Israel is not the only country in the world which cannot tolerate criticism. There’s N. Korea and Saudi Arabia for a start. Does Israel really want to be in their category? And Netanyahu’s misuse of ‘antisemitism’ does real harm to those who take opposing actual antisemitism very seriously. James Zogby criticises.
But what if those critics are Jewish, if only by ancestry? Uri Avnery struggles to find the term for Laurent Fabius, French foreign minster, who has said France will recognise the state of Palestine if no progress to two states is forthcoming.
One-time leftie Alan Johnson, now at BICOM, fired loudly in the general direction of the left, critics of Israel, those wanting to destroy Israel, supporters of BDS, antisemites and anti-Zionists – indistinguishable it seems to him and the Jewish Chronicle which published it. Richard Kuper wrote a calm piece in response – which the JC has refused to publish – eventually saying that was for lack of space. Richard tells the tale of those who can’t hear what critics are saying for their own noisy attacks.
oD. Annabelle Sreberny examines these elements of identity: a reinvigorated Israeli anti-Arabism and its contradictions; Jewish antisemitism and the need to historicise socio-cultural categories; and a possible political recuperation of the ‘Semites’.
oD. Sami Zubaida contrasts the alienated, frustrated enemy status of many young Muslims in the West with their collective memory of a glorious Islamic past. The Israel/Palestine conflict, he says, converts anachronistic antisemitic tropes into a fitting idea.
The demonstration against PM Netanyahu on September 9th when he visited his friend David Cameron produced many complaints that the demonstrators were antisemitic. Some were, using, as Brian Klug said, ‘the figure of the Jew’ (Netanyahu) to stand for many forms of depravity. There is a particular sensitivity here; President Assad has been portrayed as a child-killer as have other despots. But they have not been persecuted by Christians for centuries for child-killing as the mythical impulse for genocide. PSC makes a strong stand against the antisemitism.
The desperate Daily Mail accusation that Jeremy Corbyn, Labour, is antisemitic has prompted a variety of letters. As has Lord Beecham’s assertion that JfJfP is bigoted because it does not campaign on Syria. Here, some ripostes, signed up as from signatories. A few are not so we ask their forgiveness for including them under the logo. Their views are not different from those of signatories.
In an extraordinary editorial on 7 August “Crossing a Line to Sell a Deal”, Tablet magazine accused the White House and its allies of smearing American Jews in efforts to promote the recent nuclear deal with Iran. Matthew Duss, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, and Todd Gitlin, Prof of journalism at Columbia, express their outrage at the Tablet’s approach in an icily cutting rebuttal.
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.