Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, August 2011
Murky Anti-Semitism – Zionist Style
By Lawrence Davidson
Redress, Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, August 29, 2011
Stretching the definition of anti-Semitism
criticism of Israel, particularly (a) criticism of Israel’s treatment of
the Palestinian people and (b) criticism of the state ideology of Zionism
that justifies that treatment, be labelled anti-Semitic?
Here is an example. Take an American kid from a self-conscious Jewish home. This kid does not represent all American Jewish youth, but does typify say 20 per cent of them. He or she is taught about the religion and also taught about recent history and the near annihilation of the Jews of Europe. He or she is sent to a Hebrew school, and maybe a yeshiva school as well. Most of our hypothetical student’s friends will be Jewish and of similar background. Between home, friends and school the student might well find him or herself in something of a closed universe. Throughout this educational process Judaism and its fate in the modern world is connected with Israel and its survival. The Arabs, and particularly the Palestinians, are transformed into latter-day Nazis. In addition, Israel’s state ideology of Zionism becomes assimilated into the credos of the religion. Soon our hypothetical student cannot tell the difference between the two. Then, having come of age, our student goes off to college or university. Now he or she is no longer in a closed world. The result can be culture shock and an uncomfortable feeling that the student is on a campus where vocal and assertive debate about Israel and its behaviour sounds like an attack on the Jewish religion. Our student complains to the Zionist Organization of America, Hillel, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) or some similar organization and we are off down a road toward censorship and/or litigation. Lawsuits are lodged (particularly if the ZOA is involved), donors swear that they will no longer support the institution, legislators bang on desks at the state capital, and boards of directors want to know what is going on and what the institution’s president is going to do about it?Sweet reason
There have been a number of efforts to try
to use sweet reason to work out some of these problems before they get too
explosive. For instance, in 2006 there was concern over the efforts of
various pro-Palestinian campus groups to promote an academic boycott of
Israel. Is this being anti-Semitic? Should campuses allow this to be
advocated? After all, those who espouse academic boycott have a good deal
of evidence of criminal activities on the part of the Israeli
universities. At that time the American Association of University
Professors (AAUP) sought to clarify the issues by arranging a roundtable
discussion on academic boycott by those who stood pro and con. This
sounded like a good idea. But no, the
Zionist side did not like the list of discussants on the pro side and
tried to censor the list. The AAUP resisted that move, so the Zionist side
pressured the donors subsidizing the proposed roundtable to pull their
support. The whole thing collapsed. It seemed the Zionists were not going
to discuss the topic except on their own terms.
1. Title VI is not an appropriate instrument to use when trying to
"protect" Jewish students from "anti-Israel events, statements and
speakers". To use Title VI this way amounts to censorship.
This letter was signed by both Cary Nelson as President of the AAUP and
Kenneth Stern as the Director of the anti-Semitism and extremism
sub-division of the AJC. Released in early August 2011, it took only a few
days before it was repudiated by the AJC. On 9 August David Harris,
President of the American Jewish Committee, "apologized" for the joint
declaration, said it was "ill advised" and blamed a breakdown in the AJC’s
"system of checks and balances" for the slip up. Kenneth Stern is now on
an unscheduled sabbatical and cannot be reached for comment.
This is not the end of the story. There is something wrong with the fact that the AAUP was so quick to endorse the EUMC working definition of anti-Semitism (a definition, by the way, that Kenneth Stern had a hand in writing). Consider these two statements from the above AAUP-AJC declaration, each of which, according to the "working definition", can be seen as anti-Semitic: (1) "holding Jews collectively responsible for the acts of the Israeli state" and (2) "denying to Jews the right of self-determination (such as by claiming that Zionism is racism)". As we are about to see, the first statement has hidden facets to it and the second defies historical reality.Statement 1:
It is absolutely the case that the Jews should not be held collectively responsible for the actions of Israel. But it should be pointed out that it is just such collective responsibility that Zionists insist upon. Zionist ideology demands that Israel be recognized as representing world Jewry. Zionists expect that, in return, all Jews will identify with and actively support Israel – feel one with the "Jewish state". They classify those Jews who do not recognize their collective responsibility to Israel as somehow deficient or perhaps "self-hating" Jews. So, let us get this straight: if holding Jews collectively responsible for the acts of Israel is anti-Semitic, what does that make the Zionists?Statement 2:
(a) That Jews have some sort of natural right to political self-determination is highly questionable. How about Protestants, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists, ad infinitum? Just how far do we want to push this claim of political self-determination for religious faiths? Oh, but the Zionists insist that Jews are not just adherents to a particular faith – they are a "people". Well, for sure that is an opinion. It just doesn’t happen to be the opinion of millions of other Jews who see Judaism as a religion pure and simple. Of course, if the latter are vocal about this they run the risk of being labelled "self-hating".
(b) And who, except of course the Zionists, says that Zionism is a desirable vehicle for the expression of this alleged right of self-determination? Let us face it. Israel and its Zionist ideology were born of the will of a small minority of Jews, almost exclusively from Central and Eastern Europe, most of whom were secularists, and almost all of whom carried within their heads the poisoned perceptions of European imperialist bigotry – an outlook which still characterizes the state they set up. That is why, in practice, Zionism has resulted in a prima facie racist environment in Israel. And now we are told that, according to the "working definition", pointing out the link between Zionism and racism is an act of anti-Semitism!
Given this close reading of parts of the "working definition," the AAUP really ought to rethink its apparent support of the document. It is a position that can only give impetus to the very censorship the AAUP dreads.
come to expect twisted logic from the Zionists. Actually, one can expect
this sort of thinking from any band of ideologues. Their blinkered vision,
incapable of seeing around the corners of their prejudices, guarantees
that most of what comes out of their mouths and their pens is sophistry.
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