Via: The Palestine Monitor.
What links ex-president Jimmy Carter, British Baroness Jenny Tongue and the University of California? All these (and countless others) have been recently been accused of anti-Semitism, vilified in the press for questioning Israel’s occupation of Palestine. It is a reflex action of pro-Israel groups like the Anti-Defamation League to publish personal slander against vocal critics, and no-one has been more systematically targeted than political scientist Norman Finkelstein. We spoke to him about the past, present and future of Anti Semitism as a tactic.
Following the Goldstone report there is pressure on Israel to explain its conduct. As more facts emerge from the Gaza massacre, made available throughout the world by digital media, it becomes harder for apologists to defend Israeli policy. Their reaction to the report was to attack the UN’s legitimacy, a “kangaroo court” according to Netanyahou, while foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor blamed a “campaign of victimisation against Israel” for the findings. Palmor also issued a statement that Israel would block and contain the effects, rather than address any of the substantive charges made against them.
Finkelstein believes Goldstone represents a high watermark for critics of Israeli policy, particularly in the USA. “Too much is now known about Israel’s agenda and all over the world people are finding it impossible to reconcile liberal principles with ostensible Zionism. Israel’s massacres are all over the front pages. They have become prominent in public life. Even Jewish writers in the New York Times are having trouble supporting Israel. The apartheid system is becoming impossible to defend.” He feels the report has helped to change media sympathies, particularly in the wake of Goldstone. “There wasn’t one major editorial defending Israel against the report, largely because the internet has ended the monopoly of the New York Times and the Washington Post. During the Gaza massacre, bloggers and especially young Jewish bloggers, overwhelmingly came out against what Israel are doing. It’s just a couple of influences that are now working for them.”
There is a widening chasm between the ideals of Israel and of Jews. This can be seen in the various attacks on Jews for anti-Semitism. Goldstone himself, Noam Chomsky and Finkelstein have been dismissed as ‘self-hating’, revealing the Zionist lobbies’ growing desperation to suppress debate. Finkelstein feels they are no longer dealing with marginal cases but with the Jewish community at large. “Most Jews in America are liberal. 79% voted for Obama and it becomes a question of alignment. American Jews are embarrassed by Israel’s actions in Gaza and the West Bank, which don’t reflect their liberal values.” As an indication of the split, the ADL recently bestowed an award on Italy’s far-right Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, calling him a ‘friend of Israel’. The award came a week after Berlusconi had praised Hitler’s right-hand man Mussolini as an Italian hero.
Such an alliance reflects new perceptions of anti-Semitism and its attackers. Zionists must now rely on far-right Christian groups like John Hagee’s CUFI for support against criticism from liberal politicians and minorities. Amnesty International have been commonly denounced as anti-Semites, as well as popular ex-president Jimmy Carter. Much has been made of an ‘unholy alliance’ between Islam and the political left, with conservative authors like David Horowitz concluding that human rights groups have an agenda to promote terrorism. For a more profound explanation of Israel’s emerging opponents, the Zionist lobby blames ‘new anti-Semitism’; a term nebulous and versatile enough to fit most any opponent. Arnold Foster and Benjamin Epstein define it as “callous indifference to Jewish concerns, a failure to understand the most profound apprehension of Jewish people.” A 2007 British government investigation into racism counted “perceptions of Anti-Semitism” as an example of it. Naturally such vagaries allow for almost indiscriminate accusations. Phyllis Chesler, author of A New Anti-Semitism casts her net wide to include as Israel’s enemies “western-based international human rights organisations, western anti-capitalist, anti-globalist, pro-environment, anti-war and anti-racist activists, progressive feminists, Jewish feminists and the left and liberal American media.”
It has been an uneasy transition from oppressed to the oppressor and groups like the ADL are having to dig deeper for evidence of their victimhood. In Israeli Director Yoav Shamir’s recent documentary ‘Defamation’, Shamir questions an ADL employee on the serious cases of Anti-Semitism they were dealing with. In response, the interviewee can only recite a few instances of Jews struggling to secure time off for holidays. By the ADL’s own statistics, incidents of violence and harassment against Jews have dropped 44% in the last four years.
Sadly this decline is not matched by academic focus on the subject. The conspiracy theories of Daniel Goldhagen and Alan Dershowitz regularly enter bestseller lists and the Ivy League Colleges continue to support the hype machine. Alan Dershowitz remains the head of law at Harvard, despite his reprehensible support of torture and the Gaza offensive. For its part Yale recently opened a centre for the Study of Anti-Semitism, an institution guaranteed to continue peddling the myth of Jewish persecution to the cream of American students. Finkelstein sees the stance as predictable; “Jews are a major force in academia and like most groups act on ethnic allegiance”. More panic-mongering came out of the University of California in 2006, which responded to claims that anti-Semitism was rife on campus by launching an investigation. When questioned students had no idea there was a problem and the investigation concluded that “campuses are experiencing a Golden age for Jewishness, wherein Jewish Intellectual activity is celebrated and embraced.” Chaim Seddler-Feller, an executive director at the University of California said of the findings; “why can’t we hear the good news? Why are so many Jews hysterical? We seem to be junkies for Anti-Semitism.”
When it comes to Israel’s main enemy, Arabic people, the highest (or lowest) smear of Nazism is frequently invoked. When criticism of Jewish settlement building peaked in July, foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman circulated a 1941 picture of Hitler with Palestinian cleric Amin al-Husseini. Alan Dershowitz then published an outrageous piece of revisionism in the Jerusalem Post, proclaiming that “the Palestinian leadership played a significant role in Hitler’s holocaust.” Such smears are nothing new. Throughout his leadership Yasser Arafat was compared to Hitler and Palestinian leaders are frequently portrayed as supporters of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Jews. ADL leader Abraham Foxman contends that “The very survival of Jews may again be at risk”.
That such high profile figures resort to these desperate smears reflects the increasing difficulty of their position. Playing the victim has never been harder for Israel’s cheerleaders, now that the crimes of Gaza are there for all to see. No longer can dissenting voices be easily dismissed as racists and lunatics, as all over the world more opposition stands in defiance of the Anti-Semitic witch-hunt. “I think we’re coming to the end of the era of slander,” claims Finkelstein, “The potency of these slurs is drastically reduced as mainstream figures begin to question Israel’s policies. It doesn’t stick any more, it’s no longer credible and when it’s gone there will be nothing left to hide what Israel is doing”.
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Yoav Shamir’s Movie: Defamation
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