Notes From the Margins…

Antisemitism: a blight that Palestinian solidarity doesn’t need

  • March 06, 2015
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No one who has been involved in Palestinian solidarity or who has even had the temerity to criticize the actions of the Israeli state will be unaware of the explosive issue of antisemitism.   The anti-apartheid movement was directed against a system whose essential iniquity was almost universally recognized, even by the states that covertly supported apartheid South Africa.

Anti-Zionists, by contrast,   have always had to deal with a state whose existence, at least in part, is due to the single greatest crime against humanity in world history, and which still commands a certain instinctive loyalty amongst Jews and gentiles alike because of its ability to present itself as the defender of Jews everywhere.   There is no doubt that Israel and its supporters routinely use the charge of antisemitism as a political tool to silence criticism or smear its critics.

They often do so in the most blatantly cynical and downright disreputable manner, whether it’s the hysterical ‘blood libel’ denunciations that of the 2010 Goldstone Report, the accusations of antisemitic incitement directed against George Galloway, or the attacks on the BDS campaign.

Nevertheless the fact that antisemitism is used as an instrument of Israeli propaganda and political manipulation doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.   I was reminded of its existence by some of the tweets and comments in response to a piece that I wrote about Netanyahu’s appearance in the US Congress, which was posted on the Stop the War UK Facebook site yesterday.  

One linked to former KKK leader David Duke.     Another posted a cartoon of a hook-nosed evil-looking Jew holding the United States dog by the reins.     Yet another referred to the ‘masonic-zionist’ conspiracy to control the world – just a slight and not very convincing tweak of the old ‘masonic-Jewish’ conspiracies of old.   There were a number of references to ‘zionazis’ and the Rothschilds.   One commentator suggested that ISIS had been created by ‘IsraeZionist Rothschilds’ in order to kill ‘innocent Muslims.’.

Obviously   these comments don’t represent the official position of STWUK, even though one troll tried to suggest that Stop the War is ‘ a mouthpiece for terrorists, murderers and savages’,   as trolls   usually do.       But they are nevertheless another expression of   a very real phenomenon that has far more to do with hatred of Jews that any concern with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.   The spikes in attacks on Jewish synagogues and cemeteries and other antisemitic incidents in recent years may have accompanied Israel’s wars in Gaza, but attacking Jews because they are Jews is not an expression of solidarity with anyone.

It’s no good saying that Israel is partly responsible for this ‘confusion’, because it identifies itself so closely with Jews internationally.   We don’t – well most of us don’t – hold all Muslims responsible for the actions of ISIS or al-Qaeda or even Saudi Arabia for that matter, so Jews should not be held collectively responsible for what Israel does.   It’s that kind of thinking, at its worst extreme,   that led Mohammed Merah to shoot a Jewish schoolgirl and Amedy Coulibaly to target a Jewish supermarket.

And please don’t ask me to believe that these murders were the result of some misplaced anger about the injustices perpetrated against Palestinians in Gaza.     If you care about Gaza there are a thousand things you can do that don’t require murdering Jews.   It’s one thing to criticize Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians, but that doesn’t mean that Israel is a Nazi state.   It doesn’t mean that Israel is responsible for every act of mayhem in the Middle East.     It doesn’t even mean that Israel is uniquely evil and monstrous.     Many states have behaved better than Israel.   But there are also states that have behaved worse and do behave worse.

This isn’t ‘whataboutery’, nor is it to minimize Israel’s crimes; it’s simply a matter of getting things in perspective.     Israel may well be unique in the virtual carte blanche it has been given by the ‘international community’ to do whatever it likes, particularly by the United States, but there is a very real difference between analysing the mutual interests in the US-Israel special relationship, and cartoons like this, which was posted beneath my article on STWUK’s Facebook site yesterday.

You don’t need to know much about history to know where garbage like this comes from, and it is really not something I want to see in connection with anything I write, because nothing that I have written has ever been intended to generate a response like this.     Needless to say, it doesn’t reflect STWUK’s position either.   In an article for Counterfire last August, Reuben Bard-Rosenberg   declared that   ‘the claim that anti-Semitism is a dominant or generalised feature of the Palestine solidarity movement needs to be exposed as the falsehood that it is’.

Bard-Rosenberg noted the   the general absence of antisemitic slogans in recent STWUK demonstrations, and argued that the fact that ‘ the anti-war movement has popularised an anti-imperialist analysis of events in the Middle East – one that is focused upon the geo-political motivations of the key global and regional powers’ has ‘served as a bulwark against any attempt to frame the oppression of the Palestinians as simply the consequence of some peculiar Jewish evil.’

I think this is right.     But that ‘bulwark’ isn’t impermeable, and it needs constantly reinforcing.   Because there will always be those who will seek to ride the Palestinian cause and insinuate their own poisonous agendas into it.       And whenever they raise their nasty little heads they need to be denounced and called out, not only because antisemitism is totally unacceptable in itself, but because it plays into the hands of those who would like to deny justice to the Palestinians forever and seek to bury those who support them.



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  1. Yitzhak Santis

    9th Mar 2015 - 8:26 am

    This is interesting, but tells only 1/4 of the story. The article externalizes antisemitism from without the Palestinian solidarity movement, but fails to note that antisemitism is rife within the Palestinian national movement itself, particularly among its Islamist elements. This stems from the Palestinian political leadership’s collaboration with Nazi Germany before and during World War II, including expressing support for the “Final Solution,” and the importation of Nazi antisemitic ideology into the Arab-Muslim world.

    If Islamists murder Jews in Europe it is because Islamist ideology has incorporated the antisemitism of the Nazis into its core. It is no coincidence that Hajj Amin el Husseyni, the leader of Palestine’s Arabs in the 1930s-40s, spent the war years in Berlin closely collaborating with the highest levels of the Nazi elite, particularly Himmler who was the architect of the Nazi genocide against the Jews. El Husseyni met with Hitler in November 1941, transcripts of that meeting show el Husseyni agreeing with Hitler that after the Nazi military gains victory in North Africa, the Geramans would invade Palestine, kick out the British and murder the Jews there.

    El Husseyni’s work with the Nazis included regular Arabic language broadcasts of Radio Berlin into the Arab world, constantly inveighing against “al yahud” (the Jews). El Hussynie led the creation of two Bosnian Muslim SS divisions that were needed by the Nazis as supplemental troops, and were responsible for carrying out massacres of both Jews and Serbs. The Nazis translated Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion into Arabic, el Husseyni directed the distribution of these books, particularly in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq.

    El Husseyni was the Muslim Brotherhood’s official representative in Palestine, and it is no coincidence that today’s MB representative in Palestine is Hamas, whose founding charter is replete with anti-Semitic content, including references to the Protocols and Jewish conspiracy theories to control the world. Precisely what you correctly called anti-Semitism.

    If the Palestinian solidarity movement wishes to expunge anti-Semitism from its ranks, it will need to start explaining that to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fateh, and other Palestinian groups. Palestinians themselves need to examine critically their own history, and remove the racist stain left on their nationalist movement by their founding father, the Nazi collaborator Hajj Amin el Husseyni.

    • Nik

      9th Mar 2015 - 11:53 pm

      Oh sure.. if only the Palestinians and the solidarity movement would have done all what you suggest.. I am sure that by now they would all sing songs and dance in a palestinian state within the 1967 borders with “minor and mutual” changes to the border rather than being colonized by over half a million settlers.

      Ok let’s be serious here: As much as I agree that Husseyni was a criminal idiot who colluded with Hitler-Germany I would also like to point out that if the political elite of a people seeks to reach their goals they sometimes are even willing to strike a deal with the devil. Just ask the boys from the Stern gang and some of their rather prominent members. On top of that the role and influence of Husseyni back then is grossly overrated. All this talk about him among occupation-apologists is just another of the several classic hasbara-smokescreens.

      Let’s be honest here: The Palestinians could have been philosemite hippies led by Gandhi himself; they’d still have hundreds of thousands of settlers on their land. They can do what they want, it was, is and will be about the land they live on and the fact that the better part of the political elite in Israel wants most, or even better, all of it.. and what are the Palestinians supposed to do? Accept it or leave. That’s the only thing that would ever satisfy the expansionists in israeli politics.

    • Matt

      11th Mar 2015 - 9:31 am

      So the full ‘story’ you wish to tell is an entire Palestinian national movement based on nothing but antisemitism, racism and Jew-hatred. No mention of Zionist colonisation, dispossession and occupation. None of that happened then? And presumably the creation of the state of Israel was just a defence against Palestinian antisemitism? Nonsense. Pointing out that some antisemites have used Palestinian solidarity as a kind of Trojan horse to promote their own agendas is one thing, what you are doing is very different. Husseini was an incompetent member of the Palestinian elite whose views do not define the movement that came after him. Of course Palestinian groups and leaders have made antisemitic statements and given credence to antisemitic conspiracy theories, most famously in Hamas’s charter. But Hamas leaders have at other times made explicit statements rejecting antisemitism as a basis for resistance. For years the PLO’s program was a democratic state of Palestine – an objective that clearly envisioned a country shared by both Jews and Arabs. As for your indictment of the Muslim Brotherhood – I remember very well how the IDF allowed the MB to flourish in Gaza back in the 1980s in order to undermine the left/secular nationalist Palestinian organizations. No worries about its antisemitism then. As for the ‘racist stain’ – Zionism might also look to itself, not only in its treatment of the Palestinians, its attitudes to Arabs, but now in Israel’s racist treatment of African migrants.

  2. Paul Seligman (@PaulMSeligman)

    11th Mar 2015 - 10:54 am

    An important and well written piece, Matt. Of course, the subject is vast.

    There is unquestionably an element of direct anti-semitism, as well as innuendo, within the Palestine Solidarity movement. It si not enough to have formal positions against all racism including anti-semitism – each and every example must be dealt with, whether coming from very prominent politicians or fellow travellers of the movement. I am in active discussion on such points within the movement nationally. In my own locality, I am trying to educate supporters of Palestine by personal dialogue.

  3. The Antisemitism Circus Comes to Town | Matt Carr's Infernal Machine

    28th Apr 2016 - 7:57 pm

    […] mind the piece I wrote only a week after that Netanyahu piece entitled ‘ Antisemitism: a blight that Palestinian solidarity […]

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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