29 May 2018

Im Tirzu – the Fascist organisation that is spearheading the Israeli State’s attack on human rights organisations

In Israel human rights activists are considered traitors, foreign agents and terrorist supporters

One of the signs that Israel is on the road to becoming an authoritarian state is the fact that even the herrenvolkJews who are human rights supporters or anti-war activists, are attacked as traitors, spies, foreign agents and enemies of the State.  Even the liberal New Israel Fund [NIF] is considered a hostile organisation. 
Im Tirtzu video targeting New Israel Fund for allegedly persecuting Israeli soldiers

One particular object of attack is George Soros, the billionaire Jewish philanthropist, who has funded the NIF and Israeli human rights organisations.  The Zionist attack on Soros is no different from the attacks of anti-semites.  Indeed Netanyahu joined hands with the far-Right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the latter's attack on Soros.

Yair Netanyahu's cartoon which drew praise from neo-Nazis
Last year Netanyahu's son, Yair, drew a cartoon of Soros which received plaudits from David Duke of the KKK and Andrew Anglin of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Zehava Gal-On, former head of Meretz as saying that 'this won’t be the last time that neo-Nazis quote Netanyahu,” accusing him of “supporting world antisemitism” after the Foreign Ministry released a statement legitimizing criticism of Hungarian- American billionaire George Soros.  William Echikson in Politico echoed this:
'During his campaign, Orbán blamed his country’s problems on a Jewish financier, George Soros — and won, big time. After his victory, Orbán spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, said the attacks on Soros “could not possibly be anti-Semitic, since they were echoed by Netanyahu.”
Don't let Soros have the last laugh, in a  mocking echo of Hitler's prophecy speech when he talked about having the last laugh over the Jews who had derided him

Anti-semites claiming that their support for Zionism means they can't possibly be antisemitic has become a regular theme.  When people say that anti-semites disguise or hide their anti-semitism by professing support for the Palestinians, the opposite is usually true.  Most anti-semites today assert that they couldn't possibly be anti-semitic since they support Israel and Zionism.  People such as Richard Spencer, the founder of the alt-Right who declares himself a 'White Zionist'.

Viktor Orban has launched a campaign to rehabilitate Hungary's pro-Nazi war time ruler, Admiral Horthy, who presided over the deportation of nearly 1/2 million Jews to Auschwitz.  This however has not stopped Netanyahu from striking up an alliance with Orban.

Im Tirzu, is part of the far-Right scene in Israel.  It is a fascist pressure group which see it as its mission to demonise Israeli human rights organisations, cultural figures of the left and indeed any opposition to the right-wing nationalist demagogy that passes for debate in Israel. Even the Jerusalem District Court said it was legitimate to call Im Tirzu a fascist group.

Im Tirzu is not a marginal organisation.  It is actively supported by the government of Benjamin Netanyahu but not only him.  The ‘opposition’ of Yesh Atid, a supposedly centrist party under Yair Lapid and the Israeli Labour Party under its new right-wing leader Avi Gabbay, also support the demonization of human rights groups.

On its 10th anniversary Netanyahu posted a video congratulating Im Tirzu on its fine work

The latest Im Tirzu video attacks the NIF which funds human rights organisations such as Bt’selem as traitors who attack ‘our’ soldiers as they go about their thankless work murdering Palestinians.  It is the kind of propaganda stuff you would expect of a fascist organisation for whom the fatherland is uber alles.

You see the same adoration for the forces of the state that existed in Nazi Germany.  Im Tirzu specialises in attacking dissident culture and even prominent left-Zionist cultural figures. The Nazi party also attacked avante garde culture.  In the words of Herman Goering, ‘when I hear the words culture, I reach for my revolver.’

See The Cultural Axis, Robert O. Paxton in the October 26, 2017 Issue of The New Yorker, a review of Benjamin Martin’s The Nazi-Fascist New Order for European Culturehttps://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=thneyoreofbo-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0674545745.

This is where Zionism and its racial supremacist, ethno-nationalist state are now heading.  A state where the very term ‘leftist’ is now a term of abuse.

Jonathan Offir’s article is a timely reminder that far from being a democratic state, Israel is rapidly removing democratic rights even from Jews.

Tony Greenstein

Jonathan Ofir on May 2, 2018

The rightwing Israeli Jewish group “Im Tirtzu” has published an incitement video, featuring Adi Shosberger, who has recently called soldiers near the Gaza fence ‘terrrorists,’ and an activist from ‘Machsom Watch’ (‘Checkpoint watch’) who tells an Israeli soldier “you are a disgrace”.
The video frames these actions as a conspiracy of the progressive New Israel Fund. New Israel Fund, a global organization based in the U.S., has supported Machsom Watch, but it has no connection to Shosberger. “I have no connection to the New Israel Fund,” Shosberger writes, in Hebrew. 
The Im Tirtzu video satirically promotes a video game, where one plays a soldier confronting leftist activists:
“Do you want to experience what IDF soldiers feel when they are persecuted by New Israel Fund organizations?”, the narrator says.
In the game, the soldier confronts activists and ‘terrorists’ yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’. The narrator says:
“What are you waiting for? Join the fight against the foreign agents.” 
In the actual video game, the soldier can kill the Palestinians, but has to jump over the Israeli activists.
Shosberger, who was protesting the manifestly illegal policy of shooting unarmed protesters, has also been trashed by a mainstream radio host who has publicly fantasized about her rape and murder, calling her “stupid”, “filth” and “little bitch”.
The Israeli organization “Im Tirzu“ calls itself “the largest grassroots Zionist movement in Israel,” but has been widely labelled “fascist”. A Jerusalem court judge has even ruled that this is a legitimate charge. 
woman reading out statement from Breaking the Silence
Its call to fight the “foreign agents” arose 2-1/2 years ago, when Im Tirtzu published a video which incited against four NGO’s: B’Tselem, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Breaking the Silence, and HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual. Staffers were personally named and framed as “foreign agents”.
“While we fight terror, they fight us,” the narrator said
That video coincided with the push from Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, herself arguably a fascist, of the “Transparency bill” nearly two years ago, which forced organizations that receive more than half their funding from institutions abroad (including from European governments), to disclose it prominently in official reports. The law does not specifically refer to leftwing organizations, but applies to about 25 NGOs. Rightwing NGOs, such as those supporting Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, tend to rely on private donations, which the law does not cover. 
The recent video is a further incitement against those who criticize Israeli policy, and it is making a blanket judgement of any dissent to be a national treason by “foreign agents”.
Im Tirtzu is ostensibly calling for this treatment of “foreign agents” to be implemented in law. But the incitement there is so virulent, that it’s not difficult to see how someone might get the idea that they should take the law into their own hands, and ‘teach these foreign agents a lesson’ – as an act of patriotism, of course.
One might be inclined to see this merely as a ‘game’, as the video suggests it is. But it is not a game. It is dead serious. It’s as serious as when the mentioned mainstream radio host Shai Goldstein says he “feels like killing that woman” (Adi Shosberger). But many Israelis don’t seem to get this. It passes as mere ‘outrage’, justified by the notion that the “most moral army in the world” cannot possibly be carrying out acts of terrorism, or even acting in ways which are a “disgrace”.
Militarism is a religion in Israel, like Zionism, and people are being sacrificed by it in many ways. Mostly, it’s Palestinians – but it’s also those who show solidarity with them. Then you’re a “foreign agent”.
About Jonathan Ofir
Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

Im Tirtzu Admits Mistake in Campaign Against 'Left-wing' Israeli Cultural Figures

The right-wing group's director tells Haaretz, however, that the public has the right to know about cultural figures' left-wing affiliations.
The latest Im Tirtzu campaign, which targets left-wing artists. Pictured (from left): Sha'anan Street, Amos Oz, Joshua Sobol and Gila Almagor. From the Facebook page of Im Tirtzu
The right wing Im Tirtzu group, which last month stirred controversy over its video targeting figures from left-wing organizations as foreign "moles," acknowledged that it had erred in a new poster that purports to expose some of Israel's leading cultural figures as left-wing.
The acknowledgment of the mistake with regard to the poster, in which authors Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, actress Gila Almagor and singer Chava Alberstein among others were labeled "moles in culture" was posted on the organization's Facebook page over the signature of its director general, Matan Peleg. The poster, which was put on the group's Facebook page on Wednesday, disclosed what Im Tirtzu claimed was  the cultural figures' association with left-wing groups.
Despite the admission of error, in a conversation with Haaretz, Peleg defended the poster and said the public has the right to know about the political activities of those featured in it. The poster prompted widespread condemnation from politicians on the right as well as the left, including condemnation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Among those criticizing it were Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the leader of the right-of-center Habayit Hayehudi party, who called the material "embarrassing, unnecessary and humiliating." His party colleague, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked added that artists identified with the left should not be placed out of bounds. For his part, Likud Knesset member Benny Begin called the outing of purported traitors "a longstanding ugly and dangerous fascist trait."
In its Facebook post on Friday, Im Tirtzu did not provide detail regarding what it viewed as mistaken in the poster, and did not remove it from its website or remove the list of artists and intellectuals that accompanied it. In a separate statement, Im Tirtzu reaffirmed that it was proud of its initial "moles" campaign directed at figures associated with Israeli human rights groups and left-wing organizations receiving foreign government funding, saying that the mistake that it was acknowledging only related to the poster featuring the cultural figures.
Friday's Facebook post over Peleg's name contained the following admission regarding the poster: "We made a mistake. We put up a mistaken post on a very important and substantial subject and therefore we need to be much more careful." Saying that the poster didn't constitute a campaign and that the organization wasn't calling anyone a traitor, despite media allegations to that effect, the statement in Peleg's name added: "We take full responsibility and promise to continue to work with great faith on behalf of the people of Israel and the soldiers of the IDF," the Israel Defense Forces.
"We will continue to convey pointed criticism of organizations that present IDF soldiers as war criminals and against those calling for a boycott of the country. Many thanks to all those who have supported us over the past two days and thank-you also to those who set us straight over our mistake," the statement added.
Later Im Tirtzu issued a clarification that the acknowledgement of the error related only to Wednesday's post of the poster and not the earlier campaign "which exposed those who harm IDF soldiers, [a campaign] over which we are proud and will continue [to publicize]."
In his conversation with Haaretz, however, Peleg defended his group's publication of the list of cultural figures, information that he said was already available elsewhere on the Internet. "The major advantage of the media storm that erupted is that now many in Israeli society know that when they say 300 cultural figures have signed a petition of one kind or another, they know they can check it name by name, and it's possible that they will see some of the names on the public boards of outside organizations," he explained.
When asked about his group's future direction, he replied: "The DNA of Im Tirtzu is to work against organizations that harm IDF soldiers, and that won't change." He explained that the Facebook post with the poster on cultural figures was not removed because the group viewed the material posted on Facebook as an ongoing feed, meaning that, with the posting of additional material, the poster appears lower down.
"If you assume responsibility, you assume responsibility," he said. "Now that we have written what is mistaken in it, we will certainly leave it so anyone who wants to form an impression will do so. We are not evading responsibility. We wrote in the post what we view as a mistake and we are moving forward."

Jerusalem Court: Okay to call Im Tirtzu a 'fascist group'

By Noam Sheizaf

|Published September 8, 2013
A verdict by the Jerusalem District Court finds that recognizing ‘certain lines of resemblance’ to fascism in the ideology or activities of the right-wing movement can be seen as ‘truthful.’ The verdict is a major blow to Im Tirtzu’s efforts to portray itself as a mainstream, grassroots movement.
The extreme-right group Im Tirtzu lost a court case against a group of leftist activists who opened a Facebook page called “Im Tirtzu – A Fascist Movement.” Judge Raphael Ya’akobi of the Jerusalem District Court determined that some of Im Tirtzu’s attributes bear certain similarities to fascism – thus allowing the activists to use both a freedom of speech defense, as well as “spoken truth” defense.
Ya’akobi ruled against Im Tirtzu in all claims of the lawsuit, except for a post on the group’s page which drew similarities between Im Tirzu and Nazi ideology.
Im Tirtzu has become known over the past several years for their attacks on left-wing academics and organizations. Following the Goldstone Report on 2008-09’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Im Tirtzu accused the New Israel Fund of aiding, through the various organizations it supports, the UN fact finding mission. A personal campaign against the head of the NIF, Naomi Chazan, bore anti-Semitic features [disclaimer: +972 Magazine is on the New Israel Fund’s donor-advised list].
Later, Im Tirtzu members campaigned against academics who taught courses about the Palestinian narrative of 1948, and led the campaign to shut down the political science department in Ben Gurion University, which was considered too “lefty.” Last year, the department was put under a long review process by the Israeli universities’ budgeting committee. Im Tirtzu was also behind the attempt to scare the Eretz Yisrael Museum from hosting the annual ‘Return Conference,’ an event put on by the non-profit Zochrot, which works to promote awareness of the Nakba in Israeli society.
Im Tirtzu’s leadership enjoys strong ties within the Likud party. Interior Minter Gideon Sa’ar (Likud Yisrael Beiteinu), a favorite of the group, spoke at their annual conference.
Ad by Im Tirzu blaming the head of NIF Naomi Hazan in the creation of the Goldstone report

Three-and-a-half years ago, Im Tirtzu filed lawsuit against the creators of the Facebook page “Im Tirtzu – a Fascist Movement,” demanding NIS 2.6 million ($720,000 US) in compensation and the removal of the page. During the procedures, the defendants had Professor Zeev Sternhell, a world expert on fascism, testify on the resemblance between Im Tirtzu’s activities and those of the European extreme right in the first half of the twentieth century. Sternhell himself was a victim of a pipe-bomb attack by Jewish terrorist Ya’akov “Jack” Teitel.
Furthermore, Ya’akobi ruled that in all cases but one, the name of the Facebook page and the specific posts that were brought before him fall under the right to free opinion. Thus, a slanderous motive cannot be attributed to them.
Here is a link to the full verdict [Hebrew].
Although the court could have stopped there, Ya’akobi also accepted the defense of “a truthful publication,” that the critique of Im Tirtzu as part of the political debate was in the public’s interest. In other words, the court is not stating the Im Tirtzu is a fascist movement (or that it isn’t, for that matter), but that because there exist “certain lines of resemblance” to fascism, calling them as such cannot be considered slanderous.
This is a major blow to Im Tirtzu’s attempts to position themselves as a mainstream grassroots movement. In the past, group members threatened a lawsuit against Wikipedia Israel for calling it “a right-wing movement” on its entry.
Im Tirtzu has been sponsored by John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. According to the movement’s report, in recent years most of the support to Im Tirtzu comes from the Central Fund of Israel, which sponsors various religious, right-wing and settler causes.
The Jerusalem court did not call for compensation regarding the single claim in which it ruled in favor of Im Tirtzu, since the case is likely to end up in the Supreme Court.

28 May 2018

Naomi Wolf and anti-semitism’s mystification

Anti-Semitism in the eye of the beholder – using 'anti-semitism to silence cartoonists

This cartoon in a German paper was deemed 'anti-semitic'
From the Der Sturmer stable
This is a cartoon in the Nazi paper Der Sturmer - I'll leave it to you to work out the similarities, if any, with the above cartoon
Another  obviously antisemitic cartoon from Der Sturmer
 Jonathan Cook is one of the best and most thought provoking writers around.  An award winning former Guardian journalist he lives in Nazareth.

The issue he writes about, the mystification of anti-Semitism, is an important one.  If people are confused about the differences between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism then it is doubly difficult when it comes to works of art, especially cartoons.
Let me offer a guide.  Anti-Semitic cartoons have an intent behind them – which is to depict the Jew as the devil, the lecherer, the controller.  Pictures of  Netanyahu tend to depict someone who is willing to kill ever increasing numbers of Palestinians.  The context and intent is entirely different.
Yair Netanyahu's cartoon above had all the right anti-Semitic ingredients
Ironically last year, there was a campaign both in Hungary and in Israel against George Soros, the archetypal Jewish financier.  The campaign in Hungary, led by its Prime Minister Viktor Orban was undoubtedly anti-Semitic.  That in Israel was much the same.  Soros’s crime being to have financed some Israeli human rights groups.  He was portrayed in an anti-Semitic cartoon by none other than the son of Benjamin, Yair Netanyahu in a cartoon that had every ingredient of anti-Semitic caricature.  Little wonder that it was praised by David Duke former Grand Wizard of the KKK and Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer.  However the usual culprits didn’t jump up and down about anti-Semitism.
Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin just loved Yair Netanyahu's cartoon
It is clear, beyond any doubt, that ‘anti-Semitism’ has become the principal weapon of the Zionist movement and Israel’s defenders.  It should be said at once that it has not won over the vast majority of ordinary people but it has befuddled and confused important  layers of people politically, not least in the Labour Party, where it has had a chilling effect on peoples’ willingness to discuss let alone motivate criticism of Israel.  Given the nature of the witchhunt, where anything anti-Zionist is called anti-Semitic by the witchhunters, this is not surprising.
In his eagerness to please the Zionists  Murdoch engaged in one of those well-known anti-semitic caricatures - the 'Jewish owned press'

A cartoon on Netanyahu not deemed anti-semitic by the Board would be so anodyne that it wouldn't be worth drawing
Five years ago there was one of these artificial Zionist controversies over the a cartoon by Gerald Scarfe in the Sunday Times.  It portrayed a bloody Netanyahu cementing a wall with the bodies and heads of Palestinians.  For some unearthly reason it was considered anti-Semitic by those who make it their business to ensure that any portrayal of the Zionist state is channelled into accusations of Jew hatred.  Of course on any objective basis there was nothing anti-Semitic about Scarfe’s cartoon.  If it had been a portrayal of the US President or George Bush or Trump today then no one would have batted an eyelid.
As Jonathan Cook describes, a similar controversy has blow up over a German cartoon.  Like the Scarfe controversy there seems little doubt that this is a false accusation by the supporters of Israel.  It is noticeable that when it comes to cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad then anything goes but if you depict Netanyahu as the murdering bastard he is then you risk the heavens falling in.
No doubt depicting the Apartheid wall was also anti-semitic
Similarly with the nonsense about the long erased mural that Jeremy Corbyn had supported on grounds of free speech.  Corbyn was forced to backtrack by the ‘anti-Semitism’ storm in late March and accept that he hadn’t noticed its anti-Semitism.  Fake leftists like Richard Seymour and Owen Jones joined in the hue and cry but those of us who are more familiar with anti-Semitic cartoons of the Der Sturmer variety could not detect any anti-Semitic content.  Conspiratorial perhaps.  Anti-banker yes but anyone saying that all bankers are Jews is, well, anti-Semitic!
Unfortunately these days Corbyn, whose support for the Palestinians was never based on any theoretical understanding of why Zionism and Israel are racist, backed down once again and in so doing made a rod for his own back.  If just for once he stood up to his accusers he would find life far easier.
Tony Greenstein 

Naomi Wolf and anti-semitism’s mystification
24 May 2018
My previous post was about the firing of a cartoonist, Dieter Hanitzsch, by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung after its editor became concerned – though, it seems, far from sure – that a cartoon he had published of Benjamin Netanyahu might be anti-semitic. Here is the image again.

As I argued then, the meaning seems pretty clear and uncoloured by any traditional notion of anti-semitism. It shows the danger that Israel, a highly militarised state, will use its win at the Eurovision song contest, and its hosting of next year’s competition in occupied Jerusalem, to whitewash the sort of war crimes it just committed in Gaza, where it has massacred large numbers of unarmed Palestinians.
In fact, the cartoonist is far from alone in highlighting such concerns. The New York Times has reported delight among Israelis at the prospect of what they regard as a “diplomatic victory” as much as musical one. And, according to the Haaretz newspaper, the Eurovision contest organisers have already expressed concern to Israeli broadcasters about likely attempts by Israel to “politicise” the competition.
Among those responding on Twitter to my post was Naomi Wolf, a US Jewish intellectual and feminist scholar whose body of work I admire. She disagreed with my blog post, arguing that the cartoon was, in her words, “kind of anti-semitic”.
In our subsequent exchange she also noted that she was uncomfortable with the fact that the cartoonist was German. (For those interested, the complete exchange can be found here.)
In the end, and admittedly under some pressure from me for clarification, she offered an illustration of why she thought the cartoon was “kind of anti-semitic”. She sent a link to the image below, stating that she thought Hanitzsch’s cartoon of Netanyahu had echoes of this Nazi image of “the Jew” alongside an Aryan German woman.
Frankly, I was astounded by the comparison.
Nazi propaganda
Cartoons in Nazi propaganda sheets like Der Sturmer were anti-semitic because they emphasised specific themes to “otherise” Jews, presenting them as a collective menace to Germany or the world. Those themes included the threat of plague and disease, with Jews often represented as rats; or secret Jewish control over key institutions, illustrated, for example, by the tentacles of an octopus spanning the globe; or the disloyalty of Jews, selling out their country, as they hungered for money.
As Wolf notes, anti-semitic cartoonists would give the portrayed “Jew” grotesque or sinister facial features to alienate readers from him and convey the threat he posed. These features famously included a large or hooked nose, voracious lips, and a bulbous or disfigured head.
So how did the cartoon of Netanyahu qualify on any of these grounds? There is no implication that Netanyahu represents “Jews”, or even Israelis. He is illustrated straightforwardly as the leader of a country, Israel. There is no sense of disease, world control or money associated with Netanyahu’s depiction. Just his well-known hawkishness and Israel’s well-documented status as a highly militarised state.
And there is nothing “grotesque” or “other” about Netanyahu. This is a typical caricature, certainly by European standards, of a world leader. It’s no more offensive than common depictions of Barack Obama, George Bush, Tony Blair, or Donald Trump.
So how exactly is this Netanyahu cartoon “kind of anti-semitic”?
Limiting political debate
What follows is not meant as an attack on Wolf. In fact, I greatly appreciate the fact that she was prepared to engage sincerely and openly with me on Twitter. And I acknowledge her point that judgments about what is anti-semitic are subjective.
But at the same time ideas about anti-semitism have become far vaguer, more all-encompassing, than ever before. In fact, I would go so far as to say the idea of anti-semitism has been metamorphosing before our eyes in ways extremely damaging to the health of our political conversations. It is the current mystification of anti-semitism – or what we might term its transformation into a “kind of antisemitism” – that has allowed it to be weaponised, limiting all sorts of vital debates we need to be having.
It is precisely the promotion of a “kind of anti-semitism”, as opposed to real anti-semitism, that has just forced Ken Livingstone to resign from the Labour party; that empowered Labour’s Blairite bureaucracy to publicly lynch a well-known black anti-racism activist, Marc Wadsworth; that persuaded a dissident comedian and supporter of the Palestinian cause, Frankie Boyle, to use his TV show to prioritise an attack on a supposedly “anti-semitic” Labour party over support for Gaza; that is being used to vilify grassroots movements campaigning against “global elites” and the “1 per cent”; and that may yet finish off Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, currently the only credible political force for progressive change in the UK.
None of this is, of course, to suggest that Wolf would herself want any of these outcomes or that she is trying to misuse anti-semitism. I fully acccept that she has been a strong Jewish critic of Israel and doubtless paid a price for it with friends and colleagues.
But unlike Wolf, those who do consciously and cynically weaponise anti-semitism gain their power from our inability to stand back and think critically about what they are doing, and why it matters. There is an intellectual and cultural blindspot that has been created and is being readily exploited by those who want to prevent discussions not only about Israel’s actions but about the wider political culture we desperately need to change.
Israel and Jews
In fact, the mystification of anti-semitism is not new, though it is rapidly intensifying. It began the moment Israel was created. That was why a Nazi cartoon – drawn before Israel’s establishment in 1948 – could never have been described as “kind of anti-semitic”. It simply was anti-semitic. It attributed menacing or subversive qualities to Jews because they were Jews.
To understand how the current mystification works we need briefly to consider Israel’s character as a state – something very few people are prepared to do in the “mainstream”, because it is likely to result in  allegations of … anti-semitism! As I observed in my previous post, this has provided the perfect get-out-jail-free card for Israel and its supporters.
Israel was created as the national homeland of all Jewish people – not of those who became citizens (which included a significant number of Palestinians), or even of those Jews who ended up living there. Israel declared that it represented all Jewish people around the world, including Wolf.
This idea is central to Zionism, and is embodied in its Declaration of Independence; its constitutional-like Basic Laws; its immigration legislation, the Law of Return; its land laws; and the integration into Israel’s state structures of extra-territorial Zionist organisations like the Jewish National Fund, the World Zionist Organisation and the Jewish Agency.
A dangerous confusion
It is also why the rationale for Israel is premised on anti-semitism: Israel was created as a sanctuary for all Jews because, according to Zionists, Jews can never be truly safe anywhere outside Israel. Without anti-semitism, Israel would be superfluous. It also why Israel has a reason to inflate the threat of anti-semitism – or, if we are cynical about the lengths states will go to promote their interests, to help generate anti-semitism to justify the existence of a Jewish state and encourage Jews to immigrate.
So from the moment of its birth, the ideas of “Israel” and “anti-semitism” became disturbingly enmeshed – and in ways almost impossible to disentangle.
For most of Israel’s history, that fact could be obscured in the west because western governments and media were little more than cheerleaders for Israel. Criticism of Israel was rarely allowed into the mainstream, and when it did appear it was invariably limited to condemnations of the occupation. Even then, there was rarely any implication of systematic wrongdoing on Israel’s part.
That changed only when the exclusive grip of the western corporate media over information dissemination weakened, first with the emergence of the internet and satellite channels like Al Jazeera, and more recently and decisively with social media. Criticism of Israel’s occupation has increasingly broadened into suspicions about its enduring bad faith. Among more knowledgeable sections of the progressive left, there is a mounting sense that Israel’s unwillingness to end the occupation is rooted in its character as a Jewish state, and maybe its intimate ideological relationship with anti-semitism.
These are vital conversations to be having about Israel, and they are all the more pressing now that Israel has shown that it is fully prepared to gun down in public unarmed Palestinians engaging in civil disobedience. Many, many more Palestinians are going to have their lives taken from them unless we aggressively pursue and resolve these conversations in ways that Israel is determined to prevent.
And this is why the “kind of anti-semitic” confusion – a confusion that Israel precisely needs and encourages – is so dangerous. Because it justifies – without evidence – shutting down those conversations before they can achieve anything.
The Livingstone problem
In 2016 Ken Livingstone tried to initiate a conversation about Zionism and its symbiotic relationship with anti-semites, in this case with the early Nazi leadership. We can’t understand what Israel is, why the vast majority of Jews once abhorred Zionism, why Israel is so beloved of modern anti-semites like the alt-right and hardcore Christian evangelicals, why Israel cannot concede a Palestinian state, and why it won’t abandon the occupation without overwhelming penalties from the international community, unless we finish the conversation Livingstone started.
Which is why that conversation was shut down instantly with the accusation that it was “anti-semitic”. But Livingstone’s crime is one no mainstream commentator wants to address or explain. If pressed to do so, they will tell you it is because his comments were perceived to be “offensive” or “hurtful”, or because they were “unnecessary” and “foolish”, or because they brought the Labour party “into disrepute” (Labour’s version of “kind of anti-semitic”). No one will tell you what was substantively anti-semitic about his remark.
Similarly, when pressed to explain how Hanitzsch’s cartoon of Netanyahu was anti-semitic, Wolf digressed to the entirely irrelevant issue of his nationality.
This is the power and the danger of this “kind of anti-semitic” logic, and why it needs to be confronted and exposed for the hollow shell it is.
A mural becomes anti-semitic
The next stage in the evolution of the “kind of anti-semitic” argument is already discernible, as I have warned before. It is so powerful that it has forced Corbyn to concede, against all evidence, that Labour has an anti-semitism problem and to castigate himself, again against all evidence, for indulging in anti-semitic thinking.
Corbyn has been on the defensive since a “controversy” erupted in March over his expression back in 2012 of support for street art and opposition to censorship amid a row over a London mural that was about to be painted over.
Is this antisemitic or anti-masonic?

After he was elected Labour leader in 2015, the first efforts were made to weaponise the mural issue to damage him. The deeply anti-Corbyn Jewish Chronicle newspaper was – like Hanitzsch’s boss at the Süddeutsche Zeitung – initially unsure whether the mural was actually anti-semitic. Then the newspaper simply highlighted concerns that it might have “anti-semitic undertones”. By spring 2018, when the row resurfaced, the status of the mural had been transformed. Every mainstream British commentator was convinced it was “clearly” and “obviously” anti-semitic – and by implication, Corbyn had been unmasked as an anti-semite for supporting it.
Again, no one wanted to debate how it was anti-semitic. The artist has said it was an image of historical bankers, most of whom were not Jewish, closely associated with the capitalist class’s war on the rest of us. There is nothing in the mural to suggest he is lying about his intention or the mural’s meaning. And yet everyone in the “mainstream” is now confident that the mural is anti-semitic, even though none of them wants to specify what exactly is anti-semitic about it.
The 1 per cent off-limits
Much else is rapidly becoming “anti-semitic”. It is an indication of how quickly this slippage is occuring that repeating now a slogan of the Occupy Movement from only seven years ago – that we are ruled by a “global elite”, or the “1 per cent” – is cited as proof of anti-semitism. The liberal New Statesman recently ran an article dedicated to proving that the articulation of basic socialist principles – including ideas of class war and the 1 per cent – was evidence of anti-semitism.
On Frankie Boyle’s popular TV show last week, comedian David Baddiel was allowed to misrepresent – unchallenged – an opinion poll that found 28 per cent of Corbyn supporters agreed with the statement “the world is controlled by a secretive elite”. Baddiel asserted, without any evidence, that when they spoke of a global elite the respondents were referring to Jews. What was this assumption based on? A hunch? A sense that such a statement must be “kind of anti-semitic”?
Lots of young people who support Corbyn have never heard of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and have little idea about Der Sturmer or Nazi propaganda. More likely when they think of a secretive global elite, they imagine not a cabal of Jews but faceless global corporations they feel powerless to influence and a military industrial complex raking in endless profits by engineering endless wars.
The mystification of anti-semitism is so dangerous because it can be exploited for any end those who dominate the public square care to put it to – whether it be sacking a cartoonist, justifying Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians, destroying a progressive party leader, or preventing any criticism of a turbo-charged neoliberal capitalism destroying our planet.
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