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The Politics of Smears and Self-Absorption

Anti-Semitism or Ultra-Semitism?

by M. JUNAID ALAM

Boston, Mass.

"When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do."

William Blake

For decades, Israel has tried to seal shut the coffin it long ago prepared for the Palestinians by hammering away at the nails of political, economic, and military violence. This method has never sufficed. Too crude, too callous, and too obvious, it fails utterly in snuffing out the flame of Palestinian defiance and succeeds only in setting off the spark of international indignation. Therefore, Israel’s apologists have seized upon a new asset of intellectual violence: the "new anti-Semitism" canard. This is the cheap and shoddy hearse the Palestinian native is to be tossed into and rushed to his grave while we Americans remain silent.

Who among us, after all, wishes to be branded with the dreaded label of "anti-Semite"? Even when equipped with the understanding that this accusation is simply an ugly smear, few activists and thinkers are prepared to counter it very effectively, often resorting to protestations that they are not, in fact, anti-Semites. It is possible, however, to address this accusation in a way that throws the spotlight on the racist mindset of Israel’s supporters and exposes them as hopelessly self-absorbed.

The first step in this task is to understand who is hurling the accusations of anti-Semitism at pro-Palestinian activists. We are already familiar with the general picture: the accusers are well-connected players invariably ensconced in powerful political cliques, elite think tanks, right-wing publications, and other multi-million dollar institutions – in a word, the usual "allies" of victims of racism everywhere. But beyond this it would do us well to understand that the accusers are, above all else, magicians.

Any magician worth his name can imbue the ordinary with magical powers. The champion of Israel waves his wand and performs this feat on the pro-Palestinian activist from the outset. For the activist – a young student, a college professor, or any other concerned citizen – loses his humble status as a more or less ordinary person as soon as he opens his mouth in defense of the uprooted and expropriated Palestinian. He is catapulted into some kind of world-historic force, conspiring, in the words of Israel’s sycophants, to "destroy Israel", to "viciously attack and demonize" it, and perhaps even to "wipe out the Jews." It is not clear just how the activist is rendered into a great power capable of confronting, never mind "destroying", a state with the world’s 4th largest military and two hundred nuclear warheads ­ paid for by the activist’s tax dollars, no less. Such a truly awesome transformation can only be explained by magic.

This trick brings us to yet another attribute of the magician: the ability to make things vanish. For just as the activist is made into an all-powerful force, the Palestinian is made to disappear. Frightening rhetoric which posits the evil activist as "out to get" Israel completely tosses aside the actually-existing reality of Israel’s ongoing campaign to exterminate Palestinians as a national and political entity. This second magical feat fulfills on the ideological level what one-time Israeli PM Golda Meir declared on the political level: "The Palestinians do not exist."

The dual process of deception ­ (1) elevating the activist to the level of omnipotence on the one hand, and (2) denigrating the Palestinian to the level of non-existence on the other – is neither arbitrary nor accidental. Rather, it is a revealing comment on the mindset of Zionists. If we look closely, we can see that it furnishes us ample proof of the very traits they desperately try to deny: self-absorption, stemming from (1), and racism, stemming from (2).

The self-absorption aspect of the Zionist mindset appears almost axiomatic. After all, how is it possible to twist and distort attempts to defend Palestinians suffering under a brutal colonial military occupation – one that includes murder, torture, abuse, bulldozing, checkpoints, and land theft – as an "attack on Israel" or as "anti-Semitic"? According to this specious logic, attempts to defend blacks from lynching by the Ku Klux Klan amounts to "attacking whites" and is "anti-white." Is lynching blacks made acceptable by the "whiteness" of their attackers? Would it not be equally abhorrent whether 5% of whites supported it or 95% supported it? Only people who view themselves as part of a master race believe that the morality of an action is determined by the racial makeup of the group conducting it.

Furthermore, no pro-Palestinian activist cares about Israel one way or the other in the abstract. Zionists flatter themselves in thinking otherwise. Israel only figures into the situation to the precise extent that Palestinians are being gunned down, encircled, and impoverished by Israel. It takes a truly enormous amount of self-involvement on the part of Israel’s apologists not to notice this outstanding fact.

But it is necessary to probe deeper. What is really behind this enormous amount of self-involvement? How is it possible to gloss over the massively disproportionate suffering inflicted upon the Palestinians, as Zionists do when they leap into hysterics about "anti-Semitic" activists?

At the root of such self-absorption is the dismissal of Palestinians as non-entities, a dismissal epitomized by the Zionist "magic" in which Palestinians are, as I said earlier, "denigrated to the level of non-existence." This dismissal is itself rooted in the psychology which always accompanies and props up colonialism ­ the very same colonialism the Zionists vociferously claim they are not guilty of. For in order to systematically brutalize a people, to uproot them, steal from them, torture them, and eliminate them, it is first necessary to dehumanize them ­ to render them as non-humans as much as possible, so that one can more easily rationalize murdering and destroying them. Positing human beings as hideous beasts eases a troubled conscience.

And this is precisely what the Israelis have done. One can quote former Israeli PM Menachim Begin, who in 1982 described Palestinians as "beasts walking on two legs." Or one can quote Ehud Barak, another former Israeli PM who in 2000 said, "The Palestinians are like crocodiles." There is also former Chief of Staff of the IDF Rafael Eitan, who said in 1983, "We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours." Or to take a more recent IDF Chief of Staff, there is Moshe Ya’alon, who described Palestinians as a "cancer" requiring either "amputation" or "chemotherapy" in 2002. And then there is also Rabbi Yaacov Peerin, who, speaking at a ceremony held in the "honor" of Baruch Goldstein, considered a hero among Israeli settlers for mowing down Muslim civilians at a mosque, said, "One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail."

Now everything else falls into place. The Israelis and their allies could not possibly fathom why any person of conscience would care about Palestinians – since they have no conscience themselves. Having adopted a vitriolic and racist attitude toward the Palestinians as a direct result of their brutalization of them, they rob themselves of the ability to think clearly. According to their poisoned thought process, who could possibly care about "two-legged beasts" or "crocodiles"? No one, obviously. Therefore, the only "real" motive left for pro-Palestinian activists must be some kind of innate hatred for Israel.

In their hysterical attempts to brand pro-Palestinians as anti-Semites, then, Zionists reveal themselves as ultra-Semites: they view themselves as racially superior to their victims, and harbor deeply racist attitudes toward them. Moreover, they claim their victims aren’t really victims at all precisely because they consider them to be wild animals (or worse) compared to themselves. And because of this moral blindness, support for their victims is automatically and instantaneously construed as an attack on them, when it is in fact only an "attack" on their racism – also known among normal people as a defense of the oppressed. This utter inability to distinguish an "attack" on Zionist racism between an attack on the ethnic group and nation Zionism claims to represent indicates just how deeply Zionists are entwined with their racism.

When confronted with the accusation of anti-Semitism, we should no longer assume a weak defensive posture or accede to this canard . Rather, we should call a spade a spade and insist on our opposition to all forms of racial supremacy, including ultra-Semitism. An ideological weapon, it is arrayed alongside the Israeli tank and bulldozer and surpasses both in its destructiveness. Our task, then, is to seriously confront it and sharply expose it for what it is: merely one more example in an endless string of examples of Zionist racism.

M. JUNAID ALAM is co-editor of the leftist youth journal Left Hook (http://www.lefthook.org), and a student at Northeastern University. He can be reached at alam@lefthook.org.