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writing for godot

Opposing Israeli Ultra-nationalism is not Anti-Semitism

Written by David Starr   
Tuesday, 27 November 2012 08:02

In the latest attacks between Israel and Palestine, hope was dashed for an initial agreement between them during an informal ceasefire as an Israeli missile strike killed Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari, who was already holding a draft of it.1

But this latest “round” of what feels like an eternal conflict came to an official, if temporary, end with a formal ceasefire agreement, of which Egypt played a prominent role. The document’s conclusion declares, “[e]ach party shall commit itself not to perform any acts that would breach this understanding.”2

As the agreement was finalized and announced, Israel continued attacks on the Gaza Strip.3 And in public statements to the press, with UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon present, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured everyone that Israel takes care not to produce civilian casualties, including the latest attack, and blamed Hamas “and other Gaza-based terrorists deliberately fir[ing] at innocent civilians in southern Israel.” Netanyahu expanded on this, expressing his concern about casualties, while “terrorist groups” purposely use their own citizens as shields, including children, in their disregard for life.4

The story hasn’t really changed over the years: Israel = 100% good, Palestine 100% bad. Albeit with deviations, this has been a general view of the conflict. The Israeli occupation and settlements don’t become the focus for a sincere attempt at negotiating for a withdrawal. Thus, the conflict goes on.

Another thing not regularly focused on is Israel’s Left/Progressive opposition to its countries’ policy toward Palestinians.
Historically, many Jews have contributed to labor rights, social justice, attempting real change, among other issues, through, e.g., Marxism, Socialism and Liberalism. Historical figures include Karl Marx, Herbert Marcuse, Saul Alinsky, Leon Trotsky, Noam Chomsky, Abbie Hoffman, and Howard Zinn.5

And contributions continue. Regarding Jabari’s assassination, “Left-wing, Hadash party, Israeli MK Dov Khenin condemned the killings. ‘In place of leaders killed, others will grow, and we will have another cycle of fire and blood.’”6 Shiomo Gazit, a member of Yesh Din (which monitors potential conflicts, and handles complaints) wrote a commentary in 2011 revealing 69 years ago, the British Mandatory government labeled him a “terrorist.” In 2011, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman labeled Yesh Din itself “terrorist.” Gazit wrote defiantly that this word coming from Lieberman was like a “badge of honor.” Gazit added that the role of Yesh Din is “a crucial attempt to save the State of Israel from becoming an apartheid regime.”7

About a year later, Shani Chabansky, who refers to herself as a “Leftist Zionist,” went to an event organized by Partners for Progressive Israel Symposium. PPI is an “American Jewish organization loosely connected to the Israeli center-left political party Meretz.” Visiting the Symposium, Chabansky wanted to get a better idea of Israel’s Left/Progressive movement. Afterwards, she felt both alarm and inspiration, realizing “how fractured and marginalized the Left has become in Israel.” But, indicating it wasn’t done for, Chabansky got involved in the Symposium. She “joined the battle. They turned me into a soldier, and I will now fight. I will not stop until the occupation is over. I will not stop.”8

But Jews, and non-Jews, opposing Israel’s policies, are being called the new “anti-Semites.” Alvin Rosenfeld, an Indiana University professor, wrote an essay in 2006 using this term. Rosenfeld implied that Jews who oppose Israel’s policies-and question Israel’s existence as he claimed-are “not driven by anything remotely like reasoned historical analysis, but rather by a complex of psychological as well as political motives that subvert reason and replace it with something akin to hysteria.” Other accusing fingers point at the “new anti-Semites.”

Left/Progressive Jews challenged Rosenfeld’s essay, among them, Richard Cohen, Susan Jacoby, Daniel Boyarin and Noam Chomsky. Among the responses: Israel, being internationally isolated, has caused its supporters to be more aggressive; the attempt to merge anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism; asserting inaccuracies and perceived hostilities.
International criticism coming from United Nations organizations, non-government organizations, Jewish and Arab activists, human rights groups include: illegal occupation and settlements, second class segregation toward Palestinians, assassinations (the Israeli Left called it “gangster behavior”), imprisonment, torture, not allowing its nuclear facilities to have safeguards; in turn, discarding the idea of a “nuclear-free Middle East Zone.” Occupation was expanded in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, where Israel took territories in Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the Golan Heights.9

Israel feels like the world is against it, implying, “We’re all right, the whole world’s all wrong.” It is evident. Ultra-rightist Danny Danon from the Knesset “advocates for Israel to annex all the Jewish-occupied and uninhabited land in the West Bank to its Arab neighbors…,” adding, “Israel must make decisions that are good to Israel” and implied he doesn’t give a damn what the world thinks. But does Israel have legal authority to decide the fate of “Jewish-occupied and uninhabited land,” based on occupation itself? Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. But Danon ignores the carte blanche the Israeli right thinks it has with an “ongoing aerial, land, and sea blockade and control over the movement of goods, people, water and electricity in [Gaza].” Shlomo Gazit, a 32 year veteran in the Israeli Defense Forces, condemned his country’s policy when he wrote that “there is no equal treatment for Jews and Arabs when it comes to law enforcement” which “is actually maintaining an apartheid regime.”10

Harsh words like “apartheid,” Nazi,” and “fascist,” have been used against Israel’s policies. But it’s hard to refrain from them when, e.g., Interior Minister Eli Yishu remarks that “The goal of the operation [the latest attack] is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.” David Harris-Gershon described Yishu as being “a known racist and head of the ultra-orthodox Shas party.” Harris-Gershon added that “[Yishu would] feel much more comfortable in the Middle Ages himself.”11

Further examples: Ignoring the occupation, opinions in a poll showed that more than 90% of Jewish Israelis support the attack on Gaza.”; In a rally at Haifa University, “Israeli students danced and chanted, ‘”Death to the Arabs’ and among them, a Ben-Ari, was quoted as saying, “Haifa University is a Jewish and Zionist university,” echoing segregation.12 Consolidating their forces, Avigdor Lieberman and Netanyahu merged their right-wing parties, calling it Likud Beiteinu. Larry Derfner wrote that Lieberman is “an internationally despised neo-fascist,”13 and that’s Netanyahu’s ally. And a survey also revealed “that 59% of Israeli Jews would favor a formal apartheid system of government if the West Bank were to be completely annexed.”14

In an example of racism in the “Holy Land,” a public service employee named Ziona Mangistu was assaulted by a “True Israelite” when she was told to not allow his son to board a school bus because he was suspended. Later, the father called Mangistu, saying, “Stinking Ethiopian, we will have you sent back to where you came from.” He went beyond slurs, later confronting Mangistu and punched “Ziona in the face, breaking her nose.”15

Deaths in the latest attacks in Gaza include “ten members of the al-Dallu family, including four children, when a missile strike destroyed their home.” “[M]ost of those affected by the attacks have been civilians.”16 Netanyahu’s promise of avoiding civilian casualties was only that.

Attempting “solidarity,” Rabbi Eric Yoffie wrote an opinion piece, reaching out to “progressive American Jews” to support Israel’s “get tough” policy in Gaza.17 But in a commentary, David Harris-Gershon called it “deluded and insidious,” using “shockingly misguided and narrow arguments. It’s a call I, and other progressives should reject.” 18

But the rockets fired by Hamas in southern Israel prompted calls for revenge. Yossi Dayan, a resident, declared, “I want the army to go into Gaza, flatten it. If they don’t give us peace, they deserve it.” Another resident, Yoram Selouk, thought “Netanyahu should go all out, but not on the ground,” alluding to carpet bombing.19 And Rabbi Yoffie described how rocket attacks in southern Israel affected children. They “wake up crying, wet their beds, and cling to their parents and teachers in incomprehension and terror.”20 While compassion shouldn’t discriminate, there are Palestinian children who won’t have to worry about that, or anything, anymore.

In the aftermath of the attacks, the death toll amounted to about 145 Palestinians killed, including a range of about 40 to 91 civilians, and about five Israeli deaths during a week.21 Though harsh, these one-sided totals are a symbolic characterization of the conflict itself.

The obvious goal for the opposition was summed up by Zehava Galon, MK for the Meretz Party: Ending the occupation and settlements, establishing Palestine as a nation based on the 1967 borders, and admittance into the UN.22

An obvious reminder: There has been an ebb and flow of persecution against Jews for ages, as early as the 4th century AD, to the Crusades when Jews were considered “children of the Devil, agents employed by Satan to combat Christianity and harming Christians,” to the Nazi Holocaust.23 The latter obviously will never be forgotten among Jews.

But Israel is not exempt from criticism, given its own persecution of Palestinians. Knee-jerk reactions accusing critics of Israel as “anti-Semite,” or “new anti-Semitics,” isn’t credible. If Israel, especially its right-wing, continues its current policy, influenced by religious supremacy myths, a self-fulfilling prophecy may occur to where anti-Semitism becomes more blatant and overt; a potentially, tragic irony.

Israel’s refusal to acknowledge the illegality of its occupation and settlements further prolongs an agreement for an appropriate withdrawal, continuing merely an insecure security, an illusion.

One obstacle that has to be removed to heavily contribute in resolving this “eternal” conflict is the occupation and settlements.

1) Goodman, Amy: “Israeli Negotiator: Hamas Commander Assassinated Hours After Truce,” Democracy Now, 11/17/2012, RSN.

2)Kane, Alex: “Day Eight of Israeli Attack on Gaza: Ceasefire Agreement Reached,”, 11/21/2012.


4)Benari, Elad: “Netanyahu to Ban: We Avoid Hitting Innocents, They Don’t,”, 11/21/2012.
5)“Jewish Left”:

6)Morning Star (from “Israel Assassinates Hamas Military Commander,” 11/15/2012.

7)Gazit, Shlomo: “Yes, Mr. Lieberman, I’m a Proud Jewish Terrorist,”, 7/19/2011.

8)Chabansky, Shani: “Experiencing the Israeli Left,” Tikkun Daily, 11/09/2012.

9)“Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism,”

10)“Danny Danon, Israeli Knesset Deputy Speaker: ‘Today We Are Not In Gaza Anymore,’” HuffPost World, 9/13/2012.

11)Harris-Gershon, David: “Israeli Minister: ‘The goal…is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages,” Tikkun Daily, 11/17/2012.

12)Abunimah, Ali: “Israel: A View From The 10%,”, 11/20/2012.

13)Derfner, Larry: “The Bibi-Lieberman Deal: A Wake-up Call to the World About Israel,” +972 Magazine, 10/25/2012.

14)friendlylefty: “Majority of Israeli Jews Would Favor Apartheid,” The Friendly Lefty, 10/23/2012.

15)Raved, Ahiya: “Violence, Racism on Board School Bus,” 10/31/2012.

16)Rowland, Jacky: “Gaza Family Killed By Israeli Strike.”, 11/20/2012.

17)Yoffie, Rabbi Eric: “A Call to U.S. Progressive Jews: Support Israel’s ‘Get Tough’ Policy in Gaza,”, 11/15/2012.

18)Harris-Gershon, David: “Why I’m Rejecting Rabbi Yoffie’s Call for Progressive Jews to Support Israel’s Bombing of Gaza,” Tikkun Daily, 11/15/2012.

19)Carlstrom, Gregg: “Israeli Rocket Victims Rage for Revenge,”, 11/20/2012.

20)Yoffie, Rabbi Eric: “A U.S. Call to Progressive Jews: Support Israel’s ‘Get Tough” Policy in Gaza,” , 11/15/2012.

21)Kane, Alex: “Day Eight of Israeli Attack on Gaza: Ceasefire Agreement Reached,”, 11/21/2012.

22)“Head of Meretz Israeli Party Calls on President Obama to Support Bid to UN,” Palestine News Network, 11/08/2012.

23)Cohn, Norman: “Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World-Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” Harper & Row Publishers, 1966.

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