Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Without a Jewish State - More 'New' Anti-Semitism

My father asked me to read this article from The Jerusalem Post. Of course, I can't say no to my father (dutiful daughter that I am), so I did.

Making the world 'Judenstaatrein'
Feb. 22, 2009

Naturally, I have some reactions. The article, in a nutshell, basically sees Irwin Cotler, a Canadian MP and pro-Israel advocate, equate the "new" anti-Semitism with anti-Israel attitudes. Nothing really "new" about that. Hoes does "new" and "old" anti-Semitism compare? In Cotler's words:

In a word, classical or traditional anti-Semitism is the discrimination against, denial of or assault upon the rights of Jews to live as equal members of whatever host society they inhabit. The new anti-Semitism involves the discrimination against the right of the Jewish people to live as an equal member of the family of nations - the denial of and assault upon the Jewish people's right even to live - with Israel as the "collective Jew among the nations."

The curious thing here, is that the Jewish people have a nation. Israel exists. It is a UN-recognized country. As a Jewish leftist, I believe Israel has a right to exist. The conflict between Israel and Palestine can be solved with a two-state solution, with strong, non-extremist leadership for both peoples. One state would never work. Sixty years of history can't just be magically erased. Yes, there are factions on the Palestinian side that would happily see Israel no longer exist. But Israel is not innocent either. By continually defying UN resolutions, engaging in human rights violations (such as what goes on at the checkpoints), and putting its military might to supposedly strategically get rid of "terrorists" while killing hundreds, sometimes thousands of women and children in the process -- isn't there bigotry and hatred in that?

But the rise in traditional anti-Semitism is bound up with the rise in the new anti-Semitism, insidiously buoyed by a climate receptive to attacks on Jews because of the attacks on the Jewish state. Indeed, reports illustrate both an upsurge in violence and related anti-Semitic crimes corresponding with the 2006 Second Lebanon War and the recent Israel-Hamas war, which delegates to the ICCA conference characterized as a "pandemic."

Any acts of violence or vandalism against Jewish people and institutions (like synagogues) is wrong. But I disagree that the cause of these attacks are the "attacks on the Jewish state." Instead, they are angry, inappropriate reactions to how Israel is treating the Palestinian population. The behaviour of the Israeli government has done more to fuel anti-Semitism than leftists ever could.

Cotler also discusses two very common comparisons used to describe Israel, especially by people who are anti-racist and pro-peace: that of Israel being a state that espouses apartheid and Nazi values.

And so it is then that Israel is delegitimized, if not demonized, by the ascription to it of the two most scurrilous indictments of 20th-century racism - Nazism and apartheid - the embodiment of all evil. These very labels of Zionism and Israel as "racist, apartheid and Nazi" supply the criminal indictment. No further debate is required. The conviction that this triple racism warrants the dismantling of Israel as a moral obligation has been secured. For who would deny that a "racist, apartheid, Nazi" state should not have any right to exist today? What is more, this characterization allows for terrorist "resistance" to be deemed justifiable - after all, such a situation is portrayed as nothing other than occupation et résistance, where resistance against a racist, apartheid, Nazi occupying state is legitimate, if not mandatory.

Let's see now -- Palestinians have been forced into camps that are separated by a wall . . . this has happened before in history, hasn't it? And there is a different set of rules for people who are Palestinian, as opposed to Israeli - checkpoints, harassment, restrictions. But let's not use such harsh terms as "Nazi" and "apartheid." It may offend someone.

How ironic it is that a group of people who have used the Holocaust to justify the need for Israel, then turn around and become the oppressors. Then, for people like Cotler to say that being upset towards Israel for this behaviour equates hatred of all Jews everywhere, because of course Israel is a Jewish state. Please - not in my name. While I am sure there are people who hate me for who I am no matter what I stand for, as a Jewish person who espouses values of dignity, human rights, and freedom for all people I am not going to pander to extremists and justify all Israel does simply because it is a "Jewish state."

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