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Antizionism as a new form of Antisemitism
By Maya Khalila
The grandchildren of Nazis who decried the Jews as conniving Levantine wanderers now decry the Jews as savage, thieving Europeans. The nature of Judenhass therefore reveals itself as the manifestation of the Jew as the psyche’s ideal of evil. It is not only revealed within this observation, but within every generation the Jew is fashioned and framed as the embodiment of the quality that is the zeitgeist’s paragon of evil; the quality which must be rid to liberate society. The anti-Israel movement, from Beirut to Berkeley, can be distinguished from criticism of Israel’s policies by its inheritance of the antisemitic psychosis, which in this iteration positions Israel as the Global Jew- the Zionist Entity. Jews are Zionists; mere cells that aid in the Zionist Entity’s function. The anti-Israel coalition does not view the Arab-Israeli conflict as a complicated battle for land and resources within the territory that two national-consciences were born but rather the battle between the most abominable traits of humanity and the eternally pure victim. This absurdly Manichean ideology relies primarily on the distortion of language and history. Like all antisemitic conspiracy theories, anti-Zionism postures itself as a movement concerned with justice. And again, like all antisemitic conspiracy theories, the language of justice is deftly woven into anti-Zionist philosophy. But there is often a moment when the anti-Zionist interlocutor drops all pretenses, and the carnival mirror becomes faithful to reality, and you realize that you have heard all this before.
Putting aside Haredi anti-Zionism (a matter of not if Israel should exist, but when) and anarchist anti-Zionism (which is not explicitly anti-Zionist, but anti-Zionist de facto), what is left is basically a loose coalition of Palestinian and Arab nationalists, Islamists, socialists, Neo-Nazis, and ‘critical social justice’ maniacs. How are people with such seemingly disparate goals united on one front, which is the agreeance that one particular national project is uniquely sinister? Why is the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in the land that the Jewish people have cultural, religious, genetic, spiritual, linguistic, and literary ties to demonic in the eyes of the anti-Zionist coalition? Any why is the model of a nation regaining consciousness after being strangled by two of the most formidable imperial powers in history not regarded as the great achievement it is? And why is the peculiar model of Israel as particularistic (Jewish) and universal (democratic) not considered for the triumphs it has produced? Because the anti-Zionist mutation of the antisemitic psychosis cannot see Israel as a nation amongst nations, but only as a Jew amongst nations.
Anti-Judaism was the pre-race ‘science’ iteration of pathological Judenhass. Jews are devils, they killed Christ, they kill babies. They must be expelled, burnt, killed, kept inside. And through all this, we purify ourselves. This is the logic of Christian European (and to a certain extent, Muslim and Oriental Christian) antisemitism. Take whatever is most dear to the culture, and the Jews have defiled it. Take whatever is most reviled, and the Jew embodies it. This form of antisemitism was common in Eastern Europe far longer than Western and Central Europe, where after scientific revolutions and the Enlightenment racial science became popular. With this, a new mutation was born. Antisemitism others the Jew in terms of race, not religion. Jews are strangers from the Levant. They were seen as, in the words of Lawrence of Arabia ‘…the least European people in Europe…’. It would be a surprise to the Nazis who slaughtered six million on the grounds that they were racially ‘impure’, that the Jews are now, as Pamela Paresky puts it, ‘hyper-white’. And so, from the racial science of the 20th century to the racial politics of the 21st, Judenhass mutates accordingly.
This mutation is anti-Zionism. The goblin-looking Christ killer, who was then the meek, weak, dark-skinned Shtetl boy, who is now the white imperialist par excellence is history’s greatest shapeshifter. He is transformed not by his own will, but by popular imagination. Anti-Zionism has borrowed, bizarrely, from both Nazism and Marxism. It has ‘trickled-down’ from Arab nationalist organizations and fringe academia to mainstream campus activism and middle-of-the-road political organizations. Like all other variants, it gains legitimacy by being sanctioned by elites, in this case, academics, journalists, cultural figures and politicians. Like all other variants, it is about ‘justice’, a ‘justice’ that, as aforementioned, posits the Jew as the defiler of what is held to be most pure (‘killing children’) and the embodiment of what is most reviled (‘coloniser’) within the zeitgeist. These examples range from the basic to the bizarre, such as when Israel is derided for supposedly causing police brutality in the United States or being uniquely responsible for climate change. This is the ‘connecting principle’ of antisemitism, which reaches absurd levels in Muslim countries.
Having said all this about anti-Zionism, it may seem strange to start talking about Israel’s faults, which are numerous, but not so different to the faults of many countries, including other countries in the Middle East. Racism between Jews and Arabs is not uncommon, and affects Arabs on a structural level, especially in regard to education. Some aspects of the military presence in the West Bank are at best worrying and at worst unconscionable. Right-wing organizations incite violence and play with incendiary property laws. Indeed, Israel is not perfect. But she is not uniquely imperfect. She is not the connecting principle. She is simply a nation amongst nations.
There is no known cure for the antisemitic psychosis because it is an illness of projection. Western societies accuse Israel of being the ideal example colonialism and racism, and Muslim societies accuse Israel of being the ideal example of imperialism and discrimination. Maybe the cure is deep cultural introspection. Maybe that is too hopeful. Carl Jung said ‘the best political, social, and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our shadow onto others’.
But what is clear is this: Something left to simmer in Sharansky’s Soviet Union and Nasser’s Egypt has started to bubble, and all we can say are the words of the Russian-Jewish poet Peretz Smolenskin: ‘Do not believe those who say that this is an age of wisdom and an age of love for mankind; do not turn to the words of those who praise this time as a time for human justice and honesty; it is a lie.’
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