To believe some news reports, one would think that a second Holocaust is upon us. Anti-Semitism, we are told darkly, is rearing its ugly head in a degree not seen since Nazi Germany. This poses a threat not only to all Jews, but also to all freedom-loving people around the world.
It is, once again, time for a reality check. Opposition to Israeli polices does not equate to anti-Semitism. Author and lecturer Norman Finklestein, the son of Holocaust survivors, put it succinctly in 2006, when he said this: “Whenever Israel faces a public relations debacle its apologists sound the alarm that a “new anti-Semitism” is upon us.” Let’s look at some of the recent events that have sparked the current anti-Semitism hysteria.
The Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement. This is a global effort to focus attention on the brutal apartheid regime of Israel by not doing business with companies operating in the occupied West Bank. It also includes the very successful efforts to convince entertainers and academics not to appear in Israel. It is not anti-Semitic; it is simply pro-freedom, and that means freedom for Palestine.
Southampton University was scheduled to host a conference this month, entitled ‘International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism’. Organizers say that the conference will “engage controversial questions concerning the manner of Israel’s foundation and its nature, including ongoing forced displacements of Palestinians and associated injustices”. This conference incurred the wrath of the Zionist right, with statements saying that the aim of the conference is to delegitimize Israel. In a serious blow against academic freedom, the university has withdrawn its support for the conference.
During last summer’s genocidal onslaught by Israel against Palestine, university Professor Steven Salaita tweeted his displeasure and disapproval of that mass murder. He had been offered a tenured position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and he and his wife had both resigned their positions, and sold their house in anticipation of the move to Illinois. However, at the last minute, the offer from the university was rescinded, due to those very tweets. By criticizing Israel, he was accused of being anti-Semitic.
Accusing people who support the BDS movement of being anti-Semitic has become all the rage in Zionist circles. Some examples:
* Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said last month that the BDS movement is “the 21st century form of 20th century anti-Semitism.” He further said, astonishingly, that criticism of Israel is the same thing as criticism of Jews. Zionists are desperate to make that connection, in the vain hope that it will successfully cause people to hesitate criticizing Israel, not wanting to be labelled anti-Semitic. Unfortunately for them, society has, for the most part, moved past that point.
* New York Senator Charles Schumer (D) said this: “It is very suspicious that those who promote boycotting Israel do not seek boycotts against any other nations in the world.” That is like saying that people who donate exclusively to the American Cancer Society don’t care about heart disease. They have simply chosen, for any of a variety of reasons, to support that cause. People involved in the BDS movement focus on Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.
* Former Pink Floyd band member Roger Waters, an outspoken critic of Israel’s apartheid regime, and a supporter of the BDS movement, has denied being anti-Semitic. In response to comments made by Gerald Ronson, chairman of the Jewish Community Security Trust, suggesting that Mr. Waters was an anti-Semite, Mr. Waters said this: “On a personal note, Mr Ronson, my father, the son of a coal miner from County Durham, pulled himself up by his bootstraps, eventually got a degree from Durham University, went off and taught divinity, history, and English in Jerusalem between 1935 and 1938, and subsequently died in Italy on February 18, 1944 fighting the Nazi menace. Do not dare to presume to preach to me, my father’s son, about anti-Semitism or human rights.”
One wonders why there isn’t any talk about anti-Arab attitudes. Let’s look at some recent evidence.
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Foreign Affairs Minister, in discussing the perceived loyalty or disloyalty of Israeli Arabs, who comprise approximately 20% of Israel’s population, said this on March 8: “Whoever’s with us, should get everything. Those who are against us, there’s nothing to be done — we need to pick up an ax and cut off his head. Otherwise we won’t survive here.”
During Israel’s bombardment and invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2014, during which more than 2,000 Palestinians, including more than 500 children, were killed, The Times of Israel and the 5 Towns Jewish Times published an article entitled ‘When Genocide is
Permissible’. In it were these words: “If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide, is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?”
And as long as the topic of genocide has reared its ugly head, let’s talk about Israel’s onslaught of the summer of 2014. Israel used Palestinian children has human shields; assassinated unarmed children playing on a beach; bombed hospitals, mosques and homes; bombed United Nations schools that were being used as refugee centers, despite having it confirmed more than ten times that these refugee centers were sponsored by the U.N. All this is in violation of international law. Israel, and some of the world community, said this was all done to ‘defend’ itself from Palestinian fireworks. International law is clear: an occupied country has every right to oppose the occupying force. Even putting that aside, it is illogical to suggest that an occupying force can ‘defend’ itself from its victim. The foxes, when raiding the henhouse, aren’t defending themselves from the hens.
The old narratives about Israel and Palestine are no longer valid. Zionists in the U.S., those in Congress who bow and scrape before the sacred AIPAC (American Israel Political Affairs Committee) altar in order to finance their reelection campaigns, and those on the religious right, are quick to paint critics of Israel as anti-Semites. Occasionally, although not often, the old canard of ‘self-hating Jew’ is thrown at Jews who criticize Israel. Both of these tired and worn labels no longer stick; they are the final weapons of desperate people who cannot justify the savagery Israel constantly commits against the Palestinians and seek to deflect attention from those atrocities.
For decades, this strategy worked, but those days are now in the past. It is arguable that Israel’s savage mass murder last summer was a turning point; the news media might have whitewashed this atrocity, but the Twittersphere, Facebook, Instagram and other social media tools brought it all home to people around the world. The old narrative, that of poor, vulnerable little Israel striving to do nothing more than to survive, is over. The truth is now widely known, and while resisted by the U.S. Congress, even its days of denial are numbered. Israel Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu put the final nail in that coffin when he proclaimed that there would be no independent Palestine during his administration. Change comes slowly, especially in the halls of U.S. governance, but it does happen. It cannot come soon enough for Palestine.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).