[ Originally written 2011 -- links die; I will periodically update the moribund ones. -ds ]
"Anti-Zionism Is Geo-Political Anti-Semitism? How can that be true? Anti-Semitism is an anachronistic prejudice, while anti-Zionism is cutting-edge progressivism."
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines anti-Semitism thus: "anti-Semitism, hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group," and Zionism thus: "Zionism, Jewish nationalist movement that has had as its goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews."
Anti-Zionism thus consists of "hostility toward or discrimination againt the Jewish nationalist movement that has had as its goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews."
Can the case for a conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism really be made? By extension, is it being proposed that anti-Semitism has morphed from its original form as "religious anti-Semitism", to its 20th century incarnation, "racial anti-Semitism", into a new form for the 21st century, "geo-political anti-Semitism", that is, anti-Zionism? Read on, and decide for yourself.
“Israel is a European colonialist dagger in the heart of the Arab world.”
Is it being suggested here that Israeli Jews have maintained their ties to the European continent, are plundering the desert for all its supposed riches, and are shipping their loot back overseas to bolster European economies? In fact, Jews have precious few ties to Europe anymore; these ties were largely severed (to put it euphemistically) in the middle period of the 20th Century. Moreover, a tiny sliver of land bereft of natural resources would seem an unlikely target of money-grubbers of any ethnic stripe.
Alternatively, maybe the proposal is that Christian Europe wanted to purge itself of its three million Holocaust survivors, and so exiled this remnant to that distant outpost at the end of the Mediterranean. There's absolutely no truth to this idea, of course, as the Europeans colluded with the Arabs to keep Jews out of Palestine, both before and after the Holocaust. Nevertheless, the argument would go something like this: even though these Jews were pawns in the Christians' game, the establishment of Israel is still a European colonial endeavor, and thus has no right to exist in a supposedly post-colonial world.
The problem here is that a majority of Israel’s Jews come from Muslim countries, so, if this argument is to fly, it must be acknowledged that Israel is more a Muslim colonial enterprise than it is a Christian one. Is that really a defensible thesis?
“[Jews] should get the hell out of Palestine!"
-Helen Thomas, American journalist whose parents emigrated from Lebanon to Kentucky.
While the comparison is all wrong, let's suppose just for the moment that the Jewish presence in Israel is akin to the European, Middle Eastern, and Asian presence in the western hemisphere (the sub-Saharan African presence is obviously a different story). Is Ms. Thomas prepared to just pick up and "get the hell out of America", just as the few surviving native Americans might justifiably rant? Are Australians getting the hell out of Australia and giving the land back to the native population, the majority of which lives under desperate and deplorable conditions while the white colonists enjoy the good life? How about New Zealanders and Maoris? How about the Vietnamese from the Mekong Delta, originally Khmer land? The Scandanavian hegemony in the Sami homeland? Turkey in Kurdistan? For that matter, how about lands conquered by the aboriginal inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula, including all of North Africa, and, yes, Palestine (some of the disenfranchised are Berbers, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and, yes, Jews)? Are all these imperialist conquerors getting the hell out and going home? Why so angry only with the Jews, Ms. Thomas?
If you object that, "Well, all of these injustices occurred long ago, well before mankind finally became sufficiently enlightened to end these abhorrent practices," just try selling that load of nonsense to a Holocaust survivor, who knows a thing or two about abhorrent human practices in this modern world of ours.
As I said, the comparison is all wrong anyway. All these cases involve genuine aggressors who willy-nilly scourged the earth at any human expense for purely material gain. Tiny Israel, meanwhile, bereft of natural resources, is the aboriginal homeland of the Jews, the only one they've ever known, and the only land to have a continual Jewish presence since the orgins of Jewish peoplehood, a presence in place well over a thousand years before the Arab invasions of that land. Moreover—and unlike genuine colonial outposts—modern Israel is a refugee state, providing a safe haven for the humiliated, for the oppressed, and eventually, for the few survivors of systematic extermination.
Earth to Helen Thomas and her ilk: "We Jews aren't getting the hell out of anywhere anymore."
"The settlements are the main obstacle to peace."
No, they're not. The distant settlements are a dead-end project that serve little purpose other than to antagonize the Palestinians, to disingenuously placate Israel's rightist/fundamentalist sector (the "Israeli Street"), and to delay and complicate Israel's inevitable extrication from the territories, but they are not the main obstacle to peace. Sorry, but, in the grand scheme of things, constructing housing (for whomever) just isn't all that terrible a thing to do.
Rather, the main obstacle to peace is, and has always been, the consequences of Arab governments' intransigence: the refusal of Arab despots to recognize Israel's legitimacy, their poisoning their populations with vile and primitive anti-Semitic rhetoric, their using Israel and Jews as scapegoats to deflect towards an easy target their own people's justified anger and frustration at their lack of freedoms, and most of all, their ongoing state of war (or, in two cases, ice cold peace) with the Jewish state. The result is a brainwashed youth nourished on a diet of hate, racism, and violence; prime candidates for being suckered into suicide terrorism.
Building houses or terrorists' mass murder of civilians: which is the greater obstacle to peace?
And by the way, it's hardly as if anti-Israel violence began only after its acquisition of the territories. The PLO, for example, was established in 1964, three years before the Six Day War (which was precipitated by several countries' amassing of 547,000 troops along Israel's borders, and declaring their intent of destroying Israel for good).
“The security fence is really an Apartheid Wall.”
Let’s think about security barriers in place around the world.
Goodness, just look at all those security barriers! Are you from one of these countries? Is your country thus an Apartheid state? Spanish citizens: your government maintains barriers on North African soil, built expressly to keep the "restless natives" out of Spain’s colonial outposts of Ceuta and Melilla, and not for any (non-existent) terrorist concerns. Have there ever been demonstrations in the "Arab Street" or the "Spanish Street" protesting the continued existence of these imperialist outposts? Maybe you're Greek or Turkish. Do you chant “death to our own Apartheid regime”? Perhaps you are a citizen of the UK who is appalled by Israel's racist security barrier. Surely you can muster at least a modicum of outrage about your own government's "Peace Lines" (British government Doublespeak for “Apartheid Walls”) which, like Spain’s, are built deep inside colonized territory. I could consider many of the genuinely Apartheid countries that possess barriers for reasons both savory and, far more often, unsavory (have a look at the list for many examples), but that would just be overkill at this point.
Nonetheless, only Israel’s security fence—one which has drastically reduced the number of terrorist attacks on its citizens to a mere trickle (though it's not for lack of trying on the part of the would-be terrorists themselves; Israel tirelessly and endlessly stymies attempted terrorist incursions)—is an Apartheid Wall, provoking outrage the world over.
It almost sounds as if the fence is objected to exactly because it has been so successful at reducing the number of Jewish civilians murdered by terrorists. Surely that can’t be right, can it?
"Both the Israelis and the Palestinians must stop their tit-for-tat military operations, and their targeting of civilians."
Many media outlets portray the violence in the Levant as a back-and-forth, tit-for-tat game, implying that there exists a moral equivalence between Israeli actions and Palestinian ones, and that both parties are equally culpable for the death of civilians. But while Hamas (Islamist Resistance Movement) , Hezbollah (Party of God) , Islamist Jihad, the PLO, etc. still promise to make good on their charter-enshrined goal to obliterate the Zionist entity at any human cost, Israel targets only terrorists and their supplies for destruction. To be sure, Palestinian and (Iran-backed) Lebanese terrorists often keep their arms and launch their attacks in civilian areas (thus terrorizing their own people as well), and so Israel plans its counter-terrorist actions with surgical precision in order to minimize civilian casualties.
But what of the UN's Goldstone Report, you ask, which concluded that both the Palestinians and Israel violated human rights and perpetrated war crimes during the Gaza incursion of 2008? Tit-for-tat and moral equivalence, right? Well, no. In remarkably transparent timing, Jewish Uncle Tom Richard Goldstone (unofficially) retracted his outrageous accusations against the IDF, just after the UN suspended Libya—Libya!—from its so-called Human Rights Council (the Goldstone Report's commissioning body), in the aftermath of the popular uprising in that country. Goldstone was apparently perfectly happy to accede to the wishes of this morally bankrupt council’s racist agenda until its hypocrisy became just a little too obvious even to the most boneheaded fools out there—like Goldstone.
"Yes, but photos and videoclips don't lie."
So many horrific images have come out of Israel and the occupied territories attesting to Israel's ruthless war of devastation and genocide against a defenseless Palestinian people. How can you argue with such cold hard facts??! Images don't lie!
Ah, but they do!
Here's a digital image created by Marco Longari, dated 5 November 2008, during the Gaza incursion. Israel had finally (and mercifully) unilaterally withdrawn from Gaza in 2005, after which Hamas won the popular Gazan vote, and began daily bombing barrages targeting Israeli civilians, especially in the border town of Sderot, but also as far away (40 kilometers or more, which is quite a distance by tiny Israel standards) as Ashkelon and Beersheva.
So let's look at the image. On a heap of rubble, a man tosses a presumably exhumed stuffed pink bunny rabbit, the implication being that a child or children lay dead below, gruesomely (and perhaps deliberately) murdered by the Israeli aggresor. Was it a kindergarten?
Since its original appearance, this image has been making the rounds as a "suspected" forgery. Look folks, it's a friggin' forgery, ok?
First of all, it's a little strange that the fluffy bunny rabbit is in such pristine condition, seemingly enduring none of the damage that its presumed owner suffered. So let's look a little closer at the image. I used Photoshop to enhance the contrast and brightness, and there is clearly a change in the color and quality of the image surrounding the pink bunny rabbit. Especially glaring is a straight solid vertical line to the right of the image, where the color changes most abruptly, and most unnaturally. No such bizarre jagged halo surrounds the man, notice, though the "action" around his extended hand is indeed a source of concern...
This strongly suggests that the image was doctored, the cuddly bunny rabbit being (amateurishly) cut-and-pasted into the shot. Since it was so easy for me to conclude this, I must wonder why such shoddy image manipulation passed muster at AFP, whose editorial offices originally posted this fabrication.
Is it possible that Marco Longari (and/or others) digitally manipulated the image with the express intent of engendering outrage toward the Israelis? After all, the murder of innocent children is an appalling act of injustice and cruelty that resonates with all but the most monstrous among us.
But who's to know? Maybe I Photoshopped the image myself. How is one to believe anyone about anything on such a charged issue? We all have our axes to grind, right? Well, fortunately, we have an objective way of determining the truth. Remarkably, Getty Images still inventories this fabricatation at its website. You can go to their website, download the image, and edit it to your heart's content. Here's what you'll find there:
The Getty Image:
Let's look at two studies—the AFP and the Getty, side by side—with approximately the same degree of contrast enhancement:
Look at the Getty study! Look at the clumsy boxy halo surrounding the adorable bunny rabbit! Indeed, the whole upper half of each version has clearly been seperately gerrymandered. And this poor guy, he seems to have contracted a flesh-eating bacterial infection affecting his extremities as one image mysteriously morphed into the other! Ouch!
My goal here is not to trivialize the death of any child anywhere, of course. Rather, my goal is to suggest that no child, mercifully, was killed at all. Rather, as I said, the image was embellished to provoke outrage towards the Israelis.
Oh, and this is not an isolated forgery, mind you. Rather it is part on an ongoing disinformation campaign engineered by a few real baddies, but gobbled up like manna from heaven by many who should know better. Among the most voracious eaters in the English language media world are the BBC and the Guardian.
It would be most interesting were someone to engage Marco Longari in discussion concerning this matter. Marco?
"There's no other state in the world established for a religious group. So why Israel?"
When Nazis processed Jews for gassing, they did not ask about their theological beliefs. Had they asked me, for example, I would have said I am a fervent atheist (by the way, I am Jewish). This simple fact alone should give pause to those who would call Israel a religiously-based state. Israel is, after all, predominantly an urban, educated, and decidedly secular society, one in which atheism, or at least a studied disinterest in religious belief, is as widespread as anywhere on the European continent.
And Palestine was hardly the only British outpost in Asia that has been partitioned along ethno-religious lines. Anyone who would call for a dissolution of the Hindu state, for example, would be rightly laughed out of the room.
At any rate, if there'a any religion that necessitated the need for a Jewish state, it's Christianity, for it is in the name of Christianity that so many atrocities have been perpetrated against Jews, and required the establishment of a safe haven where Jews would finally be free of tyranny.
"If Israel stopped behaving like a pariah state, Diaspora Jews would have nothing to fear."
I know, right? I mean if Israel is constantly destabilizing the region with its expansionist actions, and continues to oppress the Palestinians, of course there's bound to be backlash around the globe.
• "Chinese launch crackdown in Tibet. Take-away restaurants put on high alert."
• "Japanese continue to deny ethnic Koreans citizenship. Sony and Honda step up security at US offices."
• "German-born Turks still feel sting of persecution. Budweiser and PBR fear boycott."
• "Sudanese Arabs continue slaughter in Darfur. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee receives 'credible threats'".
• "Civil strife continues in the Congo. African-Americans sense 'clear and present danger'".
Do any of these headlines smack of familiarity? No, I didn't think so. Only Israel's actions prompt overseas retribution (and far more often in Europe than elsewhere). At any rate, please recall: Israel is defending its liberal democracy against violent reactionary theocratic forces whose policies make the Tea Party look like the ACLU. Can the same be said of the situation in China, Japan, Germany, Congo, Sudan, or any number of other comparable cases?
"Oh sure, you criticize Israel and all of a sudden you're labeled an anti-Semite."
Ah, the last refuge of a scoundrel!
Look, the Israeli government—like every other government—can and should be criticized. But if you apply a double standard to Israel—if you gloss over or ignore other governments' far greater wrong-doings, and cast an especially jaundiced eye on the Jewish state—then yes, absolutely, you are an anti-Semite.
In short, in their attempt to pre-emptively silence their accusers, it is the very people who make this ludicrous claim who are, indeed, anti-Semitic.
"We express solidarity with our Palestinian brothers and sisters!"
You do, huh? Where were you when up to 10,000 Palestinians were gunned down in Jordan's Black September in 1970? Where were you when 300,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from Kuwait in 1991? When 30,000 were expelled from Libya in 1994? When thousands of Palestinians have been killed in Syria's civil war? Do you really have the Palestinians' best interests in mind, or instead, as the old chestnut goes, do you just like "sticking it to the Jews"?
If self-proclaimed supporters of the Palestinians' rights and welfare really had their best interests in mind, they would first acknowledge Israel's liberalism, democracy, and advanced civil society as forces for good in the region, and in the world. They would recognize Israel's immediate and ongoing security concerns, and also acknowledge Israel's legitimate sensitivities regarding its past dealings with the gentile world ("The Jews killed God", "The Jews poisoned the wells and caused the black plague", "The Jews killed Christian children to use their blood for making matzah" , "The Jews harvest Palestinians' body parts for re-sale"). These supporters of the Palestinians could then gain the trust of the Israelis, and work with them—not against them—to bring about a just and lasting solution to the problem, one that brings the most happiness, the most liberalism, and the most democracy, to the most people.
Ardent supporters of the Palestinian cause: go to Ramallah! Go to Gaza City! Agitate for Palestinian leadership to loosen its noose on its people. Demand of Palestinian leaders in Fatah and Hamas that they support women's rights, support gays' rights, support apostates' rights, support intellectual and academic freedom, and build civil society! Express your outrage at the Palestinian leadership's poisoning their children with a steady drip of anti-Semitic hate and racism. Trust me: Israelis will have your back. Together we can find peace and prosperity for all in the region. Don't we all want that, after all?
But if you continue to demonize Israel, to ignore other countries' far greater violations of human rights (both of the Palestinians and of others) then you are merely the latest in that never-ending line of primitive Jew-haters, and, indeed, are merely justifying and reinforcing Jews' and Israelis' suspicions about you. And that certainly won't help the Palestinians.
In other words, in order for supposed supporters of the Palestinians' rights to really make a positive difference in their lives, they'll need to somehow find a way to love the Palestinians more than they hate the Jews (to paraphrase Golda Meir).
I am not optimistic.
“Palestinian Arabs should be compensated for their losses at the hands of the Jews.”
This is a laudable and just proposal, and I'm all for it. So here’s what I suggest: Israel should indeed pay full reparations to any and all Arabs who left the nascent Israeli state either by choice or by force. Concomitantly though, Arab/Muslim states should pay full reparations to all Jews who were ethnically cleansed from these countries since Israeli independence. Given that there were more Jews who left these states (about 850,000) than there were Arabs who left Israel (about 700,000), and given that these Jews had their property and assets confiscated (the ethnic cleansers seemed to have no problem soiling themselves with Jewish property; only Jews themselves were deemed unhygienic), far more money would be flowing into Israel than out. I suspect though, that in the spirit of generosity and neighborly good will, Israel would happily forgive this debt owed it, and would gladly call things even as is.
"All right, so what do you suggest?"
I want pretty much what most reasonable people want: the most peace, the most liberalism, the most secularism, and the most civil society, for the most people:
• A demilitarized Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with adjustments/landswaps that take into consideration the Jewish presence in and around Jerusalem.
• The entire Old City, including the Dome of the Rock/Temple Mount, will be under Israeli control. After all, the Palestinians and the Jordanians have displayed a nasty habit of desecrating and even destroying holy sites be they Christian or especially Jewish; the Israelis have shown no such inclination when it comes to Muslim or Christian holy sites. In Israel, religious sites of any sort are meticulously maintained, and are open to all. Palestinian nationals and international tourists to the Palestinian state may be issued daily visas to visit the Temple Mount.
• Jews that now live deeper inside Palestinian territory, should they decide to stay (and they'd be absolutely nuts to do so, though many are nuts already for having gone there in the first place), will enjoy full and equal rights in the new Palestinian state. (I've never had much of a stomach for ethnic cleansing. Have you?)
• The Palestinian-Jordanian border, and Palestinian airports, will be permanently monitored by international peace keepers, though not by any Israelis.
• A robust "Law of Return" will be in place: should they opt to emigrate, overseas Palestinians (including Israeli Arabs) will be welcomed back to the Palestinian state as full citizens, on equal legal and social footing with their Arab and Jewish compatriots.
• The Palestinian government will cease and desist its propagation of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric in its education system and its state-run media.
•Alternatively, the communities in the West Bank can re-join Jordan (with its Palestinian majority), which illegally annexed these territories from 1948 to 1967.
• As Gazans have clearly chosen a different path, perhaps Gaza might be established as a free city-state in which Gazans can get to work building their economy and their civil society, perhaps emphasizing high-tech industries, which create capital without requiring much land. Perhaps they can also develop the "Gazan Riviera" as an international tourist destination.
• Alternatively, Gazans should, of course, have the right to re-join Egypt, which had illegally controlled Gaza from 1948 to 1967.
• Assurances by the Israel government to its citizens (both Jewish and Arab, of course) that any terrorist attack from the Palestinian or Gazan states will be properly treated as an act of war, and will be met with a military response sufficiently strong to reduce the likelihood of further aggression.
So, is anti-Zionism geo-political anti-Semitism?
Good lord, of course it is.
Finally, On A Personal Note...
Some time ago, while enjoying a delicious lunch in a chic European capital, courtesy of our generous conference hosts, I sat next to an engaging southern European colleague. I honestly forget how it started, but she began singing the praises of Naomi Klein, and waxed swooningly about Klein's book "The Shock Doctrine". I replied that I find many of Klein's ideas compelling, good liberal that I am (pardon the redundancy), but I find her criticisms of Israel completely incongruent with the liberalism that I embrace so fervently.
And here's where it started. I was immediately assured that, of course, she is appalled at German behavior during the war, and can barely bring herself to even talk to a German (most of those she has encountered, of course, had nothing to do with the Holocaust, but never mind). Oh, OK, she has proven her mettle. Clearly a friend of the Jews, right?
Well not quite. Oh-so-predictably, she launched into the standard litany of anti-Israel rants (see above for details). But anti-Semitic? Never!
So, dear friend, why the preface assuring me that you hate Germans so much? What does the Nazi extermination of the Jews have to do with the Jewish state anyway? After all, anti-Semitism is an anachronistic prejudice, while anti-Zionism is cutting-edge progressivism, right?
I know it's been done to death, but really, some people love dead Jews so much that they agitate for more of them.
The lack of personal insight among such people is truly astounding, but, alas, not surprising, for it is the very same sort of people who would harbor such racist sentiments in the first place that would be so oblivious to their own vile hypocrisy.
Indeed, it's the very existence of anti-Zionism that reinforces the necessity of a safe haven for Jews in their own free state. And thus, in their hatred of Jews and Israel, Anti-Zionists are ultimately their own worst enemies.
I wonder what she would have done during the war.