Tag Archives: anti-Zionism

Meet BDS fan Haj Amin al-Husseini – the ‘Hitler of the Holy Land’

Half a year ago, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) and the Harvard Law School Alliance for Israel held a conference entitled “War By Other Means – BDS, Israel and the Campus.” One of the speakers was Cornell Professor William Jacobson, whose presentation was on the history of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The presentation is now available at Legal Insurrection, and it is a must-read (or must-watch) because Jacobson shows that “BDS is a direct and provable continuation of the Arab anti-Jewish boycotts in the 1920s and 1930s and [the] subsequent Arab League Boycott, restructured through non-governmental entities to evade U.S. anti-boycott legislation and repackaged in the language of ‘social justice’ to appeal to Western liberals.”

When I read through Professor Jacobson’s presentation, I remembered that some time ago, I had come across an archived JTA article from September 24, 1929 that provides a perfect illustration of the conference theme that boycott campaigns should be understood as “war by other means.”

Published a month after the notorious Hebron massacre and the subsequent Arab violence, which left 133 Jews dead,  the article is entitled “‘My Hands Are Clean,’ Grand Mufti Asserts in Interview;” and as the title suggests, it describes an interview with Haj Amin al-Husseini, who had incited the violence with the pernicious (and still popular) libel that “the Zionists” were plotting to damage or destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque in order to rebuild the Jewish Temple.

Shortly after the bloodbath he had incited, the man who would eventually become known as “Hitler’s Mufti” felt rather confident that the Jews would soon be forced to leave British Mandate Palestine. He asserted (rightly) that “it is untrue that the world is siding with the Jews” and then proceeded to explain:

“We are … assured of the solidarity of the entire Moslem world and have actually offers of armies to help us if necessary. Help is unnecessary. We will win through an economic boycott. The boycott in Moslem countries against Jewish industries is tight and daily growing tighter, until the industries will be broken and English friends, moved by pity, will remove the last remaining Jews [from British Mandate Palestine] on their battleships. Today there’s not a Jewish factory working in Palestine … (which happened to be entirely untrue) [and] as Jewish industry depends on the good will of the surrounding Moslem countries, the factories may as well remain closed. The Moslems will not buy.”         

While the mufti’s hopes of driving out the Jews with a successful economic boycott didn’t work out in his lifetime, he would surely be pleased to know that there are still people who haven’t given up on his lofty goal; and he would surely be no less pleased to see that in forums like the UN, it remains indeed often “untrue that the world is siding with the Jews.”

The mufti also said some other things that you can read any day at Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada and similar sites: he complained about “the aid of rich American Jews for the Palestine upbuilding” and claimed that this aid “made the Palestine Jews so arrogant, they thought they could start expelling is [us].” And just like Palestinian leaders nowadays, al-Husseini denied having incited the murderous violence.

Another remarkable parallel to today’s news is that al-Husseini was rumored to have become quite rich by misappropriating funds he had collected for repairs of the Dome of the Rock. The article’s description of him is intriguing:

“The Mufti spoke in French and granted the interview in the presence of Jamal Effendi Husseini in the palatial office buildings located in the galleries of the Mosque of Omar. The 31 year old Amin El Husseini, with blond beard, sparkling blue eyes, ingratiating smile and pleasant mundane manners, sat in silken robes on a luxurious divan and smoked cigarettes taken from a gold beaten box, holding a morning levee like a mediaeval Turkish Pasha. The hall and corridors were filled with servants, ushers and courtiers. When politely told that world opinion is holding him personally responsible and partially guilty for the savagery and unspeakable assaults, the Mufti smiled and with a sweeping gesture, showing delicate manicured hands, he declared: ‘My hands are clean, I declare before God.’”

As it happens, when I researched this post, I came across another fascinating article about al-Husseini from June 1948. At first, I was not sure if the site that featured it, i.e. Old Magazine Articles, could be trusted. The article is entitled “Hitler of the Holy Land” and the sub header describes the mufti as “a master of terrorism.” But I found out that a ’48 Magazine indeed existed – in fact, it was apparently a relatively expensive highbrow magazine – and the author of the article, David W.Nussbaum, wrote at least two (but likely four) other articles on the mufti elsewhere in the immediate postwar years. According to the information given about Nussbaum, he was a “former Washington correspondent of Life, magazine writer and Navy air veteran” who in early 1948 had “just returned from an extended survey of conditions in the Middle East.” His article on the “Hitler of the Holy Land” is absolutely fascinating (it can also be downloaded as a pdf if you click the blue button “Read article for free” just above the space for comments).

Hitler of the Holy Land

In the almost two decades that had passed since the 1929 interview, the mufti had apparently lost his “pleasant mundane manners;” Nussbaum described him as “a man who has spent a lifetime fleeing justice” and who, “in his struggle for power, counts no man as a friend.” In Nussbaum’s view, the mufti was a crucial and cunning leader who ensured that the Arab conflict with the Jews would not be settled peaceably. Reportedly, al-Husseini told him: “What you see unsheathed in Palestine is the sword of Islam. Whenever they are beset, the Arabs will inevitably unsheathe it.” Asked if the Arabs had enough arms and men to win a war, the mufti responded: “Consequences do not disturb the Arab as they do the Westerner. The Jews do not reckon with this factor. If he is attacked, the Arab fights back regardless of the consequences. The fighting in Palestine has been inevitable since the first Jew set foot there.”

But Nussbaum believed that it was the mufti who worked hard to make war “inevitable”:

“War in Palestine is the goal that the Mufti set himself in the summer of 1946 [when he fled France], and it is the goal that is now being achieved. […] While he tightened his grip on Palestine, the Mufti waged a shrewd campaign within the Arab states. In Egypt, he made effective use of the extremist right-wing Moslem Brotherhood, which, supported by students, staged well-timed demonstrations in Cairo, shouting for revenge against the Jews. Fire-breathing statements began filling the Lebanon papers. In the lobbies of the Arab League conferences, the Mufti hammered away at the idea of jihad – the holy war.”

So it seems Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas knew what he was doing when he repeatedly paid homage to al-Husseini, praising him for having “sponsored the struggle from the beginning.”

But importantly, the “struggle” al-Husseini “sponsored … from the beginning” was not really about Palestine, but rather about Arab-Muslim rule. When Nussbaum asked him if he was looking forward to “an early return to his homeland,” al-Husseini “ruminated for a few moments and then said, ‘Palestine is not my home; it is only one of them. Cairo is home and so is Syria. Whenever I am among my own people, I am home.’”

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A version of this post was first published last Dezember at EoZ.

 

Delegitimizing Israel at Southampton University [updated]

Update: When this post was first published on my JPost blog in February (and cross-posted at Harry’s Place), the conference that is criticized here was scheduled to take place two months later, in mid-April. However, it soon became apparent that there was a lot of opposition, and Southampton University eventually decided to cancel the event “due to concerns that the safety of staff, students and visitors could not be guaranteed.” Legal challenges by the conference organizers against the cancellation were rejected in court. A summary and commentary on the controversy can be found here.

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In an article on “Europe’s New Anti-Semitism,” Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks argued a few years ago that it was important to realize that throughout history, assaults on Jewish life always needed “justification by the highest source of authority in the culture at any given age.” For our own time, this means according to Sacks that “any assault on Jewish life – on Jews or Judaism or the Jewish state – must be cast in the language of human rights,” which is reflected in “the by-now routine accusation that Israel has committed the five cardinal sins against human rights: racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, attempted genocide and crimes against humanity.”

Against the backdrop of deadly terrorist attacks on Jews in several European capitals in recent months, some of Europe’s political leaders – most notably French Prime Minister Manuel Valls – have passionately denounced antisemitism and pledged to fight it. Yet, the problem identified by Rabbi Sacks remains, and in the wake of the most recent attacks in Copenhagen, a Wall Street Journal editorial rightly noted that “[e]lite hostility to Israel amplifies street-level anti-Semitism.”

Unfortunately it seems that such elite hostility to Israel will be showcased at a conference scheduled for April at the University of Southampton. The official announcement describes the conference as “a ground-breaking historical event on the road towards justice and enduring peace in historic Palestine.” The conference is supposedly “unique because it concerns the legitimacy in International Law of the Jewish state of Israel;” however, as students of antisemitism will know, there is nothing “unique” about singling out the world’s only Jewish state for delegitimization.

The conference has been initiated and organized by University of Southampton professor Oren Ben Dor, and his views on the conference’s subject are no secret: the intensity of his animus against Israel is nicely illustrated in a fundraising letter for the conference, where the Nahariya-born (former) Israeli claims to have grown up “in Palestine.”

Ben Dor SouthamptonU1

Ben Dor’s fundraising letter notes explicitly that the “conference is fully hosted, and supported by the University of Southampton. The university enables us to use its hospitality services, event organisation, marketing network and financial administration for the organisation, delivery, recording of the conference. It is a remarkable achievement in itself that such a conference will be help [sic] in UK academia.”

Indeed, it is remarkable that, almost seven decades after Israel’s establishment, the University of Southampton is holding a three-day conference devoted to searching for ways to use international law to deny the world’s only Jewish state the right to exist. But arguably, Professor Ben Dor’s record of “academic” activism against Israel is hardly less remarkable: it seems that roughly half of the publications listed on his official university page are either reviews of the writings of anti-Israel propagandists (e.g. Ali Abunimah, Jonathan Cook), or contributions to various “One State” conferences and other supposedly “pro-Palestinian” events focused on the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. On his official page outlining his research, Ben Dor emphasizes that his academic work “relates” to his “political activity regarding Palestine, the gist of which is a call for justice and peace in Palestine (in that order).” Ben Dor’s writings leave little doubt that as far as he is concerned, “justice” requires the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state; indeed, Ben Dor has even asserted that it was time to “legitimate” the “voice” of Hamas, because “understanding this voice as an ethical cry to the world to not allow Israel the right to persist in its racist self-definition is a much better way of articulating the moral message.”

This brazen attempt to not only ignore but even whitewash the genocidal antisemitism and fascism of the Hamas Charter is unfortunately not the only indication that Ben Dor has no hesitation to embrace open anti-Jewish bigotry. The “numerous articles in Counterpunch” that he highlights on his official university page also include a passionate protest against what Ben Dor calls “the constant attempts to silence Gilad Atzmon.” According to Ben Dor,

“It would be an understatement to say that debating Gilad’s voice is supremely important. No thinking person could fail to be stimulated by the deep connections Gilad makes.”

In case you haven’t heard of Gilad Atzmon, you could find out more about him on the neo-Nazi Internet forum Stormfront, where members broadly agree with Ben Dor’s view that his “voice is supremely important” – indeed, Atzmon’s writings are regarded as so important there that they are often shared and posted on the site.

Ben Dor Atzmon Stormfront

Alternatively, you could have Ben Dor’s view about the importance of Atzmon’s voice confirmed by former Klan leader and avowed white supremacist David Duke, who has praised him as “perhaps the bravest and clearest thinking person of Jewish descent in the world.”

Ben Dor Atzmon DDuke

The admiration is mutual – this is what Atzmon said in an interview last year:

“The left is devastated by David Duke for instance. He was in the KKK when he was young. But here is something quite amazing: I read him and I was shocked to find out that this guy knows more about Jewish identity than I do! How could a supposedly ‘racist’ Gentile who probably never entered a synagogue knows [sic] more than I do about Judaism? The reason is in fact very simple: he is a proud white man.”

One could fill pages upon pages to document Atzmon’s well-deserved popularity among Jew-haters, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. So Ben Dor was wrong to complain that Atzmon is being silenced: he gets plenty of publicity at all the sites frequented by bigots looking for their daily dose of stories about Jewish cunning and evil. And Ben Dor himself has repeatedly done his part to promote Atzmon and his odious views, including even hosting him at Southampton University. Why not also invite Duke if the “supremely important” Atzmon recommends him so enthusiastically as an expert on “Jewish identity”?

To what extent Ben Dor actually agrees with Atzmon’s “gutter anti-Semitism” is hard to ascertain given that he likes to write in a style that reflects his fascination with the now utterly disgraced German philosopher Martin Heidegger; but there can be little doubt that Ben Dor shares Atzmon’s conviction that Israel is an absolute evil that cannot be allowed to exist. While Atzmon has expressed the view that even Nazi Germany was less evil than Israel, Ben Dor has repeatedly described Israel as utterly immoral and has denounced the Jewish state as “a terrorist state like no other” and demanded that “the herrenvolk (master race) nature of its democracy” must be openly debated.

Ben Dor certainly knows that it is generally regarded as antisemitic to equate Israel with Nazi Germany and to argue that the world’s only Jewish state is too evil to exist. Yet, it seems that this is what Ben Dor is arguing in his political writings, and given his own emphasis on the connection between his academic work and his “political activity regarding Palestine,” the planned publication of the proceedings of his conference at the University of Southampton may turn out to be of interest not only for anti-Israel activists in and out of the Ivory Tower, but also for researchers studying 21st-century antisemitism and the ‘elite hostility to Israel’ that provides ostensibly new justifications for the oldest hatred.

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Update 2: The CST’s Mark Gardner argues in a related post that Ben Dor’s views put him “firmly in the same ball park as Atzmon.” Gardner also quotes from a video-taped speech where Ben Dor asserts “that there is something so Jewish in that which has provoked the Holocaust” – which, as I already suggested above, seems to echo the preposterous notion of Jewish “self-destruction” developed by Heidegger in his “Black Notebooks.”

Shlomo Sand resigns from being an invented Jew (or something like it)

Tel Aviv University, which was recently ranked Israel’s best, also has the doubtful distinction of employing a professor of history who is regarded as a first-rate authority on Jews by lots of first-rate Jew-haters. Shlomo Sand earned the admiration of antisemites everywhere with his “Invention of the Jewish People,” a book that was hugely successful as it appealed to both old-fashioned Jew-haters and supposedly progressive “anti-Zionists”. In a comprehensive review that takes Sand’s ramblings perhaps too seriously, his truly accomplished Tel Aviv University colleague Anita Shapira has politely noted that Sand “bases his arguments on the most esoteric and controversial interpretations, while seeking to undermine the credibility of important scholars by dismissing their conclusions without bringing any evidence to bear.”

Needless to say, Sand enjoyed his new-found celebrity and eventually delighted his fans with yet another fanciful screed, this time on the “Invention of the Land of Israel.” Since he apparently promised to come up with a trilogy, he has now published another volume where he announces his resignation from being a – presumably invented – Jew. In response to this publication, my very erudite Facebook friend David Sigeti wrote a comment that echoes Shapira’s point quoted above and highlights the important question how Sand’s specious “scholarship” could be so shamelessly promoted by many academics and intellectuals:

“I think that the best short phrase to describe Sand is ‘serial crackpot’. [According to Sand] All the genetic evidence is fabricated and the Ashkenazim are really from Central Asia, Yiddish is a Slavic language in spite of being mutually comprehensible with various dialects of German, the ancient Romans were incapable of transporting large numbers of slaves across the Mediterranean in spite of having fed Italy from Egypt for centuries etc., etc., etc. He is almost certainly the only author in the modern, democratic world to write a book that relies on so many crackpot hypotheses in fields as diverse as genetics, linguistics, and history and to get it taken seriously by other academics and intellectuals.

That this nonsense gets taken seriously may be the most telling example of the confluence between ‘anti-Zionism’ and classical antisemitism. It is almost impossible to imagine anything like Sand’s ideas being taken seriously on any subject other than the Jews. The willingness of supposedly respectable academics and intellectuals to give Sand a respectful hearing is eerily reminiscent of the willingness of otherwise apparently rational academics and intellectuals to believe the most insane ideas about the Jews back before open, self-declared antisemitism became a social faux pas.”

Below just a small sample of screenshots illustrating the company Sand’s admirers in intellectual and academic circles keep: Sand’s work is of course quite popular on Stormfront (here e.g. https://www.stormfront.org/forum/t660227/ and https://www.stormfront.org/forum/t660836/ ); Amazon UK customers who buy David Duke’s insights on “Jewish Supremacism” also tend to buy Sand’s first book as well as Gilad Atzmon’s vile screed “The Wandering Who” (and apparently, the official website promoting Sand’s first book linked to an enthusiastic review by Atzmon);  Iranian Press TV invited Sand to promote his book on the “Invention of the Land of Israel;” and Sand’s defense against criticism of his most recent book in Ha’aretz was reposted at the viciously antisemitic blogThe Ugly Truth”.

Sand on Stormfront1

Sand on Stormfront2

Duke Atzmon & Sand

Sand on Iran Press TV

Sand on Ugly Truth

Needless to say, Sand’s book on “The Invention of the Jewish People” was also positively reviewed on websites dedicated to demonizing the world’s only Jewish state in the service of the “Palestinian cause,” such as The Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss. In its 2012 end-of-year fundraising campaign, Mondoweiss rewarded donors who gave $60 or more with a copy of Sand’s “Invention of the Land of Israel.”

When Sand was told about his admirers on sites like Stormfront after the publication of his first book and asked if he was worried that the book might “be exploited for pernicious ends,” he answered dismissively: “I don’t care if crazy anti-Semites in the United States use my book.” Reportedly, he did express concern about “how the forthcoming Arabic translation might be received in the Muslim world” – but it seems that ultimately, he was just “disappointed” that he wasn’t even invited when the Arabic-language edition of his book was published in Ramallah. However, Sand was hosted at Jerusalem’s Al-Quds University by Professor Sari Nusseibeh, who served as the university’s president at the time, and this was certainly an honor that would not have been bestowed on anyone who had written books on “The Invention of the Palestinian People” and “The Invention of the Land of Palestine.” Indeed, one shudders to think how an author promoting those titles would be received by Sand’s admirers.

Free speech and antisemitism: Max Blumenthal’s Goliath [updated]

When the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) released its 2013 list of the “Top 10 Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Slurs” at the end of December, Max Blumenthal reacted with scorn and ridicule when he found himself included in the category “The Power of the Poison Pen.” As if to prove SWC’s assessment, he posted a drawing by the cartoonist Carlos Latuff, who, for good reason, had himself been included in the SWC list for 2012.

Blumenthal Hier cartoon

According to the SWC, it was his recently published book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel and his efforts “to equate Israelis with Nazis” that earned Blumenthal a place on the list.

But Blumenthal’s book also had its defenders, most notably perhaps James Fallows, a veteran board member of the prestigious New America Foundation (NAF) who is widely regarded as “a highly acclaimed author, journalist, editor, and media commentator.”

Writing at the Atlantic, Fallows described Blumenthal’s Goliath as a book that “should be discussed and read” and dismissed criticism of Goliath, asserting that it amounted to “flat mischaracterizations” when critics denounced the book as “bigoted propaganda” that is “so anti-Israel it is effectively anti-Semitic.” Fallows also defended the controversial decision to provide Blumenthal with a platform to promote his book at the NAF in early December, arguing that it “was the right call on general free-speech principles” to ignore critics of the event.

Blumenthal certainly appreciated Fallows’ endorsement and promptly posted an excerpt on his Amazon page for Goliath.

But there was another endorsement for Goliath that Blumenthal appreciated greatly – and it arguably makes a fool of Fallows, because it documents that Blumenthal indeed wanted his readers to understand his book as “so anti-Israel” that critics who denounced Goliath as antisemitic can only feel fully vindicated.

Blumenthal made it abundantly clear what he wanted readers to take away from his book when he recommended a “brief but thorough review of Goliath” to his more than 27,000 Twitter followers, explicitly thanking the blogger who had posted the review for the “praise.”

Blumenthal Goliath review1

Here are the relevant quotes from this “brief but thorough review:”

“You’d think Jews, […] of all people, would react viscerally […] against the notion of their state would [sic] come to create their own Gestapo (Shin Bet), build concentration camp (Ketzlot, for African refugees), emphasize racial purity while demonizing miscegenation (rationalized as the ‘demographic’ problem, but more significantly given religious and racial expression in groups like Lehava), using the police state, not just against enemies, but to crush dissent and ghettos (the walls are sprouting up all over Palestinian towns in the West Bank and, of course, there’s always Gaza). Even Kristallnacht was recreated by what amounts to an officially sanctioned anti-immigrant pogrom in Tel Aviv, in May of 2012.

Yes, you’d be mistaken. Reading Goliath, the similarities between Nazi Germany and today’s Israeli regime are impossible to avoid. […]

As I read Goliath, one thought […] kept cropping up throughout: Apart from the specific group, it’s [sic] flag, and all the other trappings of a national mythos and its veneration, are the aims and methods of the ‘pure’ Zionist state so very different than those of the ‘pure’ Aryan one?”

It is often difficult to show antisemitic intent, but Blumenthal makes it easy by endorsing this review – as well as others that offer similar “praise” – thus leaving no doubt how he wanted his book to be understood. Inevitably, this means that Blumenthal and his admirers actually agree with his critics that Goliath presents Israel as an utterly evil state that can only be compared to Nazi Germany. Even though there is considerable controversy about the question when hostility to Israel should be defined as antisemitism, Blumenthal’s single-minded effort to portray Israel in an extremely biased way in order to promote comparisons to Nazi Germany that would justify political campaigns aimed at eliminating the Jewish state qualifies even under the most stringent criteria.

In a paper entitled “Another Milestone for the Mainstreaming of Antisemitism: The New America Foundation and Max Blumenthal’s Goliath” that has just been published by the Louis D. Brandeis Center, I have also provided extensive documentation that Blumenthal’s book, or the material he published earlier and then recycled for the book, has been praised on all the major sites popular among conspiracy theorists, Jew-haters, racists and neo-Nazis: from Stormfront to David Duke’s site, Rense, and Veterans Today. In addition, Goliath was of course celebrated by outlets such as Mondoweiss and the Electronic Intifada, which cater to activists devoted to promoting boycott campaigns against Israel and maligning the Jewish state as illegitimate and uniquely evil.

Even if the hate-filled material promoted by these sites is considered “protected” free speech, few would argue that it is a violation of the principles of free speech that mainstream outlets usually shun this material and no respectable think tank would consider featuring it.

So what to make of the fact that a prestigious think tank like the NAF and a prominent commentator like James Fallows insist that it was entirely appropriate to promote a book written with the intent to depict Israel as the Nazi Germany of our time? What to make of the accusation that opposing the promotion of a book like Blumenthal’s Goliath violates “general free-speech principles?”

As Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin rightly argued:

“By claiming that this book requires our attention, he [Fallows] is asserting that Israel’s existence and the right of its six million Jews to self-determination and self-defense is debatable. The answer to Fallows from those of us who were offended by NAF’s decision to embrace Blumenthal is to say that these notions are no more debatable than the positions of the Klan, apartheid advocates, or those of al-Qaeda. Blumenthal’s book belongs in the category of those things that are offensive, not because he is critical of an imperfect democracy but because his purpose is to advance the cause of its dissolution.”

Fallows noted at the end of his defense of the NAF event for Goliath that if Blumenthal is wrong, “his case should be addressed in specific rather than ruled out of respectable consideration.” That means in effect that Blumenthal’s critics are supposed to make a convincing case that Israel is not like Nazi Germany and that the world’s only Jewish state should perhaps be allowed to continue existing, even if some of its citizens, officials and politicians have views that are no better than those held by reactionaries in Europe or the US.

The bigotry inherent in comparing Israel to Nazi Germany has been often demonstrated. Among the most memorable examples is perhaps the 1961 debate at Montreal’s McGill University between the famous British historian Arnold Toynbee and Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Yaacov Herzog. Toynbee had been willing to believe in the 1930s that Hitler had only limited ambitions, but he was alarmed by Zionism, which he considered “demonic.” During a lecture at McGill in January 1961, Toynbee questioned the right of the Jewish people to a state and claimed that Israel’s conduct in the War of Independence was morally equivalent to the Nazis. In the subsequent debate, Herzog forced Toynbee to concede that if Israel’s actions during a war of self-defense justified the comparison to Nazi atrocities, every nation’s conduct in war – and certainly the conduct of the Arabs, who had threatened the fledgling Jewish state with a “war of extermination and momentous massacre” – would have to be denounced in the same terms.

It would be easy to repeat the same exercise with Blumenthal’s Goliath, but since the bigoted comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany has remained fairly popular for more than five decades, it is arguably time to acknowledge that continuing to debate this calumny as if it had any merit might only serve to legitimize and perpetuate the underlying bigotry. As Tobin argued, there are ideas and ideologies that don’t deserve to be debated, and few would suggest that the ideas of Max Blumenthal’s admirers on David Duke’s site, Stormfront, Rense, and Veterans Today need to be seriously debated in order to be refuted. Yet, this is exactly what Blumenthal wants us to do, as this tweet he recently sent to me illustrates:

Blumenthal Stormfront Zionism

In the post Blumenthal links to, a Stormfront member advances the “controversial and extremely radical proposition” that White Nationalists in Europe and the US should support Zionism and even a “mandatory expulsion of Jews” to Israel in order to reduce the “excessive influence” of Jews “over both the media and economics.” As far as Blumenthal is concerned, this “proves” that anti-Israel activists like him are right to claim that Zionism is not only racism, but also a pernicious form of antisemitism that supports a “Juden raus” policy by establishing and maintaining Israel as a Jewish state.

James Fallows may think all this is worthy of debate, but as Twitter user Sol Robinson demonstrated with his reply to Blumenthal, there isn’t really all that much to debate when someone “cannot understand the difference between Jews wanting to get away from racists, and racists wanting jews gone.”

Blumenthal Stormfront reply

Assuming that Blumenthal really “cannot understand” this difference is arguably the most charitable take, particularly in view of the fact that Blumenthal himself  advocated a “Juden raus” policy for those Israeli Jews who would refuse to “become indigenized” in the Arab state that Blumenthal hopes will replace the Jewish state in the not too distant future. To put it bluntly: there is precious little difference between what Stormfront members would like to see happen in Europe and the US and what Max Blumenthal would like to see happen in the Middle East.

Marginalizing such views as despicable bigotry that doesn’t deserve to be dignified by serious debate is not a violation of free speech. Max Blumenthal may fervently believe that the Middle East’s most democratic and pluralistic state is the Nazi Germany of our time and should be treated accordingly, but anyone who agrees that this is a proposition worthwhile debating would have to explain why other hate-filled bigotries that are popular among Blumenthal’s fans at Stormfront and similar sites are generally not regarded as worthy of debate.

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First published on my JPost blog and at Harry’s Place.

Update: In the meantime, I’ve written another related post published on the blog of the Louis. D. Brandeis Center, where I address the spurious claim by Judith Butler and Rashid Khalidi that BDS advocates like them suffer from “accelerating efforts to curtail speech, to exercise censorship, and to carry out retaliatory action against individuals on the basis of their political views or associations, notably support for BDS.”

As I argue there, one important point to keep in mind is:

“When prominent tenured academics like Butler and Khalidi worry about the ‘intimidation’ of BDS advocates and proceed to call on their colleagues to oppose this alleged intimidation, it is arguably time to point out that students who oppose the BDS goal of doing away with the Jewish state and view the comparison of Israel and Nazi Germany as anti-Semitic have plenty of reason to feel much more intimidated. Highlighting a research paper on ‘Antisemitism in the Contemporary American University,’ the eminent anti-Semitism expert Robert Wistrich noted three years ago that ‘it is a deeply troubling fact that anti-Semitism (often in the form of anti-Zionism and hatred of Israel) has become a significant part of intellectual and academic discourse.’”

Another crucially important point is that, as Britain’s former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has argued, “an assault on Jewish life always needs justification by the highest source of authority in the culture at any given age.” A widely praised new study based on some 14,000 hostile messages sent to the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Israeli embassy in Berlin by Monika Schwarz-Friesel provides plenty of evidence that contemporary antisemitism is often expressed as “anti-Israelism” and that it is promoted primarily by “the social mainstream – professors, Ph.Ds, lawyers, priests, university and high-school students.”

Whitewashing BDS and antisemitism in the New York Times

[Note: First published on my JPost blog on February 5, 2014]

A few days ago, anti-Israel activists noted with considerable satisfaction that several recently published New York Times (NYT) articles seemed to justify the conclusion that the paper might be “entering a new era on Israel.” Particular excitement was caused by the NYT decision “to print an oped by BDS leader Omar Barghouti.” Writing on his own blog, Jonathan Cook hailed this decision as “quite a milestone,” and explained:

“Omar includes many issues usually unmentionable in the NYT. But more so than the content of his article, the fact that the NYT is prepared to give a platform to him and the boycott movement – currently viewed by Israel as an enemy potentially even greater than Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons – would truly constitute a revolution in what can be said in the US establishment’s paper of record.”

Cook is absolutely right here. By providing a platform to Barghouti, the NYT has published a not-so-veiled call for abolishing the world’s only Jewish state and, at the same time, allowed Barghouti to falsely claim that the boycott movement he leads is not antisemitic.

Barghouti’s article is entitled “Why Israel Fears the Boycott,” though the URL tells us that the original title was “Why the Boycott Movement Scares Israel.” The answer to this, in whatever variation, is very simple: just like earlier boycotts under the motto “The Jews Are Our Misfortune,” the BDS movement employs similar tactics of slandering the Jews – nowadays the Jews of Israel and those who support the Jewish state – by falsely presenting them to be solely responsible for the “misfortune” of other people, in particular the Palestinians.* Since the long list of lies and slanders Barghouti usually employs when he travels the world to promote the boycott movement has been often described and refuted, I will focus here only on two crucial points that Barghouti tries to obfuscate in his NYT op-ed.

The first is that, as far as Barghouti is concerned, the so-called BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) movement is not campaigning for a negotiated two-state solution and an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Instead, it denies Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, irrespective of the borders of this state. As Barghouti himself explained, even if Israel gave up its control of all the territories captured in 1967, this would not end the BDS campaigns, because BDS embraces the same rejectionist positions that led to the Arab refusal to accept the UN partition plan in 1947. Barghouti likes to talk a lot about “Palestinian rights,” and while he is careful to use language that conforms to today’s human rights discourse, the most fundamental Palestinian “right” he advocates is the “right” to undo the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state.

But while Barghouti and his fellow BDS activists usually feel very confident asserting that Palestinian refugees and their descendants have a unique status and “rights” that no other group of refugees enjoys, they do seem somewhat worried that people might conclude that the boycott movement is, in effect, antisemitic. BDS activists may well have Jewish friends or may even be Jews themselves, but the boycott campaigns they advocate target the Jewish state for being Jewish – as Barghouti himself acknowledges when he says that BDS campaigns would go on even if Israel no longer controlled the West Bank.

Barghouti complains that “Israel and its lobby groups often invoke the smear of anti-Semitism, despite the unequivocal, consistent position of the movement against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.” When you click on the link he provides, you get to a post from 2010 on a BDS website, which essentially claims that BDS cannot be antisemitic because it is supposedly supported by “many Jewish organizations and prominent Jewish academics and cultural figures around the world.”  That is a recipe also advocated on the website of David Duke – whom the Anti-Defamation League describes as “perhaps America’s most well-known racist and anti-Semite.” An article there has much to say about the usefulness of Jewish activists in “anti-Zionist” campaigns and the writer eventually acknowledges freely: “We often cite Jewish writers in order to avoid the anti-Semitic label.”

Unfortunately for Barghouti and David Duke, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, explained only recently that even if you are Jewish, you “can be an anti-Semite if you talk like anti-Semites.” And, as David Hirsh pointed out in a relevant paper on “Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism”, antisemitism doesn’t necessarily mean hating all Jews: “Most forms of antisemitism in history have allowed for ‘exceptional’ Jews. It is not a necessary attribute of antisemitism that it must target every Jew and so there could exist an antisemitism which exempts those Jews who do not identify as ‘Zionist’ from hostility.”

What is really interesting in this context, however, is the fact that Barghouti didn’t try to prove his opposition to antisemitism by linking to a declaration he signed in 2012. Under the title “The struggle for Palestinian rights is incompatible with any form of racism or bigotry,” this declaration, posted by Ali Abunimah at the Electronic Intifada, asserts that the Palestinian “struggle for our inalienable rights is one opposed to all forms of racism and bigotry, including, but not limited to, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Zionism, and other forms of bigotry.” As the screenshot below documents, Omar Barghouti is signatory no.5 on this resurrection of the “Zionism is racism” calumny.

Zionism is racism

While the infamous UN resolution is nowadays widely regarded as an embarrassing part of the Soviet-Arab Cold War efforts to undermine Israel, it is hardly surprising that anti-Israel activists yearn to recreate this effective weapon to delegitimize the Jewish state – after all, in the wake of the UN’s “Zionism is racism” resolution, Zionism became “a metaphor for universal evil” and it was considered perfectly legitimate to boycott Jewish groups or individuals suspected of Zionist sympathies. This must truly seem like the good old times if you are a BDS activist.

The inconvenient truth is that as long as BDS activists like Omar Barghouti remain firmly opposed to a two-state solution that would result in the peaceful coexistence of a Jewish and a Palestinian state, their activism has nothing to do with human rights. Try as he may, Barghouti cannot conceal that he is actually campaigning for what he regards as the most fundamental and non-negotiable Palestinian “right:” the supposed “right” to finally achieve what the Arab war against the emerging Jewish state failed to accomplish. The Palestinians who fled this war that was supposedly waged on their behalf have served as pawns ever since, clinging to their refugee status and the illusion that it could be passed on through generations reared in the belief that the Jews of Israel are their “misfortune.” But then as now, their misfortune was the unwillingness of the Arabs to acknowledge the simple fact that the Jews are one of the Middle East’s most ancient peoples who, in modern times, could claim as much of a right to self-determination as the Arabs. People like Omar Barghouti are still unwilling to acknowledge this simple fact and are devoting all their energies to convince the world that Jewish self-determination is the misfortune of the Palestinians and that it is therefore their “right” to insist that the Jews in the Middle East should be forced to once again live as a minority under Arab Muslim rule.

*Update: A paper by Mark Gardner published in Democratiya Autumn 2007 that I discovered only recently explores several of the points I’m trying to make here under the apt title “‘The Zionists are our Misfortune’: On the (not so) new Antisemitism.”

Quote of the day: The dishonesty of Israel’s detractors

“Tibi [Arab-Israeli Member of Knesset] had earlier heckled Netanyahu, claiming that his colleague Abu Arar, a Bedouin MK from Ar’arat in the Negev, did not have water or electricity in his home, because of Israeli discrimination. ‘There’s no water or electricity in his village,’ Tibi shouted at Netanyahu. ‘No water, no electricity. Give him water and electricity and he’ll stop shouting.’ In fact, Channel 2 News showed on Tuesday, Abu Arar, a former school teacher and head of his local council, lives in a three-story home with water, electricity, air-conditioning and a satellite dish, and his street is well lit by street lamps.”

From: Canadians ‘taken aback’ at Arab MKs’ heckling of Harper

Cheering a new ‘I Hate Israel Handbook’ [updated]

Coinciding with last weekend’s 75th anniversary of the “Kristallnacht” pogrom by the Nazis, several institutions in Berlin, including the Jewish Museum, organized an “International Conference on Current Phenomena of Antisemitism in Europe.” Given that the focus of the conference was supposedly on “current” manifestations of antisemitism in Europe, it was not at all promising that the keynote speaker – Oxford University philosopher Brian Klug – has made a name for himself by arguing that the demonization of the Jewish state is not “necessarily anti-semitic.” And while Klug has spent much energy opposing the notion that there is a “new antisemitism” that targets Israel, he seems eager to embrace the relatively new concept of “Islamophobia.” 

When critics of Klug published a dossier detailing their objections to his views, the Oxford professor immediately hinted that he might take legal action, because his “attorney…confirmed that the dossier is defamatory.” That left me wondering if Klug (and his attorney, of course!) feels there is anything “defamatory” about the fact that he is being enthusiastically defended and cheered on by a site like Mondoweiss, which has often been accused of publishing antisemitic material.

In recent weeks, one of the biggest stories at Mondoweiss was the publication of a new book by Max Blumenthal, one of the site’s heroes. As one critical reviewer elsewhere noted, Blumenthal’s “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” is really a “I Hate Israel Handbook” brimming with implicit equations of Israel with Nazis, which “could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed) without a single word change once it’s translated into Arabic.”

Unsurprisingly for those of us who are less sophisticated about antisemitism than Brian Klug, there is a big market for a new “I Hate Israel Handbook.” The Israel-haters at the Electronic Intifada jubilantly announced that the book was at one point “the number one seller on Amazon.com in the category of Israeli history.” So perhaps we can imagine that just as Brian Klug shared his thoughts on “Current Phenomena of Antisemitism” with his audience at the Berlin conference, some Mondoweiss (and Brian Klug) fans and other Israel-haters were savoring Blumenthal’s screed – and perhaps they even happened to read the chapters on the Israeli-run concentration camp and the Israeli-perpetrated Kristallnacht?

Blumenthal Goliath

It is arguably no coincidence that a site like Mondoweiss would champion both Oxford philosopher Brian Klug and anti-Israel propagandist Max Blumenthal. Indeed, the fairly impressive endorsements Blumenthal has been able to get for his screed could be seen as the fruit of Klug’s endlessly repeated mantra that there should be precious few red lines when it comes to criticizing Israel. In one of his first articles on this subject Klug wrote some ten years ago:

“In his book, The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz argues that when criticism of Israel ‘crosses the line from fair to foul’ it goes ‘from acceptable to anti-semitic’.

People who take this view say the line is crossed when critics single Israel out unfairly; when they apply a double standard and judge Israel by harsher criteria than they use for other states; when they misrepresent the facts so as to put Israel in a bad light; when they vilify the Jewish state; and so on. All of which undoubtedly is foul. But is it necessarily anti-semitic?

No, it is not.”

Let’s imagine for a moment how Professor Klug would feel about this version:

“when critics single Islam out unfairly; when they apply a double standard and judge Islam by harsher criteria than they use for other religions; when they misrepresent the facts so as to put Islam in a bad light; when they vilify the Muslim religion…[this] undoubtedly is foul. But is it necessarily Islamophobic?

No, it is not.”

Of course, one could try this with Blacks, Roma, gays, or whatever other group or entity one would like to vilify while claiming the authority of Oxford philosopher Brian Klug to argue that none of this means that one is “necessarily” bigoted.

However, as we all know, the Klug-definition for bigotry is considered acceptable only when it comes to Israel. So Max Blumenthal and many others can apply double standards and judge Israel by harsher criteria than any other state; they can misrepresent the facts so as to put Israel in a bad light; and they can freely vilify the Jewish state without risking to be denounced as “necessarily anti-semitic.”

Now let’s have a look at some of those who were happy to endorse Blumenthal’s “I Hate Israel Handbook.”

The top editorial endorsement featured on the book’s Amazon page is unsurprisingly from The Guardian: “Goliath…shows in forensic detail the reality of the Israeli mainstream’s embrace [of] blatant racism against Arabs and Africans.” It is noteworthy that The Guardian is saying here that the vast majority of Israelis are blatantly racist: the rightwing is racist by definition (certainly by The Guardian’s definition), and since the mainstream is also racist, only a small minority of far-left Israelis are perhaps not racist. It’s also safe to assume that The Guardian is only talking about Jewish Israelis here – so at least Arab Israelis may not be racist…

Ironically enough, another warm endorsement for Blumenthal’s screed comes from The American Conservative (TAC), nicely illustrating that when it comes to the evils of Israel, a supposedly “progressive” publication like The Guardian and a paleoconservative publication like TAC can see eye to eye.

Then there is an endorsement from Stephen Walt – with his full institutional affiliation: Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Walt praises Blumenthal’s “[b]rave reporting,” adding: “Makes me wish he wrote for the New York Times.” Given that earlier this year, Walt served as guest contributor for the Hamas mouthpiece MEMO, it is arguably not surprising that he would happily endorse a book that “could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club.”

Another high-profile academic endorsement for Blumenthal’s screed comes from Rashid Khalidi, though the Columbia professor apparently didn’t want his institutional affiliation displayed. Khalidi praises the book because he feels it “lifts the carefully maintained veil concealing the reality of Israel as it actually is today” and he deplores that this reality “is elided in most reportage from the region.” Obviously Khalidi has a point: with all the bad press Israel is getting, the ‘unveiling’ of its concentration camps and Kristallnachts is still something that is usually found only on the lunatic Jew-hating fringes.

Needless to say, Blumenthal also made sure to collect endorsements from some well-known Jews. Charles H. Manekin, Professor of Philosophy, Director of the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Center of Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland, likes to describe himself as a “cultural Zionist” – that is to say, a “Zionist” who cares about Jewish culture but not about a Jewish state (– and non-philosophers might think that makes him an anti-Zionist…). His enthusiasm about Blumenthal’s “I Hate Israel Handbook” was such that he professed: “I would like to send a copy…to every Jew I know.”

In addition to these endorsements from academics, there is much praise from writers who work or worked for influential publications: Glenn Greenwald, who has just left The Guardian, apparently found it “stunningly insightful” to read about Israel’s concentration camps and Kristallnachts; David Hirst, also affiliated with The Guardian, worries that Israel will be destroyed by the “virulence of a cancer, both institutional and popular, which [is….] essentially of its own racist and colonialist making;” award-winning former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges considers Blumenthal’s screed one of the most “fearless and honest books ever written about Israel;” and long-time Ha’aretz columnist Akiva Eldar also couldn’t help feeling impressed by Blumenthal’s relentless demonization of Israel.

Naturally, Blumenthal’s “I Hate Israel Handbook” was also warmly praised by his trusted comrades from Mondoweiss and The Electronic Intifada. And unsurprisingly, Blumenthal’s work is also much appreciated by the Jew-haters at  David Duke’s website:

“Blumenthal’s writings and videos are extremely valuable in the study of Jewish extremism, as he is not shy about using his Jewish name and looks to gain access to Jewish extremists in order to document the ugliest side of Zionism…as it pertains to Israel.”

While this is an endorsement Max Blumenthal chose not to quote on his Amazon page, I think that this is exactly the company the people who praised Blumenthal’s screed deserve. But I have no illusions that any of them would feel embarrassed by the fact that a propaganda tract they endorse is also praised by far-right antisemites. Moreover, even those who have prestigious academic positions know that, thanks in part to efforts like those of Oxford philosopher Brian Klug, there is no price to pay for cheering the vilification of the Jewish state – and therefore inevitably the Jews who sustain it – in ways that would be completely unacceptable if any other group with a long history of persecution and discrimination was the target.

* * *

First published on November 14, 2013 at my JPost blog.

Update:

More well-deserved praise for Blumenthal’s book comes from Gilad Atzmon, proud author of “The Wandering Who? A Study Of Jewish Identity Politics.” In case you are lucky enough to never have heard of Gilad Atzmon, here is a succinct description by Jeffrey Goldberg:

“Gilad Atzmon is a jazz saxophonist who lives in London and who has a side gig disseminating the wildest sort of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. He is an ex-Israeli and a self-proclaimed ‘self-hater’ who traffics in Holocaust denial and all sorts of grotesque, medieval anti-Jewish calumnies.”

Writing at Veterans Today – a website that according to the Anti-Defamation League regularly “features anti-Israel and Holocaust denial materials [and] offers a platform for numerous columnists who promote anti-Semitic 9/11 conspiracy theories” – Atzmon concludes his review by declaring:

“I really want Blumenthal’s book to succeed and be read widely.  Being a theoretician, I do not have the time for any kind of field work. I establish a conceptual and intellectual framework with the hope that some would […] gather the necessary evidence to support my theses.  Whether Blumenthal understands it or not, this is exactly what he did in his latest book. He brilliantly though unwittingly managed to produce a pretty impressive journalistic account in support of my criticism of Jewish identity politics and tribal supremacy.”

And now it turns out that the supposedly progressive New America Foundation is planning to host an event promoting Blumenthal’s book on December 4. The invitation to the event reportedly describes the book as “an unflinching, unprecedented work of journalism which depicts a startling portrait of Israeli society under siege from increasingly authoritarian politics.”

I would suggest there’s no reason to hold back: why not invite some of Max Blumenthal’s most ardent fans like Atzmon and the writer from David Duke’s site to the New America event?

The banality of Lisa Goldman’s Israel-bashing

Peter Beinart’s Open Zion website claims to “foster an open and unafraid conversation about Israel, Palestine, and the Jewish future.” The “unafraid” apparently reflects the popular canard that it is somehow dangerous to criticize Israel, but the site’s offerings tend to prove that most Open Zion contributors – among them avowed anti-Zionists like Yousef Munayyer – are indeed “unafraid” to depict the Jewish state in the worst possible light.

There is no doubt that Open Zion’s incoming senior editor Lisa Goldman also qualifies as absolutely “unafraid.” Indeed, her writings prove that she is not only “unafraid” to make a living by criticizing Israel, but that she is also completely “unafraid” to openly promote glaring double standards.

Goldman’s recent pieces for Open Zion include one article published under the headline “Israel’s Most Liberal City Introduces Racially Segregated Kindergartens.Goldman starts her piece breezily claiming:

“When the children of south Tel Aviv head back to school on Tuesday, kindergarteners will attend facilities that are segregated by race. The children of asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa will go to their kindergartens and all the other kids will go to their own. As of this year, the municipality of Israel’s most liberal city decided that separate-but-equal for three-to-six year olds was the way to go—in 2013.”

Yes, dear reader, you are supposed to recoil now and remember the Jim Crow laws of the segregated American South and Apartheid in South Africa. Interestingly enough, the article’s URL also indicates that Goldman’s original title for the post was “The banality of racism in Israel’s most liberal city” (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/23/the-banality-of-racism-in-israel-s-most-liberal-city.html) – and why not throw in some thinly veiled reference to the Nazis and Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” when it serves the good cause of making Israel look bad?

In response to the piece, several commenters noted that Goldman ignored the fact that resentments against asylum seekers and difficulties with their integration are not only a problem in Israel; moreover, some also noted that the Israeli reports Goldman relied on for her own piece actually didn’t justify her claim that Tel Aviv was trying to implement racial segregation.

Indeed, by now the Jerusalem Post has checked the story with the result that, while Tel Aviv is building two new pre-schools, there is absolutely nothing to support the claim that they or any existing facilities will be segregated by race. As to the other point about the difficulties asylum seekers and refugees face pretty much everywhere, here is a recent report (in German) about bitter protests that have been going on in Germany for several months because refugees feel their situation and treatment is intolerable. Even EU citizen – particularly when they are members of minorities like the Roma and try to migrate to richer states – face ill-treatment and discrimination all over Europe.

But of course, if Israel-bashers had to consider how the issues Israel is criticized for are handled elsewhere…

It seems that being “unafraid” of criticizing Israel also often means being unafraid of singling out Israel and employing double standards. Lisa Goldman’s work offers some nice illustrations: as eager as she is to accuse Israel of racism under the flimsiest of pretexts, she is determined to overlook massive evidence of Arab and Muslim Jew-hatred. That’s how she could write in March 2012 that Jews shouldn’t worry about Egyptian “bigotry” because, while “one hears quite a lot of old-fashioned anti-Semitic talk in Egypt,” Goldman was convinced that “Jew hatred is a relatively new, imported phenomenon that has little history in Egypt and does not seem to run very deep.”

Never mind that Egypt’s ancient Jewish communities were ethnically cleansed, never mind that antisemitic tropes are used to entertain the masses, never mind that Egypt’s Islamists – for whom Jew-hatred is an integral part of their ideology – had taken power.

Of course, Lisa Goldman didn’t see any reason to worry about the election victory of Egypt’s Islamists. Already in January 2012, she admonished Israelis who expressed dismay about the election results in Egypt to mind their own business and to realize that Israeli voters had handed power to people who were no better – and perhaps even worse – than Egypt’s Islamists:

“citizens of the democratic state of Israel […] freely elected, as the largest faction in its governing coalition after the Likud, the quasi-fascist Yisrael Beitenu party. […] In our Knesset, we also have Kahanists and a large contingent from Shas, which is quite similar to the [Salafist] Nour party.”

It seems that Lisa Goldman felt that this was one of her most rewarding articles: when her comment was approvingly quoted by The Arabist, Goldman happily tweeted:

 Goldman Arabist

A year later, Egypt’s Islamist president Morsi was in the news because a video from 2010 that showed him calling Jews the “descendants of apes and pigs” had been discovered. Walter Russell Mead noted in a comment:

“Morsi’s anti-Semitic views are not surprising in themselves; indeed they are completely mainstream and unobjectionable in the Egyptian context. Not many people in Egypt would disagree with the statements in question, and Morsi is more likely to be attacked for being too soft on Israel than for venting his spleen. But these statements, and the widespread support for them, should remind everyone just how slim the chances are for real peace between Israel and its neighbors.”

* * *

This is a very belated cross-post from my JPost blog.

 

Solidarity with Palestine in Germany

In the recent controversy about an antisemitic op-ed by Columbia University Professor Massad, some fans of Massad noted gleefully that the disgraceful screed published by Al Jazeera “was based on a lecture Massad gave at a conference in Stuttgart… Germany, to a largely German audience.”  The implication was of course that if the audience at a German “conference” happily listened to an American professor claiming that Nazism and Zionism were both antisemitic, this lunacy somehow became legitimate.

But Germans don’t really need an American professor to demonstrate how best to dress up antisemitic resentments. Despite many official German efforts to grapple with the Nazi past and combat contemporary antisemitism, studies have not only documented that about 20% of Germans hold persistent antisemitic views, but that there is also “a big rise in anti-Semitism based on hostility toward Israel.” Indeed, since some 40% of Germans believe “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians,” Massad could clearly expect to find a sympathetic audience for his comparison of Nazism and Zionism.

Indeed, the kind of “conference” Massad attended in Stuttgart in May all but guaranteed that any effort to endow vulgar antisemitic tropes with a veneer of pseudo-sophisticated academic respectability would be warmly appreciated.

PalConference Stuttgart

The event was organized by a group named “Palästinakomitee Stuttgart,” which seems to be a small but long-established organization that spreads the usual propaganda against Israel. Like most organizations that are supposedly “pro-Palestinian,” the Stuttgart group doesn’t campaign for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but for the abolition of Israel as the world’s only Jewish state in favor of the fiction of “ONE secular democratic State.”  The fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians want to live under Islamic Sharia law is just one of the many inconvenient issues that the “Palästinakomitee Stuttgart” prefers to ignore.

For its “Second Palestine Solidarity Conference” this May, the group hosted several well-known “anti-Zionists,” including academics like Ilan Pappé and Ghada Karmi (both University of Exeter, UK), Joseph Massad (Columbia University, NY, US), and Asaad Abu Khalil (aka the blogger “The Angry Arab,” Cal State Stanislaus, US). According to the group’s website, some 300 people – “many of them from abroad” – came to listen to these “high carat” speakers. While we are not told how all this was financed, the information on the event highlights the participation of Al Jazeera’s Mhammed Krichen, noting proudly that the network carried the two-day proceedings live for a “broad audience in the Arab world.”

Given this fabulous free publicity for the small gathering, it is perhaps hardly surprising that the Palestinian ambassador to Germany also showed up to address the audience [in German]. At the beginning of his short remarks, ambassador Abdel Shafi seemed to implicitly acknowledge that it was rather curious that an official of the Palestinian Authority (PA) – which is supposedly committed to establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel – would attend an event organized to champion a very different goal. But in the course of his not particularly coherent remarks, Abdel Shafi also suggested that it was actually pointless to discuss any solution as long as the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were unable to bridge their differences; of course, he also indicated that, somehow, it was all Israel’s fault. At the same time, he seemed to deplore the growing power of Islamists in the wake of the “Arab Spring,” but he also suggested that the West viewed the Islamists favorably, considering them as a suitable replacement of the Arab dictators that had supposedly served Western economic and political interests so faithfully.

Naturally, Abdel Shafi also talked about the “ongoing nakba” and warned that it was a major task to prevent Israel from realizing its supposed plans to expel all Palestinians from historic Palestine. It was hardly a coincidence that the following day, the ambassador returned to Berlin to host a nakba event that featured a speech focusing on exactly the same accusations against Israel. The speaker was Norman Paech, a well-known former politician and academic whose dedicated anti-Israel activism has brought him some accusations of antisemitism. Indeed, in a sympathetic article [pdf in German] about Hamas-ruled Gaza, Paech has described Israel as “poisonous.”

Demonizing Israel and associating with organizations and individuals who have considerable expertise in this field is apparently part of the job of the Palestinian ambassador to Germany. This is also reflected in the website of the Palestinian mission, where one section is devoted to Israel’s cruel “hunting” of Palestine.

Yet, the ambassador faces a dilemma, because most of the “pro-Palestinian” Israel-haters he happily associates with despise the Palestinian Authority he represents. At the Stuttgart gathering, this was clearly spelled out when “Angry Arab” Asaad Abu Khalil railed against Abdel Shafi’s presence and denounced the PA as a “creation of Tel Aviv.”

The failure of the Palestinian ambassador to openly confront the PA’s detractors and present an alternative to their relentless demonization of Israel by articulating a clear commitment to peaceful coexistence unfortunately reflects the policies of the PA. As Khaled Abu Toameh points out in a recent commentary, “Palestinian Authority leaders have radicalized Palestinians to a point where many do not want to hear about peace with Israel.”

In other words: there is a fierce competition between the PA and Hamas about who is the most intransigent foe of Israel.

Obviously, events like the Stuttgart “solidarity conference” have primarily one purpose: to strengthen this dynamic and keep it focused on making the Jewish state a pariah that will eventually crumble to be replaced by an Arab-Muslim Palestine.

German media and German officials apparently prefer to ignore all this politely. As a report on the Stuttgart “conference” notes bitterly, the event was largely met with silence; similarly,  Paech writes on his website that only a few representatives of the far left followed the Palestinian ambassador’s invitation to attend the nakba event in Berlin.

But while this could be seen as a tacit rejection of the extreme views that are usually propagated by “pro-Palestinian” campaigners, the agenda pushed by the organizations and individuals who relentlessly demonize Israel is not necessarily rejected by German officials. This is illustrated by the recent German decision to back EU demands for labels that distinguish between products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Israeli goods produced within the pre-1967 armistice lines. The only purpose of this measure is to enable supporters of the campaign to boycott Israel to gain followers among people who might find the blanket boycott a bit too reminiscent of the Nazi-slogan “Don’t buy from Jews.”

Benjamin Weinthal has argued that the labeling of Israeli products from the settlements may therefore be a slippery slope leading to a legitimation of the broader boycott campaign which singles out Israel – after all, as Weinthal rightly notes, there are no efforts to have similar labels for products from Turkish occupied North Cyprus or the many other areas around the world that are in dispute.

Of course, supporters of the boycott want Israel singled out, and they couldn’t care less that in the case of the settlements, Palestinian workers who are employed there – earning salaries that are considerably higher than in the PA-ruled West Bank – would be the first to suffer.

But this is indeed a characteristic feature of most “pro-Palestinian” campaigns targeting Israel: the enthusiasm for harming Israel is usually so great that the very real costs to the Palestinians are happily ignored. In Germany as elsewhere, solidarity with the Palestinians all too often means supporting efforts to demonize and harm Israel. This appeal to the lowest common denominator is unlikely to bring the Palestinians a state any time soon, but this is apparently not really the priority.

* * *

First published on my JPost blog June 10, 2013

Good Jews, bad Jews, and the ugly writings of Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad

In early May, The Algemeiner published an article in which I documented that several Al Jazeera op-eds by Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad on Zionism and Israel included material that was hard to distinguish from the kind of antisemitic texts one can find at a site like Stormfront [article cross-posted below]. About ten days later, a new op-ed by Massad caused a huge outcry – which apparently prompted Al Jazeera to remove the piece a few days after it was published. Anyone who wanted to read Massad’s piece after Al Jazeera had removed it could still find it on Stormfront – or on Ali Abunimah’s blog at the Electronic Intifada…

For some reason, it was featured there with an image of the Nazi-publication “Der Stürmer” in the background.

Massad on EI

However, the saga continued when Al Jazeera eventually decided to re-publish Massad’s piece on May 21, together with a short note from the editor who claimed that Al Jazeera had neither succumbed to any pressures when it pulled the piece nor when it decided to re-publish it:

“Al Jazeera does not submit to pressure regardless of circumstance, and our history is full of examples where we were faced with extremely tough choices but never gave in. This is the secret to our success.”

Oh well… Perhaps they were ultimately swayed by Liam Hoare’s argument, who wrote on his blog that the removal of Massad’s article was “exactly the wrong thing for al-Jazeera to have done” because “denying people the right to read this disgraceful, unlettered essay also denies people the right to find out just what a horrible little man Joseph Massad is — which is a useful public service for al-Jazeera to be engaging in.”

In any case, to wrap up this installment of the Massad saga, I cross-post my own two commentaries below, with some minor modifications [as indicated].

However, a few additional points should perhaps be highlighted.

First, it is hard to convey just how bizarre Massad’s piece is. He started out with the preposterous claim that Nazism and Zionism were both antisemitic and then proceeded to demonstrate that he himself was perfectly able to distinguish between good Jews and bad Jews: according to Massad, most Jews were anti-Zionists (and therefore of course good) because just like Massad, they realized the evils of Zionism right away… Unfortunately, however, these good Jews were all killed by the antisemitism of the Nazis, while the bad Jews were saved by the antisemitism of the Zionists – or, as Massad puts it:

“While the majority of Jews continued to resist the anti-Semitic basis of Zionism and its alliances with anti-Semites, the Nazi genocide not only killed 90 percent of European Jews, but in the process also killed the majority of Jewish enemies of Zionism who died precisely because they refused to heed the Zionist call of abandoning their countries and homes.

After the War, the horror at the Jewish holocaust did not stop European countries from supporting the anti-Semitic programme of Zionism. On the contrary, these countries shared with the Nazis a predilection for Zionism.”

So no, it’s not your fault if you can’t make sense of this. Indeed, Massad’s bizarre “reasoning” reminded me that Walter Russell Mead once noted that antisemitism usually indicates the “inability to see the world clearly and discern cause and effect relations in complex social settings […] Anti-Semitism isn’t just the socialism of fools; it is the sociology of the befuddled.  The anti-Semite fails to grasp how the world works, and that failure condemns him to endless frustration.” Sarcastically, Mead added: “Naturally, this is the fault of the Jews.”

Naturally, Massad’s fans also knew whom to blame for Al Jazeera’s decision to remove his column. As the “Angry Arab,” Massad’s colleague As’ad AbuKhalil put it, the decision was “due to pressures from Zionist hoodlums.” And there were momentous implications: “The Qatari ruling dynasty is now at the feet of Zionists.”

* * *

Stormfront Material from Columbia University Professor
Joseph Massad

[First published at The Algemeiner]

In one of his recent columns for Al Jazeera, Columbia University professor Joseph Massad holds forth on the topic of “Israel and the politics of boycott.” He casually claims in this piece that “the Zionists…were pioneers in their use of boycotts to effect racial separatism,” while “the Nazis would be latecomers to the tactic.” In other words, the Nazis were just imitating “the Zionists”…

No doubt the politically correct thing to do is to regard Professor Massad as just another Israel “critic.” But one of Massad’s older Al Jazeera columns offers an excellent example of the professor’s methods and the kind of “intellectual” company he gets to keep as a result.

Some two years ago, Massad penned a bitter complaint about the contrast between a supposed western indifference to any suffering by Arab/Palestinian children and an eagerness to sympathize when Jewish children are in danger. Reflecting his obsessive hatred of Zionism, Massad devoted one section of his article to “Zionism and Jewish children,” where he claimed that “Zionism did not always show similar love towards Jewish children, whom it never flinched from sacrificing for its colonial goals.”

The “evidence” Massad produced to support his vicious claim is a quote of David Ben-Gurion, who, according to Massad, rejected a generous British offer to take a few thousand Jewish children from Germany to Britain in the wake of the so-called “Kristallnacht”-pogroms in November 1938. The quote reads:

“If I knew it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them to England, and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel), then I would opt for the second alternative, for we must weigh not only the life of these children but also the history of the people of Israel.”

As noted in a relevant section on “Ben Gurion and the Holocaust” in a longer post by CAMERA, “so-called ‘post-Zionists’ and anti-Zionist radicals” love to insinuate that the Zionists happily collaborated with the Nazis in order to promote immigration to Palestine irrespective of overall Jewish interests and the survival of Europe’s Jews.

But in late 1938, it was already clear that precious few countries were willing to take in Jewish refugees. Indeed, Germany’s Nazi government gloated in the wake of the Evian Conference in the summer of 1938 “how ‘astounding’ it was that foreign countries criticized Germany for their treatment of the Jews, but none of them wanted to open the doors to them.”

That is the context for the Ben Gurion quote presented by Massad – but of course, Massad prefers to ignore this context. (And needless to say, his interest in the rescue of Jewish children from the Nazis doesn’t include the Jewish children whose rescue was sabotaged by the Palestinian leader who became notorious as “Hitler’s mufti.”)

Massad’s Ben Gurion quote is taken from a debate that focused on Britain’s decision to deny the Jewish children from Germany entrance into Palestine, giving rise to the concern that the British offer to instead take these children to Britain would only help to undermine the idea that British Mandate Palestine should serve as a safe haven for Jewish refugees, which would ultimately leave many desperate refugees without any place to go.

Yet another piece of context-free “evidence” produced by Massad is an incident from November 1940, when – according to Massad – “the Zionists responded to the British-imposed restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine, long demanded by the Palestinian people, by blowing up a ship with Jewish civilian passengers in Haifa – killing 242 Jews, including scores of children.” Triumphantly, Massad concludes: “For Zionism, Jewish children are as expendable as Palestinian and Arab children, unless they serve its colonial goals.”

However, very different from what Massad suggested, there was of course no intent to blow up the ship – named Patria – that carried almost 2000 Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. The sinking of the ship was due to a tragically miscalculated explosive charge that was placed on board to damage the Patria in order to prevent it from sailing to Mauritius, where –bowing to Arab pressure and violence – the British authorities intended to deport and intern the refugees.

Now, do you care to guess where else the kind of “evidence” marshaled by Massad is popular for very much the same purpose?

Yes, indeed: at Stormfront – the neo-Nazi “White Pride World Wide” hate site.

Massad Stormfront1

Massad Stormfront2

Clearly, the “Friend of Stormfront” who posted this would appreciate Massad’s use of the Patria incident.

But there is much more: scroll down a little bit on this same page, and you’ll find a text that is sourced as a quote from David Duke’s notorious “minor league Mein Kampf” – and as it happens, it’s pretty much identical to what Columbia University professor Joseph Massad wrote in his Al Jazeera column.

Stormfront isn’t a site I would normally link to, but there is arguably no longer a point avoiding such sites if their offerings are mainstreamed on Al Jazeera English by a professor from a highly regarded American University. So here is the link and an image of the David Duke text that includes the Ben Gurion quote and the Patria incident.

Massad Stormfront DDuke

So should we conclude that this is where Professor Massad looks for his “evidence”? Or is it perhaps just a case of not so great minds thinking alike? After all, former Klansman David Duke uses the Ben Gurion quote to argue that if “Israel’s first prime minister’s regard for Jewish life was such that he would rather see half the Jewish children of Germany die than be transported to England instead of Israel, how much value could one expect him to place on the life of a Palestinian child?” And Professor Massad uses the same quote for an article asking “Are Palestinian children less worthy?” And then both David Duke and Professor Massad go on to mention the Patria incident… Ah, what a coincidence!

But lo and behold, there are more examples of David Duke and Joseph Massad thinking alike: both like to talk about “Jewish Supremacism” – and needless to say, the fans of White Supremacism at Stormfront agree that this is a very worthwhile topic. Similarly, both David Duke and Joseph Massad are adamant that the Jewish state is inherently racist – and when it comes to Israeli racism, even Stormfront fans are of course appalled!

To be sure, Massad is far too sophisticated to engage in the fevered antisemitic conspiracy theories that come natural to David Duke. At the same time, Massad is not too sophisticated to keep repeating utterly misleading claims about how “helpful” European antisemitism and Nazism was for the Zionist project.

When it comes to one of Massad’s favorite topics – the efforts of German Zionists to facilitate the emigration of German Jews to Palestine by collaborating with Nazi authorities – he would probably claim to rely on Francis R. Nicosia’s book on “Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany.” But while Nicosia emphasizes that, given the historical context, it would be completely unjustified to suggest any moral or political equivalency between the Nazis and the Zionists, Massad keeps insinuating exactly such an equivalency.

Massad writes about this issue as if history had not vindicated the Zionist conviction that Jews urgently needed a homeland as a safe haven – and of course, he also ignores that the expulsion of Jews from their ancient communities in the Arab and Muslim world provided yet another vindication for Zionism.

The result is that it’s not easy to tell if you read Massad or Stormfront. Try for yourself – with these Massad-style-cherry-picked quotes [updated version, from my JPost blog, cross-posted below; correct answers below]:

1) “Nazism was a boon to Zionism throughout the 1930s.”

2) “For all intents and purposes, the National Socialist government was the best thing to happen to Zionism in its history.”

3) “In Germany, the average Jews were victims of the Zionist elite who worked hand in hand with the Nazis.”

4) “Hitler could have just confiscated all the Jewish wealth. Instead he used the ‘Haavara Program’ to help establish the State of Israel.”

5) “Between 1933 and 1939, 60 percent of all capital invested in Jewish Palestine came from German Jewish money through the Transfer Agreement.”

6) “In fact, contra all other German Jews (and everyone else inside and outside Germany) who recognised Nazism as the Jews’ bitterest enemy, Zionism saw an opportunity to strengthen its colonisation of Palestine.”

7) “Zionists welcomed the Nazis’ anti-Semitic policies. Like the Nazis, they believed in race-based national character and destiny. Like the Nazis, they believed Jews had no future in Germany.

8) “the Zionist Federation of Germany […] supported the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, as they agreed with the Nazis that Jews and Aryans were separate and separable races. This was not a tactical support but one based on ideological similitude.”

9) “Zionism […] developed the idea of the first racially separatist planned community for the exclusive use of Ashkenazi Jews, namely the Kibbutz.”

10) “The Zionists were afraid that the ‘Jewish race’ was disappearing through assimilation.”

 

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1) Massad  2) Stormfront   3) Stormfront    4) Stormfront    5) Massad    6) Massad    7) Stormfront    8) Massad    9) Massad    10) Stormfront

 

From Al Jazeera to Columbia University:
Joseph Massad’s obsession with Israel

[Cross-posted from my JPost blog]

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

Al Jazeera has deleted Massad’s op-ed “The Last of the Semites” from its website.

According to a furious post by Ali Abunimah at the Electronic Intifada, “Massad told The Electronic Intifada that he had ‘received confirmation’ from his editor at Al Jazeera English that ‘management pulled the article.’”

[But as noted above, the article was later re-published.]

* * *

Columbia University professor Joseph Massad has been at it for years, but for some reason, his latest op-ed for Al Jazeera finally made many people sit up and pay attention to Massad’s relentless efforts to taint Israel and Zionism with preposterous Nazi-comparisons and claims of Nazi-collaboration.

Popular columnist Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted sarcastically: “Congratulations, al Jazeera: You’ve just posted one of the most anti-Jewish screeds in recent memory.”

Goldberg on Massad AlJaz

While a lot of people agreed with Goldberg and either retweeted him or posted similar tweets, it is debatable if Massad’s latest Al Jazeera column was really so much worse than the many others that reflect his obsession with Israel. As I have documented only recently, Massad’s writings on Israel can easily be confused with material from the neo-Nazi “White Pride World Wide” hate site Stormfront – and at least in one case, he actually did write a passage that closely resembles a Stormfront post that is taken from David Duke’s notorious “minor league Mein Kampf.”

It was therefore arguably long overdue that people finally noticed that Massad was using his Al Jazeera columns to spread his vicious views on Israel and Zionism. In his latest lengthy and rather incoherent screed, Massad tries once again to resurrect the “Zionism is racism”-equation with the added twist of insisting that Zionism is really Nazi-like racism. This brings Massad to the utterly ridiculous conclusion that

“Israel and the Western powers want to elevate anti-Semitism to an international principle around which they seek to establish full consensus. They insist that for there to be peace in the Middle East, Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims must become, like the West, anti-Semites by espousing Zionism and recognising Israel’s anti-Semitic claims [i.e. Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state].”

Furthermore, according to Massad,

“the Palestinian people and the few surviving anti-Zionist Jews […] are […] the heirs of the pre-WWII Jewish and Palestinian struggles against anti-Semitism and its Zionist colonial manifestation. It is their resistance that stands in the way of a complete victory for European anti-Semitism in the Middle East and the world at large.”

It is almost amusing that Massad insists that “the Palestinian Authority and its cronies” are not part of this oh-so-noble tradition of opposing the kind of antisemitic Zionism that is the product of his fevered imagination. But of course, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Columbia University professor Joseph Massad clearly share a fondness for the “historical narishkayt” that there was some sort of cozy “relationship between Zionism and Nazism before World War II.”

Indeed, Massad – who works at Columbia University as an expert on “modern Arab politics and intellectual history” – faithfully reflects the antisemitic demonization of Israel that is so commonplace in the Arab media and that keeps poisoning Arab politics.

In reaction to Massad’s latest screed, many on Twitter dismissed his vicious views as proof of his ignorance, and a widely recommended post by Liam Hoare opened with the verdict that “Joseph Massad’s op-ed, ‘The Last of the Semites’, demonstrates above all that the Columbia professor knows very little about not a lot.”

But while Hoare does a good job demonstrating that Massad’s views amount to “a total perversion of Jewish history and what Herzl actually thought and wrote,” it’s safe to assume that Professor Massad thinks of himself as a foremost expert on Zionism and Israel. Indeed, his Al Jazeera columns on these subjects usually include a reference to his book on “The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians,” and it turns out that this spring semester, Massad is also teaching a course that covers some of the very subjects he knows so “very little about.”

Massad course

Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Massad’s students are likely to learn how to present Zionism as “a total perversion of Jewish history and what Herzl actually thought and wrote.”

Whether the resulting ideas are articulated in a Columbia University classroom or on Al Jazeera or Stormfront makes little difference as far as their substance is concerned. I tried to illustrate this point in my recent post on Massad with some quotes that are either from Massad or from Stormfront – see if you can tell them apart

.

[…]

Needless to say, Massad and his admirers who enthusiastically endorsed his recent column – among them Max Blumenthal of Mondoweiss, Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada, and the “Angry Arab” Professor As’ad AbuKhalil  – would all insist, just as Massad claims in his Al Jazeera piece, that their staunch anti-Zionism means quasi by definition that they can’t be antisemitic, even if they propagate the same perverted tropes that are popular on Stormfront.

 *************************

 Update:

I just saw that Massad’s column on “The last of the Semites” is being shared and debated at Stormfront.

Massad latest Stormfront