Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Three Kinds of Anti-Semitism in Israel

There are at least three kinds of anti-Semitism in Israel today.

One is the anti-Semitism of the Israeli Right, which represents Israel as a nation of warriors, hard and pitiless, distinct from and superior to the soft and delicate Diaspora Jews. The "C." whom Amos Oz interviewed in 1982, an Israeli military officer who some without evidence claim is Ariel Sharon, is an exemplary voice for it (the link courtesy of Jazzman of Anti-Zionist Notes):
Leibowitz is right, we are Judeo-Nazis, and why not? Listen, a people that gave itself up to be slaughtered, a people that let soap to be made of its children and lamp shades from the skin of its women is a worse criminal than its murderers. Worse than the Nazis. . . . If your nice civilised parents had come here in time instead of writing books about the love for humanity and singing Hear O Israel on the way to the gas chambers, now don't be shocked, if they instead had killed six million Arabs here or even one million, what would have happened? Sure, two or three nasty pages would have been written in the history books, we would have been called all sorts of names, but we could be here today as a people of 25 million! (qtd. in Amos Oz, "About the Soft and the Delicate," Davar, December 17, 1982)
That's an anti-Semitism that depends on the erasure of memories of brave Jewish resistance fighters against fascists.

Another is what may be called the anti-Semitism of the oppressed and marginalized. The following incident reported by Ariel Finguerman and Elana Shap in their article "Aliyah from Former Soviet Union Brings a Surprise -- Anti-Semitism" sheds light on it (the link courtesy of John Sigler of Jewish Friends of Palestine):
In a great majority of cases, the victims are elderly Russian Jewish immigrants.

"They are more unprotected and easily recognized by the anti-Semites," [Zalman] Gilichinsky [of the Israeli Information and Assistance Center for the Victims of Anti-Semitism] says. "Israelis, on the other hand, can defend themselves and know how to go to the police, hence they are hardly attacked."

Dvora Biton, 38, turned to Gilichinsky for help after an unpleasant situation developed about two years ago. She told JTA that her adversary was a neighbor in Yeroham, a city in the Negev Desert.

In the beginning, the relationship with the neighboring family was pleasant, and the Bitons, who are Orthodox Jews, invited them for a Shabbat dinner. When they discovered that the neighbors were not Jewish, however, the Bitons decided to cut down on their social contact.

The neighbor reacted badly and started to call Biton "zhidovka," a pejorative Russian term for a Jew. Every time they met, the neighbor made the cross sign on her chest, shouted, spat on the floor and cursed Biton, she says. (Finguerman and Shap, JTA, July 22, 2003)
That fits into the "cases in which a verbal anti-Semitic reaction is a response to racism encountered here by non-Jewish immigrants, especially the young people whose lives the Israeli establishment embitters, pushing them to alienation from the state" that Lily Galili speaks of ("Anti-Semitism, Right Here at Home," Ha'aretz, May 23, 2003), vulnerable to but not exactly identical with the anti-Semitism of committed neo-Nazi ideologues and activists (which has also burgeoned in Israel).
Neo-Nazis in Israel
The fundamental source of the problem, Galili believes, ironically is the Israeli Law of Return, which is "in fact based on the Nuremberg Laws, in which the Germans expanded the definition of who is Jewish in accordance with their own needs":
[D]ealing with the phenomenon must begin with the demographic madness, whereby everyone is welcome to come here as long as he is not an Arab. Even if he hates the state, even if he hates Jews, he is considered a positive contribution to the needs of the demographic head-count. About a year ago, Lutfi Mashour, the editor of the Arabic newspaper Al-Sinara, told Haaretz that while the Jews are obsessing about the Arab demographic threat, a demographic problem is burgeoning for them in quite a different place. (emphasis added, Galili, May 23, 2003)
Both Israel's democratic deficit and demographic madness, however, can be solved in one fell swoop if all leftists in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and Jewish and Palestinian diasporas become committed to struggle together for one democracy, indivisible, with liberty, equality, and solidarity for all.
One State, Two Peoples

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