Saturday, January 25, 2014

The new face of antisemitism

Antisemitism has a new face. It is no longer politically correct to be an antisemite: antisemitism, after all, is a prejudice against a minority. Even Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Hosseini Khamenei, can apparently embrace a Jew and claim that he has nothing against Jews.

But Israelophobia - now, that's a completely different kettle of fish. It is politically acceptable to say that there were always Palestinians, that the Jews stole their land, that historically Jews have never lived in Jerusalem, that the "wall of separation," built to keep out terrorists, is a form of apartheid, that Israel controls US policy, that Israel indiscriminately murders Palestinian children, is a source of disorder for surrounding countries, the cause of dictatorships in the Middle East and the greatest threat to world peace. (All the above statements are untrue.)

Fiamma Nirenstein, former vice-president of the committee on foreign affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies and member of the Italian delegation of the Council of Europe, has written an insightful blog on Israelophobia. You can read it here.

She says that according to a German study, 63 per cent of Poles, 48 per cent of Germans, 41 per cent of Britons and 38 per cent of Italians think Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians. Fifty-five per cent of Poles and 36 per cent of Germans said "Considering Israel's policy, I can understand why people do not like Israel." 

Is Israelophobia antisemitic? Of course it is.

(Hamad Amar, Druze Speaker of Israel's Knesset, made an interesting statement: "In our whole region consisting of over 350 million Arabs, there are only 1,658,000 Arabs who have complete political and religious freedom and have the right to vote in full democratic elections. It is no coincidence that all of these Arabs live as full and equal citizens of the one Jewish state.")

Israelophobia has become not occasional, but mainstream.

 Says Fiamma Nirenstein: "Past American presidents have always either hinted at, or made plain, a prohibition of the most racist and dangerous aspects of Islam regarding Israel, the Jews, and Christians. Not so with the current US Administration. No one in it has ever said to Iran. . . that it may not consider Israel 'a rotten root that must be destroyed.'

"No one in it has ever told the Palestinians that it is 'not helpful' to repeat every day, especially during negotiations, that Israel is a murderous, racist, genocidal country - a charge most recently levelled by Sa'eb Erekat, the head negotiator of the Palestinian delegation.

"In a word, by seeming to give Islam a free hand in exchange for nothing in return, the current US Administration has allowed the most severe hostile messages, both Israelophobic and otherwise, to spread without caution. Without America standing guard, all non-Muslim countries become fresh prey for their detractors."

What's the answer to Israelophobia just now? I'm not sure that I know. But telling the truth would be a start.

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