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published a sharply worded announcement signed by its CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, urging that Bannon’s appointment be rescinded; the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center and others pointed to Bannon’s “promotion of antisemitism, misogyny, racism and Islamophobia” as disqualifying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.

Israel’s right to exist

By Jonathan Rosenhead

Reprinted from openDemocracy, 23 September 2016

First a mea culpa. Mary Davis accuses me of making an ‘incorrect and snide’ assertion that she wrote her first piece to support the Jewish establishment’s attack on Corbyn. I see how it can be read that way. What I wrote was “The issue is: just why Mary Davis is writing this piece now?” and went on to detail the coordinated, no-holds barred onslaught alleging that antisemitism that has been taking place. What I meant was that antisemitism in the Labour Party was a significant issue only because of this onslaught; and that she was writing her piece only because this misplaced salience had made it an issue. I did not mean that she was part of that campaign.

Before getting down to business I should also mention her rebuttal of my assertion that actual anti-Semitic incidents were relatively insignificant. She cites Community Security Trust figures for anti-Semitic incidents running at a total of 557 in the first 6 months of 2016. For a sense of scale, official figuresshow the total number of hate crimes averaged 222,000 per annum over the years 2012-5. I rest that part of my case.

To business. What ultimately divides our positions on the contentious issue of how anti-Zionism relates to antisemitism? It does not seem, at least directly, to be our views on Zionism itself. Mary says that she does not regard herself as a Zionist, and it is quite a few decades since I did so. And we are both highly critical about what Israel actually does. Yet it is clear that we do have grave differences on what can legitimately be done to end these excesses. These disagreements seem to stem ultimately from what she identifies as “the issue of the right of the state of Israel to exist”.

The right to exist

This is treacherous ground. In the present era of witch-finders general in the Labour Party I could still lose my leadership vote. (I am writing just ahead of the result being announced.) Many have already lost theirs for less. So forgive me if I tread warily. To question this ‘right to exist’ is not to toy with the idea of ejecting the 5 million or so Jewish inhabitants of Israel plus its illegal settlements into some external dumping ground (or worse). All the same, don’t forget that this dumping is exactly what happened to those hundreds of thousands of Palestinians ejected in 1948 who have since been denied their internationally attested right to return.

The reason why the claimed ‘right to exist’ is problematic is a question of definition, not of dematerialisation. States come and go, change their names and their borders, bifurcate and merge. That’s history for you. We don’t think that Mercia, dead these 1100 years, has or even had a ‘right to exist’. Coming more up to date the issue of exactly what is Ireland’s state-ly expression has sparked both bloody and peaceful struggle, and is not yet definitively resolved. Yugoslavia wasn’t a state, then it was, and then it wasn’t again, all in the course of about 70 years. Yugoslavia fractured in bloody fashion, but Czechoslovakia broke up into component parts by agreement.

There is nothing in international law that says that states have a right to exist. They either do or don’t exist, and there are criteria. As you would expect academic lawyers don’t speak with one voice on this, but (very roughly) to be a state you need to have a central government, a permanent population, a defined territory, etc. It helps to have international recognition, but that is probably not essential.

There are certain things that states cannot do in international law – attack others, practice ethnic cleansing or apartheid, things like that. But if a state violates these rules its transgressions don’t licence violent attacks on it by other states, and it doesn’t stop being a state.

Israel, the special case

Israel is of course a special case. As I said in my last piece, Zionism could realise its ambition of national self-determination in a defined territory only by taking someone else’s, and on behalf of people not actually living there. That contradiction between two claims and concepts of legitimacy remains and poisons the politics of the area. Israel’s supposed ‘right to exist’ is inevitably problematic if it excludes another co-located nation’s right to the same recognition. Continue reading “Israel’s right to exist”

The Answers that Corbyn Should Have Given to the Question What He Most Admired about Israel

By Tony Greenstein

At the JW3 ‘debate’ earlier this week, Jeremy Corbyn was asked what he most admired in Israel. This was an ideal opportunity to tell the audience and the questioner some home truths about both the Occupied Territories and Israel itself.

He could have told them that Israel today is an Apartheid Society.  Of the approximately 6 million Palestinians it rules over, just 1.5 million have a vote and that is increasingly circumscribed with the Arab parties in Israel under increasing attack. Balad arrests won’t be the last in Israel’s ethnocracy

Unfortunately, Jeremy felt the need to fawn and flatter his audience rather than telling them some home truths.  Some people will say ‘what does it matter’.  I suggest this is why.  In the event Corbyn becomes Prime Minister he would, on this evidence, bow and buckle to the much greater pressure of the City of London and industrialists.  But also because a strategy based on appeasement is destined to failure.  You stand up to your foes you don’t hand them olive branches to hit you in the face with.  This is not just true of the Zionists.  It is equally applicable to his MPs.  Those who refuse to accept the legitimacy of his election should be told to depart or they will be deselected and have the whip withdrawn.

I have therefore taken the liberty of drafting the answers to the question that Corbyn was asked which he should have given!  It is in the hope that next time he will have the courage of his convictions.

Q:        Jeremy & Owen – I wanted to find out from you what aspects of Israel & its achievements do you most admire

Jeremy Corbyn:  Thank you for a most interesting questions. The things I admire most about Israel include:

Its no nonsense arrest of Palestinian children as young as 12 and their shackling in chains.  In particular Israel’s willingness to assault and even torture them if necessary, as articulated by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel.  It really takes some nerve to do this and claim you are still a democracy.  You can’t help admiring Israel for this.  I have to say I particularly like the Military’s practice of getting the children to sign confessions in a language they don’t understand (Hebrew).  Serves the blighters right.  It’s downright anti-Semitism refusing to learn the language of the occupying power.  It is pleasing to note that the Military Courts under which these brats – sorry children – are charged have a 99.7% conviction rate.  That might seem rather high but on the other hand it does demonstrate that it is possible to obtain a conviction but given the genius of the Israeli military it’s not surprising that they only get it wrong about once every 300 times.

It really is irrelevant that Jewish children in the same territories are entitled to things like a responsible adult attending an interview, social workers, nice warm offices and of course that they can’t be tried if they are under 14.  We really must understand that there is no comparison between Palestinian and Israeli Jewish children.  Those who take umbrage at this are, as my friend Jeremy Newmark says, out and out anti-Semites and Janet Royall has already had harsh words for those who alleged Apartheid at Oxford University Labour Club.

I particularly admire the annual Jerusalem day demonstration where thousands of settler youth express their tender and loving feelings towards Jerusalem’s Arabs by shouting ‘Death to the Arabs’.  You have to admire Israel’s ability to get away with this and in particular the actions of Israel’s police in arresting any anti-racist protesters out to cause trouble.  I understand that this year, the slogans were more varied and included the quite novel one, A Jew is a soul, an Arabis a son of a whore.’  You have to give it to Israel’s democracy, it is most inventive.

I also admire the determination of Israel to ‘cleanse’ the Negev (southern desert area) of Israel of Bedouin villages such as Al Arakabh which get in the way of those nice, Jewish towns.  This process of Judaisation might upset people but we must remember this is a Jewish state.

Of course I deprecate the repeated vandalism and arson at the Hand to Hand school, one of the few mixed Jewish-Arab schools in Israel.  However Israel is a Jewish state and it is understandable that State schools in Israel are segregated.  It is anti-Semitic to compare this with similar schools in Apartheid South Africa.  Israel is a Jewish state.  South Africa was a White Apartheid state.  Anyway if do gooders insist on setting up private mixed schools which encourage Jewish and Arab children to mix,  thus encouraging the possibility of sinful Jewish-Arab relationships, is it any wonder that religious Jews take offence?I personally applaud the efforts of the Israeli government to discourage miscegenation.  Tzipi Hotoveli, Israel’s religious nut of a Deputy Foreign Minister was quite correct, when she said that it was “important to examine procedures for preventing mixed marriages, and Lehava members are the right people for that,”   It’s true that Lehava is technically a fascist organisation that hates gays, beats up Arabs and sets fire to Churches and Mosques, but it is doing important work to preserve the Jewishness of the Jewish state.  Those who oppose this work are, Mr McNicol informs me, anti-Semitic and will be suspended forthwith from the LP. Continue reading “The Answers that Corbyn Should Have Given to the Question What He Most Admired about Israel”

New Jewish Labour Movement director was Israeli embassy officer

Please read article in full on Electronic Intifada

Asa Winstanley Lobby Watch 21 September 2016

The new director of the Jewish Labour Movement was an officer at the Israeli embassy in London for the past year, The Electronic Intifada can reveal.

Ella Rose worked at the embassy as public affairs officer between September 2015 and August 2016, when she joined JLM as its first director.

JLM chair Jeremy Newmark has hit out at the group’s Jewish critics, telling The Electronic Intifada that the embassy had been “a good career move” for Rose.

The Israeli embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

Press reports in July announcing Rose’s appointment did not disclose the Israeli embassy link, mentioning only her previous position as president of the Union of Jewish Students.

Jewish critics of the JLM have told The Electronic Intifada that JLM’s link to the Israeli embassy should disqualify it from leading Labour Party trainings on anti-Semitism.

The Israeli government and its allied organizations around the world have a long-standing policy of deliberately conflating criticisms of Israel with anti-Semitism.

The JLM has drawn criticism from non-Zionist Jewish members of Labour for its pro-Israel tendencies. Jews who do not follow Zionism, Israel’s state ideology, have told The Electronic Intifada that JLM excludes them.

Continue reading here.

Zionist bigwig lets the cat out of the bag – it’s all about criticism of Israel

Dave Rich, Deputy Director of Communications for the Community Security Trust, has written in Haaretz about Jeremy Corbyn, Shami Chakrabarti and alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party.

After regretting that Chakrabarti was asked to look at all forms of racism rather than privileging concern about one from of racism, antisemitism, Rich pretends that so-called Labour Party antisemitism has only surfaced following Corbyn’s election to the leadership ignoring that many if not most of the allegations relate to events before his election.

So far it’s only repeating the standard script but Rich then makes an extraordinary admission confirming what FSOI has been saying for months. Rich wrote, “Neither report [Chakrabarti and Royall] truly tackled the underlying question of whether the anti-Semitism in the party is a product of the obsessive mania over Israel that has gripped Corbyn’s part of the left for years.”

Rich admits the Zionist campaign is not driven by attacks on Jews but is about trenchant criticism of Israel. As we have said and Rich now admits the Zionist lobby has abandoned attempting to rebut well-founded criticism of Israeli discrimination, occupation and its apartheid regime about which it has consistently failed to convince most people; instead the lobby is attempting to defame its critics as antisemites.

FSOI and its many allies in the campaign  to defend Palestinian rights will not be intimidated by these attacks and will continue to hold Israel to account for its actions against Human Rights and International law.

Mike Cushman

 

Read Miriam David’s Review of Dave Rich’s new book: A scurrilous and ill-informed attack on the left