Adam Levick of CAMERA-UK asks if one can “be truly committed to liberal values” and at the same time, be a deeply committed “supporter of the Palestinian cause.” More on his answer can be found here: “Palestinian Activism Demands Checking Your Liberalism at the Door,”
…We ask this question partly in response to recent comments by Mahmoud Abbas claiming that Ashkenazi Jews are the descendants of Khazars, and that Adolf Hitler had six million Jews slaughtered not because of antisemitism, but because of their “social role” as moneylenders.
On Sept. 7th, the Guardian’s former Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont (unproblematically) covered the row over Abbas’s antisemitism, and, a few days later, Bethan McKernan, the outlet’s current Jerusalem correspondent, reported on a letter signed by ‘Palestinian intellectuals’ putatively condemning Abbas. However, the Guardian reporter failed to note that some of the signatories themselves have engaged in antisemitic rhetoric.
It’s also telling that the letter itself suggests that it’s Palestinians who are most negatively impacted by Abbas’s vile defense of Hitler, in complaining that “the Palestinian people are sufficiently burdened by Israeli settler colonialism, dispossession, occupation, and oppression without having to bear the negative effect of such ignorant and profoundly antisemitic narratives perpetuated by those who claim to speak in our name.” The injurious impact of Abbas’s antisemitism on Jews themselves is not mentioned….
The 100 Palestinian academics who signed a letter deploring Abbas’ remarks on Hitler and the Holocaust did so not because they sympathized with Jews who were so maligned by Abbas in his Ramallah speech to the Revolutionary Council of Fatah,. In the letter itself those academics repeats all the anti-Israeli canards, about “Israeli settler colonialism, dispossession, occupation and oppression” — in other words, they remain virulently anti-Israel. They object to Abbas’ speech on practical grounds; that speech was so extreme in its antisemitism, its Holocaust minimizing, its claim that Hitler killed Jews not because he was an antisemite — Abbas insisted that he wasn’t because, you see, he hated Jews not for being Jews (that would be “antisemitism”), but for their “social role” as dealers in “money and usury.” In the same speech Abbas insisted that the Ashkenazi Jews were not really Jews at all, but the descendants of Khazars. Thus, according to Abbas, the “so-called Ashkenazi Jews” had no connection to the Middle East and had no business being there.
Because Abbas’ speech made the Palestinians look bad in the eyes of the West, it was all a question of image; the academics didn’t want anything to be done by Abbas that might harm the Palestinian cause, in which they all believe as deeply as Abbas himself. Many of the letter’s signers, in fact, had made their own antisemitic comments in the past, but these did not receive the attention that Abbas’ statement had been given.
Abbas’ latest speech did not come out of the blue. He’s been engaged in similar antisemitic fabrications for more than 40 years, insisting that the Zionists were in cahoots with the Nazis to force Jews to flee Europe for Mandatory Palestine. He’s made outrageous claims about a non-existent friendship between Ben Gurion and Hitler. There never was such a friendship; Hitler’s real friend in the Middle East was Hajj Amin el Husseini, who enthusiastically endorsed the Final Solution to “the Jewish question.” Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, spent the war years in Nazi Berlin, met with Hitler, befriended Adolf Eichmann and encouraged the Nazi plans to annihilate the Jews. Hajj Amin el Husseini personally helped raise three SS battalions among the Muslim Bosnians.
The Palestinian leader, in fact, has a long history of Holocaust denial. His 1982 doctoral dissertation, titled “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism”, not only included the lie that Zionist leaders conspired with Hitler, but it even questioned the existence of the gas chambers….
In his doctoral dissertation, which he wrote at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, Abbas engaged in wholesale Holocaust denial, suggesting that some Jews may have died, but their deaths were not deliberate — there was no evidence of the gas chambers, Abbas argued, repeating the claims of French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson, though some Jews died of such illnesses as typhus and tuberculosis. Later, when he published his dissertation as a book, he modified his views, moving from Holocaust denial to Holocaust minimizing. He claimed that at most, there were 800,000 Jews, not six million, who might have died. Despite this record, the Western world has largely ignored Abbas’ history as both Holocaust denier and Holocaust minimizer.
Palestinian society is soaked in antisemitism. From the antisemitism in its schoolbooks, to the children’s television programs that show Palestinian tiny tots making stabbing motions with their little knives as they lisp their desire to kill Zionists, to the fire-and-brimstone imams railing against the Jews in their Friday khutbas, to the PA’s “Pay-For-Slay” program that rewards past, and incentivizes future, murderous attacks on Jews, to the naming of streets, plazas, and buildings after such celebrated terrorists as Dalia Mughrabi, the mastermind of the Coastal Road Massacre, as a way to memorialize them, and to encourage young Palestinians to emulate them. “Go thou and do likewise” is the sinister message to young Palestinians.
Modern day ‘progressives’, on the other hand, are often quite illiberal in rejecting universalism in favour of “a caste system of victimhood in which those on top must defer to those with a greater claim to restorative justice”, championing the cause only of those defined (often arbitrarily) as “oppressed identity groups” – a political orientation which often leads to moral double standards, as well as conspiratorial explanations for complex problems.
Regardless of which side of the Israeli-Palestinian debate you’re on, liberalism demands that you take Palestinians seriously as moral actors, as agents of their own fate, and that you judge their behavior as you’d judge anyone else’s. It’s because seeing the conflict through liberalism’s enlightened lens reveals uncomfortable truths about Palestinians, as well as their society and theirmovement, that progressives continually demand, in effect, that you check your liberalism at ‘Palestine’s’ door.
The “progressives” see the Palestinians not as people with agency, but solely as the victims of the “Zionists.” We must not blame them, the progressives insist, for the antisemitism in their societies — in their schoolbooks and sermons and television shows — it is only an understandable reaction to the colonial-settler state that so oppresses them. For “progressives,” the Palestinians are the “oppressed people” par excellence, the only group of “refugees” who have an entire UN agency — UNRWA — devoted to their permanent care and feeding. And they are the only group of “refugees,” out of the hundreds of millions of refugees who have been created since World War II, whose refugee status is an inheritable trait. The children of all other refugees are not considered refugees themselves. Vladimir Nabokov was a Russian refugee; his son Dmitri, born in Berlin, was not. Henry Kissinger was a German Jewish refugee; his son David, born in New York, is not. But the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on, world without end, of the Palestinians who left Mandatory Palestine/Israel between late 1947 and 1949, are allowed to call themselves “refugees,” entitled to all the benefits that UNRWA lavishes upon them.
The “progressives,” who insist on favoring the Palestinian refugees above all other groups of refugees, both in the capacious and ever-expanding definition of who can qualify as such a refugee, and in the lavish benefits provided to them, far above what all other groups of refugees receive, still see nothing wrong with such favoritism. True liberals, on the other hand believe in universalism, and that all groups of refugees should be treated equally. Nor are the liberals, as opposed to the “progressives” in The Squad and similar groups, willing to spread antisemitic tales to blacken the image of Israel and make it more vulnerable to outside pressure that, if successful, would cause Israel to make concessions in the West Bank and the Golan Heights that would threaten the survival of the state. The Jews waited almost 2000 years for the chance to resurrect a Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel.. They are not about to give it up.