Since the year 2000, there has been an increasing convergence between those who belong to the radical left and those who promote Islamism in the West. One of the key areas in cementing their rapprochement has been the Palestinian question. The new “alliance” was further reinforced during the past decade by the Iraq war, the Second Lebanon War, and the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2009.

Despite its current marginality, Palestine still remains the paradigmatic case of oppression for most left-wing militants today. Israelis, on the other hand, are not only the bad guys in this conflict; they are seen as the embodiment of capitalist-imperialist evil. Amazingly, this negative imagery has not been much affected by the Arab revolutions of 2011, despite their revelation of the cruelty, corruption, and utter cynicism of Arab regimes, highlighted by the ethnic cleansing and genocidal assault of the Assad regime on its own population in Syria.

Broadly speaking, Israel is still perceived by much of the Western left and by the Islamists as being “white,” Western, and alien to the Middle East. In other words, Israelis are seen as brutal colonialist invaders. The whole story of the Zionist project is disconnected from Jewish history and the centuries’-old link between the people of Israel and its historic homeland. The Palestinians (with only the feeblest of Israeli hasbara responses) have, by contrast, been successfully cast in the role of “Jews,” downtrodden and ruthlessly abused by Nazi-like Israelis. A key part of this campaign has been the corrosive depiction of Israel as an “apartheid state.” This libel is endlessly repeated throughout North America and Western Europe — in Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, as well as France, Germany and Great Britain. As a consequence, the anti-Israeli obsession has steadily seeped into the European chattering classes, the free professions, the churches, and nongovernmental organizations. It is especially virulent in academia and very much in tune with the postcolonial zeitgeist.

Another weapon in this global anti-Zionist transformation is the growing effort to “Nazify” Israel and thereby invert the Holocaust. The abuse of Holocaust memory as a political weapon against the Jewish state has indeed become increasingly rampant in recent years along with the popularity of antisemitic conspiracy theories. The soft version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which evokes the all-powerful “Zionist Lobby” and the alleged hidden control of “Jewish moneybags,” is in fact far more common than many people realize.

Inverting the Holocaust. A placard depicting Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak as Nazis at an anti-Israel rally in Boston, 2009 (photo credit: CC BY dvanhorn, Flickr)

Inverting the Holocaust. A placard depicting Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak as Nazis at an anti-Israel rally in Boston, 2009 (photo credit: CC BY dvanhorn, Flickr)

Anti-Semitism has been further stimulated by the growing worldwide influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the racist anti-Jewish material that is funded by Saudi Arabia and openly preached in the Middle Eastern, European and American mosques or is on sale in Islamist bookshops. The “decadent” Western culture that radical Muslims endlessly execrate is seen by jihadists as being controlled and dominated by Jews. This adds a particularly inflammatory dimension to Muslim anti-Semitism, which on this point has many affinities with the Neo-Nazi right. The message of the jihadists is indeed explicitly genocidal, but it is left-wing anti-Israeli rhetoric that gives it intellectual cover and respectability.

In the midst of the London Olympics, it was rather sobering to recall that a country like Great Britain remains today the world center of the academic boycott and also of trade union efforts to economically sanction Israel. Millions of trade unionists at least nominally support an economic boycott of Israel. For the moment it may be confined to produce coming from the West Bank, but the aim goes far beyond that. In recent years, the British TUC (Trades Union Congress) has acted as if it had been hijacked by the anti-Zionist Palestine Solidarity Committee. British academic unions have also passed resolutions that consistently denounce Israel as an “apartheid state.” If it were not for a legal opinion that pronounced such measures to be discriminatory, the effects would already have been far more severe. Among Western democracies, only in Britain has the boycott thus far achieved such a level of resonance — even though most Britons, if asked, would almost certainly reject it, and bilateral relations between the UK and Israel still remain fairly cordial.

The relations between France and Israel are also largely positive, but that did not prevent the lethal jihadi assault in Toulouse several months ago in which three Jewish children and a young rabbi were ruthlessly murdered in cold blood. In the two months that followed, aggressive anti-Semitic attacks in France by Muslims against Jewish adolescents surged dramatically. To even point to such naked violence in the current toxic atmosphere is to risk being labeled a “Zionist lackey,” an Islamophobe, or a racist, especially in bien-pensant leftist or liberal circles.

It should be recalled that Mohammed Merah’s brutal slaughter of innocent Jewish children in France was carried out in the name of the global jihad and “avenging Palestine.” The muted response to such atrocities in liberal “progressive” Western opinion is a badge of shame for those whose self-proclaimed banner is that of human rights.

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