Tag Archives: anti-Zionism

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

 

***************

 

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

 

Quote of the day

“Classical anti-Semitism, it should be remembered, proclaimed the Jews as a minority group to be an existential menace to a given nation—a danger to its internal homogeneity, unity, religious values, and racial purity. Postwar anti-Zionism, on the other hand, sees the nation of Israel above all as a deadly threat to world peace and the international order. This was the verdict of nearly 60 percent of Europeans polled in a Euro-Barometery Survey in October 2003, when Israel reached the number-one spot in the hit parade of nations that imperil universal tranquility and brotherhood. Yet the change is not as deep as one might assume.

Democratic Europe in the 21st century trades in characterizations not so different from the pre-1939 Fascist myth of ‘warmongering Jews’ or the Communist libels in the 1970s about the militarist, expansionist ‘essence’ of Zionism. For a growing segment of the Western liberal intelligentsia, Zionist Israel is caricatured as a fascist, racist, warmongering state that must be isolated from the community of nations. Today, long after the demise of Communism, democratic intellectuals and academic elites are reproducing some of the worst Soviet clichés about Israel. In that respect, they remind us of the ‘post-Christian’ late-19th-century racist anti-Semites who demonized the Jews in ways reminiscent of the clerical bigots whom they denounced.”

Professor Robert S. Wistrich, “The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism” – an essay based on a presentation to a forum of the European parliament in the summer of 2012.

 

News from Israel’s Islamist neighborhood

If it was a western president or prime minister – let alone an Israeli one – who had made utterly bigoted and hate-filled remarks about Muslims not long before he took office, it sure would be a top news item all over the world. But when it turns out that some two years ago, the man who is now Egypt’s president called “the Zionists” “blood-suckers,” “warmongers,” and “the descendants of apes and pigs,” most of the mainstream media (MSM) seem to think it should be politely ignored.

In a way one could actually argue that this really isn’t newsworthy, because if the MSM accurately reported on Islamist ideology, everyone would already know that implacable Jew-hatred is an integral part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s views and agenda. After all, Morsi’s statements from 2010, which were recently translated by MEMRI, faithfully echo themes that are all too familiar from the Hamas Charter, and similar views are regularly propagated by well-respected Muslim scholars.

The question why this torrent of loathsome statements by influential and widely respected figures who clearly shape and represent mainstream views is studiously ignored in the MSM was recently addressed by Pat Condell, who focused on the Palestinians and argued that this kind of “political correctness” reflected a patronizing and ultimately racist attitude.

While I largely agree with Pat Condell’s broader argument, I think there are also other important factors at work – first and foremost perhaps the western mantra that other societies should be approached as “people like us.” The problem with this approach is that, while it is always true on an individual level – we can meet people we personally like and get along with anywhere –, it is not true for societies.  A society where the reactionary and bigoted views of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood are mainstream is simply not like a society where it is mainstream to reject and even loathe comparably reactionary and bigoted views.

Just another anti-Zionist at Amnesty? [Updated]

As the Jerusalem Post reported last week, an employee of Amnesty International in London has attracted much criticism for a tweet that, disguised as a joke, suggested that three Jewish members of the British parliament supported a massive bombing campaign of Gaza.

The offensive tweet was soon deleted, and as of this writing, the Amnesty employee in question, Kristyan Benedict, has refrained from posting new tweets; Amnesty also has reportedly “distanced itself from the tweet and said the matter has been referred to its internal, and confidential, processes.”

While it is certainly welcome that Amnesty seems to be taking this incident serious, it is also clear that Benedict has a long record of rhetoric and conduct that reflects a deep hostility to Israel. Indeed, media reports on this incident note that “Benedict’s Twitter feed is a litany of [one-sided] criticism of Israel” and that there have been previous incidents that caused controversy and resulted in disciplinary action.

Benedict’s recent tweets offer a large choice of examples that illustrate his hostility to Israel, and his re-tweet of the view of an American-Syrian activist who claimed that “Assad and the IDF fear nonviolent resistance more than anything” on November 20 provides just one indication of this deep-seated resentment.

Unsurprisingly, Benedict also has a long record of organizing Amnesty events that provide a platform for anti-Israel activists like Ben White.  One should imagine that it was inconceivable that Amnesty would repeatedly promote an activist who started his “career” by declaring that he could understand why some people are antisemitic and who has single-mindedly devoted all his adult life to delegitimizing Israel – an activity that most antisemites will enthusiastically applaud – but unfortunately, one would be wrong.

Inevitably, Amnesty has often been criticized for the “ideological bias and double standards” that are all too often revealed in the organization’s work on Israel. Kristyan Benedict seems to have been doing his share to maintain Amnesty’s well-deserved reputation of a bias against Israel, and apparently, Amnesty sees no problem with employing a person who seems to believe that the world would be a better place if there was one Jewish state less.

A study conducted a few years ago indicated that “anti-Israel sentiment consistently predicts the probability that an individual is anti-Semitic, with the likelihood of measured anti-Semitism increasing with the extent of anti-Israel sentiment observed.” Needless to say, there is a heated debate about related questions and, in particular, the overlap between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

Unwittingly, Benedict’s “joke” about three British-Jewish MPs supposedly rooting for a massive bombing campaign on Gaza provides yet another example supporting the argument that anti-Zionists face a slippery slope. As somebody working for a human rights organization on Israel, Benedict could be expected to know that a person can be a Jew without being religious. Yet, responding to criticism of his tweeted “joke,” Benedict pretended that it was just “coincidental” that he had named three Jewish MPs since he focused on “views not religion.”

In other words, for Amnesty International staff member Kristyan Benedict, it’s OK when Jews identify as a religious group, but when they identify as a people – as Jews have since antiquity – and claim a right to self-determination and a right to self-defense, malicious ridicule and libel is in order.

I think it’s fair to assume that Amnesty wouldn’t tolerate comparable views about the Palestinians whose sense of peoplehood is barely 100 years old.

As Hillel Halkin noted in a review of Shlomo Sand’s bizarre ruminations on the “Invention of the Jewish People:”

“Once upon a time, antisemitism consisted of the belief that the Jews were an incorrigible and pernicious people who could never be absorbed by other peoples. Today, it is trendy to hold that they are a non-people masquerading as a people in order to justify stealing another people’s homeland.”

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

UPDATE:

Yesterday, it was widely reported that a Dutch television program had broadcast a “satirical” clip – which was made very skillfully and looked entirely authentic – showing Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcoming Hilary Clinton in Jerusalem and announcing, while she is politely listening,

“One of the things we are trying to do [in Gaza] is maximize the number of civilians casualties […] We prefer that. I know that you understand this, but if not: this is something I don’t have to explain to Americans, President Obama, you, and the international community.”

Jewish leaders and organizations have expressed concern about the clip and Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League noted that “those who are misinformed, or those who already hostile to Israel, will believe that this video is real.”

Foxman has a point – and Ben White, the activist repeatedly promoted by Amnesty, demonstrated one more time that he is among those “who are misinformed” and “already hostile to Israel.”

So far, 14 people have re-tweeted this tweet which, after all, fits nicely with the kind of anti-Israel propaganda White is relentlessly churning out — sometimes supported and promoted by Amnesty International.

UPDATE 2:

Shortly after I posted the update above, Ben White claimed in a tweet to me that he “really didn’t think it [i.e. the Dutch clip] was real.”

In response, I noted that he had not only failed to indicate in any way that he realized it was meant as a parody, but that the clip could actually be understood as a parody of himself and his supporters: after all, White has by now spent almost a decade frantically promoting Palestinian propaganda about supposed Israeli atrocities and the idea that Israel is evil incarnate. There is precious little difference between the image of Israel promoted by White and the tasteless “parody” broadcast on Dutch TV.

Unsurprisingly, the only response White could think of was to block me from following his Twitter account – which I hadn’t followed anyway.

Free Gaza tweets for terror and a world without Zionism

The still ongoing controversy about Free Gaza’s propagation of antisemitic material has revealed the for me somewhat surprising fact that apparently quite a few of the group’s supporters seem to believe that Free Gaza is somehow dedicated to promoting peace and coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians.

That is plainly not the case.

One of the most recent tweets from Free Gaza is a call to #NormalizeResistance. As I write, this hashtag seems to be primarily used to protest an invitation for Gilad Shalit by FC Barcelona, and the top tweet right now comes from an account set up under the name of Khader Adnan.

We know what Islamic Jihad member Khader Adnan means by “resistance” – and as it happens, Gaza’s rulers understand “resistance” in pretty much the same way.

It is precisely this kind of “resistance” advocated by Islamic Jihad and Hamas that has led to the “blockade” that Free Gaza opposes: Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, more than 8,000 rockets have been fired from there by the “resistance,” terrorizing about one million Israeli civilians who live within the range of these rockets.

So let’s see what Free Gaza has to say about the “resistance”:

These tweets refer to an incident on June 1, 2012, when an armed infiltrator associated with Islamic Jihad from Gaza was discovered by IDF units near the Gaza border and managed to kill one soldier before being killed himself.

To sum up Free Gaza’s take on the event: an “operation” executed by “Gaza defenders” succeeded in killing one “IOF” soldier – though Free Gaza had apparently hoped the “operation” would result in three “dead Israeli soldiers.”

On the rockets raining down on Israeli towns, Free Gaza has this to say:

“Over 100 retaliatory projectiles and rockets including long-range Grad type have been fired from Gaza by Palestinian resistance groups.#Gaza

When it comes to Free Gaza’s – and certainly Greta Berlin’s – vision for the future, there seems to be no room for Israel as a Jewish state, and indeed, there seems to be no room for Jewish Israelis. In January, Free Gaza tweeted a link to a blog post entitled “Call me a Palestinian from Palestine.”

The post features a large photo of a mural depicting the widely idolized Leila Khaled, whose “fame” rests on her contribution to making airplane hijackings a successful terrorist tactic some 30 years ago.

The text of the post itself is fairly typical for the Palestinian “steadfastness”-genre that usually invokes the popular “blood-and-soil”-theme that self-described progressives apparently find deeply moving when it’s employed by Palestinians. In this case it’s an image often used on “Land Day”:

“My blood and sweat have since the dawn of history watered this land, kept it green and blooming and gave the poppies their colour.”

The main theme of the post is built on a much-used dichotomy: on one side are the unspeakably evil and cruel “Zionist racist” colonizers who are the real terrorist that “raped and continue to rape [Palestine] for over 63 years;” on the other side are the noble natives who patiently suffer, waiting for the day when their “home between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River … will be free of the Zionist colonists, the cowards and racists that … have no place in this land.”

Among the rapturous reader comments, there is one by Greta Berlin, linking to Free Gaza’s website, saying: “Heartbreaking and uplifting. As long as the young people of Palestine never forget, Palestine will always be remembered and will, one day. be returned.”

Yet another indication that Greta Berlin wants a “Zionist-free” Palestine “between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River” is the indignant tweet sent out by Free Gaza about a Huffington Post story with the somewhat misleading headline “Helen Thomas Denied Table For White House Correspondents Dinner.” However, as the report explains, Helen Thomas was given the privilege to get two tickets for this dinner even though she was no longer a White House correspondent. The Huffington Post report delicately alludes to “controversial comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” that cost Thomas her status as a White House correspondent; the incident referred to is a clip showing Thomas voicing the view that Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home [to] Poland, Germany… America and everywhere else.”

In any case, Free Gaza was clearly very upset that Helen Thomas wasn’t granted the extraordinary privilege of reserving a whole table at the glitzy White House Correspondents’ Dinner, tweeting:

“Helen Thomas denied own table at big D.C. dinner. http://huff.to/HdDf28 via @Gaza Please write to the organizers and express your disgust.”

Last but by no means least, it is noteworthy that in the ongoing controversy about the antisemitic material tweeted by Free Gaza, it is widely ignored that several of these tweets link to fringe websites that propagate bizarre conspiracy theories. Unsurprisingly, Free Gaza has also done this when it’s not really about Jews or Zionists: At the end of last December, Free Gaza posted a tweet about the “Engineered ‘Arab Spring:’” “2011 YEAR of the DUPE: One Year into the Engineered “Arab Spring,” One Step Closer to Global Hegemony.”

The article Free Gaza linked to revealed that “the US had been behind the uprisings and that they were anything but ‘spontaneous,’ or ‘indigenous;’” indeed, according to the lengthy piece, “the uprisings were part of an immense geopolitical campaign conceived in the West and carried out through its proxies with the assistance of disingenuous foundations, organizations, and the stable of NGOs they maintain throughout the world.”

Unsurprisingly, the site that published this piece also offers the “truth” about a whole lot of other dreadful cover-ups, including the terrorist attacks of 9/11…

Shana Tova from Berlin’s Jewish Museum

Last Saturday evening, the Jewish Museum in Berlin hosted a “debate” on a question that you could translate from German either as “Is Zionism part of Judaism?,” or, perhaps more sensibly, “Is Zionism part of Jewish identity/Jewishness?”

The answer of the museum’s guest of honor is well-known: the American academic Judith Butler – who, just a few days earlier, had received the Adorno Prize in Frankfurt in recognition of her work on gender, sexuality, critical theory and moral philosophy – has most recently published a book entitled “Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism.”

Butler is also a well-known supporter of the BDS-movement that targets Israel with campaigns calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions with the ultimate goal to delegitimize the Jewish state and pave the way for Israel’s dissolution in a bi-national “Isratine.”

As I have pointed out previously, Butler’s support for the BDS movement means in practice that her political statements can be found on a website frequently criticized for antisemitic content and that she would refuse to lecture at Tel Aviv University, but be perfectly happy to visit Birzeit University, which has a well-earned reputation for fostering extremism and glorifying terrorism. Indeed, in the acknowledgements for her recent book, Butler mentions Birzeit University as one of the places where she “learned from students and faculty.” Hopefully, these students didn’t include those that attended a festive event on the university campus to honour the terrorists released last year in exchange for Gilad Shalit.

While Butler thus helps to make the case that BDS really stands for “Bigoted Double Standards,” there is no question that “anti-Zionists” everywhere appreciate her academic celebrity status as the “reigning queen” of Queer Studies – which was only reinforced by the Adorno Prize – as a great asset.

There is also no question that the Jewish Museum in Berlin was fully aware of the problematic political implications of Butler’s views. Yet, the organizers of the event apparently preferred a “debate” that excluded questions to which Butler obviously has no good answers.

According to a report in the Jerusalem Post – which noted straightforwardly that this seems to have been “the first anti-Israel event held in the Jewish museum since its opening in 2001” – the organizers allowed only “written audience questions” and made clear that any questions on Butler’s widely criticized views about Hamas and Hezbollah would be ignored.

But judging from media reports about the event, the audience had anyway come to cheer Butler – as one German newspaper put it: “The audience was dominated by the typical ‘Butler-Groupies’: people with an academic education between 20 and 30.”

Butler’s debating partner, the liberal German Jewish professor Micha Brumlik, found apparently little favor with this audience, and his attempts to argue that Butler’s professed enthusiasm for a merely “cultural” Zionism were neither grounded in Jewish tradition nor realistic clearly made much less of an impression than Butler’s response that somebody had to stand up for utopian ideals. Indeed, several of the German language reports end by quoting Butler’s relevant remarks, and the Berliner Zeitung concludes by asserting that a utopian quality was after all an essential characteristic of philosophy.

If we “translate” what Butler is saying here (noting that her new book includes reflections on “Ethics, Politics, and the Task of Translation”), it turns out that she simply wants to have her cake and eat it, too. On the one hand, we are supposed to appreciate that it is the core business of a philosopher to come up with noble utopian ideals that are above mundane criticisms questioning how realistic they are; on the other hand, Butler clearly wants her political views to be taken serious and lends her prestige as a philosopher to one of the most controversial causes of our time.

The bottom line of Butler’s argument is that the most ethical resolution of the Arab conflict with Israel requires Jews to realize that Arabs and Muslims were right all along when they insisted that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state. Butler is obviously aware that with this view, she has a lot of really bad company, and she has taken to emphasizing her opposition to all forms of racism, including antisemitism.

In the controversy about her nomination for the Adorno Prize, she also tried hard to market herself as a fearless fighter against the popular straw-man argument that anyone who dares to criticize Israeli policies risks being denounced as an antisemite.

But the “debate” hosted by Berlin’s Jewish Museum illustrated once again that in a climate where it is regarded as legitimate to assert that it would only be ethical to do away with the Jewish state, antisemitism is never far away.

Reporting on the event for the Jüdische Allgemeine, Fabian Wolff notes that the debate moderator Andreas Öhler limited himself mostly to telling a few stories about his Jewish and Israeli friends. At one point Öhler mentioned how amazed he was to realize that despite Israel’s policies, there were so many nice Israelis who were interested in culture and music…

Sounds somehow familiar? Well, it should: whether Öhler was aware of it or not, the staff of Berlin’s Jewish Museum can certainly be expected to realize that this remark unmistakably echoed the popular stories about Nazi or SS officers as lovers of classical music, which have become part of movies like Schindler’s List and The Pianist.

Without this background, it is hard to explain why Öhler should have been so amazed to discover that there are many really nice Israelis who love culture and music.

It is noteworthy in this context that studies show that some “40% of Germans are critical of Israel in ways […] deemed anti-Semitic. The commission regarded anti-Israel critics as having crossed a line, for example, when they compared Israeli treatment of Palestinians with the Nazi extermination of Jews in death camps. Among the […] findings cited in the report: More than 41% of Germans believe Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.”

In view of these findings, it is all the more dismaying that moderator Öhler reportedly opened the event with Judith Butler by declaring everyone’s resolve not to be frightened – meaning, presumably, not to be frightened of accusations of antisemitism in a “debate” intended to establish that Israel’s existence as a Jewish state violates crucial ethical norms. But in a country where some 40 percent of the population believes that, when it comes to the Palestinians, Israel’s Jews are the Nazis of our time, there is actually plenty of reason to be frightened when the Jewish Museum decides to give out the message that, done properly, it is intellectually and ethically noble to “criticize” Israel for the evil of existing as a Jewish state.

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog; also posted on Harry’s Place.

A very short history of antisemitism

Britain’s Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks is widely admired as an eminent intellectual and a great writer. His most recent article provides an excellent example of his remarkable ability to bring the crucial aspects of a complex subject into sharp focus. Writing about the widely criticized decision of a German court to effectively outlaw the circumcision of male babies or children, Sacks addresses the broader context and outlines in just a few sentences some of the salient features of European antisemitism:

“I have argued for some years that an assault on Jewish life always needs justification by the highest source of authority in the culture at any given age. Throughout the Middle Ages the highest authority in Europe was the Church. Hence anti-Semitism took the form of Christian anti-Judaism.

In the post-enlightenment Europe of the 19th century the highest authority was no longer the Church. Instead it was science. Thus was born racial anti-Semitism, based on two disciplines regarded as science in their day: the “scientific study of race” and the Social Darwinism of Herbert Spencer and Ernst Haeckel. Today we know that both of these were pseudo-sciences, but in their day they were endorsed by some of the leading figures of the age.

Since Hiroshima and the Holocaust, science no longer holds its pristine place as the highest moral authority. Instead, that role is taken by human rights. It follows that any assault on Jewish life — on Jews or Judaism or the Jewish state — must be cast in the language of human rights. Hence 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. This is not because the people making these accusations seriously believe them — some do, some don’t. It is because this is the only form in which an assault on Jews can be stated today.”

The observations offered by Sacks here are all the more important because nowadays, we tend to think of racism and bigotry as somehow “primitive” resentments that are fed by ignorance and a lack of education. But Sacks is obviously right to point out that historically, antisemitism was justified by the elites – first the Church, and then by “science.” Indeed, it was the effort to introduce a pseudo-scientific racial component into the debates about Jews in Germany that motivated the German agitator Wilhelm Marr to use the term “antisemitism” instead of Jew-hatred.

Obviously, the assertion that contemporary antisemitism has found a new source of moral authority by utilizing the language of human rights will be denounced most loudly by those who view Israel as a serial perpetrator of monstrous human rights violations that fully justify singling out the Jewish state at the UN and in political campaigns.

In this context, it is interesting to consider the writings of Anthony Julius, author of the widely acclaimed book “The Trials of the Diaspora,” which provides a comprehensive history of antisemitism in England. In a short excerpt of the book, Julius argues that in the past few decades, socialist agitation for revolutionary transformation has been replaced by NGO activism:

“A human rights discourse now dominates politics; there is a powerful human rights ‘movement’. It is the new secular religion of our time. […] This new ‘human rights-ism’ accords great value to the United Nations – notwithstanding its inability to enforce its decisions, and its refusal to make practical demands of its members to be democratic or respect the human rights of their citizens. […]

This is, in any event, a post-left, one reconciled to the impossibility of revolutionary transformations […] its transitional demands have been resurrected in the shrill discourse of human rights and their ‘abuses’. The new militant is not the party sectarian but the NGO activist.”

It was of course exactly this kind of militant NGO activism – with the Jewish state as its preferred target – that prompted Robert Bernstein, the founder and long-time chairman of Human Rights Watch, to “publicly join the group’s critics” and denounce its obsessive focus on Israel. Eventually, Bernstein decided that it was best to start all over again, and he founded a new organization named Advancing Human Rights.

Yet another revealing feature of the “human right-ism” of recent years is that since Israel is its favorite target, antisemitism is usually either ignored or even excused as understandable “anti-Zionism” or entirely justified “criticism” of Israeli policies.  Needless to say, such views have been eagerly embraced by Arab and Muslim regimes. In this context it is also important to see that the observations of Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks about Europe’s Jew-hatred are equally valid for the Muslim world.

Just like the medieval church legitimized Christian anti-Judaism, Muslim religious texts, including the Koran, provide plenty of “justifications” for Jew-hatred, and Jewish communities under Muslim rule experienced not only the indignities associated with their subordination as “dhimmi”, but also outbreaks of violence and communal persecution.

Even in our times, Muslim scholars see nothing wrong with rehashing quotes and passages from Islamic texts that incite hatred of and violence against Jews. And while it is often emphasized that Nazi-style antisemitism is “just” an import in Muslim countries, it has been championed right from the very beginning by influential Muslim leaders, most notably the notorious Haj Amin Al-Husseini – also known as “Hitler’s mufti.” Nowadays, there are Muslim leaders like the very popular cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi who combine traditional Islamic incitement against Jews and praise for the Holocaust. In an Al-Jazeera program in January 2009, Qaradawi declared:

“Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption […] The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.”

As Mark Gardner and Dave Rich have documented on the basis of Qaradawi’s writings and statements:

“Qaradawi personifies the combination of theological anti-Judaism, modern European antisemitism and conflict-driven Judeophobia that make up contemporary Islamist attitudes to Jews.”

Yet, Qaradawi is widely regarded – and indeed admired – as the “Global Mufti.” The fact that this “Global Mufti” of our times is an avowed Jew-hater who is a fervent believer in a divinely ordained battle between “all Muslims and all Jews” is clearly of no concern to the champions of “human right-ism” who would eagerly mobilize to denounce any Christian or Jewish leader espousing views even remotely comparable to the ones Qaradawi has long been preaching.

The Global Mufti: The Phenomenon of Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. Bettina Graf, Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen, C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd (20 July 2009).

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.