American young people have been more reluctant to join demands for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel while it continues its occupation of Palestinian territory. But after decades of promises about peace deals, with absolutely no results, they are now taking up the demands, sure it is not driven by antisemites and drawing on a long history of opposition to colonialism.
Born into a Zionist, Jewish family in Dublin, signatory Brian Robinson here looks back on ready-made political identities such as support for Sinn Fein or Israel, the discomfort they cause and their conflict with the requirement on us for civil behaviour. To his surprise, he finds himself supporting BDS which he once thought antisemitic.
And the lullaby is ‘the whole world is against us’. Having thus comforted themselves, the government side can sink back into sleep, wholly unaware of the seriousness of the ‘whole world’ refusal to be complicit with Israel’s colonial practice. As most of the world has gone through its own violent struggles to enforce, or resist, colonialism – a great driver of history – Netanyahu’s cry that it is all due to antisemitism is peculiarly obtuse and parochial.
Taylor Can, a protester in Germany who attended an anti-Israel demonstration in Essen last summer during Operation Protective Edge, maintains that his chants were ‘purely political. An appeals court has ruled otherwise. Germany’s history is obviously very sensitive when it comes to possible antisemitism, however a court case there highlights a larger debate about when anti-Israel or anti-Zionist sentiments become anti-Jewish .
These two articles exploring antisemitism in Germany date from 2014; they are posted now because of the the recent court case, posting above, as well as very many reports in western media about German antisemitism. Reports say it is increasing, but interviews suggest that the sight and sound of angry protests about Israel are being read as antisemitic.
When President Obama appeared to define antisemitism as a denial of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish homeland he trampled on history. This is the argument being so actively promoted by pro-Israel propagandists. Even anti-Zionists may not question Israel’s existence – merely the actions it carries out in the name of the state’s god-given destiny. Anti-Zionism is growing in the US as elsewhere. Sometimes it is a cover for antisemitism. But generally it is in the tradition of solidarity with a people oppressed by rampant nationalism.
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is well-known as an Israeli groupie. Even Israelis will be surprised at his desire to introduce a law making boycott of Israeli goods an antisemitic hate crime. Robert Fisk asks if he would prefer critics of Israeli policies not to use such a peaceful means of protest and advocacy for Palestinian rights.
‘Anonymous’ has threatened before to launch a cyber war against Israeli computers. This time it succeeded in hacking and suspending websites, though not in affecting any used by the Israeli state (or at least, that’s what the government says). This is, by and large, a peaceful protest. But it is tinged by antisemitism by reference to The Jews and a Holocaust (see Brian Klug below).
Brian Klug examines the claimed rise in antisemitism in Europe during last summer’s Israeli attack on Gaza. Looking at the contemporary usage of the word he argues that for it to be meaningful it must have the figure of ‘the Jew’ at the heart of it. Although for many Israel can represent The Jew, Klug argues they must be separated – and warns against the danger of supporting a ‘patently unjust military action’.
In his submission to the Parliamentary inquiry into antisemitism Tony Klug recognises instances of classic antisemitism – hatred of Jews as Jews – but argues that Palestinians would have hated any religious group that created a state in their country and ruled over them. It is in Jews’ best interest to distance themselves from the propensity of the Israeli government to infringe Palestinian human and political rights.
Gilad Atzmon is widely admired as a jazz saxophonist and more narrowly admired as a critic of Israeli policies. Although he himself is Jewish his criticisms depend on caricatures of Jewish identity which are indistinguishable from classic antisemitism. Following Jewish protests, his Manchester gig has been cancelled.
The All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Antisemitism has issued the result of its inquiry saying that to dismiss its reality in the UK is ‘a sop to the antisemites’. It gives surprisingly short shrift to the argument that the degree of antisemitism is directly related to public awareness of the nature of Israeli power over Palestinians.
Journalist Tim Willcox, in a live interview with a French Jewish woman at the march republicaine, commented “Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.” She had not identified herself as pro-Israeli and he should, of course, had said Palestinians suffered at the hands of Israeli Jews. But the attempt driven by paper tiger CAA to have both Willcox, and Ofcom – which refused to condemn the comment as either antisemitic or colluding with antisemitism – is again stoking fears which justify its own raison d’etre. Clip of interview included.
In a submission last month to the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, JfJfP’s executive committee carefully distinguishes between antisemitism – which has deep roots in Europe and is rising – and criticism of Israeli policies. which is necessary and commonplace in Israel itself.
Nationalism can begin as a left- or right-wing movement, or neither; it is almost invariably populist-defined by finding an ‘other’ to be against. So whatever their potential for advancing democracy, nationalist movements carry the danger of harnessing racism. Anshel Pfeffer thinks nationalist movements are more of a threat to Europe than crazed jihadis.
JfJfP’s executive committee has issued a statement on antisemitism to clarify the distinction between antisemitism, which exists and is always abhorrent, between the state of Israel and Jewish people round the world, and criticisms of the Israeli state. Jewish leaders who equate Jews with Israel do not help.
The lure of IS to some young men and the repugnance at Israel’s war on Gaza have both fuelled an increase in antisemitism says Larry Derfner, who argues that we should pay full attention to antisemitism and the threat of jihadism. Plus CST’s latest report on antisemitic incidents this summer and a note on antisemitism or Anti-Semitism.
This account of how news reporting about Israelis/Palestinians ignores the latter but attributes all agency, and fault, to the former is by former AP correspondent Matti Friedman, a Canadian domiciled in Jerusalem. Its mix of perceptive points and increasingly contentious argument provides an insight into the beleaguered feeling of Israeli Jews.
There seems to be an expectation that when Israel is on the warpath, hostility to all Jews will burst out. Of course it doesn’t help that the Jewish establishments in Europe and the USA identify with Israel – but in the Anglophone world at least there are scores of Jewish groups which shout loudly Not in My Name. This is heard by fellow demonstrators and the two writers here who insist opposing Israeli policy is not antisemitic.
There is historic antisemitism based on punitive Christian fantasies; there is modern antisemitism which is more often a response to actuality – punitive measures against Arab muslims carried out in the name of the state of all Jews, viz Israel. One Israeli think-tank has been warning of the effects of Israeli policies on Jews outside Israel since 2002 but it has yet to be grasped by the Israeli government.