LONDON — (Opinion) There is nothing in this series of articles to deny that anti-Semitism is a real threat. On the contrary, the point is to expose the cheap use of the anti-Semitism card in the face of a real menace to society. Overused and undeserved allegations of anti-Semitism only endanger Jews like me should the real dangers of anti-Semitism rise again.
We are seeing Neo-Nazis rise in Ukraine, the Baltics, and even Germany. Ultranationalist far-right parties demonize all who stand in their way and, if they can get away with it, have a willingness to use violence on those who oppose them. Should their rise continue, anti-Semitism will follow. A real, violent form of anti-Semitism.
This may leave a great many people to wonder why is there such intolerance of criticism of Israel when violence and oppression, most worryingly on a state level, appear to be returning. Such hate groups typically target vulnerable, minority populations in their rise to power. That is the history and the fundamental fear of anti-Semitism. Not criticism of Israel.
While this clear and present danger is rising, false allegations of anti-Semitism are being used to silence critics of Israel and condemn politicians who might support the victims of Israel’s oppression. Thus the misuse of charges of anti-Semitism is coming exactly at the time when threats from real and violent anti-Semites are rising.
Rise of far-right and Nazi parties
The threat of anti-Semitism has always been based upon a form of xenophobia — a sense that Jews are somehow outsiders, even if their countries are the only homes they have ever known. With the rise of far-right parties using refugees as a scapegoat, will anti-Semitism be far behind?
While reviewing Liz Fekete’s Europe’s Fault Lines: Racism and the Rise of the Right, the New Republic describes the disturbing trend:
Few imagined that a mere 25 years later, it would be Western Europe and the United States drifting towards the xenophobic populism that triumphed first in Hungary and Poland, before moving westward toward France, the Netherlands, and the U.K. In the past ten years, new right-wing political movements have brought together coalitions of Neo-Nazis with mainstream free-market conservatives, normalizing political ideologies that in the past rightly caused alarm.
In Western Europe this network of mainstreamers and their sometimes violent street-level supporters are winning ever larger electoral majorities; in countries like Poland and Hungary they are already in power, and attempting to restructure education, immigration, and the judiciary in their own illiberal image.”
Noting that Fekete believes the problem reflects old racial hatreds more than dwindling economic opportunities, the New Republic further notes:
While the new right-wing movements participate in electoral politics, many of them have unofficial links with vigilante groups that patrol their country’s borders, shake down immigrant businesses, and harass women in hijabs, and small armies of thugs that wait to pick fights at rallies. These groups do not live in fear of prosecution for hate crimes: they maintain Facebook pages and websites.
Groups like the Cologne-based Hooligans Against Salafists make their racial claims on the streets of German cities, taking over public space as in an attempt to shock multiculturalism out of city life. In Greece, Golden Dawn members beat up immigrant vendors in street markets. In France, the National Front has sponsored “pork festivals” in cities its members see as being in danger of losing their French-ness, because of changing demographics.”
The implications for Jews are significant. The U.S. openly supported Svoboda, the Neo-Nazi group that provided the muscle for Ukraine’s Maidan Square coup. As mentioned in Part 2 of this series, Israel has sold weapons to Ukraine that have landed in the avowed neo-Nazi, right-wing Azov battalion (probably not coincidentally, so has the U.S.). Ukraine is not alone, though, in its Nazi resurgence. The New Republic concludes:
Unlike in the past, when the Soviet Union commemorated the Great Patriotic War against fascism across Eastern Europe, Nazism is no longer something to hide. The extremist Hungarian Guard (Magyar Gárda) talks openly about following in the footsteps of the Arrow Cross, Hungary’s wartime fascist party that murdered thousands of Jews.”
With the contagion spreading, Poland passed a law forbidding the discussion of its role in the Holocaust, before yielding to international pressure to weaken it; and Nazi collaborators who killed Jews in the Baltic states are receiving a hero’s treatment. We learn that “the Council of Europe (CoE) has expressed alarm over the rise of right-wing extremism and neo-fascism in Croatia.” Then consider that in socialist Sweden, the far-right Democrats with their neo-Nazi roots “won 17.6 percent of the vote” in September, “up from 12.9 percent in the last election four years ago.” Even in Germany, the country had to move to stop the state funding of the NDP, “the country’s longest-established neo-Nazi group.”
The rise of this far-right extremism is happening in Europe and not just in isolated pockets. Across the Atlantic, the Southern Poverty Law Center identified 784 hate groups in the U.S. in 2014. In short, there seem to be a lot more serious forms of anti-Semitism rising, yet the focus of anti-Semitic allegations is on those challenging Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.
For example, we will review the story of how a Canadian activist challenged two Canadian MPs for their support of Israel after the IDF had twice shot a Canadian doctor working to save lives during unarmed protests. This eventually led to another set of events during which the prime minister of Canada falsely called the activist an anti-Semite.
A question of loyalty in Canada
On May 14, Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani was tending to the wounded during the Gaza protests. The Israeli snipers that were firing on unarmed protestors shot Dr. Loubani not once, but twice. As Dr. Loubani described in an Electronic Intifada Podcast; he was shot without provocation while in an area that was clear and all was quiet around him:
No burning tires, no smoke, no tear gas, nobody messing around in front of the buffer zone. Just a clearly marked medical team well away from everybody else.”
After 62 protestors were killed and more than 2,700 were injured that day, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on the massive bloodshed, lamenting the violence as if both sides were responsible for the massacre of Palestinians without a single casualty to the IDF:
Canada deplores and is gravely concerned by the violence in the Gaza Strip that has led to a tragic loss of life and injured countless people. We are appalled that Dr. Tarek Loubani, a Canadian citizen, is among the wounded – along with so many unarmed people, including civilians, members of the media, first responders, and children.
We are doing everything we can to assist Dr. Loubani and his family, and to determine how a Canadian citizen came to be injured. We are engaging with Israeli officials to get to the bottom of these events.
Reported use of excessive force and live ammunition is inexcusable. It is imperative we establish the facts of what is happening in Gaza. Canada calls for an immediate independent investigation to thoroughly examine the facts on the ground – including any incitement, violence, and the excessive use of force.”
In response, two Liberal MPs of the Canadian Parliament, members of Trudeau’s party, issued a joint statement distancing themselves from the prime minister’s critique of the violence while squarely placing the blame on Hamas. The statement reads:
We wish to express our profound sorrow for the tragic deaths of civilians, including children and first responders. The injury of a Canadian emergency physician is troubling, and we wish him a speedy recovery and safe journey back to Canada.
Hamas has long incited violence and intentionally used civilians, including vulnerable persons, children, and even infants as a smokescreen for its attempts to breach the Gaza-Israel border for the purpose of committing terrorist acts in Israel. Reports that Hamas itself proclaims that most of the Gazans killed were active members of Hamas demonstrate this fact.”
Let us for argument’s sake assume that the two MPs’ statement was factually correct. Even if Hamas had organized the demonstration, the fact remains that Israel used snipers beyond harm’s reach to massively kill and injure unarmed Palestinians. These two MPs appear to believe the magic word “Hamas” absolves Israel of any atrocity. Most striking though is that the MPs focus on defending Israel rather than a Canadian emergency doctor tending to the wounded.
In addition, it had been well known that the organizers of the Great March of Return specifically excluded Hamas from their organizing. Considering how pervasive membership in Hamas is in Gaza, of course, members of Hamas participated, but Hamas was not involved in organizing. So in Canada, two MPs turned against their Liberal Party, their prime minister, and a Canadian doctor to defend Israel based upon the lies of Israeli narrative. Clearly, the loyalty of the two MPs is questionable.
Keep the question of their loyalty in mind as the next series of events unfolds. For the anti-Semitism allegation is made to quash any discussion of those troubling events occurring within a democracy.
The anti-Semite smear
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has adopted a position in support of Palestinians. The pro-Israel organization B’nai B’rith then began to smear the CUPW. Pro-Palestinian rights groups then responded by organizing an August 29 demonstration to address the smears. The Jewish Defence League Canada (JDLC), a group that includes members who are disposed to violence, organized a counter-demonstration.
The counter-demonstration included two women who released a video after the demonstration calling for the execution of leading Liberal Party politicians. Journalist and activist Dimitri Lascaris, chair of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) and one of the organizers of the demonstration against the smears of the CUPW, addressed the calls for execution in the video with two tweets. The first read:
After @bnaibrithcanada supporters called for the death penalty to be imposed on @justintrudeau & Liberal MPs @iamIqraKhalid, @OmarAlghabra & @MaryamMonsef, we called on @LevittMichael & @AHousefather to denounce them, but shamefully, they’ve said nothing.”
In the second tweet, Lascaris observed,
Apparently, Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt are more devoted to apartheid Israel than to their own Prime Minister and their own colleagues in the Liberal caucus.@AHousefather@LevittMichael#cdnpoli@justintrudeau@liberal_party#apartheidIsrael#cdnpoli”
Watch | Members of the Jewish Defence League Canada call for the execution of leading Liberal Party politicians
So here we have two Liberal MPs, who have supported B’nai B’rith, refusing to condemn the calls for the execution of other Liberal MPs and the prime minister himself. In addition, two Jewish Groups — B’nai B’rith and “the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) — and Canadian politicians smeared [Lascaris for] drawing attention to the death threats.” As the CIJA tweeted,
Yesterday, @CJPME Chair @dimitrilascaris accused #Jewish MPs @AHousefather and @LevittMichael of being disloyal to #Canada. This is the literal definition of #antisemitism under the @TheIHRA definition. Will @CJPME publicly retract & apologize for this antisemitic smear?”
And there we have the infamous IHRA definition of anti-Semitism used to silence a challenge to power that defends Israel. No mention that the central issue is that B’nai B’rith supporters called for the death of leading Canadian politicians and that other Canadian politicians of the same party refused to condemn these calls. No. The anti-Zionist leader of the CJPME — who brought to light these death threats, and the failure of the Liberal MPs to condemn them — is simply and directly called an anti-Semite.
Remarkably, it gets more bizarre.
Rather than object to the calls for execution of party members including themselves, something you would think might bother sentient beings, both NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Prime Minister Trudeau accused Lascaris of anti-Semitism, even though no mention was made by him of the Liberal MPs’ Jewish faith. Singh’s tweet is much like this one from Trudeau:
Vile anti-Semitic smears like this are completely unacceptable, and should always be called out. Thank you @LevittMichael and @AHousefather for standing up to this, and for everything you do for your communities and our country.”
Rather than condemn death threats by pro-Israel supporters, the two Liberal MPs stood aside quietly. This condoning silence, the comments after the shooting of Dr. Loubani, and many other actions that Yves Engler has reviewed in Mondoweiss demonstrate the two Liberal MPs’ support for Israel over Canadians. Yet by pointing out the questionable loyalty of the MP’s for not condemning the death threats, Lascaris is at fault for being anti-Semitic! This is how power uses the label of anti-Semitism to smear and squash dissent. Dissent against Israel and those defending its atrocities.
(If readers seek more information, see Lascaris’s more detailed account of all the events here).
Don’t question why someone feels like they’re the victim of anti-Semitism
J.K. Rowling, famous author of the Harry Potter series, has written a book where one of the fictional characters is an Israel-hating anti-Semite. More disturbing than a fictional character that reinforces the thought that anti-Zionism is really anti-Semitism, something Rowling has insinuated by tweet previously, the article that described the book shared a Twitter exchange between Rowling and Simon Maginn, a less prominent writer. To understand the significance of Rowling’s comments, we must first review Maginn’s Twitter exchange with Simon Myerson.
As discussed in Part 1 of this series, when British pro-Israel advocates had challenged a professor after taking his ironic remarks literally, Jeremy Corbyn had suggested that the pro-Israel advocates did not understand irony. This was turned into an uproar to pillory Corbyn for saying that Jews were not quite English.
Myerson had tweeted about Corbyn’s comment and subsequent clarification of why it was not anti-Semitic:
When a witness says ‘let me make my thoughts clearer’ they mean, ‘let me alter what I said previously’.
This is a good example. It’s precisely not what Corbyn said.”
In response, Maginn challenged Myerson to “explain what you think was objectionable in what Corbyn said.” Myerson’s first response was a snide remark. Maginn then made several more attempts to elicit an answer, but Myerson refused to answer the question. Subsequently, a frustrated and infuriated Maginn sought an explanation for why Corbyn’s support of a Palestinian representative should outrage Jewish sensibilities. This last Maginn tweet stated:
Explain it to me, then. Explain your deep and wounding sense of injury. Explain the wrong that’s been done to you. Explain your patently synthetic outrage. Explain yourself. Publicly.”
Rowling subsequently responded to Maginn’s tweet by questioning his right to challenge someone else’s tweet:
How dare you tell a Jew that their outrage is ‘patently synthetic’? How dare you demand that they lay bare their pain and fear on demand, for your personal evaluation? What other minority would you speak to this way?”
Most likely, Rowling did not follow the earlier exchange of tweets and only responded to Maginn’s demand for an answer without context. While the tone of Maginn’s last tweet could create an unfavorable impression, this lack of knowledge of the complete exchange is squarely on Rowling. There is no basis for Rowling to assert that Myerson, the person Maginn was addressing, was experiencing any “pain and fear.” Even if Myerson was suffering from pain or fear, such a state of mind is essential to support the allegation of Corbyn’s anti-Semitism. For the allegation is the perception of his remarks, not any subsequent actions.
This is why after a repeated lack of response from Myerson, Maginn demanded an explanation for “[Myerson’s] deep and wounding sense of injury.” For if the allegation is unjustified, as Maginn suggests, it is a heinous smear. Further, since Myerson failed to respond to repeated inquiries, this is probably why Maginn concluded there was no justification and resorted to his over-the-top comment about “patently synthetic outrage.”
Maginn also responded to Rowling and provided the context of his comment, asking her to explain how Corbyn’s comment was anti-Semitic. Rather than address Maginn’s point, Rowling responded with quotes from Jean-Paul Sartre about anti-Semitism, apparently implying Maginn’s challenge was anti-Semitic. Further, Rowling tweeted:
How about you explain – publicly, to Twitter, to the world – why you’ve taken it upon yourself to attack a Jew, demanding that they explain themselves, when there are literally hundreds of accounts currently online explaining how British Jews currently feel?”
Rowling apparently believes that someone’s sense that Corbyn’s comments are anti-Semitic is unquestionable. Yes, others have made their views known, but Maginn was exchanging tweets with Myerson and Maginn’s demand for substantiation was directly of Myerson. Yet Rowling made it clear Maginn had no right to ask the question. When Maginn asked Rowling the same question about Corbyn’s remarks, she refused to answer that as well.
Thus, according to Rowling, the allegation of anti-Semitism and the feelings of the person making such allegations is sufficient. The allegation itself does not have to be defended. The questioner ultimately is an anti-Semite (as Rowling subsequently more directly charged) for challenging the allegation of anti-Semitism.
The result is that the leader of the Labour Party is alleged to be anti-Semitic and that he and any of his supporters shall have no right to challenge such allegations.
Under such rules of engagement, who could survive the anti-Semite allegation?
Don’t vote for her, she’s an anti-Semite
In the recent Democratic primary for the governor of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s campaign falsely accused challenger Cynthia Nixon of being an anti-Semite. As Splinter News noted, as Election Day was drawing near, Cuomo’s campaign sent out a mailer that “misconstrued Nixon’s views on Israel and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It also accused Nixon of being ‘silent on the rise of anti-Semitism.’’”
Not only did the Cuomo campaign make this allegation by mailers just before the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, but it also tried as well to plant the accusation in the right-wing New York Post. The Post article stated:
The smoking-gun email, sent Friday afternoon from an official ‘andrewcuomo.com’ account, suggested that the Post publish a story about Nixon’s support of the pro-Palestinian ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions’ movement against Israel.
‘Nixon has supported insidious BDS campaign, signing onto letter boycotting Israel,’ it says.
‘Obviously something you guys have reported on a lot and right before the jewish high holidays!
‘Can get you folks on the record slamming her as well,’ the aide added.”
As for Nixon’s background, the Post reported,
Nixon on Sunday said she opposes the BDS movement and supports a ‘two-state solution’ between Israel and Palestinians. But she said unlike Cuomo, she wouldn’t ‘blacklist’ people who support BDS. Cuomo signed an executive order barring state entities from doing business with firms that support BDS.”
In addition, Nixon said ‘I am the mother of Jewish children and I am very alarmed by the rise of anti-semitism in this country. I am frightened for my children. I am frightened for the world.’”
So now the anti-Semitism allegation is considered kosher for slimeball politics?
Turn it around, for there are real challenges out there
Considering the growth of far-right, nativist movements, including specifically neo-Nazi ones, there are real threats to Jews in the West. Yet the concern over “anti-Semitism” is not focused on them. It is focused on protecting Israel. So much so that the slightest hint of anti-Zionism is immediately attacked as anti-Semitism. In fact, the anti-Semitism allegation has become a dangerous weapon.
Yet wielding this weapon for marginal reasons and in anti-democratic, speech-infringing ways may well result in the broader public losing interest in protecting Jews from anti-Semitism. Let us not forget how small the Jewish population is in the West. Should the broader public decide it is no longer a reasonable concern, no movement of Jews in their home countries or in Israel could stop a rising storm.
Yet there is a reason to be hopeful, and that is Judaism itself and the culture of its members.
I saw this meme posted on Facebook with the question “Is this picture Hasbara 2.0?” Hasbara, as many already know, is the organized propaganda effort of the State of Israel.
The meme might be something purposefully posted to improve the image of Israel. Yet, even if it is Hasbara, it proves the point that, just as before Zionism started its deadly course in Palestine, people of all faiths can live together peacefully.
The meme shows that once people throw out labels of race and religion, there is a sense of caring about one another and living together in harmony. Only when leadership takes people down a path of greed and selfishness, do they create the zero-sum-game sense of entitlement of one group at another’s expense that leads to conflict. The more expansive the greed, the larger the conflict. Ethnic cleansing, land theft and occupation are as expansive as greed and supremacy can get.
Yet Israel does not have to be that way. I am hopeful that Israel and its supporters will address all that has been discussed in this series and adopt the wonderful moral principles of Judaism upon which most Jews, including myself, have been raised. The same morality and harmony to which people of all faiths and heritages aspire.
Given our own history of suffering, Jews are a compassionate people. We played a prominent role in the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. Many Jews still fight for justice today. Accordingly, I am hopeful that those who are working against this grain to maintain Jewish supremacy in Palestine can come back to the fold too.
Top Photo | Far Right activists attend a protest in Chemnitz, eastern Germany, Sept.7, 2018, after several nationalist groups called for marches protesting the killing of a German man allegedly by migrants. Jens Meyer | AP
Ian Berman is an entrepreneur and former corporate banker at leading global banks in New York City. He now focuses on financial advisory services and writing about representative government, equitable public policies and ending American militarism and Israel’s continuing colonization of Palestine. He is the Co-Founder of Palestine 365, the Ongoing Oppression and its predecessor, Palestine 365, on Facebook.