Tony Greenstein | 10 March 2018 | Post Views:

You don’t have to be anti-Semitic to support Israel but
it certainly helps!

This is an excellent video by Jewish
comedian Matt Lieb which shows why you don’t have to be anti-Semitic to love Israel
but it sure helps.
The old lie that the Zionists
perpetuate is that anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism whereas in fact it is the anti-Semites
who have most in common with Israel.  Of
course it is possible to be anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic but it is rare and
almost always a product of people who take Zionists at their word.  After all if someone says that supporting the
Palestinians is anti-Semitic, there are some fools who will accept this and say
‘ok if the price of supporting Palestine is being an anti-Semite then I’ll just
have to be anti-Semitic’.  However this
is not only rare but these people also usually say that they don’t hate Jews but
Zionism.  The are confused and Zionism makes
them more confused.
However genuine anti-Semites and
neo-nazis like ‘White Zionist’ Richard Spencer, who do hate Jews use support
for Israel as a way of covering this up.
Below is an article by Israeli anti-Zionist
Professor Neve Gordon about this phenomenon.
Neve Gordon Review of Book, Vol. 40
No. 01 · 4 January 2018

Not long after the eruption of the Second Intifada in September 2000, I became
active in a Jewish-Palestinian political movement called Ta’ayush, which
conducts non-violent direct action against Israel’s military siege of the West
Bank and Gaza. Its objective isn’t merely to protest against Israel’s violation
of human rights but to join the Palestinian people in their struggle for
self-determination. For a number of years, I spent most weekends with Ta’ayush
in the West Bank; during the week I would write about our activities for the
local and international press. My pieces caught the eye of a professor from
Haifa University, who wrote a series of articles accusing me first of being a
traitor and a supporter of terrorism, then later a ‘Judenrat wannabe’ and an
anti-Semite. The charges began to circulate on right-wing websites; I received
death threats and scores of hate messages by email; administrators at my
university received letters, some from big donors, demanding that I be fired.
I mention this personal
experience because although people within Israel and abroad have expressed
concern for my wellbeing and offered their support, my feeling is that in their
genuine alarm about my safety, they have missed something very important about
the charge of the ‘new anti-Semitism’ and whom, ultimately, its target is.
The ‘new anti-Semitism’, we are
told, takes the form of criticism of Zionism and of the actions and policies of
Israel, and is often manifested in campaigns holding the Israeli government
accountable to international law, a recent instance being the Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In this it is different from
‘traditional’ anti-Semitism, understood as hatred of Jews per se, the idea that
Jews are naturally inferior, belief in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy or in the
Jewish control of capitalism etc. The ‘new anti-Semitism’ also differs from the
traditional form in the political affinities of its alleged culprits: where we
are used to thinking that anti-Semites come from the political right, the new
anti-Semites are, in the eyes of the accusers, primarily on the political left.
The logic of the ‘new
anti-Semitism’ can be formulated as a syllogism: i) anti-Semitism is hatred of
Jews; ii) to be Jewish is to be Zionist; iii) therefore anti-Zionism is
anti-Semitic. The error has to do with the second proposition. The claims that
Zionism is identical to Jewishness, or that a seamless equation can be made
between the State of Israel and the Jewish people, are false. Many Jews are not
Zionists. And Zionism has numerous traits that are in no way embedded in or
characteristic of Jewishness, but rather emerged from nationalist and settler
colonial ideologies over the last three hundred years. Criticism of Zionism or
of Israel is not necessarily the product of an animus towards Jews; conversely,
hatred of Jews does not necessarily entail anti-Zionism.
Not only that, but it is possible
to be both a Zionist and an anti-Semite. Evidence of this is supplied by the
statements of white supremacists in the US and extreme right-wing politicians
across Europe. Richard Spencer, a leading figure in the American alt-right, has
no trouble characterising himself as a ‘white Zionist’ (‘As an Israeli
citizen,’ he explained to his interviewer on Israel’s Channel 2 News, ‘who has
a sense of nationhood and peoplehood, and the history and experience of the
Jewish people, you should respect someone like me, who has analogous feelings
about whites … I want us to have a secure homeland for us and ourselves. Just
like you want a secure homeland in Israel’), while also believing that ‘Jews
are vastly over-represented in what you could call “the establishment”.’ 
Gianfranco Fini of the Italian National Alliance and Geert Wilders, leader of
the Dutch Party for Freedom, have also professed their admiration of Zionism
and the ‘white’ ethnocracy of the state of Israel, while on other occasions
making their anti-Semitic views plain. Three things that draw these
anti-Semites towards Israel are, first, the state’s ethnocratic character;
second, an Islamophobia they assume Israel shares with them; and, third,
Israel’s unapologetically harsh policies towards black migrants from Africa (in
the latest of a series of measures designed to coerce Eritrean and Sudanese
migrants to leave Israel, rules were introduced earlier this year requiring
asylum seekers to deposit 20 per cent of their earnings in a fund, to be repaid
to them only if, and when, they leave the country).
If Zionism and anti-Semitism can
coincide, then – according to the law of contradiction – anti-Zionism and
anti-Semitism are not reducible one to the other. Of course it’s true that in
certain instances anti-Zionism can and does overlap with anti-Semitism, but
this in itself doesn’t tell us much, since a variety of views and ideologies
can coincide with anti-Semitism. You can be a capitalist, or a socialist or a
libertarian, and still be an anti-Semite, but the fact that anti-Semitism can
be aligned with such diverse ideologies as well as with anti-Zionism tells us
practically nothing about it or them. Yet, despite the clear distinction between
anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, several governments, as well as think tanks and
non-governmental organisations, now insist on the notion that anti-Zionism is
necessarily a form of anti-Semitism. The definition adopted by the current UK
government offers 11 examples of anti-Semitism, seven of which involve
criticism of Israel – a concrete manifestation of the way in which the new
understanding of anti-Semitism has become the accepted view. Any reproach
directed towards the state of Israel now assumes the taint of anti-Semitism.
One idiosyncratic but telling
instance of the ‘new anti-Semitism’ took place in 2005 during Israel’s
withdrawal from Gaza. When soldiers came to evacuate the eight thousand Jewish
settlers who lived in the region, some of the settlers protested by wearing
yellow stars and insisting they would not ‘go like sheep to the slaughter’.
Shaul Magid, the chair of Jewish Studies at Indiana University, points out that
by doing so, the settlers cast the Israeli government and the Israeli military
as anti-Semitic. In their eyes, the government and soldiers deserved to be
called anti-Semites not because they hate Jews, but because they were
implementing an anti-Zionist policy, undermining the project of settling the
so-called greater Israel. This representation of decolonialisation as
anti-Semitic is the key to a proper understanding of what is at stake when
people are accused of the ‘new anti-Semitism’. When the professor from Haifa
University branded me an anti-Semite, I wasn’t his real target. People like me
are attacked on a regular basis, but we are considered human shields by the
‘new anti-Semitism’ machine. Its real target is the Palestinians.
There is an irony here.
Historically, the fight against anti-Semitism has sought to advance the equal
rights and emancipation of Jews. Those who denounce the ‘new anti-Semitism’
seek to legitimate the discrimination against and subjugation of Palestinians.
In the first case, someone who wishes to oppress, dominate and exterminate Jews
is branded an anti-Semite; in the second, someone who wishes to take part in
the struggle for liberation from colonial rule is branded an anti-Semite. In
this way, Judith Butler has observed, ‘a passion for justice’ is ‘renamed as
The Israeli government needs the
‘new anti-Semitism’ to justify its actions and to protect it from international
and domestic condemnation. Anti-Semitism is effectively weaponised, not only to
stifle speech – ‘It does not matter if the accusation is true,’ Butler writes;
its purpose is ‘to cause pain, to produce shame, and to reduce the accused to
silence’ – but also to suppress a politics of liberation. The non-violent BDS
campaign against Israel’s colonial project and rights abuses is labelled
anti-Semitic not because the proponents of BDS hate Jews, but because it
denounces the subjugation of the Palestinian people. This highlights a further
disturbing aspect of the ‘new anti-Semitism’. Conventionally, to call someone
‘anti-Semitic’ is to expose and condemn their racism; in the new case, the
charge ‘anti-Semite’ is used to defend racism, and to sustain a regime that
implements racist policies.
The question today is how to
preserve a notion of anti-anti-Semitism that rejects the hatred of Jews, but
does not promote injustice and dispossession in Palestinian territories or
anywhere else. There is a way out of the quandary. We can oppose two injustices
at once. We can condemn hate speech and crimes against Jews, like the ones
witnessed recently in the US, or the anti-Semitism of far-right European
political parties, at the same time as we denounce Israel’s colonial project
and support Palestinians in their struggle for self-determination. But in order
to carry out these tasks concurrently, the equation between anti-Semitism and
anti-Zionism must first be rejected. 

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Tony Greenstein

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