By Khaled Amayreh in occupied Jerusalem
18 December, 2009
Political Zionism arose out of the murderous pogroms against Jews in Eastern Europe and Russia in the 19th century. Such "anti-Semitism" was used by Theodore Herzl as the main argument when he tried to persuade European governments to establish a homeland for the Jews of Europe; the Jews are a problem for you, his argument ran, so let us – the Zionist – take care of it on your behalf. At first he wasn't really fussy about the location of this homeland; as long as he could take Europe's "problem Jews" he wasn't bothered. It was some years before Palestine became the location of choice. It is reasonable to say, therefore, that very real and vicious anti-Semitism, and the threat thereof, was instrumental in the rise to prominence of political Zionism; without it, the raison d'être of the ideology would disappear. The most obvious example of anti-Semitism fuelling the clamour to achieve political Zionism's aims is, of course, the obscenity of the Nazi Holocaust. Without it, would the state of Israel have been founded when it was? We'll never know, but it is a question worth asking because today's Zionist spin-doctors are once again invoking anti-Semitism against critics of the Zionist State of Israel's policies against the Palestinians to divert attention from their Nazi-like nature.
These self-absorbed propagandists claim that anti-Jewish expressions are on the rise in many countries and that critics of Israel are actually irredeemable anti-Semites awaiting any chance to besmirch Israel 's image. Calling for the findings of the UN's Goldstone Report into the genocidal onslaught in Gaza early in 2009 to form the basis for international legal action against Israel? You're an anti-Semite. Calling for Israel to abide by UN resolutions? You're an anti-Semite. Calling for Israel to end its illegal and immoral occupation and colonial settlement of Palestine? You're an anti-Semite. And so on, until the reputation of the upholder of international law is destroyed and Israel is allowed to retain its right to do as it sees fit, and to hell with international law. It matters not that thousands of people have been killed and injured at the hands of the Israeli Defence Forces (that's a misnomer if ever there was one) this year alone. If you're critical, you must be an anti-Semite.
A conference sponsored by the Israeli foreign ministry has just been held in occupied Jerusalem to discuss ways and means to combat anti-Semitism, a phenomenon which continues to be utilized to the full by Israel as an indispensable hasbara (propaganda) asset plucked off the shelf and thrust into action in the face of mounting criticisms of Israeli terror.
The two-day event brought together dozens of Zionist propagandists from Israel and North America who repeated the same stale lies and vicious canards they have used for many years. They blamed almost everyone for the continued survival of anti-Semitism, another candidate for misnomer of the year, especially when charged against the Palestinians and other Arabs, for they are also Semites, probably even more so than most Jews, especially western Ashkenazim. Nothing and nobody was spared: they blamed Islam, the mosques, the Qur'an, the liberal press, the internet and – you'd better believe it! the western media. Even the Catholic and Orthodox churches were lambasted for keeping anti-Semitism alive.
The conference was addressed by none other than Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Foreign Minister and a man who has advocated the wholesale "transfer" (ethnic cleansing to those of a sane disposition) of Palestinians across the River Jordan; he claimed that "people were using anti-Semitism to de-legitimize Israel." It has clearly passed-by Mr. Lieberman and his ilk that perhaps, if they are truly honest with themselves, they could find a reason for anti-Semitic acts in the actions of his country's "defence" forces. I am not trying to condone anti-Semitic violence or abuse; racism is racism, no matter who it is aimed at, and should be fought at every opportunity. But part of dealing with any objectionable issue requires a close examination of possible reasons – not excuses – for its existence or continuity. In doing so it could be argued that the ongoing military occupation of Palestine, the hateful "separation" wall, fixed and flying checkpoints, random closures, house demolitions, racist pass and permit laws, the collective punishment of the people of Gaza for electing the "wrong" government the list goes on – all carried out in the name of Zionist Israel, a supposed haven from anti-Semitism, actually creates anti-Semitism. Which may not be what the ordinary Israeli citizen or Jew actually wants, but is precisely what political Zionism desperately needs to fuel its ideological pursuit of a Gentile-free state.
Hence, I believe that criticism of Israel and its policies is not anti-Semitic, rather it's anti-Zionist, nothing more. Look at the fact that many non-Jews around the world are committed supporters of the Zionist state (take Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, for example), and increasing numbers of committed Jews are speaking out against what is being done in their name by Israel not every Jew is a Zionist and not every Zionist is a Jew. Trying to turn political criticism into racism and anti-Jewish prejudice is a lazy and very dangerous argument, having the potential to lead to inter-community strife in countries around the world.
I have been writing to draw the world's attention to Israel 's nefarious deeds for many years, but I have never allowed myself to stray from being critical of what I believe is pernicious political Zionism towards anti-Semitism. Hating people for what they are is a sickness; hating what some people do is part of knowing right from wrong and a cornerstone of any democracy.
It is clear what this latest version of hasbara-propaganda is aiming to achieve. Not content with anyone simply not being anti-Semitic, it is fast becoming a condition to be accepted as being free of anti-Semitism that a person has to endorse Israel and its policies. This is not an original Zionist ploy, by the way. Think back to the aftermath of 9/11: George W. Bush could have said, "Either you are with us or you are against us", but he didn't. Listen to his words carefully: "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." There is a marked difference, and hugely significant in the latest Zionist hasbara campaign. If you are not with Israel, you must be with the terrorists and, ergo, an anti-Semite.
Forgive me, but I cannot support the expansion of Jewish colonial settlements in the West Bank; I cannot support the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land, especially in East Jerusalem; I cannot accept Israeli discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens; I cannot accept that the 1430 Palestinians, including 330 children, killed by the Israelis in Gaza earlier this year brought this upon themselves because of their democratic choice. That doesn't make me an anti-Semite, it makes me pro-international law; it makes me pro-Geneva Conventions; it makes me pro-justice; it makes me pro-humanity.
Of course there is a need to ensure that racists of all hues and creeds cannot succeed in raising fascist banners anywhere in the world but we must not allow Israeli propaganda to point the fingers of suspicion in the wrong direction. It is a childish example, but one that is very effective in teaching young people of the need for self-reflection and self-examination before accusing others of wrongdoing: whenever you point a finger at another person, the other three fingers on your hand are pointing at you. Try it, it works, and it is blindingly obvious. Transplant that classroom game onto the world stage for once, and let's examine the real causes of anti-Semitism. If done with an honest and open heart, perhaps we can then begin to see some honest and open policies towards solving the humanitarian, political and social catastrophe that is the situation of Palestinians today.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.