A strange thing happened to me over these past few days. On Friday, December 20 the website of Spectator USA published my comment on the thin line between Zionism and anti-Semitism. A couple of hours after the comment appeared on the web, it mysteriously disappeared. (It was still announced on the main page, but when one clicked on my text there, it was unavailable). I was told that this was just a matter of a technical glitch and that the text would re-appear very soon, which it did in late afternoon of December 21. However, it was now available in a shortened form, with two central passages missing, and I was told that the editor just decided to “tidy up” my text.
All this happened shortly after the furious reactions to my comment published on the website of Independent, to which I was not allowed to reply. (Russia Today reported on this incident). Since my text for Spectator deals with a similar topic, I cannot but suspect that I am again a victim of censorship. Let the readers decide! Here is my full text as it first appeared on Spectator’s website, and the main two passages that disappeared in its reappearance are between ((( and ))). I wasn’t consulted about this change, and readers should note, especially, the disappearance of the last paragraph which brings in Palestinians. This is where we stand today in our “permissive” liberal societies: it looks like I am now considered problematic in the last two digital (not printed, I was excluded from print media years ago) news outlets in the English-speaking part of the world that have been still open to me.
One of the main reasons for Labour’s defeat in the UK was the well-orchestrated campaign of character assassination of Corbyn who was even rated Top Anti-Semite of 2019 by Simon Wiesenthal Center (ahead of actual terrorists!). This was a case of foreign meddling in elections at least as strong as the Russian meddling in the last US elections. There is nothing new here: it’s just a small part of a global offensive, whose victims are also many Jews critical of Israeli politics like the “propagandist for Hamas” Gideon Levy who wrote in Haaretz on December 8:
“Laws labeling anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and the anti-occupation movement as anti-Semitic, are passed with overwhelming majorities. Now they are playing into the hands of Israel and the Jewish establishment, but they are liable to ignite anti-Semitism when questions arise about the extent of their meddling.”
I consider Levy a true “patriotic Israeli”, as he once designated himself. He correctly predicts that the precipitous conflation of the critique of Israeli politics with anti-Semitism will give rise to a new wave of anti-Semitism. How so?
In order to ground its Zionist politics, the State of Israel is making a catastrophic mistake: it decided to downplay so-called “old” (traditional European) anti-Semitism, focusing instead on the “new” and allegedly “progressive” anti-Semitism masked as the critique of the Zionist politics of the State of Israel. Along these lines, in his The Left in Dark Times Bernard Henri-Levy recently claimed that the anti-Semitism of the twenty-first century will be “progressive” or there will be none. Brought to its conclusion, this thesis compels us to turn around the old Marxist interpretation of anti-Semitism as a mystified/displaced anti-capitalism (instead of blaming the capitalist system, the rage is focused on a specific ethnic group accused of corrupting the system.) For Henri-Levy and his partisans, contemporary anti-capitalism is a disguised form of anti-Semitism. ((( Can one imagine a more dangerous way of inciting anti-Semitism among today’s critics of capitalism?
The unspoken but no less efficient prohibition on attacking “old” anti-Semitism is taking place at the very moment when this very “old” anti-Semitism is returning all around Europe, especially in post-Communist East European countries. We can observe a similar weird alliance in the US: how can US Christian fundamentalists, who are as it were by nature anti-Semitic, now passionately support the Zionist policy of the State of Israel? There is only one solution to this enigma: it is not that the US fundamentalists changed; it is that Zionism itself, in its hatred of the Jews who do not fully identify with the politics of the State of Israel, paradoxically became anti-Semitic, i.e., constructed the figure of the Jew who doubts the Zionist project along anti-Semitic lines. )))
Trump did exactly the same when he used anti-Semitic stereotypes to characterize Jews as driven by money and insufficiently loyal to Israel. The title of the Vanity Fair report on it tells it all: “Trump Goes Full Anti-Semitic In Room Full Of Jewish People”. And the question is: why do many Zionists nonetheless respond positively to Trump’s message? There is only one consistent answer: because of Zionism itself; because, in some sense, it became anti-Semitic. In what sense? Here is the gist of what Trump said:
“Speaking at the Israeli American Council in Hollywood, Florida, on Saturday night, Trump hit all of his favorite anti-Semitic tropes before a room full of Jewish people. He started off by once again invoking the age-old cliché about ‘dual loyalty’, saying there are Jews who “don’t love Israel enough.” After that warm-up he dove right into the stereotype about Jews and money, telling the group: “A lot of you are in the real estate business, because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all,” he said. “But you have to vote for me—you have no choice. You’re not gonna vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let’s take 100% of your wealth away!” He continued: “Some of you don’t like me. Some of you I don’t like at all, actually. And you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’re going to be out of business in about 15 minutes if they get it. So I don’t have to spend a lot of time on that.”
One almost feels unease and embarrassment when confronted with such statements. There is no need for a complex analysis usually associated with “the critique of ideology,“ because what should have been just implied is openly spelled out. The line of thought cannot be clearer: you are Jews and, as such, you only care about money, and you care about your money more than about your country, so you don’t like me and I don’t like you, but you will have to vote for me so that you do not lose your money… Israel is playing a dangerous game in aligning itself with such stances: some time ago, Fox News, the main US voice of the radical Right and a staunch supporter of Israeli expansionism, had to demote Glen Beck, its most popular host whose comments were getting openly anti-Semitic.
When, at this year’s Hanukkah party, Trump signed the controversial executive order on anti-Semitism, John Hagee was there, the founder and National Chairman of the Christian-Zionist organization Christians United for Israel. At the top of the standard Christian-conservative agenda (Hagee sees the Kyoto Protocol as a conspiracy aimed at manipulating the U.S. economy; in his bestselling novel Jerusalem Countdown, the Antichrist is the head of the European Union), Hagee has made statements that definitely sound anti-Semitic. He has blamed the Holocaust on Jews themselves; he has stated that Hitler’s persecution was a “divine plan” to lead Jews to form the modern state of Israel; he calls liberal Jews “poisoned” and “spiritually blind”; he admits that a preemptive nuclear attack on Iran, which he favors, will lead to the deaths of most Jews in Israel. (As a curiosity, he claims in Jerusalem Countdown that Hitler was born from a lineage of “accursed, genocidally murderous half-breed Jews.”) With friends like these, Israel really doesn’t need enemies.
((( Let me mention yet another time a shocking caricature published in July 2008 in the Viennese daily Die Presse, depicting two stocky Nazi-looking Austrians, one of whom holds a newspaper in his hands and comments to his friend: “Here you can see again how a totally justified anti-Semitism is being misused for a cheap critique of Israel!” When today’s Christian fundamentalist supporters of the Israeli politics reject Leftist critiques of Israeli policies, is their implicit line of argumentation not uncannily close to the caricature from Die Presse?
However, while the struggle between hardline Zionists and Jews open to a true dialogue with Palestinians is crucial, we should not forget the background of this struggle – West Bank Palestinians, exposed to daily administrative and even physical terror (crops burned, wells poisoned), manipulated by Arab regimes all around them… While the conflict is not one between “Jews” and “Arabs,” it is also not a kind of collective psycho-drama of the divided Jews, in which Palestinians are just a background voice. There is no way out without an authentic Palestinian voice. )))