Monday 3 September 2012

Modern-day Anti-Semitism and the Campaign for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)

Dear Protester,

 Allow me to introduce myself. I am a passer-by who gave you the evil eye last week outside an Israeli-owned business in Rundle Mall. I was on my way to a second-hand bookshop; you were banging your drum in support of the Campaign for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). A word bubbled up inside of me, as I frowned in your direction, and that word was “anti-Semite”.

The National Socialists initiated the dark art of targeting Jewish-owned stores back in April 1, 1933. Of course, you would argue that targeting Israeli interests has nothing to do with an irrational enmity towards Jews, and everything to do with the injustices perpetrated against the Palestinian people by the State of Israel. You are not some brown-shirted brute of yesteryear but a principled man of the Left who seeks nothing more than fairness. Far from being an anti-Semite, you have transcended all forms of ancient (and modern) bigotry. You oppose discrimination, are offended by it, which is why you signed up for BDS in the first place. I beg to differ. To put it bluntly, you are either a full-blown anti-Semite in your own right, or a lack of knowledge has resulted in you being manipulated by ideological bullyboys who are anti-Semitic. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume the latter.

One BDS slander is that Israel has always opposed the establishment of Arab self-governance in the territory formerly known as Mandatory Palestine. Has it come to your attention that Ben-Gurion, on behalf of his fellow Jewish settlers, accepted without demur the decision of the United Nations on November 29, 1947, to partition British Palestine very much in favour of the local Arab community? Furthermore, are you aware that in January 2001 the Prime Minister of Israel agreed to the founding of a Palestinian state, along with almost everything else the Palestine Liberation Organization had demanded (at least when communicating through the Western media) in the wake the 1993 Oslo Accord?

Alan Dershowitz, in The Case for Israel (2003), notes that the Chairman of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, personally selected Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia to assist him with the 2000 Camp David negotiations. After every contested detail had at last been locked into place by the mediators and delegates from both sides, Bandar implored Arafat to sign off on the agreement:

He, like nearly everyone else, was surprised at Barak’s “remarkable” offer that gave the Palestinian state about 97% of the occupied territories, the Old City of Jerusalem other than the Jewish and Armenian Quarters, and $30 billion in compensation for the refugees.

Though privately agreeing with Bandar that Barak’s representatives were “doves”, Arafat abruptly rejected the Israeli proposal. Bandar, according to Dershowitz’s account of proceedings, described Arafat’s bewildering refusal to cut a deal with the State of Israel as a “crime” and a “tragic mistake” for the Palestinian cause.     

Arafat’s negative response flummoxed Western journalists and political commentators. It should not have. What Arafat was being offered could be categorized as the most generous version of the minimalist agenda – that is, the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territories that had prior to the Six Day 1967 War been occupied by Jordan (the West Bank and East Jerusalem) and Egypt (the Gaza Strip). However, Arafat did not form Al-Fatah in 1958 to pressure Israel into withdrawing behind its 1967 borders. That would make no sense. The founding purpose of Al-Fatah was to destroy the State of Israel or, in the lyrics of a Palestinian nationalist song, to expel the Jews from “the river to the sea”, the river being the Jordan, the sea being the Mediterranean. This, dear BDS activist, we shall call the maximalist agenda.                             

Yasser Arafat’s particular talent during the seven years of the Oslo peace process (1993-2000) was to adopt the manner of a minimalist while the entire time remaining true to his unreconstructed maximalist self. With an avuncular grin and a calm demeanour, Arafat allowed credulous Westerners to believe what they wanted to believe – namely, that reconciliation in the Middle East was at hand.  A significant proportion of the local population, both Arab and Jew alike, were also hoping that a permanent and non-violent solution might be found. For Arafat, nevertheless, the destruction of the State of Israel remained his heart’s desire and any outward show of good will was a ruse that should not have fooled a child. How did this lifelong purveyor of violent extremism maintain a straight face on being awarded (along with Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin) the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize?                    

Arafat’s subterfuge was eventually found out thanks to an unlikely conjunction of circumstances. With his tenure in the White House fast running out, President Clinton – between July and December 2000 – pressed Israel’s leftist Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, to offer Arafat every possible inducement to get on board the peace train. Barak complied with Clinton’s command, partly as his own time in office was also coming to an end, but also because he was imbued with the quaint Ben-Gurion-type notion that the bloodlust of Arab extremists can be assuaged. When Arafat vetoed the best offer the Palestinian Arabs could ever hope to receive within the framework of a two-state solution, President Clinton turned apoplectic. “You are leading your people and the region to a catastrophe,” he shouted, banging his fists on the table. Clinton was more right than he could have known.

In the opinion of Arafat, it was a “catastrophe” (nakba) that the State of Israel came into existence in 1948, and it would take a “catastrophe” – at least in the dictionary sense of “upheaval” and “cataclysm” – to see to its destruction. Arafat never believed a genuine peace treaty was in the best interests of Al-Fatah. Thus, he rebuffed Israel’s hand of friendship and initiated the Second Intifada (2000-05), a blood-fest that resulted in the murder of some 1,100 Israeli citizens. There have been attempts to blame the origins of the Second Intifada on Israeli provocation, but the Communications Minister for the Palestinian Authority, Imad Faluji, gave the game away on October 11, 2001, when he admitted that Arafat and Al-Fatah had initiated the whole terrible episode. The Palestinian leadership achieved nothing for its people with the Second Intifada, merely death and mayhem, greater unemployment, plus a security wall that winds its way through the outskirts of Jerusalem and certain neighbouring districts in the West Bank. That wall, by the way, prevents terrorists taking pot shots at Israeli civilians, a regular occurrence during the time of the Second Intifada.

What unites militant Arab nationalists (Al-Fatah and the Syrian Baathists), Sunni Islamists (the Moslem Brotherhood, Hamas, Al-Qaeda) and Shia Islamists (Hezbollah and the theocratic-fascist regime in Tehran) is a virulent form of anti-Semitism that finds its inspiration in twentieth century European Judeophobia, including The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Adolf Hitler’s Final Solution. These latest trends in Arabic and Islamist anti-Semitism are accessible at the site provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Translated into English from the original Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Turkish are everyday newspaper editorials, television interviews and public addresses. The 2007 New Year’s message delivered by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Iranian television provides us with a snapshot of the current state of Islamist anti-Semitism: “The Zionists are the true manifestation of Satan.”

Unable to stomach the enduring presence of “the Zionist Entity” in the Middle East, the mortal enemies of Israel have only two options open to them, and neither includes a two-state solution. Firstly, the anti-Zionists can attempt to wipe Israel off the map, as Ahmadinejad with his emerging nuclear weapons program keeps promising. Secondly, and not disconnected from the above, they can delegitimise the State of Israel in the world’s eyes, and thus bring the day of its destruction that much nearer.

BDS campaigners are not alone in demonising Israel. In The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz notes Nelson Mandela’s depiction of Israel as “white” in contrast to Iraq being “black”. Considering that “white” Aryans slaughtered six million Jews, and that the State of Israel served as a post-Nazi shelter for tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors, Mandela’s remark is regrettable – and also inaccurate. Over the past two decades 130,000 Ethiopian Jews having emigrated to Israel, almost all of them with the assistance of the Israeli government. What is more, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran around 30,000 Iranian Jews have sought refuge in “the Zionist Entity”. And what about the 900,000 Jews from North Africa, Yemen, Egypt and, yes, Iraq, who have either chosen or been forced by anti-Semitism to relocate to Israel? Finally, let us not forget the more than 1,000,000 Russian Jews who moved to Israel in order to escape Soviet-era discrimination. The collective Muslim world, in contradistinction, has yet to resettle the 1948 West Bank refugees.                      

Modern-day Israel is, in reality, a heterogeneous, multi-racial, go-ahead place. Much to the dismay of the Palestinian leadership in Gaza and the West Bank, many of the 1.5 million Arabs who reside inside Israel proper refer to themselves as Israeli Arabs rather than Palestinians. MEMRI, for instance, provides examples of Arabs who have no desire to relinquish the political, economic, educational and social welfare benefits accorded to every citizen of Israel irrespective of colour, creed or ethnicity. Israel certainly has the problems of a typical liberal-democracy, but perhaps Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is projecting when asserts that “the Zionists are a group of blood-thirsty savages putting all other criminals to shame”.          

The psychosis that has gripped militant anti-Zionists is the belief that a Great Peace can only be achieved if the Jews are purged from the landscape. Sir, we have been here before, seventy years ago to be precise, so do please reconsider where you bang your drum.

This article first appeared in the Smarch 2012 edition of Spur Magazine