Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
HAVE YOUR DONATION DOUBLED!

If you are able to donate $100 or more for our Annual Fund Drive, your donation will be matched by another generous CounterPuncher! These are tough times. Regardless of the political rhetoric bantered about the airwaves, the recession hasn’t ended for most of us. We know that money is tight for many of you. But we also know that tens of thousands of daily readers of CounterPunch depend on us to slice through the smokescreen and tell it like is. Please, donate if you can!

FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Israel and "Anti-Semitism"

by Alexander Cockburn

Right in the wake of House Majority leader Dick Armey’s explicit call for two million Palestinians to be booted out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and Gaza as well, came yet one more of those earnest articles accusing a vague entity called “the left” of anti-Semitism.

This one was in Salon, by a man called Dennis Fox, identified as an associate professor of legal studies and psychology at the University of Illinois. Leaving nothing to chance, Salon titled Fox’s contribution, “The shame of the pro-Palestinian left: Ignorance and anti-Semitism are undercutting the moral legitimacy of Israel’s critics.”

Over the past 20 years I’ve learned there’s a quick way of figuring just how badly Israel is behaving. There’s a brisk uptick in the number of articles here accusing “the left” of anti-Semitism. These articles adopt varying strategies. Particularly intricate, though I think well-intentioned, was a recent column by Naomi Klein who wrote that “It is precisely because anti-Semitism is used by the likes of Sharon that the fight against it must be reclaimed.” Is Klein saying the anti-globalization movement has forgotten how to be anti-anti-Semitic? I don’t think it has. Are all denunciations of the government of Israel to be prefaced by strident assertions of pro-Semitism?

If this is the case, can we not ask that those concerned about the supposed silence of the left regarding anti-Semitism demonstrate their own good faith by denouncing Israel’s behavior towards Palestinians? Klein did, but most don’t.

In a recent piece in the New York Times Frank Rich managed to write an entire column puportedly about Jewish overreaction here to news reporting from Israel without even a fleeting reference to the fact that there might be some factual basis for reports presenting Israel and its leaders in a bad light, even though he found time for plenty of abuse for the “inexcusable” Arafat. Isn’t Sharon “inexcusable” in Rich’s book?

So the left gets the rotten eggs and those tossing the eggs mostly don’t feel it necessary to concede that Israel is a racist state whose obvious and provable intent is to continue to steal Palestinian land, oppress Palestinians, herd them into smaller and smaller enclaves and in all likelihood ultimately drive them into the sea or Lebanon or Jordan or Dearborn or the space in Dallas/Fort Worth airport between the third and fourth runways (the bold Armey plan).

Here’s how Fox begins his article for Salon: ‘”Let’s move back,” my wife insisted when she saw the nearby banner: “Israel Is a Terrorist State!” We were at the April 20 Boston march opposing Israel’s incursion into the West Bank. So drop back we did, dragging our friends with us to wait for an empty space we could put between us and the anti-Israel sign.’ Inference by Fox: the banner is grotesque, presumptively anti-Semitic. But there are plenty of sound arguments that from the Palestinian point of view Israel is indeed a terrorist state, and anyway, even if it wasn’t, the description would not per se be evidence of anti-Semitism. Only if the banner read “All Jews are terrorists”, would Fox have a point.

Of course the rhetorical trick is to conflate “Israel” or “the State of Israel” with “Jews” and argue that they are synonymous. Ergo, to criticize Israel is to be anti-Semitic. Leave aside the fact that many of Israel’s most articulate critics are Jews, honorably committed to the cause of justice for all in the Middle East. Many Jews just don’t like hearing bad things said about Israel, same way they don’t like reading articles about the Jewish lobby here. Mention the lobby and someone like Fox will rush into print denouncing those who “toy with the old anti-Semitic canard that the Jews control the press.”

These days you can’t even say that New York Times is owned by a Jewish family without risking charges that you stand in Goebbels’ shoes. I even got accused of anti-Semitism the other day for mentioning that the Jews founded Hollywood, which they most certainly did, as recounted in a funny and informative book published in 1988, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood by Neal Gabler.

So cowed are commentators (which is of course the prime motive of those charges of anti-Semitism) that even after the US Congress recently voted full-throated endorsement of Sharon and Israel, with only two senators and 21 US reps (I exclude the chickenshit 28 who voted “present”) voting against, you could scarcely find a mainstream paper prepared to analyze this astounding demonstration of the power of AIPAC and other Jewish organizations, plus the Christian Right and the military industrial complex which profits enormously from military aid to Israel since Congress put through a law concerning US overall aid to Israel, to the effect that 75 per cent of such supplies must be bought from US firms like Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin, lobbying for Israel.

The encouraging fact is that despite the efforts of the Southern Povery Law Center to drum up funds by hollering that the Nazis are about to march down Main Street, there’s remarkably little anti-Semitism in the US, and almost none that I’ve ever been able to detect on the American left, which is of course amply stocked with non-self-hating Jews. It’s comical to find the left’s assailants trudging all the way back to Leroi Jones and the 60s to dig up the necessary anti-Semitic jibes. The less encouraging fact is that there’s not nearly enough criticism of Israel’s ghastly conduct towards Palestinians, which in its present phase is testing the waters for reaction here to a major ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, just as Armey called for.

So why don’t people like Fox write about Armey’s appalling remarks, (which the White House declared he hadn’t made,) instead of trying to change the subject with nonsense about anti-Semitism? It’s not anti-Semitic to denounce ethnic cleansing, a strategy which according to recent polls, around half all Israeli Jews now heartily endorse. In this instance the left really has nothing to apologize for, but those who accuse of it of anti-Semitism certainly do. They’re apologists for policies put into practice by racists, ethnic cleansers and in Sharon’s case, an unquestioned war criminal who should be in the dock for his conduct.

More articles by:

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

October 18, 2017
Patrick Cockburn
Seizing Kirkuk
John Wight
Weinstein as Symptom: Notes From Hollywood
Matthew Hoh
Bowe Bergdahl: Traitor to American Exceptionalism and White Supremacy
Chris Ernesto
Funding for War vs. Natural Disasters
Aidan O'Brien
Where’s Duterte From and Where’s He Going To?
Jon Bailes
Mental Health and Neoliberalism: an Interview with William Davies
Ramzy Baroud
The Real Reason Behind Trump’s Angry Diplomacy in North Korea
Paul Craig Roberts
Washington, Not China, is the Biggest Threat to American Power
Mike Davis
El Diablo in Wine Country
Binoy Kampmark
Trump’s Iran Deal
Lara Merling
Remember Puerto Rico Needs Fair Medicaid Funding Too
Phil Rockstroh
2 or 3 Things I Know About Capitalism
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain
Rambo Wept: Our Commandos Good, Your Terrorists Bad
Dimitris Bellantis
On Catalonia: Debates in the Greek Left
Robert Koehler
The Calm Before the Storm
Mike Hastie
Napalm Sticks to Kids
October 17, 2017
Suzanne Gordon – Ian Hoffmann
Trumpcare for Veterans? VA Outsourcing Will Create Healthcare Industry Bonanza
Patrick Cockburn
The Real Destabilizer in the Middle East is Not Iran But Trump
Jonathan Cook
The Real Reasons Trump is Quitting UNESCO
Murtaza Shibli
My Friend From ISIS in Raqqa
Kathy Kelly
Wrongful Rhetoric and Trump’s Strategy on Iran
David Bonner
Beyond Taking a Knee: Duane Thomas, Where are You When We Need You?
Tom Gill
Austerity, Macron-Style
Liaquat Ali Khan
Pakistan Faces a Life-Threatening Military Coup
Jeff Mackler
Is Trump a ‘Moron?’
Amena Elashkar
If You Work for Justice in Palestine, Why Won’t You Let Palestinians Speak?
John Feffer
Trump’s Unprecedented Right-Turn on Foreign Policy
Ariel Dorfman
Trump’s War on the Mind
Dean Baker
The Republican Tax Plan to Slow Growth
Gerry Brown
The Return of One-Man Rule in China?
Binoy Kampmark
Climate Change Insurgent: Tony Abbott’s Crusade
Kent Paterson
Assassination in Guerrero: the Murder of Ranferi Hernandez Acevedo
Rob Okun
Men and Sexual Assault in the Age of Trump
October 16, 2017
Vijay Prashad
A Tale of Two Islands
Ben Dangl
Profiting from America’s Longest War: Trump Seeks to Exploit Mineral Wealth of Afghanistan
Jan Oberg
Trump is Moving Toward War With Iran
Thomas S. Harrington
The Baseless Myth of the Poor, Propagandized Catalans
Steve Brown
When a Radio Host Interviews a War Criminal, Is It Churlish to Ask About His War Crimes?
Howard Lisnoff
Capturing the Flag
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS is Facing Near Total Defeat, But It Has Been Beaten and Come Back Before
Julian Vigo
The Fall of Harvey Weinstein and the Sexual Blindspot of Misogyny
James Munson
The Rich Can’t Achieve Plurality, But the Poor Can
Amitai Ben-Abba
The NIMPE Critique of Antifa
Robert Fisk
We Will Soon See What the Word “Unity” Means for the Palestinian People
Alice Donovan
Civil War in Venezuela: a US Joint Operation with Colombia?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail