dinsdag 23 september 2008

Het waarmerk van antisemitisme

Een bezoekje aan Ramallah heeft natuurlijk weinig nieuwswaarde, tenzij je een 'VIP' bent en roept dat het een getto / concentratiekamp / nazipraktijk / apartheidsregime / oorlogsmisdaad* is (en Israël dat schuld is, natuurlijk). Zie de voorgaande artikelen. De Joden van alles de schuld geven mag weer in 2008....
(* Streep door wat niet van toepassing is.)

Het waarmerk van antisemitisme

Ik heb me er lang tegen verzet om antizionisme en andere felle anti-Israël kritiek als antisemitisch te bestempelen, maar dat lukt me niet meer. Een Duitse bisschop vergeleek in maart Ramallah met het Joodse getto van Warschau.
Ik heb in maart toevallig ook Ramallah bezocht, en geen getto aangetroffen. Het was een vrij gemiddelde Arabische stad, waar het leven nogal gewoon zijn gangetje ging. De Israëlische checkpoints op de Westoever zorgen voor nogal wat oponthoud bij het reizen en belemmeren zeker de economische ontwikkeling van de Palestijnen, maar een getto? We hebben er over de drukke markt gelopen, kleurige Arabische kleding in winkeltjes bekeken, met een Palestijnse vrouw koffie gedronken in de lokale Starbucks, ons verbaasd over het vele afval dat op braakliggende stukken grond werd gedumpt (zoals je ook in Israël wel zag), zelfs het graf van Arafat bezocht, en we werden door Palestijnse soldaten gesommeerd om geen foto's te maken in de buurt van de regeringsgebouwen van de PA. We zagen ook de graffiti tegen de Israëlische bezetting en plakkaten en monumenten waarmee terroristen werden geëerd en verheerlijkt.
Wie Ramallah durft te vergelijken met het getto van Warschau moet wel kwaadwillende motieven hebben, maar helaas is dit geen uitzondering. Onlangs noemde de schoonzus van Tony Blair de Gazastrook een concentratiekamp, anderen spreken al jaren van een 'grote openluchtgevangenis'. Een heel leger mensen met 'legitieme kritiek op Israël' heeft het - met soms het schuim zichtbaar op de lippen - over 'Israëlische Apartheid' en 'Nazi-praktijken'. De term antisemitisme stamt uit 1879, de anti-Joodse sentimenten zijn al milennia oud.

Last update - 11:36 19/09/2008
The hallmark of anti-Semitism
By Benjamin Weinthal
BERLIN - Antony Lerman protested the formulation "anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism" on this page, arguing that because many anti-Zionists are Jewish, such an approach only "widens the pool of our enemies" and causes us to "lose our way." But the failure to recognize the effect that Jewish anti-Zionism has on discourse among non-Jews creates a massive blind spot in the fight against Judeophobia.

Lerman complains that equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism diverts attention from more "traditional" manifestations of Jew-hatred, and also interferes with legitimate discussion of Israel's policies. What he fails to understand is that in the post-Holocaust age of political correctness, anti-Zionism is the favored, even socially acceptable, channel by which anti-Semitism expresses itself.

The intense, disproportionate attacks masked under the phrase "Israel criticism," or the very questioning of the Jewish state's right to exist, cannot simply be excused as legitimate critique. The practical implications of much of the anti-Zionist rhetoric, after all, would mean the dissolution of Israel. Hence, it is the anti-Zionist Jews themselves who are widening the pool of enemies.
Contemporary Germany provides a good example of this. The major media here have largely outsourced their Israel discussion to anti-Israeli Jews. One of the latter, a self-styled journalist named Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, has equated Israel's policies with those of Nazi Germany, and argued that a "Jewish-Israel lobby with an active network extends around the world, and thanks to America, its power has become great." In response, German-Jewish journalist Henryk M. Broder wrote that "anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist statements are her specialty." While Hecht-Galinski did not object to the anti-Zionist label, she was granted a temporary restraining order to prevent Broder from invoking the adjective "anti-Semitic."

In raging against the Jewish state, critics like Hecht-Galinski serve to symbolically inoculate non-Jewish Germans against the charge of anti-Semitism and bias against Israel. The rejoinder, "but Jews themselves say this," has become a standard defense, a type of kashrut seal that justifies comparing Israel with Nazi Germany, or blaming Jews for rising global anti-Semitism.

Even better than a Diaspora Jew criticizing Israel is an Israeli who does so, via criticism that can easily be misunderstood and even distorted. The culture editor of the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Patrick Bahners, for example, in a recent exoneration of Hecht-Galinski of anti-Israel prejudices, noted that even some Israeli peace activists compared the security fence to the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto. Bahners, like a majority of Germans (according to a 2004 study), feels comfortable with the "Israelis are to Palestinians as Nazis are to Jews" analogy. And, most of the country's other major dailies have also aligned themselves with Hecht-Galinski.

German experts on anti-Semitism view the "Israelis as Nazis" reflex as a form of "secondary anti-Semitism." Already two decades ago, Israeli psychoanalyst Zvi Rex identified a core element of post-Shoah "secondary anti-Semitism" with his ironic observation that, "The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz." In this view, Israel, by serving as a permanent reminder of the Holocaust, evokes guilt and resentment. Some relief is provided by giving a platform to a small and unrepresentative group of anti-Israel Jews.

But secondary anti-Semitism is not limited to Germany, and it's astonishing that Lerman neglected to note the connection between it and the disproportionately high levels of anti-Israel sentiment in Europe today.

Considering the obvious link between secondary anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments, it seems especially counterproductive to summarily dismiss - as Lerman did - the European Union's "working definition" of anti-Semitism, which describes such manifestations of the phenomenon as "applying double standards [to Israel] by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation" and "drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis."

Publicizing the "working definition" would advance the understanding of contemporary anti-Semitism. And after giving governments a set of criteria, grounded in the most current research on anti-Semitism, if the "working definition" were to be legally adopted by police and local authorities, human rights violations could be monitored. The nebulous subject of what "really" constitutes anti-Semitism could be discussed in more detached, objective terms.

Most Germans remain mired in an obsolete conception of anti-Semitism that encompasses the Nazis' view of Jews as money-grubbing or as scheming and sub-human. Sensitivity to, and awareness of, more contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism are sorely lacking.

One example is the case of Prof. Arnd Kruger, a sports historian at the University of Gottingen, who has argued that the 11 Israelis who were killed at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich essentially committed suicide "for the cause of Israel." According to Kruger, the athletes allowed themselves to be murdered by the Black September Palestinian terrorists, so as to prolong financial restitution from Germany, and to preserve Holocaust guilt among Germans. Kruger based his martyr theory on "a different perception of the human body" in Israel, supposedly reflected in a high rate of abortion there, adding that "Israel tries to prevent living with disabilities at all costs."

Kruger's statements meet the standard of anti-Semitism as defined by the EU "working definition," yet two weeks ago a University of Gottingen commission rejected charges of academic misconduct against Kruger and absolved him of anti-Semitism. Other than that, there's been almost no public outcry at his outrageous suggestions.

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of Kruger-style cases in Germany, and the juncture of anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic views is the hallmark of contemporary anti-Semitism. And whether it is non-Jews or a fringe group of anti-Zionist Jews who meet the criteria of the EU "working definition" of anti-Semitism, we should energetically raise our voices to counter the nonsense parading as criticism of Israel.

Benjamin Weinthal is an independent journalist working in Berlin.

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