How Bigots Easily Exploit the Bible for Anti-Semitism

All religious texts, if taken out of historical and social context, have parts that can be used to justify violence:

In the wake of the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, many people are struggling to understand the roots of Robert Bowers’s hatred.

Bowers, who allegedly shouted “All Jews must die” as he opened fire, has an established record of anti-Semitic rants on social media. There is some debate about whether Bowers’ alleged violence was inspired by statements by the current president or actually provoked by a sense that President Trump had “betrayed” right-wing radicals. Bowers himself, however, squarely grounds his perspective in a different source: the Bible.

On his Gab page, Bowers has written, “jews are the children of satan. (john 8:44)… the lord Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” On this single point Bowers is not wrong: The Gospel of John does in fact identify “the Jews” (hoi Ioudaioi, in Greek) as being “of [their] father the Devil.” Throughout the Gospel of John, in fact, “the Jews” are repeatedly identified as the opponents of Jesus. Not some group of Jews, not some fringe group, but “the Jews.” While some New Testament scholars might protest that “Ioudaioi” should actually be translated as “people from Judea” and, thus, not taken as a reference to an entire religio-ethnic group at all, that’s simply not how it is translated in English New Testaments.

While the association of Jews with Satan is most explicit in the Gospel of John, in all four of the canonical gospels a (presumably) Jewish crowd calls for the death of Jesus, and Jewish authorities spearhead efforts to arrest and convict him. In Matthew, the Roman governor Pilate asks the people whom they want to see released: Jesus or a common criminal. When they call for the criminal, Pilate washes his hands of responsibility for the death of Jesus. The crowd responds in unison, “His blood be on our hands and on the hands of our children” (Matthew 25:27). The Jews, the writings of the New Testament tell us, shoulder responsibility for the death of Jesus. This is despite the fact that, in first-century Roman Judea, only the Romans had the power to condemn a man to death.

The legacy of these stories is devastatingly clear. They laid the groundwork for and nurtured nearly two thousand years of anti-Semitism. There is no doubt that stories about the death of Jesus can provoke violence. In the medieval period, when the death of Jesus was publicly performed in passion plays at Easter time, riled-up audience members would spill out onto the streets and attack Jewish members of their communities. To be sure, as Paul B. Sturtevant has written in a brilliant piece forThe Public Medievalist, the situation was complicated. Some Christians, for example, were paid by Jews to protect them. But the legacy of this period is felt even today in unsympathetic portraits of Jesus’s Jewish contemporaries in TV adaptations of the Easter story.

Historically speaking, the demonization of Jews was a rhetorical strategy for the first followers of Jesus. Annette Yoshiko Reed, a professor in the department of Hebrew and Judaic studies at New York University, told The Daily Beast that this was “just one of a broad continuum of different strategies by which followers of Jesus made sense of their relation to Judaism.” John 8:44 was part of “an inner-Christian debate in which there were also others who were stressing instead the Jewishness of both Jesus and authentic forms of Christianity.

All of that is lost when the Gospels are read in a world in the modern world. “The shooter’s quotation of this passage,” said Reed, “is an example of what happens when that one strategy is taken out of its original context and re-read in terms of distinctly modern notions of identity as predicated on biologically essentialized ideas of ‘race.’”

Mark Leuchter, a professor of religion and Judaism at Temple University agrees. “Once the New Testament became holy specifically to Christians, the original context for [the] debate was lost.” Statements from the New Testament “became [for some] the justification for anti-Jewish violence and hatred… and are still used to facilitate anti-Jewish bigotry in ways that many Christians don’t even realize.” As evidence of this subtle bias Leuchter cited the use of the term “Pharisee” by “well-meaning Christians” as an insult against people obsessed with law, when the historical Pharisees were actually more like ancient liberal activists. Examples like this contribute to what Leuchter calls a “cartoon version of Judaism that is presented as devoid of morality, holiness or humane values.”

Of course, while many American Christians may hold outdated views about Judaism, it is only a tiny fraction of them that resort to outright violence. Meghan Henning, a professor of Christian origins at the University of Dayton, told me that “a segment of Christians in the United States, who have been shaped by the ideals of white nationalism, still use anti-Semitism as a lens for reading their Bibles.”

It is, as Reed says, the transplanting of texts from a period when “whiteness had no meaning” to the modern context of contemporary American white supremacy that gives this passage its horrifying power.

Source: How Bigots Easily Exploit the Bible for Anti-Semitism

The Tone-Deaf Israeli Reactions to the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

Interesting account of the gap between Israeli and American Jews:

For Jews around the world, now is a time to mourn and come together, as the dead from the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue are buried. And yet it also reveals how far apart we are.

To be sure, most responses to the massacre were sincere and uncontroversial. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as all of Israel’s leading politicians, issued heartfelt and apolitical responses to the massacre.

But not all.

In an interview with an Israeli religious newspaper, Rabbi David Lau, Israel’s Ashkenazic chief rabbi (a governmental position), declined to call Tree of Life Synagogue a synagogue, describing it instead as “a place with a profound Jewish flavor.” Other ultra-Orthodox newspapers have followed suit, referring to it as a “Jewish center.”

To American Jews who care about Israel, that’s a painful reminder that Reform, Conservative, and other non-Orthodox Jewish denominations are not recognized by the Jewish state. The state does not recognize conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis. And plans for a non-Orthodox prayer space at the Western Wall have been floated and canceled for a generation now—most recently by Netanyahu, who flatly broke his promise to American Jewish leaders to create one last year.

Nor is the tone-deafness exclusively on the right. Israel’s opposition leader, Avi Gabbay, said the attack should inspire “the Jews of the United States to immigrate more and more to Israel, because this is their home.”

Meanwhile, Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett headed to Pittsburgh to offer condolences, saying, in part, “our hearts go out to the families of those killed, and we pray for the swift recovery of the injured, as we pray this is the last such event. Jewish blood is not free.”

First, sending the ultranationalist Bennett to “comfort” mostly liberal American Jews rubs salt in the wound. Bennett, perhaps more than any other Israeli politician, has legitimized open racism against Arabs, sworn his opposition to a two-state solution with Palestinians, and moved the “Overton window” of Israeli nationalism far to the right. Thanks to his party, Jewish Home, comments that would have been too racist for polite conversation a decade ago are now routinely made on the floor of the Knesset.

Second, Bennett’s line about “Jewish blood” is both creepily blood-nationalist and a common justification for harsh military responses against terrorists, their families, their neighbors, and even their whole villages.

What revenge is Bennett planning to take against Robert Bowers, anyway? Bennett’s rhetoric is tone-deaf, alienating to most American Jews, and part of the very hypernationalist crisis that brought this tragedy into being in the first place.

These and other comments point to a vast and growing gap between Israel and the majority of American Jews.

Take the nationalist populism of President Trump. Among American Jews, Trump’s approval rating hovers around 21 percent. Mostly liberal American Jews are appalled by his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-media, and anti-science rhetoric. In Israel, however, 69 percent of Israelis express confidence in Trump’s leadership. If you assume that hardly any Israeli Arabs (21 percent of the population) share that confidence, that’s a roughly 85 percent approval rating among Israeli Jews.

There are many reasons for that widespread support. Trump has shifted the United States from being an “honest broker” for Middle East peace to being an unapologetic partisan for Israel, symbolized by the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (the status of which is still disputed under international law). Trump’s broadsides against Muslims and his anti-Obama birtherism resonate with the prejudices of many Israeli Jews, many of whom believe they are surrounded by hostile, uncivilized enemies.

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man,” in the words of pro-Israel extremist Pamela Geller.

Most important, though, right-wing Israelis, together with the majority of Orthodox, right-wing Jews in America, have a fundamentally different understanding of Judaism than the majority of American Jews, whose experiences are colored by American liberalism and the immigrant experience.

For the former, Judaism is Am Yisrael, the Nation of Israel, a source of patriotism and allegiance. For the latter, Judaism may be a culture, or a religion, or a nation, but it is defined not by blood and loyalty, but by ideals of justice, fairness, and compassion. When those ideals are transgressed, liberal Jews see Judaism betrayed. Whereas, for many on the right, you’re either for us or against us, and if you’re against us, you’re anti-Semitic and that’s that.

“Pittsburgh is why most American Jews oppose Trump. Israeli leaders seem not to understand that.”

For the former, the lesson of the Holocaust is that Jews must always be strong and defend themselves. For the latter, the lesson of the Holocaust is that baseless hatred is wrong and leads to tragedy.

For the former, Jews everywhere exist in solidarity with each other. But progressive American Jews may find more in common with other oppressed minorities than with right-wing Jews, who oppress minorities themselves.

For the former, Muslims and Arabs, often confused with each other, are the implacable enemy of the Jewish people. For the latter, violent rejectionists—be they Muslim, Jewish, or Trump-loving-Christian—are the enemy.

For the former, supporting Israel means supporting the Israeli right’s vision of a strong ethno-state triumphant over its enemies. For the latter, supporting Israel means helping calmer, more rational voices prevail so that peace and justice can be achieved for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Each side has biblical proof-texts, Jewish history, and plenty of emotional appeals they can make. We all have our friends or relatives who have died at the hands of terrorists, anti-Semites, or enemy soldiers. No one ever wins this argument. (We are Jews, after all.)

But the results are profoundly different conceptions of what it means to be a Jew.

When most American Jews hear Trump bash “media elites,” Muslims, Mexicans, Democrats, or victims of sexual assault, we see our deepest values transgressed, and we see ourselves in the crosshairs next, because we, too, are an often despised minority.

But when right-wing Israelis and American Jews hear Trump bash Israel’s enemies, they are encouraged and emboldened. They say anti-Semitism, which Trump has condemned, is totally separable from the white-nationalism, Islamophobia, transphobia, racism, and populism that he has tolerated or encouraged. They say Trump is on our side.

And yet it’s not just he said/she said. There are still facts. And the facts are that the alt-right’s most ardent members, people like Cesar Sayoc Jr. and Robert Bowers, do not separate anti-Semitism from their hatred of immigrants, Muslims, people of color, gays, liberals, and journalists. They say so quite clearly, in words and deeds.

In short, Pittsburgh is why most American Jews oppose Trump. Israeli leaders seem not to understand that.

Source: The Tone-Deaf Israeli Reactions to the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

Trump, the Jews and anti-Semitism: A Dangerous Double Game

Good summary:

U.S. President Donald Trump has long been dogged by accusations that he stokes anti-Semitism both by the language and references he uses and by hiring and embracing figures who actively promote a hyper-nationalist, racist and discriminatory agenda for the United States. This accusation took on a whole new relevance in the wake of the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, in which a white nationalist killed 11 congregants during a baby naming ceremony.

Trump closed his winning 2016 presidential campaign with an ad that many observers slammed as blatantly anti-Semitic. In his first month in office Trump again sparked scandal when the White House left out any mention of Jews while marking Holocuast Remembrance Day. After topping off a campaign littered with dozens of such incidents, the accusations surrounding Trump and anti-Semitism reached a boiling point at his first solo press conference in February 2017, where, responding to a question about recent threats to Jewish centers across the country and rising anti-Semitism, Trump declared, “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”

The day before that press conference, Trump hosted a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu where he was also pressed to address rising anti-Semitism in America. Trump answered, “As far as people – Jewish people – so many friends, a daughter, a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren. I think that you’re going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four, or eight years. I think a lot of good things are happening, and you’re going to see a lot of love. You’re going to see a lot of love. OK? Thank you.”

After Trump responded, Netanyahu came to his aide saying,“I think we can put that to rest,” despite the fact that Trump never used the word “anti-Semitism.” Trump’s daughter Ivanka is a convert to Judaism and married into an Orthodox Jewish family.

In the campaign ad that Trump released back on November 5th, 2016, four villains are blamed for the problems the everyday American is facing – which Trump promised to fix as apart of his “make America great again” pitch for the presidency. Those villains were Hillary Clinton, George Soros (financier and philanthropist), Janet Yellen (then Fed Chair) and Lloyd Blankfein (Goldman Sachs CEO). Three out of the four are Jewish.

As Soros and Yellen come onto the screen in the ad, the narrator says, “The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election. For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests. They partner with these people who don’t have your good in mind.”

In August 2017, Trump stunned the nation when he declared that “both sides” were culpable for violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which claimed the life of a counterprotester. A torchlit march that preceded the day of violence featured white supremacists chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

Trump later clarified his original remarks and openly condemned the white nationalists. However, veteran journalist Bob Woodward wrote in his recent book “Fear,” that Trump felt, “That was the biggest fucking mistake I’ve made. You never make those concessions. You never apologize. I didn’t do anything wrong in the first place. Why look weak?”

The book put Bob Woodward in the Trump family’s crosshairs and resulted in an additional anti-Semitism scandal for the Trump clan when Eric Trump, the president’s youngest son, said of some of the claims in the book, that “It’ll mean you sell three extra books, you make three extra shekels.” Using the word “shekel” is a long-standing anti-Semitic trope going back to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in the New Testament.

Jewish journalist Julia Ioffe’s April 27 profile of Melania Trump in GQ irked the first lady enough that she tweeted criticism of it calling it, “another example of the dishonest media and their disingenuous reporting” and that Ioffe had “provoked” the deluge of anti-Semitic hate online that followed the publication of the profile, including from the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, which urged its followers to “go ahead and send her [Ioffe] a tweet and let her know what you think of her dirty kike trickery.”

Jews funding immigration

Last week both Soros and Clinton were sent bombs in the mail by a Trump supporter who targeted almost a dozen Democrats and CNN – the news network Trump often singles out as “fake news” and as an “enemy of the people.”

Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, who invited a Holocaust denier to this year’s State of the Union address, posted a video on Twitter this month which shows people in Guatemala being handed money. Gaetz, without citing evidence, suggested in the Tweet that Soros was funding a migrant caravan headed towards the U.S. He wrote on Twitter, “BREAKING: Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time. Soros? US-backed NGOs? Time to investigate the source!”

Trump tweeted the exact same video a day later, writing, “Can you believe this, and what Democrats are allowing to be done to our Country?”

The gunman in Pittsburgh, Robert Bowers, who yelled “All Jews must die” before opening fire, made anti-Semitic comments online and expressed anger at a Jewish group which helped refugees.

Bowers wrote on an alt-right social media platform, that “HIAS likes to bring invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in.”

HIAS is an American nonprofit organization that provides humanitarian aid and assistance to refugees.  Another post from Bowers that apparently referred to HIAS read, “Open you Eyes! It’s the filthy evil jews Bringing the Filthy evil Muslims into the Country!!” Bower’s massacre of worshippers is the deadliest attack on a Jewish community in American history and his motive as of now appears to be a white supremacist driven hate of Jews and his belief that the Jewish community aids refugees and immigrants entering the U.S.

Bower’s summed this up in post he made weeks before the shooting, “There is no #maga as long as there is a kike infestation.”

Ungrateful

In December 2015, Trump again waded into anti-Semitic waters when he said in a speech addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money,” adding, “Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals? Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.”

However, despite his claim at the RJC that he is above transactional politics, Trump in September of this year seemed to complain that the U.S. Jewish community was not more grateful after Trump moved the U.S. Embassy, in a ceremony which included Pastor Robert Jeffress who believes “Jews are going to hell,”  from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.

A report from the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Jerusalem-based think tank, in September quoted a White House official who claimed the move should have generated praise from within the Jewish community, but that Trump is treated unfairly.

“We can take justified criticism, but if Obama had transferred the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the American Jewish community would have been united in applauding him!” the official said.

Earlier this month, Mark Mellman, who once ran Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid campaign in 2015, published a poll with the Jewish Electorate Institute that found roughly seventy-five percent of Jewish Americans plan to vote for the Democrats in the midterm elections, with only a quarter voting Republican.

Additionally, Fifty-six percent polled said they disapprove of the embassy move, while only 44 percent said they approved.

Growing anti-Semitism

A new report released Friday by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found far-right extremists have increased an intimidating wave of anti-Semitic harassment against Jewish journalists, political candidates and others public figures of next month’s U.S. midterm elections.

ADL researchers analyzed more than 7.5 million Twitter messages from Aug. 31 to Sept. 17 and found nearly 30 percent of the accounts repeatedly tweeting derogatory terms about Jews appeared to be automated “bots.”

The study also found a “surprising” abundance of tweets referencing “QAnon,” a right-wing conspiracy theory that started on an online message board and has been spread by Trump supporters.

“There are strong anti-Semitic undertones, as followers decry George Soros and the Rothschild family as puppeteers,” researchers wrote.

Trump, who has been pushing his “America first,” anti-globalist message since announcing his campaign in 2015, took the unprecedented step last Monday of outright declaring, “I am a nationalist.”

“A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much. And you know what? We can’t have that,” Trump said at a rally in Houston.

“You know, they have a word – it’s sort of became old-fashioned – it’s called a nationalist. And I say, really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, okay? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist. Nothing wrong. Use that word. Use that word.”

Trump’s rhetoric helped him win in 2016 by whipping up his base and energizing voters. His rallies have become a central feature of his presidency and while he may say he is “the least anti-Semitic” and “least racist person” ever – his rhetoric has reshaped the Republican Party and deeply divided Americans.

From Virginia to California, the Republican Party has an unprecedented amount of white supremacists and Neo-Nazis on the ballot this year. The GOP has actively worked to both distance and remove some of these candidates off the ballot in some cases, while unhappily accepting them in others.

In Virginia, Republican Corey Stewart is running for the U.S. Senate as a self-described neo-Confederate, championing a “take back our heritage” platform. In Illinois, Arthur Jones, a candidate for the state’s 3rd Congressional district boasts of his membership in the American Nazi Party. Anti-Semitic GOP candidate, John Fitzgerald, made it through his open primary and will appear on the ballot in California’s 11th Congressional District. Fitzgerald’s campaign has urged to “end the Jewish takeover of America.”

Source: Trump, the Jews and anti-Semitism: A Dangerous Double Game

How The Jewish Left Learned To Stop Playing Defense And Fight Anti-Semitism

While I don’t follow the UK debates in detail, I found this commentary of interest:

It is no surprise that the British Labour party would ask an anti-Zionist to help fight anti-Semitism. Labor’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has long supported the Palestinian cause, and facing a long-running scandal over Jew hatred in Labor, it is natural that the British Left would turn to the Jewish Left. Indeed, Corbyn has long been friendly with Jewdas, the irreverent, non-Zionist left-wing group whose member, Annie Cohen, led an “interactive workshop” to “raise awareness of anti-Semitism” to a branch of Labor.

Rather, the surprise is that the Jewish Left is now in the business of offering anti-Semitism workshops.

For many years, the Left has responded to allegations of anti-Semitism defensively. The Left traditionally argues that claims of anti-Semitism are used cynically to delegitimize criticisms of the Israeli government.

I would know: I have made this argument many times.

Ours was a reactive analysis of anti-Semitism, which ceded the term to the Right and then frantically played defense, trying to stave off Leon Wieseltier’s or Abe Foxman’s assaults on this or that progressive figure.

But over the last five years, a younger, radical segment of the Jewish left has positively embraced the term “anti-Semitism” — along with fighting it.

These lefties, associated with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), IfNotNow, and portions of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), put anti-Semitism at the center of their political practice. “We show up for ourselves,” IfNotNow’s principles announce. “We acknowledge the existence of anti-Jewish oppression, in the world and in ourselves.”

And indeed, the group regularly runs trainings on internalized anti-Semitism. This is startling and audacious, given that for decades, “self-hating Jew” has been the term of abuse right-wingers use for critics of the Occupation.

Moreover, these groups tell a clear, coherent story about what anti-Semitism is, a story that is fully compatible with non- or anti-Zionism and which fits Jews into the Left’s broader analyses of class, race and gender.

The Left can talk about anti-Semitism in part because of the surge of right-wing anti-Semitism, especially since Donald Trump’s election. White nationalists are chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” and George Soros has become the object of conservative conspiracy theories.

Such circumstances have eroded the link that the Right forged over the last half-century between anti-Semitism and Israeli politics.

When you ask a millennial to picture an anti-Semite, we imagine not a left-wing Muslim but an alt-right white man.

But the shift on the Left goes deeper than momentary politics, because it reflects a new theory and philosophy of anti-Semitism.

I first encountered that theory in April Rosenblum’s 2007 pamphlet, “The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere,” which I read as a college student. Rosenblum argued that anti-Semitism had emerged from medieval Christianity, and that Jews provided ruling elites, whether in feudal Europe or under global capitalism, a convenient scapegoat for their crimes. She thus integrated thinking about anti-Semitism into the Left’s broader account of how power works across many axes of oppression.

Flash forward to 2017, when JFREJ released “Understanding Anti-Semitism: An Offering to Our Movement.” The document, which quotes Rosenblum, also extends her analysis: “Originating in European Christianity,” anti-Semitism has “functioned to protect the prevailing economic system and the almost exclusively Christian ruling class by diverting blame for hardship onto Jews.”

That is, Jewish middlemen make convenient targets for the rage of the oppressed. JFREJ also connects anti-Semitism to Islamophobia, showing how stereotypes about Jews and Muslims are parallel and intertwined.

In short, the document crafts a usable account of Jewish identity, one that places our history in a larger context of racial and economic exploitation and oppression.

Most notably, while JFREJ does take the standard line on Israel (“Criticisms of Israel and Zionism are not inherently or inevitably anti-Jewish), that gets only a page or two out of forty-four. They are consciously crafting a broader definition of anti-Semitism, one in which Israel politics are mostly a distraction. “Confronting antisemitism,” the pamphlet concludes, “is a necessary precondition for collective liberation.”

You can see the struggle between the two Left views of anti-Semitism playing out within an organization like JVP. The edited collection they released in 2017, “On anti-Semitism,” often seems at war with itself. Some of the essays emphasize the ephemerality of anti-Semitism, or the role of the Israeli government in exaggerating the problem of Left anti-Semitism and discrediting pro-Palestinian advocacy. One essay even declares that there is no anti-Semitism, strictly speaking, in the United States: anti-Jewish prejudice, sure, but no structural oppression of Jews.

On the other hand, many of the contributions of younger Jews were enthusiastic about fighting anti-Semitism, which they placed alongside homophobia, classism, and racism as a basic category of radical analysis. (It bears saying that much of the new theory of anti-Semitism comes from queer Jews and Jews of Color, who often do not enjoy the privileges of the white, mainstream American Jewry and who naturally speak the language of intersectional oppression.)

The JVP collection didn’t say much that was new, but it was fascinating as an index of the two, opposed impulses on the Left: to minimize the significance of anti-Semitism and to see it everywhere; to see it largely as ploy by the Israeli Right and to see it as fundamentally baked into Western civilization.

I have some worries about the new narrative of anti-Semitism. For many white Jews, I think, it is all too convenient to rediscover our own oppression at a moment when our whiteness and privilege make us increasingly uncomfortable.

The liberal interest in Steve Bannon’s alleged anti-Semitism seemed to me very odd: no one in the Trump administration is talking of deporting Jews or banning circumcision, after all.

This is not a critique of JFREJ or IfNotNow, both of which aim to be intentional and careful about race; it is rather my nervousness about how this new narrative circulates in the broader culture.

I have seen too many Facebook declarations to the effect of “I’m not white, I’m Jewish” to be entirely comfortable with re-emphasizing Jewish oppression.

Nonetheless, I think that a broader, proactive analysis of anti-Semitism is the better of the two options for the Left.

Our longstanding defensive posture on anti-Semitism largely failed, for obvious tactical reasons. It was fundamentally reactive, it allowed our opponents to set the terms of the debate, and it meant we were constantly apologizing for perceived faults.

The new Left approach to anti-Semitism, by contrast, puts the Right on the defensive. It is positive and aggressive.

Moreover, it offers Jews a usable identity in the age of Trump: a story in which the struggle for social justice is not merely a Jewish value, but a necessity for Jewish survival.

Source: How The Jewish Left Learned To Stop Playing Defense And Fight Anti-Semitism

Salman Rushdie, Philip Roth, and British Anti-Semitism

Speaks for itself:

A year ago, the late Philp Roth invited Salman Rushdie to give the Newark Public Library’s annual Philip Roth Lecture. Delivering the lecture in September of this year, as scheduled, Rushdie took the opportunity to eulogize Roth, to speak of Roth’s influence on his own work, and to comment on a particular conversation that made a lasting impression:

“My most vivid memory [of Roth] is of a conversation in London in the mid-1980s, at a dinner in the house in Chelsea where he was living with Claire Bloom, [whom he would later marry]. He spoke of his desire to return to America because of his growing dislike of British anti-Semitism, and the irritation caused by the accompanying British refusal to admit that there was such a thing as British anti-Semitism, and their desire to explain to Philip that he had probably made some sort of cultural misunderstanding.

I have been thinking again about what Philip perceived all those years ago, because the British Labor party is presently in the throes of a dispute about the widespread anti-Semitism within its ranks, a problem the existence of which the party leadership has appeared to minimize or even deny until quite recently, and which, even now, has not been firmly dealt with. . . .

I told [Roth] that evening about my only personal experience of anti-Semitism. One summer when I was young, before I had published anything, and when I was not even slightly fashionable, I was somehow invited to a fashionable rooftop party in London, at which I was introduced to a designer of extremely fashionable hats named Tom Gilbey, whose work, I was told, was often featured in Vogue. He was quite uninterested in meeting me, was curt to the point of discourtesy, and quickly went off in search of more fashionable party guests.

A few minutes later, however, he came back toward me at some speed, his whole body contorted into a shape designed to convey embarrassment and regret, and offered the following apology. “I’m so sorry,” he said, “you probably thought I was very rude to you just now, and actually, I probably was very rude, but you see, it’s because they told me you were Jewish.” The explanation was offered in tones which suggested that I would immediately understand and forgive. I have never wanted so much to be able to say that I was in fact Jewish. . .”

Source: Salman Rushdie, Philip Roth, and British Anti-Semitism

Adrian Karatnycky: Ukraine, anti-Semitism, racism, and the far right

Interesting analysis and commentary placing the legitimate fears regarding the rise of the far right and antisemitism in Ukraine in context. Look forward to comments from others who know Ukraine better than me:

October 14 saw the latest in a string of annual mass marches by the far right in Ukraine. As many as 10,000 people participated, mainly young men, chanting fiercely. A nighttime torchlight parade with signs proclaiming “We’ll return Ukraine to Ukrainians,” contained echoes of Nazi-style symbolism.

Lax law enforcement and indifference by the security services to the operations of the far right is being noticed by extremists from abroad who are flocking to Ukraine. German media reported the presence of the German extreme right (JN-NPD, Dritte Weg) at the rally. According to Ukrainian political analyst Anton Shekhovtsov, far-right Norwegians, Swedes, and Italians were supposed to be there too. And on October 15, they all gathered in Kyiv for the Paneuropa conference organized by the Ukrainian neo-Nazi National Corps party. “Kyiv,” says Shekhovtsov, “has now become one of the major centers of European far-right activities.”

Such activism, naturally, unnerves liberals as well as Jews, and national minorities. And they often result in alarmist headlines in Western and Israeli newspapers.

Coming in a year in which the white supremacist C14 group engaged in savage beatings at a Roma encampment near Kyiv, one could draw the conclusion that the far right is on the rise in Ukraine.

But such a reading would be mistaken. Far-right sentiments exist in Ukraine, but these ultranationalist groupings attract little public support. As the March 2018 presidential election approaches, recent polls show that the combined vote of far-right presidential candidates amounts to around 4 percent. A similarly paltry level of support is to be found for the far-right Svoboda and National Corps parties. Compared to the support of far-right parties such as the AfD in Germany (12.6 percent support), Marine Le Pen’s Rally for the Nation (13 percent) and Italy’s Northern League (17.4 percent), Ukraine’s public has little sympathy for the far right.

Nor can these fringe Ukrainian parties be labeled pro-Nazi, though their leaders initially were drawn to proto-fascist ideas.Ukraine is a country on whose territory two million Jews died in the Holocaust. It is also a country in which five million non-Jewish Ukrainians perished in combat as a result of Nazi occupation. Virtually every family has the memory of Nazi brutality etched into its memory. Ukraine’s nationalists of the 1930s and 1940s, who advanced anti-Semitic and proto-fascist ideas, were also eventually hunted down for extermination by the Nazi regime.

To be sure, casual anti-Semitism and Jewish stereotypes persist in everyday life. And anti-Semitic graffiti appears with regularity near Jewish synagogues, cemeteries, and cultural institutions. Even still, this regrettable phenomenon is widespread in most advanced industrial democracies.

At the same time, in the last two years there has been not a single recorded violent attack against a Jewish person. The last such attack occurred on October 7, 2016, against a Hasidic rabbi visiting the city of Zhytomyr.

Between 2016 and 2017, acts of vandalism against Jewish targets increased from 19 to 24, but were still far below those reported in many European countries. While an Israeli government report issued in January 2018 alleged a doubling of anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine, it failed to provide detailed answers about its methodology or sources.

Unlike two decades ago, when Silski Visti, an anti-Semitic newspaper reached millions of readers, today there is no mass circulation periodical spilling out anti-Semitic bile.

Moreover, in comparison with its Central and East European neighbors, Ukraine remains a remarkably tolerant society, even as it faces Russian occupation in part of its territory. A 2016 Pew Research Center poll found that among South, Central, and East European countries, Ukraine had the highest level of acceptance of Jews as fellow citizens, with only 5 percent of the public disagreeing.

The leadership role of Jews in the country’s economic and political life is rarely a topic of public discourse and is accepted as normal.

The country has a Jewish Prime Minister, Volodymyr Groisman.The president’s chief of staff is Jewish, as was his last chief of staff, Borys Lozhkin, who now heads the Ukrainian Jewish Confederation and is a vice president of the World Jewish Congress.

According to the Ukrainian Jewish Confederation, more than thirty of 427 members of parliament are Jewish. And the Committee on Interparliamentary Relations with Israel is the largest of all such groupings in the Ukrainian Rada, numbering nearly 140 deputies, a third of the legislature.

Ukraine’s religious leaders have regular access to key government leaders. And Ukrainian government and state leaders routinely take part in commemorative ceremonies of remembrance of the Holocaust.

All this is not to say that there are serious problems.

Ukraine’s memory politics reflect too much heroization of a complex past and not enough acknowledgment of such issues as indigenous anti-Semitism and collaboration with the Nazi occupation. More, too, needs to be done in restoring the killing fields in which Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

More ominously, Ukraine’s far-right, para-military formations and their penchant for vigilantism remain a problem that must be more vigorously countered by the state and their sources of funding investigated thoroughly.

Anti-Semitic vandalism needs to be rooted out and hate speech handled in accordance with Ukrainian law. Government reactions to acts or expressions of anti-Semitism remain far too slow. And incidents of violence against Roma by members of far-right groups such as C14 must be swiftly prosecuted.​

However, Western and Israeli governments, media, and NGOs should be sensitive to Russia’s hybrid warfare and disinformation around the topic of anti-Semitism and the far-right in Ukraine. Russia’s deployment of actors who wittingly or unwittingly are encouraged to engage in hate speech, incite anti-minority tensions, commit vandalism, and employ violence is another phenomenon that must be better understood. In a poor country, it is easy to buy or win the allegiance of alienated youth and enlist them in fringe politics either by far-right operatives or Russian agents.

Ukraine’s far right may not be a rising force. But in a poor country facing external aggression, it is a force that cannot be ignored.

Adrian Karatnycky is a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, and co-director and board member of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter.

Source: Adrian Karatnycky: Ukraine, anti-Semitism, racism, and the far right

There’s Been a George Soros for Every Era of Anti-Semitic Panic

Good long read and historical reminder:

It’s been largely forgotten, but when Russian military intelligence created online cutouts in 2016 to manipulate the American electorate, the Democratic Party wasn’t its only target.

The most prominent of those fake digital identities was Guccifer 2.0, which took credit for hacking the Democratic National Committee and then provided the pilfered information to WikiLeaks. The other was called DCLeaks. On Aug. 29, 2016, two months after the DNC hack became public, DCLeaks’ now-banned Twitter account told its followers to check out another of its projects: “Find Soros files on soros.dcleaks.com.”

Visitors to the now-shuttered site could find purported documents from the billionaire philanthropist’s Open Society Foundations, which promote liberal values and democratization. They had file names like “public health program access to medicine” and “youth exchange my city real world.” But before those curious about the leaks got there, the Russians wanted to put George Soros in a particular context.

The homepage displayed a photo illustration of a smug-looking Soros in the midst of four scenes of street chaos whose apparent perpetrators were conspicuously nonwhite. They were taken from the Ferguson, Missouri, protests in 2014, the birthplace—to the consternation of many white Americans whom the Kremlin sought to cultivate—of the contemporary civil rights movement. In both the image and the accompanying text, the Russians portrayed Soros as the puppet master.

“Soros is named as the architect and sponsor of almost every revolution and coup around the world for the last 25 years. Thanks to him and his puppets USA is thought to be a vampire, not a lighthouse of freedom and democracy,” the website proclaimed. The “oligarch” who sired the U.S. vampire, and whose “slaves spill blood of millions and millions people just to make him even more rich” [sic], had a particular background the Russians highlighted in the very first sentence: Soros is “of Hungarian-Jewish ancestry and holds dual citizenship.”

More than two years later, the president of the United States gave a similar portrayal of Soros, though Trump left Soros’s background unsaid. Soros, Trump said on Friday, Oct. 5, had paid for “professionally made identical signs” in the hands of women objecting to Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court justiceship. On Tuesday, he followed up by implying that Soros had stiffed these hired “screamers.” In Trump-like fashion, his accusations were a form of mirror-imaging, as Trump himself had paid for people to support his presidential announcement and denied them payment for months, and he appears to have misunderstood a Fox News guest who spoke sarcastically about Soros paying the protesters.

But it was not Trump’s first time making sinister allegations about Soros. He did so in the final advertisement from his campaign, run at the time by the blood-and-soil nationalist Steve Bannon. Its message was reminiscent of the darker periods of European history: the virtuous future of the forgotten, salt-of-the-earth people has been stolen by a predatory elite. As a shot of the Capitol Dome faded into a Wall Street sign, Trump narrated a message to “those who control the levers of power in Washington” right as the camera showed an image of Soros, giving way to a shot of then-Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen, who is also Jewish, as Trump continued speaking about “global special interests.” This followed months of the so-called alt-right transforming “globalism” into an anti-Semitic euphemism, and preceded Trump stocking his cabinet with ultra-rich financiers, Jew and gentile alike.

In the 1980s and 1990s, George Soros was hailed as an anti-communist and post-communist hero. His philanthropy helped smooth democratic transitions from the Soviet orbit in central and Eastern Europe. Alongside that track record was a different one: Soros was a ruthless currency speculator who benefited from, among other things, the 1992 British financial disaster and who once blithely dismissed second thoughts over the world-moving power of his investments, saying, “I am engaged in an amoral activity that is not meant to have anything to do with guilt.” In a 60 Minutes interview from 1998—one that Glenn Beck would famously butcher to paint Soros, who as a boy lived through Nazi occupation, as a Nazi collaborator—Jim Grant of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, remarked that Soros was “Donald Trump without the humility.”

The current portraiture of Soros, now ascendant if not dominant online, isn’t interested in that sort of complexity. For the far right, from Russia to central Europe and increasingly, America, Soros is the latest Jewish manipulator whose extreme wealth finances puppet groups and publications to drain the prosperity of the Herrenvolk. This cannot be dismissed as the preoccupation of ignorable fools on the internet, nor as the equivalent of liberal criticism of the Koch Brothers. Instead, the attack on Soros follows classic anti-Semitic templates, grimly recurrent throughout western history, and some of the most powerful geopolitical figures in the world are pushing it. It’s fueled by Soros’s political activism against a revanchist right eager to view the world in zero-sum racial terms that is on the march across Europe, America and beyond.

“The attack on Soros follows classic anti-Semitic templates, grimly recurrent throughout western history, and some of the most powerful geopolitical figures in the world are pushing it.”

Other Jewish bogeymen may haunt the fever dreams of the vicious, but the scale and intensity of the attacks on Soros are unrivalled. They reveal what the global nationalist right believes is at stake in this present moment. We may one day look back on this era as the Soros Age of anti-Semitism.

“It’s important to distinguish between intent and effect. Of course a person who shares a conspiracy theory about George Soros may not intend to promulgate anti-Semitism, and of course not every Soros conspiracy theory is anti-Semitic. But the image of the rich, powerful Jew who manipulates social and political movements around the world for his own agenda is an ancient anti-Semitic trope,” said Aryeh Tuchman, the associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

“Because Soros’s Jewish identity is so well known, we are concerned that conspiracy theories about George Soros may have the effect of reinforcing this trope and spreading it throughout the broader population,” Tuchman added. “This is especially true when other anti-Semitic tropes are woven in, such as claims that Soros controls the media or the banks, or when he is described using terms that harken back to medieval claims that Jews are evil, demonic, or agents of the Antichrist.”

There will always be this sort of tentacular George Soros figure. There have been many before. One was said to have profited off the bloodshed at Waterloo.

Thirty years after the pivotal battle capping the end of the Napoleonic Wars, a pamphlet circulated across Europe claiming that Nathan Rothschild, a London banker and scion of the Jewish mega-financier family, sped from the battlefield to parlay his insider knowledge of the French defeat into a windfall on the London stock exchange. “This family,” charged an author writing under the nom de plume “Satan,” “is our evil genius.”

It was the fake news of its era. Nathan Rothschild was never at Waterloo. He died five years before the pamphlet’s publication in 1841, leaving him unable to rebut it. But the lie, after a series of adjustments to explain away its baseline factual mistakes, would reach escape velocity. One subsequent version, according to Brian Cathcart of Kingston University London, claimed Rothschild “deliberately provoked a collapse in stock market confidence by encouraging rumors that Wellington had been defeated.”

The form of conspiracy theories follows their function. Here was a Jewish family whose fortune was said to derive from exploiting European carnage. As Jews, they were considered a foreign presence on the continent, one that had taken advantage of their adopted countries’ naive openness to establish a shadowy power that could determine the fate of nations. Accordingly, European publics would not have to look to their distant autocratic governments for their political disenfranchisement, nor would they have to look to a confusing system of capitalist finance to explain obscene discrepancies in wealth. In place of a systemic critique was a Jewish face. More recently, you can find Rothschild references in the QAnon conspiracy theory, alongside, of course, Soros.

A recurrent theme of 19th-century anti-Semitism is that it finds substantial currency at moments when old regimes appear exhausted and fear about revolutionary dislocation intensifies. A tutor to Russia’s final two tsars demonstrated the utility of using Jews as an omnibus explanation for the anxieties of his age. Jews in Russia endured repression of their civil and economic rights—but they only appeared powerless.

“Yids,” wrote Konstantin Pobyedonostsev in August 1879, have “invaded everything, but the spirit of the times works in their favor. They are at the root of the Social Democratic movement and tsaricide. They control the press and the stock market. They reduce the masses to financial slavery. They formulate the principles of contemporary science, which tends to disassociate itself from Christianity. And in spite of that, every time their name is mentioned, a chorus of voices is raised in favor of the Jews, supposedly in the name of civilization and tolerance, that is to say, indifference to faith. And nobody dares say that here the Jews control everything.” Like many before and since, Pobyedonostsev did not pause to reconcile his claimed Jewish interest in exploitative capitalism with his claimed Jewish interest in the socialism designed to destroy it, but a man like George Soros offers Pobyedonostsev’s descendants a way to square the circle.

After Rothschild, there was Max Warburg. Warburg, another Jewish banker, was a member of the Hamburg parliament and said to have an open line to Kaiser Wilhelm II. Once Pobyednostsev’s fears came true in 1917, a forgery about Warburg appeared in Petrograd claiming that he and a “Rhenish-Westphalian syndicate” were financing the Bolsheviks, through the Jewish Trotsky.

A Russian journalist, Eugene Semyonov, provided the forgery to an American diplomat, Edgar Sisson. It had currency for the Creel Committee, an official U.S. government propaganda organ promoting participation in World War I, since it portrayed the Russian Revolution as a German plot financed by Jews. In September 1918, the committee published it under the title The German-Bolshevik Conspiracy. Leon Poliakov writes in the fourth volume of his History of Anti-Semitism that it was the first time that an anti-Semitic forgery was published by a government that was neither tsarist nor otherwise committed to anti-Semitism as a matter of policy. (Warburg himself, 20 years later, would immigrate to New York to flee the Nazis.)

According to Poliakov, the years between the world wars were a boom time for anti-Semitic forgeries in the United States. There was the fake George Washington missive, warning that the Jews, not the British Army, were the principal danger. And there was a fake Ben Franklin prophesy, forecasting Jewish world domination by 1950 or so.  Detectives hired by the anti-Semitic industrialist Henry Ford traveled to Mongolia, of all places, in pursuit of an authentic Hebrew copy of the invented Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Another went “looking for the secret channel through which [Supreme Court Justice and Jew] Louis Brandeis gave his orders to the White House.”

Foreshadowing the present day, the upswing of American anti-Semitism came at the intersection of an immigration panic, an ascendant nativist movement, and fears about foreign-borne internal subversion. As the Bolshevik Revolution spread, so did a cottage industry of paranoiacs connecting it to mainstream American Jewry, just as a later generation of Islamophobes would do to American Islam after 9/11. In 1919, a Methodist minister recently driven from Russia, the Rev. George A. Simons, testified to a Senate subcommittee about the Jewishness of Bolshevism.

Simons, speaking through barely concealed euphemism, told the Senate that he had encountered “hundreds of agitators” in the former St. Petersburg who had come from “the East Side of New York,” meaning the Jewish slum. The typical sentiment of Russians to describe the post-revolutionary arrangement, Simons related, was that “it is not a Russian government, it is a Hebrew government.” But, Simons assured the Senate, he was no bigot: “I am not in sympathy with anti-Semitism. I never was and never will be. I hate pogroms of any type. But I am firmly convinced that this business is Jewish.”

Vladimir Putin and the global nationalist right have particular motivations to vilify Soros, though deploying anti-Semitism to do it is entirely their choice.

Soros was deeply involved in post-Soviet economic efforts in Russia in the 1990s, corresponding with the nadir of Russian power that Vladimir Putin considers a national humiliation demanding redress. And though he’s denied doing any such thing, Russians have long speculated that Soros profited off a Russian economic downturn in 1998, a year during which he boasted of being Russia’s largest single investor. (His Quantum Fund claims to have lost $2 billion from the episode.) Prophetically, Soros warned Charlie Rose in 1995 of revanchist eastern-European authoritarianism born of an alliance between nationalist politicians and business interests: “Russia is very much up for grabs. It’s very much a struggle which way it’s going to go.”

Soros’s solution to all of this is liberalism. He took his inspiration from the anti-totalitarian philosopher Karl Popper, best known for The Open Society and Its Enemies, and used Popper’s work to develop a critique of the rapacious capitalism Soros himself practiced as a threat to that open society—conveniently, after he had made his billions. Soros’s Open Society Foundations, which operate in over 140 countries, provide assistance and financing to civil-society institutions that promote transparency, the rule of law, higher education, refugee aid, the rights of marginalized peoples, and democratic accountability.

Accordingly, recipients of Soros’s philanthropy include groups such as NARAL, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU that in their various ways oppose the agendas of the American right. In 2003, Soros pledged what would for anyone other than him count as a fortune in a failed attempt to prevent George W. Bush’s re-election, fanning the flames of his enemies’ ire. Then, in October 2017, the elderly Soros transferred a gargantuan $18 billion to the foundation, making it the U.S.’ second largest philanthropic organization.

But it’s one thing to be a wealthy donor, even an unfathomably wealthy one: American politics, to its cross-ideological abasement, relies upon them, and scrutiny of them is vital for the very open societies Soros promotes. It’s quite another for such an unfathomably wealthy donor to stand as a singular, nefarious explanation for all manner of global political phenomena. A recent ADL study about anti-Semitism on Twitter took particular note of the frequency and virulence of invocations of Soros for “undermin[ing] western civilization, or following a long-standing pattern of Jewish behavior.” The ADL even found far-right warnings that Soros had engineered the lethal white-supremacist march on Charlottesville as a false-flag operation.

After the teenage survivors of the Parkland high school massacre began their demonstrations for gun control, some let the mask slip. One now-suspended “alt-right” account tweeted that it was “@georgesoros at work.” Softer versions of that sentiment are ubiquitous online. One more humorous version came after someone posted a picture of a bald Britney Spears attacking a car during her 2007 meltdown to joke that it was Parkland’s Emma Gonzalez – prompting an apparently elderly woman to tweet that “these children of Satan… are funded by Soros.” At an “alt-right” gathering in New York convened by Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, drunken panelists referred to Soros as the “head of the snake.”

Larger players in the “alt-right” firmament, echoing their 19th- and 20th-century antecedents, find the malevolent handiwork of Soros everywhere. WikiLeaks, on Twitter, sought to discredit 2016-era reporting in the Panama Papers concerning Vladimir Putin by portraying it as Soros-funded. Bannon’s former home for distorted news, Breitbart, ran a cottage industry connecting far-right targets to Soros, no matter how innocuous the connection. In a typical piece, H.R. McMaster’s consultancy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies – a minor thing, considering it overlapped with McMaster’s Army career – became “Soros-funded” through a IISS affiliation with the nuclear-nonproliferation Ploughshares Fund. Google and Facebook were hit with similar Breitbart smears-by-association through their sins of using credible organizations like the Poynter Institution, which take Open Society money, to reduce the onslaught of fake news. InfoWars similarly highlights Soros money taken by its critics to paint itself as unfairly persecuted.

In keeping with the broader trajectory of the extreme right, the paranoid conception of Soros has moved closer to the corridors of power. In December, the GOP nominee for Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore, castigated Soros in terms redolent with anti-Semitism. Soros’s agenda was “sexual” in nature, said a man accused of child predation, and it’s “not our American culture.” Soros, Moore told a radio host, “comes from another world that I don’t identify with. … No matter how much money he’s got, he’s still going to the same place that people who don’t recognize God and morality and accept his salvation are going.”

“Soros’s agenda was ‘sexual’ in nature, said Roy Moore, a man accused of child predation. Soros ‘comes from another world that I don’t identify with. … No matter how much money he’s got, he’s still going to the same place that people who don’t recognize God and morality and accept his salvation are going.’”

That same month, Erik Prince, brother of Trump’s education secretary and mercenary CEO, encouraged a GQ reporter to investigate the Clintons’ sartorial choices of purple shirts and ties. “Purple Revolution lore,” the wealthy Prince told GQ. “I think it’s a Soros thing.” (There is no such thing as the Purple Revolution.) A Prince associate and former CIA official, the Intercept reported last year, told would-be donors that McMaster used a burner phone to route the fruits of deep-state surveillance on Bannon and the Trump family to “a facility in Cyprus owned by George Soros.”

More recently, after the Kavanaugh confirmation fight, Senator Chuck Grassley stopped just short of validating the accusation that Soros had paid for those protesting Kavanaugh. “I believe it fits in his attack mode that he has, and how he uses his billions and billions of resources,” said the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee. Even Rudy Giuliani on Saturday retweeted someone who called Soros the “anti-Christ.” The “evil genius” that “Satan” concocted in 1841 had found its 2018 incarnation.

Nowhere has the attack on Soros been more geopolitically potent, or as clarifying, as in his native Hungary.

The Hungarian strongman prime minister Viktor Orban, for months ahead of his April reelection, united anti-Semitism and Islamophobia to portray Soros as the string-puller behind a transformational Islamic invasion of Syrian migrants. Whereas some Soros opponents mumble through their anti-Semitism, Orban roars it. Soros is out to deal “a final blow to Christian culture,” Orban charged in November. “It’s Soros’s plan for America, too. PM Orban’s view is deeply well informed & reasoned,” the racist Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King said in December while quote-tweeting an account that used the Soros photo illustration from the DCLeaks page.

In a March pre-election speech, Orban put Soros and immigration in existential terms for Hungary. He pledged to expel Soros as the Hungarians did previous remote tyrannies from the Ottomans to the Hapsburgs to the Soviets. And he applied anti-Semitic tropes not seen from a European leader since Hitler.

“We are fighting an enemy that is different from us,” Orban said, per a New York Times translation. “Not open, but hiding; not straightforward but crafty; not honest but base; not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money; does not have its own homeland but feels it owns the whole world.” Even a previously sympathetic writer, National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty, said the speech read like “a checklist drawn from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

Perhaps it’s worth noting that Orban himself received a Soros-funded scholarship to Oxford. But it was not the only irony in this ugly episode. To its discredit, the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu wilfully averted its eyes from Orban’s anti-Semitism. Billboards in Hungary last year promoted Orban’s anti-immigrant agenda by using a photo of a smiling Soros to warn Hungarians against letting him get “the last laugh.” Yossi Amrani, the Israeli ambassador, posted on Facebook that the campaign sowed “sad memories”—an apparent allusion to Hungary’s complicity in genocidal anti-Semitism—and “hatred and fear.”

Yet the Israeli foreign ministry undercut its own diplomat. It insistedit had no intent to “delegitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself.” That followed on Israel opting to accept official assurances against anti-Semitism after Orban called Miklós Horthy—Hitler’s Hungarian ally whose expulsions of Hungarian Jewry led to the slaughter of half a million people in the Holocaust—an “exceptional statesman.”

An Israeli journalist, Mairav Zonszein, contextualized the toleration of anti-Semitism within Netanyahu’s broader alignment with right-wing nationalist governments “if it will bolster the Greater Israel movement.” This appears to be an allusion to Soros’s funding of Israeli groups such as B’tselem and Breaking The Silence, which challenge the brutal Israeli treatment of Palestinians, an internal criticism that Netanyahu and his allies cannot abide. Netanyahu, who postures as the protector of diaspora Jewry when it suits him, had tacitly collaborated with an anti-Semite to turn a Hungarian-born Jew into a metaphorically stateless person.

This spring, Orban’s government criminalized the assistance of asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants through what it called the “Stop Soros” laws. Ahead of its passage, the Open Society Foundations announced that it would cease operations in Budapest and transfer its local staff to Germany. In July, Netanyahu hosted Orban in Jerusalem and declared him a “true friend of Israel.”

Calculations like Netanyahu’s underscore the ascendancy and the purpose of the global far right. From Russia to America and beyond, the open society is on its back foot against an assault not seen since the 1930s. The assaulters are far from finished. Whereas the previous generation of European nationalists wanted to marginalize the European Union, the current one seeks to take it over. Orban and his Italian ally, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, are crusading on an anti-immigration platform ahead of spring’s European Parliamentary elections. They’re joined, on the outside, by Steve Bannon, who dreams of a pan-European nationalist bloc and styles himself, as he told The Daily Beast’s Nico Hines, a counterweight to the version of George Soros so thoroughly cultivated for the reactionary European, Russian and American imagination.

Soros would not talk for this article. But the Open Society Foundations’ communications director, Laura Silber, called the attacks on him “a tribute,” as his philanthropy “strikes at the interests of autocrats, oligarchs and corrupt politicians” and supports human dignity.

“The voices that are loudest in speaking out against George Soros are those that are authoritarian, seeking to galvanize their bases and consolidate power, ignoring or silencing the most vulnerable,” Silber told The Daily Beast. “They’re doing it by circulating recurrent tropes. The billboards that the Hungarian government put up were eerily similar to World War II propaganda, and it’s telling that they were defaced with swastikas and hateful epithets.”

“The voices that are loudest in speaking out against George Soros are those that are authoritarian, seeking to galvanize their bases and consolidate power, ignoring or silencing the most vulnerable.”
— Laura Silber

The U.S. has been better to and for Jews than any other diaspora nation in history. It’s for that reason that many American Jews, particularly those whose white skin affords them access to the highest levels of the American Dream, often diminish the dangers posed by a mass movement comfortable, wittingly or not, with creating a Jewish scapegoat for its political frustrations. There is also a powerful Jewish collective instinct to avoid calling attention to empowered anti-Semitism for fear of provoking it to violence.

Nearly a century ago, as anti-Semitic propaganda backed by powerful white Americans like Henry Ford proliferated, an American Jewish lawyer and civil-rights leader urged his fellow Jews to confront it. “Events have shown that the policy of silence was a mistake. Not only do Ford’s articles appear every week with undiminished virulence, but worse, the Protocols is distributed in every club, placed in every newspaper,” wrote Louis Marshall in 1921. “It has been received by every member of Congress and put in the hands of thousands of personalities. It is the topic of conversation in every living room and in every social sphere.”

Eighteen years later, 20,000 Nazi supporters filled Madison Square Garden to preach their vision of an American Reich. It would not be long, across the Atlantic, before much worse unfolded.

“I’m concerned that the prevalence of conspiracy theories about Soros which paint him as a larger than life, powerful figure has the effect of shrinking that public space where anti-Semitism is not acceptable,” said the ADL’s Tuchman. “If you have fully embraced the notion that there is a powerful Jewish figure manipulating social and political movements around the world to promote his agenda, you’re inching toward the edges of that space where anti-Semitism is acceptable. Soros is a liminal figure in that way.”

Source: There’s Been a George Soros for Every Era of Anti-Semitic Panic

Dina Porat, Netanyahu’s secret agent in his war on the ‘new anti-Semitism’

Knowing both Dina Porat and Yehuda Bauer from my time as Canadian delegate to IRHA, found this story particularly of interest. Agree with Bauer:

A public outcry and a media storm have raged in recent months over a joint declarationissued by the prime ministers of Poland and Israel and read by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last June. The statement praised Polish resistance to the Nazis. It came on the heels of Poland passing a controversial law akin to Holocaust-denial that banned implicating Poles for crimes committed during the Holocaust, an offense punishable by a three-year prison sentence. When Netanyahu read the declaration, many criticized him over reaching a faustian detente with Poland.

Professor Yehuda Bauer, Israel Prize laureate and one of the world’s leading Holocaust scholars, deemed the joint statement “betrayal.”

In an interview on Israeli public radio, Bauer said that Israel had accepted the Polish narrative of the Holocaust. “The Poles have deceived us, they have us wrapped around the finger, and we agreed to this, because the State of Israel finds the economic-political-military relations with Poland more important that such a small business, the Holocaust,” he said.

Senior officials in the Netanyahu government, including Naftali Bennett, Minister of Education and Ayelet Shaked, Minister of Justice, also criticized the declaration.

The statement was drafted far from the public eye with support from a secret delegation of Netanyahu allies and former appointees, Yaakov Nagel and Yossi Ciechanover. According to reports by Israeli media, a meeting between the delegations was held at the Mossad offices. It came about in spite that this kind of historic declaration should be made after deep discussion involving experts and the public.

After the statement was made, Netanyahu revealed that “Professor Dina Porat, the chief historian of Yad Vashem was involved the drafting of the declaration.” However, Yad Vashem had already published their own unprecedented and sharp condemnation of the statement. It said the joint Israeli-Polish declaration contained “historical distortions” and was written without Yad Vashem’s involvement.

Porat would have liked to have some sections corrected, she explained in an interview with Kan radio and reported by Ynet. Yet, taken as a whole, she said “We can definitely live with it,” Porat clarified she was not paid for consulting on the declaration. “I was asked to give personal and discreet advice, I did not act as the chief historian [of Yad Vashem],” she said.

How was it possible that Porat acted behind the backs of both Yad Vashem and the Israeli public? Do political ends (such as bolstering Netanyahu’s attempt to have more embassies moved to Jerusalem) justify the means? Does that include the desecration of the memory of the Holocaust? Prima facie, Porat’s conduct was no fluke but a matter of worldview and priorities.

What is anti-Semitism? Depends on what’s in the Israeli government’s self-interest

“New anti-Semitism,” a vague term promoted by the Israeli government and its partners, regards the BDS movement and criticism of Israeli occupation policies as a form of anti-Semitism. While the Israeli right-wing often mocks the “peace industry,” it has formed its own industry under the assumption that new anti-Semitism is real and spreading. The government calls this fighting the “de-legitimization of Israel.” It is spearheaded by politicians who strive to gain personal capital, organizations on the right and extremist groups. This industry offers lucrative jobs and huge budgets.

While sporadic anti-Semitic elements in the boycott movement do occur and should not be tolerated, it makes no sense to sweepingly label this global, diverse movement as innately “anti-Semitic.” Many Jews in Israel and across the world support a full boycott of the State of Israel, or a boycott of Israeli settlements and those who profit from the occupation.

In spite of strenuous efforts by the Netanyahu government, a boycott of the State of Israel is still considered an integral part of the civil right to freedom of speech and conscience in many countries, even if the local governments oppose the boycott or do not support it. In reality, the Netanyahu government has used the fight against the “new anti-Semitism” to silence criticism of the occupation and its policies in the occupied Palestinian territories, to persecute left-wing and human rights groups, and to shrink the democratic sphere in Israel.

It comes as no surprise that the Netanyahu government’s fight against the boycott movement and the “new anti-Semitism” shifted gears in 2015, against the backdrop of the international nuclear agreement with Iran. A new existential enemy had to be found, around which the public in Israel could be rallied. To manufacture a public consensus as to the current “existential threat,” the Netanyahu government could not rely just on the fringe right wing. In this context, Porat became an important asset to the Netanyahu government by joining the campaign. For example, the Kantor Center at the Tel Aviv University, headed by Porat, publishes an annual report (of which she is the editor) on the status of anti-Semitism throughout the world. These reports pay close attention to the boycott movement and groups which campaign against Israeli policies. The reports also regard the labeling of Israel as “an apartheid state” as a manifestation of anti-Semitism. At ahearing of the Knesset’s Immigration and Absorption Committee in May 2015, Porat stated that “It’s obvious that anti-Israeliness and anti-Zionism are acquiring an increasingly anti-Semitic tone.” This means that in her view, anti-Zionism may amount to anti-Semitism.

When it comes to the “old anti-Semitism,” Porat seems more pragmatic. This was evident not just in her (professed) clandestine participation in the preparation of the joint declaration with the Polish government, but also in her approach to other regimes with a serious anti-Semitism problem. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has been waging a racist and anti-Semitic campaign for years, and has even expressed his personal support of Miklós Horthy, the country’s ruler during WWII who was directly responsible for the extermination of Hungary’s Jews. While the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington has condemned Orban sharply, and Elie Wiesel returned a medal he had received from the Hungarian government due to its whitewashing of the country’s Nazi past, we have not heard Porat’s criticism of this grave anti-Semitism in Orban’s party and government. In fact, the opposite is true – Orban visited Yad Vashem recently. It comes as no coincidence that Hungary is being coaxed by Netanyahu to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem.

Furthermore, we have not heard Porat’s critique as to Ukrainian legislation which, similarly to the Polish one, bans criticism of Nazi Germany’s Ukrainian henchmen during WWII. Nor have we heard her public voice regarding the integration of a neo-Nazi Militia, Azov, which uses Nazi insignia, into the national Ukrainian security forces. Once again, the converse is true: The Prime Minister of Ukraine visited Yad Vashem in May 2017, and metIsraeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman to discuss arms deals. By contrast, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has campaigned against the militia’s efforts to recruit new members, and the United States Memorial Museum has strongly condemned the Ukrainian legislation. Nor have we heard Porat’s critique as to the recent visit by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is responsible for the extrajudicial killing of thousands of suspected drug dealers and addicts. Duterte has also compared himself to Hitler and said he would gladly slaughter three million drug addicts similarly to Hitler’s slaughter of the Jews.

A dangerous stamp of approval

Porat published in Haaretz a response to an article by the Israeli writer Amos Oz, in which he claimed that Israel would not resolve its conflict with the Palestinians by using its military might, but only through negotiation, including with the Hamas terror organization. Porat criticized Oz strongly and cited an excerpt from his book “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” in which the guard from Kibbutz Hulda  says: “It’s not because they are a nation of murderers that we will shoot them (if they show up to shoot us), but only for the simple reason that we too are allowed to live and for the simple reason that we too are allowed to have a country, not just they.” Porat of all people should have known that the logic of this sentence has served to justify crimes against humanity and genocide in Guatemala, Rwanda, Bosnia, South Sudan, Burma and other countries.

Accordingly, we did not hear Porat’s voice when the Chairman of the South Sudanese Parliament, Mr. Anthony Lino Makana, visited Yad Vashem in December 2017, as crimes against humanity were being committed in South Sudan by the government’s security forces and allied militias, and the UN warned that the situation could escalate to a full genocide. Nor did we hear Porat’s voice when the head of the Burmese military regimevisited Yad Vashem in September 2015, although the Burmese security forces under his command are responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Porat should have noted reports by the United States Holocaust Museum, regarding the minority Muslim Rohingya population, as to grave violations of human rights taking place in the country, with a serious threat of genocide. Israel has sold weapons to the above-mentioned states, and visits to Yad Vashem have been a part of the package deal.

Porat is surely not responsible for the decades-long policies of the Israeli government and Yad Vashem. But her stamp of approval to the Netanyahu government’s foreign policy illustrates the danger of politicizing the memory of the Holocaust and the Israeli right-wing’s cynicism. It seems that the more she deals with the “new anti-Semitism” bogeyman, the less she addresses the “old anti-Semitism.” If Porat is really more concerned with support for BDS in Ireland, which has enacted a law banning settlement products, than with Hungary, whose government erects statues honoring those who assisted in the elimination of Jews, and a senior extreme right-wing figure calls for the compilation of a “Jewish list” for national security reasons – She would do wisely in letting someone more qualified assume her position at Yad Vashem. Indeed, Porat has offered her resignation, but reportedly Yad Vashem did not accept it. If she does leave her post, she will be free to advise Netanyahu as personally and publicly as she wishes.

Source: Dina Porat, Netanyahu’s secret agent in his war on the ‘new anti-Semitism’

Douglas Todd: Would Saudi Arabia’s jailed blogger be accused of ‘Islamophobia’ in Canada?

Less contradictory than the article argues. Virtually all of the recommendations that came out of the committee examining M-103 applied to all forms of racism and discrimination (dissenting Conservative recommendations focused more on definitional questions of Islamophobia).

The additional funding for the multiculturalism program was general in application save for programming directed against racism and discrimination encountered by Black Canadians).

Just as one can criticize the policies and practices of the Israeli government without being antisemitic, one can criticize the policies and practices of the Saudi government without being anti-Muslim. In the case of the former, the IHRA definition of antisemitism provides some (imperfect) guidance that could form the basis of discussion for a comparable approach to criticizing the policies of Muslim countries, beyond basic human rights.

So while some Muslims may argue that any criticism of Saudi Arabia is anti-Muslim or Islamophobic, some Jews also argue that any criticism of Israel is antisemitic. It depends on the nature and form of the criticism:

Would jailed Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi end up being accused of Islamophobia if he were released from his Riyadh prison cell and allowed to come to Canada?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is taking contradictory symbolic stands.

In August, it provoked a diplomatic dispute with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by tweeting support for Badawi, who was arrested in 2012 and flogged for criticizing the country’s hardline religious leadership. Canada has even offered citizenship to the free-speech advocate, his wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their children.

But how does that jibe with the federal Liberals also pushing through Motion 103, which urges all-out war against “Islamophobia?” The Liberal politicians behind M-103 refused to respond to requests to define Islamophobia. And their deceptive gamesmanship would end up jeopardizing Badawi’s right to free expression if he were to ever to come to Canada.

Among other things Badawi has equated a host of Saudi Arabian Muslims with terrorists, which many Canadians think is an offensive and Islamophobic accusation to make.

Can Trudeau’s government have it both ways? How can it champion Badawi’s right to freely criticize Saudi Arabia’s form of Islam at the same time that Liberal MPs make a virtue of condemning anyone who disparages Islam, including the deadly rules in many theocratic Muslim countries, which legislate that people should have their heads cut off for leaving the 1.5-billion-member faith?

Ali Rizvi, Canadian-based author of The Atheist Muslim, was one of the first to point out the lack of logic from Canada’s liberal-minded politicians, which include NDP and Green MPs. “People like my good friend Raif Badawi is in jail and he has been flogged 50 times simply for blogging,” Rizvi, who has lived in Saudi Arabia, told CBC’s The Tapestry.

“It’s interesting to me that if he finally made it to Canada and joined his wife and kids here, a lot of his ideas would be considered ‘Islamophobic’ by Liberals over here because of the criticisms he makes.”

An Angus Reid poll suggests many Canadians agree with Rizvi that the Liberal government has muddied the waters of free speech when it comes to criticizing religions and religious people, something which has been going full bore in the West since the Christian Reformation 500 years ago.

Half of Canadians said it’s not necessary for federal politicians to formally condemn “Islamophobia.” And 55 per cent say the problem of anti-Muslim sentiments in this country has been overblown by politicians and the media. Presumably most Canadians feel the country’s existing anti-hate speech laws already cover extreme hostile attacks on ethnic or religious groups.

The federal Liberals have managed through all this to get themselves into a pickle over free speech.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s August tweet calling for the release of Badawi and his sister led to Saudi Arabia retaliating. It cancelled trade deals with Canada and cut short the educations of nearly 15,000 Saudi students in Canada, even while confusion reigns about the fate of the more than 1,000 Saudi physicians in training in the country.

The trans-national furore is taking place as Badawi’s circumstances grow more dire. Even though an initial charge of apostasy, which is punished by death, was withdrawn, his health deteriorates in his small, stinking, shared cell. He has four years left in his sentence, which was to include 1,000 public lashes with a whip (he’s had 50 so far). He’s not alone in his degradation. In other Muslim-majority countries, online critics of the religion have been hacked to death, including a Bangledesh blogger who was also a friend of the Canadian author of The Atheist Muslim.

What has Badawi actually said to suffer such egregious punishment?

He has censured Muslims’ for their intolerance and argued against unequal religious attitudes towards women. He has promoted “live and let-live” secularism to replace Islamic theocracy and attacked Muslim schools that he says are filled with terrorists. And he has criticized Muslims in Arabic countries for failing to follow the lead of Europe, which has a separation of religion and state.

“States which are built on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear,” he writes in 1000 Lashes: Because I Say What I Think (published by Vancouver’s Greystone Books).

“We should not hide the fact that Muslims in Saudi Arabia not only disrespect the beliefs of others, but (they) charge them with infidelity, to the extent that they consider anyone who is not Muslim an infidel,” he has said.

Badawi was outraged when Muslims in New York City called for a mosque to be built near the site of the destroyed World Trade Center, where 3,000 people were murdered in the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaida terrorists, whom Badawi directly linked to Saudi Arabia.

“What increases my pain is this (Islamist) chauvinist arrogance, which claims that innocent blood, shed by barbarian, brutal minds under the slogan ‘Allahu Akbar,’ means nothing compared to the act of building an Islamic mosque whose mission will be to … spawn new terrorists.”

Badawi’s costly bid for freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia, for the right to openly denounce Islamic practices, puts him in a similar boat as the staff at France’s satiric Charlie Hebdo magazine, the Danish newspaper editors who published cartoons of Mohammed, and British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, whom have all suffered for finding fault with Islam.

In 1000 Lashes, Badawi defiantly chooses to follow the dictum of the late French existentialist Albert Camus, who said, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

Badawi’s courageous existence is a clear revolt against Saudi Arabia’s bullying Islamic authorities. It should also cause some censorial Canadians to squirm.

Source: Douglas Todd: Would Saudi Arabia’s jailed blogger be accused of ‘Islamophobia’ in Canada?

If you want a fair definition of Zionism, it’s best to ask a Palestinian

Interesting and provocative column on the IHRA definition of antisemitism and its use:

There are lots of good reasons to think the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, now adopted “in full” by Labour’s national committee and by Labour MPs, is, well, a bit rubbish.

  • The actual definition of anti-Semitism is not up to much
  • The illustrations are a legal mess
  • It appears to be having no impact on anti-Semitism in the (few) countries which have endorsed it
  • And it’s already being used to prevent open debate on university campuses

A recent article by Tony Lerman gathers together all of these points and more.

It was short-term political expediency which drove this week’s decision-making, necessitated by an ongoing high-stakes campaign of vilification that takes no prisoners.

The Liberal Democrat Party has also fallen into line, no doubt realising that attempting to conduct a rational discussion over the merits of the IHRA burns up too much political capital. And now we read that the Church of England wants to adopt it too. The sanctification of this document is going ecumenical.

But there’s a further problem which should be reason enough to dump the whole IHRA definition, and its illustrations, in the rubbish bin. And it goes beyond the need to guarantee freedom of speech.

The truth of the matter is, the Jewish community can no longer define “Zionism,” or indeed “anti-Semitism,” without the help of Palestinians.

The right to define

I know what some people will be thinking.

Surely, it’s for the Jewish community, through its leadership, to determine what anti-Semitism is? What Zionism is? Surely, an oppressed people should have the right to define the nature of the oppression perpetrated against them? Hence the insistence that the Labour Party adopt, in full and without amendments or caveats, the IHRA definition and illustrations.

That’s what the Board of Deputies of British Jews has asked for. So surely, that’s what it should get?

It’s become a politically difficult task, if not impossible, to challenge this assertion of the right to define what’s perceived as exclusively Jewish experience and terminology, especially at a time when identity politics rules our daily discourse.

The President of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, provided a good example of the accepted parameters of the debate in her statement welcoming the National Executive Committee’s (NEC) decision.

“It is very long overdue and regrettable that Labour has wasted a whole summer trying to dictate to Jews what constitutes offense against us.”

Similarly, the NEC’s addition of a one-sentence free speech caveat was characterized by Simon Johnson, CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council, as driving “a coach and horses” through the anti-Semitism definition:

“It is clearly more important to the Labour leader to protect the free speech of those who hate Israel than it is to protect the Jewish community from the real threats that it faces.”

Devoid of context

But this is a perspective devoid of historical context. It just doesn’t work for the situation in which we as a Jewish community now find ourselves, and which our leaders have done so much to create.

If defining “anti-Semitism” has become, to a considerable extent, what can and can’t be said about Israel and Zionism, then how can it be a question which only (some) Jews get to answer?

And if this is really all about the right to define your own oppression, then why does this rule not apply to the Palestinians?

It’s a bit like trying to define “British colonialism” by only asking the opinion of a 19th-century British diplomat. Or praising “American freedom and values” without acknowledging the experience of Native Americans or African Americans. It makes no sense because you only get half the story, half the lived experience (at most). The language and the ideas in question have more than one owner.

Inextricably linked

For more than 100 years, the history of the Palestinians and the Jews has been inextricably linked. Neither of us can understand our past or present condition without reference to the other. Neither people’s story is complete without the other.

Of course, our interlinked relationship is not one of equality. Our story is shared but the consequences of our entanglement are vastly different.

One side has rights and national self-determination. The other side is denied those same things in the name of Jewish security and Jewish national sovereignty. In short, one side has been empowered by dispossessing the other.

The Palestinians have even become caught up in the telling of the Holocaust. Successive generations of young Jews have been taught to see Israel, as it’s currently constituted, as the only rational response to our 20th-century catastrophe. The Palestinians are seen as attempting to thwart that response.

It’s this entanglement of narratives and the need to defend Israel’s legitimacy that have led to the muddle, the confusion and the deliberate politicization of “anti-Semitism” as a concept. And, by contrast, it’s led to the spiritualization of “Zionism” so it has become not a political project but an expression of Jewish faith.All of this has forfeited our right to independently define our oppression without consulting the victims of our new faith in Jewish nationalism. The meaning of “anti-Semitism” and “Zionism” is no longer ours to determine alone. These words, and most importantly the experiences they bring with them, now belong to the Palestinian people too.

To get beyond this, we as a Jewish community, need to confront Zionism’s past and present. We need to rethink Jewish security in a post-Holocaust world. We need to build broad coalitions to tackle all forms of discrimination. That must include antisemitism from the left, and more often the right, which uses anti-Jewish myths and prejudices to promote hatred of Jews for being Jews. And that includes those who use anti-Jewish tropes to critique Israel.

Above all the though, if we want to be serious, rather than tribal, about a fair definition of Zionism, we need to ask the Palestinian people what they think and believe and feel about it. And if they tell us “Zionism is a racist endeavor” we’d better pay attention.

Reflection and repentance

The Jewish High Holidays are coming up. They are a time for reflection and repentance as an individual Jew and as part of a Jewish community. I doubt we’ll see much sign of reflection or repentance on the question of Israel/Palestine. The denial is too deep. The fear of “the other” is too great. The emotional layers of self-preservation are too many.

Not all Jews can or should be held responsible for what’s done in the name of Zionism or the actions of the State of Israel. That’s anti-Semitism. But all Jews ought to feel obligated to speak out against the discrimination, ill-treatment, and racism carried out in the name of protecting Israel. To me, that’s Judaism. And if you don’t see the discrimination, ill-treatment and racism – then read more books, listen to more Palestinian voices, open your heart.

But whether we choose to face into it or not, our relationship with the Palestinian people will remain the single most important issue facing Jews and Judaism in the 21st century.

To my Jewish readers, Shana Tova! A good New Year! May our names be written in a Book of Life that is filled with love and justice for all who call the Holy Land home.

Postscript

Ten questions to the President of the Board of Deputies

For those not following me on Facebook or Twitter, I’ve been asked to reproduce the ten questions I put earlier this week to Marie van der Zyl, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. No response forthcoming so far.

In a critical week for Labour and the Jewish community in Britian, here’s my ten questions to the president of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl.

1. Why are you ignoring the Jewish academic experts, notably: David Feldman, Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism; Dr. Brian Klug of Oxford University; and Tony Lerman, the former Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, who have all made critical studies of the IHRA document and found it inadequate and unhelpful in numerous ways?

2. Why are you ignoring the concerns expressed by the original drafter of the IHRA definition and its illustrations, Kenneth Stern, who has said the document is already being used around the world to chill free speech?

3. Why are you ignoring the legal opinions of the document provided by Sir Stephen Sedley, Hugh Tomlinson QC and Geoffrey Robertson QC, who have drawn out its failings in detail?

4. Why do you defend Jewish rights to determine antisemitism but support a document which will deny the Palestinian people their right to define their experience of racism caused by Zionism?

5. Can you explain why you think that Israel’s 51-year occupation of the West Bank does not meet the international definition of Apartheid?

6. Will you acknowledge the findings of the 2016 Home Affairs Select Committee report on antisemitism which noted that “there exists no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party”?

7. Are you able to provide evidence that antisemitism is “rife” among the Labour Party’s half a million members?

8. Can you explain why the Board chose to pursue its campaign against the Labour Party only after Jeremy Corbyn became its leader and despite a YouGov survey indicating a fall in anti-Semitism among Labour voters since 2015?

9. Are you at all concerned that the Board’s campaign against Jeremy Corbyn is creating an environment of fear within the Jewish community in Britain which is unjustified and disproportionate?

10. Having stated your commitment “to being a leader for the entire community,” when do you plan to meet formally with Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jewdas, Jewish Voice for Labour, or Na’amod – British Jews Against Occupation?

Source: If you want a fair definition of Zionism, it’s best to ask a Palestinian