase than "Catholic genes". In fact, it would seem that Jewish population geneticists interested in disease and intelligence would agree (but see the genetics section here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashkenazi_Jews#Population_genetics).
Anyway, I don't know what Alistair was getting at by saying he hasn't been invited, but the post is about Israel ... and Israel does invite one group of people to [join] ... and that group may be relatively cohesive in a genetic sense. If I remember things correctly, Canada recently apologized for promoting immigration by Europeans but using a "head-tax" to stifle Chinese immigration (http://www.ccnc.ca/redress/history.html) and it sent immigrants from various other places home (e.g. http://www.msamuseum.ca/index.php/general-information/35-indo-canadian-…). Canada, like most nation states, was definitely a racist country.

[Apologies for delay. Its the links, guv -W]


There is no point in telling me to think it through. I only have a little brain, and can only see the obvious. You need to spell out your ideas, if you want me to understand what you are getting at.

OTOH, perhaps it is you who should think this through.

The Jews are a race. Their religion is Judaism. In other words they are both racists and religious bigots. They use their religion as an excuse for their racism, as they do for their seizure of Palestinian land. Using their religion as an excuse for racism does not stop them being racist.

Cheers, Alastair.

By Alastair McDonald (not verified) on 25 Apr 2009 #permalink

Yikes, Alastair -- You're conflating Jews (large numbers of people with a variety of inclinations) with Israel. They are not the same and your generalization is racist. Yuck.
I wish your comment got stuck in moderation whereas mine should have come through. Actually, I wish you hadn't made this one at all.

The Jews are a race.

Race is a myth. A hateful myth. A dangerous myth.


Or read this:


Race is a myth. Race is sometimes used as a synonym for subspecies, but there are no surviving human subspecies. Neanderthal (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) might have qualified, but they are extinct. They also might have been different enough to be a different species, as might Homo floresiensis, also extinct.

The genetic difference between groups of humans is much smaller than the genetic difference between individual humans. In other words, there are no human subspecies (aka races).

If race wasn't a myth, the Jews would not be a race. They just are not genetically distinct.

If the Jews are a race, they would be in the same race as the Palestinians, with whom they share many ancestors only a few thousand years ago.

Ah but you might object, a race doesn't have to exist for someone to act in a racist way. This is true. All they need to do is to believe that the other group is a different race... Look in the mirror, Alastair. Look in the mirror.

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 25 Apr 2009 #permalink

If the Jews are a race, they would be in the same race as the Palestinians, with whom they share many ancestors only a few thousand years ago.
Along with the rest of us. Read up on Most Recent Common Ancestor, and also "Identical ancestors point".

By Nick Barnes (not verified) on 25 Apr 2009 #permalink

Oh well, I see even intelligent people like Phil are unable to climb above their prejudices. The Old Testament of the Bible states that the Jews are God's Chosen people. See:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chosen_people which also states that Christians believe that they too share that distinction, since they also use the Old Testament. That explains the US's immoral support for Israel in its wars of conquest and extermination directed at its Arab neighbours.

If stating the simple facts makes me a racist, then so be it.

Cheers, Alastair.

By Alastair McDonald (not verified) on 28 Apr 2009 #permalink

The US government's support of Israel has much to do with Jewish American's political power due to being a largely concentrated minority. At this point, they get so much money from us that they funnel it back through to other politicians elsewhere and the cycle continues. Much like the US's ridiculous Cuban policy being held hostage to South Floridian immigrants.

I don't particularly support many Israeli policies, especially regarding settlements, but I think the typical leftist position that Israel is innately evil is pretty stupid. In any event, I took the original statement that Israel was "obviously rascist" to be a political statement rather than a factual one. Thus, the support for the farcical conference which will beyond doubt reach conclusions with which he agrees (sorry to ruin the suspense).