The benevolent writer Uri Averny has informed us of a crucial fallacy in his latest polemic for CounterPunch entitled “The Fallacy of Rising Anti-Semitism.”
In this article, Averny, whose credentials include founding Gush Shalom peace movement and authoring numerous well-regarded books, argues that the notion “Jews are in danger everywhere” is “nonsense.” Pointing to recent attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, Averny insists that anti-Semitism is neither a motivation nor a concern.
“All these outrages were conducted by young Muslims,” he offers, “mostly of Arab descent. They were part of the ongoing war between Israelis and Aras that has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.”
Why not anti-Semitism? Do some Arabs not hold anti-Semitic views? In Averny’s considered, “Arab anti-Semitism is an oxymoron, since Arabs are Semites.” Averny has certainly hit the nail on the head; the notions of Semitic and anti-Semitic, as he notes, came from Wilhelm Marr, and the label has always obstructed Arab integration into their own category. A poetic irony exists as Palestinians continue to be denied recognition on their own land.
Semantics aside, we can recognize a category of anti-Jewishness, perhaps specific to anti-Semitism (a kind of inter-anti-Semitic rivalry if we are to cling to perhaps atavistic terms), as a reason for which people carry out attacks. In my opinion we might as well keep anti-Semitism as a category; after all, are not the strictest Zionists in the US people like Glenn Beck who make both anti-Arab and anti-Jewish assertions? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one that has always been engineered by the (former) colonial powers.
Here is where Averny attacks the point: “Anti-semitism is an integral part of European culture.”
And it is, as he suggests, perhaps “a collective mental disease.” But the rationale he provides is tenuous; he claims it is religious. It is not. Anti-semitism stems from a colonial past and its implications in the present; it comes from the Catholic church’s lust for West Asian lands, the aristocracy of the ancien regime, and it’s desire to divorce itself from “dirty money”; and finally, the bourgeoisie’s drive to monopolize on the crumbling Ottoman Empire. For this reason, as Averny perspicuously notes, “The present conflict started as a clash between two national movements, Jewish Zionism and secular Arab nationalism, and had only slight religious overtones.” We bear witness today to the same type of crusader-state conflicts that manifested for hundreds of years, and the animosity engendered within has material reasons far beyond ideology and religion, although both play roles.
Does that mean that it has “Nothing to do with anti-Semitism”? Quite the contrary.
In fact, if we look where Averny does not—the United Kingdom—we will find that anti-Semitic incidents (anti-Jewish to be exact) have doubled in the last year, alone, according to the Community Security Trust. Last year, CST recorded 1,168 anti-Semitic incidents—well over the 535 recorded in 2013. Match to that the increasingly popular far-right throughout Europe, and there is something to discern about the direction of violence, which flows against both Jews and Arabs, alike.
That vertiginous rise took place before Copenhagen and Paris. Averny is absolutely correct to suggest that the rise has everything to do with the Israel-Palestine conflict—namely with the bombardment of Gaza, as CST points out. This so-called “2014 Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” also known as Operation Protective Edge, took place over seven weeks of bombardment, which claimed more than 2,000 Palestinian lives, a vast majority of whom were civilians. To top it off, as Nafeez Ahmed pointed out, it was about access to natural gas more than ancient hatred of an ethnic or religious manifestation sort.
It does enrage just to think of it, but there is no reason to suggest that this reality makes the increase of attacks a symptom of a conflict between Jews and Muslims. In actual fact, the rise of anti-Jewish attacks has taken place, due to a conflict between the North Atlantic, on one side, and Jews and Arabs on the other. As Averny returns to the historical animus between white-skinned European nationalists and Jews, we should also return to the historical position of Israel today as a land grabbing country that both benefits from full support of the North Atlantic and provides convenient investment opportunities for North Atlantic capital, along with military hegemony to boot.
For this reason, whites perpetrated 44 percent of the anti-Semitic incidents in England, the lion’s share, while Arab or North African belligerence comprised a mere 10 percent. Surprisingly, South Asian offenders made up 37 percent, and only 8 percent were described as Black. According to the numbers, the “Arab-Israeli conflict,” as it metastasizes into Europe, is driven principally by whites, not by Jews or Arabs. I would argue that the same is true in the Levant.
So while I agree with Averny that anti-Semitism is pure fallacy (after all, it is an oxymoron, as he claims), it seems to me that it is quantifiably on the rise in Europe. Of course, this rise is relative; 2009 and 2006 saw similarly high numbers of anti-Semitic attacks, and the reasons were the same—Israeli attacks in the Levant. At the same time, the connection between Arabs and Jews will always mean that oppression felt by the one will surely even out against the other. The conflagration of nationalism, which uses Islamophobia as its propellant, worsens the conflict between whites, Jews, and Arabs on all levels. Averny may actually be entirely correct, and last year’s increase in mostly-white attacks incidents of anti-Jewish attacks may dwindle once again, with one modest rejoinder: the fallacy of anti-Semitism and the conflicts it creates will continue to rise will continue to rise and fall with Israel’s genocidal wars.
Alexander Reid Ross is a contributing moderator of the Earth First! Newswire. He is the editor of Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab (AK Press 2014) and a contributor to Life During Wartime (AK Press 2013). His most recent book Against the Fascist Creep is forthcoming through AK Press.