As The Scroll picked up on earlier today, London’s Jewish Chronicle has reported the comments of the British Respect Party’s woman’s officer, Naz Kahn, posted on Facebook September 30:
It’s such a shame that the history teachers in our school never taught us this but they are the first to start brainwashing us and our children into thinking the bad guy was Hitler. What have the Jews done good in this world??
The defense Kahn seemed to offer in a later post was she is “not a Nazi, I’m an ordinary British Muslim that had an opinion and put it across”. Respect’s hierarchy has condemned her statements of course, but unfortunately for them this is not the first time that the party – a coalition of dogged old socialists, Muslim interest groups, and anti-war types all united by anti-Zionism – has been accused of anti-Semitism. In 2010, Abul ‘Abz’ Hussain, a member of Respect’s National Council was found to have made jokes, again on Facebook, about Jews hoarding money. During a 2005 campaign in Bethnal Green and Bow in London, in which Labour MP Oona King was challenged by Respect’s George Galloway, King asserted that Respect activists had told voters not to elect her since she was Jewish, and argued that anti-Semitism was “used really effectively” during that campaign.
Speaking of Galloway, Respect’s voice in national debates would be inaudible were it not for the notoriety of their sole Member of Parliament, who may be best known in the United States for his ham-fisted and bombastic performance at a Senate hearing into the Oil-for-Food debacle. Galloway rejects anti-Semitism publicly but he is certainly no friend of Israel. Rather, he is a known defender of Hezbollah, purposing in a 2006 op-ed that it “has not and has never been a terrorist organisation”. Galloway is also inclined towards one of Hezbollah’s principal supporters, Syria, labelling the nation “the last castle of Arab dignity” in an email begging for aid and assistance pertaining to a Viva Palestina convoy to Gaza. He was also rather fond of Saddam Hussein in the past, saluting him in a face-to-face meeting for his “courage, strength, and indefatigability”.
If I were a writer for Mondoweiss, that infamous peddler of anti-Israel (and some might say anti-Semitic) tripe, I would be awfully surprised too if the people of Tel Aviv were “eerily nice to me”. In her fresh-off-the-plane dispatch written in the style of David Livingstone telegraphing Her Majesty during his escapades in the heart of Africa, Allison Deger found the natives living by the shores of the Mediterranean quite personable, “morning beach-goers who looked like they had been transported from Coney Island” who greeted her and “cracked deprecating jokes”.
Not that the apparent friendliness of the locals did much to influence her reportage. “Tel Aviv is in every sense a ‘bubble’”, Deger writes, a “ghetto”, and a “failure of the Zionist dream”. The reasoning (if it can be so called) behind her dramatic conclusion: the alleyways “smelled of sun-dried urine” and “many buildings have tin roofs and shoddy construction”. The Zionist dream, evidently, was not a city and a state in which a united, national community could flourish in a condition of safety and security, independent of external pressures, but rather a Panglossian environment where the problems of urban living are non-existent, metropolises smell of lilac and lavender, and all signs of decay and fragility are eradicated.
Which alleyways and what buildings Deger speaks of I cannot be sure, though the south side of Tel Aviv and the area around the hideous Central Bus Station is indeed a tad run down and dilapidated. But I’m almost certain that whatever problems Tel Aviv has in this regard are failures of town planning and local government oversight as opposed to the founding ideology of Israel itself. Just as Deger wouldn’t blame Thomas Paine or Thomas Jefferson for the socio-economic problems that plague quarters of New York or Los Angeles (would she?), it would be unfair to say the least to hold Theodor Herzl responsible for the state of Shapira.
Quds Day in Iran is always marked by speeches noted for their anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric. This year was no exception. In a speech already condemned by Baroness Ashton – lead negotiator in the P5+1 talks on Iranian nuclear proliferation – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad labelled Israel a “malignant cancer” and the state’s endurance “an insult to all humanity”, adding that “the fake Zionist regime would soon fade away from geography and every inch of the occupied territories be returned to Palestinians”.
Ahmadinejad’s particularly vociferous and violent address in Tehran, however, signifies deeper problems on the home front. His aggressive language can be taken as a sign that the sanctions imposed by segments of the international community are working and the regime’s popularity is waning as a consequence.
When their grip on power loosens, leaders both democratic and autocratic often turn towards jingoism to rally the populace against another as a form of distraction. It is not coincidental, for example, that Argentinian leaders from General Galtieri to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner have suddenly remembered their need to regain the Falklands at times when economic conditions are taking a turn for the worse. The same can be said of Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to round up and deport thousands of Romany gypsies in the summer of 2010, when the unemployment rate in France was climbing and his approval rating slipping.
The exploitation of the Palestinian cause has always been a go-to point for Iranian leaders; that Ahmadinejad felt the need to be even more strident and transparent in his remarks this year is a sign that he feels he needs Israel as an enemy more than ever. Given the tenor of his address, never let it be said that his feelings on the existence of the Jewish state are not absolute.
NAZARETH – And who said the international left was dead? Or perhaps we merely hoped as much. Rather, it is alive and well and living in Israel, for this weekend past a succession of rallies and protests were held in alignment with May 1 – International Workers’ Day – campaigning, MK Dov Khenin informed me, for social justice, peace, democracy, and the two-state solution.
Under the direction of the Israeli Communist Party (Maki), part of the broader Hadash movement since 1977, demonstrations were held on Friday evening in Jerusalem, Saturday night in Haifa, and on Sunday in Tel Aviv. In Nazareth prior to luncheon on Saturday, hundreds of people from across the generations and genders spilled out for a march which crossed from a petrol station located near to the Catholic Church of the Annunciation northward towards a somewhat dilapidated and decrepit concrete residential and commercial development across from Mary’s Well (where Orthodox Christians believe the Virgin Mary was visited by the Archangel Gabriel, thus commencing her pregnancy).
Whilst the influx of Russian immigrants and the perpetual occupation have combined to edge the country ever to the right, Hadash – a superficially joint Judeo-Arab front of socialist parties and organisations – won four seats in the most recent elections to the Knesset. They propose a self-described non-Zionist platform, one opposed to all forms of nationalism, in favour of total withdrawal from the West Bank and other territories gained after 1967 (an “aggressive war”), and the institutionalisation of the right of return for Palestinian refugees. The report on Maki’s most recent Party Congress in March speaks of the dangers of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East, and the dangers posed by the ‘fascistic’ Netanyahu government.
by Alana Newhouse, The Washington Post, March 30, 2012
In the end, his book is largely a restatement of Zionist dovishness, one ironically drained of its potential power in part by a glaring absence. From this book you would think that Palestinians are just the passive and helpless victims of Israeli sadism, with no historical agency; no politics, diplomacy or violence of their own; and no responsibility for the miserable impasse of the conflict.
Beinart’s view is basically this: Israel must save the Palestinians, and American Jews must save Israel. By saving the Palestinians, Israel will save itself, and by saving Israel, American Jews will save themselves. “Liberal American Jews must feel a special commitment to Israel’s ethical character because they feel a special commitment to being Jewish,” Beinart writes. “They must see their own honor as bound up with the honor of the Jewish state.”
…And so against what they see as the self-satisfied and delusional monolith of the American Jewish establishment, Beinart and his supporters are now erecting their own self-satisfied and delusional monolith, calculated to appeal to disillusioned Jewish summer camp alumni, NPR listeners and other beautiful souls who want the Holy Land to be a better place but do not have the time or ability to study the issues, learn the languages or talk to the people on both sides whose hearts have been broken over and over again by prophets making phony promises.
Here is what those people know: Peace will be made only by Israelis and Palestinians together, and when it comes, the American Jewish community will support it, as it has every effort toward peace in the past. American Jews will not save Israel, and Peter Beinart will not save American Jews. With “The Crisis of Zionism,” Beinart has indeed transformed himself into a spokesman for some. But in the process, he has ruined his chance to be a leader for many.
To typical Israelis, theirs is a country of 6 million Jews faced with the ardent, sometimes fanatic, hostility of 350 million neighboring Arabs (to say nothing of another billion or so non-Arab Muslims) and the contested loyalty of one million of its own Arab citizens. Lebanon is in the hands of Hezbollah; Gaza in the hands of Hamas; Turkey and Egypt—until recently, its only significant Muslim allies—are gradually moving into the column of adversaries. In the past decade, it has had to fend off a steady drizzle of suicide bombers and Kassam and Katyusha rockets over the course of three separate wars. The Arab Spring has become an Islamist winter. Iran has now enriched more than 5,000 kilograms of uranium. Israel will soon have to roll the dice with a military strike or otherwise allow a regime that pledges its destruction the means to carry out that pledge almost instantaneously.
To all this Beinart’s considered reply seems to be: Whatever. Israel, he says, is a “regional superpower” that can dispatch its enemies almost with the flick of a finger. I can’t swear that Beinart never devotes more than a sentence to Iran’s nuclear capabilities (the review copy I used for this essay lacks an index). But I am pretty sure he doesn’t give the subject more than a paragraph, and certainly not a whole page. It’s true he makes a fuller case when writing about delegitimization and anti-Semitism. But here, too, he’s dismissive of the idea that there’s any real problem: “The main reason Israel generates disproportionate criticism from leftist academics, artists and labor unionists, not to mention the General Assembly of the United Nations, is not because it’s a Jewish state but because it’s perceived as a Western one,” he explains. So, now you know that the General Assembly’s 1975 “Zionism is Racism” resolution really wasn’t aimed at the Jews at all.
by Roger Cohen, The New York Times, February 13, 2012
Some of the most fascinating pages of “The Crisis of Zionism” trace the ideological backdrop to the bitter clash between Obama and Netanyahu. Beinart demonstrates the strong liberal Zionist influence of Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf on Obama during his Chicago years. Wolf hated the idea of “an Israel besieged by anti-Semites;” his teaching was “interfaith” and “integrationist.” It cleaved to the liberal roots of American Zionism and the ethical teachings of the prophets who, as expressed in Exodus, commanded Jews not to oppress strangers “having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.”
The contrast with Netanyahu — raised in the Jabotinsky strain of Zionism by a father who viewed Arabs as “semi-barbaric” and rejected an “emasculating moralism” in favor of a new warrior breed of Jew — could scarcely be greater. Beinart paints a persuasive picture of a Netanyahu dedicated at his core — despite embracing two states late in the day — to the prevention of any viable Palestinian state. His portrayal of Netanyahu’s early friendship with Adelson and other right-wing American Jews is particularly intriguing — the very Adelson who of late has been funding Newt “an-invented-Palestinian-people” Gingrich.
It is depressing that Netanyahu won. Obama, who started out saying settlements must stop, ended up vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution to that effect. He had to shed his liberal Zionism for American political survival. There could not be a clearer demonstration of why Beinart’s book is so important and timely for the future of Israel.
No. Zionism was never based on theories of racial or even cultural superiority. Zionism, was and is a movement to achieve Jewish self-determination (there are other elements as well). For most Zionists, the place for that self-determination was and is the Land of Israel.
Is there racist Zionism?
Sure, there are certainly racist versions of Zionism, if we broaden “racism” to include theories of religious-racial superiority.
Then why do people call Zionism “racism”?
Either because they use the term loosely, or they don’t understand Zionism, or because racism is very bad, and if you want to delegitimize something, you throw the word “racism” at it. Thinking people, on the other hand, can realize that “Zionism” and “racism” and “colonialism” are complicated terms, and that terminological sobriety is a virtue. Something can be very, very bad without being racist or apartheid. If I say that Israeli society discriminates against Palestinian Israelis, the discrimination need not be based on racism in the technical sense. Part of it is racist; part of it is not. All of it is very, very bad.
Dayan is rich with memories of the Israel of then and gets furious when I ask her to compare it with the Israel of now: “We built this country inch by inch, and we lost so many lives. We built public and social institutions, schools, factories. What’s going on today is awful. They’re ruining this country. I am a proud Israeli. I’ve lived through every war, endured every moment of suffering, but I never stopped believing in peace. I lost friends and family members. I’m a peacemaker, but the current Israeli government does not know how to make peace. We move from war to war, and this will never stop. I think Zionism has run its course.”
She sighs, and adjusts herself before continuing. “I long for the old Israel, where I traveled alone to Gaza the day after we won the 1956 war. Moshe was already a war hero, known to Israelis and Arabs alike. When I met the Palestinian mayor, I introduced myself as Ruth Dayan. The mayor almost had a heart attack.” She giggles. “His aides fled the scene. He cautiously asked me what my business was, and I replied that I wanted to see their rugs. He was astonished. ‘Rugs?’ he asked me. I was the head of Maskit at the time, a chain of arts-and-crafts stores. We were employing Bulgarian immigrants, and I wanted to include Arabs. I hired Arabs all over the country to make rugs and other merchandise. It was about living together, working together, creating a bridge. Today we use foreign labor to work in Israel because Palestinians are not allowed. And this continuous expansion of the settlements everywhere—I cannot accept it. I cannot tolerate this deterioration in the territories and the roadblocks everywhere. And that horrible wall! It’s not right.”