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Anti-Semitism as a Sword: Aggressive Tactics on Israel’s Behalf may Threaten All Jews

Anti-Semitism as a Sword: Aggressive Tactics on Israel’s Behalf may Threaten All Jews

Anti-Semitism as a Sword: Aggressive Tactics on Israel’s Behalf may Threaten All Jews
September 28
14:45 2018

LONDON — (Analysis) There is no doubt that Jews have suffered severe oppression in the course of European history. From the pogroms throughout Europe to the extermination of the Nazi Holocaust, few groups have suffered as harshly, as repeatedly, and for as long as Jewish communities. (Note the word “few” so as not to diminish the horrendous genocide of Native Americans and slavery and oppression of African Americans, as well as the suffering of others.)

While anti-Semitism still exists today, Jews do not face angry mobs assaulting them for their faith or destroying their homes and businesses. Jews do not live in fear of officers of the law that are supposed to protect them. Nor do Jews face systemic racism, neither de jure nor de facto, as members of a vulnerable minority. The Western world has responded quickly to any anti-Semitic acts and therefore global Jewry should rest more easily.

Knowing how horrible anti-Semitism can be, why then would anyone in a position of leadership threaten the protection that Jews receive? Crying wolf by alleging racism and anti-Semitism on such trivial grounds, if any, gives the appearance that Jews demand to be protected from the slightest of threats or even comments. What will happen if real, severe acts of anti-Semitism occur in the future. Will others still rush to their aid?

Part 2 of this series will discuss how the actions of the Israel Lobby and Israeli agents themselves also threatens the public perception of fellow Jewish citizens. When politicians are attacked for speaking on behalf of Palestinians and plans are hatched to undermine their positions in government, those without a stake in Israel will take note of the underhanded methods, especially in collusion with foreign agents. Furthermore, squashing dissent on campuses will only heighten the sensitivity to the attempts of Israel’s supporters to suppress free speech.

The supporters of Israel are playing a risky game. For while the steps of Israel’s supporters may technically be legal, using questionable methods could change the perception of Jewish loyalty to their home countries. While these ardent Zionists think all is fair in their battle to defend Israel regardless of that country’s record, all Jews may suffer the repercussions, whether they are Zionist or not.

 

The false claim of anti-Semitism

Today, the goodwill of the Western world defends Jews against anti-Semitism. Any action against Jews as a group receives a swift condemnation and response. There will always be true anti-Semites out there, but for the past several decades there has been nothing on the scale of the past. Nor do the consequences of anti-Semitism today appear notably worse than the threat of crime in general. Today is nothing like the 1940s or other violent times before then. So how can rabbinical and political leaders go around screaming “anti-Semitism!?” Especially in England, where anti-Semitism has never been close to that experienced on the European continent. As Alexander Mercouris notes in Consortium News:

By comparison with other European countries, anti-Semitism in Britain has, however, not been a major phenomenon in modern British society and recent British history. There has been no official persecution of Jews in Britain since they were allowed to resettle in England by Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s, while the attempt by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists to stir up political anti-Semitism in the 1930s provoked fierce resistance.

… Jewish people now play a full and active role in British life, and this happens without notice or comment.

… As for the formal institutions of Britain’s Jewish community, these form an integral part of British life. The chief rabbi has enjoyed a measure of recognition as the nominal leader of the British Jewish community from the British state ever since the 1870s. Since the 1980s, by convention, the chief rabbi has been admitted to the British Parliament as a peer of the House of Lords, though the present chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, has not yet been so admitted. The British Jewish community’s major institution — the Board of Deputies of British Jews — has had a continuous existence since the 1760s.”

So what are the claims of anti-Semitism about? Astoundingly very little. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, well known for his career of fighting racism, has had his career picked over with a fine-tooth comb. The following two examples of his supposed anti-Semitism, which are cited in the press, show just how thin are the allegations.

antisemitism | Corbyn For the first example, let’s review the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland’s allegation against Corbyn:

Jewish Labourites were not opposing the party leader for championing the Palestinians. They were opposing him for, to take one example, his 2013 attack on a group of “Zionists” he’d encountered, where he tackled them not on their arguments but on ethnic grounds, noting that despite “having lived in this country for a very long time, they don’t understand English irony.

The implication of that remark is clear – and it has nothing to do with defending Palestinians. It’s that Corbyn sees Jews as fundamentally alien, foreigners who might live here a long time, might even be born here, but are still essentially other. People who will never be truly English.”

Yet Freedland completely ignored the context of Corbyn’s comment to transform it into a blanket statement against all Jews as not “truly English.” Corbyn was referring to a speech given by Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Authority representative to the U.K. Jerry Haber, Jewish studies and philosophy professor, reviewed the text of the speech and Corbyn’s comment and proceeded to debunk the allegation of anti-Semitism against Corbyn. Haber aptly used a hypothetical conversation to show the failure of logic of Freedland and others.

Jerry Haber, Facebook post, Saturday 25 August 5 pm:

— Did you hear that Jeremy Corbyn, in a speech in 2013, said that British Jews weren’t really British even if they were born there?

— Really? He said that?

— Well, he intimated that British Jews couldn’t grasp English irony and didn’t understand history.”

— Really? He was referring to Jews?

— Well, he didn’t SAY Jews, but he said that about U.K. Zionists, which is a leftwing code term for British Jews.

— Hang on, he made a reference to U.K. Zionists as a group?

— Well, not exactly. Actually, he was referring to some pro-Israel members of the audience who came up and started arguing with the Palestinian ambassador who had presented the history of Palestine and used irony when he said, “You know I’m reaching the conclusion that the Jews are the children of God, the only children of God and the Promised Land is being paid by God! I have started to believe this because nobody is stopping Israel building its messianic dream of Eretz Israel to the point I believe that maybe God is on their side. Maybe God is partial on this issue” — which apparently some of the Zionists thought he meant without irony (We do not have a transcript of what they said). And Corbyn referred to “the Zionists in the audience.”

— So, you mean to say he did not refer to British Zionists as a whole, but he was saying that the Palestinian ambassador, who is Armenian Palestinian, had a greater grasp of English irony, than these Brits who had lived in England all their lives?

— Yes, that’s about it.

— So, in effect, he accused pro-Israeli members of the audience, whom he referred to as “Zionists,” which they are, and who argued with the Palestinian ambassador, with being humorless and misunderstanding history, compared with the Palestinian ambassador.

— Yep.

— Well, that makes the man clearly an anti-Semite, doesn’t it?”

In summary, the Palestinian representative had used irony to comment on the colonization of Palestine (clearly he did not believe the statements he made). The Zionists based their objection on a literal interpretation of the comments and Corbyn commented that the Zionists missed the irony.

Therefore Freedland’s attack on Corbyn is patently false. Freedland stated Corbyn was not “defending Palestinians,” yet the entire context of the commentary involves what Israel is doing in the land of Palestine. Freedland further states “It’s that Corbyn sees Jews as fundamentally alien,” yet Corbyn was only referring to the supporters of Israel in the audience, not Jews as a whole. Freedland concludes his comment on this event with Corbyn essentially saying that Jews are “People who will never be truly English.” Quite simply, Freedland perversely stretched a comment about a lack of understanding by a few people into commentary on an entire group of people in the hundreds of thousands.

Taking a comment made to and about a specific few and using it to stereotype a group as a whole is, by definition, racism. This begs the question for Mr. Freedland: Who is the racist?

Jeremy Corbyn | Hajo Meye

Jeremy Corbyn (left) and Hajo Meyer (right) at an anti-Zionism event in 2010. Photo | Murray Freedman

In another example, Corbyn doesn’t even have to speak on the topic. Corbyn hosted “an event in 2010 during which Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer compared Israel’s behavior to that of Nazi Germany” and that has been enough to excoriate the Labour leader. In other words, when Corbyn hosts an event where a survivor of the Holocaust accuses Israel of some of the same crimes as the Nazis, Corbyn is to blame. There is no need to address what is said by this survivor, who lost both his parents and made his judgment based upon firsthand knowledge. All that is necessary is to suggest that Corbyn is an anti-Semite for letting a Holocaust Survivor speak his anti-Zionist views in public.

As Mercouris further notes, when the question turns to Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, the allegation is based purely upon his condemnation of Israel:

It is worth pointing out … that the criticisms being made against Corbyn barely touch on the Palestinian question at all. Anyone looking at these criticisms for a discussion of the Palestinian issue, even one from a position sympathetic to Israel and hostile to the Palestinians, will fail to find it.

The Palestinian struggle, the plight of the Palestinian people, the whole history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the current policies both of Israel and of the Western governments which support it, are barely mentioned. When Palestinians do get mentioned at all, it is purely as terrorists. The entire campaign is being conducted as if Corbyn and those who support him hate Zionism and Israel and therefore all Jews.”

In short, there is no need to discuss Corbyn’s comments on the Israeli treatment of Palestinians. All Corbyn has to do is criticize Israel to establish that he must hate all Jews.

As an American, I was astounded that these are the examples of the crisis facing Jews in the United Kingdom. There is no systemic bias there such as that facing people of color in the United States. Corbyn is not using dog whistles to suggest Jews are a threat to white Christian prosperity in the United Kingdom. Jews are not being blamed for problems in the economy in the way undocumented immigrants are in the U.S.

There must be something more and David Cromwell of Media Lens captures this perfectly:

Elite power cannot abide a serious challenge to its established position. And that is what Labour under Jeremy Corbyn represents to the Tory government, the corporate, financial and banking sectors, and the ‘mainstream’ media. The manufactured ‘antisemitism crisis’ is the last throw of the dice for those desperate to prevent a progressive politician taking power in the U.K.: someone who supports Palestinians and genuine peace in the Middle East, a strong National Health Service and a secure Welfare State, a properly-funded education system, and an economy in which people matter; someone who rejects endless war and complicity with oppressive, war criminal ‘allies’ such as the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel.”

So a combination of British conservatives and Israel’s supporters are using the very serious allegation of anti-Semitism to take down a political candidate. Sure, political candidates have been smeared before, but this time it is different and quite dangerous. One aspect of Jewish culture is the way we are repeatedly reminded of the Holocaust and the history of anti-Semitism (which was far more pervasive in mainland Europe than in the Middle East). The racist laws, the mob violence of pogroms, and the gas chambers are real horrors of the past. Considering the broadest definition of Jews in the world shows a global population of 20 million and only 370,000 in the United Kingdom; their rather dwarfed minority status is quite vulnerable should such racist actions rise again.

Yet none of the allegations against Corbyn have anything to do with this very dangerous history. Not even remotely close. They are tortuous interpretations of comments or associations that at their worst affect Jewish sensibilities. There are no policies or calls to actions against Jews as a group. There is nothing like the white supremacy that thrives within segments of the Republican Party in the U.S. Yes there are criticisms of Israel, but that is a foreign state that, the last time anyone checked, is not representative of British Jews.

To falsely suggest anti-Semitism is to risk the best protection all Jews have against it. If some vocal Jews in positions of prominence continue to cry wolf, people may begin to believe that all Jews not only want to have the same safety and security everyone else does, but that they expect a more deferential status too. That Jews want to be free of critique, including for their support of Israel.  That they demand even the slightest implication of threat through free speech be eradicated.

Anecdotally I can say this is not the case as most Jews I know do not subserviate the principles of their country for the benefit of those within their faith.  Yet a vocal minority can create that impression for the larger whole. Rather than help protect Jews as a group, the demands of these prominent speakers are more likely to diminish public sentiment against anti-Semitism. What will happen then if and when genuine anti-Semitic behavior and policies start to arise?

In Part 2 of this multi-part series, Ian Berman covers how the aggressive tactics of Israel’s supporters, as well as Israeli agents themselves, imperil all Jews, Zionist or not.

Top Photo | British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn talks to journalists outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Sept. 27, 2018. Francisco Seco | AP

Ian Berman is an entrepreneur and former corporate banker at leading global banks in New York City. He now focuses on financial advisory services and writing about representative government, equitable public policies and ending American militarism and Israel’s continuing colonization of Palestine. He is the Co-Founder of Palestine 365, the Ongoing Oppression and its predecessor, Palestine 365, on Facebook.

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Alexander Ionov

Alexander Ionov

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