Demonization, double standards, delegitimization, the three D’s, it is the responsibility of us all to stand up to them. —Stephen Harper
Apartheid South Africa was a crime against humanity - to conflate the two is to de-legitimize a democratic state and Canadians must stand against it. —Michael Ignatieff
A couple of choice and representative quotations from the leaders of the Librocon Party as they address the spectre—perhaps “phantasm” would be a better word—of the “new anti-Semitism.”
I have no idea what the first and third of Harper’s three D’s even mean. Perhaps some of those professional anti-anti-Semites who pop up in my combox from time to time—or howl from the safety of their own blogsites—would favour us with definitions.
If by “demonize” is meant “to represent as diabolically evil,” “demonizing” is what our leaders tend to do to Iran and North Korea—or, perhaps more accurately, what the leaders of those states do to themselves. It also describes what happens to some of us who wade into the rough water of Middle East politics.
I’ve read some fairly trenchant critiques of Israel’s policies over the past few years, but with the notable exception of various neo-Nazi commentators and a handful of crackpot Islamists, little that I’ve seen would qualify as demonizing. That kind of vulgar metaphysics is as far away from a reasoned critique of the practices of the Israeli state as it’s possible to get: but it’s routinely used, for purely rhetorical effect, against criticism of Israel.
Enter another D, “de-legitimization.” Certainly those who regard criticism of Israel as “anti-Semitic” are doing their part to de-legitimize Israel’s critics as well. But as for “de-legitimizing” a state, what does that mean concretely? South African apartheid did not lead to calls for the dissolution of South Africa, but for the dismantling of a racist system. Generally speaking, those who critique racist practices by the Israeli state want the practices in question to be gone, not Israel.
But in any case the determined conflation of Israel and Jewish communities elsewhere appears to be failing. In an eye-opening essay this past June, Peter Beinart helps to dispel the myth, at least in the case of the US. A new generation of Jews is rejecting lockstep pro-Israelism:
[T]he leading institutions of American Jewry have refused to foster—indeed, have actively opposed—a Zionism that challenges Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and toward its own Arab citizens. For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.
Needless to say, Beinart—who rightly distinguishes different forms of Zionism—is deeply concerned by the threatened loss of liberal-democratic Zionism, both in the US and in Israel. And, needless to say, he attracts criticism from the expected quarters, which, as he points out, simply buttresses his original point. (A more reasoned rejoinder may be found here, one that, however, will give scant comfort to uncritical supporters of Israel.)
Turning to Canada, we are fortunate to live in a country where “anti-Semitism” is so minimal that it has to be invented. But a thriving politics has nevertheless been erected upon that shaky foundation. Perhaps it is timely and worthwhile to pay a little more attention to Harper’s third D: double standards.
Some depressing polls in Israel illustrate the problem. A beacon of democracy and democratic political culture, a voice of the Enlightenment crying out in a Middle Eastern Islamist wilderness? Hardly.
Most Israelis believe that Arab-Israeli citizens should have no say in Israel’s foreign policy. One poll indicates that most Israelis support, to a greater or lesser extent, the recent edict by a number of rabbis that Jews should not sell or rent to non-Jews: another poll reflects a statistical tie.
A majority of Israelis support the notion that the state should encourage non-Jews to emigrate. Meanwhile people are taking this into their own hands: non-Jews, even those who have served in the Israeli Defence Forces, are being driven from their homes. As far back as 2006, another poll revealed that 41% of Israeli Jews favoured outright segregation: a bill presently before the Knesset will give considerable legal sanction to that position.
But we mustn’t call any of this “apartheid,” of course.
Double standards? Imagine if Canada decided to “encourage” Jews to emigrate; if Jews were driven from their accommodations amid widespread alarm that they were seeking liaisons with non-Jewish girls; if nearly half the country, and major religious leaders, joined that repulsive chorus; if the state did little or nothing to defend the rights of the Jewish minority, but instead demanded that Jews swear a loyalty oath.
Unthinkable. But were we such a country, we would richly deserve international condemnation. Wouldn’t we?
Meanwhile, some of the staunch supporters of Israel reveal perhaps a little more about themselves than perhaps is prudent. Free Dominion, a far-right website that has no hesitation in dishonestly throwing the “anti-Semite” label around, has nominated one Barbara Kulaszka as its “person of the year.”
Kulaszka is the lawyer who defended Ernst Zündel— and who edited a book called Did Six Million Really Die? Report of the Evidence in the Canadian ‘False News’ Trial of Ernst Zündel —1988. A foreword is provided by Robert Faurisson—name ring a bell? A Holocaust-denying pamphlet is included in the book as an Appendix.
In her editor’s preface, Kulaszka writes:
Zündel was being portrayed in the media as a man of hatred; but the man I saw in the courtroom was calm and always gracious to everyone he dealt with. When he testified, he did not repudiate his belief in Germans or Germany or Adolf Hitler. He expressed clearly his admiration for their accomplishments and his disbelief that they had committed what is known as the “Holocaust”. Perhaps I had never really known what it meant to be courageous before that trial; but I knew what it meant after I watched Ernst Zündel testify to his true beliefs notwithstanding his knowledge that the voicing of those beliefs would almost certainly seal his conviction.
And everyday as I watched defence attorney Douglas Christie, his legal assistant Keltie Zubko and the various defence witnesses make their way through crowds of hostile Jews, some of whom spat on them, as I watched them being savaged by a hysterical media, as I experienced the lynch-mob atmosphere of that trial day after day, I learned again and again what real courage was and what real dedication to the principles of a free society meant. It affected me profoundly. When the second Zündel trial began in 1988, it was no accident that I had also become part of the defence team.
Ah, yes, those “crowds of hostile Jews.” I would have been honoured to stand with them on that occasion, as I and many others did in Ottawa when the Heritage Front tried to establish a beachhead here.
We thought we knew what anti-Semitism was in those days, before Harper and Ignatieff issued their new instructions.
And meanwhile the youth of Gaza cry out [h/t reader psa b/c], and in my heart of hearts I agree with them. But my head tells me we must continue to look for solutions. That means looking at all parties to that distant conflict with a cold and critical eye, regardless of the demonization and de-legitimization that is directed our way—and applying one democratic, humane standard to all nations. Any takers?