Sunday, April 25, 2010

Daniel Zeichner, that salute and a bizarre exchange

click to read about the incident in the Cambridge NewsOld Holborn is an independent libertarian candidate for Cambridge who dresses as Guy Fawkes, including mask.

The reason I mention him is that he appears to have been the first person to have posted a picture of the city's Labour candidate Daniel Zeichner performing a revolting gesture during a debate at the Cambridge Union. Zeichner, giving his opinion of the Polish Law and Justice Party with which the Conservative Party in Europe is allied by giving a Nazi salute. This is yet another instance of the blogosphere leading the news agenda.

Zeichner referred to the incident at a hustings ran by the Stop the War Coalition at which Old Holborn was also present and - according to minutes - found it necessary to point out very early on, in a conversation that was heading in sinister directions, "80% of Conservative MPs and 40% of Labour MPs are signed up as friends of Israel. Only Israel has more Jewish MPs than Britain." The hustings was also attended by Julian Huppert of the Liberal Democrats, Martin Booth of Cambridge Socialists, Simon Sedgewick-Jell (representing Tony Juniper) of the Green Party and Daniel Zeichner. Conservative candidate Nicholas Hillman was speaking at another engagement.

Zeichner was lucky enough, given his recent history, to arrive right at the end of the section of questions on Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Soon after, though, the following bizarre exchange took place between Zeichner and a photographer standing at the front:
How does Daniel Zeichner square what he says with his membership of Labour Friends of Israel?
I’m not a member.
I have information that you are.
I’m not.
Member of public to photographer: “sit down!”
I withdraw my previous comment, as my knowledge is not sufficient – what did you mean by “forces outside our control?”
My Dad was born in the 1930s in Vienna, and was driven out by the Nazis. I’m not Jewish, but my Dad lived in Vienna at a time when it was wise to get out.
The photographer turned to the seats and said "I want to reassure everybody I’m not anti-Jewish", then he and the member of the public who’d told him to sit down accused each other of wanting to direct the meeting before the Chair regained control.
As a member of both Conservative Friends of Israel and Anglican Friends of Israel, I'm curious: what's so wrong in being a friend of Israel? We deserve to know.

All of the minutes are very interesting - click to read them here. I'm sure that anybody who wants to take issue with them can refer to the video of the event filmed by Cambridge Socialists.


  1. I'm not sure I understand, because I'm not sure that the terms here are the same as they are there. I'm not quite clear which man has your support. Forgive my ignorance; I'm truly attempting to 'keep up'.

  2. Sorry Linda, I should have made myself more clear. I support the Conservative candidate; I just wanted to point out that, above and beyond party differences, I felt very uneasy at things that were being said during the hustings. I think candidates revealed things about their views more clearly than they might have in a setting where they didn't feel quite as home. I have some time for Old Holborn - I just wish he'd lose the mask! - but even he wasn't immune from making the antisemitic statement about Labour and Conservative MPs being friends of Israel, and about only Israel having more Jewish MPs than us.

    The post was sparked by the photo of Daniel Zeichner doing the Hitler salute, which has been doing the round in blogs for about a week, finally making it to the mainstream media. I thought it was the right time to flag up these minutes.

    If you're confused about how the Brit General Election is going, you're on the right track!

  3. Zeichner's Nazi gesture was foolish and in poor taste but, as far as I understand it, simply reflects a distaste for far right parties in Europe. Like you, though I'm not a Conservative supporter, I find the of the kneejerk anti-Israel rhetoric here rather troubling.

  4. Sorry - that last bit should have read 'find the kneejerk anti-Israel rhetoric here rather troubling'.

  5. Thanks for your comments, Sarah. I left the meeting very troubled, mostly by the anti-Semitism. But also in other areas, eg Julian Huppert's (Lib Dem) statement in the minutes linked to that the best way to deal with Iran would be to get rid of our own nuclear deterrent - this at a time when Saudi Arabia's negotiating with North Korea to get a nuclear weapon, to defend itself against Iran!

  6. I've just been to the Anglia Ruskin hustings and was disgusted by the behaviour of Old Holborn who had brought along a spade for Daniel Zeichner to bury himself with - that's what OH said himself though I don't remember the precise words. Actually - though I'll probably vote for Zeichner - I did quite like the Tory candidate - first because he stood up for Zeichner and secondly because he actually said the public was wrong about something! This was in the context of a question about immigration - he explained that people's negative views about immigrants were partly shaped by a misapprehension about welfare spending.

  7. I have been dimly aware of OH, but as he's a libertarian, my mind was made-up already. This, however, is plain sinister.

  8. I agree, Sarah, that was in very poor taste - but OH has the freedom of a candidate who can be 99% sure that he won't win the only poll that counts. Thanks for your kind comment about Nick Hillman - in the first Cambridge hustings in the B-Bar, speaking about further education, he was the only candidate talking about going to Cambridge Regional College to learn to be a builder, while the rest were talking about university.

  9. Alec, thanks for your comment: I agree thoroughly!

    Great blog!

  10. Thanks for the endorsement Dougal!

    >> As a member of both Conservative Friends of Israel and Anglican Friends of Israel, I'm curious: what's so wrong in being a friend of Israel? We deserve to know.

    I think you've just answered your own question. Because it's Israel. Quite what a regional conflict at the eastern end of the Mediterranean understandably has to do with a domestic election thousands of miles away is beyond me.

    I used to wonder how normal otherwise good people could have allowed the Shoah to take place. Then I started listening to the likes of that photographer (whom I assume is StWC/SWP and not BNP; although I did once hear one of the former propound the notion that wealthy Jews conspired to start the Great War, firm Nazi-fodder) and it became clear.

    The greatest crime of Auschwitz was to make people feel sorry for [the] Jew. Next time he'll deserve it.

    Of course, the likes of OH and Richard Ingrams don't hold with this new rationalization, and keep the old-style religion going.

    What did Hillman say about immigration?

  11. PS A Twitter-contact at Cambridge University of mine was amused by the sight of the UKIP next to people dressed as Guy Fawkes. I filled her in.

  12. alec - not sure if your question about Hillman was addressed to me or FD - Hillman's general views on immigration didn't impinge on me, I'm sure they are uneccentric. But he did confront OH who provided statistics claiming that people were unhappy about immigration and that we should listen to them. Hillman said that people tended to overestimate the amount of money spent on welfare etc, and thus effectively he was saying that 'most people' were wrong. OH challenged him for not respecting people's views enough. (For a libertarian OH's views on issues such as homosexuality and immigration seem - surprising.) I agree with your points about Israel Alec.

  13. Alec - as far as I'm aware Nick toes the Conserrvative party line on immigration, in that people from EU areas are more likely to respect our culture than a minority of people from further afield whose customs are illegal in the UK, eg child marriage, female genital mutilation, etc. But the context of Israel being mentioned in this particular hustings is that it wanted candidates to speak on their views on foreign policy in the context of the middle east. I am a member of Anglican and Conservative friends of Israel because I believe that Israeli culture is closer to ours, being founded on Judaeo-Christian principles, than are the cultures of Israel's neighbours. Iran ostensibly wants the bomb to defend itself against Israel, but in reality it will be a bigger threat to its Muslim neighbours, who will want, like Pakistan, to be similarly armed.

    Sarah - I enjoyed your piece on Harry's Place. Thank you so much for linking to me!


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