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.