Turning a blind eye to extreme Right or Left anti-Semitism
Op-ed: The neo-Nazi demonstration last week in Charlottesville was despicable, as was President Trump's choice to overlook its severity. But it is important for us to recognize that anti-Semitism is not only restricted to the far-right. It has firmly taken root in left-wing circles, and it isn’t only fringe groups whose language is charged with Jew hatred. Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are one and the same.
The claim that Donald Trump is not an anti-Semite because his daughter and grandson are Jewish is total folly. In the age in which Jews too, sadly, can be anti-Semites and racists, Trump’s Jewish family members do not make him immune from such accusations.
Before the elections in the US, I wrote time and again about anti-Semitic signs being displayed by Trump and his followers. My friends on the Right were not enamored of what I was writing. From their point of view, this was almost akin to blasphemy against the messiah, who is supposed to lend a free hand to the settlement enterprise and to every right-wing whim.
Their saviour delivered the contemptible condemnation of “both sides.” There are two sides: racists and anti-Semites. For Trump, they are of equally worthy of contempt. That is who the man is. He is an historic disaster.
According to research that was published by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in February, in the last decade 372 people have been killed in instances involving political extremism. 74% of the murders were committed by right-wing extremists, 24% by Islamic extremists and just 2% by left-wing extremists. That includes nationalists from the African-American community. In other words, talk of “both sides” is more “fake news” being spewed out of the White House.
It must be pointed out however, in 2016 there was a decline in involvement of white racists in acts of murder. But their current prominence and development since the the ascent of Trump, and the neo-Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville, is a cause for grave concern among Jews.
But we cannot remain blind to the fact that anti-Semitism does not only take root in far-right circles. Its manifestations has been a constantly accompanying political and academic elites on the left for two decades. And no, we are not merely talking about fringe groups, nor about officials occupying junior positions.And no, this is also not merely a phenomenon restricted to the margins of American establishments.
John Mearsheimer, one of the most prominent professors in the US, and one of the most established best-selling authors known for his vitriolic attacks against the pro-Israel lobby in the US, penned a blurb praising a book authored by Gilad Atzmon, a former Israeli, himself Jewish, and self-declared anti-Semite, whose opinions about Jews are absolutely identical, and sometimes even more despicable, than those espoused by the racists of Charlottesville.
Another renowned author is Professor Richard A. Falk, also Jewish, who is known mainly for his role as a special advisor to the UN Security Council, and as someone who stood behind a vicious report against Israel.
And the list goes on. Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian terrorist who managed to received citizenship in the US by concealing her past, has been holding farewell events ahead of her expulsion from the US. The fact that Odeh killed two Israelis did not stop many people on the Left from turning her into a heroine. Nor did her continued incitement campaign against Israel.
Odeh was a respected guest at the last annual gathering of the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) where she called for the destruction of Israel. Her calls were met with a loud applause by her listeners and a hug from the female rabbi, woe to her, Alissa Wise who is one of the leaders of the JVP. Only recently, Wise was barred entry into Israel for her support for the BDS movement.
Needless to say, that according to the definition of anti-Semitism that was recently approved by the European Parliament, both Wise and Odeh are anti-Semites in every sense of the word.
David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and one of the most prominent members of white supremacist today, expresses opinions which perfectly align with those expressed by the anti-Zionist Left.
Duke was one of the first to come out in support of Mearsheimer's anti-Israel book, just as he was one of the more prominent Trump supporters. Not only do those two facts not contradict one another, but they reflect the very same ideology.
The very same language is being adopted by the Black Lives Matter activists, who have latched onto not only the BDS movement but also the horrific propaganda purporting Israel is committing war crimes.
Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are one and the same. Alt-left and Alt-right are one and the same. They are not two sides of the same coin. They are exactly the same side.
One would assume that were I an American, I'd stand with the protestors against the Alt-right. My only question would be: where were Trump's many detractors—who are right in everything they say against the man—when the Left produced so many anti-Semitic diatribes? Why were they silent? Precious few, such as journalist Jeffrey Goldberg and Professor Alan Dershowitz, published scathing criticism of it. But the rest of their friends in the academic elite were dead silent.
Racism, all racism, is reprehensible. But the display of racism by the neo-Nazis is Charlottesville was another thing entirely, not only because of its nature, but also because it received forgiveness from the president of the most important power in the world. That is a terrifying reality.
Between national liberation and humanism
I went on vacation to the French island of Corsica. Filipe Ben Shushan, a French-Jewish movie producer, (whose movie is now screening in Israeli cinemas) invited me to a meeting called “Israel Corsica” as a symbol of friendship between the two countries. Corsica isn’t exactly a country. A two hour drive away, he said, on mountainous roads. I didn’t know if that would be fun, I said to myself, but it had to be an experience. And indeed, it absolutely was an experience.
The meeting was held in the commune of Pianello on the island where 40 people were supposed to attend. A few were Jews and a few were locals but what was most surprising of all was the arrival of almost 200 attendants. Even a respected guest showed up, Edmond Simeoni, one of the leaders of the national movement in Corsica and a mythological figure among the local residents. It was worthwhile to attend just to hear him speak.
Corsica, it is worth mentioning, was a place of refuge for Jews on numerous occasions. The first wave of Jews landed on its shores after their expulsion from Spain. When Catholic rulers in France gave Jews the boot, Corsica once again was there for them and its residents willingly took them in. When Corsica was granted its short-lived independence, it invited thousands of Jews from Italy to become citizens.
In the Second World War, when Corsica was incorporated into the Nazit puppet Vichy regime, the tradition continued and not a single there Jew from the island was handed over to the Nazis. Simeoni viewed Jewish history and the national struggle of his own movement as if they were part of the same fabric.
Nationalism could be separatist and xenophobic or it could be a struggle for liberation, for freedom, which included foreigners who wanted to be part of the national makeup and ethos. But as we know, this isn’t always given to them. In Europe, the Jews wanted to be part of it, but they were rejected and separated. In Corsica though, the latter version of nationalism worked.
Simeoni married a Jewish woman whose family was from Poland. His son is now the president of Corsica’s council. We, Simeoni told me, are part of the same Catholic Zionist family. That is how he defined himself.
Corsica is not known, of all things, for its love for foreigners. So how is it that, of all things, the tide of anti-Semitism did not wash up on its shores? When he was younger, Simeoni told me, he lived in a neighborhood with religious Jews. There he learned and grew to love them, particularly because for him, these Jews personified the symbol of integration and success. It isn't that the Corsicans are hostile to foreigners, the locals explained to me. Rather they are hostile to foreigners who don;t integrate.
And why, of all places, did the gathering take place in Pianello? It turns out that it was there that a local association asked to plant a tree as a symbol against racism and hatred of foreigners. The choice was in the casket of the chestnut tree from the window of Anne Frank. That was her only connection with the outside world.
Simeoni delivered his words at the foot of the tree. Here is lesson for Israel and all other nation states: It was a mix of national liberation and humanism that deterred nationalism and xenophobia. I travelled to Corsica for a holiday but I had the privilege there of receiving a fascinating lesson about nationalism and the brothers of nations.