On Nakba Day last month, the day commemorating the end of the British Mandate for Palestine in 1948 and the subsequent displacement of the Palestinian people by the Israeli state, 160 Israeli warplanes dropped 80 tons of explosives over Gaza in 40 minutes with no warning, killing a family of six, eight children and two women.1 Such attacks are a facet of everyday life for Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. Simply calling attention to these atrocities, meanwhile, is routinely labeled “antisemitic ” by US and Israeli media simply because Israel calls itself a “Jewish state”. In fact, any criticism made of the Israeli government, no matter how legitimate, is condemned as “antisemitism,” even when the criticism has absolutely nothing to do with it. Human Rights Watch, a fairly centrist human rights organization published a report this April that concludes Israel is committing apartheid. Political analyst, Arsen Ostrovsky, called the report “unhinged jew hatred.” Caroline Glick, a conservative American-Israeli columnist, called it an “invitation for genocide” 2
In late 2019 former president Trump signed an executive order that empowered the Department of Education (DoE) to withhold federal funds to colleges that allowed critical debate on Israeli policy on the grounds that they were fostering “antisemitism.”3 Not long after the order, a Zionist legal organization filed a complaint against the University of California for hosting the national conference of Students for Justice in Palestine the previous year. alleging that the organization of students is a “terror front” and that the conference itself was an “attack on Jewish students,” prompting the DoE to investigate.4
Activists advocating for basic human rights for Palestinians are habitually labeled “antisemites” or worse, such as “terrorist sympathizers”. Hard-line supporters of Israel, such as German politician Volker Beck, far right lobbist, Mark Dubowitz, and Melissa Weiss, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center have even blamed activists for terrorist attacks on Jewish synagogues.5 This tactic is used because it is effective. Almost no one wants to be accused of antisemitism or supporting terrorism, so this slander shuts down all rational debate among anyone unfamiliar with the issues.
It’s not just right-wing figures that support Israel either. Nearly every US President since the creation of the Israeli state has provided support, including current President Biden who just provided $735 million in “special munitions” weapons to Israel and has blocked three international ceasefire attempts. Former President Barack Obama also increased military funding to Israel to 38 bilion over a decade.6
Israel proudly calls itself the “Jewish state,” so that all criticism of the government’s brutality and tyranny can be called “antisemitism” as if the Jewish identity is inextricably linked to brutality, apartheid, and genocide. This is truly an insult to Jewish people against Zionism like Dr. Hajo Meyer, an outspoken critic of Israel’s crimes who was also a survivor of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Before his death Dr. Meyer compared the tactics the Nazis used with Israel’s,7 stating in an interview that Israel has “given up everything that has to do with humanity, with empathy, for one thing: the state. The ‘blood and soil,’ just like the Nazis.” Israeli politicians and supporters accuse all critics of the state of antisemitism to draw attention away from the substance of those criticisms. It is textbook misdirection.
Some Zionists argue that because there are plenty of openly Christian states (like the Vatican) and plenty of openly Muslim ones (like Saudi Arabia) then why can’t there be just one Jewish state? This argument ignores the fact that these states are just as problematic, and when Saudi Arabia is criticized for its beheadings or bombings of Yemeni civilians, it doesn’t cry Islamophobia because such a reaction would be just as ludicris as Israel calling activists “antisemites” who condemn Israeli war crimes. The state cannot claim to be doing “God’s work.” Such rhetoric inflames nationalism, xenophobia, extremism, religious violence, and intolerance and it can be used in attempts to justify just about anything.
Israel prides itself not on any Jewish virtues, but on its war machines and innovations in technological warfare and they have a hand in just about every type of crime imaginable from stealing the organs of dead Palestinians8 to incarcerating 500 to 700 children per year under military law9 some of whom are kept in outdoor cages during winter storms.10 The Israeli government also regularly employs torture11, attacks civilians with chemical weapons like white phosphorus12, cuts off Palestine’s water supply13, withholds the bodies of victims from their families and freezes them to prevent autopsies14, uses explosive ammunition15 and dense inert metal explosives on civilians16, imprisons civilians with their apartheid walls and in their Draconian prisons, employs degrading checkpoints, restricts free travel, kills pregnant Palestinian women17, and bombs hospitals, mosques, UN centers, schools, residential buildings18 and office buildings used by journalists.19 According to journalist, Abby Martin, “In 2012 Israel shelled offices of international media, blowing my colleague’s leg off. When my network asked for a statement, the IDF said “of course we knew there were journalists there” but we had “taken a side” in the coverage.”20
Detained Palestinian children are also routinely threatened with rape in interrogation centers to force false confessions and to implicate those they want. One 15-year-old boy, Ahmad F., had food smeared on his genitals so that a dog would eat it off him.21 Palestinian Fathi Mahfouz, also 15 years old at the time he was kidnapped by the Israeli “Defense Force” or IDF, explained he was electrocuted and hung to a cross by the IDF.22 No lawyers are ever present during forced “confessions” and Israeli military courts have a conviction rate of 99.74% for Palestinian defendants according to the military court’s own annual report.23 Meanwhile in 2012, out of 103 investigations opened into offenses committed by Israeli soldiers in Palestine, not one resulted in a charge according to research by the Israeli legal advocacy group, Yesh Din.24 Not only do Palestinian children suffer the trauma of arbitrary arrests, injuries, and deaths, they are also regularly woken up in the middle of the night during raids, forced to provide their IDs, asked where they sleep, and photographed to map their location.25 The IDF also interrogates children to gain information about the leaders of nonviolent protest movements against the occupation.
Israel’s blockade of Palestine has caused major increases in poverty and food insecurity. According to a report by the Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights, in 2016 65% of Gazans were impoverished, 72% were food-insecure, 80% were dependent on international aid, and 43.2% of Palestinians in Gaza faced the heavy burdens of unemployment.26 Further, 97% of the water is polluted with sewage or salt and unpotable according to hydrologist, Ahmed al-Yaqoubi.27
Most efforts to help Palestinians have been savagely crushed. For example, in 2010 civilian ships called the Freedom Flotillas attempted to peacefully break the Israeli blockade, bringing humanitarian aid, 500 passengers, and construction materials. The IDF responded by storming the ship and killing 9 passengers. A tenth passenger later died from gun shot wounds inflicted by the parasites in the IDF. The Freedom Flotillas tried again the following year and again in 2015 to transport humanitarian aid across the blockade with similar IDF responses. In 2015 Spain issued an arrest warrant for Netanyahu and 7 other Knesset members for their part in the 2010 Freedom Flotilla massacre.28 Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nachshon called the arrest warrant “provocation” and it could not be enforced because of Netanyahu’s sovereign immunity, one of the most archaic legal concepts in the world that illustrates the absurdity of states in general.
As stated the Israeli government has absolutely nothing to do with Judaism. The state just uses the religion as a cover for their crimes, (just as other governments use other religions for the same ends) and criticism of the government has nothing to do with antisemitism. While it is true that most of the worlds Jewish population lives in Israel, Israeli citizens have little control over what their government does. Just as America’s Electoral College picks the US President, the Prime Minister of Israel is chosen by representatives in the Knesset instead of via a popular vote and they employ a secrecy ballot, so in this sense it is not a democracy either. This ensures the same bloodthirsty, conservative hawks stay in power. Contrary to their rheotric, activists for Palestine are not saying Jewish people don’t deserve a safe place to live. We are saying the Israeli government can’t steal land and terrorize its inhabitants and call it a home for Jewish people only.
Zionists love to mention Hamas, the de facto governing authority of Gaza and their rocket attacks on Israel in an attempt to justify their brutal treatment of Palestinians but the reality is the attacks Hamas make pale in comparison to Israels. They rarely hit anyone because the so-called “rockets” fired on Israel by Hamas are “technologically speaking, just a few steps above homemade fireworks in terms of their guidance systems”29 as Subrata Ghoshroy of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists explained. Zionists like to equate support for Palestinian civilians with support of Hamas but civilians are not their governments. Reuven Paz PhD, Senior Research fellow at The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) in Herziliya, Israel said in July 20, 2001 that 90% of Hamas’ funds go to “social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities” like running relief programs, funding schools (including ones for women), orphanages, nurseries, mosques, sports leagues, healthcare clinics for orthodontics, pediatrics, post-surgical care, as well as soup kitchens. This is largely why they were elected in 2006 and why they are still popular among Palestinians. Some Palestinians may feel “safer” when Hamas launches rocket attacks on Israel, just as some Israelis believe the IDF’s strikes are making them “safer,” but this is not true in either case. Hamas has no real military capacity to resist Israel’s occupation of Palestine and because the Israeli government is incredibly reactionary, they simply use these rocket attacks by Hamas as excuses to bombard the civilian population, which, in turn, drives Hamas to make more attacks. Regardless of what Hamas does, it doesn’t justify Israel’s constant attacks, harrasment, and torture of Palestinian civilians. Attacks on civilians anywhere and occupations are never justified no matter what any state does.
In many respects Israeli society itself is antisemitic as Jews in Israel of different origins are often discriminated against. Mizrahi Jews, for example, were housed in tent cities upon their arrival in Israel, their heads were shaved, and they were sprayed with DDT.30 Today, there is still economic disparity between Mizrahi Jews and Ashkenazi Jews. Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews have also been excluded from some schools and segregated in others. Further, 13% of Israel’s land is owned by the Jewish National Fund, which will not lease or sell any land to Arabs, including Jewish Arabs. Israel also regularly allies with real antisemites like Trump, Sebastian Gorka31, Steve Bannon, and Viktor Orban32 who praised Miklós Horthy responsible for the slaughter of 500,000 victims of the Holocaust. They do this because these people share both their vision of white supremacy and their hatred of Arabic people.
One could argue the very idea of Zionism is rooted in antisemitism. Both Zionists and anitsemites share the view that Jews don’t belong in Europe or America and they have collaborated together. For example, in August 1933, after three months of discussion, the Zionist Federation of Germany and Nazi officials signed the Haavara Agreement, violating the anti-Nazi boycott of 1933. The agreement allowed Jews to flee to Palestine after sacrificing their belongings to the Nazis in exchange for German-made goods and a 39% contribution to Jewish economic development projects in Palestine. Hitler himself supported the agreement. “Between 1933 and 1939, 60 percent of all capital invested in Jewish Palestine came from German Jewish money through the Transfer Agreement. Thus, Nazism was a boon to Zionism throughout the 1930s”33 Some Zionists like Georg Kareski even supported the anti-Jewish Nuremberg laws instituted by the Nazis.34 According to Joseph Massad, “In 1935, the German Zionist branch was the only political force that supported the Nazi Nuremberg Laws in the country, and was the only party still allowed to publish its own newspaper the Rundschau until after Kristallnacht in 1938. Nazi officials would visit Palestine as guests of the Zionists in 1934 and in 1937. In the latter year, it was none other than Adolf Eichmann and Herbert Hagen who arrived in the country. The two were taken by the Zionist envoy Feivel Polkes to Mount Carmel to visit a Jewish colonial-settlement.”35 In 1937 the Nazi Gestapo even armed the Hagana, a Jewish paramilitary in Palestine to fight the Palestinians. The Hagana later became the core of the “Israeli Defense Force” responsible for atrocities against Palestinians.
The Zionist Federation of Germany (or in German: Zionistische Vereinigung für Deutschland) sent a memorandum to Hitler in 1933, phrasing the creation of a Jewish state as similar to the Nazis aims in Germany.“Zionism believes that the rebirth of the national life of a people, which is now occurring in Germany through the emphasis on its Christian and national character, must also come about in the Jewish national group. For the Jewish people, too, national origin, religion, common destiny and a sense of its uniqueness must be of decisive importance in the shaping of its existence.36
The creation of Israel was, in fact, a settler colonial project rooted in financial interests and ideas about racial and religious superiority. In his book “Der Judenstaat” (The Jewish State),Theodor Herzl, considered to be the founder of modern Zionism, blames Jews for antisemitism writing ”The unfortunate Jews are now carrying the seeds of anti-Semitism into England; they have already introduced it into America.” “In his diaries he wrote, “the anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies,” quite an accurate prediction.
With all of Israel’s talk about antisemitism, little attention is given to Islamophobia, which has been increasing steadily with the rise of far-right Islamophobes like Netanyahu, Trump, Marie Le Pen, Boris Johnson, and Theresa May. Comparatively, antisemetism is fairly rare. Further, despite Israel’s constant invocation of the Holocaust, Palestine and Palestinians had absolutely nothing to do with that tragedy. In fact, 12,000 Palestinians took up arms along side Jewish soliders to fight the Nazis during WWII.37 As Dr. Hajo Meyer pointed out the lesson from the Holocaust should not be “never again for Jews” but “never again for anyone.”
We cannot allow accusations of antisemitism to derail the debate. Israel’s human rights violations are some of the most egregious, unapologetic atrocities occuring right now. We have to retake the narrative that mainstream US and Zionist media have dominated for so long to put an end to Israel’s occupation. This can be done in much the same way that the Black Lives Matter movement has gained much wider acceptance and traction within our cultures by implementing a diversity of tactics. If we raise awareness any we can, boycott Israel, stop buying any products made by Israel, and do what we can to physically stop Israel’s war machine, we can turn the tide and bring some measure of freedom and justice for Palestine.
5Ali Abunimah: “Israel lobbyists shield white supremacists after synagogue attack.” 04/29/19. electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/israel-lobbyists-shield-white-supremacists-after-synagogue-attack
7Katie Halper: “6 Holocaust Survivors Who Fight Against Israel’s Treatment of Palestinians.” 08/06/14. http://www.alternet.org/world/6-holocaust-survivors-who-fight-against-israels-treatment-palestinians
8 Ian Black: “Doctor admits Israeli pathologists harvested organs without consent” 12/21/09. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/dec/21/israeli-pathologists-harvested-organs
9DCI: “Military Detention” http://www.dci-palestine.org/issues_military_detention
10Ali Abunimah: “Israel put Palestinian children in outdoor cages during winter storm.” 01/01/14. https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/israel-put-palestinian-children-outdoor-cages-during-winter-storm
11 Ben White: “Israeli torture of Palestinian children ‘institutional'” Aljazeera. 02/07/17. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/01/coercion-violence-threats-torture-israeli-style-170129092739964.html
12HRW: “Witness accounts and additional analysis of IDF use of white phosphorus” 3/25/09. https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/03/25/witness-accounts-and-additional-analysis-idf-use-white-phosphorus
13Rami Hamdallah: Israel waging water war on Palestinians. 06/17/16. Aljazeera. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/06/israel-cuts-water-supplies-west-bank-ramadan-160614205022059.html
14Susie Day: “My Son Was Beautiful”: Palestinian Bodies and the Truths That Do Not Reach Us.” 05/05/16.Truthout. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/35907-my-son-was-beautiful-palestinian-bodies-and-the-truths-that-do-not-reach-us
15 “IAF Aircraft Inventory: Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) Lavi” http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/israel-aircraft-industries-iai-lavi
16 “White Phosphorous and Dense Inert Metal Explosives: Is Israel Using Banned and Experimental Munitions in Gaza?” 01/14/09. https://www.democracynow.org/2009/1/14/white_phosphorous_and_dense_inert_metal
17Telesur:“Pregnant Palestinian Woman Shot 15 Times by Israeli Forces.” 04/28/16. https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Pregnant-Palestinian-Woman-Shot-15-Times-by-Israeli-Forces-20160428-0009.html
18 Harriet Sherwood: In Gaza, “Hamas fighters are among civilians. There is nowhere else for them to go” 07/24/14. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/24/gaza-hamas-fighters-military-bases-guerrilla-war-civilians-israel-idf
21Dalia Hatuqa: “Palestinian children ‘abused’ in Israeli jail.” Aljazeera. 08/14/12. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/08/20128910267627456.html
22John Lyons, et. al: “Israeli security forces accused of targeting Palestinian children to gather intelligence.” 2/9/14. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-10/israeli-security-forces-accused-of-using-palestinian-children-/5248378
24Ali Abunimah: “Zero justice: Not one charge in over 100 cases against Israeli soldiers for attacking Palestinians in 2012” 02/04/13. https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/zero-justice-not-one-charge-over-100-cases-against-israeli-soldiers-attacking
25John Lyons, et. al: “Israeli security forces accused of targeting Palestinian children to gather intelligence.” 2/9/14. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-10/israeli-security-forces-accused-of-using-palestinian-children-/5248378
26“Gaza: 100 thousand hours of isolation.” January 2017. http://euromedmonitor.org/uploads/reports/Gaza-100_thousand_hours_of_isolation_en.pdf (Pg 12 and 13)
28Loulla-Mae Eleftherious-Smith: “Spain ‘issues arrest warrant’ for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu over 2010 Gaza flotilla attack.” 11/16/15. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/spain-issues-arrest-warrant-for-israeli-prime-minister-benjamin-netanyahu-over-2010-gaza-flotilla-a6736436.html
30Meyrav Wurmser: “Post-Zionism and the Sephardi Question.” Middle East Quarterly. Spring 2005. https://www.hudson.org/content/researchattachments/attachment/437/wurmser_post_zionism.pdf
31Ali Abunimah: “Why won’t Israel lobby groups condemn Trump’s anti-Semitism?” 08/21/19.https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/why-wont-israel-lobby-groups-condemn-trumps-anti-semitism
32Ali Abunimah: “The Zionist-white supremacist alliance in Trump’s White House” 08/15/17. https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/zionist-white-supremacist-alliance-trumps-white-house
33Joseph Massad: Zionism, anti-Semitism and colonialism. 12/24/12, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/12/201212249122912381.html
34 Francis R. Nicosia: The Third Reich and the Palestine Question. University of Texas Press. 1985. https://www.jstor.org/stable/488266?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
35 Joseph Massad: Zionism, anti-Semitism and colonialism. Aljazeera. 12/24/12. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/12/201212249122912381.html
36Francis R. Nicosia: The Third Reich and the Palestine Question. University of Texas Press. 1985. https://www.jstor.org/stable/488266?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents