There should be zero tolerance of Jew-hating propaganda
Over the last few years we have consistently argued on this blog that just because sometimes supporters of the Palestinians are unjustly accused of anti-Semitism by Zionists, that doesn’t mean either that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist, or that anti-Semitism doesn’t matter.
Sadly there are real examples of genuine anti-Semitism. In addition sometimes well meaning people fail to recognise anti-Semitism, when they encounter it, because they are not attuned to the linguistic codes that it is expressed in, or they are unaware of the cultural themes of anti-Judaic prejudice being drawn upon.
I was genuinely shocked to see on Harry’s Place that the well respected American leftist publication, Counterpunch, had published what I consider to be an anti-Semitic defence of the mediaeval blood libel. The article by Alison Weir of the organisation “If Americans Knew” defended the very poor journalism of Donald Bostrom, who made unsubstantiated and implausible claims about Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinians in Gaza to harvest their organs in the Swedish newspaper, Aftonbladet.
But quite irrelevant to the main topic, Weir makes a number of snide insinuations about medical practices in Israel, where apparently a deceased person’s organs can be taken for transplant without their prior consent, or next of kin consent. Quite contrary to Weir’s insinuations, there is nothing unique here to Israel, as scandals ripped through British hospitals in Bristol and Alder Hey, with literally hundreds of organs taken from deceased children without their parent’s consent. Nevertheless Weir introduces evidence of this medical practice in Israeli hospitals to give credence to the ridiculous idea that usable transplantable organs could be harvested on the battle field.
Weir implies, with no evidence but plenty of crude hinting, that Israel is at the centre of international organ smuggling. She talks of palestinians disappearing from the West Bank, and implies that their organs are harvested. But where would this be taking place? If it were being done in an Israeli hospital then wouldn’t you expect there have been public debate over the medical ethics by Israeli doctors – unless of course it is a *conspiracy*.
But it gets worse. She then explicitly seeks to argue that the mediaeval blood libel that Jews kill Christian children has a basis in fact! Her argument are effectively debunked by Adam Holland – I won’t repeat it, you should read his original article for yourself. But what possible relevance is there for her to defend the Mediaeval blood libel – an anti-Semitic myth that predates the formation of Israel and modern Zionism – unless she is making the connection that the crimes she are alleging are done by Jews as Jews, rather than Israelis.
Most worrying, apart from her poor scholarship, and her credulity in the face of anti-Semitic myths, is that Alison Weir relies upon quotes from the infamous Russian anti-Semite, Israel Shamir, who is well known to be linked with fascist and ultra-nationalist groups. Why on Earth would Counterpunch publish this racist filth?
If we are to challenge anti-Semitism and anti-Judaic feeling we need to understand the multi-stranded nature of the bigotry. We also need to understand that the ideology of Zionism contributes to anti-Semitism, and the actions of the Israeli state make the world a more dangerous place for Jews.
We should not ignore the deep well of anti-Judaic ideology within Christian culture The huge success of Mel Gibson’s “Passion of Christ” reveals the large audience for the traditional Christian interpretation of the Gospels, that the Jews killed Christ. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate “took water, and washed his hands before the [Jewish] multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.” This may be a deeply unfashionable interpretation for trendy Anglicans, but it is believed by millions of Christians around the world. Indeed Mel Gibson was condemned simply for bringing the literal words of the Bible to a film-going audience.
In pre-Capitalist European culture, Christians were prohibited from usury – lending money for interest. Mediaeval Jewry therefore played a social role as bankers and financiers. The enduring stereotype of Jews as greedy therefore derives from Mediaeval opposition to finance capital. As Martin Luther wrote in 1543: “They let us work in the sweat of our brow to earn money and property while they sit behind the stove, idle away the time, fart, and roast pears. They stuff themselves, guzzle, and live in luxury and ease from our hard-earned goods. With their accursed usury they hold us and our property captive. Moreover, they mock and deride us because we work and let them play the role of lazy squires at our expense and in our land. Thus they are our masters and we are their servants, with our property, our sweat, and our labour.”
Martin Luther may have little direct influence on modern anti-Semitism, but the identification of Jews trying to control the world through finance capital still has widespread currency, and informs, for example the idea of a “Jewish lobby” that dictates American support for Israel.
It should be noted that neither the identification of Jews as Christ killers, nor the belief that there is a “Jewish lobby” can be identified as the new form of racism that speaks of cultural rather than racial differences. These are forms of anti-Judaic bigotry that pre-date racism, and are deeply embedded in European culture. To effectively challenge them requires that we recognise their origin, and specifically refute them in theoir own terms rather than confuse them as being identical with modern anti-semitism.
The 19th century saw anti-Judaic feeling given a gloss of pseudo-science, with the birth of this modern anti-semitism. This made an important difference because it created a racial category for the Jews. Previously Christian theology had disputed the claim of Jews to be a separate people. The Jews themselves regarded themselves as a nation without a home, but the Christians saw them as people who had rejected Christ. This was important for Christians as a refutation of the claim by Jews to be a favoured people by God. As Luther wrote: “If birth counts before God, I can claim to be just as noble as any Jew, … For I will not give it up and neither Abraham, David, prophets, apostles nor even an angel in heaven, shall deny me the right to boast that Noah, so far as physical birth or flesh and blood is concerned, is my true, natural ancestor, and that his wife (whoever she may have been) is my true, natural ancestress; for we are all descended, since the Deluge, from that one Noah.”
Mediaeval anti-Judaism regarded Jewishness as a question of faith, and a Jew who accepted Christ stopped being a Jew.( Indeed this was necessarily so, because the apostles were Jews who followed Christ.) Indeed the distinctive traditions of Hassidic Jews may have been adopted by the sect as a defence against their faith being lost by assimilation, in a similar way to Christian sects like the Amish. The concept of a secular Jew would have been a nonsense in Mediaeval Europe, whereas the Nazis slaughtered atheists and Christians who they regarded as being of Jewish race.
Through virtue of their alleged descent from a non-European linguistic stock the Jews became regarded as a race. The Zionists accepted this racialised identity. It is in this context that extreme modern anti-Semitism produced the idea of a Jewish conspiracy. It was also this context which saw the Zionists form a Jewish state, although Israel still has a problem deciding who is and who isn’t a Jew.
Perhaps we need to go back to ABC. Racism against Jews is just as bad as racism against blacks or Arabs, or anyone else – this is a question of principle that we must absolutely not compromise on.
But even at a tactical level, it is utterly stupid to discredit the Palestinian solidarity movement by associating it with crackpot anti-Semites.