Now They are Accusing Bernie Sanders of Anti-Semitism – Let’s Hope He’s Doesn’t Follow in Corbyn’s Footsteps & Apologise to his Accusers
Now They are Accusing Bernie Sanders of Anti-Semitism – Let’s Hope He’s Doesn’t Follow in Corbyn’s Footsteps & Apologise to his Accusers
Now They are Accusing Bernie Sanders of Anti-Semitism – Let’s Hope He’s Doesn’t Follow in Corbyn’s Footsteps & Apologise to his Accusers
In America today it is the Zionists’ friend Donald Trump, who is the bastion of Anti-Semitism and White Supremacism
Phillip Weiss of Mondoweiss has just penned an article about a newly launched Zionist campaign to portray Bernie Sanders as an anti-Semite. As Bernie rises in the polls, the Zionists are becoming worried. They are hoping to replicate the success they had in Britain with Jeremy Corbyn.
Let us hope Bernie Sanders learns from Corbyn’s abysmal failure to understand the campaign against him and what he was up against. One lesson is particularly important.
Never ever apologise to these malevolent McCarthyists. Their concern is not about anti-Semitism it is about Israel. In their minds Israel is the ‘new Jew’.[i] If you apologise all it will prove is that they are right and you are anti-Semitic.
You may think that such a campaign is crazy. After all, Bernie is Jewish and if elected he would be the first Jewish President of the United States. I hate to disappoint you but today ‘anti-Semitism’ has little or nothing to do with Jews or anti-Jewish hatred. It’s about Zionism and Israel.
There was no greater opponent of racism than Jeremy Corbyn. Throughout his career he had been a great friend of the oppressed. Even getting arrested fighting Apartheid in South Africa. He supported all manner of Jewish causes. Even Professor Geoffrey Alderman, a right-wing Zionist and historian of British Jewry, asked Is Jeremy Corbyn really anti-Semitic?[ii] Alderman’s conclusion was that ‘the grounds for labelling him an anti-Semite simply do not exist.’ However Geoffrey Alderman is that rare creature, an honest Zionist.
By way of contrast, the Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, a founder member of the Islamaphobic Henry Jackson Society[iii] is Alderman’s opposite. Pollard, who led the campaign against Corbyn, is a man who would stop at nothing and for whom no depth was too low and no ditch was too deep when it came to defaming Corbyn.
The Jewish Chronicle and the Zionist Board of Deputies of British Jews waged a virulent defamatory campaign to paint the hapless Corbyn as the next Oswald Moseley, if not Hitler himself. In a letter to his readers during the recent General Election campaign Pollard wrote that:‘Over the next six weeks we will discover if the British public are prepared to put an anti-Semite into Number Ten.’[iv]
Pollard was joined on November 26th by the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who called for a vote against the Labour Party.[i] Mirvis, who trained as a rabbi at the Har Ezion Yeshiva at the Alon Shvut settlement had no hesitation in working with racist far-Right settlers.[ii] Despite the plea of Nina Morris-Evans in Ha’aretz and others, he chose to participate in the March of the Flags on March 24 2017 on Jerusalem Day with settler youth whose favourite chant was ‘Death to the Arabs’.[iii] Ephraim Mirvis grew up as part of the White Jewish community in Apartheid South Africa. It is clear that Mirvis failed to learn any lessons from the demise of Apartheid.
Corbyn never knew what hit him when he was accused of anti-Semitism. He resembled a rabbit, frozen in the headlights of a car. His only response to the accusations were that he wasn’t personally anti-Semitic. He never seemed to understand that when Zionists accuse someone of ‘anti-Semitism’ they don’t mean hatred of Jews but opposition to Zionism and the Israeli state.
Instead Corbyn and advisers such as Seamus Milne did their best to appease and please those who were intent on destroying them. What was tragic was that the more Corbyn did to please his detractors the more they demanded of him. If Corbyn had converted to Judaism and promised to go on Aliyah it is doubtful that that would have been enough.
Len McLuskey, General Secretary of Britain’s biggest union UNITE, wrote in Huff Post that ‘Corbyn Has Answered Concerns On Anti-Semitism, But Jewish Community Leaders Are Refusing To Take ‘Yes’ For An Answer’.[viii]Which was of course true. The Zionist leaders of British Jewry were interested in only one thing and that was the head of Jeremy Corbyn. That was why, no matter whom he threw under the bus – Ken Livingstone, Chris Williamson, Peter Willsman, Marc Wadsworth, Jackie Walker or myself – it was never enough. It was Corbyn’s own scalp which the Zionist lobby wanted.
It is extremely unfortunate that those who should have known better, not least Jewish Voice for Labour, imagined to the end that this was about anti-Semitism. It was NEVER about anti-Semitism, which was why arguing that ‘only’ 0.06% of members of the Labour Party had been accused of anti-Semitism was irrelevant. Tom Watson had declared that as long as there was one single ‘anti-Semite’ in the Labour Party the campaign would go on.[ix]
The obvious answer to Watson and others on the Labour Right who were so concerned about ‘anti-Semitism’ was to ask them whether this also applied to other forms of racism and if so, whether Watson, John Mann, Louise Ellman and Ruth Smeeth would be handing in their resignations any time soon.
Watson, Ellman and Mann had all supported the ‘hostile environment’ policy of the Tories, which led to the Windrush Scandal and the deportation of dozens of Black British citizens ‘back’ to the West Indians.[x] Why was it that only 6 Labour MPs, including Corbyn, McDonnell and Diane Abbot, had opposed the 2014 Immigration Act which made the ‘hostile environment’ policy law?[xi]
Now the same is happening in the United States to Bernie Sanders. Of course Sanders is not Corbyn. For one thing he is more intelligent. For another he is himself Jewish. But what started in Britain has not stayed in Britain.
Democrats Against Anti-Semitism inform their audience that ‘Sanders may be ethnically Jewish, but his rhetoric, voting history and associations have not reflected the values of a friend of Jewish people…’
As Elli Valley points out even the term ‘ethnically Jewish’ is anti-Semitic implying Jews are a race, as anti-Semites have historically asserted. Jews are not an ethnicity, race or tribe. The only difference between Jews and non-Jews is their religion. There is no single Jewish culture.
DAS are quite up front about their agenda. It is all about Israel, not hatred of Jews.
‘Speaking of anti-Israel dogwhistling, Sanders himself, much like his comrades, has preached anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian and, at times, blatant anti-Semitic talking points…’ [xiii]
Supporters include Bari Weiss, the Jonathan Freedland of the New York Times and its Opinion Editor, although she is somewhat more intelligent than Jonathan
There are a number of striking parallels between the United States and Britain. In Britain the Zionist Establishment concentrated their fire on Corbyn even though they were aware that it was Prime Minister Boris Johnson who was the genuine racist and anti-Semite. Not only had he called Black people ‘picanninies’ with ‘watermelon smiles’ but he had penned an openly racist and anti-Semitic book 72 Virgins in 2004.
72 Virgins referred to Arabs as having “hook noses” and “slanty eyes”,[xiv] described a mixed-race person as “coffee-coloured” and others as “half-caste”. The term “Negroid” was also used.
It described a Jewish character as an ‘unethical businessman with a large nose’, who exploits immigrant workers and black women. Johnson described a Jewish character called Sammy Katz, as having a
“proud nose and curly hair.” He spoke of ‘some kind of fiddling of the figures by the oligarchs who ran the TV stations (and who were mainly, as some lost no time in pointing out, of Jewish origin).
What was remarkable about the confected ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign was that not one anti-Semitic comment could be attributed to Corbyn. Imagine if he had made the comments quoted above. Exactly the same is true of Sanders.
Whilst anonymous Internet Zionist groups like Democrats Against Anti-Semitism are set up to attack a Jewish candidate, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, is a vicious racist and anti-Semite who receives the plaudits of the Zionist lobby. His former Strategic Advisor, Steve Bannon, the founder of the racist, sexist and homophic Breitbart News was a guest of honour at the 2017 Zionist Organisation of America annual gala dinner.[i]
Donald Trump’s History of Anti-Semitism Which Zionism Ignores
Trump’s election campaign for President in 2016 was the most anti-Semitic in American history as Dana Millbank explained.[xvi] Examples of his anti-Semitism included:
Ø Telling Jewish Republicans that they wouldn’t support him “because I don’t want your money.” Ø Tweeting an image from an anti-Semitic message board with a Star of David atop a pile of cash. Trump later objected to his campaign’s decision to remove the image. Ø Saying “I don’t have a message” for supporters who threatened anti-Semitic violence against a Jewish journalist, and Melania Trump saying the writer “provoked” the threats. Ø Branding his campaign with the “America First” slogan of the anti-Semitic pre-war movement. Ø Alleging that “blood suckers” and “a global power structure” including “international banks” are secretly plotting against ordinary Americans. Ø And, when urged by the Anti-Defamation League to stop using traditionally anti-Semitic tropes, repeats the tropes in an ad with images of prominent Jews, including George Soros. Ø Once in office, in addition to making common cause with the Nazis of Charlottesville, who were ‘fine people’ Trump stocked his administration with white nationalists like Bannon, Steve Miller and Sebastian Gorka.
Trump has also hesitated to condemn the rise of anti-Semitic threats, issued a Holocaust remembrance statement without mention of Jews; lamented the attempts to silence Alex Jones, who peddles anti-Semitic conspiracy theories; and declared himself a “nationalist” having made verbal attacks on “globalists,” particularly George Soros.[xvii]
In a speech on October 13 2016 Trump told supporters that Hillary Clinton “meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty”. The Zionist Anti-Defamation League issued the mildest of rebukes urging Trump to “avoid rhetoric and tropes that historically have been used against Jews.”
Trump’s response to his critics was a final campaign advert illustrated with images of prominent Jews: George Soros (accompanied by the words “those who control the levers of power”), Fed Chair Janet Yellen (with the words “global special interests”) and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein (following the “global power structure”). The ad said Hilary Clinton partners “with these people who don’t have your good in mind.”
Trump retweeted a message from @WhiteGenocideTM, phony crime statistics that originated with neo-Nazis and a quote from Benito Mussolini. His campaign blamed an intern for tweeting an image of Nazi soldiers superimposed on the American flag next to Trump’s likeness.
Breitbart News, the alt-right website which was run by Trump’s previous campaign chief, Steve Bannon, referred to Bill Kristol as a “renegade Jew” and journalist Anne Applebaum as a “Polish, Jewish, American elitist.”
But it’s not simply crude anti-Semitic stereotypes that the Zionist attack dogs going for Bernie Sanders are happy with. Trump also embraces the most anti-Semitic wing of Zionism itself which holds that Jews owe a loyalty to Israel over and above that of the United States.
That is why it is ironic that the IHRA definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ states that ‘Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel’ is anti-Semitic. Obviously it is anti-Semitic to do so but it is Zionism which purports to speak on behalf of all Jews, wherever they live. That is why Israel calls itself a ‘Jewish state’. A state not just of its Jewish citizens but of all Jews.
Trump has accused Jews of not loving Israel enough. Imagine that he were to accuse an American Muslim of not loving Pakistan enough! This should not be a surprise. ‘Dual Loyalty’ is inherent in Zionism which consciously seeks to alienate Jews from the states they live in. In 2013 a questionnaire was distributed in America asking Jewish respondents to indicate where their allegiance would lie in case of an Israeli-U.S. crisis. It was sponsored by Israel’s Immigrant Absorption and Foreign ministries and was only halted by Netanyahu when it received unfavourable publicity.
In his address to Sheldon Adelson’s Israeli-American Council Trump spoke of
These socialist, gay-loving, abortion-advocating, Democrat-voting Jews of America (who) are not real Jews. No way – they don’t even love Israel. But you do. You are the genuine Chosen People of our era.
Trump and his non-Jewish Conservative supporters have taken upon themselves the right to define who is a Jew based on their support of Israel.
The most ludicrous example of Trump’s redefinition of anti-Semitism was when he told 4 Black Congresswomen to ‘go home’ accusing them of ‘anti-Semitism’ for having criticised Israel.
When Ilhan Omar called on the US to use aid money to pressure the Israeli government to ensure “full rights to Palestinians Trump described her as hating Israel and Jews. American Jews who voted Democrat were ‘disloyal or ignorant”.[xviii]
According to Trump Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American elected as a Congresswoman, ‘hates Israel and all Jewish people. She is an anti-Semite. She and her 3 friends are the new face of the Democrat Party. Live with it!’
Trump explained that “Five years ago, the concept of even talking about this … even three years ago, of cutting off aid to Israel because of two people who hate Israel and hate Jewish people… I can’t believe we’re having this conversation.”
The ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign against Bernie Sanders is likely to be every bit as ugly as that against Jeremy Corbyn, especially if he continues his present progress in the polls.
Below are two articles on a subject I will return to. Trump’s recent Executive Order which treats Jews not as a religious group but a national/racial community. Criticising the State of Israel will potentially be seen as anti-Semitic and subject to prosecution under civil rights legislation.
When U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar made the controversial claim, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” she was criticized by many for invoking an old anti-Semitic trope of dual loyalty to the United States and Israel.
The then-mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, replied in the Atlantic,
“Representative Omar is repeating some of the ugliest stereotypes about Jews—tropes that have been unleashed by anti-Semites throughout history. She is casting Jewish Americans as the other, suggesting a dual loyalty that calls our devotion to America into question.”
Omar’s own explanation was that she had not intended to characterize Jews as a group but was objecting to the pressure put upon elected representatives like her to display loyalty to another country, Israel. That wasn’t good enough for Emanuel, who claimed,
“In embracing [this trope], Omar is associating herself with calamities from the Spanish Inquisition to the Russian pogroms to the Holocaust. That’s not historical company that any American should want to keep.”
But one of Omar’s loudest critics keeps that same company. In April, in a speech delivered in Las Vegas to the Republican Jewish Coalition, Trump referred to Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, as “your prime minister.” He addressed American Jews as if they were Israelis, closing the historical and conceptual gap between them. Trump warned that a Democratic victory in 2020 “would cripple our country and very well could leave Israel out there all by yourselves.”
Trump’s “you” made a presumption about Jewish loyalty. Although rebuked by the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, Trump continues to harp on the same themes. He revived another anti-Semitic trope of Jewish obsession with profit by telling an assembled Jewish audience that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax would not gain their support, and that Jews should “be my biggest supporters because you’ll be out of business in about 15 minutes.”
The Executive Order on Combating Anti-Semitism, issued by Trump on Dec. 11, follows in part from this sequence of remarks. It both seeks to put the slur of dual loyalty into law and attempts to appeal to Jews and to combat anti-Semitism on campuses by denying the vast history of Jewish cultures, practices, and forms of belonging that precede the emergence of the State of Israel and continue to proliferate outside of that framework for understanding Jewish life.
The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, introduced in 2018, stalled in Congress for reasons well articulated by the American Civil Liberties Union: It threatened to chill academic environments, suppress critical thought, and mandate political positions that ought to be openly contested. The president’s order has effectively leapt over that stalemate. Viewpoints that fail to conform to foreign policy and histories of Jewish life that do not comport with biblical forms of state legitimation will become fugitive forms of knowledge, suspected or accused of anti-Semitism.
As others have written, this order poses a direct threat to the study of Palestinian and Jewish social and political history, culture, and forms of belonging, as well as potentially suppressing activism and public speech in favor of Palestinian freedoms and rights as well as dissident Jewish views on Israel.
This order, however, does something even more insidious: It seeks to regulate the very idea of who is Jewish by either assuming a national affiliation with the State of Israel or testing the lack of that affiliation.This order, however, does something even more insidious: It seeks to regulate the very idea of who is Jewish by either assuming a national affiliation with the State of Israel or testing the lack of that affiliation.
The “real” Jew, in the order’s framing, not only supports Israel but also belongs to Israel as one belongs to a nation, and the “false” Jew is critical of Israel or finds their Jewish values and practices outside of the Zionist framework.
The order seeks to close the gap between Jews who are U.S. citizens and Israeli Jews, at the expense of Palestinian citizens of Israel and those left stateless. The manifest aim of the executive order is to include anti-Semitism as a civil rights violation so that it can be prosecuted in the same way that discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin already are. Considered as a religion, Jews are only protected by laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion. And though the order recognizes that religion is one way to define a Jew, it seeks to set national belonging as another. Under the terms of the order, no matter where Jews reside in the diaspora, they are held to have a common national origin.
There is no clear historical evidence of that national origin, and even if there were, it does not follow that modern states should be based on biblical lore. By assuming that Jews are bound together by belonging originally to the biblical “nation of Israel” and that this nation is continuous with the present State of Israel, it enters the Bible into a contemporary definition of the nation-state and nationality. This move nods toward those evangelicals who want biblical authority to guide foreign policy and who have long seen the state of Israel as a necessary fulfilment of prophecy, and it also portrays the biblical nation of Israel as actualized in the present in the State of Israel.
Generations of thinkers have wrestled with forms of Jewish belonging and affiliation—secular, religious, post-national—but the Trump administration bypasses the complexity of Jewish history and debates with a spurious claim of national origin, backed up by biblical authority. This biblical claim is one of the founding justifications for the State of Israel, and for the expansion of its borders—the same claims that dispossessed more than 700,000 Palestinians of their land in 1948 and that deprive over 4 million of them of their rights today. No surprise, then, that this executive order will strengthen efforts to suppress Palestinian advocacy efforts on campuses and throughout the public sphere.
Who has reduced Judaism to this? Where are the rabbis? The Bundists, who sought a socialist form of Jewish belonging? The Mizrahim, Jews of Arab descent who lived alongside Muslims? This claim not only binds all Jews together in this biblically established national origin but also establishes the State of Israel, conceived as the fulfillment of that biblical notion, as the continuation of the original or defining embodiment of Jewish life and its true representative. This definition implies that all Jews truly belong to the State of Israel, whether or not we have ever been its citizens; further, the State of Israel is held up as the true and only representative of the Jewish people.
Under this framework, Jews do not quite belong in the United States, as has always been the contention of the evangelical anti-Semites or the neo-Nazis who describe themselves as “white Zionists.”
In this framing, Jewish loyalty must belong to Israel first—rendering them second-class citizens elsewhere.
Many histories disappear in this telling: Jews who refused to go to Israel or who were sent back from its borders, communist and socialist and anarchist Jews, universalists, secularists, Bundists. The argument of the Talmudist Daniel Boyarin that the Jewish people should be understood as an expressly diasporic nation is not acceptable in a Judaism framed this way. The myriad transnational histories of the Jewish people do not finally converge in a so-called return to a state of Israel. These crossings and migrations, and the communities they created, meticulously traced by historians and geographers, are effaced by this crude welding together of biblical past and with the anti-democratic nation-state.
Anyone who now criticizes the State of Israel, defined as the representative national unity of the Jewish people, is now framed as criticizing the Jews and engaging in anti-Semitism. Criticize the State of Israel and you criticize the nation of the Jews, and since Jews are now a nationality represented by the State of Israel, you may now face charges of anti-Semitism under the Civil Rights Act. The circle closes, sacrificing critical speech and thought, freedom of expression, the understanding of Jewish history and culture in its diversity outside the framework of biblical and political Zionism, and the rights of assembly and expression that should be accorded to public advocacy for Palestinians.
Those who claim that Jews are not legitimately or adequately represented by the State of Israel, or who hold that Jewish values are in fact antithetical to the policies of the Israeli state, fail to conform to these standards of Jewish identity and can more easily be accused of disloyalty. A litmus test has been established. Omar’s supposed accusations of dual loyalty are precisely what is now prescribed by the executive order.
Critically, this order coincides with the far-right politics of Israel itself, legitimatized and endorsed by the Trump administration. The Israeli government has long invoked biblical claims to legitimate land theft. It continues now in the effort to declare legal all settlements on the West Bank, reaffirmed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as U.S. policy on Nov. 18, and in Netanyahu’s proposal to annex the West Bank, for which he uses the biblical name Judea and Samaria. Although the executive order invokes national origin as a different basis of discrimination against Jews than religious belief, it proceeds to enshrine a specific religious belief in law that has been mobilized for political purposes as a defining feature of an entire people.
The executive order also repeats and solidifies the basic tenets of what’s known as the nation-state law, adopted by the State of Israel in July 2018. The nation-state law asserts “Jewish settlement as a national value” and affirms that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” Israeli nationality was previously separated from religious criteria, but now the state describes itself as a “Jewish collectivity” that bears the sole right to political self-determination within its borders. The more than 20 percent of Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin are now officially second-class citizens. Indeed, the nation-state law explicitly rules out the principle and practice of Palestinian self-determination, thus destroying the basis for an independent Palestinian state or for the possibility of a shared form of governance between Israelis and Palestinians. It sets up Palestinians as second-class citizens who will be disadvantaged when making any claim of discrimination and licenses the silencing of Palestinian advocacy on campuses and in the public sphere more generally.
The nation-state law also affirms“Jewish settlement as a national value.” The boundaries of the State of Israel are imagined as eventually matching the geographical entirety of biblical Palestine, thus making occupation permanent and suspending the basic rights of Palestinians for not just their lands but to shape their own political futures. Just as Trump’s definition of the Jews as bound by national origin invokes a biblical mandate translated into settler expansion, so the nation-state law proclaims Israel as the original and potential state of all Jewish people, provided they comply with both rabbinic and political standards. Just as the Jews are now defined as a nation by Trump, so the nation of Israel establishes itself as the representative of all Jews.
The effort to patrol and censor Palestinian advocacy on U.S. campuses is now strengthened by the order’s acceptance of the definition of anti-Semitism formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which includes as examples the “targeting of the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity” and “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.” As these criteria become adopted by courts and government agencies, universities, backed by the U.S. Department of Education, can more easily make draconian decisions about suppressing campus groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine or Jewish Voice for Peace, and about cutting programs that include teaching and scholarship from any number of perspectives that do not conform to the definitions and perspectives now enforced by U.S. domestic and foreign policy.
Will grounded knowledge on the Middle East based on evidence and subject to peer review still receive funding if it fails to mimic and enforce U.S. foreign policy? Can we know the history of Palestine or the history of the Jews under such conditions? Can Palestinians still openly call for their rights and their political freedoms, or will their desire for freedom and equality be forever punished by the crude and twisted allegation of anti-Semitism? The threat of censorship now clearly looms.
The executive order is a cruel exploitation and abuse of the charge of anti-Semitism in a world in which actual xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism are on the rise. The solid ground for both knowledge and politics is now slipping as Trump enshrines anti-Semitism, ignorance, and injustice into law.
Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. Her next book, The Force of Nonviolence, is forthcoming from Verso.
When U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Pittsburgh last week following the single deadliest attack on Jews in American history, Pittsburgh’s mayor and elected officials refused to meet him. The only public official to greet him was the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer—an American and former Republican Party operative who became an Israeli citizen and close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Presenting Israel’s talking points, Dermer equated the anti-Semitic massacre with left-wing campus boycotts of Israel and made a point of defending Trump in the face of charges that the president’s inflammatory campaign rhetoric amounted to incitement. Even the former Anti-Defamation League chief Abraham Foxman—who has always stood by the Israeli establishment—denounced the Netanyahu government’s decision to stand in solidarity with Trump.
Dermer’s baseless and harmful moral equivalency attests to the deep-rooted ideological and political bond between Israel and the Christian right in the United States and Europe—a bond that willingly overlooks and downplays white nationalism and Christian anti-Semitism in exchange for the promotion of Israeli political interests and dominance in the Middle East.
What Pittsburgh cemented is just how far the Israeli leadership is willing to go to protect its nationalist interests, even at the expense of condoning explicit forms of anti-Semitism that are couched in a form of white Christian supremacism hostile to immigrants and people of color, especially Muslims—a form of Trumpian xenophobia that fits the Israeli government’s worldview like a glove.
The former American Jewish Congress head Henry Siegman, who was born in Germany in 1930, told Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett in New York days after the attack that he knows about a thing or two about anti-Semitism, adding, “It is not very wise of you coming to tell us that this is not your problem just because he’s helping Israel.”
Israel has never tried to hide its alliance with the Christian right. Netanyahu welcomed Trump as president despite anti-Semitic tropes in his election campaign and provided a decidedly overdue and muted response to neo-Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville last year. Unlike in France, where Netanyahu has repeatedly called for French Jews to leave for Israel in the wake of terrorist attacks, there was no such call after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. The message seems to be that keeping diaspora Jews safe comes second to fawning over Trump.
Last year, addressing the annual conference of Christians United for Israel—the largest U.S. pro-Israel lobbying group—Netanyahu said the country has “no better friends on earth.” Netanyahu went on to rabble-rouse the crowd with his Huntingtonian rhetoric:
“It’s a struggle of civilizations. It’s a struggle of free societies against the forces of militant Islam,”he said.“They want to conquer the Middle East, they want to destroy the State of Israel, and then they want to conquer the world.”
Christian Zionists—specifically evangelicals—support Jewish ethnonationalism and the implementation of a Greater Israel devoid of Arabs because they believe the return of Jews to the Holy Land will bring about the End of Days, when Jesus restores a divine kingdom in which all Jews either perish or become Christians. This is an inherently anti-Semitic theological position, but Israel has long dismissed it in favor of political support. And it didn’t begin with Netanyahu.
Menachem Begin, Israel’s prime minister from 1977 to 1983, was the first Israeli leader to openly endorse the support of the Christian right in America and he did so for obvious political reasons. In the fall of 1981, after Israel’s bombing of the Osirak reactor in Iraq and its anti-PLO campaign in Lebanon, Begin faced criticism from U.S. Christian groups. The National Council of Churches had called on Reagan to stop arms shipments to Israel.
Begin made the strategic decision to tap into the religious right, which he presciently realized was a burgeoning power base in the United States. Begin formalized his relationship with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, then the head of the Moral Majority, by declaring the organization’s members devoted friends of Israel, with an explicit nod to the fact that it was putting aside anti-Semitic undertones. As Begin said at the time: “There are some who object to this. But if a man or group will stretch out his hand and say, ‘I am a friend of Israel,’ I will say, ‘Israel has very strong enemies and needs friends.’”
That logic has guided Israel’s foreign policy in Europe as well in recent years. While Israel relies on the billions in aid it receives from Washington annually, the same cannot be said for Netanyahu’s alliance with far-right leaders in Europe.
In July, Netanyahu welcomed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to Israel, despite his Fidesz party’s notoriously anti-Semitic, xenophobic, and anti-gay platform.
Netanyahu also turned a blind eye to the fact that Orban has praised Nazi ally Miklos Horthy as an “exceptional statesman” and that he ran his last election campaign on an explicitly anti-Semitic platform targeting George Soros. This campaign recently produced tangible gains: Soros’s Open Society Foundations, which promotes democratic causes, was forced out of Hungary earlier this year, and just last month the U.S.-accredited Central European University that Soros founded in Budapest announced it would also be forced to leave. Across the Atlantic, a Trump-loving extremist sent pipe bombs to the 88-year-old philanthropist.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry has not only backed Orban’s attacks on Soros, but it also has peddled its own incitement and conspiracy theories against Soros for funding Israeli anti-occupation and human rights groups. In February, Netanyahu accused Soros and the New Israel Fund of funding a campaign against Israel’s plan to deport African asylum-seekers—a very similar charge to Trump’s baseless accusation that Soros is behind the caravan of migrants from Central America. Other figures who have vilified Soros include former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke and Netanyahu’s son Yair, who posted an anti-Semitic meme of Soros last year, which won praise from Duke and the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer.
Support for Israel also allows white supremacists to make the claim that they are immune from anti-Semitism.
This was clearly on display last week when Iowa Rep. Steve King—a Republican who has openly endorsed Nazi sympathizers and white supremacists in the United States, Canada, and Europe—lashed out at a constituent who likened his racist rhetoric to that of the Pittsburgh shooter, responding, “It is not tolerable to accuse me of being associated with that guy who shot 11 people in Pittsburgh. I am a person who has supported Israel since the beginning.”
Netanyahu has not only demonstrated that anti-Semitism is tolerable if it means garnering support for Israel; he went a step further and dabbled in Holocaust revisionism when he signed an agreement with Poland earlier this year that effectively absolves the country of its role in the extermination of its Jewish population during World War II, despite ample evidence of passive and active collaboration. In a rare move, Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum condemned the agreement.
While Israel may have much to gain geopolitically from disregarding threats posed by Christian anti-Semitism and white supremacy—and branding anti-Semitism as an exclusively Islamic phenomenon instead—this has had disastrous results in the United States.
As Brookings Institution senior fellow Daniel Byman recently pointed out in Foreign Policy, the Pittsburgh shooting was a terrorist act:
“It is hard to imagine armed Islamic State supporters marching through town singing the praises of Islamic law while the government claims it has no power to act due to the First and Second Amendments.”
Since 9/11, the United States has both ignored the domestic threats posted by white supremacists and failed to confront white supremacists within the law enforcement community.
According to a recent report in the New York Times, “White supremacists and other far-right extremists have killed far more people since Sept. 11, 2001, than any other category of domestic extremist.” And according to the Anti-Defamation League, 71 percent of extremist-related fatalities in the United States between 2008 and 2017 can be traced to members of the far-right or white-supremacist movements. Islamic extremists were responsible for just 26 percent.
The 11 people murdered in Pittsburgh were not targeted just for being Jewish, but also for being identified with a pro-immigration, pro-refugee, liberal worldview that is anathema to Trump’s nativism, which peddles in classic anti-Semitic tropes. As the philosopher Slavoj Zizek argued last year,
“In the antisemitic imagination, the ‘Jew’ is the invisible master who secretly pulls the strings, which is why Muslim immigrants are not today’s Jews … nobody claims they secretly pull the strings—if one sees in their ‘invasion of Europe’ a secret plot, then Jews have to be behind it.”
The toxic combination of Israel’s alliance with the Christian right and Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric has led to a reality in which, just 70 years after the Holocaust, Israel is excusing and normalizing the sort of violent anti-Semitism that it so often reminds the world is the reason why a Jewish state exists.
Mairav Zonszein is a journalist who splits her time between the United States and Israel. She has written for the Washington Post, the New York Times and +972 magazine. Twitter: @MairavZ