By Alan Hart
This is the most controversial article the gentile me has ever written or is ever likely to write, but I believe that what I am going to say needs to be said and should be widely debated if the rising, global tide of “anti-Israelism” (I prefer the term anti-Zionism) is not to be transformed into anti-Semitism on a scale that could lead, in a foreseeable future, to Holocaust II, my shorthand for another great turning against the Jews.
I am, of course, aware that anti-Semitism is more than prejudice against and loathing even hatred of Jews just because they are Jews. Arabs are Semites, too. So anti-Semitism is prejudice against Arabs as well as Jews. In other words, Islamophobia, a monster on the prowl across America and Europe and licking its lips, is also a manifestation of anti-Semitism. That said my use of the term anti-Semitism in this article relates only to prejudice against and loathing even hatred of Jews just because they are Jews.
A clear, early warning that anti-Israelism could be transformed into anti-Semitism was given by Yehoshafat Harkabi, a former Director of Israeli Military Intelligence, in his book ISRAEL’S FATEFUL HOUR, first published in Hebrew in 1986 and in English two years later. (He started out as a rabid right-winger and a supporter of Menachem Begin, arguably the most successful terrorist leader of modern times. But he, Harkabi, subsequently broke with Begin and launched a blistering attack on the ideological mindset of the proponents of Greater Israel and the expansionist policies of the Begin and Shamir governments. Instead of the policy of not yielding an inch and waiting for the Palestinians to surrender, he advocated negotiations with the PLO to establish an independent Palestinian state. “Israel must withdraw from the occupied territories with their growing Arab population” is the first sentence on the back cover of his book).
The following is the text of Harkabi’s warning.
Israel is the criterion according to which all Jews will tend to be judged. Israel as a Jewish state is an example of the Jewish character, which finds free and concentrated expression within it. Anti-Semitism has deep and historical roots. Nevertheless, any flaw in Israeli conduct, which initially is cited as anti-Israelism, is likely to be transformed into empirical proof of the validity of anti-Semitism. It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish state, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world.
In my opinion the flaw in Harkabi’s argument is that Israel is a Zionist not a Jewish state (how could it be a Jewish state when about a quarter of its citizens are Palestinian Arabs and mainly Muslims?); and that raises the question of how much, actually, Israel is an example of the Jewish character. But that doesn’t detract from his main warning point that Israel’s behaviour could be a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism.
More than a quarter of a century on from Harkabi’s warning, the impression conveyed by mainstream Western media reporting and comment while the IDF was (and still is) delivering death and destruction to the Gaza Strip was not that a transformation of anti-Israelism/anti-Zionism into historical anti-Semitism might be underway, but that the anti-Israel protests and demonstrations across the world, in Europe especially, were manifestations of naked anti-Semitism. In other words, what used to be called the “sleeping giant of anti-Semitism” is awake again.
The most dramatic headline that came to my notice was over an article in The Guardian by Jon Henley on 7 August. It read: Antisemitism on rise across Europe “in worst times since the Nazis”. And underneath that there was a secondary headline, Experts say attacks go beyond Israel-Palestine conflict as hate crimes strike fear into Jewish communities.
One of the “experts” Henley quoted was Dieter Graumann, president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews. He said: “These are the worst times since the Nazi era. On the streets you here things like ‘Jews should be gassed, Jews should be burned’. We haven’t had that in Germany for decades. Anyone saying those slogans isn’t criticising Israeli policies, it’s just pure hatred against Jews; nothing else. And it’s not just a German phenomenon. It’s an outbreak of hatred against Jews so intense that it’s very clear.”
Some demonstrators and protestors were using Israel’s latest war on the Gaza Strip as a cover for expressing their inherent anti-Semitism, but most were not. Most were criticising and condemning Israel’s actions, not expressing hatred of Jews just because they are Jews.
I agree with Christopher Dickey who made this comment. “Can you criticise Israel’s military actions and a lot of its policies without being anti-Semitic? Yes. Can you do it without having some people accuse you of anti-Semitism? No, you can’t.”
In passing I want to add that in my opinion the global reaction against Israel was driven not only by visual evidence of the death and destruction the IDF delivered to the Gaza Strip but also the absurd statements of justification made by all who speak for Israel right or wrong from Netanyahu down. (“Hamas is engaging in child sacrifice” etcetera, etcetera). Their statements were in my view an insult to the intelligence of all sane people who could see for themselves what was happening as Israel unleashed its fire power. Avi Shlaim put it this way. “The terms in which Netanyahu and his right-wing colleagues frame the conflict with Hamas is a mixture of half-truths, outright lies, deliberate deception and mind-boggling double-standards.”
The key to understanding is, I submit, in the following paragraph.
Yes, it’s true that the giant of real anti-Semitism has been present throughout history, sometimes sleeping, sometimes awake and on the rampage. But after the Nazi holocaust, and because of it, the giant not only went back to sleep, IT ALMOST CERTAINLY WOULD HAVE DIED IN ITS SLEEP IF THERE HAD BEEN NO ZIONISM.
That last statement is, of course, speculation on my part but I believe it is fully supported by the completeness of the assimilation of the Jewish citizens of the Western nations as the second half of the 20th century unfolded. Also to be noted is that in the last decade or so about one million Israeli Jews said goodbye to the Zionist state to start new lives in the Western nations; and in the months before the European protests and demonstrations against Israel’s latest war on the Gaza Strip, more of those who took their leave of Israel resettled themselves in Germany rather than America.
To the extent that the transformation of anti-Israelism/anti-Zionism into anti-Semitism is underway today, the factor, not “a” factor as in Harkabi’s warning, is Israel’s “misconduct”, which I define criminal behaviour justified by sickening self-righteousness.
According to Harkabi self-righteousness is Israel’s biggest enemy.
There should be discussion of the dangers that religious extremism pose to the state, to the status of the Jewish people in the world and to Judaism. The dangers of Messianism must be presented candidly, with full exposure of the catastrophes produced by false messiahs in the past.
All these lessons can be summed up as the pressing need for self-criticism. Certainly Israel is not guilty of everything that has gone wrong in the occupied lands. But self-criticism is imperative in order to counter balance the tendencies to self-righteousness and self-pity that stem from basic Jewish attitudes, from the historical experience of persecution and from the ethos fostered by Menachem Begin. No factor endangers Israel’s future more than self-righteousness, which blinds us to reality, prevents a complex understanding of the situation and legitimizes extreme behaviour. UNQUOTE
If Harkabi was alive today (he died in 1994) I would suggest to him that in 2014 there is no chance of Israel opening itself to self-criticism because the vast majority of its Jews have been brainwashed by Zionist propaganda to the point where they are beyond reason on the matter of justice for the Palestinians.
If the notion that there is a real danger of another great turning against the Jews provoked by Zionism in action was only my gentile view, I probably would not have written this article. But I have a number of very dear Jewish friends who fear that it could happen. One of them is Nazi holocaust survivor Dr. Hajo Meyer, the author of An Ethical Tradition Betrayed: The End of Judaism.
And then there is Tony Learman. I don’t know him but I respect him enormously. (He is a British Jewish writer who specialises in the study of anti-Semitism, the Israel-Palestine conflict, multiculturalism and the place of religion in society. From 2006 to early 2009 he was Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, a think tank on issues affecting Jewish communities in Europe). He recently wrote this:
If Israel continues its attitude of defiance of international legal norms and of the wishes of the international community as regards settlements, then this is almost inviting a real resurgence of a form of historical anti-Semitism.
In conversation with Tony I would say something like the following. Israel’s leaders are not “almost inviting” a real resurgence of anti-Semitism. They are actually inviting it. They need it to justify their crimes in general and, in particular, their determination to keep for ever most if not all of the occupied West Bank, even if that requires a final ethnic cleansing of it.
Another British Jewish writer who captured my attention was Blake Ezra. The following was the opening paragraph of an article on his web site which was carried by The Times of Israel. on 9 August.
“Dear world, I’m writing to you from a place of despair and confusion. When I say ‘world’, I don’t simply mean the planet upon which we all live but I address personally whoever is reading this. As a Jewish person, I have a question for you. It’s a genuine question to which I can’t find a suitable answer through my own thoughts… What do you want from us?”
He went on to say that as a Jew he, like many of his co-religionists, didn’t feel safe in his own city (London). And he insisted that “the hatred being indiscriminately hurled in our direction today” was not a response to Israel’s military action.
Other gems from his article included the following.
“The Jewish people have never insisted that whichever country they inhabit becomes kosher, Jewish people have never insisted that their fellow non-Jewish citizens keep the laws of the Jewish Sabbath, Jewish people have never insisted that their Synagogues dominate the skyline of towns across the diaspora. We mean no harm, we come in peace, please stop threatening to kill us… Sometimes, world, I wonder if your plan is to make Jewish people feel so uncomfortable in the countries they inhabit that they all move to Israel, all the Jews in one place would certainly make it easier for a fanatical group to wipe us all out in one fell swoop. Are you really working towards this mass International ghettoization?… World, I’m still desperately trying to decipher what we could have done differently, in order to avoid this deep-seated hatred that is seemingly coming to the fore this year… Can we EVER do enough to be accepted by you? World, I ask you in the hope that one day I’ll understand… What do you want from us?”
The answer to that question ought to be obvious to all but those who are suffering from paranoia and can be simply stated.
What the world wants from Israel’s Jews and Jews everywhere is an acknowledgement that a terrible wrong was done to the Palestinians by Zionism in the name of all Jews and that the wrong must be righted.
Without such an acknowledgement I can see no hope for peace based on an acceptable amount of justice for the Palestinians and security for all and, if Israel remains on its present course, not much hope for preventing the transformation of anti-Israelism/anti-Zionism into anti-Semitism on a scale that could lead, in a foreseeable future, to another great turning against the Jews.
In my analysis the key to preventing Holocaust II at some point in a foreseeable future is in the hands of the Jews of the world themselves, European and American Jews in particular. What I mean is that it’s in their own best interests to distance themselves from the Zionist state in order in order to rob accusations of their complicity in its crimes of any credible substance. In addition to acknowledging the wrong done to the Palestinians and the need for that wrong to be righted, they could say, publicly, that they cannot and will not support an Israel that demonstrates contempt for international law and Jewish moral values.
It is true that a growing but still smallish number of European and American Jews are speaking out, not only in support of some justice for the Palestinians but also to condemn Israel’s policies and actions. Those who speaking out have taken Harkabi’s advice. Here is what he wrote on the need for open and honest debate.
What we need in Israel is not a united front behind a wrong policy, but searching self-criticism and a careful examination of our goals and means, so that we can differentiate between realistic vision and adventurist fantasy.
Jews in the West, particularly in the United States, should participate in this debate. They should not be squeamish and discouraged by the fear that the arguments they air may help their enemies and those of Israel. The choice facing them, as well as Israel, is not between good and bad but between bad and worse. Criticising Israeli policies may be harmfully divisive, but refraining from criticism and allowing Israel to maintain its wrong policy is incomparably worse. If the state of Israel comes to grief (God forbid), it will not be because of a lack of weaponry or money, but because of skewed political thinking and because the Jews who understood the situation did not exert themselves to convince the Israelis to change that thinking.
What is at stake is the survival of Israel and the status of Judaism. Israel will soon face its moment of truth. The crisis that faces the nation will be all-consuming. It will be bitter because many will have to acknowledge that they have lived in a world of fantasy; they will have to shed conceptions and beliefs they have held dear.
One implication of that part of Harkabi’s analysis is that if the Jews of the Western world who understand the situation exerted themselves, they could convince Israelis to change their thinking. In theory that might be so but in reality it can’t happen as things are for the simple reason that the majority of the Jews of the Western world do not understand the situation; and that in turn is because they have been conditioned to believe a version of history, Zionism’s version, which is simply not true.
The majority don’t know, for example, that Israel’s existence has never, ever, been in danger from any combination of Arab force. And they don’t know, another example, that it’s not Israel that has lacked a Palestinian partner for peace but the Palestinians who for the past 34 years have lacked an Israeli partner. (As I have previously written, there’s a case for saying they might have had one in Prime Minister Rabin, but he was assassinated by a Zionist fanatic who knew exactly what he was doing – killing the peace process Arafat made possible, in 1979, by persuading the highest decision making bodies on the Palestinian side that they had to be ready for unthinkable compromise and peace with an Israel confined to its borders as they were on 4 June 1967).
And there’s an awesome complicating factor. It’s not only that most Jews of the Western world don’t know the truth of history as it relates to the conflict in and over Palestine that became Israel, MANY DON’T WANT TO KNOW IT. In my book, Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews I illustrate this point by telling of a conversation I had with a Jewish gentleman who after my dear wife is my second best friend in the world and has been for more than 40 years.
Shortly before the publication of the first volume of the UK edition of my book way back in 2005 I said the following to him. “Like many if not most Jews you believe that when Israel went to war in 1967 it was either because the Arabs attacked or were about to attack. If I can prove to you, using only Israeli sources, that what you believe is Zionist propaganda nonsense and that the Arabs had no intention of striking first, and that it was actually a war of Israeli aggression, what…?”
My friend was silent for about a minute. Then, in a voice not much above a whisper, he said, “If what I believe about that war is not true, everything crumbles.”
Since then we have remained best friends but we do not ever discuss Israel.
I thought long and hard about the meaning of “everything crumbles” and I came to the conclusion, endorsed in private by other Jewish friends, that what it means can be summarised as follows. Many and perhaps even most Jews need to believe they always were, are and always will be VICTIMS.
And that, I believe, assists real and true understanding of why most Jews of the world are silent on the matter of Israel’s crimes. Deep down, if only in their sub-consciousness, they fear that Holocaust II is probably inevitable at some point in the future and that they will need Israel as their refuge of last resort. So, they tell themselves, say nothing and do nothing that could assist Israel’s enemies. (It’s also the case that criticism of Israel can and does tear Jewish families apart).
What I believe to be the most tragic irony in all of human history to date is that most Jews of the world can’t see that if the rising, global tide of anti-Israelism/anti-Zionism is transformed into anti-Semitism on a scale that could lead to Holocaust II, it will be because of Zionism in action.
In that light my gentile appeal to the Jews of the world, American and European Jews in particular, is this. The key to preventing Holocaust II is in your hands. Use it to unlock your minds that have been closed by Zionist propaganda. (I mean its lies and deceptions).
Because I have faith in the potential goodness of human nature, a potential that has to be liberated by the truth of history, I want to end this article by pointing to an alternative scenario to the one indicated by my headline.
As I wrote in my book and say on public platforms, I truly believe that, generally speaking, the Jews are the intellectual elite of the Western world and the Palestinians are by far the intellectual elite of the Arab world. Together in peace and partnership in One State for all (yes, that does mean the end of Zionism), they could change the region for the better and by doing so give new hope and inspiration to the whole world.
To put it another way, in peace and a partnership of equals, the Jews minus Zionism could become, with the Palestinians, a light unto nations. Surely that’s a better option than allowing Zionism to put the light out?
R.I.P. DEAR HAJO
I sent a draft of this article to Hajo Meyer for his comments and suggestions. His wife Chris called me to say that a week after celebrating his 90th birthday, Hajo had passed away peacefully. He will rest in peace because he was at peace with himself in his life. I know that because of his answer to a question I asked him over a meal in London some years ago.
I said: “You’re well into your eighties and despite the fact that you lived through the hell of Auschwitz, you are vilified by supporters of Israel right or wrong for your anti-Zionist stance and campaigning. You don’t need this hassle in what remains of your life. Why do you carry on campaigning?”
He replied, “The first person I see when I wake up in the morning is me.”
He meant that he needed above all to be able to live with himself. (As I write I find myself wondering how many of our so-called leaders, President Obama in particular, can do that).
In one of our last conversations Hajo said that he no longer had any hesitation about describing Israel’s leaders as “the new Nazis.”
Alan Hart is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent who has covered wars and conflicts wherever they were taking place in the world and specialized in the Middle East. His Latest book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, Vol. 1: The False Messiah, is a three-volume epic in its American edition. He blogs on AlanHart.com.