Harold Behr

What we are up against

By compelling Israel to appear at the International Court of Justice at The Hague on a charge of genocide, the South African government has put itself on the map as a leading player in the international campaign to bring down the one democracy in the region. Hamas, meanwhile, the self-proclaimed purveyor of Jewish genocide, has managed a successful coup.

Few will take the trouble to dissect out the legal arguments embodied in the detailed ruling of the court or ponder the cogent argument of the one dissenting judge from Uganda which adds up to the view that the case against Israel should have been thrown out ab initio. What sticks, like mud, is the juxtaposition of the name ‘Israel’ with the word ‘genocide’.

This is an ancient ploy, harking back to the days when the term ‘Jew’ was planted alongside that of ‘Christ killer’, and when, in the heyday of the Blood Libel, Jews were accused of sacrificing Christian children for nefarious ritualistic purposes.

Hamas, despite being pulverised by the IDF, has succeeded in its cunning strategy: to sidestep its own genocidal aims by smearing Israel with the accusation of the very crime that should rightfully be laid at its own feet. Hamas now gloats on the sidelines, no doubt satisfied with the worldwide opprobrium being heaped on the head of Israel. It has left it to another state, South Africa, with the credentials of once having been the victim of apartheid, to conduct the attack on Israel within the dignified confines of an internationally recognised law court.

The African National Congress, meanwhile, has been richly rewarded for bringing the case. Not only has its faltering campaign for re-election been boosted by generous funding from Hamas’s overflowing coffers, but having alighted upon an external enemy on whom to deflect attention from South Africa’s considerable internal problems, it has gone some way towards restoring its image on the home front and gained a new lease of life.

Lies, especially when embedded in myths, are difficult to eradicate. A lie has to be refuted, but there will always be those who, whether out of sheer malevolence or wilful ignorance, prefer to convert the lie into a so-called truth. The mere allegation of the crime of genocide results in the nation so accused becoming tainted. In a court of law, no matter how eloquent and persuasive the refutation of that charge by the defence, the seeds of doubt will have been planted. No matter how absurd, ideologically motivated or untruthful the charge, what percolates through to the popular mind is the thought that there might just be some substance to the allegation. This fuels hatred, gives licence to violence and sets in motion a vicious cycle of fear, defensiveness and retaliation.

As a result, every Jew falls under the shadow of the taint. In many diaspora communities, Jewish children now fear bullying and intimidation and older Jewish students report feeling unsafe and ostracised. They tell of ugly threats being made against them if they dare to voice their support for Israel, while academic staff dismiss concerns about antisemitism on their campuses with facile and disingenuous prevarication.

Unfortunately, the forecast is gloomy – unless the huge distorting lens through which Jews are being viewed can be dismantled, the flow of antisemitic hatred will continue unabated.

About the Author
I was born in South Africa in 1940 and emigrated to the U.K. in 1970 after qualifying in medicine. I held a post as Consultant Psychiatrist in London until my retirement in 2013. I am the author of two books: one on group analytic psychotherapy, one on the psychology of the French Revolution. I have written many articles on group psychology published in peer-reviewed journals. From 1979 to 1985 I was editor of the journal ‘Group Analysis’; I have contributed short pieces to psychology newsletters over the years.
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