This Friday, “Ha’aretz” published an interview with one Norman Finkelstein, an American Jew. Finkelstein is the author of “The Holocaust Industry”. He spreads the notion that holocaust awareness is exploited for personal gain, and for legitimizing Israeli war-crimes. Finkelstein is also an outright supporter of the “resistance”, namely, terrorism. Finkelstein also attended a media-covered conference with Hizbullah officials. He was told by one of these mass-murderers that Israeli soldiers are becoming “war-weary”. Finkelstein had no qualms nodding to and echoing this statement. He also candidly told the reporter that Israel is the “only war-mongering nation in the world”. Has anyone ever heard anything of the sort? Of course not. How can Israel be both “war-weary” and “war-mongering”? For professional anti-Israelis, who make a living of their animosity towards Israel, there are no compunctions whatsoever in blurting out two mutually exclusive arguments at the same time.
Many accuse Finkelstein of holocaust-denial. This is not entirely accurate. Finkelstein is a superstar for antisemitic websites, but to his credit, he has never formally denied the occurrence of the Jewish holocaust. He did express certain doubts regarding the scope of the Jewish genocide (namely, the “six million” figure), but he did not venture further to deny that the holocaust occurred at all.
The main question is, then, whether or not Finkelstein is antisemitic?
The obvious rejoinder would be: “an antisemitic Jew? It can’t be so!”
And then there is the usual knee-jerk reaction against the supposedly inflated use of the word “antisemitism”. Clearly, not every anti-Israeli critique constitutes antisemitism. There was even a movie made regarding this topic, “Slander”, the makers of which argue that there is, in fact, an inflated, manipulative use of the word “antisemitism”. There is, in truth, no antisemitism, and if there is, it’s a marginal and negligible phenomenon. The movie promotes the argument that it is the Jews, in fact, who hold on to antisemitism because they need to be hated. Being hated by the gentile global community is an inseparable, integral component of the Jewish identity.
That said, the following point should be stressed, for the umpteenth time: not every criticism directed towards Israel is considered antisemitism – under no circumstances is this argument true. Israel should be subject to criticism, just like any other nation in the world. The volume of criticism it merits should be no more or less than that aimed at any other nation. Furthermore: Yes, the old antisemitism is indeed found in the furthest margins of society. The “new antisemitism” is a different, innovative threat to the Jewish people: People conflate the Jewish people with the inhabitants of the Israeli state, or with Zionists. This “confusion” is hardly sophisticated, but it can be easily called on.
What is, then, the difference between legitimate criticism, and when does it cross the line of illegitimacy, and become commensurate with antisemitism?
Indeed, it takes a particularly warped individual to endorse organizations such as Hizbullah and Hamas, and promote their “right of resistance”, while at the same time, accusing Israel of being “a Nazi state”. Israel does not currently maintain death camps. Israel can be credited with increasing the life expectancy of Palestinians who dwell in the occupied territories. Israel also founded a public health and educational system, which would have been undreamed of without the occupation. The list goes on and on, but Finkelstein is unmoved by the length of this list. For him, Israel is “a Nazi state”.
Calling Israel “a Nazi state” is not valid criticism. Such slogans, widely adopted by leftist activists who regularly visit the occupied territories to demonstrate their support of Hamas, do not constitute a valid criticism against Israel. This is because the Hamas organization is fundamentally an antisemitic organization: it espouses the hatred of Jews, as well as antagonism towards Israel. In Hamas’ case: these are two of a kind. Many of Hamas’ officials publicly call for the destruction not only of the Israeli state, but also that of the Jewish people. This applies to Hizbullah as well, a subsidiary of the Iranian Ayatollah, operating in Lebanon. As opposed to Finkelstein’s claim, Hizbullah and Hamas are not “anti-occupation” organizations: Israel ceded its Lebanese and Gazan territories years ago. These two organizations share a common agenda: the complete and utter effacement of the Israeli nation. Granted, Gaza is indeed a besieged city. However, Hamas is not interested in lifting the siege, rather, it has declared an all-out war against Israel, bent on its complete and total destruction. That said, even if the siege is lifted by tomorrow, Hamas won’t change its political agenda: the ball is in Hamas’ court.
“This isn’t antisemitism”, immediately cry the Finkelsteins. This, they purport, is anti-Zionism.
What exactly is anti-Zionism? Well, before we can define anti-Zionism, we must first define Zionism itself. Zionism, more than anything else, is defined as the right of self-sovereignty for Jews, in a country that is their own. Nothing more, nothing less. There are many schisms within Zionism, and endless friction between these schisms, and this friction began with the birth of Zionism, and has persisted until today. One may argue about the practicality of the Zionist vision. Then, and now. Obviously, many Zionists do not view the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories as part of the Zionist vision. These Zionists consider the current Jewish state, with its native, unoccupied territories, sufficient for their Zionist aspirations. Jews are eligible for self-sovereignty, and do not require, in their opinion, the disenfranchising of Palestinians of their right for self-rule. Furthermore, they view this disenfranchisement as a palpable threat to the Zionist enterprise. This is a legitimate position. This position does not rule out the Jewish claim for self-sovereignty in a nation of their own. In fact, this is the position espoused by the vast majority of Israeli sympathizers today, from the American Alan Dershowitz to the French Henry Levi.
So this type of criticism is by no means considered anti-Zionist, let alone antisemitic.
In that case, what would be considered such a criticism?
“Israel poses a threat to global peace”
Indeed, a prevalent antisemitic argument has always been that “the Jewish people pose a threat to mankind”. Why is that so? The explanation for that was never a rational one. Some argued that Jews spread diseases. Others claimed that there are hidden Jewish conspiracies designed to ensure global domination by the Jewish civilization. The Jewish people were accused as being greedy and war-mongering (The Hamas Covenant, in fact, contains these very claims).
And it so transpired that modern Israel has become the Jew of the past. The anti-Israeli criticism is identical to that aimed centuries ago against the Jewish people. For example, the French anti-Zionist party claims that Zionism’s ultimate goal is global domination. Arduan has even claimed recently that “Israel poses a threat to world peace”. This is the implied or explicit argument promoted by hundreds and thousands of academics, intellectuals and authors. For them, Israel is the root of all evil. It commits crimes against humanity, it kindles the fires of conflict.
And so, it behooves us to remind them of the facts: there are thousands of regional conflicts in the world – The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is merely one of them. Human lives and violations of human rights are a part of this conflict, but are meager when compared to other regional conflicts throughout the world.. But for the “critics”, the world revolves around this conflict. Furthermore, 98% of world conflicts take place in Muslim regions. In most cases, these conflicts are between feuding Muslim groups. The conflict bearing the least number of casualties in the previous decade was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Somalia, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Chechnia – the body count and level of destruction are incomparably higher than those claimed during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This fact does not sway the minds of the Finkelsteins. The Finkelsteins have only one nation to blame: Israel.
In reality, Israel, we must admit, makes mistakes. Israel unfortunately inflicts harm upon innocent civilians. It violates human rights, it makes Palestinian lives harder, gratuitously at times. But bear in mind that all such mistakes amount to not one percent, not one tenth of a percent, of the crimes committed around the world – including crimes against innocent people, acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, mass oppression of women and blatant violations of human rights.
Israel has a right to defend itself, say the “critics” who attempt to prove that their criticism is legitimate and sane, but Israel goes too far in the attempt. Only few Israelis were actually harmed by Qasam rockets, prompting Israel to a manic homicidal spree, killing thousands of Palestinians. This claim demands scrupulous scrutiny. In the Kosovo conflict, only a decade ago, more than one thousand human beings were directly harmed by NATO aircraft operations. Compared with that, not one NATO soldier was even slightly injured during the entire conflict. Does this mean that NATO nations are guilty of war-crimes? NATO casualties are immeasurably lower than that of innocent Afghan civilians, or Taliban insurgents. Will that lead us to the conclusion that NATO nations are committing war-crimes? That they are to be removed from the face of the earth, simply due to their crusade against radical Islam, thousands of kilometers east of Europe? Why is it that they are given the right to defend themselves, while Israel is denied of it?
And how is it, we shall return and inquire, that Israel is becoming, according to many critics, “a threat to world peace”, but those who openly declare of their desires for global domination, for the destruction of the free world, for the decimation of the Jewish people – why is it that they are not perceived as such threats to world peace? In light of all this, how come Finklestein is out there, siding with Iran and Hizbullah, and dubs Israel, of all nations, as “a Nazi state”?
No, Finklestein is not anti-Israeli or anti-Zionist. Finklestein and his ilk are obsessed, in a way which can only be described as antisemitism. Yes, antisemitism, perpetrated by Jews. It thus follows that anti-Zionism is merely a politically correct instance of antisemitism.
Criticism aimed at Israel, we shall further reiterate, is a purely legitimate exercise. And when a man such as Finklestein scrupulously gleans human rights violations in the occupied territories, he honestly presents phenomena worthy of condemnation. But let us compare these violations of human rights to those committed by nations and organizations east and west of Israel – they are vastly overshadowed by them, to the extent that they are negligible in comparison.
Furthermore, even a cursory glance at Israel’s historical record shows its contribution to global welfare – Israel has provided the world with scientific publications, new agricultural technologies, irrigation, water purification, medical research, high-tech innovations, and more. Israel, in short, has been a tremendous force of good in the world. Per capita, Israel’s contribution to global welfare is the highest in the world. And yet, you have critics who view Israel as “a threat to world peace”.
The enormous gap between the real and imaginary Israel simply defies reason. Israel is not being criticized here. This gap signifies an obsession, the same old obsession with Jews, and as they were once “a civilization posing a danger to the entire world”, now their sovereign nation, the state of Israel, is perceived in the same light. Portraying Jews as a danger to world peace is definitely antisemitic, and by the same token, portraying Israel as such is just as antisemitic. There is simply no other way of putting it.
The following quotation is ascribed to Winston Churchill: “antisemitism is hating Jews more than is necessary”. Let us paraphrase that a bit: “Antisemitism means to hate Israel – much, much more than is necessary”
According to that definition, there are, in fact, Israeli and Jewish antisemites. Indubitably, Finklestein is one of them.