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Friday, March 22, 2013

Racism, Antisemitism and Dishonesty

Natan Sharansky defined modern antisemitism as hiding behind a veneer of “legitimate criticism of Israel.” I will always defend Israel against any enemy or ‘friend,’ whenever I perceive an agenda that steps outside of legitimate criticism. 

Natan neatly summarised the areas to which we must respond, in his 2005 essay (the link to the essay is below) when he offered a simple set of tests, the three D’s, to define the boundaries beyond which we must become engaged.

The first is the test of demonization – Jews and Israelis labelled as Nazi’s. The second test is the double standards test.  This is selective criticism justified by reference to Israel being a) chosen b) a Western nation or c) uniquely held to a higher standard of behaviour under any circumstances. The third test is de-legitimisation. Classic antisemitism was justified by supercessionism (or replacement) theology. Modern antisemitic discourse denies the legitimacy of Israel and in spite of Arab colonialism or Muslim theocratic hegemonic pretensions decries Israel as being the last surviving remnant of Western Imperialism or White and Christian colonialism. See:

Denial refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of one identity being equal to another identity. If we lived in a world without prejudice or discrimination then equality would be automatic and we could change our identity as we change our shirts.  Multiple layers of identity shape our perceptions but they are influenced by the press, by our family circumstances, by our class and by society.  We naturally, in defining ourselves, place ourselves in contradistinction to the other.  It is in the nature of the relationship we have with ‘the other’ that a community is not only formed but also judged.

Judaism recognised the competitive nature of identity in its requirement for reinforcing validation and we are repeatedly reminded in the Torah that we must treat the ‘other’ with respect. It is sadly understandable that because we have been so often attacked our sympathy for the other is sometimes insufficiently rigorous and even on occasion, entirely absent. Then, it does not help that the motive for probing our less than pristine behaviour evokes an almost visceral reaction of rejection; a refusal to even acknowledge that we may be less than correct in the way we treat others.

Disregard for human rights can never be selectively applied.

And yet, official Arab apartheid against non-Arabs and non–Muslims has generated no excitement and no Apartheid Week activities in the West. Syrian atrocities are all but ignored (the Assad dynasty has ruled Syria through the liberal use of terror since 1970), Lebanese apartheid is unheard of, and Saudi-Arabian human rights violations rarely make the news. We studiously avoid offence and sanitise Islamic incitement at all costs.  When terrible things are uttered in Europe or America we condemn the speaker and his or her philosophy (usually) without reservation. When Egyptian, Turkish or Palestinian Authority presidents (Morsi, Erdogan and Abbas) make antediluvian declarations - proclamations so egregious we should be ashamed to repeat them, worse than anything casually whispered in our ‘tainted’ Western societies, we try our best to conceal the truth.  We do not comment unless forced to do so and then we make every possible excuse. 

Arab and Muslim identity is predicated on the subservience or subjugation of the minority, a marginalised groups humiliation and institutionalised ridicule.  The (extreme) Left refuses to accept that Jews are able to possess an identity defined by national self-governance.  Radical racist Christian groups renew their support for replacement theology as justification for the delegitimisation of Israel.  This hypocrisy too often undermines the legitimate concerns we all feel for minority rights in Israel. It does not excuse it but human beings fight discrimination with discrimination.

The post-modern, left wing internationalist won’t be moving, any time soon, to Nigeria, Pakistan, The Congo or The Sudan.  They will talk about the importance of international aid and how we should burn less carbon fuel so that the depletion of the Ozone layer happens at a slower rate.  But what they won’t mention is the pillaging of Africa’s intellectual talent through the commercialisation of our universities.  They celebrate this because it empowers them.  They will ignore the corrupt international aid industry that perpetuates and exacerbates human conflict.  And the cost of failure represented by every immigrant or refugee who fails to return to his or her own country (at a financial benefit to the West) is an irretrievable loss of human capital to the home nation.  While our Western neo-colonial practices are ignored they will however, never fail to condemn Israel for its survival in the post-European Near-Eastern colonial ocean.

It is this hypocritical expression of antisemitism that makes fighting for civil equality in Israel more difficult, it undermines the Left; in fact in Israel it has virtually eviscerated the Left as a progressive movement.  Those people that want the State of Israel to magically ‘solve’ Islamic extremism (in the West and in fact, throughout the world) by coming up with a solution to the conflict with Palestine fail to see that it is their bigotry that has made a solution nearly impossible to achieve in the foreseeable future.

Our contribution must be to highlight antisemitism in all of its disguises and to defeat those that by their intimidation and radicalisation harm all of society and not just us.  To paraphrase John F Kennedy: Ich bin ein Israeli - We are all Israeli.  Last and no less important, it is our business to remind Israel of its progressive Zionist roots so that its founder’s vision may not be lost in ongoing and seemingly irreconcilable conflict.

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