Monthly Archives: July 2019

Is anti-Zionism anti-Semitic?

In the myriad internet forums that abound today, the question of whether it is anti-semitic if one is an anti-zionist comes up with monotonous regularity.

More often than not, the question is asked by those who wish to hear that such is not the case and it is often a precursor for some heart-felt Israel-bashing. Thus, if it is not anti-semitic to be anti-zionist, then the hate-fest against the Jewish state using a term which offends sensibilities less, can proceed unhindered.

Below, I have laid out why those who might want to disparage or delegitimise the Jewish state might want to reflect on what it is they are actually saying and to posit that anti-zionism and anti-semitism are but two sides of an ugly coin.

  • Anti-semitism is everywhere and always defined as hatred of Jews.
  • Anti-zionism is used to conceal hatred of Jews.
  • Anti-semitism is hatred of Jews without a country.
  • Anti-zionism is hatred of Jews with a country.
  • Anti-semitism focused upon the Jewish people.
  • Anti-zionism focuses on the Jewish state consisting of 6 million Jewish people.
  • Anti-semitists evokes imagery of jewish fascism, extremism, death and genocide based on ethnicity
  • Anti-zionists evoke images of anti-semitic imagery and metaphors based on politics.
  • European anti-semitism referred more explicitly to racial and cultural, rather than religious, antipathy to Jews.
  • Muslim anti-zionism refers explicitly to passages of the koran such as the koran-inspired allegation that Israelis are allegedly told by rabbis that if they die while killing Palestinians they will go straight to paradise.
  • Antisemitism lauds cartoons depicting Israelis and other Jews with Nazi-style uniforms and swastikas as standard fare.
  • In anti-zionism, the Arab admirers of the Third Reich are totally effaced.

Traditionally, anti-semitism incuded hallmarks like:

  • Usurpers in countries they live in
  • timeless conspiracy theory of undue and unseen Jewish influence politically or economically
  • denying the reality and scope of the Nazi Holocaust
  • branding Jews as “Christ-killers”
  • accusing Jews of usury
  • depicting Jews as dishonest, treacherous, and evil

Today, anti-zionism includes hallmarks like:

  • the UN-sponsored Durban Conference against racism of September 2001, which denounced Zionism as a “genocidal” movement, practicing “ethnic cleansing” against Palestinians (Jews as evil).
  • denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination (because they are usurpers)
  • using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis (conspiratorial allegation of ancient tropes)
  • drawing comparisons between contemporary Israeli policy and that of the Nazis ( Jews are not only alleged “Christ killers’, but also alleged genocidal killers of ‘palestinians”)
  • designating Jews, far from being victims of the Nazis, as Nazi collaborators who now carry on their tradition (denying the reality and scope of the Holocaust)
  • designating Israelis will succeed too well in activities with which Jews are more traditionally associated—in the factory, the counting house, and the marketplace – and other peaceful methods to pursue its nefarious design of penetrating and dominating the Arab world (conspiracy theory of undue and unseen Jewish influence )

There is no imaginary watertight compartment separating Israel, realised, in part, through political Zionism, from the Jewish People.

Thus, even though it is not a priori anti-Semitic, the calls to dismantle the Jewish state, whether they come from Muslims, the Left, or any other hate group, increasingly rely on an anti-Semitic stereotyping of classic themes, such as the manipulative “Jewish lobby,” the Jewish/Zionist “world conspiracy,” and Jewish/Israeli “warmongers.”

And finally, the more radical forms of anti-zionism that have emerged with renewed force in recent years do display unmistakable analogies to European anti-semitism immediately preceding the Holocaust as outlined above.

These include calls for a scientific, cultural, and economic boycott of Israel that arouse associations and memories among Jews of the Nazi boycott that began in 1933.

They also include the systematic manner in which the Jewish State of Israel is harassed at international forums such as the United Nations, where the Arab voting blocs have for decades pursued a policy of isolating the Jewish state in their aim of turning it into a political pariah.

Today, Arab “anti-Zionism” has helped to infect Europe with an old-new version of anti-semitism in which Jews are rapacious, bloodsucking colonialists.

Today, anti-zionism is much more than an exotic collection of radical-chic slogans chanted by the young and “woke” on university campuses.

It has become an exterminationist ideology among the disaffected and undereducated of the world, reconstructed in the Middle East and re-exported back to Europe resulting in the resulting in the advocacy-centric media frenzies which apparently pass as the new norm of much of modern reporting.

In 2019, as ever, anti-zionism is anti-semitism.

Advertisements

The Siren-call of Anti-Semitism

“Jewish people, it’s like basically they’re stingy, man, you know? It’s like  they’re good person[s], but they’re stingy [ . . . ]. How shall I explain it? [ . . . ] They’re racist to Bengali [ . . . ] that’s why Bengali people hate them.” [Bangladeshi in London]

 

With the growing hostility to Israel in the decades that followed the 1967 war, researchers, authors and government reports have identified Arabs and Islam by far at the epicentre of anti-Semitism in the world.

In his 2015 book “European Muslim Antisemitism”, Gunther Jikeli begins by pointing out that

“Antisemitism in Europe has increased dramatically since the beginning of the twenty-first century. Antisemitic parties, although still a minority, are now members of the European Parliament and some national parliaments. Antisemitic stereotypes meet with high approval rates in surveys, and in some countries the majority of the population shares these views.”

For reasons of Muslim sensibilities, Jikeli limited his survey and research to young Muslim males in Berlin (Turks), Paris (North Africans) and London (Pakistanis/Bangladeshis). His research documented a detailed description of patterns of argumentation for negative views of Jews in four main categories of patterns:

  • “Classic” anti-semitic attitudes (jews are stingy or hook-nosed)
  • Anti-semitism related to Israel (based on a conflation of Jews and Israelis and certain tropes such as “Jews kill children”)
  • Negative views of Jews with direct reference to Islam, Muslim identity, or the person’s ethnic identity.
  • Expressions of hostility against Jews in which the person does not bother to give any arguments for such enmity (“Jews are hated because they are Jews”)

Of course, such coarse ant-semitism is not limited to young Muslim males in Europe. It applies to not-so-young Muslim males in America as well.

Despite both Al-Qaeda’s protestations and extensive evidence to the contrary, the notion that the Mossad and/or the American government was responsible for 9/11 continues to hold sway.  In 2016, Joy Karega, at the time an assistant professor at Oberlin College, endorsed this assertion. On her blog, she quoted a speech by the avowed anti-semitic minister Louis Farrakhan, in which he declared that this was all a Jewish and Zionist plot.

“They say that the World Trade Center building [sic] were brought down by carefully placed explosives, not by planes. They say that all three buildings had to have been wired with explosive charges long before September the 11th and this is something that took tremendous sophistication to do, and that sophistication was not with Osama bin Laden or his followers. Listen.

But if it was not Muslims then who?…It is now becoming apparent that  there were many Israeli and Zionist Jews in key roles in the 9/11 attack.”

 

On the other side of the world, in European France, Stéphane Charbonnier, the editorial director of Charlie Hebdo, had completed, only two days before his murder, the manuscript for a book about what he termed the “disgusting white, left-wing bourgeois paternalism” that fanned not only the flames of Islamist terrorism but Europe’s largely studied indifference to and indulgence of contemporary anti-semitism.

This laissez faire indulgence is echoed in Deborah Lipstadt’s 2019 book “Antisemitism Here and Now”. Lipstadt points out that “Various studies, including one conducted in 2017 by the University of Oslo, have shown that attacks on European Jews, particularly physical assaults, come in the main from radicalized Muslims… [but that] too many people in the West—including religious figures, intellectuals, politicians, and journalists—tend to come dangerously close to what can only be described as rationalizing this extremist Islamist terror”[emphasis mine].

What is Anti-semitism?

So, what is anti-semitism? In a paper published in 1905, and in answering his own question as to what the word “Semite’ means/implies, Gustav Gottheil says:

“Suppose we ask, “What does Semitism mean?” Only this, must be our answer,—that it is a summing up of the ruling dispositions, habits, mental endowments, and moral peculiarities of all the races comprised under the name of Semites, so named from their supposed descent from the eldest of the three sons of Noah. So ineradicable are these features supposed to be that, no matter where the races have lived or are now living, no matter what stage of civilization they have passed through or have reached now, no matter what influence non-Semitic races have exercised upon them, they remain essentially the same.”

Gotheill says that the designation fastened upon Jews as a stigma was a fraud from the beginning, a conscious fraud and a malicious invention where “What was meant was not anti-Semitism, but anti-Judaism; but that name had to be avoided because it implies hostility to a religion and a creed…

In 2019, that admonishment has forced anti-semites to develop a new and successful track where (Jewish) Zionism is now the ostensible enemy of mankind, but where the age-old demand to delegitimise and demean Jews is still central to the old hate.

This conflation of anti-semitism with Zionism may in part be explained by explaining antisemitism as a special form of that group enmity which directs itself against ethnic minority groups of inferior strength. And once political Zionism succeeded in helping re-establish the nation and state of modern Israel as a strong and vibrant member of the international community, it is not difficult to understand how easy it is/was for anti-semites to conflate the two. In the words of Jeffrey Goldberg, the American Middle East expert, “The line separating anti-Zionism — the belief that Jews have no right to an independent state in any part of their ancestral homeland — and anti-Judaism, already reed-thin, [had] pretty much vanished.

In other words, although anti-Jewish sentiments among a disproportionately vocal minority of Muslims and their anti-semitic European supporters go back centuries, today’s hostility results from two main developments: Jewish success in modern times and the establishment of Israel.

This is manifest currently in the work of European French anti-semites like Herve Ryssen (“Understanding the Jews, Understanding Anti-Semitism”, 2014) where he unabashedly states that Jews are hypersensitive to the slightest hint of anti-semitism, that “Jewish intellectuals exhibit a certain characteristic inclination towards enormous untruths” and that

“It is moreover striking to observe that synagogues are the only places of public worship in which the faithful must barricade themselves behind bomb-proof doors. A foreign observer – a“Candide” – might legitimately ask here, “Hey, these people don’t seem to think that other people like them very much”. Perhaps they have something on their conscience?”

The fevered and subjective work of Ryssen notwithstanding, Peretz Bernstein (“The Social Roots of Discrimination. The Case of the Jews”, 1951) asks the question whether it is not unreasonable to be the enemy of a person who may be a most respectable member of the community and to whom certainly no individual offence can be imputed save that of belonging to a disliked group.

But Ryssen is far from being a lone voice. The wave of modern Anti-Semitism across Europe in July and August of 2014 revealed a dangerous amalgamation of left-wing, Islamic-animated, and right-wing extremist Jew-hatred.

Social-psychological explanations of Europe’s robust tolerance of Jew-hatred aside (The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz….), the layer of European and American anti-semitism in addition to historical Muslim antisemitism may have best been captured by Leon Poliakv’s comment: Israel is [still] the Jew among nations.

And it is this metamorphosis from the historical “It’s the Jew’s fault” to “It’s Israel’s fault” compounded by the conflation of Judaism and Zionism that is reinforced ad nauseam in European discourse on the Middle East. So entrenched is the new anti-semitism in the 21st century, that an American Muslim male visiting Israel can publicly “pray” to eradicate Jews, but then remembers the password “Zionists”.

Writing in the Islamist Watch’s ME Forum on July 9, 2019, Sam Westrop recounts this incident:

“Only a couple of weeks ago, while waiting at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, following a trip to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, California imam Ahmed Billoo (also known as Ahmed Ibn Aslam), wrote on his private Facebook account that he was “feeling annoyed” about his location. He offered a prayer to deal with the surfeit of Jews in the building:

“Oh God, reduce their numbers, exterminate them, and don’t leave a single one alive.”

He added the hashtag “Zionists.”

 

As the passages above have hopefully illustrated, contemporary anti-Semitism is fragmented though widespread. Its sources do not all merge into a single, unique stream and is unlikely to result in a joint political and ideological project. And whilst one is to avoid “…both overestimation which leads to disproportionate images of anti-Semitism and underestimation which, on the contrary, would be to be blind to reality…” (Wieviorka, 2007), there is no small part to be played here by a more socially responsible media.

In this regard, choosing just one British newspaper as an example of all that is wrong in the British Left today, The Guardian’s advocacy of Palestinian nationalism (and its resultant anti-semitism) to the British public has generally been as much accompanied by a lack of in-depth knowledge about Israel, Zionism and Jewish history as it has mirrored the ideological confusions of the British Left in the wake of its early Soviet Union inspired ideology and its current (errant) perception that Israel has moved away from its founding socialist ideals.

No matter the reason, the lure of anti-semitism remains in excellent health in the 21st century. While it is true for most of Europe (and possibly for the Muslim world) that the inspiration for another holocaust of Jews will in all probability never again take hold, the target (now Israel) for Euorope’s anti-Semites, inspired by virulent Islamist rhetoric has changed.

In these tendentious times, Gotheill’s 1905 exhortation remains as bright a beacon today as it was when it was first written: “It [anti-semitism] will and must disappear in [countries], the civil order of which is based upon the principle of equal rights to all law-abiding citizens, to whatever race or religion they may belong. “A fair field and no favor.””

To that, in 2019, I can only add “Amen”.

 

Ideology, Gracelessness and a Determination to Denigrate

On June 25 2019, Seth Frantzman of the Jerusalem Post wrote a troubling editorial on Trump’s Peace to Prosperity plan.  Troubling because one would expect a senior writer at the Post to present considered and balanced views no matter the topic.

It is additionally troubling because Frantzman nowhere mentions that the Plan closely models the astoundingly successful Marshall Plan which rescued large swathes of war-torn Europe and contributed greatly to the economic power house that is Germany today.

For example, Frantzman intimated that Peace to Prosperity was pointless in wanting to raise the Palestinian (sic) GDP because that GDP had “already doubled in the preceding 10 years. Specifically, Frantzman wrote:

“The plan appears to have two main goals in 10 years: double the GDP of the Palestinians, and create one million jobs. The World Bank says the GDP of the West Bank and Gaza is $14.5 billion. It actually doubled since 2009, when it was estimated at $7.2 billion, according to the World Bank. So, in fact, it has already doubled in the last 10 years. The Palestinian GDP is larger than that of Somalia and South Sudan …”

For Frantzman, it would appear that Somalia and South Sudan having smaller GDPs is reason enough to dismiss the American initiative. Not for him the Plan’s item 3 which targets Gazan unemployment with a goal to reduce unemployment there to single digit figures.

This was also a core approach of the Marshall Plan which formulated an economic package to “provide a cure rather than a mere palliative” for a Europe destroyed by war.

In fact, if one transposes the three stated objectives of the Marshall Plan to the “Palestinian” problem and if one substitutes the word “Palestinian” {sic) for “Europe/ean”, then the considered dismissiveness of Frantzman’s article becomes all the more troubling. Here are those 3 (1947) objectives with the stated changes inserted:

  • the expansion of Palestinian agricultural and industrial production;
  • the restoration of sound currencies, budgets, and finances in individual Palestine; and
  • the stimulation of international trade (in) Palestine and between Palestine and the rest of the world.

Despite periodic calls for new Marshall Plans in response to critical situations faced by some regions of the world or some problem to be solved in others, for Frantzman it is enough to pronounce that Peace to Prosperity “…sounds like replacing existing models of funding for the Palestinians, such as UNRWA, with a new fund whose leadership will come from the “beneficiary countries,” which will implement projects and give grants.

This is not the place to get into a discussion of the virtues, biases and crass politicisation or otherwise of UNRWA these past 71 years, but Frantzman’s mentioning of an arguably failed UN organisation in the same breath as a new economic initiative along the demonstrably successful lines of the Marshall Plan for “Palestinians” is breathtaking in its arrogance and in its ideological pursuit of failed prior political practice.

The arrogance of the article is taken a step further when Frantzman dismisses Peace to Prosperity as a stunt where the plan addresses “Palestinian” economic problems “…by just throwing additional financing at them.” To shore up this argument, Frantzman states that in some ways Peace to Prosperity “…seeks to draw parallels to Singapore, the Baltic states or Dubai as models and claiming that “These countries had a political horizon and then an economic success story, not the other way around.

It may be just me, but I always understood that the political horizon for the Gazan and Judean Arabs was always a “Palestinian” state. Thus, in order to circumvent yet another failed Islamic state in the region, Peace to Prosperity attempts to provide a successful economic paradigm, in the style of the Marshall Plan, which will provide ANY future “Palestinian” state with the economic wherewithal to maintain political, social and “national” viability for the foreseeable future.

The Marshall Plan called for assistance in becoming a joint effort, “initiated” and agreed by European nations. The formulation of the Marshall Plan, therefore, was, from the beginning, a work of collaboration between the Truman Administration and Congress.

In just so many words, Peace to Prosperity Plan echoes the Marshall Plan in its sentiments regarding collaboration and joint effort:

“These programs (Peace to Prosperity) are designed to use market principles and actors to underpin a 10- year plan for all key segments of the Palestinian economy… Peace to Prosperity is a realistic and achievable plan that can be implemented by the Palestinians, with the support of the international community (emphases mine), to build a better future for the Palestinians and their children.”

So, just as the success of the Marshall Plan was predicated on collaboration and joint effort, so too is the Peace to Prosperity plan; and in those many words.

However, it would appear that despite Frantzman’s agreement that “…the Palestinian economic situation is bleak and declining..”,  he is satisfied that, currently, “International aid to Palestinians already provides the economy with some help”, and, besides (he continues), “The US in this respect is reinventing the wheel with some of the proposed grants. It is unclear, for instance, why a new system needs to be put in place to re-discover that the “Palestinian healthcare system requires better medical facilities to enhance treatment capabilities.

Back in 1947, the Marshall Plan provided a backgrounder as rationale for its economic rescue package. I have copied that passage verbatim below but have substituted the word “Palestinian” (sic) for “European”:

“Capital was increasingly unavailable for investment. Agricultural supplies remained below 1938 levels, and food imports were consuming a growing share of the limited foreign exchange. Palestinians were building up a growing dollar deficit. As a result, prospects for any future growth were low. Trade between Palestine (and other states…) was stagnant…Having already endured years of food shortages, unemployment, and other hardships associated with the war… the Palestinian public was now faced with further suffering. To many observers, the declining economic conditions were generating a pessimism regarding Palestine’s future that fed class divisions and political instability.”

However, for Frantzman, Peace to Prosperity “…appears to be presented in a vacuum…partly due to the constraints Palestinians live under.” And those “constraints” Frantzman says are due solely to the “elephant in the room”: Israel. Pleased with this statement, Frantzman’s next comment is even more stellar (pun intended): “It’s as if the plan was designed for a Palestinian economy that exists in an imaginary universe or on the Moon, without a realistic discussion of how many aspects of the Palestinian economy are linked to Israel…

Nowhere in his commentary does he mention 71 years of Arab refusal to accept an Israeli peace initiative in any shape or form nor thr (so far) 13 Israeli peace offers NOR the THREE of statehood (1948, 2000, 2008). Not even once.

Nor does Frantzman deign to comment on the 2001 Taba talks and the “Palestinian” refusal to accept its in-principle suggestion of having Palestinian sovereignty over Arab neighbourhoods and an Israeli sovereignty over Jewish neighbourhoods, nor even on that 2001 Israeli offer of withdrawal from the West Bank over a 36-month period with an additional 36 months for the Jordan Valley in conjunction with an international force…

Just as assuredly, Frantzman does not mention the Israeli right-wing government of Ariel Sharon’s 2005 attempt at providing a semblance of national “Palestinian” autonomy in its decision to unilaterally disengage from Gaza with the resultant booms, balloons and barbecues (of wild-life) that that initiative visited on Israel.

Instead, Frantzman complains “But if you don’t consult them (Palestinians) and ask what they want, then how can you help them?” Clearly, the refusal of the “Palestinians” to even attend the conference is not worthy of comment despite their stated desire to be consulted.

I have taken the trouble to write this second article on the Frantzman piece because, for many other readers of the Jerusalem Post and me, this sort of biased commentary signifies an upfront (marked and commented on) change in the Post’s political affiliations in addition to permitting rank propaganda hatchet pieces like Frantzman’s, grace its pages.

I particularly take issue with the hit piece because Frantzman was writing an editorial and not an opinion article (for which he may be forgiven for an arguably errant opinion and perhaps reminded of his omissions and bias).

The successful Marshall Plan and the fledgling Trump Peace to Prosperity plan share near-identical objectives (see above).

But, for the Jerusalem Post and for Seth Frantzman, the choice of words used to comment on the initiative is symptomatic both of dismissive ideology based editorials and a demonstrated inability to learn from the few documented successes of history, “The Trump administration appears to approach the Palestinian issue the way Trump approached real estate investment.

In the very congested Israeli media marketplace, it might be that the Jerusalem Post (and the Post’s repeated online exhortations to subscribe…),  might have decided to pander to its American Jewish English readership which has little direct or studied knowledge of the antecedents of the Arab-Israeli conflict and to broaden its influence/subscription take-up in the liberal political morass of that cohort.

But, or long-time readers, and for those who are personally cognizant of the tortuous paths of the conflict both militarily and politically, Seth Frantzman’s article is a shameless pandering to the lowest common denominator of American anti-conservative sentiment. It is, perhaps too, left-labour ideological angst of the success only Israeli right-wing parties have had in hammering out the only two lasting peace treaties the State of Israel has with the Islamic states of Jordan and Egypt in the country’s seventy-one year old history.