J'accuse

Haim Bresheeth
Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A new paradigm seems to have been recently established, and like so many of
the new paradigms it arrived from the United States. It is no longer
feasible to criticise and attack in the press and media the murderous and
short-sighted policies and actions of the current Israeli regime without
immediately facing the accusation of anti- Semitism. And who in his right
mind would like to face this charge, however unjustified? Jews writing in
this vein, trying to open a clear distance between themselves and the
barbarities enacted in their name, get a reduced sentence: they are only
accused of self-hatred! And that is when what they might feel hate towards
is never themselves or their deeds, but the deeds of those who take it upon
themselves to speak for all Jews elsewhere, dead or alive, and to use this
multitude of disparate people as an automatic backup for any atrocity they
may commit.

This form of cultural terrorism against the critics of rampant Zionism, its
continued, inhuman occupation, has been most effective and frightening: not
only has it worked well with many liberal Jews, who are now reluctant to
voice their deeply-held revulsion with the developments in the Middle East,
it has silenced most of the Left in Britain. Few liberals are prepared to
face the ferocity of the Jewish community on this issue, and to be smeared
as racists and anti-Semites. This is an infuriating development -- the
occupiers and torturers of a whole nation have managed to argue themselves
into the position of the victim. This is even more marked in the US, where
the Jewish minority, one of the smallest ethnic groups in the country, is
also the richest and most influential. This powerful group seems to have
forgotten the lesson of its past, even of physical extermination.

Those who cannot see, hear and feel the other are doomed to become the
ultimate other: racism is based on the denial of the other, its point of
view, its rights, its pain, its humanity. This is what Europe and its many
societies have done to the Jews for centuries, and the whole world was to
suffer the consequences of such blindness. Now it seems Jewish communities
in the West have internalised their newly-acquired power, as if it were a
god-given right allowing them to override basic human and social criteria,
and to act on the strength of power, and of the (justly) guilt-ridden
Western society. Some Jewish interlocutors talk of the Palestinians as if
they were the new Nazis when it is the armed might of the Zionist state that
has ruled the Middle East for decades.

But this armed might has failed in one significant respect -- it cannot
guarantee security. Is this something we should be surprised by, in this day
and age? Has any military occupation, however oppressive, succeeded in
winning the occupied over, or in totally quenching their thirst for freedom?
Surely even the deluded Israeli leadership is not assuming such a
development is in the offing. Yet they seem to believe that they can break
the Palestinian will by a combination of measures ranging from brutal
occupation, illegal settlements, collective punishment of every kind,
wide-spread starvation and water-shortages, expulsion and ethnic cleansing.
These are the means posited for resolving the 'Palestinian problem', and
summary solutions of this kind are naturally reminiscent of other final
solutions. And such solutions are now bandied about, discussed in seminars,
weighed-up by US Congress and Senate representatives, not to mention Jewish
and other pro- Israeli pressure groups such as the messianic Christian right
in the US.

From the power-crazed Right, spurred on by the rise of the Bush dynasty, to
the liberal Jewish Left, all partake in the debate, drawing parallels
between the Palestinian suicide bombers and 11 September 2001, as if the two
could be at all compared. The argument places Israel, whatever it does, on
the side of the angels, awarded the War on Terror seal of approval. Most of
the Western media has bought into this crude conflict model -- Palestinian
forces are gunmen, militants, and extremist factions, while the IDF is
referred to by the same terminology used to describe the military exploits
of the Western allies in Afghanistan. The liberal wing meanwhile draws
another set of parallels -- a description of the conflict based on equating
the deeds of both sides. The personal and political desperation fuelling the
suicide bombings is compared to the violence meted out daily by the IDF, a
formula confusing cause and effect, occupier and occupied, the mighty and
the pathetically weak.

We have to be quite clear about this, there is no good occupation, no just
occupation, no necessary occupation. There is and has been only one type of
military occupation, the kind that Saddam had to pay for in 1991, and
Milosevic is now facing trial about. Until this simple truth is grasped
there cannot be peace of any kind in the Middle East, for either side.
Anyone, Jew or Gentile, who wishes to skirt around this, to leave it for
later, to tell us how complex the situation is, may succeed in blinding the
public for a while but not in changing the nature of reality. Anyone
spending time in worthless arguments about comparisons between South Africa
and Israel and their respective treatment of the indigenous populations, is
deluding only themselves. Anyone who is deeply shocked by the sacking of two
Israeli academics, unjustified as it might have been, but stays blind to the
daily, continued suffering of a whole nation, is prolonging the agony of
both sides.
Two thousand years of Jewish history in Europe have taught us all we need to
know about racism and anti- Semitism -- they taught us to be alert to the
voice of the minority, of those without rights, of those under the power and
occupation of the mighty. This is a lesson we should never forget, never
misinterpret nor abandon. Jews, liberals, democrats, egalitarians -- in
other words, the majority of society -- must remember this painful lesson
and unite in voicing the demand for an immediate end to occupation, to
illegal settlement, to the barbarism of military rule, and for the
establishment of full rights for Palestine as a member of the international
community. To say this loudly and clearly is not anti-Semitic, but the duty
of conscientious people everywhere, Jews and non-Jews; it is the supporters
of the status quo who may be the real anti-Semites. The whole of Jewish
history tells us so.

The writer, an Israeli academic and peace activist living in London, is
co-editor of The Gulf War and the New World Order, and co-author of
Introduction to the Holocaust.