Zionists thrive on accusations of antisemitism, feeding off it to sustain a self-inflicted sense of persecution and using it to try and silence criticism of the Israeli government and the cruelty of its colonialist policies; such accusations are a self-generating form of parasitism.
Antisemitism continues to exist – it has been rooted in European civilization for centuries – and should be opposed in all its forms and the contributors to “On Anti-Semitism: solidarity and the struggle for justice” share a sense of the complexity and controversy surrounding the term.
Judith Butler, in the forward to this most timely of publications, identifies as the most contested of contemporary opinions the claim that criticisms of the State of Israel are antisemitic.
If the claim were true, she points out, then a criticism of the State of Israel would need to be seen to result in discrimination against Jews.
This would be the case if ‘all Jews’ were said to support the present state of Israel, that there is no distinction between Jews and the State, but this is not what critics of Israel are saying.
As Hamid Dabashi wrote recently in a superb piece for Al Jazeera “Western media’ and mass deception: ‘the Zionists do whatever they damn please to Palestinians – stealing their land, bulldozing their homes, uprooting their olive trees, coldbloodedly murdering them – and if anyone dares to utter a word against their war crimes and crimes against humanity they and their Zionist fifth columns in the US and Europe start screaming ‘anti-Semitism’ at them”.
The charge that fugitive forms of antisemitism fuels those who criticize Israel is too broad a stroke. It cannot be that everyone critical of Israel is antisemitic – or a ‘self-hating’ Jew as Zionists would have it – and where a fugitive prejudice is alleged to be at work it needs to be shown how, in each particular case, this is thought to be the case.
The alternative would mean Israel cannot be criticized and the conditions of its founding – the Nakba that saw the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes – can never be raised for discussion.
Antisemitism is too ugly and too potent for its bandying about as an excuse for trying to shame those who call for an end to colonial rule and the confiscation of land that belongs to Palestinians.
The charge of antisemitism is best kept, says Judith Butler, for those extreme right-wing groups gaining power in Poland and Hungary and still exerting influence in Greece and Austria.
On Anti-Semitism is a powerful and necessary book and its impressive range of contributors – Jewish and Palestinian – give voice to a variety of viewpoints.
Rabbi Alissa Wise, one of the contributors, points to the bottom line: “The truth is that everyone who organizes for justice in Palestine must wrestle with anti-Semitism, either because a false accusation is being lobbed at them, or because of a need to be vigilant to ensure that critique of the Jewish state doesn’t become blanket criticism of Jewish people.”
“On Anti-Semitism: solidarity and the struggle for justice”, forward by Judith Butler, is published by Haymarket Books