My Shtetl, a Johannesburg online weekly, has called for nominations of blatantly anti-Israel Jews. One already anticipates the objection that nominees will make:
‘Where precisely do you draw the line between anti-Israel and critic of Israel? We want to help save Israel from itself by exposing its methods and policies, admittedly in strong and yes – demonic terms. That’s what we do. But anti-Israel – never’!
These are difficult sentiments to counter, which is what you’d expect from nominees with reputations and careers to uphold. Certainly it’s more than predictable that in My Shtetl’s ‘Name and Shame’ chat room a discordant crowd will be rubbing shoulders. That’s what comes from setting off a witch-hunt before you have told people what a witch is supposed to look like.
There are genuine critics of Israel and there are blatant anti-Israelites, but how to tell them apart? Perhaps, for a starter, one could interrogate the suspects:
‘Is your criticism of Israel irregular or persistent?’
‘Do you make use of any and every occasion to denounce Israel?’
‘Do you, when denouncing Israel, resort to intemperate language:‘Criminal;’ ‘brutal;’ aggressor;’ and so forth?
‘Do you go out of your way to enlist supporters’?
‘Do you belong to an organization that was set up to trumpet Israel’s wrongdoings, or that spends much of its time doing so?’
‘Do you sometimes defend Israel and find fault with the Palestinian camp?’
At best the results might disclose a tendency, which is not the same as a loophole-free conclusion. So we’re back to the old problem: without a definitive portrait of the anti-Israelite one cannot presume to elect people to the hall of infamy and polish their plinths.
Make no mistake; anti-Israelites are irritable and irritating specie. The cleverer your plans to bag them, the more slippery and dismissive they get. Happily therefore, one may pick out the specie from the herd by one or more indelible habits.
I begin with the habit of the most extreme and easily identifiable anti-Israelite.
Habit no 1: Israelis are Nazis
Another of my articles already covered this habit, with its implication for Holocaust denial. So to be short, I leave it to the US State Department:
“Criticism of Israel goes into anti-Semitism when it …vilifies Israeli leaders through a comparison with Nazi leaders, or through the use of Nazi symbols to caricature them. This indicates anti-Semitic bias rather than a valid criticism of Israeli policy…. ”
Habit no 2: Delegate Israel- cursing to Jews
The Anti-Israelite will go out of his way to enlist a Jew (better, an Israeli) to declare Israel guilty of crimes against humanity. Apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and occupation are among the sought-after crimes to level at Israel.
It’s not difficult to grasp the strategic value of a Jew on the anti-Israelite platform. For one thing, the anti-Israelite can insulate himself from accusations of anti-Semitism. For another, he can make his own jibes at Israel as trenchant as he likes. And thirdly, having a Jew to support those jibes lends them weight.
For the lengths anti-Israelites will go to boast of Jews on their platform, look to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Cape Town, 2011.
Some handpicked Jews, their travel and subsistence picked up by the Tribunal, came to the foot of Table Mountain on purpose to denounce Israel. But the Chairman, a Frenchman, was far and away the trump Jew, his credentials paraded at every public occasion, in media releases and articles:
Stephane Hessel, who heads the Tribunal, is a 93 year old Jewish survivor of Buchenwald concentration camp.
Who better to condemn Israel than a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s death camps; and who irreverent enough to contest his claims? But however much Tribunal organizers needed Hessel to be Jewish, Nazi bureaucrats knew better, and booked him into Buchenwald as ‘Evangelical.’ He had no Jewish parentage, nor will you find him registered as victim, or survivor in Yad Vashem’s data base. (Yad Vashem and International Red Cross Archives, Bad Arolsen,Germany)
Habit no. 3: Recognise one victim only
Anti-Israelites will never allow Israelis to be victims – not even of terror attacks. Palestinians hold the exclusive victim patent. For the lengths anti-Israelites will go to protect this patent look to the BBC: ‘Deadly bombing targets Jerusalem bus stop.’
From the BBC headline we are to understand that the bomb was not targeted at Israelis. No – its target was a bus stop, an object fixed on the side of the road. Better the victim be a bus stop than Israeli people.
And when Israelis die in terror attacks anti-Israelites will say nothing. After the atrocity of the Park Hotel Seder massacre, 2002, Palestinians were not condemned, Israelis were offered no solace. Only a John Pilger film, with Israelis treating Palestinians badly – at checkpoints – got the anti-Israelite off his couch. The victims were delayed. For the anti-Israelite, their humiliation by Israel was insufferable.
Habit no. 4: Set conditions that would destroy Israel
Genuine critics and anti-Israelites can be told apart by the nature of demands they make. Critics demand that Israel adopts different policies, or changes the way it implements them. Anti-Israelites, on the other hand, demand that Israel gives in to Palestinian demands even if that means – especially if that means –Israel’s destruction.
Look to Norman Finkelstein, an anti-Israelite figurehead, to affirm the distinction.
(BDS supporters) think they are being very clever; they call it their three-tier. We want the end of the occupation, the right of return, and …equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever because they know the result of implementing all three is what…? You know and I know what the result is. There’s no Israel !
Habit no. 5: Engage in role reversal
‘For every crime Palestinians commit, make the Jews guilty of it.’ So think anti-Israelites.
When Palestinians kill children, accuse Israelis of killing children. Where Arabs ethnically cleansed the Jews from their lands, accuse Israel of doing that to Palestinians. When rockets from Gaza are launched at Israeli cities, condemn Israel for attacking Gaza. When 90% of Israelis killed by Palestinians were civilians, turn that figure around (John Pilger claimed that 90% of Palestinians killed by Israel were civilians).
And when the anti-Israelite seeks to gag Israel-supporters, he will accuse them of doing that to him.
Habit no 6: Play the ‘gagging card.’
Says the former Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
The government of Israel is placed on a pedestal, and to criticize it is to be immediately dubbed anti-Semitic.
Tutu’s playing the gagging card by ridiculing Israel-supporters, looking to stop them in their tracks while making Jewish leaders think twice about joining forces against him. Or, to achieve the same thing, the anti-Israelite may prepare the ground in advance. Here’s the spokesman for the Russell Tribunal doing that:
Let me assure you, this is not an ‘Israel-bashing’ occasion, nor anti-Semitic, nor anti-Jewish…
But call his bluff, and the spokesman dives for cover, blustering:
What garbage! I have told you this correspondence is closed. Kindly remove my name and all references to me.
Habit 7: Riddled with paradox and inconsistency
Open up the anti-Israelite and you’ll discover paradox after paradox. Hatred and rationality never sit well, and inconsistency follows.
Look to the Rev Stephen Sizer, who punts for the Palestinians. On the evidence one would expect the opposite. A believing Christian has every reason to be pro-Israel, where alone in the Middle East Christendom’s holy sites are protected; where Christians may pray openly; and where Christian followers face no pressures to convert. On the Palestinian side of the barrier none of those freedoms are found.
Or take the flotilla crews that sailed to free Gaza, media workers on board going along. They sailed to free a strip where media workers are controlled, intimidated, kidnapped and murdered – to free it from the grips of Israel where media workers can do pretty much as they like.
Or gay anti-Israelites whose hatred of Israel, the one gay-friendly country in the region, makes no more sense than their love affair with a Palestinian camp that brooks no tolerance of gays.
So when you go on a witch hunt, take along this identikit, and you’ll not snare genuine critics in your bagful of anti-Israelites.