We must talk about Palestine – without being antisemitic

Worth noting:

It’s hard to write or talk about antisemitism and the Labour party’s handling of it without descending into deep despair, and not just at the mirror the sorry tale is holding up to the whole of our society, which seems to be becoming less tolerant, more racist and less safe for minorities. This is having greater consequences than the Labour leadership can imagine. In particular, it is stifling the ability of commentators and decision-makers to talk sensibly about the real issues in Palestine.

My mother is Palestinian. These issues are deeply personal; we still have family in the West Bank. I am very worried that, at this critical juncture in the history of the region, activists, parliamentarians and journalists feel that they cannot speak out for fear of being branded as antisemitic. My plea is that we must speak more about Palestine, not less, and in this current climate it is something members of both houses of parliament have confided that they are more fearful than ever to do.

Source: We must talk about Palestine – without being antisemitic

The anti-Semitic theology behind the Christian Zionist lobby

Of note:

This week, the largest Israel lobby group in the United States, Christians United for Israel, will hold a two-day “summit” in Washington, D.C., featuring high-profile speakers such as Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Many of the event’s attendees and featured guests will profess their abiding love and support for Israel and Jewish people.

In reality, right-wing Christian supporters of Israel like CUFI pose a grave danger to the safety and well-being of both Jews and Palestinians, as well as to hopes for a true and lasting peace in the Holy Land. Anyone who actually listens to CUFI’s leader, the Rev. John Hagee, will be horrified at the meeting’s toxic blend of anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and sexism.

Hagee and his more than 5 million followers believe that the establishment of Israel in 1948 and its subsequent military occupation and colonization of Palestinian and other Arab lands are the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and the necessary precursors to the return of Jesus Christ and the coming of the apocalypse.

Source: The anti-Semitic theology behind the Christian Zionist lobby

Israel should prepare for another mass immigration – report

The large gap in birth rates between non-Orthodox and Orthodox/ultra Orthodox means increasing fundamentalist Jewish populations over time, with a range of implications in Israel and elsewhere:

Israel should prepare for a potential mass wave of immigration to the country amid increased antisemitism, according to the “2019 Annual Assessment of the Situation and Dynamics of the Jewish People Today.”

The report, prepared by the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) and presented by the institute’s leaders to the cabinet on Sunday, warned of the spread of antisemitism around the world. They said that if not enough is done to strengthen the security of Jewish communities, they could experience “significant harm.”

“Some Jews are considering immigration to Israel or elsewhere, while others may give up their Jewish identity,” according to the report. The report warned the government that as antisemitic incidents proliferate, “the Israeli government must prepare appropriately for potential immigration, especially from European countries.”

According to the report, the main barriers that cause prospective olim to reconsider aliyah to Israel have to do with employment, children’s education and housing. As such, JPPI recommended that the employment barrier could be addressed by providing career guidance and degree recognition even before olim have left their home countries as well as through job placement programs.

“The relevant immigrant populations are, for the most part, highly educated and economically strong,” said JPPI in its report. “There can be no doubt that such investment would be profitable and feasible for the Israeli economy.”

In addition, JPPI’s president Avinoam Bar-Yosef called on the government to set up a coordinating body to confront growing antisemitism that could monitor trends, assess threats and risks, and initiate action with governments.

Specifically, this body could “formulate an overall policy; set operational initiatives in motion vis-à-vis governments, Jewish communities, and other relevant parties; coordinate implementation between the various relevant bodies; and monitor effectiveness,” the report said. 

“The entity will launch initiatives in the spheres of education, legislation/law, diplomacy, hasbara [publicity/informational activity], the new media, security in the communities and more.”

The report rehashed earlier data, which demonstrates that antisemitism is rising by every metric. The number of antisemitic incidents has risen around the world, including in the United States, where the FBI reported that Jews are the most targeted religion-based group by hate crimes.

Bar-Yosef likewise highlighted changing demographics in the US, citing growth among the Orthodox communities, where this population among the younger age cohorts is already roughly 30% in some communities.

“We can expect significant implications from the growth of the Orthodox population in the long run,” he said. While the average birth rate among non-Orthodox Jewish women is 1.4 children, the average rate among Modern Orthodox women is more than three children, and is more than five for haredi (ultra-Orthodox) women.

For non-Orthodox Jews, JPPI found that intermarriage with non-Jews is the norm today. Among non-ultra-Orthodox Jews in America (aged 25-54), 58% of those married are married to non-Jews and only about half of the offspring of such couples are raised as Jews.

JPPI recommended that in addition to strengthening relations with the Reform and Conservative denominations, Israel should “encourage and support increased involvement of the Orthodox in the leadership of the Jewish communities in the Diaspora, American society and politics, in order to preserve Jewish influence in the general public.”

If not, according to the institute, “the new demographic may erode the influence of the Jewish community in America.”

Source: Israel should prepare for another mass immigration – report

Younger Arabs embrace Palestinian identity, redefining Israeli citizenship

Interesting evolution of identity:

Loudspeakers blared nationalist Arabic music across hillsides in northern Israel on Thursday as children ran across a field waving Palestinian flags.

The scene was a rally for members of Israel’s 21% Arab minority. The Israeli term for them is Israeli Arabs, but many now reject that label, identifying instead as “Palestinian with Israeli citizenship,” or simply “Palestinian.”

Each year they hold a gathering to mark the Nakba — or “Catastrophe” — when Palestinians lament the loss of their homeland in the 1948-49 war that surrounded the creation of the modern Jewish state.

The scene was a rally for members of Israel’s 21% Arab minority. The Israeli term for them is Israeli Arabs, but many now reject that label, identifying instead as “Palestinian with Israeli citizenship,” or simply “Palestinian.”

Each year they hold a gathering to mark the Nakba — or “Catastrophe” — when Palestinians lament the loss of their homeland in the 1948-49 war that surrounded the creation of the modern Jewish state.

The event is a celebration of Palestinian identity that, Arab politicians and academics say, reflects a change in thinking over the decades.

On Thursday, busloads arrived at a roped-off field near the Khubbayza, a ruined Palestinian village that lay 20 miles south of Haifa and was destroyed in the fighting between Arab and Jewish forces in 1948.

It and hundreds of others are now marked on paper and digital maps by groups such as “Palestine Remembered.”

The Nakba rally is timed each year to coincide with the day that Israelis in the rest of the country celebrate Independence Day.

On Thursday, Palestinian flags flew in the roped-off field where Israeli authorities gave permission for the gathering. Across a country lane, Israeli banners were draped across the hillside from which Israeli police watched, a drone hovering nearby.

Shouting over the music, Rula Nasr-Mazzawi, 42, a psychologist, said many of the first two generations of Arabs in post-1948 Israel were too scared to discuss matters of identity openly.

“But now we are seeing the younger generation, the third generation, more and more identifying very frankly and very loudly as Palestinians,” she said.

“The term Israeli Arabs is mistaken, it’s not accurate. We are Palestinians by nationality, and we are Israeli citizens.”

Ahmad Tibi, Arab member of Iraeli parliament

In an interview earlier this year, Ahmad Tibi, an Arab member of Israel’s parliament with the Ta’al party said: “The term Israeli Arabs is mistaken, it’s not accurate. We are Palestinians by nationality, and we are Israeli citizens.”

He added: “They are saying Arab Israeli or Israeli Arabs in order to say that we are not Palestinians. We bypassed that. We are part of the Palestinian people, and we are struggling in order to be equal citizens.”

Identity and citizenship

Israel’s population recently passed the 9 million mark, according to the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics. This includes 1.89 million Arab citizens — mostly Muslim, Druze and Christians — living alongside the 6.68 million Jews who make up the 74.2% majority.

Professor As’ad Ghanem, 53, a Haifa University political scientist and co-author of the book “Palestinians in Israel,” drew a distinction with Druze and Bedouin Arabs, many of whom serve in the Israeli military, taken by many as an indicator of integration.

In contrast, most Muslims and Christian Arabs do not serve.

He said Israel’s Arabs had undergone a slow transformation from their initial status as marginalized within both Israel and the Arab world.

A new generation of intellectuals and politicians were “much more strong than those in the 50s and 60s,” and voiced their community’s complaints about discrimination in the job market, and lack of services, he said.

“The majority think that they want to be identified as Palestinian,” he said.

Nonetheless, he said most Israeli Arabs still valued their Israeli citizenship and would oppose attempts to transfer them to Gaza or the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule, because “they see all the troubles on the other side.”

A woman shouts as she takes part in the Nakba rally marking the “Catastrophe” when Palestinians lost their homeland in the 1948-49 war, near the abandoned village of Khubbayza, northern Israel, May 9, 2019.

‘Best conditions’

Recently, Arabs were angered after Israel’s parliament last year passed the nation-state law, which declared that only Jews have the right to self-determination in the country.

“Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — and only it.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reasserted that principle just before his victory in the election a month ago, saying on Instagram: “Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — and only it.”

He sought to placate non-Jewish citizens — and critics at home and abroad — by adding “there is no problem with the Arab citizens of Israel. They have equal rights like all of us and the Likud government has invested more in the Arab sector than any other government.”

Some of the Arab minority disagree with the sentiments expressed at Thursday’s rally, saying Israel protects them from threats in the Middle East.

“I am very proud to be an Israeli Arab,” said Yoseph Haddad, 33, a Greek Catholic speaking in the mixed Jewish and Arab city of Haifa.

“The fact is that if you take a look around all or most of the Arab nations, the Israeli Arabs here in Israel are in the best conditions.”

But Eyad Barghuty, 39, a novelist and former head of the Arab Cultural Association, said there had been an evolution in identity.

His generation had to struggle to find their roots within a country that emphasized the majority’s narrative, he said, while a younger generation took their Palestinian-ness for granted.

“I saw the ruins of Palestinian villages across the Galilee when I was a young man working on building sites, and I had to go to encyclopedias to look these places up. … Now there’s an app.”

Eyad Barghuty, 39, novelist

“I saw the ruins of Palestinian villages across the Galilee when I was a young man working on building sites, and I had to go to encyclopedias to look these places up,” he said. “Now there’s an app.”

After Israel’s election, the country is on a dangerous political path: Erna Paris

Good thoughtful commentary. Should Netanyahu follow on his election commitments regarding annexation, will certainly make it harder to argue against BDS:

In her final work, The March of Folly, the late historian Barbara Tuchman defined her subject as “the pursuit of policy contrary to public interest.” Her criteria for folly were threefold: An alternative course of action was available; the actions were endorsed by a group, not just by a particular leader; and the actions were perceived as counterproductive in their own time.

Among Ms. Tuchman’s far-ranging examples were the Trojan Horse and the American war in Vietnam. Were she alive today, she might have included the increasingly dangerous trajectory of Israeli politics.

Following the country’s election this week, Israel, the United States and the Jewish diaspora have arrived at a historical juncture. Although Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist opponent, Benny Gantz, tied in terms of seats, the former may well govern at the will of a coalition whose ethno-nationalist policies threaten the democratic nature of the country and promise to destroy even the rhetoric of a peace process.

The new entity includes Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), an offspring of Kach, the party of the late Meir Kahane, which was outlawed in Israel in 1994 for inciting racism, and designated a terrorist organization in both the United States and Canada. Jewish Power advocates the annexation of the occupied West Bank without offering Israeli citizenship to its 2.8 million Palestinian residents, a move that would create a state like South Africa under apartheid. The party also promotes the deportation of “Arab extremists,” dependent upon an undefined “loyalty test.”

In catapulting Jewish Power to centre stage and becoming beholden to its politics, Mr. Netanyahu may have overstepped and altered the political status quo. There would be consequences to radical illiberal legislation. First, the anger of the Palestinians and the larger Arab world, with inevitable security implications. Second, the annexation of millions of West Bank Palestinians would transform Israel into a binational state, threatening both its democratic and Jewish character. Third, the hitherto tight support of diaspora Jews for the State of Israel could fracture – a process that started weeks ago when news of Mr. Netanyahu’s alignment with far-right extremism became known.

The relationship of diaspora Jews to the State of Israel is complex and quasi-religious in nature. Based on ancient biblical yearnings coupled with the emergence of political Zionism in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the desire for a safe homeland peaked in the wake of the Holocaust and was celebrated with the creation of the state. Seventy subsequent years of war and failed peacemaking with Arabs who also claim rights to the region have incrementally toughened the minds of Israelis and many of their supporters in the diaspora, especially during the long swing to the right under the governance of Mr. Netanyahu. But the radical views of Jewish Power may be a historic dividing line, for they are widely seen to betray the ancient core values of Judaism itself: deeply ingrained ethical imperatives, held by the religious and secular alike, such as Tikkun Olam – the biblical mandate to make the world a better place.

Such values also underpin liberal democracies such as the United States, and there are signs of fracture. A Muslim member of Congress, a Democrat, caused an unprecedented ruckus by questioning unwavering American support for Israel. Harder to impugn was the unique criticism emanating from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which called Jewish Power “racist and reprehensible.” Stigmatizing Israeli Arabs is “immoral,” the influential U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League added. Rabbis in both the United States and Canada also weighed in.

But other considerations may be riskier still for the long-term diaspora-Israel relationship. The majority of American Jews vote Democrat, but contemporary Israelis admire U.S. President Donald Trump. There’s a chasm of values in that equation. Jewish Power has also opened a consequential political wedge: Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders openly wished for Mr. Netanyahu’s defeat without being vilified. Add in the further perils of demography, for as the memory of the Holocaust recedes, along with the fervent nationalism born of the 1967 war, younger Jews around the world are statistically less attached to Israel than their elders.

Diaspora Jews cannot vote in Israeli elections, but Israel is a U.S. client state, and a shift in Jewish support will matter. Paradoxically, should Mr. Netanyahu cross a perceived moral line, principled resistance from the diaspora may help prevent Israel, the beloved country, from pursuing its perilous march to folly.

E.J. Dionne: Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are equally wrong

Good commentary:

The polling is imperfect, but it’s fair to say that more than 70 percent of American Jews and Muslims vote Democratic.

They do so, in part, because Democrats have spoken out strongly against both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. And now, both groups are horrified by Trumpism’s embrace of discrimination against Muslims and its trafficking in anti-Semitism.

Just watch the Trump campaign ad attacking what it claims is “a global power structure that is responsible for economic decisions that have robbed our working class,” while flashing images of prominent Jews.

And you can’t help but cheer the fact that Jews and Muslims across the country have stood in solidarity when local institutions of either group have been defaced or attacked.

Bigotry is bigotry. It must always be opposed.

This is why the dangerously careless use of language by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) about Jews and Israel — she spoke of people who “push for allegiance to a foreign country” — has been cause for both heartbreak and anger.

I get that some readers will see my use of the word “careless” as too soft because the dual-loyalty charge has historically been so poisonous. But in refraining from stronger language I’m putting my bet on hope. I’m wagering that Omar’s personal history ought to mean that she understands the dangers of prejudice better than most.

In November, many of us celebrated her breakthrough election. She won strong backing from the Jewish community in her district. Maybe I’m also giving her a break because she’s progressive. Anti-Semitism is utterly antithetical to anything that deserves to be called liberal or progressive. Surely Omar doesn’t want the Democrats ensnared in the sort of left-wing anti-Semitism now haunting the British Labour Party.

Opposing anti-Semitism should be axiomatic for everyone. And for me, it’s also personal.

My observant Catholic parents moved to our city’s most Jewish neighborhood shortly after I was born, and my sister and I were raised to see anti-Semitism as sinful. My very first friends in the world were Jewish, and my mom regularly sat down with our next-door neighbor to compare notes on Catholic and Jewish views about the nature of God. As I’ve written before, my informal second father was Jewish. A dear man named Bert Yaffe informally took me into his family after my dad died when I was a teenager, and his kids welcomed me as a brother.

Partly because of this history, but also in common with almost all liberals and social democrats of a certain age, I have always — and will always — support the existence of Israel as a democratic Jewish state.

I spent a month in Israel in the spring of 1974, as the country experienced searing existential anxiety after its close call in the Yom Kippur War, and I visited Kiryat Schmona, a development town in the north that suffered under regular Palestinian attacks. It was an enduring lesson in the constant fear that haunts Israelis over the prospects of their country’s survival.

But Israel’s commitment to democracy is also an important reason for my admiration, which is why I support a two-state solution and oppose continued settlements in Palestinian areas. Israel will not remain democratic if it continues to occupy the West Bank and Gaza, and justice requires Palestinian self-determination.

When I covered the war in Lebanon in the 1980s, a Palestinian friend underscored for me the cost of being stateless. All he wanted, he would say, was the legitimacy that citizenship and a passport confer. It did not seem too much to ask.

Thus, my sympathies have always been with the beleaguered peace camps on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. This has led to deep frustration with Palestinian rejectionists, but also with the politics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has done enormous damage to Israel’s standing with young Americans who did not grow up with my gut commitment to Israel’s survival. His appearance before Congress in 2015 to trash President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran greatly aggravated this problem. His alliance with a virtual fascist party leading into next month’s elections is unconscionable and a gift to anti-Israel propagandists.

So, yes, I know full well that you can love Israel, be critical of its current government and truly despise anti-Semitism, all at the same time. What you cannot do is play fast and loose with language that cannot help but be seen as anti-Semitic. I pray Omar now realizes this. At this moment, opponents of bigotry must be able to rely on each other.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.

Source: E.J. Dionne: Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are equally wrong

Identity politics, Israel style: Treat Israeli Arabs As People, Not Things

Good post on Ottomans and Zionists:

If there was a silver lining to the deal brokered by Prime Minister Netanyahu between Bayit Yehudi and Otzma Yehudit to run as a joint electoral list and the immediate furor that ensued, it is that it focused a spotlight on the most abhorrent prejudice and racism that is exhibited toward Israel’s Arab citizens. What made Meir Kahane, his Kach party, and his Kahanist followers so repugnant and led to Israel outlawing Kach was its advocacy for discrimination and glorification of violence toward Israeli Arabs. Kahane’s heirs in Otzma have continued in his footsteps, calling Arabs a fifth column with whom there can be no coexistence, proclaiming that less than one percent of Israeli Arabs are loyal to the state, advocating that Arabs who “speak out” against Jews be executed, working to prohibit Arabs from public life, and attempting to criminalize relationships between Jews and Arabs. It is evident – or should be – to anyone with an ounce of moral fiber that this type of incitement should not be welcome anywhere in Israeli society. But the new focus on Otzma has a downside in that it threatens to obscure a much bigger problem, which is the routine delegitimization of Israeli Arabs that takes place as a matter of course.

The most familiar example of this constant message that shunts one fifth of Israeli citizens into a rhetorical leper colony is Netanyahu’s infamous 2015 election day warning that Arabs were being bused to the polls in droves. The clear implication was twofold; first, that there was something untoward or dangerous about Arabs having a say in the composition of Israel’s next government, and second, that true Israeli patriots should come vote in order to counter Arab influence. It not only portrayed actual full citizens of Israel as being ominous but did it on the basis of their ethnicity alone. After all, Netanyahu did not say that his political opponents were going to the polls in droves, nor did he call out any individual parties. His message was straightforward: Arabs are voting, and no good result can possibly come out of that because they are Arabs.

In the current campaign, this same message is alive and well. But it is not just Netanyahu who is utilizing it. Across the political spectrum, there is a rush to assure Jewish Israeli voters that nobody is looking to form a government that includes Arabs; not Likud under Netanyahu, and not Kachol Lavan under Benny Gantz. Netanyahu, naturally, has made this pledge a centerpiece of his campaign. In the Likud party campaign kickoff on Monday, Netanyahu repeatedly trotted out the catchphrase “Tibi or Bibi,” referring to Ta’al chief Ahmad Tibi, who has been an MK for two decades. Netanyahu argued that the only way for Gantz to form a coalition is by including Arab parties, making the choice for voters one between Bibi – the current prime minister running for reelection – or Tibi – who is not running for prime minister and is not even the top person on the Hadash-Ta’al list but is Israel’s most recognizable Arab politician. It’s an effective rhyming catchphrase, and despite the fact that its logic is absurd, it works precisely because it plays on this notion that Arab parties, which overwhelmingly garner Israeli Arabs’ votes, are inherently non-kosher.

There are now two Arab party lists with very different politics, and the one that includes Tibi is the one that is more moderate, endorses a two-state solution (inherently accepting Israel’s legitimacy), and is a willing participant in Israeli institutions. But in singling out Tibi rather than the actual Arab extremists in the Balad party – whose representatives have called for Israel’s dissolution, have supplied intelligence to Hizballah, and have been convicted for smuggling cell phones to imprisoned terrorists – Netanyahu is purposely casting a wider circle of aspersions on Israeli Arabs as a group.

Sadly, Netanyahu is not alone, though he stands out in his bluntness and willingness to embrace the most extreme position. Gantz on Monday ruled out forming any coalition with Tibi as well, and lumped him in with Kahane, which is an unfair comparison by any measure. Unlike Netanyahu, Gantz and Yair Lapid have not explicitly ruled out using Arab parties to form a blocking coalition, as Yitzhak Rabin did, and it is to their credit – factoring in the soft bigotry of low expectations – that they have not definitively closed that door. But they are also obviously trying to walk a tightrope in their avoidance of directness on a host of issues so as not to be cast as leftists, and making any overtures that legitimize Arab participation in Israeli political life is a quick route to the dreaded leftwing moniker.

Politicians have not come up with this strategy out of nowhere. It is an unfortunate reality that Jewish Israeli society prioritizes the Jewish aspect over the Israeli aspect in this regard, and politicians understandably believe that their voters will respond to using Arabs as an electoral foil. It is certainly the case that there are Arab parties, such as Balad, that are anti-Zionist in a genocidal way, and there have been Arab MKs who are not only anti-Zionist but have actively committed treason against their country. Much as Kahane violated Israel’s Basic Law on racist incitement and was banned from serving in the Knesset and his party outlawed, I have no problem with that standard being used on Balad – which yesterday was banned from running by Israel’s Central Elections Committee – or on MKs like Hanin Zuabi (who is not running for the next Knesset but has been the subject of disqualification petitions in the past). But portraying Israeli Arab participation in governing Israel as something that shocks the conscience in its extremity should itself shock the conscience in its extremity. That it does not is a poor statement about Israel’s commitment to its Arab citizens, who should not be delegitimized as a category of people.

One of the most familiar pro-Israel talking points is that Israel is the country in the Middle East where it is best to be an Arab, since they are full citizens who not only vote but serve in the Knesset and on Israel’s High Court. There is a popular formulation of this idea that the strength of Israel’s democracy can be demonstrated by an Arab justice (Salim Joubran) sending a Jewish president of Israel (Moshe Katsav) to prison. But it is hollowly cynical to use Israeli Arabs’ participation in political life to tout Israel’s greatness, and in the next instance portray Israeli Arabs’ participation in political life as something that must be negated and combated. The entire spectacle of using Israeli Arabs as props, raising them up for geopolitical benefit and keeping them low for domestic political benefit, is ugly and should stop. The best thing that Israel’s current election campaign could accomplish would be to demonstrate that this tactic does not work.

Kenan Malik: Antisemites use the language of anti-Zionism. The two are distinct

Important to note the distinctions and consequent implications:

Anti-Zionism is antisemitism. So claimed France’s President Emmanuel Macron in a speech last week in which he promised to change policing regulations to criminalise anti-Zionism.

The condemnation of anti-Zionism as antisemitism has a long history, but in recent years has become increasingly accepted by mainstream politicians and organisations. This shift in perspective has taken place against the background of rising antisemitism, from physical attacks to racist tweets, fuelled by both the resurgence of the far-right and the growth of antisemitism on the left. Particularly in sections of the left, anti-Zionism has more and more appropriated, often unrecognised, antisemitic tropes.

All this is undeniably true. Yet, it remains important to resist the equation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

Critics of anti-Zionism observe that Zionism simply expresses the right of Jewish people to self-determination. Just as other peoples, from Armenians to Zimbabweans, have the right to self-determination, so do Jews. To deny that is antisemitic because it is to deny Jews the rights accorded to others. However, the issue is more complex. When Scots voted in their independence referendum in 2016, all residents of Scotland who were over 16, and were British, EU or Commonwealth citizens, had the right to vote. The right to self-determination did not extend to all those of Scottish ancestry living outside Scotland.

The Zionist notion of “self-determination”, on the other hand, embodies the idea that Jews anywhere in the world “self-determine” and that such self-determination relates to a state in which the vast majority of Jews do not and will not live.

Zionism is a form of ethnic, as opposed to civic, nationalism. The distinction between the two is fiercely contested, and often blurred. Many modern states fuse elements of both in nationality and immigration laws. Nevertheless, the distinction between civic and ethnic nationalism is important because they embody contrasting conceptions of national belonging, citizenship, equality and rights.

Israel itself combines aspects of civic and ethnic nationalism. As the late historian Tony Judt put it in an essay for the New York Review of Books, Israel is both a democracy in which non-Jews can be citizens and “a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded” and from which Palestinians grievously suffer. Judt faced great opprobrium for that essay, with many reviling him as “antisemitic” or a “self-hating Jew”.

To oppose Zionism but not other forms of ethnic nationalism would indeed be antisemitic. But to oppose Zionism because one opposes ethnic nationalism is a legitimate view.

Judt, who in early life was a Zionist, came eventually to accept that the only lasting solution would be a single, secular state in which both Jews and Palestinians were treated equally. For anti-Zionists like Judt, “self-determination” in that piece of contested land that is Israel/Palestine should adhere to principles of civic, not ethnic, nationalism; that is, be the self-determination of the people, and only the people, who live there, whether Jews or Palestinians.

This kind of anti-Zionism is very different from that which calls for the “destruction of the state of Israel”, usually (a not very veiled) code for the destruction of Jews. The latter is a form of anti-Zionism that refuses to acknowledge the presence of more than 6 million Jews in Israel/Palestine, whose rights, needs and aspirations are as central as those of Palestinians to any discussion of the region’s future.

There are, in other words, many forms of anti-Zionism, some progressive, some antisemitic. What has shifted is that leftwing ideas of anti-Zionism have become increasingly colonised by antisemitic forms. The reasons are complex, ranging from evolving notions of “anti-imperialism” to the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories.

One key development that has helped foster the shift is the growth of the politics of identity and of the tendency to see “good” and “bad” in terms of the group to which someone belongs and the privileges that they are supposed to possess.

Identity politics has led many to target Jews for being Jews, especially as they are seen as belonging to a group with many privileges to check, and to hold all Jews responsible for the actions of the state of Israel. Many who support the Palestinian cause, including many within the Labour party, seem genuinely unable to distinguish between criticising Israel and sowing hatred against a people.

The elision of anti-Zionism and antisemitism is a feature, then, of both sides of the debate. On the one side, it helps to legitimise antisemitism, on the other to close down debates about Israel and to criminalise genuine struggles for Palestinian rights. We should reject both.

Source: Antisemites use the language of anti-Zionism. The two are distinct

Netanyahu’s Negotiating With Neo-Fascists for a ‘Consensus View’ of the Holocaust

Seeing more commentary like this:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chosen an improbable way of celebrating the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding: He’s palling around with neo-fascists and coddling Holocaust revisionists.

The year 2018 has seen Netanyahu embracing a parade of such leaders and, in a no less perplexing twist, we’ve had the Jewish state blatantly dismissing the needs of Diaspora Jews as they face mounting antisemitism and insecurity in Western countries roiled by social unrest.

Consider the past week.

On Thursday, Netanyahu acknowledged that he is negotiating with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for an acceptable “consensus narrative” in which the Hungarian state’s part in the Nazi crimes that wiped out half a million Hungarian Jews during World War II will be minimized, if not erased, in a new revisionist Holocaust museum to be opened in Budapest.

On Tuesday Netanyahu was welcoming Matteo Salvini, Italy’s new, nationalist interior minister to Jerusalem.

Salvini, you guessed it, is a close European ally of Orbán. He acceded to his post last summer and has become Western Europe’s de facto leader of the populist anti-immigration movement since.

Italian Jews are not thrilled by the visit. A statement written by philosopher and painter Stefano Levi Della Torre and circulated among Italian Jewish communities says it is “alarming that Netanyahu is about to provide Salvini with a pro-Israel license [that would] exonerate him from the suspicions of anti-Semitism while he carries on with his xenophobic, racist campaign and with his alliances with anti-Semitic forces in Italy and Europe.”

A few hours ahead of his arrival, an irritated Salvini told Israel’s Foreign Press Association that “the growing anti-Semitism goes together with Islamic extremism, to which no one is paying attention.” Thus letting old-fashioned European fascist anti-Semitism off the hook. Salvini added, “I don’t have to justify myself every time I go to Israel.”

Protests were planned for Salvini’s visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, and Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, who opposes Netanyahu’s cozy rapport with neo-fascists, announced he would not be receiving Salvini.

If you scratch beneath the surface of Netanyahu’s new friendships, the picture becomes clear: Like Britain’s UKIP and possibly like U.S. President Donald Trump, Netanyahu hopes to destabilize what has come to be known as “the international order.”

One way he is trying to do this is by encouraging European nations to break EU ranks and move their embassies to Jerusalem, as Trump has. Last month, Netanyahu welcomed Czech President Milos Zeman to Israel and accompanied him as Zeman opened a “Czech House” in the Israeli capital.

Jerusalem is burbling with rumors that Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who visited Israel in October and hopes to defeat Israel’s boycott of his Freedom Party ministers who represent a onetime neo-Nazi movement, may move his embassy to Jerusalem.

In September, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte was embraced by Netanyahu, even though he is a self-professed fan of Adolf Hitler who said he’d “be happy” to emulate Hitler by exterminating 3 million drug users and vendors.

Netanyahu recently announced his plans to attend the inauguration of Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, another figure on the nationalist far right who is dangling the possibility of moving his embassy to Jerusalem as an enticement for Netanyahu.

President Rivlin, who has become more vocal on the subject, told CNN last weekthat “you can’t say we admire the State of Israel and want ties with it, but we’re neo-fascists.”

In July it was Orbán’s turn for a whirl around Jerusalem, and that is when they may have discussed plans for the House of Fates, an institution intended to instill in the public a revisionist interpretation of Holocaust history, a “consensus narrative” in which the murder of more than half a million Hungarian Jews, enabled by the Nazi-allied government of Miklós Horthy, will be reconfigured.

The Israeli foreign ministry holds that any new Holocaust museum should stick to the historical record “as it is depicted in Yad Vashem and in Washington’s Holocaust Museum,” but was overruled by Netanyahu, who is also Israel’s foreign minister, and its representatives were shut out of talks between Orbán and Netanyahu officials last week in Jerusalem.

Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist opposition party Yesh Atid, and the son of a Holocaust survivor, described Netanyahu’s action as “appalling.”

Netanyahu’s agreement “to Hungary’s attempt to eliminate its part in the Holocaust is appalling,” he tweeted. “The Hungarians were deeply involved in the destruction of Hungarian Jewry as part of the murder machine. The only response to Orbán’s is that the museum should reflect the truth and nothing else. No negotiations, no consensus, just truth.”

Orbán has appointed Maria Schmidt, an historian and the leader of a movement to rewrite the Holocaust, to lead the House of Fates. Schmidt first made her name whitewashing history as the founder of Budapest’s House of Terror, a pseudo-museum advancing the theory that the suffering of eastern European nations who fell into the Soviet sphere of influence after WWII was worse than the suffering inflicted by the Nazi régime in Germany.

Schmidt, one of Orbán’s closest associates, was most recently associated with an overt act of political antisemitism Orbán has refused to condemn: last week’s cover of Figyelő, the “conservative Christian” business magazine owned by Schmidt, showed the face of Hungarian Jewish community president András Heisler surrounded by banknotes.

An Orbán spokesperson told World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder that any comment would “be contrary to freedom of the press.”

The Netanyahu high-wire act on Holocaust revisionism has reached an apex just as the European Union is grappling with a frightening upswing in European antisemitism.

On Thursday, rejecting several points Netanyahu had advanced, the EU adopted a new working definition of antisemitism.

Some EU states fear that the definition issued by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) that has been adopted by over 20 countries and that Israel pushed for, could stifle criticism of Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The IHRA states that some criticism of Israel can be considered anti-Semitic, including “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor, or by applying double standards to Israel not imposed upon other nations.”

The EU chose to use the IHRA definition merely as a “guidance tool.”

A second EU survey published Monday reported that an astonishing nine out of 10 European Jews believe anti-Semitism has worsened in their countries over the past five years and more than one third are considering emigration.

The report prepared by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) was based on a poll of 16,000 respondents in 12 member states.

Almost 30 percent of the respondents said they had experienced some form of anti-Semitic harassment in the past year, and 2 percent reported having been physically attacked, with a further 2 percent saying their property had been deliberately vandalized in the past year because they were Jewish.

In October, following the deadly attack against the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Netanyahu biographer Anshel Pfeffer said that whereas “Netanyahu wants the right to speak as the representative of all Jews, in America and Europe he’s abandoned all pretense of solidarity with them.”

In 2015, upon returning to Israel from a memorial ceremony for French Jews murdered in a terror attack, Netanyahu said, “I went to Paris not just as the prime minister of Israel but as a representative of the entire Jewish people.”

In fact, Pfeffer notes, “the elected leader of a country in which less than half the Jews of the world live (and only a quarter of them actually voted for him in the last election) wants the right to address the world as the representative of all Jews. And he won’t even check with them first.”

Source: Netanyahu’s Negotiating With Neo-Fascists for a ‘Consensus View’ of the Holocaust

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