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Ibrahim Nafie | Al-Ahram Weekly | 20 - 26 November 2003
The Israeli right stands guilty of more than hypocrisy when they accuse others of being anti-Semitic, writes Ibrahim Nafie
Israel and Zionist organisations are becoming increasingly dependent upon the charge of "anti- Semitism" as a political weapon. Individuals and organisations, indeed entire nations and societies, have found themselves so besmirched.
Anti-Semitism has a very precise definition. It refers to remarks or acts targeting the ethnic group termed Semites, which comprises both Jews and Arabs. Israeli and Zionist media and political forces have warped this definition in several ways. Above all they have manipulated the concept of Semitic ethnicity so as to apply to Jews alone, thereby enabling them to level the allegation of anti-Semitism against the Arabs in spite of the fact that they constitute the majority of the Semitic peoples. In addition, they have stretched the definition of anti-Semitism to include any criticism of Israel and Israeli policy. Thus, anyone who speaks out against the aggression and inhumane practices inflicted against the Palestinian people by Israeli occupation forces risks being branded "anti-Semitic".
The label "anti-Semitic" has acquired enormous deterrent power. Israeli and Zionist forces have rallied their enormous network of relations and vested interests to disseminate such a climate of terror as to forestall any discussion of Israeli policy or actions that might somehow be construed as adverse. Even in academic circles, for scholars or researchers to so much as broach certain subjects is enough to set off the charge of anti- Semitism. As a consequence entire fields of scholastic inquiry have entered the constantly expanding list of Israel's taboos.
Several weeks ago the "anti-Semite" weapon was unleashed with particular fury in response to an opinion poll conducted by the European Commission on those countries that posed the greatest threat to world peace. Hardly were the results -- which ranked Israel as the foremost threat -- announced than the Israeli media and Zionist organisations lashed out relentlessly against European societies and cultures, which were summarily dismissed as anti-Semitic.
That the same accusation should be hurled, as it frequently has been, at the Arabs is particularly curious given that it hardly stands to reason that a Semitic people would direct this form of racist hostility at themselves. This phenomenon has been noted by Shmuel Gordon who, in an article appearing in Ma'ariv of 19 November, wrote: "The Hebrew Encyclopedia defines anti- Semitism as all manifestations of hatred and racism directed against Semites. It follows that anti-Semitism also comprises all manifestations of hatred and racism directed against the Arabs." He goes on to observe that contempt for the Arabs in Israel has reached such a peak that in Saturday evening salons, on the football fields and in the markets it is common to hear such slurs as "the Arabs are murderers," "they have no morals," "terrorism is their policy," "you can never trust them," "the papers they sign are worthless," "death to the Arabs" and "the only good Arab is a dead Arab."
The title of this article -- "Israeli anti- Semitism" -- is most appropriate. Confident in having monopolised the field as Semites, so as to hurl "anti-Semite" at all and sundry who criticise Israel, Zionist leaders have helped shape a media that spews the most atrocious racist abuse against others. Naturally, as Gordon pointed out, when such abuse is directed against the Arabs it is, by definition, anti-Semitic, and it only takes a sampling to demonstrate how rabid the Israeli media is.
The Israeli Hebrew-language Web site -- walla.co.il -- posted responses to news of the recently published UN Report on Human Development and its recommendations for the development of the information community in the Arab World. One commentator on this site remarked that the recommendations would be of no avail "since the Arabs, because of their education, religion and systems of government will continue to lag behind for generations to come".
"Here's another subject for the genetic garbage can," scoffs another. "A nuclear bomb would solve the problem for good," writes a third. A fourth raves, "The Arabs are garbage... This shows the type of people we are dealing with: human refuse!" On the same Web site we find responses to the Geneva agreement concluded by teams of Palestinian and Israeli intellectuals. Not atypical was the commentator who described it as "a deal with animals".
The Sharon government's decision to continue aerial assaults against residential areas in the West Bank and Gaza and the refusal of several Israeli pilots to participate in these assaults because of the toll of innocent civilians occasioned considerable commentary in the Israeli media. Of particular note was the following, which appeared on the Ma'ariv Web site: "Hats off to Ariel Sharon for returning to the glorious days of Unit 101. That's the answer the people have been waiting for." Unit 101 was a Zionist paramilitary group notorious for its massacres of Arab civilians. Nor was this commentator alone. Another exhorted the Sharon government to "keep up the cleansing operation and make it systematic." A third remarked, "There's no such thing as 'innocent' with the Arabs." And a fourth: "When will they understand that there will never be peace as long as there are Arabs."
Such bloodthirstiness is widespread. On walla.co.il came the following response to the news that the Israeli army had killed three Palestinians one morning: "Thank you IDF. You've made my day. Keep up the good work." Maariv.co.il reports that, following the suicide bombing in Maximes restaurant in Haifa a Jewish doctor declared that the Palestinians should be "wiped out" using "dumb bombs". On this same Web site came the following response to this report: "The matter is very simple. It's either us or them. They are the ones who chose this way a long time ago, the proof of which is in how they have been inculcating their young for years."
All this racist venom, with its genocidal undertones, merely echoes the poisonous invective Israeli political and religious leaders have spouted for years. Certainly, such anti-Arab slurs, stereotypes, abuses, calls for blood and other forms of Israeli anti-Semitism rank with the war crimes Israeli forces perpetrate daily on the direct orders of their political leaders.
There remains, however, the question as to how the Arabs can best safeguard and promote their rights in the face of this racist onslaught and the spurious claims spread by Zionist organisations and the Israeli ultra right. European public opinion has had its say: Israel presents the foremost threat to world peace. The Arabs should take this as a signal to act. We must work, along with other peace loving, egalitarian peoples, to drive home to world opinion that Israel is a conventional occupying power and a racist state that practices in word and deed some of the cruelest forms of anti-Semitism against the Arabs.