An article recently published in Haaretz by Jewish world blogger Joel Braunold held some impressive depth and clarity of thought as it explored various circumstances and facts highlighting the need to combat what he believes to be Europe’s serious antisemitism problem.
New Years Day 2013 seems as appropriate a time as any to draw upon some thoughts occurring to me while reading Braunold’s analysis of a worrying trend.
For starters I agree with his statement that Europe is going backwards. I do not however think the rise of intolerance and xenophobia is limited solely to antisemitism – abundant evidence can show us that racism in general is once again shaming European society as it becomes widespread, bubbling up in locations throughout Europe.
My main concern though is the growth of what I can only describe as a very deplorable anti-Semitic discourse plaguing certain Palestine Solidarity circles that I often observe. So I am not misunderstood – I should clarify that as an avid supporter of Palestinian rights and freedom myself, I do not remotely think that being Pro-Palestine is remotely antisemitic nor even necessarily anti-Israel.
Recent very public incidents such as that of Greta Berlin’s anti-Semitic tweet raise a line of investigation that needs to be taken seriously within the Palestine Solidarity movement. I for one am often disturbed by the comments of radicals who purportedly support Palestine and I’m left feeling a certain level of despair when my fellow activists seem to never do anything to challenge or stop such discourse but rather keep mum on it.
Just what is it that these people don’t get about genuine consistency when being part of an anti-racist movement committed to justice and equality?
Braunold suggests that an educative approach is needed for getting into “touchy, hard topics such as Israel and Palestine” as part of his method of tackling antisemitism in europe. Another part of his new approach touches on the need for antisemitism to be taken seriously and treated as a domestic problem that only each afflicted society can themselves effectively change.
A question requiring an answer is just what proportion of increased european antisemitism directly relates to the discourse surrounding Israel – Palestine and how much is simply classic Jew Hate. My view is that a great deal really isn’t related to Israel – Palestine however I feel some may disagree.
This is where I find my voice to be most helpful, much to the dislike of some of my fellow Palestine solidarity activists, I have found myself being an increasingly critical voice on the way Palestine Solidarity is advocated in some groups and activist circles. No coherent guidelines are readily available to help people understand that if they travel down a path focusing their efforts entirely in the realms of what I call circular rhetoric then usually it does a great disservice to Palestine Solidarity.
You see for me, genuine criticism of Israel can definitely do without the seemingly ever present intolerance and seething hatred found in some activist circles. The kind of advocacy I find myself criticizing most is the type that tends to lead onto irrational statements and bogus claims continually being made about Israel, Israelis and Jews in general.
However the varied definitions of antisemitism could perhaps benefit from a genuine review. I personally may have no right to involve myself in what is and isn’t antisemitism but I do still have a strong opinion on blurring lines and how to make it more difficult to blur them by using a robust global definition that looks sensibly at what areas of criticism towards Israel are and are not antisemitic.
Present definitions leave grey areas, leaving interpretation open as to whether something actually constitutes antisemitism or not when critiques of Israel are involved.
I’m just as tired of seeing false accusations of anti-semitism used to attack real human rights activists as I am of bogus accusations that tell of Israel’s ‘genocidal regime’ or how all Zionists are somehow controlling the media and our governments.
For me if you are being antisemitic then you are being antisemitic end of story.
Examples of what I’m talking about and how it relates directly to this discussion on antisemitism can be found in the comments thread of the Haaretz facebook page where Braunolds article was advertised earlier this morning.
Almost immediately after the post went up on social media a commenter responded to the article by chiming in “how about Israels anti Palestinianism? Israel is reaping what she sews”.
Such a comment to me is a very sly suggestion that anti-antisemitism or its increase in Europe can somehow be a legitimate response to Israeli anti-Palestinianism. I would hope that I don’t need to point out how such a notion is absolutely flawed, abhorrent and condemnable.
Surely it is obvious that Anti-semitism like any and all other forms of racism must be unequivocally condemned and combated at every possible level.
Unfortunately it appears that off the cuff antisemitism is appearing more often in discourse surrounding Israel-Palestine as many don’t even think what they are saying is somehow wrong.
I cannot stress enough that any kind of bigotry, double standard or just sheer hypocrisy only does damage to legitimate Palestine Solidarity.
To mash up a quote from an article written recently by Ami Kaufman I must say to my fellow activists that I don’t think we need to use any kind of excessively emotional or hateful language in order to correctly identify that Israel’s brutal occupation is a brutal occupation or that the eviction of a family from Sheikh Jarrah is discriminatory and unjust. I also don’t need to swear and curse everything that is Israeli just to point out that the murder of a protester cause by shooting a tear gas canister directly at his chest is clearly murder.
I need nothing more than to quote International Law in order to identify that the expansion of an illegal settlement is precisely that. I finally don’t need to use words like genocide to create hyperbole about horrific crimes such as the dropping of a bomb on an entire Gazan family.
These crimes against the Palestinians really aren’t an excuse or justification to create hysteric hatred for Israel. I have found that a rational discourse can easily achieve much more than spewing forth disjointed rhetoric.
The hardships faced by Palestinians are frankly no excuse or acceptable explanation for the worrying trend of increasing Antisemitism in Europe.
Sure we could get into a lengthy debate about how in some cases antisemitism is used as a hyperbolic slander against some very dedicated and decent Palestine Solidarity Activists.
My conclusion is that it isn’t those whom are falsely accused that we should worry about but rather the activists that are actually saying and doing antisemitic things that should be receiving heavy scrutiny and be disassociated from immediately.
Let us support a more serious approach to combating antisemitism by taking it seriously before it begins to once again get out of hand. It is entirely unacceptable to victim blame in any instance of hate crime & xenophobia so lets not and we will eventually defeat fascism in all its ugly forms. I also agree and actively advocate for the creation of a compulsory set of school courses between the ages of 6 – 16 that would not only educate each and every child but also truly empower them with a set of strong principles regarding discrimination.
My thought is that a new generation could be inspired to take a pro-active approach and actively involve themselves in speaking out against hatred, intolerance and discrimination whilst speaking up for equality, tolerance and a genuine shared society.
Building a generation at ease with its own diversity would be an amazing achievement for us to accomplish and it may well help end some of the most protracted conflicts in our history.