Saturday, February 28, 2009

When Anti-Zionism slips into Anti-Semitism

People are losing all perspective.

On the right, people bless everything Israel does. Every bombing deserved. Every murder explained. Every cruelty necessary. And everyone who disagrees is a closet Hitler.

On the left, Israel is accused of being worse then the Russians in Chechnya, or the American in Iraq: equivalent in fact to the Nazis.

The right wing Jews claim that any attack on Israeli policy or on the idea of Zionism is, by definition, anti-Jewish and therefore antisemitic. Zionism is an integral part of what it means to be Jewish - claims the Jewish right - and an attack on Israel or Zionism is an attack on all Jews. The left takes the right wingers at their word, and has begun equating Judaism with Zionism: and if Zionism is evil than so must the Jews be.

There is no nuance. No recognition that not all Jews support the Israeli right. No recognition that Jews may have legitimate national rights in Israel AND they may be oppressing Palestinians: that Palestinians may have legitimate national in Palestine rights AND they may be threatening Israelis. No recognition that all Muslims are not xenophobic anti-western anti-modern terrorists, and that all Jews are not power mad self righteous colonialists.

How far this has gone was driven home to me by an email I received from a Palestinian friend. This is a person who works cooperatively with many Jews (and others of course) to promote economic well being for Palestinians. This is a person who has never condoned violence, and who truly desires peace. In a mass email he forwarded a link to a blog article, with a note that he found it instructive re the ways in which anti-Israel voices are silenced. So far so good. I agree that anti-Israel voices are under-represented in the main stream media and in most official discourse.

But the article itself was an over the top anti-Semitic rant: 5% useful insight, and 95% hateful incite - simplification, exaggeration, generalization, and outright falsehoods - in short classic racism. It included statements and phrases such as these:
  • "... Jewish-American genocidalism"

  • "Jews in America are socially empowered to [engage in] typical reactionary behavior. They actually participate in group behavior that is deliberately manipulative and abusive - aimed at punishing activists who stand up for human equality and justice. Over the years, US Jews have become increasingly nutty not only due to current events but due to the internet "alerts" coming to them from Jewish lobbyists, who solidify their brains in this self-righteous fantasy world where Hamas is a terrorist organization, where Israel has some kind of right to kill and rob non-Jews." [ sn: Jews - not the Israel Lobby, not Zionists, not right wing Jews, not some Jews, just all American Jews ! ]

  • "American Jews are actually being trained since childhood to interact with non-Jews in a deceitful and arrogant manner, in coordination with each other, to emotionally destroy Gentiles and Israel critics, in addition to wrecking their careers and interfering with their social relationships."

  • "... someone as disloyal to the United States Constitution like Charles Jacobs of CAMERA or the psychotic racist freaks at HonestReporting ..."

  • " But the Jew doesn’t care how much he or she hurts others. Jews only care about what's good for the Jews."

  • "... given the UN's past record of backing up Israel and neocon wars in general and the previous example of Bosnia. Instead of helping Bosnians, NATO dismantled their country and now uses it as a CIA base for kidnapping white prostitutes to sell to Israel."

  • "Getting rid of Israel would not solve the problem of this Jewish international crime network. If they lost Israel they would just find something else to mess up. The American Jews are arming the rebels in Darfur now."
You can read the whole disgusting piece here.

To make matters worse, when I showed this email to my wife, she told me that she had received two emails from other anti-occupation activists (both Jewish in her case) recommending the same piece. (I guess it was making the rounds among the anti-Zionist crowd.) That none of these people saw the racism, antisemitism and blind hate in this piece, and that they would recommend it to others, is very disturbing.

I wrote my colleague, who had sent me the original email, and told him that I thought the piece was antisemitic and that I was shocked he would send it out. To his credit, he agreed with me (sort of) and sent out a follow-up email to all his original correspondents, dissociating from the antisemitism in the article

But still he found the that the antisemitism was merely "injudicious", and "detracted from the core argument". It was a minor point in an otherwise good essay - in his opinion.
The author goes over the top on many of her statements and can be racist in some. She writes for effect and she could have stopped on many before going into overstatement. The points could have been made more simply & effectively.
It is sad that otherwise good people have been so embittered by the Israel/Palestine struggle that they can't see hate and racism for what it is: a kind of crazy paranoia - but one that can be hurtful and very dangerous. That my colleague had to have me point out the obvious antisemitism is sad, and that he made only a lukewarm retraction is sadder still. That this sort of stuff is happening all the time is very worrisome. It bodes badly for the future.

Sigh ...


Anonymous Shmuel said...

"But the Jew doesn’t care how much he or she hurts others"

You know you're in trouble when someone starts using that collective singular. Nice that the author was sensitive to gender though.

Sigh indeed.

5:39 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It bodes badly for the future."
Nothing bodes well for the future in the middle east. The Jewish pro-Palestinian left on the whole has become like the old Bolsheviks who pleaded guilty to crimes they didn't commit not because of threats or torture by Stalin but because the revolution demanded it

10:51 am  
Blogger Sydney Nestel said...

Here are two more items proving that this is a "hot topic" and that both antisemitism and exaggerated claims of antisemitism are rampant.

1) In this article from the JTA, lawyers for Sholom Rubashkin, the ex-manager of a kosher slaughterhouse Agriprocessors, want criminal charges against him dismissed, citing anti-Jewish bias. They are claiming that "racial, cultural and religious matters" tainted the grand jury's perception and compared the atmosphere in Iowa to Nazi-occupied Poland. (see )

2) Judy Rebick writing in Rabble (see makes the astute observation that: "The misuse of equity claims to silence Palestinian voices is a setback in the advancement of a human rights agenda. Further, it is a dangerous strategy that makes critics of the State of Israel into enemies of the Jewish people despite themselves. It even casts those of us who are Jewish allies of Palestinian rights as enemies in the battle against anti-Semitism. Further, it disarms us in the face of anti-Semitic incidents, weakening the credibility of organizations that have used the term too broadly and blurred the line between opposition to the State of Israel and anti-Jewish prejudice."

Sadly, I am not so sure she is correct when she claims that the "the Palestinian rights movement and many Arab and Muslim communities are actively addressing anti-Semitism wherever it raises its ugly head." (The experience I raised in my original post above seems to prove that point.) But maybe her saying so (and acting so) it will come to be.

12:43 pm  
Anonymous gail said...

Rest assured I know quite a few Muslims who fight anti-semitism. It's just that anti-semitic voices are often louder (as are anti-Muslim voices) Must be that hate has a disturbing gravitational pull.


1:24 pm  
Blogger basics said...

I think that the line between anti-semitism and anti-zionism is clear:
when someone blames jews for all of the problems in the world, they are anti-semitic. Or if they think that israel is the only evil in the world worth talking about then they are anti-semitic. But if they see that israel is one nation among nations that is evil as other nations are evil, that person is anti-zionist and a good person! ;)

so, when someone says that the tail wags the dog (israel controls the US) then they are anti-semitic, or using anti-semitic lines at the least.

12:59 pm  
Anonymous Kate C said...

I happened across the article you refer to and read it with a growing sense of unease. I think the mix of rationality and anti-semitism makes the anti-semitism dangerously potent, as the initial rationality is quite seductive. Reading the comments beneath the article gave me clarity as many of them are from neo-nazis, who make no attempt to hide their revolting racism. So, thank you for your response, the sanity of which came as a breath of fresh air.

5:07 pm  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home