Anti-Semitism, the reality

We are told that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Australia (even the Israeli press links to the same article.) The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) claim that attacks on Jews and “anti-Semitic incidents” were at a near-record high in the past year. The report’s author, Jeremy Jones, explains:

“The most important thing is that when people think they can get away with it [antisemitic incidents], that’s when they commit them. The atmosphere [during the war in Lebanon] was right for attacking Jews and getting away with it. It’s not what happens in the Middle East, it’s how the media covers it [that incites antisemitism].”

Is that clear? It’s the media’s fault, and not Israeli actions, that anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise. And who especially?

This is particularly the case when antisemitic views are broadcast on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission), as in the minds of racists this signifies that bigotry has received government imprimatur.

The report provides no evidence for such an allegation yet the tone clearly implies that even interviewing, say, Hamas spokesmen or dissenting Jewish voices, is tantamount to inciting anti-Jewish hatred.

The full report can be read here. It’s a long-winded and dishonest report. This is unsurprising considering the authors, but a few points need clarification. The report claims that the “Left” is infused with anti-Semitism. Some commentators are accused of daring to suggest that Israeli policies in the occupied territories are akin to apartheid. Others have argued, myself included, that being anti-Zionist is a legitimate political position. Of course, in the report’s eyes, this is contributing to anti-Semitism. In such circumstances, critical voices are, almost by definition, inciting Jew-hatred.

It is worth remembering the words of US historian Norman Finkelstein. He told Democracy Now in February:

In the United States among those people who call themselves supporters of Israel, we enter the area of unreason. We enter a twilight zone. American Jewish organizations, they’re not only not up to speed yet with Steven Spielberg, they’re still in the Leon Uris exodus version of history: the “this land is mine, God gave this land to me,” and anybody who dissents from this, you can call it, lunatic version of history is then immediately branded an anti-Semite, and whenever Israel comes under international pressure to settle the conflict diplomatically, or when it is subjected to a public relations debacle, such as it was with the Second Intifada, a campaign is launched claiming there is a new anti-Semitism afoot in the world.

There is no evidence of a new anti-Semitism. If you go through all the literature, as I have, the evidence is actually in Europe, which is Dr. Ben-Ami’s half-home ground, Spain, but throughout Europe, the evidence is, if you look at like the Pew Charitable Trust surveys, anti-Semitism has actually declined since the last time they did the surveys. They did it in 1991 and 2002. They said the evidence is that it’s declined. And the same thing in the United States. What’s called the “new anti-Semitism” is anyone who criticizes any official Israeli policies. In fact, my guess is had people not known who wrote Scars of War, Wounds of Peace, that book would immediately be put on the A.D.L.’s list of verboten books, an example of anti-Semitism, because he says things like the Zionists wanted to transfer the Arabs out. That’s anti-Semitism. It has nothing to do with the real world. It’s a public relations extravaganza production to deflect attention from the facts, from the realities…

His words could apply equally to Australia. Violent attacks on Jews do occur, and real anti-Semitism does exist. Such outrages should be condemned and prosecuted, but the ECAJ report is so politicised as to make its contribution negligible at best. Any criticism of Israel is deemed unacceptable. Damning Israeli actions in Lebanon is inappropriate. It is unsurprising, therefore, how few individuals speak out against such dishonest practices.

Half-way through the report appears these paragraphs:

The shallowness and intellectual dishonesty in some of the debate on the Middle East in Australia was evident in the reception accorded a book written on Israel and Australia’s Jewish Community by an individual with no particular expertise, experience or skills but who identified himself as a Jewish critic of Australian Jewry and of Zionism. While the book was riddled with factual inaccuracies and sloppiness, it was speedily given iconic value by a range of critics of Israel, including overt antisemites.

It was promoted and sold by extreme right wing political organisations, available at a bookstand which otherwise exclusively sold fundamentalist Islamic texts at a Muslim fair and the author was promoted by a variety of far-left groups existentially opposed to Israel.

The author’s personal moderated internet discussion forum published a series of items making offensive comments about individuals opposed to Holocaust denial and others accusing critics of the author of using “every weapon in the Jewish armoury of self-victimisation” , while the author himself used offensive anti-Jewish language, but the utility to anti-Israel groups and individuals of having a self-identified Jewish person who was eager to criticise Israel and Australian Jewry seemingly over-rode any concern with factual accuracy or concern with racism.

The report’s authors are too gutless to actually mention my book by name, My Israel Question, or my name itself (they’ll be happy to know that there will be many more surprises on these matters in 2007.)

Despite the best efforts of Zionist agitators everywhere (including this report’s author, Jeremy Jones, who penned a review for the Australian Jewish News that reached new heights of hilarity), my book has become a best-seller and is now well into its 3rd reprint. Of course, Zionists may comfort themselves with the thought that my book appeals to a very narrow section of society, but in fact the amount of mail I’ve received from across the country and overseas – young and old, Jewish and non-Jewish, left and right – proves that My Israel Question has in fact spoken to many, sick of the tired, old militant Zionism that has failed time and time again.

Zionist “logic” works like this. Police the political and media arena for any comments that may be “suspect.” Attack mercilessly, accusing the individual of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, racism and a lack of patriotism. Watch the media take up the story. Sit back and enjoy the feeding frenzy. Of course, such tactics may have worked for many decades, but not anymore. Even leading Zionist Isi Leibler – who wants a Jewish TV channel to rival al-Jazeera – understands the current situation:

There is no disputing that at every level we are losing the global war of ideas. Despite clear evidence that fanatical Islamic fundamentalism threatens the basic fabric of Western civilization, Israel, and by extension the Jewish people, are now generally perceived as pariahs.

In contrast to the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel was universally acclaimed for having valiantly defended itself as a David vs Goliath against the combined might of Arab armies bent on her annihilation, today the image of the Jewish state has been reversed. Now it is the Palestinians who are the noble underdogs. Despite every conceivable effort to reach an accommodation, including disastrous unilateral withdrawals and spurned offers to retreat to the virtually indefensible 1967 borders, much of the world perceives us as conquerors who routinely kill innocent civilians and deny human rights to oppressed neighbours.

Israel and Jews are “losing the global war of ideas” because the Jewish state’s actions can no longer be spun to hide its brutality. World public opinion has noticed. It will take more than better PR (and a Jewish TV channel, could there be anything more parochial?) to reverse the tide. Better behaviour is rewarded. Just look at the US. Its international reputation has never been lower. We all know why (hint: Iraq and torture aren’t a good mix.)

If the Jewish community establishment wants to be taken seriously, it will have to do better than accusing me of inciting anti-Semitism or the “Left” of contributing to Jew-hatred. These mothers-of-all-distractions are about as effective as US foreign policy. The convenient conflation of Israeli criticism with anti-Semitism is a ploy that is both dishonest and counter-productive. I fear that these ghetto-minded Jews will only understand the failures of their tactics when international isolation forces them to either change (like the white minority in apartheid South Africa) or simply be forgotten as a racist relic.

Indeed, the tactics of the peace movement are working. Israel’s support is ever-more marginalised. The occupation is rightly seen as a blight on the Jewish state. Militant Zionism is now openly challenged in the public arena. There is much work to be done, of course, but the current ECAJ report on anti-Semitism simply contributes to the public’s perception that Jews are incapable of tolerating dissent.

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