By Lasse Wilhelmson
Criticising Israel’s mistakes is acceptable. But questioning whether Israel is a Jewish state with a racist apartheid system that renders non-Jews second rate citizens – that is not acceptable. It makes little difference whether the criticism is based on facts. Few people who cannot claim Jewish descent would dare to criticize publicly. They are afraid of being accused of ”anti-semitism”.
There is much talk of disarming countries with nuclear weapons. Not the US and its allies, but the so-called ‘rogue states’, especially Iran, which doesn’t yet have any weapons. Israel is hardly ever mentioned as a nuclear power although it has been for a long time. In spite of its advanced plans to bomb Iran, Israel is not seen as a threat to the surrounding world. The media regularly criticizes severely various religions, especially Islam, but never Judaism. Catholic pressure through lobbying, or the Pope’s speeches on political issues are discussed and criticized. The fight in South Africa against the Boers involved a whole world. Not because they were a ”race” with undesirable characteristics, but because they were the social group who in their own interests formed and administrated a racist apartheid system. The same sort of criticism was aimed at the followers of Cecil Rhodes in Rhodesia.
All types of social, ethnic and religious groups defend their own special interests. It is considered quite legitimate for their spokesmen to do their best to promote these interests; just as it is quite legitimate to criticize the same. But the moment Jewish spokesmen and their organisations are criticised, the legitimacy vanishes into thin air. The mention of ”Jewish power” makes most people’s blood run cold, but it is quite alright to discuss ”gypsy power” or rather the lack of it. ”Jewishness” has become taboo. This applies particularly to the combination of ”Jewish” and of ”power”. All kinds of power can be examined and discussed, questioned or rejected – but not the Jewish kind which is generally presented as non-existent.
There is growing anxiety in the Palestinian movement in Sweden about using ”Jewish” as a prefix to the settlements, the state of Israel or the apartheid system, albeit the use is quite correct. The settlements for example are ”Jewish settlements” simply because only Jews are allowed to live there. They are not Israeli because non-Jewish citizens are forbidden access to them. Neither are they Zionist as many Zionists are not Jews. It has now got to the stage where a leading spokesmen for the Palestinians in Sweden denies that Jews and Palestinians have disagreements, despite the law giving Jews all over the world the right to return to Israel, thus making them potential enemies of the Palestinians. Having a Jewish mother gives the right to live in the country taken from the Palestinians. One would be hard put to find a more fundamental disagreement. The issue of blood-relationship renders it, moreover, racist.
A reluctance to discuss Judaism’s significance for Zionism in Israel of today makes it impossible to understand why Israel was not content with fifty per cent, later eighty per cent, of Palestine. Or why a social democratic prime minister ordered his soldiers to break the bones of children throwing stones? And how can one understand why Jews in Jerusalem throw their garbage onto the roads and back yards of their Palestinian neighbours, spit at them, or why masked Jewish settlers during the ”cease fire” launched pogroms on unarmed Palestinian farmers, women and children? Or why the Israeli ”peace movement” and ”left” do not question the Jewish apartheid system? Just and lasting peace can never be achieved without its transformation. Few people think that all this is a result of the Jews being an ”evil race”. But if it cannot be explained by any other means, the few risk becoming too many. A racially-based hate of Jews is helped along by the label of ”anti-semitism” pasted on nearly all criticism of Israel, not to mention criticism of Judaism.
Zionism, through its Jewish organisations, is the dominant interpretation of Judaism today. This is a renaissance of national Judaism of the Middle Ages and the judicial system Halakha with its extreme animosity towards non-jews who were seen rather as subhuman. This revival is seen as very beneficial by most Jewish organisations worldwide. They demand of their members positive commitment to the state of Israel. This is the context in which the behaviour mentioned above can be understood. Most Jews in the diaspora are, however, ”happily” unaware of this and are being used by their Zionist leaders and rabbis.
Politics and religion have merged in the state of Israel today. A person speaking out for a secular democracy to replace the Jewish state, is accused of, in fact, wanting to ”drive the Jews into the sea”. Most Jews today identify themselves not with Israel but with Israel as a Jewish state. This creates a fundamental contradiction for many Jews: supporting the Jewish apartheid state while promoting democracy in the countries where they actually live. Denying or whitewashing Israel’s politics, becomes a way of keeping one’s identity intact. Violent, groundless attacks with ”anti-semitism” as a weapon is the method used against any attempt to lay bare this contradiction. A well known example is how Israel’s former ambassador to Sweden vandalised the art installation Snow White last year.
The risk of being labelled ”anti-semitic” if you are not a Jew or of ”self-hatred” if you are, creates self-censorship among those who are critical of Israel’s policies or dislike the successful lobbying carried out by Jewish and Christian Zionists, influencing US foreign policy. The so-called Friends of Israel, most of them spokesmen for Jewish organisations, have taken it upon themselves to be the foremost interpreters of the term ”anti-semitism”. Few question this role as they run the risk of being tainted themselves if they do. The term ”anti-semitism” is taking on new nuances all the time. Of late the slightest implication, as in ”almost anti-semitic” or an ”anti-semitic point of interest” has been enough to invoke self-censorship. The mention of these circumstances is often felt to be ”dangerous” as it could lead to the growth of ”anti-semitism”. All this in a western world where islamophobia is a considerably greater problem.
Jews are rightly proud of their success in almost all corners of society. In art and science and, not least, the media and politics. Israeli newspapers tell of the successful ”likudification” of the Bush administration and delight in the fact that the Israeli minister for the diaspora is Bush’s new favourite author and pet in the White House. Russian oligarchs with Israeli citizenship take breakfast there. There is a culture of boasting about this among Jews. But should a critic of Israel point to these exact same circumstances, he would immediately be accused of spreading ”anti-semite theories of conspiracy” and thus be barred from any further discussion.
The Jews have for many years had total entrepreneurship of ”God’s chosen People” with a ”biblical right” to Palestine. Zionism has been politically successful in reducing the Nazi war crimes to a Holocaust only for Jews. By presenting themselves as the major (the only?) victims in the history of humanity they expect to claim special moral rights. The method is used favourably to justify and cover up the genocide of the Palestinians. ”Anti-semitism” is being used to stop criticism of Israel’s way onwards to achieve the Zionist goal of a Jewish state in the whole of Palestine. Before this goal can be realised, ”peace” must be reached with the creation of a few Palestinian reservations on ten per cent of what was originally Palestine, walled-in and gradually wasting away. We are almost there now.