Like a virus, the old antisemitism has mutated into a new version, although the old version is still in place as well. The modern version of antisemitism has replaced the Jewish people and the Jewish religion with the state of Israel and Israelis as their prey, with Israeli settlers – those Israelis who have chosen to live in the Jewish Biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria becoming the most conspicuous and softest target.
In recent days I posted about several incidents of a “new” antisemitic nature, mostly under the guise of pro-Palestinian protests, in the form of promoting BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions), academic boycotts, and other similar anti-Israel activity.
The spike in these anti-Israel and antisemitic activities has given rise to several articles and reports.
Following the British UCU vote dismissing Ronnie Fraser’s claim of institutional racism, as well as the Irish teachers’ union’s shameful decision to boycott Israel, the Times of Israel published a lengthy interview with Ronnie Fraser (h/t Brian Goldfarb) who commented incisively about the antisemitic attitude of the UCU:
He lost, he says, because the judges did not clearly understand what anti-Semitism is, particularly the “new anti-Semitism” which seeks to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state, not just the Jewish people.
Those who believe that Israel is not “intrinsically a part of Jewishness” probably do not understand Jewish heritage, he says. The problem is that there is no definition of anti-Semitism enshrined in British law.
“If I was to call you a dirty Jew, the police could take action. If I call you a Zionist and a racist, they won’t – it’s deemed to be political discourse. But Zionist is a substitute word for Jew.”
One lesson from the trial, he believes, is that the community must set, publicize and insist on its own definition of anti-Semitism – a challenge he is willing to take on himself. It must also reclaim the narrative of Israel being central to a Jewish identity.
“We have to define it as Jews, for ourselves. We can’t let other people define what Jews are,” he says.
“The debate about the conflict can continue until the cows come home,” he says. “I only care about the point at which it spills into anti-Semitism, and then it’s personal.”
This is why the tribunal was wrong to suspect him of trying to “achieve a political end,” he adds.
“This is not political for me, it’s not about Israel and the Palestinians,” he says. “It’s about anti-Semitism.”
Ronnie Fraser is both heroic and an inspiration to all of us. I sincerely wish him good luck in his profession and his fight against the institutional antisemitism in British academia.
Related to this issue, I found (via Engage), an incisive article by Jonathan Lowenstein, an Anglo-Israel historian and political scientist, who reviews the history of anti-Jewish boycotts and accurately remarks that Zionism is a lightning rod for antisemitism:
When one reviews Jewish history one occasionally finds disturbing parallels. Accusations that Zionists were dragging Britain and the USA to war against Iraq were common before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. I was astonised to find that Mosleyites (British Fascists) had used similar claims back in the Thirties.
The current push to discriminate against Israeli academics may seem new, but it has a history. It seems that academia is one of the first places to be affected by antisemitism.
Am I an Israeli academic? I have dual nationality and dual degrees. Do boycotts apply to Israeli Arabs or just to Jews? Where do you draw the lines? At present it seems like these boycotts are more expressions of emotion then policies but they cause us to assume that we face discrimination. Unoffical apartheid.
Back in the Nineties, I visited the World Trade Center in New York and climbed to the top. At the top of the building was a large metal pole: a lightning rod. Obviously such a tall building was a magnet for lightning, just as it was (we now know) for terrorism.
In a way, Zionism functions as a lightning rod for Anti-Semites. Israel, as the most prominent Jewish locale naturally attracts the ire of those who dislike Jews. That they follow the same lines as earlier antisemites is hardly a surprise: they are, afterall, directing their ire at Jews.
Is it because of discrimination against Palestinians in Israel? Discrimination exists in Europe too. It may well be that the Palestinians are the Casus belli – the excuse. If the issue is the West Bank, then the use of antisemitic practises may be popular but it is hardly likely to prove to Israelis the error of their ways.
Lowenstein’s article is in contrast to a rather wishy-washy piece by Miriam Shaviv at the Times of Israel who asks “Just how antisemitic are British politicians?”. There are too many ifs and buts in the article, and she relies too much on the opinion of Antony Lerman whose anti-Israel opinions seem to be well-known to everyone except Miriam Shaviv herself. One gets the impression that there is almost no antisemitism in British politics at all. This would be a surprise to those who read about the behaviour of MPs such as Lord Ahmed or Jenny Tonge.
…is the rambling of a few minor figures without much power or influence actually important?
There seems to be a consensus that it is, if only because their rhetoric on Israel – which seems to be the focus of most of the controversy – normalizes extreme positions and encourages irresponsible discourse.
“It’s less a systemic problem of anti-Semitism among political leaders, more about the debate around the Middle East and how this plays out,” says Danny Stone, director of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism.
He says that on the far-left, the debate has already been radicalized by the availability of Middle Eastern channels on satellite television, which transport harsh rhetoric about the Jews from the Arab world to the West.
“If you don’t like Israel or have a problem with Israeli policies, you start to get interested in that debate, and pick up and involve yourself in discourse where the language comes from a different context,” he says. “I am wary of how that plays in civil society.”
Jews in the constituencies of the offending MPs also have a problem, he adds.
“If your MP is saying things that are questionable, for example if you are a Jew in Galloway’s constituency, it could be very worrying and unsettling.”
[…]Whether the UK can ever rid itself entirely of such parliamentarians is doubtful. Their opinions reflect a strain of thought in wider society that is unlikely to disappear soon. In addition, their views on Jews and the Middle East may not become clear until long after they have joined Parliament. (Training potential candidates on anti-Semitism, LBGT and other ‘hot’ topics is one issue that the new inquiry into electoral conduct hopes to address.)
Peers like Lord Ahmed, who are appointed to the House of Lords for life, should be closely scrutinized but are often regarded as “known quantities” as they are selected on the basis of previous achievement. Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, a think-tank, has speculated that at the time Lord Ahmed was selected, the establishment cut corners because they were desperate to increase ethnic diversity. Lord Ahmed was one of the first three Muslims appointed to the House of Lords.
Finally, it is hard to tackle anti-Semitism, in the political system and elsewhere, when what constitutes anti-Semitism is unclear. The fuzziness is around Israel: at what point does political condemnation of Zionism turn into something more sinister? Are attacks on the Jewish state the same as attacks on the Jewish people?
Surely the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism would provide the answers that Shaviv so urgently requires.
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
- Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
- Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
Sarah Cardaun, a teaching fellow at the Middle East program at King’s College, London, says that “tolerance, multiculturalism and respect for different minorities is deeply ingrained” in British society, which will immediately pounce on anything perceived as classically anti-Semitic, that is to do with race or religion. That is why, she says, George Galloway was so roundly condemned for walking out on his Israeli counterpart during a debate.
“It was seen as racism, which is a key word. Everyone is uncomfortable with racism, there’s no controversy.”
By contrast the “new anti-Semitism,” which manifests as opposition to Israel, is difficult to tackle without being accused of trying to shut down debate on the conflict. Government cannot easily set the lines, Cardaun says, although she notes that the All-Party Inquiry did provide official recognition of the phenomenon, acknowledging that Israel’s actions could often “provide the pretext” for anti-Semitic actions, and that as a result, “condemnation is… increasingly conditional”.
Ultimately, he says, the parties are coming to understand that it is in their interests to be clear about where the boundaries lie in order to give them credibility in the Israel debate.
“If they set the lines, stamp out what is seen as illegitimate comment,” he says, “it gives them something to point to when they do say something critical on the Middle East.”
Perhaps there is a place for some small optimism, but not if the likes of Antony Lerman are the arbiters of what constitutes antisemitism.
Meanwhile the old antisemitism hasn’t died with the rise of its modern mutation. It is still raging in several countries, a US report reveals:
Anti-Semitism is a significant problem in several countries, according to the US State Department’s 2012 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released on Friday.
In Venezuela, “Jewish community leaders publicly expressed concern about numerous anti-Semitic statements linked to the government,” the report noted, adding that the “state-owned media also regularly contained anti-Semitic statements” such as an article stating that “the enemy is Zionism.”
In Ukraine, the State Department reported, the Jewish community expressed concern over both government and opposition candidates in recent elections trying to “use elements of anti-Semitism both in their public rhetoric to mobilize supporters and also as part of propaganda aimed at discrediting their political opponents.”
In Hungary, more than 149 incidents of vandalism of Jewish and Christian properties were reported during the first 10 months of 2012, and “through July, a spate of anti-Semitic incidents occurred that included vandalism of Jewish memorials and cemeteries and the accosting of Jewish public figures on the streets.
“Anti-Semitic remarks in public discourse also increased in stridency and included both a repetition of ‘blood libel’ accusations and a call for the creation of a list of Jewish government officials and members of parliament on the floor of parliament.”
The situation in Hungary merited more attention than other countries in the report, with particular attention paid to members of the far-right Jobbik party, which entered parliament in the April 2010 election.
Jobbik party leader Marton Gyongyosi’s claim on the floor of the parliament that Jews constitute a “security risk” was denounced by the “government, civil society groups, and the public at large,” the report noted.
Regarding Greece, the report discussed the rise of the ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party, although not at the same depth at which it treated Jobbik.
Golden Dawn, the report stated, is characterized by the Jewish community and the Anti-Defamation League as “a neo- Nazi, anti-Semitic party that used an allegedly swastika-inspired emblem, employed a Nazi salute, referenced Mein Kampf and denied the Holocaust.”
As for the United Kingdom, the report cited a drop in anti-Semitic incidents in from 2011.
According to a recently released report by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, 2012 saw a “considerable escalation in anti-Semitic manifestations, particularly violent acts against Jews” worldwide, constituting a 30-percent increase over 2011.
There were 686 acts of violence and vandalism last year, including “273 attacks on persons of all ages; in addition, 190 synagogues, cemeteries and monuments were desecrated, and over 200 private and public properties damaged, the Kantor Center report recorded.
Harry’s Place has an alarming article about the resurgence of antisemitism in Poland and concludes with this horrifying report:
via the Elder of Ziyon, Tablet has a photo essay showing the ‘recycling‘ of Jewish gravestones – from Poland’s near-eliminated Jewish citizens – for a grindstone, a sandbox in a playground, and as ‘recycled’ gravestones for later Catholic burials.
To conclude, and to bring us round full circle to the Boston Marathon bombing of just last week, JTA reports that one of the Boston bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, sought a copy of the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of two brothers suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing, told a relative he was seeking a copy of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
Elmirza Khozhugov, who was married for a time to Tsarnaev’s sister, Ailina, told the Associated Press in an interview published Tuesday that Tsarnaev had been radicalized by a Muslim convert whom he named as Misha.
Tsarnaev started visiting conspiracy websites, Khozhugov said, and was seeking a copy of the “Protocols,” a notorious forgery positing world control by a Jewish cabal.
It should be clear to everyone by now that Antisemitism, and its modern form of anti-Zionism, is not just a problem for the Jews. It nearly always transforms or continues into hatred of the West, and we saw the devastating consequences in Boston last week. It must be urgently combatted by every right-thinking individual.