For veteran anti-Israel activist Ali Abunimah, the recent never-ending reports of anti-Semitic outbursts by members of the British Labour Party are understandably alarming. Abunimah has spent most of his professional life trying hard to mainstream exactly the kind of thinking that is now so widely criticized as anti-Semitic, and he seems currently very concerned that all his hard work may have failed to legitimize contemporary anti-Semitism, especially in the form of the anti-Semitic anti-Zionism that is so crucial for Abunimah’s trade.
When Fathom editor Professor Alan Johnson first coined and defined the term “antisemitic anti-Zionism” in an influential essay, he exactly described what professional anti-Israel activists like Ali Abunimah are doing to make a living:
“Antisemitic anti-Zionism bends the meaning of Israel and Zionism out of shape until both become fit receptacles for the tropes, images and ideas of classical antisemitism. In short, that which the demonological Jew once was, demonological Israel now is: uniquely malevolent, full of blood lust, all-controlling, the hidden hand, tricksy, always acting in bad faith, the obstacle to a better, purer, more spiritual world, uniquely deserving of punishment, and so on.”
However, Abunimah of course insists that he is not anti-Semitic. Most recently, he challenged Shaya Lerner of the Anti-Defamation League to “quote precisely which ‘antisemitic comments’” he endorsed after Lerner mocked him on Twitter for his defense of Ken Livingstone’s disgraceful claims about Hitler’s support for Zionism. In the course of the ensuing exchange of tweets, Lerner asked Abunimah: “Do you agree with Livingston’s assertion that Hitler supported Zionism and [the] implication that Zionism=Nazism?” As I will show below, the only honest answer Abunimah could have given to this question would have been a resounding yes. Instead, he insisted it was indisputable “that Hitler supported 1933 Nazi-Zionist deal to transfer Jews to Palestine, the Zionist goal” and that there was “[n]othing anti-Semitic about discussing facts of Hitler-backed Haavara agreement.”
The way Abunimah insisted on using “facts” shorn of any context is typical for how anti-Israel activists proceed – indeed, Max Blumenthal is another prominent proponent of this “method.” In the context of the debate triggered by Ken Livingstone’s attempt to malign Zionism, historian John David Blake demonstrated in an excellent post on “Historical Truth” how easy but utterly misleading it is to combine cherry-picked “individual accurate facts into a something that no one remotely familiar with the period concerned could call ‘the truth’.” As Blake put it: “Historical truth is a funny thing – it lives in the whole, not in the parts.”
Thus, the modus operandi of anti-Israel activists like Abunimah – who labor every day to construct a tale of unmitigated Israeli evil from carefully selected context-free facts – is geared to demonizing the world’s only Jewish state as the despised and dangerous Jew among the nations, whose elimination will make the world a better place.
Perhaps at some point, it dawned on Abunimah that these efforts might eventually be called out as a form of contemporary anti-Semitism. But just as Jew-haters throughout the centuries have firmly believed Jewish evil justified their hatred, anti-Israel activists like Abunimah firmly believe Israeli evil justifies their hatred of the tiny Jewish state. And in any case, as far as Ali Abunimah is concerned, it will always be unfair to suspect him of anti-Semitism, because he came up with his very own Orwellian re-definition of anti-Semitism already years ago. It was based on Abunimah’s conviction, which he had declared on Twitter previously, that Zionism is “one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today” and that it was justified to equate Zionism with Nazism. As he put it so preposterously: “Supporting Zionism is not atonement for the Holocaust, but its continuation in spirit.”
So to answer Shaya Lerner’s question: Yes, absolutely, Ali Abunimah thinks “Zionism=Nazism.”
The implications of this anti-Semitic equation are mindboggling. One might think that the call for the killing of all Jews in the Hamas Charter should be considered a “continuation in spirit” of the hatred that led to the Holocaust, but as far as Abunimah is concerned, there is nothing that can detract from the terror group’s admirable record in fighting Zionism – which he after all considers “one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today.” So in Abunimah’s parallel universe, Hamas can wow to kill all Jews, but what really counts is that they are fighting Zionism and therefore, somehow, anti-Semitism…
Unfortunately, this utterly deranged definition of anti-Semitism is shared and defended by some influential academics, including Columbia University professor Joseph Massad, who introduced Abunimah at an event at Columbia University exactly two years ago as “a fighter against antisemitism.” Indeed, Massad and Abunimah have obviously great admiration for each other, which is hardly surprising given that, like Abunimah, Massad has worked for more than ten years to demonize Israel and has also tried to re-define anti-Semitism. As I have demonstrated in considerable detail, Massad’s own writings on Israel echo ideas and language that can also be found on racist and neo-Nazi sites such as David Duke or Stormfront.
Almost exactly three years ago, Massad caused an outcry with an Al Jazeera op-ed that, for good reason, was also eagerly shared and debated on Stormfront (archived link does not lead to Stormfront). According to Abunimah’s passionate defense of the screed, it demonstrated convincingly that “Zionism and anti-Semitism are two sides of the same coin.” In the widely denounced op-ed, Massad also pontificated on the “pro-Zionist policies of the Nazis,” inevitably offering a take on the Ha’avara agreement that is very similar to the one that Ken Livingstone put forth. Needless to say, Abunimah didn’t miss the opportunity now to tweet Massad’s article again, claiming that both Ken Livingstone and Joseph Massad were unjustly condemned “for recalling fact of Zionist-Nazi alliance.”
As David Horovitz put it so well in a recent op-ed:
“In planting and nurturing the notion that Hitler and the Zionists were in league, that Hitler was by extension a factor in the establishment of Israel, Livingstone serves and advances his long-term efforts at demonizing Israel, the better to isolate and weaken it.
What Livingstone would have Britons believe is that an equation can be drawn between the Nazis, the very epitome of evil, and the Zionists whom he so reviles. All those who rightly abhor the Nazis — Livingstone would hope to convince those tens of millions of viewers, listeners and readers — must likewise abhor and oppose Zionists and Israel.”
Abunimah has been working tirelessly for many years to achieve exactly what Livingstone tried to accomplish; and even in the US, there are plenty of well-placed individuals like Massad who are eager to support efforts to legitimize and mainstream contemporary anti-Semitism that demonizes Israel as the monstrously evil Jew among the nations. While these anti-Semitic anti-Zionists feel all the more righteous because they are willing to condemn the Jew-hatred of previous centuries, they are completely oblivious to the fact that they demonize the world’s only Jewish states in terms eerily reminiscent of the demonization that Jew-haters of previous centuries employed to validate their fantasies about the evil of their Jewish contemporaries.