Israel as Irony

In a July 2002 article for CounterPunch, Northeastern economics professor M Shahid Alam observed that an academic boycott of Israel could help reduce Palestinian violence. “When the young Palestinians learn that academics the world over… are stirring on their behalf, this will convince them that they are not alone; and once they are so convinced, they may be persuaded to renounce their acts of desperation.”

Just over a month later the Jerusalem Post reported on Alam’s article under the headline, “US prof justifies Palestinian terror attacks.” The Boston Herald followed two days later with an article headlined, “Prof shocks Northeastern with defense of suicide bombers.”

“It is curious,” Alam later wrote, “how these reports had inverted the objective of my essay.” Indeed the inversion of reality is at the very core of Zionism, according to which the aggressors in Israel are the Palestinians, while its Jewish residents merely desire a safe haven free of anti-Semitism.

Palestinians lived in what is now Israel for many centuries before their lands — like so many others around the world — were invaded by Europeans, in this case Jewish European. It was Jews who colonized Palestinian territory, not the other way around. When Jews attacked and terrorized Palestinians, causing three-quarters of a million to flee for their lives, the Zionists were simply clearing the territory of the natives, no different from colonial-settlers of any other time and place.

As we all know — though it must be repeated — Palestinians are Semitic. Only by tradition, not logic, do we employ the term anti-Semitic to refer exclusively to the persecution of Jews. But this tradition, like so many others, is inherently racist, as it implies that only Jewish Semites are worthy of acknowledgement as victims. By excluding Arabs as targets of anti-Semitism, the traditional use of this term airbrushes them out of public discourse, much as Zionists would like to airbrush them out of Israel. The brutal subjugation of its non-Jewish Semitic population generates widespread condemnation of Israel, which all too easily spills over into hatred of Jews as a people. As Lenni Brenner bluntly put it, “if you want to end today’s ‘anti-Semitism’ against Jews, end Zionism’s ‘anti-Semitism’ against Palestinians.”

The London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism, because it focuses exclusively on “political actors who engage in hate against Jews and target the State of Israel” and makes no mention of anti-Arab hatred, is inherently racist. Its authors could have corrected the error by condemning anti-Semitic violence directed at Arabs, but this would have defeated their purpose, since Israel is the world’s leading purveyor of anti-Arab violence. Moreover Israel targets Arabs specifically because they are not Jewish, that is, they are the wrong kind of Semite. Those who’ve invoked the London Declaration in defense of their claim that Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic — though Corbyn has always demonstrated sensitivity to both Jews and Palestinians — inadvertently brand themselves anti-Arab bigots. Indeed many kneejerk defenders of Israel are Islamophobes, the other side of the coin from the paranoid fabulists who think Jews are secretly conspiring to orchestrate world events, i.e. Judeophobes.

Since the July passage of the Jewish nation-state law, which limits the right of national self-determination to Jews, Israel has become an anti-Arab state in exactly the same sense that apartheid South Africa was an anti-black state. Does this mean Israel is anti-Semitic? Well, not exactly. As a Semitic people, Jews no more than Arabs can logically be labeled anti-Semitic. Likewise people who criticize Israel over its treatment of Palestinians cannot logically be labeled anti-Semitic. Why stand up for a Semitic people if you’re anti-Semitic? True anti-Semites, like the Pittsburgh shooter, hate Jews and Arabs equally and hope for a biblical destruction of both peoples. By contrast critics of Israeli subjugation of Palestinians want Semites of both religious persuasions to live together in peace and prosperity.

Of course, idealism such as this is no longer taken seriously. We’ve come a long way in the wrong direction since 1948 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of Universal Human Rights, which encourages all human beings to “act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” (Article 2) and asserts that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person” (Article 3), that “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude” (Article 4) or “subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (Article 5), that “all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law” (Article 7) and that “everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state” (Article 13).

Israel, also established in 1948, has violated every one of these articles. Since imprisoning the people of Gaza with an electrified fence and bombing their schools, homes and even sewage treatments plants, Israel has imposed a blockade that has prevented reconstruction and thereby perpetuated the inhuman and degrading treatment endured by its residents. And for what crime are they being punished? For electing a government, Hamas, that asserts their human rights (and which long ago renounced violence against Israelis). Even Palestinians of the West Bank, like residents of South Africa’s infamous Bantustans, have no means of developing economically in their balkanized land and so are kept in servitude to their Jewish masters.

The coincidence in timing is no accident. 1948 was only three years after the revelation of what the Nazis did to the Jews. Six million dead! Hitler had hoped to clear eastern Europe of its Slavic and Jewish inhabitants so as to open it up to colonization. Never again, cried the people of the world, would settler-colonialism and its racist pseudo-justification be tolerated. Never again!

In was in that spirit that Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt and other Jewish luminaries signed a letter to the New York Times denouncing Menachem Begin’s “Freedom Party,” which was “closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties” and was founded by a “terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.” Begin was eventually elected Prime Minister of Israel with his successor party, Likud, which has subsequently been headed by anti-Arab bigots Ariel Sharon and now Benjamin Netanyahu. What began as a Nazi-like element within the state of Israel is now its dominant force.

It seems inconceivable, given Hitler’s attempt to annihilate Jews as a people, that Zionism could have mutated into a mirror-image of Nazism, with one Semitic people replaced by another as the targeted population. Only from a psychological perspective does this outcome make any sense. Perhaps the unimaginable trauma inflicted on the Jewish people is now playing itself out in the persecution of another captive “outsider” population. Perhaps by imposing suffering onto another people, Zionists gain temporary relief from the terror impressed upon the Jewish psyche during centuries of persecution, of which the Final Solution was only the icing on the cake. If so, this would exemplify a theory proposed by political scientist C. Fred Alford in his book, What Evil Means to Us.

Alford canvassed people for their opinion on the guilty verdict and subsequent hanging of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi official who had organized the mass murder of Jews in Germany. Shockingly, most respondents tried to make excuses for Eichmann, claiming he was just a bureaucrat following orders and that the death penalty was too harsh. Alford realized the respondents were empathizing with Eichmann rather than his victims. Perhaps placing themselves in the position of Jews at Auschwitz was simply too painful, so the respondents unconsciously switched their sympathies to Eichmann. Now, of course, we naturally empathize with Jews, as it’s too painful to contemplate the horror endured by a people shot down for the simple act of walking in peace toward the fence that imprisons them in a strip of desert. When we recycle the evil done to us by imposing it onto another, we cease to be the despised alien-other, the one whose suffering is ignored or even celebrated, as is now routinely the case in Israel when another Arab civilian is picked off by a sniper for daring to assert that human rights apply to everyone.

A single thread of evil connects the Holocaust to the Nakba. The same fungus that ate Anne Frank consumed Rachel Corrie as she stood in solidarity with Palestinians facing the illegal demolition of their homes. Zionists feel justified in colonizing another people’s land because their own minds have been colonized by narcissistic delusion. Because they are inherently good, whoever stands in their way — or even criticizes them — must be inherently evil. As Arendt noted, Jewish historians often view anti-Semitism as an ineradicable trait of the racist, much as Jews themselves were once thought to carry ineradicable traits that rendered them unfit for Christian society. The sickness is recycled.

The racist principle of might makes right, that a stronger people has the right to persecute and even eradicate a weaker people — illustrated most dramatically with the genocidal invasion of the Americas — was finally repudiated after the horror of the Nazi Holocaust. By treating all peoples with respect, we honor those who suffered and died in concentration camps. By reviving this principle of evil just as it seemed at last to be on its way out, Zionism has rendered meaningless the deaths of six million Jews. This is perhaps the most unforgivable “anti-Semitism” of all.

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Ted Dace is an independent scholar. His critique of capitalism and science, Escape from Quantopia, was published by Iff Books. “Special Relativity in a Universe of Flowing Time” is available here. He can be reached at dace@muchomail.com.

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