To defend themselves and throw the rest of us under the bus
Facing world anger over their violence in Gaza and Jerusalem, the Israeli government counter-attacked. They accused their critics and all supporters of Palestine of being Jew-hating anti-Semites. By claiming their political and humanitarian critics are anti-Semitic, they normalize anti-Semitism in the West and seem happy to do it.
As Palestinian-American scholar Steven Salaita tweeted during a 2014 massacre in Gaza, if calling out murder of children is anti-Semitic, what other choice does a person of conscience have? Israel’s false Jew-hatred claims harm Arabs, Jews, and all who work for peace and justice. They expose Jews in the West to attack from real, right-wing anti-Semites like Robert Bowers, who killed 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.
I am one of those supporters of Palestinian freedom. If I weren’t Jewish myself, Israel-identified Jews (often called Zionists) would call me anti-Semitic. As it is, they call me self-hating. I don’t hate myself, but then, I’m not the one committing daily crimes against humanity.
When their 11 days of bombing Gaza stopped because of worldwide pressure, Israel started wide-scale arrests of Palestinian civilians and breaking up Palestinian neighborhoods. Their nominally civilian “settlers” continued burning Arabs’ olive trees and assaulting Palestinians in the street. Lebanese journalist Laith Marouf reported that over 1400 Palestinians had been arrested as of May 27, 2021. Residents of the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods were arrested, with their homes slated for demolition or being given to Jewish settlers.
At the same time, the Israel Lobby launched a scare campaign about a supposed upsurge of attacks on Jews, mostly blaming Palestinians. American political and media figures rushed to speak out against these supposed “hate crimes.” But is this upsurge really happening, or is it a distraction to take our eyes off of Israel’s crimes? Is opposition to Israel, no matter how militant, really anti-Semitic?
Israel does not represent world Jewry
Israel calls itself the Jewish state and privileges Jews above all other groups, especially the indigenous Palestinians. They use this self-proclaimed representation of Jews to claim that anyone who attacks their state is attacking Jews. They tell critics, ‘Everyone else has a homeland. We should have one, too. If you disagree, you must hate us.’
From Israel’s founding in 1948, American Jews like my parents have been told to ‘make aliyah,’ meaning move to Israel. Most didn’t go, but many supported Israel financially and lobbied for them politically. Israel-identified Jews have built the most powerful lobby in the country, and their army of volunteers and large donors has gained a great deal of control of Congress. Very few politicians, even progressive heroes, will speak openly against Israel. Those who do, such as Rep.Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, Earl Hilliard of Alabama, and Paul Findley of Illinois often see their careers cut short by Israel Lobby funding and volunteering for opponents and loud attacks in the media.
Israel’s rulers do not represent or even care about Jews in other countries. They support right wing, anti-Semitic governments in Hungary and Ukraine. They work closely with Christian Zionists who believe Jews are inferior. Most damaging to us, Zionists normalize anti-Semitism. When Israel says of every action and every publication that attacks Israel: ‘If you don’t like us, you don’t like Jews,’ some will respond, ‘’OK then. Maybe we don’t.’
The Israel Lobby deliberately plays into the hands of the real, far-right anti-Semites such as Bowers. If Jews are scared to live in the West, they will be more likely to move to Israel, or at least to give financial and political support. Promoting anti-Semitism has been the Zionists’ game plan since the founding of modern Zionism in 19th Century Europe.
Zionist founder Theodore Herzl of Austria wrote in his Diaries that, “The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies.” According to British investigative journalist Asa Winstanley, for the next 70 years, Zionists collaborated with anti-Semites to worsen conditions for European Jews. When Nazis passed the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, stripping Jews of German citizenship, the Zionist Federation of Germany was the only Jewish group that supported them.
Zionism itself incorporates a deep, internalized hatred of Judaism and Jewish culture. Herzl wrote in his book Der Judenstaat, that it “was Jews, not their Christian enemies, who cause anti-Semitism” and that “where it does not exist, [anti-Semitism] is carried by Jews in the course of their migrations.”
Religion has nothing to do with it
Israel’s government and supporters like to portray their conflict with Palestinians as a 2500 year old religious struggle, but it is actually a 20th Century land grab by Europeans who happen to be Jewish. Most Israeli leaders are atheists; the Biblical story of Moses is only an excuse for them. Israeli historian Ilan Pappé wrote, “Most Zionists do not believe in God, but they do believe He promised them Palestine.”
“Most Zionists do not believe in God, but they do believe He promised them Palestine.” Israeli Historian Ilan Pappe
Though not based on religion, Israel is an ethnostate. Jews there live by very different rules than indigenous Palestinians. People whose families have lived in Palestine for centuries cannot return, while Jews from Brooklyn with no family in Israel will be welcomed there with open arms. As former South African victims of apartheid Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela have said for years, Israel is even more discriminatory than apartheid South Africa was. Human Rights Watch, a generally pro-American NGO, recently declared Israel an apartheid state.
In response, four Jewish members of Congress wrote President Biden that charges of Israeli apartheid were “anti-Semitic to their core,” while giving absolutely no evidence that the charges were wrong. When the New York Times published pictures of 62 Palestinian children killed by Israeli bombs, giving their names, career anti-Semitism watchdog Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League called it a “blood libel,” referencing the historic lie that Jews killed Christian babies and drank their blood.
Was Foxman over-the-top in comparing a truthful, compassionate naming of victims to the most vicious of anti-Semitic lies? It’s hard to find a more blatant example of using anti-Semitism charges as a weapon. As Australian journalist Caitlin Johnstone wrote, “If you consider anti-Zionism to be anti-Semitism, you cannot be surprised when anti-Semitism seems to increase after Israel bombs babies.”
Is anti-Semitism rising?
Have incidences of anti-Semitism increased significantly during the destruction of Gaza? Or, as Johnstone says, are these claims an attempt by Israel to “reassert narrative control”? According to an analysis published in The Grayzone, the reported cases of attacks on Jews have often been Palestinians’ defending themselves from Jewish attackers, who turned their cameras on when the Palestinians fought back.
A scholarly article by Mari Cohen, called “A Closer Look at the Uptick in anti-Semitism” in the journal Jewish Currents, found that “the reported ‘upsurge’ of anti-Semitism included angry tweets, explicitly anti-Israel signs, peaceful demonstrations for Palestine, and graffiti both anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish.” There is no upsurge of violence against Jews, but claims of rising anti-Semitism have now replaced criticism of Israel’s bombings as the trending topic among corporate media and politicians. That is the narrative control the Israel Lobby seeks.
We need to clarify this imposed confusion. Jews have been traumatized for centuries by violent Jew-hatred, peaking in Hitler’s attempt to kill us all. So, it’s not hard to manipulate Jews with fear or non-Jews with guilt over anti-Semitism. We can’t ignore it, but defending Israel is not protecting Jews or anyone else. Aiding Israel contributes to imperial domination, endless war, and shifting the whole world far to the Right.
In the 21st Century, anti-Semitism in the USA and Europe is very real, but it does not come from Arabs or from people who support Palestine or who fight Israeli crimes. Why are charges of Jew-hatred only raised against progressives who oppose Israeli apartheid?
As I have written here and here, Israel and the USA are intimately connected in trying to dominate the world. This is not something the majority of the world’s Jews want. It is not anti-Semitic to oppose Israel, but it is anti-Semitic to consider all Jews as supporters of Israel and Zionism.
If you’re interested in learning more about this issue, here are a couple of sources:
Israeli historian Miko Peled http://www.thehypertexts.com/Miko%20Peled%20Quotes%20Articles%20Essays.htm
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