By Tariq Shadid
We have come to live in disconcerting times of unpredictable change. Ever since the USA elected a Twitter-addicted President into power, the world has been in a continuous state of imbalance. While it may seem as if everything only plays into the hands of ‘Israel’ and its Western allies, it would be wise not to draw that conclusion too quickly. There is more at play than only the logic of geopolitics and military dominance.
On a public relations level, some of it must be making Tel Aviv quite nervous. The forces of Zionism have in the past years been stepping up their game, successfully interfering with the legislation in the countries of the West to suit their purposes. However, they certainly don’t seem to be as much in control as they would like to be.
The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) has continued to gain traction among politicians and among the general public all over the world. It continues to be a thorn in the side of Israeli colonization and annexation plans. Zionist lobbies in most Western countries have been trying to counter this trend in two significant ways.
One is at a purely ideological level, which has been to force a change in the official definition of ‘antisemitism’. The other has been taking place at the level of legislation, and is based on attempting to coerce countries to install laws that outlaw calls for the boycott of the state of ‘Israel’.
Before we dive below the surface, let’s first have a look at what has been happening in the lead-up to the confrontation about anti-Israeli criticism between “The Squad” and Donald Trump.
In 2016, in Bucharest, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) adopted a ‘working definition’ of antisemitism. It included several definitions that were to be understood as equating any type of criticism of the state of ‘Israel’ to antisemitism. Its undeclared goal was a first step to initiate a kind of ‘purge’ in the West of its adversaries, by providing a framework for clamping down on all its critics.
Interestingly, in the entire text, the word ‘Zionism’ is never mentioned. However, it contains several tendentious ‘examples’, one of which being that ‘claiming the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor’ should be viewed as an expression of antisemitism. Let’s not dwell too long on the undeniable fact that it definitely is a racist endeavor. Instead, for now, pay close attention to the indefinite article ‘a’ that is being used, as if there are several versions of the Zionist entity.
This, of course, is a deliberate choice of words. It aims to immediately project any objection to ‘a’ non-specified zionist state, including one on stolen land, as is the case in Palestine, as being a denial to Jews having any state at all. This negates the fact that the one and only objection that Palestinians have against the state of ‘Israel’, is that it came at the expense of massive land theft, and the ethnic cleansing of the vast majority of Palestinians from Palestine. Their supporters, of course, see it the same way.
The entire text is cleverly constructed, clearly attempting to ensure that the only acceptable behavior of law-abiding citizens is to loudly cheer for the existence of ‘Israel’. It should not matter where and how it was founded, even if by the horrendous war crimes of 1948, the year of the Nakba, which entailed the brutal expulsion of 800,000 indigenous Palestinians from their homeland. It should be applauded and praised regardless of its military aggression and expansion, or its ruthless discriminatory treatment of the indigenous people, as well as that of its ethnic minorities.
Informed citizens know that ‘Israel’ has developed a system of Apartheid, that even many South Africans, including Desmond Tutu, recognize as being the same as, or even a much worse version than that which plagued South Africa for decades before it was finally defeated. They have every reason in the world to be critical of ‘Israel’, if they adhere to the general principle of opposing Apartheid.
In spite of all this, the zionists did their lobbying and pushed on. Predictably, in June 2017, the European Union adopted a resolution to adopt and apply the IHRA working definition of antisemitism. Austria, Romania, and the United Kingdom were among the first countries to formally install the working definition, and apply it in their legislative evaluation of alleged cases of antisemitism. This has had far-reaching effects, effectively becoming a weapon in the hands of Zionist lobbies to eliminate and muffle any criticism of the state of ‘Israel’. The ‘new purge’ had officially started.
In the United Kingdom, the IHRA tool was applied to the highest echelons of national politics, as a weapon of mass destruction against Jeremy Corbyn, the increasingly popular left-wing politician, and against Labour itself. It turned into a massive crackdown that split the entire Labour Party apart and resulted in a smear campaign against all Labour politicians who had ever dared to embrace any call for justice for the Palestinian people.
It spiraled out of control, including embarrassing excesses like the zionist lobby forcing The Guardian to retract a letter it had published, signed by Noam Chomsky, Ed Asner and over 100 other prominent Jews. This letter was written in defense of MP Chris Williamson, who was also targeted by the witch-hunt. The fact that Corbyn remained a popular Labour politician, despite all of this, must have been felt like a painful defeat in Tel Aviv. All in all, however, Labour was left severely damaged by all that took place. Britain had surely been made to feel the immense power of the Zionist lobby.
The Squad: the Bravest of all Democrats
In the USA, which is a member of the IHRA, the working definition of antisemitism became effective immediately as it was made public. Since in the past few years, an increasing number of Democrats has been expressing sympathy for the Palestinian plight, this change has had a somewhat similar effect on the left wing in the United States, to that of the UK. The Democrats were split over their views concerning ‘Israel’ and the occupied territories, resulting in fiery debates, and eventually building up to the current upheaval. Divide and conquer clearly and tangibly played out to the advantage of the GOP.
Eventually, it grew to become the biggest political row over Palestine in the history of the US. Enter “The Squad”, four energetic ladies of color in Congress, who took on Trump for a wide variety of reasons, being highly critical of his policies. They ended up getting racist slurs hurled at them from the President’s Twitter account. Why? Because they were critical of ‘Israel’. The Presidential tweets themselves prove this beyond the shadow of a doubt, citing his anger at their position on this issue as his main frustration.
Adjusting Legislation to Fit the Interests of Zionism
In order to fully grasp the extent of what is actually going on, it is important to be aware of the controversy that has been inflaming the backdrop of these fiery debates, which is the issue of anti-BDS legislation. On February 6, 2019, the United States passed an anti BDS bill in the Senate, with 77 votes in favor, and 23 against. Among those voting against the bill, were five US Senators who were slated to run for president in the 2020 elections: Cory Booker, Kirstel Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders. Step two of the anti-pro-Palestine ’purge’ had now officially been launched.
So, where do we stand now? What is to be expected? Perhaps the most interesting question is: has ‘Israel’, through its new and highly coordinated attempted purge of its critics, enforced through AIPAC in the USA, and its Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) in the United Kingdom, served its own interests well?
On the surface, it would certainly seem so. The IHRA definition was adopted throughout much of the Western World, and a handful of countries have adopted some form of anti-BDS legislation, despite its ludicrousness. However, one should definitely wonder whether the inflamed public debate about these issues truly works to the advantage of ‘Israel’, or perhaps also partly against it. Let’s examine the less self-explanatory effects, by taking a closer look at what this debate is actually about.
BDS and the Right Not to Buy
Firstly, anti-BDS legislation is perceived by many as a direct infringement on freedom of expression, and even of commerce. Take, for instance, Cory Booker, presidential candidate for the Democrats, who is an ardent supporter of the state of ‘Israel’. Despite this, he still found himself obliged to vote against the BDS-bill. The same can be said of Kamala Harris, albeit to a somewhat lesser extent, as she has in the past been mildly critical of some of the actions of the Netanyahu regime. Or we could look at the example of Bernie Sanders, who is the most pro-Palestinian candidate of all, but actually is against BDS. Despite this, he still couldn’t bring himself to support the bill outlawing it.
It’s not hard to imagine why so many people are so reluctant to enforce this unprecedented and undemocratic type of legislation. Besides being counter-intuitive to anyone who embraces the concept of individual freedom, it is actually at odds with the very principles of capitalism. What is the meaning of a ‘free market economy’, if it doesn’t include the right to decide what not to buy, and where not to buy from? Is that really a ‘free market’? Can you tell people they are not allowed to refuse to shop at Walmart, for instance, if they don’t like its customer service policies? Could you make a law that forbids them to openly choose not to buy anything from there?
Preposterous. No one would accept that. Those who voted for the BDS bill, obviously did it out of partisanship, zionist allegiance, and opportunism, while tarnishing their own principles with a suspicious and irrational exception.
Jewish Antisemites, Really?
Secondly, the increased level of public debate about these issues has made it even more visible how many Jews in the Western World are increasingly refusing to fully align themselves with ‘Israel’. Its blatant persecution, oppression, and genocide of the Palestinian people is nowadays well-known to the general public. Some of the most vocal Jewish opponents of these practices, who were previously relatively unknown, like If Not Now, inadvertently came into the limelight as a response to the Israeli lobby’s McCarthyism against alleged ‘antisemites’. While the idea behind the ‘new purge’ was to expose dissidents to massive public demonization, it actually opened the eyes of many to their balanced and humane views of the world.
Apparently, the policy-makers of Zionism appear to believe that the general public is able to grasp the ridiculous concept that tens of thousands of Jews around the world are, in fact, antisemites. While within zionist circles, the concept of the ‘self-hating Jew’ may be a common slur against any dissident voice from within Jewish ranks, for the general public, this is a notion that is virtually impossible to comprehend.
The credibility of the accusation of antisemitism is eroding at a faster pace than it ever has. Historically, in the West, antisemites were known mostly as ‘Neo-Nazis’, or those who deny or question the Holocaust, but barely outside of these marginalized circles. ‘Israel’ always tried to widen this definition to include all those who support the Palestinian people, but on the level of public opinion, this had always sunk in only partly.
Before this new era of McCarthyist witch-hunts against critics of ‘Israel’, antisemitism was generally understood to mean ‘racism against Jews’. Suddenly, the public now sees a multitude of Jews in the West rallying against anti-BDS legislation, and against Israeli Apartheid, and even against the IHRA definition. Imagine their confusion, when these Jews are smeared as being ‘antisemites’.
If ‘Israel’ is aiming to force this point down the throats of ordinary, unaligned citizens, it must be delusional. This notion is bound to undermine all confidence in the truthfulness of accusations of antisemitism around the world. This is actually a dangerous trend, as it means that it would create more space for true anti-Jewish hatred, with the ‘Cry Wolf’ phenomenon expanding the grey area in which these villains will be able to operate.
Inclusive and Exclusive Anti-Racism
Thirdly, let’s have a look at the worldwide discussion on racism, which has been fueled mostly by events in the American public sphere. We all remember the outrage at the gunning down of unarmed African Americans in the streets, which gave rise to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.
That debate is far from over, and many people around the world are intensely appalled and horrified by these continuing racist practices in the United States. The same can be said about the discussions on the horrendous treatment of immigrants at the Mexican border, and the general anti-Hispanic mood, fomented by Donald Trump himself. The “land of the free”? When this is your motto, such policies really don’t help maintain that image.
When Trump lashed out at the courageous and charismatic “Squad” with his racist tweets, he put their criticism of ‘Israel’ at the center of his anger. To the public, this demonstrated that the true antagonists of institutionalized racism were mostly the same people who are critical of the Zionist state. This, of course, was a crucial mistake on Trump’s part. It unmasked the unholy alliance between white supremacy and Zionism in a very tangible way.
Zionism has always been operating within anti-racist circles in Western society, trying to assert that the battle against racism and the battle against antisemitism are intimately connected. With a ‘normal’ definition of antisemitism, this actually makes sense. However, with the polarization caused by these recent developments, it becomes hard to uphold it outside of partisan lines and is becoming a vision that is getting a typical ‘left-wing’ reputation.
Anti-Arab, anti-Black, and anti-Hispanic racism are good, anti-Jewish racism is bad, seems to be the right-wing view in the US now. Despite right-wingers’ desperate attempts to reject the racist label they bring upon themselves, what everyone else sees is a crooked form of ‘racism within racism’. It’s completely outrageous, but it is the harsh reality nowadays in the Western world.
Islamophobic racism is the hallmark and main focus of the so-called ‘alt-right’ and is increasingly becoming a general right-wing view in the era of Trump. The majority of right-wing movements and parties all across the Western world are staunch supporters of the Zionist state. This, in turn, thanks to the new McCarthyist purge by zionists, in close alliance with neocons as well as neoliberals, has had an immediate effect upon public perception.
Those who reject racism in a general sense, nowadays find themselves in the company of a huge body of critics of ‘Israel’. Simultaneously, those who want to support ‘Israel’ and are uncritical of it only because they are unaware of its racist foundations and practices, find their corner heavily populated by rabid supremacists who embrace Donald Trump as if he were the savior of humanity itself. For some among them, it must be an extremely uncomfortable position.
Are Some People More Equal than Others?
Many people around the world will unwittingly be forced to look at antisemitism in a different way, especially those who are sympathetic to Jews. The paradigm shift that has taken place forces them to ponder somewhat deeper on antisemitism. It has them wondering why the only form of ethnic racism that has been given its own official name, is antisemitism. Questions that surface to the mind are: why the exclusivity?
Why isn’t racism against Jews simply one of the many forms of racism? Is it more wrong to be antisemitic, than to be racist against Blacks or Hispanics? Why are Trumpist racists so massively pro-Israel? Why are white supremacist voices like Breitbart in the USA, and the Islamophobic racist right-wing parties in Europe, so rabidly pro-Israel as well?
What does ‘antisemitic’ mean exactly? Who are the Semites? Why isn’t being anti-Arab also called antisemitism? Why is it allegedly antisemitic to be shocked and appalled by the mass murder of Palestinian children by Israel? Is it a coincidence, that the most visible and vocal racists in the Western world are mostly the same ones who are applauding this genocide with the greatest enthusiasm?
In the massive campaign against the Labour Party, one of the MP’s who was suspended on the basis of alleged antisemitism, was Jackie Walker, herself of mixed Jewish and Black descent. In the documentary WitchHunt, it becomes crystal clear that the outrageous character assassination that was waged against her had no other objective than to make an example of her. It was clearly meant to show the public what would happen to those who would dare to be critical against ‘Israel’. Yes, even Jews. Even if the Jew is a Black lady, waging a comprehensive and balanced struggle against all forms of racism, based on the simple and evident principle of human equality.
Does it really take an incredible amount of imagination to see a similarity with Trump’s racist attack on four Congresswomen of color, two of them black, for also being critical of ‘Israel’? Do they think that no one noticed that they were attacked on the basis of their ethnicity, merely for saying the same things as, for instance, Bernie Sanders?
If this is what the zionists think, I believe they are severely underestimating the intelligence of the general population. People are bound to figure it out and to understand, that the honest movement against antisemitism is not Zionism, but the anti-racism movement. That movement also happens to be quite significantly populated by anti-zionists. They are only anti-zionist, because of the racist principles that Zionism is founded on.
Anti-Zionism and Anti-Racism Belong Together
What is happening in two of the most powerful countries in the world, the USA and the UK, has been reverberating all around the world. Sure, the zionist lobby may have the power to enforce ridiculous legislation and to create absurd definitions of antisemitism. Such ludicrous definitions are bound to eventually include any reasonable citizen in the world, including those who have a Jewish background. That’s exactly what is already happening.
Still, the Great Purge of Israel-critics is headed for massive failure, by any calculation, if winning hearts and minds, as opposed to winning political clout, is considered to be any factor at all. Selling tens of thousands of Israel-critical Jews in the Western world to the general public as ‘antisemites’, is an impossible task, that even the most powerful lobbies in the world will not be able to achieve.
The line that is being drawn ever more clearly, is that racists are mostly people who align themselves with the state with the highest level of institutionalized racism in the world, namely Apartheid ‘Israel’. The inevitable effect is also that those who are against racism will automatically shift towards opposing ‘Israel’ on these very same grounds.
Slam Dunk, Wrong Basket
Nowadays, we can view the megalomaniac Trump as the main motor for pushing the connection between Zionism and white supremacy to the surface, and making it blatantly visible. The ones who laid the groundwork for this were the zionists themselves, in their fanatical witch-hunt to shut up all voices of criticism and dissent in the Western world.
However, the clumsy racist tweets of Trump against The Squad lumped things together visibly that were supposed to remain hidden ‘between the lines’. They were certainly not meant to be emphasized too much. Anxious to please the Zionists, who are highly annoyed by The Squad’s ‘insubordination’, Trump took the alley-oop, and then went and dunked it into the wrong basket.
When Trump was elected President of the United States, all those whose world view is based on inclusiveness and equality could never have imagined him to be doing things that unite all those who embrace the struggle against racism, across party lines, across borders, and across all ethnicities. To everyone’s surprise, all those who truly believe in the equality of all ethnicities, have ended up having something to thank ‘Agent Orange’ for, after all.
– Tariq Shadid is a Palestinian surgeon, musician and writer who was born, raised and educated in the Netherlands, but is currently living and working in the Arab Gulf. He has been contributing articles to the Palestine Chronicle since its early years. His website, the Musical Intifada, features his English-language songs dedicated to the Palestinian cause. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle