Monday,23 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1234, (19 - 25 February 2015)
Monday,23 July, 2018
Issue 1234, (19 - 25 February 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism

Fears of the return of anti-Semitism in Europe ignore its real cause — Israeli actions in Palestine, writes Alan Hart

Al-Ahram Weekly

Much is currently being written and broadcast about what a headline in the Wall Street Journal recently proclaimed to be the “Return of Anti-Semitism.” The headline appeared over an article by Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Britain.

According to Sacks “an ancient hatred has been reborn,” continuing that “some politicians around the world deny that what is happening in Europe is anti-Semitism. It is, they say, merely a reaction to the actions of the state of Israel, to the continuing conflict with the Palestinians. But the policies of the state of Israel are not made in kosher supermarkets in Paris or in Jewish cultural institutions in Brussels and Mumbai. The targets in these cities were not Israeli. They were Jewish.”

In an article for Time magazine under the headline “It’s Time To Stop Ignoring the New Wave of Anti-Semitism,” Michigan-based rabbi Jason Miller quoted Sacks and was more explicit in his assertion that an ancient hatred has been reborn.

Miller wrote: “I certainly have the capacity and amplification to voice my concerns about the threat of anti-Semitism, this time around emanating not from Nazism, but from Islamism … As Sacks makes perfectly clear, the rise of anti-Semitism in the 21st century is not about anti-Israel sentiment … Plain and simple, 21st-century anti-Semitism is the continuation of the same Jewish hatred that has raised its ugly head for centuries. It is the same anti-Semitism that we saw 70 years ago in Europe as six million Jewish men, women and children were exterminated.”

In my view, Sacks and Miller and all who think like them are in complete denial of the link between Israel’s actions, which sometimes amount to state terrorism, and the transformation of anti-Israelism into anti-Semitism. What this link is was put into words more than a quarter of a century ago by Yehoshafat Harkabi, a long-serving director of Israeli military intelligence.

In his book Israel’s Fateful Hour, Harkabi calls for Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories. He argues that the biggest real threat to Israel is its self-righteousness. As he wrote, “We Israelis must be careful lest we become not a source of pride for Jews but a distressing burden. Israel is the criterion according to which all Jews will tend to be judged. Israel as a Jewish state is an example of the Jewish character, which finds free and concentrated expression within it.

“Anti-Semitism has deep and historical roots. Nevertheless, any flaw in Israeli conduct, which initially is cited as anti-Israelism, is likely to be transformed into empirical proof of the validity of anti-Semitism. It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish state, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also by Jews throughout the world. In the struggle against anti-Semitism, the frontline begins in Israel.”

Another way of saying that an ancient hatred has been reborn is that what used to be called the “sleeping giant” of anti-Semitism is waking up. Putting it that way makes understanding possible and here’s why.

After the Nazi Holocaust, and because of it, this giant went back to sleep and might well have died in its sleep if Zionism had not been allowed by the major powers to have its way and Israel had been required to be serious about peace on the basis of an acceptable amount of justice for the Palestinians and security for all.

To avoid being misunderstood, I must qualify that statement. There will always be some Jew haters and Nazi Holocaust deniers. So what I mean when I say that the sleeping giant of anti-Semitism might well have died in its sleep is that it would not have come back to life again as a force capable of seriously threatening the wellbeing and security of Jews.

The evidence which gives weight to this analysis can be obtained from just a few moments of reflection on the history of the second half of the 20th century and much, if not all, of the first decade of the 21st. What stands out with regard to the Jews is the wellbeing of those who were/are citizens of Western nations. They were not only secure, but they have also had influence in political, economic and many other spheres out of all proportion to their numbers.

This is why I have always regarded the Jews as being the intellectual elite of the Western world. And that in turn is why I am amazed that many Jews have allowed themselves to be brainwashed by Zionist propaganda and are beyond reason on the matter of justice for the Palestinians as a consequence.

It was Israel’s “misconduct” — an euphemism for the defiance of international law, on-going colonisation and ethnic cleansing by stealth — that set in motion the rising, global tide of anti-Israelism which, as Harkabi warned, is showing signs of creeping transformation into anti-Semitism. Put another way, it was Israel’s policies and actions that guaranteed that the sleeping giant would not die in its sleep and would wake up to go on the prowl again.

In a recent report, the Community Service Trust (CST), a UK organisation, said that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK doubled in 2014, up from 513 in 2013 to 1,168 in 2014, of which 81 were violent. The non-violent ones included what the CST described as a widely shared image of Hitler bearing the caption “Yes man, you were right.”

What was the biggest factor behind the rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK? In the CST’s own words, it was “anti-Semitic reactions to the conflict in Israel and Gaza.” In its own way that finding is surely an indication that Israel’s policies and actions are the prime cause of the transformation of anti-Israelism into anti-Semitism. It also underlines Harkabi’s point that Jews need to understand “that foreigners’ criticism of Israel stems not only from opportunism, hatred and anti-Semitism, but from what they may see as fair and moral considerations.”

My conclusions? The only people who can stop the transformation of anti-Israelism into anti-Semitism gathering momentum are the Jews themselves, with those who are citizens of the European nations and America taking the lead. How could they do it? Short answer: By declaring that Israel does not speak for or represent them and that they condemn its defiance of international law and denial of justice for the Palestinians.

If they don’t do that there will most likely be a final Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine followed at some point by a wide-awake giant of anti-Semitism going on the rampage again. If it really is the case that the sleeping giant of anti-Semitism is waking up, it’s time for European and American Jews to wake up to the fact that the title of my book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews is what Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has described as “the truth in seven words.”

The writer is a former ITN and BBC foreign correspondent who has specialised in the Middle East.

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