Translation from De Fabel van de illegaal 52/53, summer 2002
Authors: Eric Krebbers and Jan Tas
Activists wishing to criticise the Israeli state must be careful not to descend into anti-Semitic reasoning. Here are 10 tips to avoid anti-Semitism in discussions, articles, leaflets and demonstrations.
1. Always also criticise moslim fundamentalists and never justify the suicide bombers.
Hamas, Jihad and Hezbollah are not liberation organisations, but religious fascists. Historically, anti-Semitism is a central element of the Islam, just as it is of Christianity. Moslim fundamentalists call for all Jews to be killed, and are thus extremely anti-Semitic. Anyone who refuses to categorically distance themselves from these fascists and their opportunist methods, whether for anti-imperialist or other reasons, legitimises anti-Semitism. Anyone who ignores the attacks on random Israeli citizens, considers them in some way understandable or justified, is underwriting the anti-Semitic logic behind them, namely that Israeli Jews are always guilty - regardless of whether they agree with their government - just because they are Jewish.
2. Oppose anti-Zionism
Anti-Zionists wrongly claim that Jewish nationalism, Zionism, is per definition on the extreme Right. In reality, Zionism has many different currents, some of which are progressive. Anti-Zionism only opposes Jewish nationalism. Palestinian or Arab nationalism is embraced. However, all forms of nationalism have the same reactionary function. They all produce myths to emphasise the unity of "nations" and to hide the oppression of workers, women and people who do not fit into the nationalist scheme. Elites use nationalism to harness the population for their fight against other elites. In this sense, Jewish nationalism is not fundamentally different from Arab or Dutch nationalism. It is important to combat nationalism at home, and not to do the elites a favour by fighting nationalism in other countries. In addition to this, it is anti-Semitic to, from a European perspective, declare Jewish nationalism to be the main problem. The solution lies in the principle of anti-nationalism and in the support for joint Israeli-Palestinian initiatives for resistance from below.
3. Do not use the term genocide and do not call Israel the biggest abuser of human rights
Israel is one of the many countries which gravely abuses human rights. Many of the national "liberation movements", such as the PLO also abuse human rights, and will continue to do so once they have their own state. Various states in the Middle East, including Syria, Iran and Iraq, also abuse human rights on a massive scale. The much more limited scope of the Israeli abuses of human rights do not justify the title of the biggest abuser of human rights. One sided criticism of Israel smacks of anti-Semitism. Furthermore, the term genocide is exaggerated with regard to Israeli violence. Jenin can not be compared to Rwanda or Yugoslavia. What is more, Israel does not seek the systematic eradication of the other side; unlike the muslim fundamentalist organisations. If for example Hamas had its way, all Jews would be driven into the sea or gassed. Incidentally, more criticism in the direction of human rights abuses on the part of the Dutch government would not go amiss either.
4. Never compare Israel to Nazi Germany
Mercifully, the Shoah is a unique event in human history. In Nazi Germany 6 million Jews were systematically slaughtered. Comparisons between this and other mass murders do no justice to the unimaginable and horrific dimensions of this crime against the Jews. European claims that the Shoah was just like the current Israeli policies of occupation in effect rehabilitate the Nazi's. This could create a space in the future for the re-emergence of the extreme right. And the suggestion that the Israeli's are no better than Hitler can also provide a retrospective justification for the Shoah. "Hitler forgot one: Sharon", was one of the slogans chanted at a pro-Palestine demo in Amsterdam in April 2002.
5. Do not hold "the Jews" accountable for the actions of the Israeli state
It is nonsense to hold "the Jews", "the Palestinians" or 'the Dutch" collectively responsible for anything. There are always huge contradictions inside any "nation". Many Jews in Israel and in other parts of the world deplore the Israeli state violence. Generally, they have little influence over it. Those who claim that people in Israel do not protest enough against the state violence should realise that the Israeli Left, like the Left in other parts of the world, is in a crisis. It is anti-Semitic to demand specifically of the Jews that they adhere to higher political and moral standards. Those who nevertheless hold all Jews responsible for the Israeli state violence, open the way for anti-Semites to attack random Jews and Jewish targets.
6. Do not use anti-Semitic stereotypes
Throughout history, Jews have been portrayed as baby killers and rapists, as demons who poison water supplies, as greedy bankers and speculators and as spineless intellectuals. When the Palestinian solidarity movement employs such stereotypes against Israel, the mobilising effect will be enormous, because of the fact that anti-Semitism everywhere has deep roots. But if a movement does this, it no longer has a place in the Left.
7. Condemn ideas of a pro-Israeli conspiracy
Oft heard suggestion of a pro-Israeli conspiracy in politics, culture, the economy and the media are classic elements of anti-Semitism. Regardless of whether they concern the Dutch or the global context, such allegations lie in the tradition of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", a fraudulent text dating from 1900, claiming that Jews were conspiring to gain world domination. In cartoons the conspiracy was depicted as a giant octopus, holding the world in its deadly tentacles. Today there is much talk of the so called "mighty Jewish lobby" which is alleged to control the media and keep criticism of Israel off the agenda.
8. Do not call Israel an unnatural state
Since nationalism gained ground in Europe and humanity was suddenly divided into "nations", "the Jews" have been regarded as the opposite of a "nation". As such, anti-Semitism is a fixed part of nationalism. In nationalist mythology, "the Jews" represent the evil nemesis of all the good characteristics of the "own nation". Whilst the "own people" were supposedly rooted in the soil of an "own land", the Jews would roam the earth forever and never belong anywhere. According to this logic, a Jewish state would be "unnatural" by definition. For this reason, it is anti-Semitic to pretend that the Palestinians per definition have a real link to their land, whilst the Israeli's per definition do not. The Israeli state is just as "natural" or "unnatural" as any other state.
9. Do not challenge the right of existence of Israel
It is logical for the radical Left to challenge the existence of states and it is equally logical to criticise ones own state. However, Europeans who wish to abolish the state Israel first are caught up in anti-Semitic reasoning. After all, Israel is the state where the European Jews who survived the Shoah sought a safe haven. Now that anti-Semitism internationally is on the increase, many Jews consider Israel the only place on earth where they can flee to in the last resort. By challenging the very right of existence of the state Israel, the feelings of insecurity amongst Jews will only increase. Instead, the Left in Europe should counter anti-Semitism in this continent, so that Jews can feel safe here at home.
10. Never blame Israel for anti Semitism
Anti-Semitism is obviously the responsibility of the anti-Semites. Anti-Semitic thought is deeply rooted in both Europe and the Arabic world. Attacks on Jewish targets have occurred for centuries, also in the Middle East. Anti-Semitic ideas and attacks can therefore not be caused by the existence of the state Israel or by the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel is at best the latest excuse for anti-Semites. Holding Israel responsible for anti-Semitic beliefs is a version of the old idea that "the Jews" are to blame for everything. The same goes for blaming the Jewish secret service, the Mossad, for attacks on Jewish targets in the Middle East and in Europe.