Friday, June 7, 2013

Recognising Anti-Semitism Today

Remember way back when we all thought we knew the meaning of the term 'anti-Semitism' - hatred of Jews as Jews? Those days are long gone, it seems. Thanks to the creative efforts of Zionist wordsmiths, anti-Semitism today no longer means quite what we thought it meant back in the good old days.  In fact, these days it's become almost unrecognisable.

With Australian politicians falling over themselves to sign an Israeli government-sponsored document* committing themselves to 'combat' what it calls 'anti-Semitism'- referred to at one point as political activism which 'targets the State of Israel as a Jewish collectivity' - it is incumbent upon on us all to know exactly what the term means today.

Happily, the heavy lifting on this matter has been done for us by the brilliant US sociobiologist Robert Trivers, the author of the MUST-READ book Deceit & Self-Deception: Fooling Yourself the Better to Fool Others (2011). If there is a better analysis of how the term 'anti-Semitism' has - ahem - 'evolved', I have yet to see it:

First Line of Defense: Cry 'Anti-Semite'

"The naive reader should be aware that in criticizing Israel for its racist and/or unjust policies toward Arabs, you at once risk being called an anti-Semite, that is, someone who has a (racial) bias against Jewish people (or, if Jewish, a 'self-hating Jew'). The term has now been so degraded by its frequent use in defense of injustice that its actual meaning is inverted - it is now usually a racist term used by those who support racist policies against those who do not. Or, better put, 'an anti-Semite' used to mean someone who hates Jews; now it means anyone Jews hate - a simple case of denial and projection.

"It takes more than showing that a person speaks out against Jewish-perpetuated injustice to show that he or she is anti-Jewish. Perhaps he or she is merely anti-injustice. But the anti-anti-Semites have an answer for this. Why are you picking on us? Are there not worse people in the world? According to this view, you must rank the world's injustices from biggest to smallest, then criticize everybody before you are permitted to criticize Israel itself. When you have finally reached Israel, though, a new rule is imposed: balance. If you concentrate only on Israel's manifest injustices - let us say its regular attacks on its northern neighbor, Lebanon (1976, 1982, 1996, 2006) or its remorseless theft of Palestinian land, water, indeed life itself, all based on terror and subjugation - you are being unbalanced. For every Israeli transgression, you must show a parallel Palestinian one to demonstrate lack of bias. But this is of course impossible (given reality). The best you can come up with are suicide attacks and some poorly guided missiles that claim fewer than one-thirtieth of those being killed by the Israelis during the same time period. So much for balance. Finally, should you come up with an argument that is strong in logic and content, you are said to make 'tendentious' statements against Israel. This is a possible case of a malphemism treadmill (see Chapter 8).

"Many first-class minds in mathematics, the sciences, and many other intellectual pursuits are Jewish (or partly Jewish). But this intellectuality can have a downside. Greater intellectual talent may be associated with more deception and self-deception (see Chapters 2 & 4). Where Israeli misbehavior is concerned, this has the unfortunate effect that an enormous amount of blather in defense of the indefensible pours out from every corner. This ranges from the truly rabid and racist - with full bells and whistles - to much more subtle arguments in which small, key errors are well concealed. UN Resolution 242 calls for Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied in the 1967 war - but not 'the' lands. Even though 'the' appears in the French version of the resolution and there is no mistaking the UN's intent, this missing article is used to assert that the UN deliberately called for Israeli withdrawal from some but not all of its occupied land. And because the UN never specified which land should be relinquished, any withdrawal would satisfy the UN - a few square meters if put to the test. Or take another piece of sophistry. Israel declares that it is necessary for its neighbors to acknowledge Israel's 'right to exist' before diplomatic relations can be sought, but nowhere else in the world is this a prerequisite. You recognize that a government exists and you set up diplomatic relations - nowhere do you assert that the government has a right to exist. In addition, Israel is unusual in failing to define its own borders, so recognizing its right to exist may have hidden implications regarding future ownership of land. To take but one example, Israel has taken care to build about 85% of its security wall outside of Israel, creating new borders and a larger country by fiat.

"Thus, on the subject of Israel, a vast wave of biased argumentation washes over people who have not had (or taken) the chance to study the matter carefully. The key is a fundamental inversion of reality: The Palestinians are not displaced people, driven from their homes and their land and persecuted ever since. They (and Arabs more generally) are terrorists - virulent anti-Semites - against whom all is permitted. What looks like Israeli terrorism and relentless theft of land and water is really just a proactive campaign to prevent another holocaust (apparently by inciting the very feelings that would invite one).

"The truth about Israel's theft of Arab land and water since 1967 via 'settlements' was well put by a pair of Israeli historians: 'Deception, shame, concealment, denial, and repression have characterized the state's behavior with respect to the flow of funds to the settlements. It can be said that this has been an act of duplicity in which all of the Israeli governments since 1967 have been partner. This massive self-deception still awaits the research that will reveal its full magnitude.'

"As is so often true, what can be said in Israel is usually more honest and detailed about Israel than what can be said on the same subject in the United States." (pp 243-245)

[*See my posts The Latest Prime Ministerial Kowtow (28/4/13) & The Tel Aviv Document on Combating Criticism of Israel (17/5/13).]

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