Trump support for racists forces Israeli leaders to take sides, but which side will they choose?

Jonathan Ofir
Reprinted from Mondoweiss by permission of the author

President Trump’s initial statement on the Charlottesville violence, where he said “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides, on many sides”, has taken on a life of its own. Equating the Nazis and white supremacists with their victims has become a national (as well as international) sport, and the promulgators of this “many sides” narrative are getting so excited with the prospect of it, that they are even going further, to regard the leftists as worse than Nazis.

Trump's allies on the march in in Charlottesville chanting 'Jews will not replace us'
Trump’s allies on the march in in Charlottesville

All this has made various Israeli leaders rather uncomfortable. Because although they are on board with Trump’s attacks on the left, his “many sides” narrative was, after all, normalizing bona fide anti-Semitism.

Charlottesville: Race and Terror: VICE News video from reporter embedded in Charlottesville Nazis

But before we get to Israel, let’s see how the ‘left-equals right’ notion has been mainstreamed:

The notion of a supposed ‘Alt-Left’ as equal to the Alt-Right was voiced loudly merely a day after the Charlottesville violence via none other than the newspaper of record – New York Times, which published an op-ed by Erick Woods-Erickson, opening with the following:

“As a conservative, I see both the social justice warrior alt-left and the white supremacist alt-right as two sides of the same coin.”

Vox congressional reporter Jeff Stein tweeted in disbelief:

“NYtimes oped begins by admonishing “social justice warrior alt-left” the day after they fought Nazis. Unreal.”

Meanwhile, in Israel, Head of Republicans Abroad in Israel Marc Zell said that he holds “leftist thugs,” local authorities and organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union responsible for Saturday’s events:

“I am, of course, no supporter of Nazis or white supremacists. But this very tragic event could have been avoided,” he said. “It was clear to all that the leftist thugs would come out to provoke and escalate the events. These thugs are the ugly face of progressivism around the country. They are looking to shut down free speech.”

Zell even went as far as to suggest that the car-ramming attack might have been a ‘false flag’:

“I am confident that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the newly appointed director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, will conduct a proper investigation. And I will not be surprised if they find that the incident was deliberately provoked by the left”, he said.

Trump’s dog-whistle

As I had mentioned in my first commentary on the Chartlottesville aftermath, Trump’s equivocal statements were a dog-whistle. He was calling on the dogs, and he was waiting to see how loud they could bark.

But there was also fierce pressure on Trump to name the thugs by name. So on Monday he finally did call out the KKK, Neo-Nazis and White-Supremacists, albeit ending the condemnation with “other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans”. Coming from Trump, the latter could be read as another opening to the “many sides” narrative.

Indeed, on Tuesday, Trump went back and doubled down on his original message, applying the “alt-left” notion which was being mainstreamed in the meanwhile. Speaking at the Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday, the president was asked for his opinion after Senator John McCain had condemned the “alt-right” for its role in the violent rally, to which he responded:

“What about alt-left? Do they have any semblance of guilt?”

Let’s hop back to Israel now, because the fact that the Nazis are involved in this is causing a certain discomfort to many Jewish Israelis. As CNN host Anderson Cooper was saying on Tuesday, the Charlottesville Neo-Nazis “were freaking chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’ on the streets of America.”

Thus Israeli centrist leaders Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni were rather vociferous and unequivocal in their condemnations. Yesterday, Lapid said that

“There aren’t two sides. When Neo-Nazis march in Charlottesville and scream slogans against Jews and in support of white supremacy, the condemnation has to be unambiguous. They represent hate and evil. Anyone who believes in the human spirit must stand against them without fear.”

Sounds good. Let’s put aside for the moment Lapid’s own anti-Palestinianism, anti-miscegenationism (against mixed marriage) and ultra-nationalism.

Tzipi Livni, who had joined forces with the left under the Zionist Union was also quite clear:

“When it comes to racism, anti-Semitism and Nazism, there are never two equal sides. There’s good and there’s evil. Period”, she said.

Let’s also put aside for the moment the fact that Livni, who was Foreign Minister during Israel’s 2008-9 Gaza onslaught said that “Israel demonstrated real hooliganism during the course of the recent operation, which I demanded”, as well as that “Hamas now understands that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild – and this is a good thing.”  – I mean, just because it’s hooliganism on a national level, doesn’t mean it’s racist, does it?

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett has called on US leaders to denounce the rally’s “displays of anti-Semitism” and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of Bennett’s Jewish Home party has urged prosecution of neo-Nazi activists. Once again, let’s put aside for the moment the Education Minister’s “I’ve killed many Arabs and there’s no problem with that”, as well as the Justice Minister’s advocacy for genocide of Palestinians.

Now, as the condemnations were coming from the right of Netanyahu, that was a sign that he shouldn’t be too silent on this, even if he wanted to not upset Trump. So Netanyahu finally tweeted on Tuesday that he was “outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred.”

Screen shot from Yair Netanyahu's Facebook page, the son of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Screen shot from Yair Netanyahu’s Facebook page, the son of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But, alas, another Netanyahu came out on this. Netanyahu Jr., that is – Yair Netanyahu. Writing on his Facebook yesterday:

“To put things in perspective. I’m a Jew, I’m an Israeli, the neo nazis scums in Virginia hate me and my country. But they belong to the past. Their breed is dying out. However the thugs of Antifa and BLM who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life.”

The Times of Israel reports sources “close to the Prime Minister” taking a distance, claiming that “Yair is an adult and his views are his alone”.

Nazi claims to be ‘White Zionist’

But this is where it gets more confusing. Because yesterday, ‘Hail Trump’, white supremacist, Alt-Right leader Richard Spencer was interviewed on Israeli Channel 2, and said that Israelis should respect someone like him, because he’s “a white Zionist”:

“An Israeli citizen, someone who understands your identity, who has a sense of nationhood and peoplehood, and the history and experience of the Jewish people, you should respect someone like me, who has analogue feelings about whites. You could say that I am a white Zionist – in the sense that I care about my people, I want us to have a secure homeland for us and ourselves. Just like you want a secure homeland in Israel”, he said.

At the same time, Spencer voiced the classical anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish ‘over-representation’ and separating them from ‘whites’, when he was asked whether slogans such as “Jews will not replace us” constitute anti-Semitism:

“Let’s be honest,” Spencer said, “Jews are vastly over-represented in what you could call ‘the establishment,’ that is, Ivy League educated people who really determine policy, and white people are being dispossesed from this country.”

This is not the first time Spencer brings up the ‘white Zionism’ notion. He has also managed to leave Texas rabbi Matt Rosenberg speechless, when the latter, an avowed Zionist, challenged him with ‘love an inclusion’, where Spencer presented to him the question:

“Do you really want radical inclusion into the State of Israel? And by that I mean radical inclusion. Maybe all of the Middle East could go move in to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Would you really want that?”

Spencer added to the blow a white-supremacist embrace of “respect”:

“Jews exist precisely because you did not assimilate. That is why Jews are a coherent people with a history and a culture and a future. It’s because you had a sense of yourselves. I respect that about you. I want my people to have that same sense of themselves”, he said.

Not only is this not new from Spencer – it is not new from Nazis in general. As Adolf Eichmann said in 1960 (Time):

“In the years that followed (after 1937) I often said to Jews with whom I had dealings that, had I been a Jew, I would have been a fanatical Zionist. I could not imagine anything else. In fact, I would have been the most ardent Zionist imaginable.”

Indeed, the anti-Semitic, white-supremacist notions represented in Charlottesville, make the proximity between Zionism and anti-Semitism too close for comfort for many Jews, especially the Zionist ones. Zionism has a long and murky record of collaboration with Nazis, which presents a contradiction to the narrative of Israel being a diametric answer to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

But having mentioned Yair Netanyahu, it could be an interesting anecdote to mention the letter of another Yair – the Jewish terrorist ‘Stern Gang’ leader Avraham ‘Yair’ Stern (‘Yair’ being his nom de guerre), offering allegiance to Hitler in January 1941. Here Stern offers to “actively take part in the war on Germany’s side” and that “common interests could exist between the establishment of a new order in Europe in conformity with the German concept, and the true national aspirations of the Jewish people as they are embodied by the NMO” (NMO stands for National Militant Organization, of which the Stern Gang became an offshoot).

“Anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends”

When Herzl wrote in his diary that “the anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies”, he was already pinpointing a notion which Zionism and Israel would desperately seek to conceal. Which is, that Zionism, the state ideology, and anti-Semitism, are tightly knit and inter-dependent. Zionism is not an answer to anti-Semitism – it is an extension of it. And when the unabashed racists and anti-Semites go marching, when their Israel-loving President keeps exonerating them and equating them with their victims, then it becomes a bit uncomfortable. The ideological affinity between anti-Semitism and Zionism becomes exposed. And that’s where the Zionist apologists try to cover it up again, under the balancing act of being a Zionist and opposing anti-Semitism.

But Benjamin Netanyahu’s son, Yair, he got the trick. The trick is to demonize the left as “haters” and “thugs”, so as to also be able to condemn the Nazis, as it were, but effectively making the left worse than Nazis, by downplaying the Nazis as a thing “of the past”. Because Israel is now in an ideological international fight both against anti-Semitism, supposedly and as it were, but more importantly and more truly, against the left. But it has to look good. You don’t want to seem too Nazi.

Far-right Islamophobes unite with pro-Israel lobbyists in European Parliament antisemitism debate

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

A debate in the European Parliament on Wednesday (May 31) exposed pro-Israel lobbyists as the natural allies of far-right Islamophobes supporting a definition of antisemitism designed to defend the state of Israel.

Ostensibly about a motion on “Combating Antisemitism”, the discussion in fact revolved around one clause calling for institutions of the EU and all member states to adopt the controversial “International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism.”

This document, based on an earlier “working definition” abandoned by the now defunct EU monitoring centre on racism and xenophobia (EUMC), broadens the widely understood concept of antisemitism as hostility towards Jews, to include criticism of Israel.

In Thursday’s vote, 101 MEPs voted against its inclusion in the motion, but 479 voted in favour while 47 abstained. The motion including the contentious clause was passed.

Continue reading “Far-right Islamophobes unite with pro-Israel lobbyists in European Parliament antisemitism debate”

FSOI tells European Parliament – Do not covertly adopt IHRA (mis)definition

Mike Cushman

Today Free Speech on Israel wrote to every member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) today to point out the dangers of adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism. They all received personally addressed copies of this letter and an explanatory document.

LIBE committee in session
LIBE committee in session

If your MEP is a member of this committee write them a personal letter.

fsoi letterhead

20 March 2017

Dear xxxxxxx

Re: The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Definition of Antisemitism

We have been informed that a proposal for the European Parliament to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, though not on the agenda, is likely to be put to your committee at your forthcoming meeting without the normal notice and openness. Continue reading “FSOI tells European Parliament – Do not covertly adopt IHRA (mis)definition”

What Canadians really think about Israel/Palestine

— and what major media won’t tell you

Michael Lesher
Reprinted from Times of Israel by permission of the author
As a citizen of a democracy, wouldn’t you want to know if the policy of your government ran directly contrary to the will of its electorate?

As a news reader, wouldn’t you prefer accurate information from your newspapers and TV news broadcasts about one of the prominent issues of the day?

As a law-abiding person, wouldn’t you want your government to allow its citizens to pursue peaceful means to promote worldwide adherence to the basic norms of international law?

If you’ve answered “yes” to these questions – and you’re Canadian – get ready to be angry. Because you’ve been had.

Three times over.
Continue reading “What Canadians really think about Israel/Palestine”

When is anti-Semitism not anti-Semitism? When it’s from a Trump-loving ‘friend’ of Israel

Gideon Levy

reprinted from Middle East Eye

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy Credit:AFP

The only message of congratulations that Steve Bannon has received from abroad, apparently, since being named the senior strategic adviser in Donald Trump’s White House, is one that arrived on official Israel government stationery and was signed by Israeli Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel.

The Anti-Defamation League, long prominent among American Jewish organisations battling anti-Semitism, published a sharply worded announcement signed by its CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, urging that Bannon’s appointment be rescinded; the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center and others pointed to Bannon’s “promotion of antisemitism, misogyny, racism and Islamophobia” as disqualifying him from any White House post; and local Jewish Community Relations Councils (eg New HavenSan Francisco) promptly published similar statements even as the leadership at AIPAC equivocated.

Meantime Israel’s Ariel hastens to send Bannon his blessings. Ariel, who is from the Jewish Home party, the party of the settler movement and the most extreme right-wing group in the Knesset and a senior partner in the Netanyahu government’s coalition, was pleased at the appointment of a man whose ex-wife has accused her former partner of anti-Semitism. “There are no words to describe this shame,” fumed Knesset member Stav Shaffir of Israel’s Labor Party in a Facebook post (Hebrew).

Breitbart store for racism

Knesset member Stav Sappir of the Israeli Labor party posted a scathing response to Ariel’s ensdorsement of Bannon (Hebrew) on her Facebook page: she wrote. “Rabbis from all across the USA are publishing denouncements… [and] dozens of Jewish organisations are campaigning against the appointment; the rest of the world – left and right alike – are warning of the danger in appointing a proud racist to such a sensitive American government post… while, along with Minister Ariel of Israel, those congratulating Bannon on his appointment include the leadership of the Ku Klux Klan, some prominent American anti-Semites, and the American Nazi Party.”

For supporting Israel, all is forgivable

The Israeli right has invented a new hybrid tool: the pro-Israel anti-Semite. It turns out that such a thing is possible. You can be an anti-Semite and still be okay is certain circles in Israel. The main thing is being “a friend of Israel,” which today means loving the Israeli occupation.

In return for supporting the Israeli occupation indefinitely, for encouraging the settler enterprise, the Israeli right is prepared to forgive anything. Anything at all. To forget the past, turn a blind eye to the present, mortgage the future, and relinquish any vestige of morality. Just let us go on building in the territories, that’s all we care about. To perpetuate the occupation, the Israeli right will sacrifice even the fate of America’s Jews, pawn its connection with them, ignore their anxieties and dismiss their concerns.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, another extreme right-wing figure, once said: “For the sake of Israel, lying is permitted.” The limits of this dubious assertion have now been woefully stretched by Israel’s right-wing settlers. For Israel, it is permissible to support even anti-Semitism, extreme nationalism, chauvinism and racism of every sort. The stretch began with the Israeli public’s overly broad support for candidate Donald Trump, perhaps the broadest of any other constituency outside the US, until it arrived at the ministerial letter congratulating the newly appointed Bannon.

Israel loves Trump

Unlike in many other countries, notably in Western Europe, no Israeli official figure has expressed reservations about Trump’s electoral win. This turn of events is not attributable solely to any threat to Israel. It was driven by authentic support for this problematic president-elect. Evidently the Israeli right, with its nationalism and its racism, finds a common language with the American right, similarly nationalist and racist.

Even worse, the global battle against anti-Semitism, a platform where the rightists typically scream loudest, begins to some degree to resemble a manipulative and cynical (and currently less useful) ploy. Suddenly, being anti-Semitic is no longer so terrible now. Suddenly it’s forgivable, especially if you hate Muslims and Arabs. So long as you are “pro-Israel”.

The Jewish and Israel right has issued a blanket pardon to pro-Israel anti-Semites, who will run the next US government. Like pornography, anti-Semitism now becomes a matter of geography, self-interest and cost-effectiveness. Right-wing American anti-Semites are no longer seen as anti-Semites as long as they support the occupation. Israel’s right wing finds anti-Semites only on the left. Roger Waters, an upstanding man of conscience, is anti-Semitic; Steve Bannon, openly racist and a closet anti-Semite, is Israel’s friend.

Jewish and Israeli activists who left no stone unturned in the search for signs of anti-Semitism, who saw every parking ticket issued to an American Jew as a hate crime, who screamed bloody murder when any Jew was robbed or Jewish headstone desecrated, are now kashering vermin. Suddenly they’re not sure that what we have here is that old disease, anti-Semitism.

When anti-Semitism is not anti-Semitism

Jurist Alan Dershowitz, pro-Israel crusader and propagandist extraordinaire, has already come to Bannon’s defence. In his Haaretz op-ed of 27 November, Dershowitz opined that the man whose wife testified that he didn’t want to send his children to school with Jews is not an anti-Semite. “The claim was simply made by his former wife in a judicial proceeding, thus giving it no special weight,” commented Dershowitz with pseudo-Talmudic aplomb. Dershowitz was told by an Orthodox Jew who once worked with Bannon that the man had never shown signs of anti-Semitism. Suddenly that’s enough for Dershowitz. Suddenly it’s all right to distinguish between anti-Semitism and racism.

Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, naturally made haste to join the chorus, declaring that he “looked forward to working with Bannon.” And how. They see eye to eye on everything: there is no such thing as a Palestinian, there is no occupation, illegal settlements are forever, leftists and liberals are traitors.

For Dermer, the Likud ambassador in Washington, friend of the Tea Party, boycotter of J Street, who in normal diplomatic circumstances would long since have been declared persona non grata in the USA and thrown out on his ear, the election results and the new appointments are like a brand new day dawning. Dermer will feel right at home with conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, another Islamophobe slated for a senior appointment; Dermer will love working with Bannon, and Mike Huckabee is so precisely his cup of tea. Dermer, remember, received the 2016 Freedom Flame award from the CSP, an organisation whose banner is Islamophobia and for whom Dermer is a hero.

Racists united

These and other likeminded racists are Israel’s best friends in the United States. They have common cause with right-wing racists in Europe. When supporting the occupation is the one measure of friendship, Israel has no other friends apart from racists and extreme nationalists. This should have evoked tremendous shame in Israel: tell us who your friends are and we will tell them who you are. With friends like these, who needs enemies? The disgrace of their friendship is sufficient. But Israel apparently takes pride in its friends.

These racists love Israel because Israel acts out their own fantasies – subjugating the Arabs, abusing the Muslims, expelling and killing, arresting, interrogating and torturing them, razing their homes, shredding their honour. How this bunch of lowlifes would love to go there. Till now it’s been possible only in Israel, the light unto the nations in this context. Long gone are the days when a handful of South African Jews went to prison with Nelson Mandela. Now, well-connected Jews in America support the nation’s new rulers: racists and anti-Semites.

“The Palestinians call the white nationalist Bannon an anti-Semite, and AIPAC and Dershowitz think he’s not such a bad guy,” commented Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa on her Facebook page. Abulhawa was expelled by Israel at the Allenby Bridge last year. The US and Israel are sharing the same values these days.

All that’s left now is to wait and see whether the new American regime will deliver the goods. Will the declared Islamophobia and xenophobia of several of its main figures lead to blind support for the Israeli occupation, even more so than under previous American administrations? Will the Israeli right wing’s bet pay off?

Liberal Jewish dilemma

There is also the matter of what will happen among liberal Jewish circles in the United States, who are a substantial segment of the American Jewish community. Will these developments change their attitude to Israel? Rightist, ultra-nationalist Israel, with its overt support for Trump and its senior minister who sends his congratulations to Steve Bannon – is that a country worthy of automatic support from America’s Jews? Israel, stalwart friend of the American hard right – is that an Israel whose flag liberal American Jews can proudly wave?

Over the next few months, we will find out. Maybe, paradoxically, the rise of the American right, alongside a regime no less rightist and nationalist in Israel, will shake up the liberal Jews of America and pose hard questions they have never faced. Until now.

EU High Representative affirms the right to BDS

Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, condemns attacks on human rights defenders and affirms the rights of European citizens to freedom of expression and association, including through participation in the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

FSOI says, this is a firm rebuke to all those, such as the Home Affairs Select Committee, who attempt to use the discredited EUMC working definition on antisemitism to outlaw criticism of Israel

Federica Mogherini
Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs

In response to a question on whether the EU commission will commit to defending BDS activists’ right to exercise their democratic freedom of expression, put forward by MEP Martina Anderson, the EU High Representative stated:

The EU stands firm in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which is applicable on EU Member States’ territory, including with regard to BDS actions carried out on this territory.

Mogherini also affirmed that “Freedom of expression, as underlined by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, is also applicable to information or ideas ‘that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.”

Having failed to hinder the growing support and impact of the BDS movement in the mainstream, Israel has launched an unprecedented anti-democratic campaign to silence Palestine rights activism and outlaw BDS.

The Israeli-induced attacks on the BDS movement include pressure on governments, legislators and officials to fight BDS activity through implementation of repressive measures that pose a threat to civil and political liberties at large.

When asked about the Commission’s assessment of statements made by Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz that ‘targeted civil elimination’ should be carried out against Palestinian and international leaders for the BDS movement, the EU High Representative stated that “The EU firmly condemns threats and violence against human rights defenders under all circumstances.”

Riya Hassan, Europe Campaigns Officer of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society that leads the global BDS movement, commented:

We welcome the EU’s belated defense of the right of European and other citizens to stand in solidarity with Palestinian rights, including through BDS tactics. But Palestinian civil society expects the EU to respect its obligations under international law and its own principles and laws by, at the very least, imposing a military embargo on Israel, banning products of companies that do business in Israel’s illegal colonies, and suspending the EU-Israel Association Agreement until Israel fully complies with the human rights clause of the agreement.

A letter signed by more than 30 MEPs had called on Federica Mogherini, to take measures assuring freedom of expression regarding the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for justice and equality and recognising Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement, as a human rights defender.

This letter echoes growing European political and civil society calls for protecting the freedom of expression of activists and organisations involved in BDS activity for Palestinian rights under international law.

More than 350 European human rights organizations, trade unions, church groups and political parties, have called on the European Union to defend citizens and organisations right to boycott Israel in response to its occupation and violations of Palestinian rights.

Representatives of the Swedish, Irish and Dutch governments have publicly defended the right to advocate and campaign for Palestinian rights under international law through BDS.

Republished from: European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP)

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