The Columbia Journal
P.O. Box 2633 MPO,
Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada V6B 3W8
Is critism of Israel anti-Semitic?
(Dr. Norman Finkelstein, a renowned author, human rights activist and
hard critic of the policies of the government of Israel, spoke in
Vancouver on May 15. This inspired local broadcaster and Middle East
analyst Mordecai Briemberg to publish the following feature that
encompasses Finkelstein’s philosophy.)
Campaigners for Israel admit the more people know about Israeli state
practices the more supportive they are of Palestinian rights. For them
open discussion is a “problem.” Their “solution?” Silence those who
bring critical information, call them “anti-Semitic,” Archbishop
Desmond Tutu included.
Smearing so many is a sign of desperation from those who are losing
their power to confine how people think about Israel and Palestine.
Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi said Mussolini, Hitler’s ally, “had
not killed anybody but just sent people to holidays in exile.”
Nonetheless the Anti-Defamation League (a major campaigner for Israel)
honoured him the next week for his fervent support of Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon, sending the message that it’s okay to deny
Mussolini’s massacres, including of Jews, as long as you are a
supporter of Israel. But to criticize Israel is the unforgivable “new
Opposing the Israeli invasion, conquest and occupation of East
Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza is also “new anti-Semitism.” Even
though the United Nations Security Council unanimously and immediately
called in 1967 for the complete withdrawal of Israeli military, in the
words of Israel’s advocates, 1967 is when “elements in the world
conspired against the Jewish people and the victorious State of Israel”
(Frank Dimant, the Canadian Jewish Tribune, Sept 25/03).
To evaluate Zionism, the political ideology that has guided Israeli
policies, to document the historical record of land seizures and
population displacement by Israeli governments, to detail current
practices of death squads, walls, and checkpoints, to explore
historical comparisons with South Africa’s apartheid regime, all the
while using documentary evidence, logic, and facts is “new
anti-Semitism.” You can examine any other governments this way, free of
accusations of racism, but not Israel.
The political ideology that Jews could be safe only in a “Jewish state”
(Zionism) was but one of many ideologies advocated by European and Arab
Jews. It was supported by a small minority of European Jews, yet its
adherents arrogantly decree criticism of Zionism is an attack on all
Jews, more “new anti-Semitism.” So is criticism of capitalist ideology
an attack on Canadians, criticism of socialism an attack on Cubans?
Through its oppression of Palestinians Zionism, though claiming to be
Jews’ ultimate protector, has made Israel one of the least safe places
for them. What irony! Is it any wonder hundreds of thousands of Israeli
Jews now are claiming Polish and other East European passports, on the
basis of their grandparents birthplace?
To use the smear of “new anti-Semitism” to support Israel’s racist
practices is one more outrage against Palestinians. And “nothing less
than desecrate[ing] the memory of those Jewish [holocaust] victims,
whose death … is meaningful only inasmuch as it serves as an eternal
warning to the human kind against all kinds of discrimination, racism,
and genocide.” (Ran HaCohen, Tel Aviv university professor)
No: Israeli policies do not equal the well being of Jews. No:
campaigners for those policies in Canada are not the voice of all Jews
in Canada. No: criticism of Israeli state policies is not equal to
Indeed to promote such false equivalencies to shield morally
indefensible Israeli policies fuels anti-Semitism. As George Soros told
fund-raisers for Israel, “anti-Semitism will diminish” by changing the
policies of the Bush and Sharon administrations (Jewish Telegraph
Agency, Nov 4/03).
And when we face real anti-Semitic acts, which unquestionably are
despicable, there often is a misleading emotional sentiment cultivated
that another holocaust is looming. Consider racism in Canada against
Chinese, aboriginals, Arabs, Jews, Moslems, East Indians: which group
gets the most support from those with political, legal and police
power? The Prime Minister, the Premier of Ontario, the Mayor and police
chief of Toronto, denounced the desecration of 27 gravestones in a
Jewish cemetery. Rightly. But who spoke out when aboriginal women just
launched a campaign of awareness about the 500 “disappeared” native
women in Canada? When Arabs and Moslems are targeted as “terrorists” by
the full powers of the Canadian state?
When we take to heart the principle that justice is the foundation of
peace, it is our moral imperative to work for Palestinian rights. This
will lessen the profound persecution they suffer and also enhance the
security of Jews worldwide.
Mordecai Briemberg is
local community broadcaster with Vancouver Cooperative Radio, CFRO
102.7 FM. He can be heard on the Redeye program, Saturday mornings from
9 am to noon.