Thorne Dreyer : While Opposing Israeli Aggression, We Must Also Fight Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitic cartoon from Arab press / WMD.

Anti-Semitism is for cowards. We believe Israel as it positions itself in the world to be a reactionary force, a rogue state. But that has nothing to do with the Jewish people or their rich history of dignity and struggle.

By Thorne Dreyer / The Rag Blog / January 10, 2009

See ‘Nazi Imagery, Anti-Semitism Rampant In Arab Media As Gaza Crisis Unfolds,’ Below.

In the world press we are learning about a sharp rise in anti-Semitic activity and Nazi imagery that have accompanied Israel’s assault on and incursion into Gaza. This has occurred in the media and in the streets, not only in the Middle East but in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

At the same time, we are witnessing a consistent stereotyping and villianizing of Palestinians and Arabs, and of those of the Islamic faith – and see this as a serious and growing problem.

The Rag Blog strongly opposes Israel’s inhumane occupation of Palestine and its current operation in Gaza.

We believe Israel’s actions – and those of its loyal and uncritical sponsor, the United States — to be cynical, immoral and in stark violation of international law. And we observe among many of Israel’s supporters a keen and hypocritical ability to ignore facts, to react in a knee-jerk fashion to any criticism of Israel and to label it anti-Semitic.

At the same time, we must recognize that the situation in the Middle East is far from simple, the product of centuries of history involving ethnic and religious fear and hatred. And we hold no truck for terrorism in any form, whether individual or state-sponsored, and find religious fundamentalism, and especially state religion, to be anathema in all its incarnations. We must add, however, that the policies of Israel and of the United States, with all the lip service to fighting terrorism and spreading democracy, are all about markets and politics and territory, and serve, in the face of all the pretty rhetoric, to create and invigorate fundamentalism and terrorism.

But we also must put ourselves on the record in the strongest words possible as opposing racism wherever it rears its horrific head.

Anti-Semitism is for cowards. We believe Israel as it positions itself in the world to be a reactionary force, a rogue state. But that has nothing to do with the Jewish people or their rich history of dignity and struggle.

One can and, we believe, should in all conscience oppose the unconscionable actions of the Israeli state. (While offering a nod to the growing peace movement in Israel and to the courageous resistance of the refuseniks in the Israeli army. )

At the same time, we should never ever allow ourselves to fall for the easy trick of racism and anti-Semitism. We must, in fact, always decry it, never allowing our response to be that of silence.

We can never become the evil that we oppose.

Nazi Imagery, Anti-Semitism Rampant In Arab Media As Gaza Crisis Unfolds
January 8, 2008

New York — As Israel’s operation against the Hamas terrorist infrastructure in Gaza continues, expressions of anti-Semitism and offensive Holocaust imagery have “reached a fever pitch” in the Arab press, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Newspapers across the Arab and Muslim world have published editorial cartoons, articles and opinion pieces laced with age-old anti-Semitic themes, including blood-libel accusations and ugly stereotypical depictions of demonic large-nosed, bearded Jews plotting to rule the world. The articles and editorial cartoons have appeared in mainstream newspapers from Egypt and Jordan, to Syria, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

ADL has released an online slide show of anti-Semitic cartoons on Gaza and a compilation of selected articles from the Arab press.

“The Arab press serves both as a powerful influencer of opinion and as mirror of the larger society, and as the conflict between Israel and Hamas plays out in the daily newspapers, anti-Semitism and Nazi comparisons have reached a fever pitch,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor. “In this incendiary environment, where anger at Israel already seethes in the Arab street, cartoonists and editors are doing more than heaping invective on Israel. They are fueling a toxic mix of hatred — for Israel, for America, for Jews, for the West – by dredging up anti-Semitism in its most lethal and virulent form.”

From Riyadh to Damascus and beyond, readers of Arab newspapers are more likely to encounter swastikas and headlines declaiming a Palestinian Holocaust than they are to encounter balanced news, according to ADL, which monitors and translates the Arab and Muslim press from its offices in Israel. Editorial cartoons and banner headlines on the Gaza operation repeatedly draw on analogies to the Holocaust, both by accusing Israel of carrying out a Nazi-like campaign of extermination in Gaza, and by comparing Israelis and Jews to Nazis.

One of the most vicious cartoons, published January 7 in newspapers in Jordan and the U.K., depicted three Israeli leaders in full Nazi regalia under the headline “Israel Has the Reich to Defend Itself.” A menorah above the cabal of leaders is emblazoned with a swastika.

Other cartoons show harshly stereotypical Jews dreaming of taking over the world, or controlling the United States government or the United Nations.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

Source / Anti-Defamation League

The Rag Blog

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4 Responses to Thorne Dreyer : While Opposing Israeli Aggression, We Must Also Fight Anti-Semitism

  1. Zwarich says:

    While I strongly agree with the thoughts and sentiments expressed here by Mr. Dreyer, that any kind of racism, or other ethnic bigotry or ethnic or racial demonization is deplorable, I don’t think that he seems to allow for the fact that ethnic bigotry and Zionism are deeply rooted in Jewish tradition and culture.

    I strongly believe in the moral tenet that commands that we should “hate the sin, not the sinner”, or, as Dr. King tried to teach us, that racism is our enemy, not racists. But in using the term ‘racism’ in relation to the term ‘anti-Semitism’, we fail to encompass the full scope of this historic tragedy unless we remember the staggering irony that the Palestinian Arabs are a Semitic ‘race’ of people, and that a large percentage of Jews (the so-called Ashkenazi Jews) are either of mixed ‘race’, from having intermarried during the twenty centuries of the Diaspora, or are not actually Semitic at all.

    Emerging research, (see article copied below, concerning the groundbreaking work of Israeli historian Shlomo Sand), has indicated that many Askenazi Jews are descended from people whose ancestors never lived in Palestine, and that most of the Jewish people in the modern world have no historical connection to Israel, ancient Judea, or modern Palestine at all, but are rather descended from the non-Semitic Caucasian people of the Khazar kingdom of what is now Eastern Europe and Southern Russia, who converted to the religion of Judaism. Dr. Sand’s work, which has been on best-seller lists in Israel for some time, and is being widely translated and read around the world, disputes the legend of the Diaspora itself. (See article copied below).

    The rise of what we ironically call ‘anti-Semitism’ is very disturbing, and I agree with Mr. Dreyer that we, as progressives, must resist allowing these toxic hatreds to fester, either in ourselves, or in the larger society. But we cannot ignore the ‘racism’, and/or ethnic bigotry that is at the root of Jewish culture as it has evolved into Zionism. We must recognize that Jews believe that they are God’s own ‘chosen people’, that they have a special covenant with, and enjoy special favors from, (and owe special responsibilities to), God.

    While such a belief is certainly not all that unusual in ethnic groups, and particularly in religious dogmas, the world’s Jews have adhered to it with a cultural dedication that sets them apart. Throughout their history in Europe, they strongly resisted assimilating themselves into local cultures, and those among them who rose to be their ‘aristocracy’ were very successful in organizing themselves collectively for economic success, using their cultural insularity to establish inter-cooperation that comprised a wide economic base from which their fortunes grew.

    Although Jewish people have assimilated into American culture more deeply than they are reputed to have done into any other, we can still see that cultural insularity still augments the success of many Jews, and also augments the cause of Zionism that they have taken up.

    The success of the ‘Jewish Lobby’ in this country is well and widely known. This relatively small ethnic group, which comprises about 2% of the population of the US, exerts a very disturbing degree of control over our nation’s political system. As progressives, we all surely know that it is almost impossible for a politician in the US to be elected unless they support Israel, and even harder for any who are elected while opposing Zionism to hold office, (ask Cynthia McKinney).

    Surely it is not hard to understand that it has been this culturally augmented ability to acquire an inordinate degree of power, (often economic, rather than political), within the societies in which they have lived, that has caused people to resent them, and this resentment has translated into general ‘anti-Semitism’, (against people who were not primarily ‘Semitic’), often with tragic results. Though I am able to resist allowing my resentments to become anti-Semitism, I am not at all ashamed or reluctant to admit that I deeply resent the political power of the Jewish Lobby, the fact that a mere 2% of American citizens have successfully created a political cabal that is able to control the foreign policy of the nation.

    As I have watched the horrific tragedy in Palestine unfold over the decades of my own lifetime, (like Israel, I was born in 1948), I have had to wrestle with the deep resentments I have felt toward these ‘modern day Nazis’ that the State of Israel has made of itself. I am only a weak and imperfect human, and these resentments spill over onto the many Jewish people who have lost all objective perspective, and support, without question or reservation, the horrors that Israel has perpetrated.

    There are currently about 13.5 million Jews in the entire world, a bit more than two tenths of one percent of the world’s population. A bit more than 6.1 million Jews live in the US, and about 5.6 million live in Israel. It is obviously no accident that the horrific crimes against humanity being committed by the State of Israel are being perpetrated by the two nations where over 87% of the world’s Jews live.

    Though we MUST discipline ourselves to hate their ‘sins’, rather than to hate them, we cannot ignore the fact that support for the crimes of Israel is deeply rooted in the Jewish culture itself, and in the hearts and minds of a large percentage of the people who follow that culture. (Many Jewish people do not, of course).

    Just as we detest other cultures than are rooted in beliefs in racial superiority, we must recognize that our revulsion for what Israel is doing to the long-suffering Palestinian Arabs, (a Semitic people), is quite properly more deeply rooted than merely disapproving of the actions of a state. The odious and inhuman actions of this State of Israel are rooted in the beliefs of a culture that is rooted in ethnic bigotry. That culture itself, that belief in ethnic superiority over others, is a legitimate target of our revulsion.

    Even so, however, it is the culture itself, the ideas and beliefs that comprise it, and NOT the people who have been taught to follow it, that is the proper target of the revulsion we feel.

    This is, however, a moral nicety that is very difficult for humans to achieve or maintain. While we should feel sympathy, and even empathy, for any criminal, (“there but for fortune may go you or I”, apologies to ole Phil Ochs), when we are directly threatened with criminal behavior, (especially violence), we obviously must put away whatever empathy we feel, and defend ourselves.

    The world’s Jews whose cultural bigotry supports the horrific crimes against humanity being perpetrated by Israel are bringing hateful feelings of ‘anti-Semitism’ down on themselves. While I agree with Mr. Dreyer that these kinds of feelings are disturbing, they are inevitable, and we can only hope that they might serve as a factor in motivating Jews to re-examine their own cultural beliefs.

    This is already happening. It is widely reported that many Jews are re-thinking their commitment to Zionism, and to Israel, as a result of their own witness of, and revulsion for, the reign of terror that the Israeli jets and jackboots are wreaking in Gaza. We cannot pretend that ethnic chagrin, and/or outright shame, is playing no part in what many of us, and certainly those of us who call ourselves progressives, consider to be their awakening from their ethnic bigotry, and coming to the better senses of their shared humanity.

    Given the cultural realities and cultural history involved here, it is as wrong-headed and short-sighted to pretend that the world’s Jews bear no responsibility for what Israel is doing, as it is to believe that Americans have no responsibility for what the US is doing, in Palestine, or in Iraq, (or did in Viet Nam, etc).

    Copied below is the article mentioned above.


    Israel’s surprising best seller contradicts founding ideology

    No one is more surprised than Shlomo Sand (shown right) that his latest academic work has spent 19 weeks on Israel’s bestseller list and that success has come to the history professor despite his book challenging Israel’s biggest taboo.

    Dr Sand argues that the idea of a Jewish nation whose need for a safe haven was originally used to justify the founding of the state of Israel is a myth invented little more than a century ago.

    An expert on European history at Tel Aviv University, Dr Sand drew on extensive historical and archaeological research to support not only this claim but several more all equally controversial.

    In addition, he argues that the Jews were never exiled from the Holy Land, that most of today’s Jews have no historical connection to the land called Israel and that the only political solution to the country’s conflict with the Palestinians is to abolish the Jewish state.

    The success of When and How Was the Jewish People Invented looks likely to be repeated around the world. A French edition, launched last month, is selling so fast that it has already had three print runs.

    Translations are under way into a dozen languages, including Arabic and English. But he predicted a rough ride from the pro-Israel lobby when the book is launched by his English publisher, Verso, in the United States next year. In contrast, he said Israelis had been, if not exactly supportive, at least curious about his argument. Tom Segev, one of the country’s leading journalists, has called the book ‘fascinating and challenging’.

    Surprisingly, Dr Sand said, most of his academic colleagues in Israel have shied away from tackling his arguments. One exception is Israel Bartal, a professor of Jewish history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Writing in Haaretz, the Israeli daily newspaper, Dr Bartal made little effort to rebut Dr Sand’s claims. Paradoxically, he dedicated much of his article instead to defending his profession. He suggested that Israeli historians were not as ignorant about the invented nature of Jewish history as Dr Sand contends.

    The idea for the book had come to him many years ago, Dr Sand said, but he waited until recently to start working on it. ‘I cannot claim to be particularly courageous in publishing the book now,’ he said. ‘I waited until I was a full professor. There is a price to be paid in Israeli academia for expressing views of this sort.’

    Dr Sand’s main argument is that until little more than a century ago, Jews thought of themselves as Jews only because they shared a common religion. At the turn of the 20th century, he said, Zionist Jews challenged this idea and started creating a national history by inventing the idea that Jews existed as a people separate from their religion.

    Equally, the modern Zionist idea of Jews being obligated to return from exile to the Promised Land was entirely alien to Judaism, he added.

    ‘Zionism changed the idea of Jerusalem. Before, the holy places were seen as places to long for, not to be lived in. For 2,000 years Jews stayed away from Jerusalem not because they could not return but because their religion forbade them from returning until the messiah came.’

    The biggest surprise during his research came when he started looking at the archaeological evidence from the biblical era.

    ‘I was not raised as a Zionist, but like all other Israelis I took it for granted that the Jews were a people living in Judea and that they were exiled by the Romans in 70AD.

    ‘But once I started looking at the evidence, I discovered that the kingdoms of David and Solomon were legends. ‘Similarly with the exile. In fact, you can’t explain Jewishness without exile. But when I started to look for history books describing the events of this exile, I couldn’t find any. Not one.

    ‘That was because the Romans did not exile people. In fact, Jews in Palestine were overwhelming peasants and all the evidence suggests they stayed on their lands.’

    Instead, he believes an alternative theory is more plausible: the exile was a myth promoted by early Christians to recruit Jews to the new faith. ‘Christians wanted later generations of Jews to believe that their ancestors had been exiled as a punishment from God.’

    So if there was no exile, how is it that so many Jews ended up scattered around the globe before the modern state of Israel began encouraging them to ‘return’?

    Dr Sand said that, in the centuries immediately preceding and following the Christian era, Judaism was a proselytising religion, desperate for converts. ‘This is mentioned in the Roman literature of the time.’

    Jews travelled to other regions seeking converts, particularly in Yemen and among the Berber tribes of North Africa. Centuries later, the people of the Khazar kingdom in what is today south Russia, would convert en masse to Judaism, becoming the genesis of the Ashkenazi Jews of central and eastern Europe.

    Dr Sand pointed to the strange state of denial in which most Israelis live, noting that papers offered extensive coverage recently to the discovery of the capital of the Khazar kingdom next to the Caspian Sea. Ynet, the website of Israel’s most popular newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, headlined the story: ‘Russian archaeologists find long-lost Jewish capital.’ And yet none of the papers, he added, had considered the significance of this find to standard accounts of Jewish history.

    One further question is prompted by Dr Sand’s account, as he himself notes: if most Jews never left the Holy Land, what became of them?

    ‘It is not taught in Israeli schools but most of the early Zionist leaders, including David Ben Gurion [Israel’s first prime minister], believed that the Palestinians were the descendants of the area’s original Jews. They believed the Jews had later converted to Islam.’

    Dr Sand attributed his colleagues’ reticence to engage with him to an implicit acknowledgement by many that the whole edifice of ‘Jewish history’ taught at Israeli universities is built like a house of cards.

    The problem with the teaching of history in Israel, Dr Sand said, dates to a decision in the 1930s to separate history into two disciplines: general history and Jewish history. Jewish history was assumed to need its own field of study because Jewish experience was considered unique.

    ‘There’s no Jewish department of politics or sociology at the universities. Only history is taught in this way, and it has allowed specialists in Jewish history to live in a very insular and conservative world where they are not touched by modern developments in historical research.

    ‘I’ve been criticised in Israel for writing about Jewish history when European history is my specialty. But a book like this needed a historian who is familiar with the standard concepts of historical inquiry used by academia in the rest of the world.’

  2. There is a large and strong peace movement in Israel; there are hundreds of thousands of Jews worldwide who support peace and who are ashamed at Israel’s intransigence. Arguments mustered to once again make a wandering tribe of the Jews, by disputing their right to the homeland into which they have poured at least 64 years of blood, sweat, and toil, if not more, do not lead to a solution.

    The Arab-Jew conflict is a family quarrel that began with Abraham’s favortism for one son over another. Until all parties can overcome that past injustice in their minds, strife is likely to continue. Progressives everywhere, especially in the US, must demand peace and support peace activists in all camps, demand that the UN call for a permanent cease-fire be observed by all parties, and refuse to choose sides in this most uncivil war.

    Thank you, Thorne, for pointing out the pitfalls of anti-Semitism, are all too easy to fall into. When people criticize policies of other nations, I seldom hear the harsh, all-encompassing rhetoric and name-calling that slips so easily from the lips when Israel is the subject. In the US, we must be especially mindful of the role our own warped national priorities have played in the region, and in making Israel into the kind of nation it has become, and wary of the Nazi forces that still scheme, lie, and plan for their Jew-free “reich”.

    Support peace activists everywhere — demand a cease-fire now — and tell all the children of Abraham to get over the past and find a peaceable solution!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Berbers,Semites,Semitic Iraqi,Levantine,Persian,Turkish,Iranain,Aryan…..
    What is amazing is just how much we are alike

  4. The current theory of Israeli Professor Shlomo Sand about how people of Jewish religious background ended up in Western Europe after 66 B.C. which is mentioned in one of the comments seems to be contradicted by most non-Zionist, Gentile, or left-wing historians who have examined the economic position of people of Jewish religious background in Europe prior to the 12th century. Following is an alternative historical version of how some people of Jewish religious background ended up in Europe prior to the 12th-century:

    “In 63 BC, about 75% of all people of Jewish background no longer lived in Palestine. Most people of Jewish background were dispersed throughout the Middle East and North Africa. But following the conquest of Palestine by Roman invaders from Italy under the leadership of Pompey in 63 B.C, the first people of Jewish background from Palestine arrived in Western Europe. After being imprisoned by Pompey’s soldiers in Palestine, these people of Jewish background were transported to Rome. In Rome, the people of Jewish background established themselves eventually as merchant-traders and were granted some community autonomy by the Roman emperors. Over the next thousand years, other people of Jewish background settled in communities around Western Europe, from Spain to Holland.

    “During the first ten centuries of the Christian era, the commercial role of people of Jewish background in Western Europe–providing the major trading link between Europe and Asia–grew in importance, and the living conditions of people of Jewish background in Western Europe generally improved. Because of their important commercial role in the feudal economy, people of Jewish background in Western Europe were protected by the Western European kings and princes prior to 1100 AD. By the end of the 11th century, people of Jewish background in Western Europe were an economically prosperous religious group and, economically, were considered part of the upper classes in Western European society.

    “In southern Russia, as a result of religious conversion, settlements of people of Jewish background also developed in the 7th century, following invasion of that area by Turkish soldiers. Known as Khazars, the first people of Jewish background in Russia ruled South Russia in the 8th century, traded with Byzantium, defended the area from attempts at invasion by Greeks, Persians and Arabs and governed from their capital of Itel a/k/a Astrathan, which was located at the mouth of the Volga River.

    “By the following century, however, the Khazars no longer ruled South Russia or played a major political or economic role in the country’s history. A Kiev state that evolved into the Russian state was established in 862, and over a century later, in 988, the Kiev ruler, Vladimir I, converted to Christianity. But by the 12th century a new trading community of Jewish background had settled in Kiev. During this same 12th century, the Russian city of Moscow was founded in 1147. But by the following century, Tartar troops from Mongolia, under Genghis Khan’s leadership, had begun their 300-year rule over Russia with their burning of Kiev in 1240.”

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