[Originally posted on this blog]
Okay, for the umpteenth time: it is by no shape or form valid to describe any speech or action that is meant to criticize Israel’s illegal actions as anti-Semitism. Oh and guess what else, it is equally invalid and even more ridiculous to describe Jews that take a social justice stance against the occupation as self-hating Jews.
If you ask me, the Jews that actually take a stance on this issue are the ones that care the most about their reputation as Jews and the actions being taken in their name by the supposedly ‘Jewish State’.
This is not to say that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist – no it’s definitely out there. But there is a line – a very clear one I would argue – between comments meant to serve as criticism of Israel’s overly-agressive behaviour towards Palestine and Palestinians or criticism of Israel’s clear violation of international law and comments meant to offend Jews indiscriminately. Therefore it is not legitimate to use the guise of being defenders against anti-semitism to shut down anyone that criticizes Israel. Of course no one wants to be likened to a Nazi – but its not okay to use that against people that simply seek to improve human rights conditions in the occupied territories or end the occupation.
Last week, the Tom Lantos Foundation – in remembrance of the late Congressman’s commitment to anti-Semitism and Holocaust remembrance, hosted a briefing to talk about the Lantos Archives on Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial. The archives are a result of a partnership between the foundation and The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). At this briefing, they distributed a publication which they claim to include a variety of example of ” anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in every form of media throughout the Middle East [which to them includes Pakistan] and all its manifestations in political, educational, cultural and religious spheres”. So here is what I take issue with: the publication, which comes with a CD including video footage, is made up of some distinctly racist depictions of the Jewish people – which cannot be justified – alongside with legitimate political criticisms or perspectives on Israel’s policies or those of influential Jewish American lobbies. Some examples include a cartoon in a Sudanese newspaper which depicts Secretary Clinton as a hand puppet controlled by a Jewish ‘arm’, a cartoon in a Jordanian paper depicting Secretary Clinton and German politician Angela Merkel in an Israeli soldiers pocket, a cartoon in a Qatari paper depicting Israel as an octopus grasping the Al-Aqsa mosque – all side by side with cartoons depicting Jews as pigs, nazis, snakes and blood-thirsty evil-mongerers.
Here is my problem with this collection [which is a reflection of this problem as a whole in the public’s understanding of anti-Semitism]: why put political cartoons that criticise or express a point of view on Israel’s or the Jewish [“Pro-Israel”, read as: AIPAC, Zionist Organization of America, etc. ] lobby’s influence on American policy side by side racist depictions of Jews? And yes, there is a difference – a major one. Depicting the two side by side only serves to silence the debate on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
For the record: it is neither a myth nor a rumor that the Israel American lobby has the capabilities and the resources to influence American policy – that is not a racist statement, it is a fact that is easily observable for anyone that has spent any time working in the American Congress. There is a lot of money, effort and organization put in place to assure that pro-Israel groups have a say on the Hill and that it is heard. And no, that is not an anti-semitic comment implying that Jews control the world. Just like there is a significantly influential Armenian-American lobby and a large Cuban-American lobby – there is Zionist one- just bigger and better organized in my opinion. Why else would there be such a strong knee-jerk reaction against the Goldstone report in the House of Representatives that is based on no kind of investigation, knowledge or understanding of what happened during the December (2008)-January (2009) attack on the Gaza Strip?
And you know what? I have no problem with the existence of such a lobby. Hell – if there was an equally organized lobby advocating for Palestinian issues I’d support that. My problem is that there are strong forces in this lobby and behind it silencing any reasonable debate on the occupation by pointing the anti-semitic finger in every single direction. And oh, to anyone that dares to even challenge this – or to imply that the lobby exists or has a significant influence on policy – he/she gets the honor of being berated publicly as the anti-Semite of the week. Even worse – if you are a public figure then you can bet your ass that your next run for office will be challenged and that those exact comments will be used against you and to depict you as a jew-hater or as being Anti-Israel [eg: Jim Moran of VA in 2004].
So why does all of this matter? Because as long as the likes of Alan Dershowitz, MEMRI and AIPAC do not change their rhetoric and tactics of intimidation when it comes to allowing a lively debate on Israel’s polices to develop in the United States, and as long as they continue to blur the lines between anti-Semitism and criticism, the United States administration, the UN, the EU and the ICJ cannot effectively use their influence to advise Israel against any actions that could negatively affect its own security in the long-term by feeding genuine anti-semitic and anti-Israeli sentiments with justifications [read as: yes, the murder of 1,385 human beings in 22 days may exacerbate anti-semitic and anti-Israeli sentiment – surprise surprise].