This is a question that leads anyone trying to comment to a very problematic territory; any positive answer between Israel’s actions and rise in antisemitism is often seen – even by critics of Israel – as giving cover for racists that can hijack the issue to spread their own virulent hate.
Yet it is a question that needs to be tackled, because it lies in the core of much of opposition to any criticism or boycott action against Israel. A fear that allowing any kind of criticism towards Israel somehow opens the door wide-open for spread of antisemitism.
As a result, many don’t want to contemplate this question at all, fearful where it would lead, and so directly claim that ‘Only anti-semites cause antisemitism.’
In a similar manner, many say the same about Islamophobia. But this is just evading the question.
When Serbia and various Serbian-identified political entities and armed groups connected to it were committing war crimes in former Yugoslavia, was there no cause between the war crimes connected and increased hostility towards the Serbs? Doesn’t anti-Americanism have any connection at all with wars in Iraq and Vietnam?
RACISM AS ‘A LIGHTNING ROD’
Before we continue, we must make clear that much of antisemitism is drawn from age old prejudices and conspiracy theories about Jewish economic power, which have a tendency to spread and gain in support in times of economical fragility for the working and middle classes.
Just like the racism targeting refugees and immigrants, part of this is cultivated by establishment in an effort to use minorities as ‘lightning rods’ to take attention away from the fault the the current political, financial and business leadership carry for the current economic situation and their ongoing austerity policies.
In Israel Palestinians on both side of the Green Line have been made to serve in the role of ‘lightning rods’; many claim that the ‘threat’ (from armed resistance to demographics) is used – and need to be used – to keep the Jewish Israelis together.
SHACKLING JEWS TO ISRAEL
In Zionism Israel and the Jews are portrayed one and the same – one reason why Zionists ‘need’ to put Israel to a pedestal and keep it there, beyond the reach of any criticism.
(With ‘Zionists’ in this context we mean both Christian and Jewish Zionists and their ‘fellow travelers’.)
In this they are again a mirror image of the anti-semites; the main problem of philosemitism is that it sees everything through ethnic-religious labels, that then act like the blinkers on a horse. The actions of states and people are seen through those labels, which then make them justified or unjustified.
Because Israel and Jews are the same to them, and because the moral status of world Jewry is tied to that of Israel for them, Israel must be above
all criticism. For philosemites and antisemites alike, everything that Israel does is reflected on all Jews. So, for Zionists and philosemites
(who are basically synonymous, as any self-declared non-Jewish philosemite tends to be a political or religious Zionist) Israel must be blameless,
because if it wouldn’t be, then racism towards Jews in their eyes would be ‘justified’.
If they are forced to admit that there is some blame in Israel’s regime, then they will put its negative actions in the continuum of what they claim is a larger Jewish history, Israel being just a part (but a part that can’t be separated) from the Jewish history as a whole, and that the overall Jewish history then, with Jews being victims most of the time, ‘justifies’ crimes like Apartheid, ethnic cleansing, massacres and occupation that has lasted for fifty years.
Zionism and antisemitism tries to shackle Jews into Israel – and although this takes us into that problematic territory, we have to admit that it has worked to a large extent. Basically no mainstream politician or reporter anywhere took an offense or offered criticism when Benyamin Netanyahu
declared before the United States Congress that he, as Israel’s Prime Minister, is ‘a representative of all the Jews’.
Similar claims by Israeli military and intelligence services, that they serve ‘all the Jews’ are taken like these claims would be self-evident facts – which it isn’t nor is it true. Like so much else which, when it comes to Israel and Palestine, has never been given a close scrutiny in public is taken for granted by press and politicians alike.
Anti-semities on their own part are also trying to make the case of Israel and Jews being the same. Just like past suffering of Jews is used by Zionists in an effort to show Israel’s crimes as ‘justified’, so antisemites try to use those Israel’s activities to excuse past crimes against Jews. In their distorted racist view, an atrocity like the Holocaust is retroactively ‘excused’ by Israel’s negative actions.
Both anti-semites and philo-semites see Jews as an homogenous, monolithic entity instead of a very varied group of people with great cultural, linguistic, political and religious differences – including when it comes to the opinions and views about Israel and its policies.
FACING THE TRUTH AND ACCEPTING IT
The end result of this is that what Zionists and philosemites have tried to achieve has come true: The blurring of a line between Israel, Jews and Judaism.
Both those who support and those who oppose Israel’s Apartheid, ethnic cleansing and occupation policies and also those who try to benefit of taking either side for pure opportunism’s sake, have a hard time seeing where each one ends and the others begin. It is the result of a deliberate
Because the situation is this, we have to face the truth and accept it: Israel’s negative actions have negative consequences on a global level when it comes to spread and support for antisemitism. Racism feeds more racism.
Accepting this doesn’t mean accepting antisemitism, or excusing its increase as a byproduct of Israel’s own policies which opponents of its crimes don’t have to care about.
For both moral and tactical reasons those who oppose Israel’s policies have to be vigilant and oppose antisemitism also.
As racism targeting people merely because of their ethnic-religious identity, antisemitism is vile and must be opposed by all people of conscience because of this.
No one must be targeted because of their ethnic, religious or cultural identity. That Israel’s regime tries to use Jewish people as human shields doesn’t mean that these people should be abandoned to be targets of the two extremes – on one side the anti-semites and on the other the philo-semites and the Zionists.
Beyond the moral reason, there is also the tactical: Antisemitism benefits only anti-semites and Israel’s regime. It hurts innocent people, including Israel’s victims who will not benefit if movements for their liberation, if their cause for survival, is hijacked by racists for their own purposes.
Rise of antisemitism will mean rise in politicians and media who will will be even less likely to challenge the attempts by Israel’s regime and Israel Lobby to silence all criticism of Israel’s negative actions.
ISRAEL DOESN’T REPRESENT ‘ALL THE JEWS’
Israel doesn’t represent ‘all the Jews’ even when it as a state and its politicians and state organs claim as so. The world Jewry has never as a unified group (which it has never been during the last two thousand years) given it a right to claim so and to speak in its name.
As a result Jews as a whole can’t be nor are not responsible for what Israel’s regime and its representatives do.
Israel’s actions don’t cast blame over Jews, but past or current Jewish suffering also doesn’t excuse or explain any of Israel’s own negative actions. Israel as a state must not be allowed to hide behind Jews or Jewish history – it must stand to be
judged, to be criticized, boycotted and sanctioned based solely on its own record since 1948.
Only by defeating Israel’s attempts to connect itself to Jews and Judaism can we effectively fight against antisemitism. To defeat a sickness all its causes must be recognized, without squeamishness.
Negative actions by states always have a chance of resulting in negative views of groups of people these states claim to represent – and recognizing this doesn’t mean accepting the consequence of rise in racism and negative stereotypes.
The case of Israel and the Jews is no different. Apologists for Israel would claim ‘special circumstances’ – but so would apologists for any other state. Every regime committing crimes against humanity and war crimes have its folder full of excuses for its actions – which can never justify those crimes.
MORE MIRROR IMAGES
Zionists say that the Zionist movement is a result of (mostly European) antisemitism, a reaction to it. Israel, to them, is needed to protect Jews from future persecution and oppression.
There are claims for and against this – as anti-Zionists we accept the former and but deny the latter. If the latter would be true, then all groups experiencing persecution and oppression now or in the recent past would, logically, deserve their own states.
But Zionists deny this to Palestinians (and many others, when its politically inconvenient to Israel). As anti-Zionists, we at IPNOT would prefer a one democratic, multinational state in historic Palestine.
And just like Zionists deny Palestinians a state of their own, they also deny them a right to similar reaction to racism, persecution and oppression the Jews faced a hundred and twenty years ago. BDS is a liberation movement to Palestinians.
It’s also a healthy, politically progressive movement that opposes antisemitism and all other forms of racism. In this way it’s an antidote against the growth of antisemitism – and antidote which Israel’s regime and the Israel Lobby want to destroy.
Tony Klug: If Israel’s Occupation Doesn’t End, anti-Semitism Worldwide Will Rise to Sinister Heights
Sara Yael Hirschhorn: Israel Doesn’t Cause Anti-Semitism. Anti-Semites Do