Attacking the cherished principle of free speech not only threatens Jews’ standing in their home countries, it does not help Israel move towards cherished values of democracy and peaceful co-existence either.
LONDON — Following the flimsy accusations of anti-Semitism discussed in the first part of this series, the Israel Lobby has, with heavy pressure, succeeded in persuading the U.K.’s Labour Party to adopt a far-reaching definition of anti-Semitism. With this policy incorporated into the Labour Party, almost any negative commentary on Israel could officially be called anti-Semitic.
This chilling effect on free speech leaves Jews living in the U.K. in a quandary if they believe Israel’s actions are endangering them. Do they risk being labelled an anti-Semite for criticizing Israel?
Further, while Israel benefits from selling weapons to Neo-Nazis in Ukraine and to other sordid characters, who then will speak out against such disturbing alliances while these parties grow in power? In addition, will those non-Jews who vigorously defend Jews against anti-Semitism continue to be so inclined when the self-proclaimed “Jewish State” supplies arms to such heinous regimes and movements?
Finally, Israel’s supporters and Israeli agents themselves are using questionable tactics that undermine democracy. Will this work on Israel’s behalf to make Jews as a whole safer or create a crisis that questions their loyalty to their home countries?
Despite the primacy of free speech, criticism of Israel is no longer permitted
Consider for example the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) “Working Definition of Antisemitism,” which Labour was just arm-twisted into adopting in full. The “non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism” seems sensible enough:
Antisemitism (sic) is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Yet the direct challenge to free speech comes from certain “examples [that] may serve as illustrations,” which appear on the same webpage as the definition:
- Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
- 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 [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
Can anyone suggest that if an individual — and especially a politician or public leader — appears more concerned with the interests of Israel than of the United Kingdom, such individuals should be free of challenge under the principles of free speech?
Can anyone seriously claim that Palestinians living under Israeli military rule in the West Bank for over half a century, without their own right of self-determination, are not the victims of a “racist endeavor?”
On what grounds, and when has it ever happened before, that a protester can be compelled to protest all injustice equally as is implied by the double-standard example?
Several other points arise from the double-standard question. First of all, no two countries and their crimes are alike. Israel occupies Palestinian territory and China occupies Tibet. Israel inflicts collective punishment just as Iraq did against the Kurds. Yet the three countries do not have much in common, so how can anyone insist on equivalent condemnation. Each country is different as a whole. Further, Israel is unique in two other ways.
First, Israel receives $3.8 billion of weapons and supplies from the U.S. each year. No other country comes close to receiving such largess from American tax dollars. Second, one doesn’t have to be Jewish to criticize Israel, but for those who are, Israel claims to speak for them. No other country makes such a claim for non-citizens outside its border. Therefore many Jews feel compelled to actually speak against Israel to disassociate themselves and possibly their faith from Israel’s actions. For all of these reasons, Israel is unlike any other country and therefore there is no direct comparison for applying a uniform-standard requirement.
Further, under these parameters, this Jew is an anti-Semite. Personally — like Miko Peled, author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine and an activist from a prominent Israeli family — I don’t care what you call me; especially if you are defending a country’s crimes against humanity. Yet words have meaning and the anti-Semite label is used time and again to change the subject from Israel’s policies and actions to an ad hominem attack on those raising the subject.
The Nazi comparison is in the supremacist mindset, not the commission of identical deeds
Are Jews or anyone else wrong to say “Never Forget?” Of course not. We must recognize the rise of tyrannical regimes that are capable of extreme horrors. Quite often the comparison to the most efficient murderers in history is made to show when a political party or country could be heading down a dangerous path of any kind. If Israel or any other country is making such mistakes, is there any reason to suppress the free speech needed to provide the necessary warning? Furthermore, if Jews from outside of Israel care about the latter’s future, shouldn’t they be free to point out the danger of Israel’s actions in any manner they choose?
Let us consider this quote.
The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive. The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong.”
If one didn’t know the source of this quote, one could reasonably assume it is the Third Reich’s theory on power. It is not, but it is strikingly similar to a line Adolf Hitler delivered in Munich in 1923:
The whole of nature is a mighty struggle between strength and weakness, an eternal victory of the strong over the weak.”
If one were to assert that a Palestinian leader said it in justification of the Holocaust, few Israeli supporters would doubt it and the uproar would be endless.
Yet the “The weak crumble” quote is a prepared remark of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister. Leave Israel and Netanyahu out of the discussion and it is doubtful anyone would object to saying the quote describes the mantra of the Third Reich. Yet if one were to say this proclamation of the Israeli prime minister is pure and simple Nazi rhetoric, by the definition of the IHRA, that person is an anti-Semite.
This is but one of numerous possible reasons for sounding the alarm bell of a Nazi comparison. Perhaps some make the comparison because just after the Holocaust, the most terrible thing one people can do to another, the Zionists did the second worst thing — ethnic cleansing. The comparison could arise from the denial of refugees the right to return home under international law, while claiming there is a Jewish right to return from millennia ago. It may be due to the decades of military law over the Palestinians while proclaiming Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Or could it be that Gaza — a 70-year-old refugee camp that has been under blockade for 11 years now, with four major incursions killing thousands of people and injuring tens of thousands — is quite comparable to the Warsaw Ghetto?
Yet the most likely reason that people make the comparison is not any one or even a series of acts, but rather that Israel is an oppressive, racial supremacy quite similar to that of the Nazis. No one thinks Israel will engage in the mass extermination of Palestinians — despite the picture below. Rather they see the ruthless way Israel controls and destroys Palestinian lives much in the same way Nazi supremacy tyrannically ruled over non-Aryan lives.
The Nazis’ implementation of their fanatical mindset resulted in crimes against humanity the likes and scale of which the world hopes to never see again. It was that mindset that led them to believe they could exterminate seven million people beyond the tens of millions of civilians who also perished during the Second World War. It takes a similar extremist, nationalist mindset to take a people’s land away, to periodically massacre them, to maintain an occupation for over half a century, to deny the right of self-determination, and to make plans for the world’s largest concentration camp for 2 million people.
Again, nothing compares to the horrors and diabolical efficiency of the gas chambers, but it is the racial supremacy that made the worst of crimes against humanity possible. This is why I ring the alarm bell that makes me an anti-Semite.
The Nazi model of rule relied on extreme violence and fear. Quoting Heinrich Himmler, the infamous leader of the Nazi SS:
The best political weapon is the weapon of terror. Cruelty commands respect. Men may hate us. But, we don’t ask for their love; only for their fear.”
Similarly, Ze’ev Jabotinsky — the founder of revisionist Zionism, which broke away from Zionism’s socialist principles, and from whose ranks the terrorist Zionist gangs Irgun and Lehi (a/k/a the Stern Gang) formed, stated:
We shall create with sweat and blood a race of men strong brave and cruel.”
The cruelty of the Israeli state is clear. Seventy years ago, Zionists drove over 750,000 of 900,000 Palestinians from their land. (The number would have been even higher if Ben Dunkelman, a Jewish Canadian Major had not refused his orders to ethnically cleanse Nazareth). For two decades, the Palestinians who remained within the internationally recognized border of Israel lived under military rule. This was lifted in time for the War of 1967, Israel’s expansion through a war of choice and aggression into East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights.
After ethnically cleansing another 300,000 Palestinians, the Israelis implemented military law over the Palestinians that remains in place over 50 years later. During this period, Israel has taken more and more Palestinian land and resources. It has also built a vast array of checkpoints and a wall through Palestinian communities and land, separating them from their farmlands and one another.
Efran Efrati, an IDF veteran and a former member of Breaking the Silence, has spoken of the night-time raids on Palestinians to instil terror into the population under occupation. Israeli jails hold political prisoners who have never been charged and face sentences that can be extended every six months without a trial. Resistance, especially against the military, is met with fierce reprisals against fighters and civilians alike under a stated Israeli military policy of collective punishment.
The Dahiya Doctrine is central to [targeting civilians] and refers to Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on Lebanon in 2006. Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot said that this would be applied elsewhere: ‘What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. […] We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.’”
Eizenkot was promoted to become the Chief of the General Staff on February 16, 2015.
For the most obvious parallel to Nazi tactics, consider the fate of Gaza. In 2007, the world’s largest refugee camp became a concentration camp according to the plan of Israeli demographer Arnon Sofer. As explained by Saree Makdisi in Counterpunch and as he continues on to quote Sofer himself:
The demographer Arnon Sofer of Haifa University is the architect of the current isolation of Gaza. In 2004, he advised the government of Ariel Sharon to withdraw Israeli forces from within Gaza, seal the territory off from the outside world, and simply shoot anyone who tries to break out.
‘When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe,’ Sofer told an interviewer in the Jerusalem Post (11 November 2004); ‘Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.’
He added that ‘the only thing that concerns me is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings.’”
Sofer’s plan was to create an uninhabitable concentration camp. Let us consider one glaring example of how his plan is working. Over 1 million of the 2 million open-air prisoners are children. They, and the adults of Gaza, now have a water supply 97 percent of which is undrinkable.
Further, farmers tending the land within Gaza are shot for being within 300 meters of the concentration camp walls. It does not matter that they are working on the Palestinian side of the fence. Israel enforces a buffer zone with remote-controlled machine guns that further limit the precious little farmland that feeds 2 million people. Fishermen are also routinely harassed, if not killed, for fishing off the coast of Gaza when the Israeli Navy decides they have gone too far from shore. All too frequently, Israel unilaterally changes these limits, disregarding international law and the Oslo Accords.
For decades Israel has called for a partner for peace and demanded a non-violent resistance. Yet when faced with months of just such demonstrations this year, where no protestor killed was armed, Israel has responded by killing at least 193 Palestinians and injuring over 21,500, according to health officials in Gaza. Since over 5,300 Palestinians have been wounded by ammunition, it would seem Israel is afraid of the negative publicity of outright killing so many protestors. Incredibly then, Israel turned to using a new type of bullet that “literally destroyed tissue after having pulverized the bone.” So instead of using mass murder, Israel has improvised on Sofer’s plan and successfully created the condition where its soldiers would “maim and maim and maim. All day, every day.”
Yet worst of all, Sofer’s plan anticipated that the concentration camp inmates would have no choice but to rebel and the Israelis would be forced to slaughter them. Could anyone who knows of this diabolical plan say there is much difference between slaughtering an entrapped people right away or making their lives so miserable that the prisoners will be forced to rebel and then be slaughtered later?
As if that wasn’t enough to merit the Nazi comparison, also note Sofer does not consider for a moment the humanity of Palestinians. Sofer stated the trapped Palestinians would “become even bigger animals,” implying he already thought of Palestinians as animals. Furthermore, Sofer only worries about what killing them will do to the executioners. This is the mindset of a genocidal madman — the kind that developed the final solution, in part because the German troops could not continue their pace of slaughter by gunfire.
Clearly the plan for and the state of a 70-year-old refugee camp, now in its 11th year of siege, rivals the horror of the Warsaw Ghetto. Yet such a comparison to the ruthless Nazi regime makes me an anti-Semite under the definition created by an organization that shamelessly invokes the Holocaust in its name. Truly it is an Orwellian endeavor that seems to believe “Never Again” exempts Israel from guilt of any crime.
Threatening the West’s inclination to defend against anti-Semitism
Despite its military might, including $3.8 billion per year of American weapons and the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East, Israel cannot protect diaspora Jews. In fact, the so-called “Jewish State’s” treatment of Palestinians, its perpetual bellicose threats and periodic military actions against its neighbors, and its general dismissal of international law, can only increase anti-Semitic sentiment.
For example, even though I write with direct condemnation of Israel and its supporters, I am still accused of protecting my “tribe” or working as a “liberal Zionist” (typically such comments come with adjectives and expletives not worth repeating). Therefore it does not matter that I argue on behalf of the oppressed, I must be one of those heinous Jews helping Israel. In essence, no matter what I write, I am guilty for being Jewish. That is anti-Semitism and it arises in large part from the actions of the “Jewish State.”
Israel’s forging of military and weapons-trade relationships with atrocious actors like the Neo-Nazis in Ukraine and ethnic cleansers in Myanmar will lead many to question whether they should defend against anti-Semitism. Is the world supposed to protect Jews from Neo-Nazis when the “Jewish State” sells weapons to Neo-Nazis? Should the world ignore the Palestinians’ long-repeated claim that they have been ethnically cleansed, and continue to suffer incremental ethnic cleansing today, when the “Jewish State” sells weapons to a Myanmar regime guilty of ethnic cleansing? (Note that the ethnic cleansing of Palestine is not only a claim, but a fact well documented by historians who are Israeli themselves.)
Combine this brutal oppression and militarism with pro-Israel interference in democracies in the West, and diaspora Jews could face an extremely angry response in their home countries. Returning to Corbyn, Israel has launched a campaign against Corbyn and Labour through its strategic-affairs ministry. As Asa Winstanley notes in the Electronic Intifada, the strategic affairs ministry created:
An app operated as part of an Israeli government propaganda campaign [that] issued a ‘mission’ for social media users to make comments against Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, accusing him of anti-Semitism.
The operation also aims to push Labour, where there is strong support for Palestinian rights among the grassroots, in a more pro-Israel direction.
A covert element of the effort revealed last year by the undercover Al Jazeera documentary The Lobby involved attempts by the Israeli embassy to set up a grassroots pro-Israel organization for Labour youth.
[In addition], Shai Masot, the Israeli embassy spy, [was] forced to leave the country last year after the Al Jazeera investigation exposed him plotting to ‘take down’ a senior U.K. government minister.”
A second Al Jazeera documentary that exposed foreign agents acting on behalf of Israel in the U.S. was censored by the Qatari government. The pressure must have been extreme for it to do so. Yet, leaked excerpts of the documentary show:
- Canary Mission, “a blacklist [of] pro-Palestine activists that effectively smears them as racists and tries to get them fired from their jobs or prevent them from getting future jobs,” is funded by “Adam Milstein, a pro-Israel financier based in California; a real estate magnate who spent time in federal prison for tax evasion.”
- “Canary Mission is part of a much bigger effort, effectively orchestrated by the Israeli government, in which groups like the Israel on Campus Coalition and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies are acting as agents or front groups for the Israeli government, helping it to gather information on U.S. citizens, to harass U.S. citizens, and other activities without being registered as foreign agents of the state of Israel.”
- Israel Lobbyist Noah Pollak “had essentially been astroturfing a protest against the 2016 gathering of the National Students for Justice in Palestine conference in D.C. Pollak went to the Hudson Institute, a pro-Israel think tank with very close ties to the Israeli government, and said ‘send us some of your campus fellows, basically like youth fellows, and they’re going to protest for us’.” (Astroturfing is the paying of activists to appear as a grass-roots initiative.)
While the near-two-year-old rage over RussiaGate continues in the U.S., even if all the unproven allegations of that were true, they would not come anywhere close to Israel’s interference in American democracy. Consider what outrage might arise if the American people knew the depth of foreign interference coming from the “Jewish State” and its American supporters.
Lawfare: alleging anti-Semitism in legal proceedings to suppress criticism of Israel
The Electronic Intifada has obtained another leaked segment of Al Jazeera’s censored documentary about how the Israel lobby functions in the U.S. This segment features Kenneth Marcus, “director of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, an Israel lobby group unaffiliated with Brandeis University.” The Orwellian nature of this ‘human rights’ organization’s name is made clear by its use of lawfare — making allegations of anti-Semitism as a basis for legal and administrative proceedings to suppress criticism of Israel. Essentially its goal is to suppress free speech.
As Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada noted:
Marcus spearheaded the Israel lobby strategy of filing complaints to the Department of Education under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, claiming that universities fail to protect Jewish students by not cracking down on Palestine solidarity activism.”
Citing Marcus’ own words, his objectives could not be more clear:
Right now, the challenge is that there are people who say, ‘you know what, anti-Israel politics have nothing to do with anti-Semitism.’ What you gotta show that they’re not the same, but they’re not entirely different either.
The goal is to have the federal government establish a definition of anti-Semitism that is parallel to the State Department definition.”
You have to show that they are racist hate groups, and that they are using intimidation to get funded, and to consistently portray them that way.”
In other words, conflate protest against Israel with anti-Semitism and then use the law to suppress the former.
The Electronic Intifada provides one glaring example of the how this lawfare works. The leaked segment is only a portion of Al Jazeera’s undercover meeting with Marcus. Yet the Electronic Intifada has revealed they have seen a transcript of the full meeting where “Marcus also spoke about a May 2016 protest at the University of California, Irvine.” The Electronic Intifada stated:
The UC Irvine protest sparked accusations that students from groups including Students for Justice in Palestine had harassed, threatened and intimidated attendees at a campus film screening and discussion featuring a panel of Israeli soldiers.”
Despite working in a group named for “Human Rights,” Marcus repeated during the meeting “one of the most serious allegations” even though the investigation had debunked it. Quoting Al-Jazeera again,
One of the most serious allegations Marcus repeats in the Al Jazeera transcript is that ‘a Jewish pro-Israel student was chased across campus when they saw that she was one of the pro-Israel students, and had to hide in a kitchen until security could come.’
But this lurid claim was also refuted by the university’s investigation. By her own account, that student had been denied access to the screening room because the door was being held shut from inside.
The students who allegedly ‘chased’ her were simply trying to find another way into the screening room, the investigation concluded. In their effort to do so they entered an adjacent room several minutes after the pro-Israel student did and ‘were not chasing’ her, the report states.”
The end result of the lengthy investigation was merely the university imposing a sanction on Students for Justice in Palestine for disrupting an event with too much noise. This wasn’t enough for Marcus though, as he stated:
I’d like to see the students prosecuted, but the DA [district attorney] has not been amenable. But we’ll keep pushing them so that if we don’t get these students prosecuted this time, we’ll get the DA at least sensitized to the issue and [they] should know that there will be pressure on them next time.”
Marcus has no intention of discussing the actions of Israel. Clearly, he wants any such discussion stopped on the allegation of anti-Semitism and will use any legal process available, whether valid or not. This is not free speech or human rights, but rather entirely the opposite. This is the suppression of ideas in a democracy.
Lawfare in a position of government power
Just when you thought this issue could get not worse, this particular threat to free speech has moved from the private sector to the government itself. Again citing the Electronic Intifada:
In June, Marcus was confirmed as the director of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. This means he is now in charge of investigating alleged violations of the civil rights law.
He has quickly fulfilled the worst fears of civil liberties defenders by reopening a bogus complaint against Rutgers University made by the Zionist Organization of America.
That complaint was thrown out by the Office for Civil Rights in 2014 for lack of evidence.”
While it should not be surprising that the Trump Administration has appointed a self-interested administrator, let us be clear about the implications. A Jewish supporter of Israel, who has used the law (and failed) to suppress free speech on campuses in the past, is now leading the federal government’s department in charge of human rights on campuses. He has already removed any doubt that he will use his position to implement his bias towards Israel. How then will non-Jewish Americans look upon his unfaithful execution of the Constitution, failing to uphold one of the most fundamental rights — free speech — to benefit a foreign country?
Will the question of Jewish loyalty to their home countries grow louder?
For the sake of some brevity, this article does not even consider the criminalization of BDS (even though the Supreme Court has ruled boycotts are protected as free speech and the ACLU scored an early victory with an injunction against a Kansas anti-BDS law) and the Israel Lobby’s negative campaigning against any politician who dares question Israel. These actions also challenge a sense of fair play in our democracy.
There are two extremes when it comes to the Israel debate. There are the denialists who refuse to admit Israel’s history of ethnic cleansing and oppression of Palestinians for over 70 years. Quite simply for them, anything Israel does is justified, no matter how brutally they bomb, kill and expropriate the land of a defenseless people.
Then there are those who blame the Jews for all that is wrong with the world. Many believe that the United States fights wars on behalf of Israel. I find this claim dubious for several reasons and no one has ever shown me any action taken by the American military-industrial-congressional complex that is against its own interest. (Note this is not the same as the interest of the American People). Yet, given the absolutely one-sided mainstream media coverage and near-universal government support for Israel, is it so difficult to see why so many believe that?
As more and more young Jews become vocal supporters of Palestinian rights, I am confident that unequivocal support for Israel will rightfully decline. Yet I am quite concerned about the latter group, whose focus of blame is not so benign. The longer actions such as those discussed in this article take place, the more resentment they will generate against Jews as a whole.
That is my fear. While turning their faith into nationalism and ‘supporting the home team’ from afar, Israel’s supporters are also taking for granted the principles and protections of the country that they do call home. It is not that long ago that the Jewish aspiration in the West was to be considered a loyal citizen and to be treated the same as everyone else, while they were free to practice their religion if they so chose. Now that Jews have essentially achieved that, it is being taken for granted.
There is a certain insanity to these extreme actions to “protect” Israel. Consider that most Jews, whether they are supporters of Israel from afar or not, don’t want to move to Israel. Working to undermine the democratic principles of their own countries for the benefit of a foreign country could lead to a backlash on the question of divided loyalties. In other words, while they are in their own minds working on behalf of Jews in Israel, they are undermining their good standing in their own countries.
At a peak of Jewish wealth and influence in the world, and of Israeli military power, Zionists act with blind hubris. They feel any action they take is justified and without danger of repercussion. I couldn’t disagree more and for this reason I am truly afraid of what may come.
Top Photo | A man wears a Jewish skullcap, as he attends a demonstration against anti-Semitism in Berlin, April 25, 2018. GMarkus Schreiber | 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.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.