The deep roots of anti-Semitism in the pro-Palestinian movement.
[Editor's note: This is the third installment of a four-part series. To read earlier segments of "Pro-Palestinianism: A Movement of Hate," click: Part I and Part II. For the next installment, click: Part IV.]
Israel has been subjected to forceful criticism for decades. When those criticisms are hysterical, irrational and/or do not address Israel’s concerns to the slightest extent, are we not obliged to query why these frequent criticisms seem so unbalanced. If any commentator treats a serious topic in an unbalanced fashion it is quite right to be concerned. Such a viewpoint could cause genuine harm if it gains currency. The questions, “Why is person or movement 'X' so extreme? why do they turn the facts upside down and ignore everything not in their favor?” are perfectly legitimate, especially if there was extensive hatred and oppression of the group historically that is now the subject of their ire.
The response is typically an approximation of “Oh, we are only concerned about Zionists not the Jews who we really like an awful lot, I like Dylan, Seinfeld etc.” This argument seems a little suspect since Israel is the only state in existence populated principally by Jews. The only state in existence where Jews can live without being subject to the censure of hostile non-Jews in host nations. Of course it is quite feasible that many Palestinian supporters aren’t anti-Semitic. The motivations of an individual can be difficult to establish: even if they make unjustifiable remarks, spread untruths and flatly refuse to accept opposing views no matter how well justified, they may not be driven by hatred even if that is likely to be the case. Ignorance, stubbornness and even stupidity can be alternatives. However, this is not simply an observation relating to individuals but rather a movement. If we were to accept the “concern of Zionism only” line we would have to ignore the dishonesty, usual methods of criticism and belligerent manner that defines the movement and which gives rise to concerns about anti-Semitism. If many pro-Palestinian groups are not anti-Semitic it is extremely unlikely they would then collectively resort to such forms of criticism and behaviour.
There are some curious similarities between the language use of the anti-Semitic far-Right and the pro-Palestinian movement. This can be seen in their related texts, articles, and on many Internet forums where one could easily mistake pro-Palestinians for far-right activists raging on about “Zionism.” The traditional anti-Semitic anti-Zionism that the far-Right espouses has its roots in the fantasy that Jews are bent on World domination, where the fabricated Russian text “The Protocols of the [Learned] Elders of Zion” is their bible. Pro-Palestinians would of course reject these links. However, many of the armed Islamic terrorist groups they espouse subscribe to the very same far-Right theories! Indeed, the connection between traditional anti-Semitic “anti-Zionism” and the newer politically correct pro-Palestinian “anti-Zionism” can easily be seen on very popular hate sites like Jew Watch that often attack Israel.
In order to accept that pro-Palestinian groups do not hate Jewish people, the possibility that numerous conventional anti-Semites jumped on this populist bandwagon would also have to be rejected. How likely is this to be the case? It stands to reason obsessive Jew-haters would find the Jewish State a prime target for attack, especially as they do not have to endure much censure. Dyed-in-the-wool Holocaust denier and vocal anti-Semite David Irving has expressed much sympathy for the Palestinians. High profile Holocaust denier Mark Weber has actually decided to change tack by siding with the Palestinians in order to fight Jewish power. Even fascistic websites like Storm Front occasionally express sympathy for Arabs whilst remaining unrelentingly anti-Semitic. As a simple gauge of the popularity of traditional anti-Semitic belief, Jew Watch was at the top of Google’s listings and continues to be near the top for number of hits when common words like “Jew” are typed into its search engine. With traditional anti-Semitic belief far from uncommon, today pro-Palestinians cannot believably assert that few of these people are among their ranks.
A feature of the pro-Palestinian movement is the prolific use of Jewish critics to publicly attack Israel, including victims of the Holocaust. While some Jews (particularly leftists) attack Israel on their own steam, there seems to be a ploy of promoting Jewish critics in the movement because although related to the issue, they appear to be greatly over-represented given population size. It seems likely that this is done to deflect accusations of anti-Semitism and possibly to undermine understanding of why Israel (as a Jewish state) ought to exist. Many pro-Palestinians criticise opponents who state that certain Jewish critics are self-hating. Not all Jewish critics of Israel are likely to be self-hating but of course self-hatred is apparent among minorities. Such people internalise certain oppressive views and dislike their identity. Amongst Jewish people this phenomenon is entirely feasible given Western cultural antipathy.
It is apparent that a pre-emptive form of the anti-Semitism argument is actually used by the anti-Israeli movement to their advantage. They frequently pre-empt any possible accusation of anti-Semitism by bringing it up first. This is done to help deflect any eventual accusation of anti-Semitism no matter how warranted it would be. Thus, if and when such an accusation is finally made the accuser actually falls into a trap as if such a comment is below the belt. This move is intended to make those who defend Israel against extreme criticism appear dishonest or unreasonable. This approach is used repeatedly in the media and Internet. The accusation is often ascribed by pro-Palestinians as being part of a Zionist conspiracy to deflect criticism of Israel. It is another example of their intellectual dishonesty.
Why do pro-Palestinians obsess about Israel while largely ignoring other conflicts in the world? This is a common question. On occasion, when well known pro-Palestinian campaigners were asked why they exclusively focus on the alleged human rights abuses of Israel, the usual reply was that they care about other cases of human rights abuse too! Yet the efforts of such people do focus vastly more so on Israel. Of course we are selective with regard to the issues we care about at a personal level. However, if human rights issues concern such people generally, and chiefly motivates them to attack Israel, why don’t they campaign even a fraction as forcefully about other serious conflicts?
The intensive unceasing anti-Israel mass movement compares with no other internationally. Its scale compared to other single-issue movements is unprecedented, even exceeding the international campaign against Apartheid South Africa. One would think Israel is the only region where serious conflict occurs. There appears to be very little being done for Darfur, the Congo etc. where the contrasting scale of death and suffering makes Israel Vs. the Palestinians look like a fairly minor conflict. This point also lends credence to the view that the pro-Palestinian movement is not generally motivated by a concern for human rights. If the many do-gooders driving the Palestinian movement were truly concerned about human rights, the result would be a pro-Palestinian movement that was merely one of many highly active movements, and if scale was broadly a factor in their sympathies it would be quite a minor one at that.
People like journalist Khaled Abu Toameh have said so-called “pro-Palestinians” only care about alleged abuses to Palestinians involving Israel. Why are they not campaigning about the financial corruption and human rights abuses by Fatah and Hamas that are at times severe? While Israel’s Christian population has never been higher, Palestinian Christians are fleeing from increasingly Islamicist Palestinian run territory. Why no regard for these Palestinians? Women have been subjected to poor treatment especially by Hamas. Yet feminist supporters have little to say about the issue. Sizeable Arab states refused to accept Palestinian refugees, while Israel took in a larger number of Jewish refugees expelled from Arab nations. They refused in order to achieve a continuous belligerence against Israel. The Palestinians became an agent to assist in Israel’s destruction. A similar attitude is evident amongst pro-Palestinians.
A typical pro-Palestinian strategy is to strip the events of this conflict from their context. Isolating such facts will only mislead and indeed this is clearly the intention. For example, assertions that Israel was founded through ethnic cleansing require highly selective interpretations of decontextualised historic facts. Violent intolerance toward Jews existed long before Israel was established. Israel’s foundation should be viewed in the context of a nascent state fighting for its survival, where both sides had been divided by violent sectarian tensions for a long time. Assertions that Israel was assisted by British colonialism could not be further from the truth. The British ceded 78 % of the mandated territory to Trans-Jordan, helped create a violent pogrom-like environment, and issued successive rulings designed to impede the establishment of a Jewish state. Profoundly distorted maps that attribute vast public lands to Palestinian ownership are used to compare Jewish vs. Palestinian settlement before and after the establishment of Israel, and selective historic quotes, often very dubiously interpreted, are produced to “prove” the very worst intent.
Many act as if Israel alone prevents a Palestinian state. The Palestinian’s rejected every opportunity from the 1947 UN Partition resolution to the recent offer by Ehud Olmert who acceded to virtually all the territory they demanded. In any serious conflict both parties require a modicum of good faith before there is any possibility of achieving peace. While the Israeli electorate has backed peace-makers repeatedly, the Palestinians often choose the opposite such as with the election of the Islamicist group Hamas in Gaza after Israel withdrew from the region. At best such talks are an exercise to please the international community and at worst an attempt to cash in propagandistically.
The reality is that Israel will not be secure even if it achieves an improbable peace with the Palestinians. The negotiations between Egypt and Jordan were successful in terms of avoiding further military conflict but relations have not been truly normalised at state level and the majority of Egyptians and Jordanians are still extremely hostile to Israel decades after peace was made. Syria's leaders have indicated that normalised relations are not an option even if Israel returns the Golan Heights. Turkey has become increasingly hostile and its small Jewish population treated as ungrateful guests. Notwithstanding the apocalyptic utterances of its leaders, Iran is funding Hamas’ and Hizbullah’s assaults on Israel. It should be clear this conflict is an intermittent Islamic/pan-Arab war with Israel where the Palestinian’s became a proxy. Despite the precarious situation Western leaders at times aggressively encourage this state to take risks for peace and it has done so repeatedly. Yet when peace efforts almost inevitably go wrong there is typically a one-sided condemnation of Israel whilst ignoring common Palestinian intransigence.