De Fabel van de illegaal 42, November/December 2000
Author: Eric Krebbers
Between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism
For some weeks now anti-Semitism in Europe has been growing. On pro-Palestine demonstration in the Netherlands anti-Semitic slogans were shouted. The media hold Muslim fundamentalists responsible. That's only partly justified, because large groups of Dutch people also think and act anti-Semitic. Also within the Left.
For weeks now heavy fighting is going on between Palestinians and the Israeli army. On the Palestinian side there are reportedly 100 people killed and 3.000 wounded. Among them a lot of children, who get shot when throwing rocks at the Israeli army. Both sides have committed horrible lynch parties.
The last couple of years on both sides religious fundamentalists have taken the initiative: Hamas with the Palestinians and orthodox Jews with the Israelis. The fundamentalist currents got space to grow because the Leftwing of the PLO and the Israeli Left and Peace Now movements have collapsed.1 The ownership of "the holy places" is becoming more and more central to the struggle. Next to most Palestinians, women of both sides are victim of this development. Religious fundamentalism is in the first place a reinforcement of patriarchy. On account of these male delusionary currents the position of women on both sides grows worse rapidly now.
So, away with fundamentalism. Leftwing solidarity should not go to "the Palestinians" or "the Israelis" anymore. Also not to the PLO, which is now almost completely dominated by the ultra nationalist Al Fatah. Nor of course to the Israeli state. The Left should better support initiatives which try not to think along nationalist or religious lines, but who organize on a Left and feminist basis. Under these circumstances also liberal currents who fight for equal civil rights for everybody in the country can count on our solidarity. Their ideal of a civilian and capitalist democracy is, in spite of all its inherent injustices, still better than the current barbarian mess of extreme Right fundamentalism and nationalism.
On Friday October 6th 400 people demonstrated in The Hague against the Israeli violence. The demonstration was organized by the Palestinian Union and the Dutch Palestine Committee. Now and again anti-Semitic slogans were shouted and some of the banners also had anti-Semitic texts on them. There was at least one Israeli flag with a swastika on it. Afterwards a large group of Muslim demonstrators prayed together on the Central Station.2
One week later, on Saturday October 14th, some 1.000 or 1.500 Moroccans demonstrated in Amsterdam "in solidarity with their Muslim brothers in Palestine". The march was organized by the Committee of Moroccan Workers in the Netherlands (KMAN) and the Moroccan Mosque Union. The demonstration started at the Waterloo square, which was the center of the Jewish neighborhood before the Second World War. Some demonstrators called: "Hamas, Hamas, all Jews should be gassed!" and "Hitler, Hitler, Hitler".3 That same night 20 Moroccans attacked David Serphos, the secretary of the Amsterdam Jewish religious community. They threw bicycle parts at him. The next day visitors of the synagogue in the Lekstraat got stones thrown at them. Other synagogues reported similar events.
Sinds the beginning of the seventies Jewish institutes are especially guarded because of anti-Semitism. Serphos recently told that in those days he and his fellow students on the Jewish school in Amsterdam were continuously protected by police. "Even on small school trips an officer came along", he said. "So I'm used to something." But the recent revival of anti-Semitism does frighten him.4 Threatening phone calls are becoming 'normal' now at some Jewish institutes.
In recent years in the Netherlands an average of 10 Jewish cemeteries a year are vandalized and painted on with anti-Semitic slogans.5+6 At the end of 1999 the cemetery in The Hague was besmeared with swastikas.5 And in the beginning of this year the monument of the former deportation camp Amersfoort 7 and shortly after the Jewish cemetery in Amersfoort 8 were both vandalized. The last couple of weeks the attacks grow fast in quantity and quality, especially the attacks against synagogues. Recently the synagogue in Groningen was attacked.4 In Emmen people tried to set the synagogue on fire.9 In Oss windows were smashed by skinheads shouting "Sieg Heil".10 And in The Hague the synagogue was besmeared with the slogan "Israel children killers".11 In Amsterdam a lot of refuse was dumped in front of the entrance of a synagogue.12
In the streets Jews are more often attacked by Dutch people and by Moroccans, sometimes even together. Some Jews are afraid to wear their traditional caps anymore. Rabbi Evers told that he is nowadays often shouted at on the streets, things like "Heil Hitler" for instance.13 In Amsterdam groups of kids are using the anti-Semitic slogans of the KMAN demonstration daily.14 And recent research shows that anti-Semitism is also on the rise on the Internet, especially among the Dutch.15
All over Europe and North America anti-Semitism is growing again. Not only as a reaction to the violence in the Middle East, but also apart from that. In Germany thrashing Jewish cemeteries has almost become popular sport. Not only nazis, but all kinds of people are responsible for the average of 5 attacks each week on Jewish cemetaries.16 Synagogues, Jewish shops and monuments are also afflicted. Now also wounded are reported. In France and Germany pamphlets are handed out on demonstrations calling for the murder of all Jews. Afterwards, in England a Jewish man was actually stabbed. In France some 20 arsons on synagogues were counted. Up to 100 anti-Semitic 'incidents' were reported these last couple of weeks.17 It is maybe a bit of an understatement to talk of 'incidents' after 2000 years of anti-Semitism.
In the Arab world we also see a lot of anti-Semitism, but there it is not officially prohibited. On the contrary, for instance in Syria school books deny the shoah. In Syrian newspapers Zionists are called "the real nazis" and books on so called "Jewish ritual murder" are bestsellers.18 In Egypt the convicted French revisionist Garaudy got a state prize 2 years ago.19 And in the Palestinian occupied territories the in Holland prohibited book "Mein Kampf" is number 6 on the list of bestsellers.18
Anti-Semitism is not something of the ultra Right only. Anti-Semitic ideas can be heard everywhere in society. In some Left circles it hides behind anti-Zionism, one of the central doctrines of the anti-imperialist movement. Anti-imperialism is an originally Marxist-Leninist ideology which considers the struggle of the nationalist liberation movements in "the periphery" against the rulers in "the metropoles" as most important. To anti-imperialists it is hardly important whether these national liberation movements are orientated towards the Left or the Right. Their victories would 'objectively' weaken imperialism, and socialism was a project for later anyway.
Anti-imperialists usually see nationalism as a good thing, except in the case of Jews. Jewish nationalism, Zionism, is regarded as one of the worst evils. The Zionist state supposedly is a bridgehead of imperialism in the Middle East, and the rich and ruthless Zionists supposedly conspires with American capital. In contrast to the Palestinians, the Jews would not form a "nation" and are therefore not entitled to their own state. As a cosmopolitan class they would not be genuinely rooted in the local soil, unlike the Palestinians who have lived in Palestine for centuries. Anti-imperialists therefore consider Israel an "artificial" state.
Not all anti-Zionists agree with this type of reasoning, but most of these arguments are common in the movement. That many of the anti-Zionist ideas are closely related to anti-Semitism is usually denied. According to most anti-Zionists Anti-Semitism would hardly exist anymore. On the contrary, Zionists supposedly abuse anti-Semitism by accusing their arch enemies of it: the anti-Zionists. Anti-Semitism, which for centuries has again and again been blazing up, should not be abused by the Zionists to justify the existence of the Israeli state, say anti-Zionists. However, many Jews do see Israel as a last resort for when things in the future may run out of hand again.
But some anti-Zionists go even further. They say the violence of the Israeli army against the Palestinians is similar to the Shoah. Some of them even call Zionists the new nazis. To them that is proven by the fact that some extreme Right Zionists have negotiated with the nazis during the Second World War to rescue Jews. These Zionists are considered nazi collaborators by some anti-Zionists.
Anti-Zionism became popular in Europe shortly after the Six Days War of 1967 when Israel crushed its Arab neighbors. Everywhere Palestinian solidarity committees popped up. Palestinian shawls became fashionable and on demonstrations in the Netherlands activists shouted in one breath: "Racism, fascism, apartheid, Zionism! Murder, murder, murder!" 21 A usually very one sided solidarity arose, which was sometimes overshadowed by anti-Semitism. Everywhere around the world activists attacked Jews and Jewish institutes that had nothing to do with Israel. In 1969 this anti-Semitism reached an all time depth when the militant Left group Tupamaros Berlin threw a firebomb in a synagogue during the remembrance of the Kristallnacht pogroms of 1938. The Zionists "want to exterminate the Palestine people together with the American capitalists", they wrote in a press release. The Tupamaros Berlin were the predecessors of the 2. Juni Bewegung (June 2nd movement) and the Rote Armee Faction (RAF). Fortunately, since the fall of the Berlin Wall anti-Zionisme has only been a marginal current.
At the end of the sixties the Palestina Komitee (Palestine Committee) was founded in the Netherlands by a broad range of moderate politicians and radical anti-imperialist students.22 As far as I know this committee never published anything anti-Semitic. They struggled against "racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination". And they always pleaded for full civil rights for the "Jewish-Israeli population as well as the Palestininans".23
The committee never embraced sympathizers who compared the behavior of the Israeli army with the Shoah. Such comparisons tend to downplay the horrors of the Shoah. In 1990 the committee wrote that "it should be prohibited to compare the fate of the Jews in the Second World War with that of other nations. Historical parallels cannot be drawn. The ideological background and practical enactment are fortunately still unique in the world. If the Palestinian nation would have had the same fate as the Jews in the Second World War, the Palestinian nation would long have been murdered completely." 24
The committee strongly condemned the anti-Semitic utterances on its own demonstration of October 6th, and they even offered their apologies to the mayor of The Hague. Fearing the same anti-Semitic behavior the committee decided not to help the KMAN organize the next demonstration a week later.3 At the "peaceful protest" the committee organized on 24th of October there was no anti-Semitism as far as we know.
The KMAN has distanced itself from the anti-Semitism a lot less clearly. Organizer Mejatti did condemn the anti-Semitic slogans at the demonstration, 25 but KMAN didn't. Mejatti considered the negative publicity because of the anti-Semitism part of "a large conspiracy of the Zionists".26 The United Jewish Youth in the Netherlands invited KMAN to come and talk about the problems. KMAN turned the offer down.4 The originally Left KMAN has always been anti-Zionist. The last couple of years the influence of Islam within KMAN has been growing strongly.