Charging Anti-Semitism To Silence Dissent
August 7, 2007
By Ida Audeh
The charge of anti-Semitism is used by supporters of Israel to silence and discredit voices that conflict with Zionist orthodoxy. Two recent examples illustrate this point: The publication of Jimmy Carter’s book Palestine Peace not Apartheid triggered a well-orchestrated campaign of vilification and character assassination of a former president whose “crime” was to characterize Israeli policies in the occupied territories as apartheid. (South African anti-apartheid activists say it is much worse.) The March 2006 publication of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s essay “The Israel Lobby” in the London Review of Books was accompanied by the familiar charge of anti-Semitism directed at two university professors who simply analyzed the disproportionate power of the Israel lobby AIPAC in shaping US Middle East policy. To anyone who follows the US Middle East policy, their conclusions were not news, but the publication of
their article unleashed a flood of abuse on two establishment academics.
Similar tactics are used at the local level, too. For years I worked with a university committee to identify panelists to invite to an annual conference. Invariably, pro-Israel committee members casually smeared as an anti-Semite any nominee whose single crime was criticism of Israeli policies in the Palestinian occupied territories. In the name of protecting the student body from exposure to “anti-Semites,” they could accuse honorable people of bigotry without paying a price for their slander. Needless to say, nominees so smeared were instantly rendered unconfirmable and dropped from consideration. When friends and I publish op-ed pieces or letters in our local or state newspaper, ad hominem responses are swift; more often then not, they casually incorporate sentiments that would be correctly identified as bigotry were they targeting Blacks or Jews.
Predictably, Israel’s supporters level the anti-Semitism charge against Arabs, too, to explain away Arab outrage over Israel’s racist and colonialist policies toward Palestinians, defined by land theft and control through ethnic cleansing, imprisoning walls, and the imprisonment and assassination of any Palestinian with leadership potential. As though these are insufficient reasons for hatred of Israel; as though Palestinians would tolerate the ongoing assault on their existence as a nation were non-Jewish oppressors responsible.
Claims that Muslim clerics and Hamas and Hizballah officials regularly endorse slaughtering Jews, supported by alleged quotes, ring false to anyone with familiarity with the region, with the language, and with religious and political rhetoric. In the United States, translations of Arabic and Farsi are frequently wrong; it has been demonstrated conclusively that Iranian president Ahmedinejad never vowed to wipe Israel off the map, for example, yet the lie is slyly and regularly repeated to drum up support for an attack on Iran. These “quotes” cannot be trusted because they cannot be verified, the context is questionable, and they come from sources (like
memri.org) with an ax to grind.
But even if you assume that anti-Jewish quotes are in fact authentic: How is this relevant? This pretense that Israel is being persecuted by malevolent Arabs is easily debunked when the facts are considered: take for example kill rates (an average of 4 Palestinian civilians killed for every Israeli killed; about 8 Palestinian children for every Israeli child); house demolitions (thousands of Palestinian homes, 0 Israeli homes); checkpoints (more than 400 in the West Bank alone, 0 in Israel); prisoners (more than 9,000 Palestinian prisoners, including about 300 children; 1 Israeli soldier held prisoner, and no Israeli children). Israel’s supporters must resort to a blizzard of lies, half-lies, and non-sequiturs because the facts about Israel cannot be justified by fair-minded people.
Read any newspaper or watch television (non)coverage of Middle Eastern events, and evaluate for yourself whether Blacks or Jews would be discussed with the same disdain, the same callous disregard for their loss of life, as are Arabs and Muslims generally and Palestinians specifically. Missing from discussions of self-righteous concern over Arab or Muslim “extremism” is any acknowledgement that the whole colonialist enterprise that engages Israelis is an extremist one, that just about every leader democratically elected by that bastion of democracy has been a military figure, and that Israel’s Jewish population as a whole, with a few notable exceptions, are at best indifferent to the fate of the Palestinians their government has waged a relentless war against for almost 60 years now.
One never hears those who profess concern about anti-Semitism speak out against Israeli policies that discriminate against Semites like me — US citizens of Palestinian ethnicity — from going to the occupied territories to live with or even visit our families. Right now thousands of Palestinian families are faced with an impossible choice: the spouse of a Palestinian resident cannot obtain residency rights and so must either live with their families illegally and face deportation if caught; live elsewhere, even though that means splitting the family; or move the entire family to a foreign country where they must struggle to build a life for themselves. In the past 12 months, I tried 3 times to visit my elderly mother. Twice I was turned back from the border. It is a safe bet that I would not have been treated as an undesirable element had my surname been Jewish; a Semite of the Arab persuasion is a different matter altogether.
What do Israel’s apologists propose as a resolution to the conflict that grips Mandate Palestine, where 5.4 million Semitic Jews rule over 5.2 million Semitic Muslim and Christian Arabs? In the not too distant future, Jews will be a minority. Will Israel’s apologists continue to cry anti-Semitism when an Israeli Jewish minority dominates the non-Jewish majority, and will they denounce as anti-Semitism the inevitable and irrefutable description of Israel as an apartheid state?
Can Israel’s supporters support a state in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians have equal rights as citizens? Surely the goal of equality among all Semites in Mandate Palestine is worth pursuing by those who claim to be appalled by anti-Semitism.
Ida Audeh is a Palestinian-American who lives in Boulder, Colorado. Her interviews with Palestinians who have lost land and their livelihoods to Israel’s wall have been published on the Electronic Intifada (www.electronicintifada.net), an alternative source of information about “the question of Palestine, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the economic, political, legal, and human dimensions of Israel’s 40-year occupation of Palestinian territories.” She can be reached at email@example.com