Cutting through the bullshit.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Antisemites in sheep's clothing

On Sunday, YNet reported Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni telling the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem, ‘Anti-Semitism is still very much alive. As the home of the Jewish people, this is a fight that should be led by Israel

"Just 60 years after the Holocaust, we continue to witness racist and anti-Semitic phenomena around the world, that threatens the State of Israel … Something must be done immediately," said Livni.

Livni made it clear that the forum was not meant for talk, but to create a new perception of action against the threats.

"The war on anti-Semitism should be our top priority. We are witnessing new kinds of cooperation between the radical left, the extreme right and the Islamic jihad across the world.”

According to a recent ‘report’ (actually a PowerPoint presentation, apparently) mentioned by YNet on 28 January, anti-Semitic ‘incidents’ have increased alarmingly over the last year.

According to the figures, there was a 66 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Austria, while Germany saw a 60 percent rise. In France, there was a 20 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents, with the same level of increased incidents reported in Russia. In the UK, reports of anti-Semitic attacks dropped by three percent.

The presentation itself alleges a 60% increase in ‘incidents’ specifically in Berlin schools, not in Germany as a whole, and doesn’t provide counts for 2005 and 2006 as it does throughout the rest of the relevant table.

Among the incidents is the murder of Ilan Halimi in France. While there is no doubt that he was murdered, it is not clear that the motive was actually anti-Semitism. Those who claim it as a hate crime allege that ‘pro Palestinian literature’ was found during the arrest and that calls to the family included quotations from the Qur’an that were not recorded by the police, who were monitoring the family’s phone line. The only persuasive evidence of anti-Semitism is that Halimi’s family was not in a position to pay a significant ransom, the other most probable motive for his kidnapping.

But not all the ‘incidents’ counted were murders. In fact the ‘report’ is ambiguous about what they actually count, but it certainly appears to include graffiti. The presentation mentions incidents not reflected in the table. For example, it reports that on 6 August, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said,

"We feel that Israel's aggression against Lebanon and the Palestinians is directed also against us.... Israel reminds us of the fascistic nature of Hitler. Israel is a part of American imperialism."

In other words, to sympathise with Israel’s victims is anti-Semitic. It is anti-Semitic for Israel’s actions to remind you of fascism, a point I’ll return to. And oddly, to regard Israel as part of American imperialism is also anti-Semitic. What’s odd about this is that it was not that long ago that Walt and Mearscheimer were branded as antisemites for making exactly the opposite claim - effectively that the US was a tool of Israeli imperialism!

The presentation also cites

The Iranian President repeatedly calls for the annihilation of the Jewish State. He also demands the European countries to take back the Jews who left them for Israel.

As I’ve mentioned before, Ahmedinejad has not, in fact repeatedly called for the annihilation of the Jewish state. He made one remark that was subject to an unfortunate mistranslation and reported repeatedly. The report doesn’t make it clear how many anti-Semitic incidents that remark counts as.

But of course that’s not the point. The point is that all it takes to make an anti-Semitic incident is possession of pro Palestinian literature, quoting Muslim scripture, and speaking ‘severely’ against Israel. Even identifying with Iran can be construed as anti-Semitic. Presumably, before long speaking in support of the Venezuelan literacy campaign will be anti-Semitic.


The radical left promotes, at times an idea of deligitimization of the existence of the Israel. This is done by holding demonstrations, publishing articles in the media and activity on campuses.

The calls to boycott Israel both financially and academically continued this year. These calls came from leftist elements, especially in Britain, Sweden, South Africa and Canada.

By lumping together real racist violence with racist vandalism, graffiti, harsh words, and criticism of Israel, the Global Forum undermines its credibility and trivialises real anti-Semitism. Whether it is on the increase, remaining about the same, or decreasing, the objective must be to eradicate racist atrocities, whether targeting Jews or anyone else.

The new American Jewish Committee pamphlet, ‘"Progressive" Jewish thought and the new anti-Semitism’ by Alvin H. Rosenfeld, asserts that

Anti-Zionism, in fact, is the form that much of today’s anti-Semitism takes…

In some quarters, the challenge is not to Israel’s policies, but to its legitimacy and right to an ongoing future. Thus, the argument leveled by Israel’s fiercest critics is often no longer about 1967 and the country’s territorial expansion following its military victory during the Six-Day War, but about 1948 and the alleged “crime,” or “original sin,” of its very establishment. The debate, in other words, is less about the country’s borders and more about its origins and essence.

According to the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism’s ‘Working Definition of Antisemitism’,

Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

* Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

* Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

* Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

* Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

* Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.

Now I find it a little scary that under this apparently widely accepted definition, I am branded an anti-Semite because I don’t agree that colonists are entitled to exercise the right to self determination over territory from which they have ethnically cleansed the indigenous population. Or because the routine, arbitrary humiliation and brutality meted out to Palestinians forced by Israeli policy to go through checkpoints and the like in the course of their ordinary quotidian existence reminds me of the Warsaw Ghetto. Well, at least I’m in good company on that point. Holocaust survivor and Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial chairman Yosef Lapid thinks so too. As he said last month,

"It was not crematoria or pogroms that made our life in the diaspora bitter before they began to kill us, but persecution, harassment, stone-throwing, damage to livelihood, intimidation, spitting and scorn," Lapid said.

"I was afraid to go to school, because of the little anti-Semites who used to lay in ambush on the way and beat us up. How is that different from a Palestinian child in Hebron?"

The interesting point is the last. If it is anti-Semitic to deny that a Jewish state has a right to exist, or to compare Israeli policies to Nazi policies, or to hold Israel to its claim to be a ‘light unto the nations, a paragon of righteousness among states, that implies that to do so impugns Jews, and not just Israelis or the Jewish state itself. If it reflects upon Jews to criticise Israel in these ways, then that must mean that those defining anti-Semitism believe that Jews are responsible for the State of Israel and its policies. So by defining antiZionism as anti-Semitic, the CFCA, the AJC, and FM Livni, with her claim that Israel is ‘the home of the Jewish people’, betray that, under their own definition, they are anti-Semitic themselves.


  1. yes, THEY are the true "self-hating" jews, which includes all those who moved to israel, especially after the first intifada. how masochistic can you get, deliberately putting yourself in harm's way???

    OTOH, since i'm not jewish, i have no idea what propaganda the zionists fed them.

  2. I, myself, only use the expression ‘self hating Jew’ tongue in cheek. The people I mentioned in this piece are in my view, like all Zionists, actually antisemites. Not just by their own definition. Zionist ideology proceeds from the assumption that Jews and Goyim are inherently different, incompatible, and incapable of joining forces to defeat racism and capitalism. If that’s not anti-Semitic, at least it shares those assumptions with anti-Semitism. There’s also the little matter of the well documented Zionist willingness to sacrifice Jewish lives. As Ben-Gurion famously told a meeting of Labour Zionist leaders on 7 December 1938, ‘If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Yisrael, then I would opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only the life of these children, but also the history of the People of Israel.’

    Anyway, most of them do not live in Israel and Livni was, I believe, born there. So the question of deliberately putting yourself in harm’s way doesn’t arise in this context. I did see something yesterday where the British writer was taken aback when his daughter’s sixteen year old friend expressed an intention to enlist in the Israeli Army when she finished school. I assume she, like the majority of other olim ‘Jewish immigrants’, is motivated by misguided, uninformed idealism rather than fleeing actual or even feared antisemitic threats where they come from. Some may anticipate economic advantages. Certainly the Israeli government offers very generous incentives to those prepared to live in the ‘settlements’. But on the whole, they probably believe they are contributing to a noble cause and you can’t fault them for that. What you can fault them for is that the cause they regard as noble is racist and colonialist.

    You don’t have to be Jewish to know what kind of propaganda Jewish kids are subjected to. You probably just don’t get as much detail. It’s all the familiar ‘A land without people for a people without a land’ crap, liberally embellished with poignant stories of loss and heroism. What’s particularly sad about it is that apparently rational and intelligent people get so carried away with the emotion and the racial identity that they lose the plot. For example, one of the founding myths of Israel is that the refugees aren’t really refugees at all. ‘Their leaders’ the story goes, told them to get out of the way while the invading Arab hordes swept the Jews into the sea. Well, as it happens, it’s utter bullshit. But that’s irrelevant, because the point is, under any other circumstances, people who believe the myth would support the sentiment of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.’ Many of the people who claim that because the refugees did not, in their view, leave in fear of their lives or persecution, they are not entitled to return, have themselves left their countries of origin for reasons such as work or study or recreation and fully expected to be able to return. As I wrote a couple of months ago, this kind of hypocrisy – the ability to entertain mutually exclusive, utterly contradictory ideas at the same time – is very widespread indeed. I guess it comes from people refusing to take responsibility for what they imply, or something?