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The Great Wall of Denial -- by Gila Svirsky (+ other articles reposted as comments)

category national | miscellaneous | news report author Monday March 17, 2003 09:57author by T Dillon Report this post to the editors

Dismantling the myths.

But the important question is, how do we penetrate the numbness of Israelis, soldiers and civilians alike, about the wrongness of our actions - wrong morally and stupid strategically.  As virtually everyone has recognized by now, the brutal policies only create more bitterness and desire for revenge.  How do we get the message across to Israelis that the government is undermining our security in the territories with each act of humiliation and cruelty?  How do we convey to Israelis that we are behaving in some ways like the persecutors of Jews have behaved from time immemorial? Israeli peace and human rights activists have been wracking our brains over how to accomplish this.  The young men and women who refuse to serve in the army have done more than their share to raise awareness about the army's cruel deeds, though they face court martial and prison as a result.

"Gila Svirsky's essay "The Great Wall of Denial" explores the phenomenon of
denial by average Israelis to the
current regime of apartheid brutality with sensitivity and intelligence",
writes a friend, Vincent White from Kabul.
I am not a great devotee of Gila Svirsky, an Israeli peace activist, for two
reasons: she is very fast with 'antisemite' labelling; and she is into
discriminatory gender policies of 'for girls only' type. Still she had made
a great personal progress since she landed on our shores as a starry-eyed
Jewish religious immigrant from the US. That is why her opinion is of
The Great Wall of Denial -- by Gila Svirsky
Date sent:      Fri, 28 Feb 2003 07:59:42 +0200
From:           Gila Svirsky

February 28, 2003

The Great Wall of Denial

A few nights ago, I was awakened at 11 pm by the sound of a loudspeaker
blaring from a police car in the street near my home in Jerusalem.  I
thought I heard a demand for someone to come out of the house and into the
street.  I wondered if a terrorist was loose in the neighborhood, as had
happened more than once in various parts of Israel.  I kept the light off,
and ran to confirm that the front door was locked.  Then I turned on the
radio to hear if anything newsworthy was happening in my neighborhood. When
I heard nothing, I crept back into bed, and lay there waiting for the next
thing to happen.

After a while, I thought of how many perfectly normal and law-abiding
Palestinians are awakened in the middle of the night by loudspeakers from
army vehicles, lie in bed waiting for events to unfold, and end up hearing
the sounds of a neighbor being arrested and taken away...or being taken away
themselves.  A few weeks ago, a loudspeaker in the village of Beit Lahiya
called residents out of their homes in the middle of the night, and 200
neighbors - including small children and two women who had given birth 2
days earlier - were forced to huddle together for hours in the cold winter
night until the army let them return to their homes.  This is not uncommon
in Palestinian neighborhoods, though the information rarely reaches the
newspapers of Israel.  In my neighborhood, it turned out to be the police
searching for a missing child.  In the Palestinian neighborhood, it can be a
search for someone on the 'wanted list'... or just plain harassment.

The lives of Palestinians in the occupied territories have been thoroughly
disrupted since Sharon came to power, far more than under any preceding
Israeli prime minister.  The mystery, however, is not the reign of terror -
this is no mystery under Sharon - but the indifference of Israeli citizens
to that behavior.  How is it possible that through two and a half years of
increasingly cruel conduct of our army, the Israeli public has had almost
nothing to say about soldiers...

*** urinating on school computers and defecating on the rugs of homes they
have garrisoned for use; *** accidentally demolishing the homes of innocent
people that happen to be near the homes deliberately destroyed ***
preventing the residents of entire cities from leaving their houses for
weeks on end (no exceptions - not for chemo, dialysis, childbirth, buying
food, attending school, or visiting your sick mother); *** damaging 27
Palestinian ambulances beyond repair and wounding 187 medical personnel
[www.palestinercs.org] ; *** and assassinating people without the niceties
of trial and due process, not to mention reckless shootings in which 126
innocent children aged 13 or younger (including 19 toddlers and infants aged
5 or younger!) have lost their lives

Why, I am trying to understand, are we Israelis so blind to this
brutality?  Where are the expressions of revulsion by decent Israelis?
Why don't the major newspapers report these heart-wrenching stories (not
just the liberal and much smaller-circulation Ha'aretz)?  Why didn't a
single Jewish political party in the recent election criticize the
government for its policy of collective punishment?  Why are the brave
young men and women who refuse to carry out these crimes disparaged in
the media, while even Peace Now and the Meretz party don't come to their
support? Why are only a handful of people willing to apply the label 'war
crime' to the deeds of the army - deeds that merit this designation under
any objective reading of the international instruments of law?

The lack of outrage and compassion in Israel is difficult to understand.
Is it a reflection of the fact that Israelis are uninformed?  Or are they
aware and indifferent?

I believe that Israelis do know the truth.  They know because some stories -
the most poignant - do reach the media.  A month ago, they saw a scene on
Israeli TV of a young boy on crutches forced everyday to scale a muddy
checkpoint wall to get to school.  They know because they do reserve duty in
the territories - or their family and friends do - and some even brag about
the dirty tricks they saw or did.  They know because some watch CNN, the
BBC, or other foreign media, even when they dismiss these reports as
anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic.  But enough stories do get through for
Israelis to know what is happening, to understand the brutal reality.

So the question is, why is there indifference?  Here are three reasons,
though I'm sure there are more:

First, the media gets some of the blame.  Although facts and figures are
reported, the media fail to convey the human suffering behind the iron
fist policies.  Journalist Gideon Levy points out [Ha'aretz, 2 Feb 03]
that when 15 Palestinians were killed in Gaza in one blood-drenched day
last week (February 19th), the Israeli newspapers were wrapped up in the
story of the Qassam shells that landed in Sderot, wounding one.
Journalist Amira Hass speaks of the 'routine of calamity' [Ha'aretz, 26
Feb 03] in Palestine as disasters spiral, which I believe has also
routinized the reporting of them and our response.  When 25 homes were
destroyed in Gaza last month, making 200 Palestinians homeless, not a
single TV or radio clip conveyed the story of these people with anything
approaching compassion.

Second, Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians provides the cover
for Israelis to focus on our own pain and fear, and to frame the pain of the
Palestinians as 'just desserts' or an inevitable byproduct of our 'war on
terrorism'.  Furthermore, innocent bystanders have been killed on our side,
too, making it harder for Israelis to feel compassion for those they regard
as supportive of the attacks.  Nevertheless, the completely lopsided balance
of power and suffering has not penetrated the consciousness of the Israeli
public as a whole.  The violence on both sides is reprehensible, but most
behave as if only our people are its victims them, are the perpetrators of
the crimes.

Third, much blame goes to our political and rabbinical leaders who engage in
fear mongering and dehumanization of the other.  Racism is rampant in
Israel, from popular Rabbi Ovadia Yosef who called all Arabs 'snakes', to
President Katsav who told a group of bar-mitzvah boys, "The Palestinians
don't behave as if they come from the same planet as we do."  The National
Union Party, a member of Sharon's new government, openly advocates ethnic
cleansing - the 'transfer', as they call it, of all Arabs from Israel and
the territories.  Is it any wonder that so few pay attention to the
suffering of those who have been devalued and dehumanized?  Meanwhile, our
military leaders repeat the mantra that "The IDF is the most moral army in
the world."

There may be many more reasons for Israeli indifference.  Eitan Felner,
former Director of the B'Tselem human rights organization, referred to
Israel's behavior as typical of an adult who has been abused as a child
and consequently becomes an abusive adult, just as Jews were abused in
Europe and now take it out on others [NY Times, date?].  Many Israelis
believe they hold exclusive rights to the category 'Suffering Victims',
and are unable to view themselves as having inflicted suffering and
victimhood on others.

But the important question is, how do we penetrate the numbness of
Israelis, soldiers and civilians alike, about the wrongness of our actions -
wrong morally and stupid strategically.  As virtually everyone has
recognized by now, the brutal policies only create more bitterness and
desire for revenge.  How do we get the message across to Israelis that the
government is undermining our security in the territories with each act of
humiliation and cruelty?  How do we convey to Israelis that we are behaving
in some ways like the persecutors of Jews have behaved from time immemorial?

Israeli peace and human rights activists have been wracking our brains
over how to accomplish this.  The young men and women who refuse to
serve in the army have done more than their share to raise awareness about
the army's cruel deeds, though they face court martial and prison as a
result. Led by the New Profile organization, many peace activists will be
holding a rally in April to express our pride in these young people.
Ta'ayush and Rabbis for Human Rights lead groups of Israelis into the
territories to see the appalling conditions.  Machsom Watch takes visitors
to the checkpoints to observe the military vise-grip on Palestinians who try
to use the roads.  Gush Shalom has led the drive to place the "war crime"
label on unlawful army behavior, to the
wrath of the generals and the Attorney General.  The Coalition of Women for
Peace placed an ad in the Arabic-language newspapers, letting
Palestinians know that some Israelis are aware of their suffering, do care,
and are trying to stop it.  And a new campaign is shaping up among a
coalition of groups under the slogan, "Don't say you didn't know..." in
reference to the claims of ignorance by Germans during the Nazi regime.  And
yet with all this effort, will we be able to break through the Great Wall of

Something different works for each person.  What caught at my own heart
was a scene captured on video by B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights
organization in the territories.  It showed a simple conversation between
the B'Tselem fieldworker and a well-dressed Palestinian man, standing
forlornly beside his car parked at a checkpoint:

"Why aren't you driving through?" asks the B'Tselem worker.
"I don't really know," answers the man.
"What do you mean, you don't know?  Aren't you waiting to get through the
"Yes, I'm trying to get to Hebron.  But the soldiers told me to wait
"How long have you been waiting?"
"Since 7 o'clock this morning."
"Since 7 o'clock?  But it's 5 pm!  Why are they keeping you?"
"I really don't know.  I was just driving through and they told me to stop
and get out of my car and wait on the side.  I really don't know.  I'm just
waiting for them to let me through." After a pause.  "Did you eat anything
yet today?"
"No, I left home early and planned to eat in Hebron..."  His voice starts to
break and he turns away as he struggles to keep himself from crying. After a
pause.  "Did you call your family?  Do they know where you are?" "Yes, I
called several times, the last time around 3 o'clock, but now my battery is
"Would you like to use my cell phone?" "No, no thank you, I told them at 3
I'd be home in a couple hours.  It's 5 now.  I don't want to worry them."
He turns his head and tries to fight the tears.

There is random violence, there are arrests in the middle of the night,
and there are the countless ways to make a person feel powerless, fearful,
not knowing if he'll get home today or still be standing by his car
tomorrow, waiting for the young soldier to let him through.

Indifference is not felt by everyone.  For those who do care, the only
answer is to stand witness to this reality.  To share the information with
others.  To speak truth to power.  And, thereby, to break the cycle of
helplessness and despair, and create a better place for us all.

Gila Svirsky

author by Articles from Mr. Dillon reposted as commentspublication date Mon Mar 17, 2003 12:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

THE PUSH FOR WAR: By Anatol Lieven
by T Dillon Mon, Mar 17 2003, 10:42am
To understand the radical nationalist Right in the US, and the dominant forces in the Bush Administration, it is necessary first of all to understand their absolute and absolutely sincere identification of themselves with the United States, to the point where the presence of any other group in government is seen as a usurpation, as profoundly and inherently illegitimate and 'un-American'. As far as the hardline elements of the US security establishment and military industrial complex are concerned, they are the product of the Cold War, and were shaped by that struggle and the paranoia and fanaticism it bred.

The Push for War
Anatol Lieven considers what the US Administration hopes to gain
The most surprising thing about the Bush Administration's plan to invade Iraq is not that it is destructive of international order; or wicked, when we consider the role the US (and Britain) have played, and continue to play, in the Middle East; or opposed by the great majority of the international community; or seemingly contrary to some of the basic needs of the war against terrorism. It is all of these things, but they are of no great concern to the hardline nationalists in the Administration. This group has suffered at least a temporary check as a result of the British insistence on UN involvement, and Saddam Hussein's agreement to weapons inspections. They are, however, still determined on war - and their power within the Administration and in the US security policy world means that they are very likely to get their way. Even the Washington Post has joined the radical rightist media in supporting war.
The most surprising thing about the push for war is that it is so profoundly reckless. If I had to put money on it, I'd say that the odds on quick success in destroying the Iraqi regime may be as high as 5/1 or more, given US military superiority, the vile nature of Saddam Hussein's rule, the unreliability of Baghdad's missiles, and the deep divisions in the Arab world. But at first sight, the longer-term gains for the US look pretty limited, whereas the consequences of failure would be catastrophic. A general Middle Eastern conflagration and the collapse of more pro-Western Arab states would lose us the war against terrorism, doom untold thousands of Western civilians to death in coming decades, and plunge the world economy into depression.
These risks are not only to American (and British) lives and interests, but to the political future of the Administration. If the war goes badly wrong, it will be more generally excoriated than any within living memory, and its members will be finished politically - finished for good. If no other fear moved these people, you'd have thought this one would.
This war plan is not like the intervention in Vietnam, which at the start was supported by a consensus of both political parties, the Pentagon, the security establishment and the media. It is true that today - for reasons to which I shall return - the Democrats are mostly sitting on the fence; but a large part of the old Republican security establishment has denounced the idea and the Pentagon has made its deep unhappiness very clear.
The Administration has therefore been warned of the dangers. And while a new attack by al-Qaida during the war would help consolidate anti-Muslim American nationalism, the Administration would also be widely accused of having neglected the hunt for the perpetrators of 11 September in order to pursue an irrelevant vendetta. As far as the Israeli lobby is concerned, a disaster in the Middle East might be the one thing that would at last bring a discussion of its calamitous role into the open in the US.
With the exception of Donald Rumsfeld, who conveniently did his military service in the gap between the Korean and Vietnam Wars, neither Bush nor any of the other prime movers of this war served in the military. Of course, General Colin Powell served in Vietnam, but he is well known to be extremely dubious about attacking Iraq. All the others did everything possible to avoid service. If the war goes wrong, the 'chicken hawk' charge will be used against them with devastating political effect.
Vietnam veterans, both Democrat and Republican, have already started to raise this issue, stirred up in part by the insulting language used by Richard Perle and his school about the caution of the professional military. As a recent letter to the Washington Post put it, 'the men described as chicken hawks avoided military service during the Vietnam War while supporting that war politically. They are not accused of lacking experience and judgment compared to military men. They are accused of hypocrisy and cowardice.' Given the political risks of failure - to themselves, above all - why are they doing this? And, more broadly, what has bred this reckless spirit?
To understand the Administration's motivation, it is necessary to appreciate the breathtaking scope of the domestic and global ambitions which the dominant neo-conservative nationalists hope to further by means of war, and which go way beyond their publicly stated goals. There are of course different groups within this camp: some are more favourable to Israel, others less hostile to China; not all would support the most radical aspects of the programme. However, the basic and generally agreed plan is unilateral world domination through absolute military superiority, and this has been consistently advocated and worked on by the group of intellectuals close to Dick Cheney and Richard Perle since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
This basic goal is shared by Colin Powell and the rest of the security establishment. It was, after all, Powell who, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared in 1992 that the US requires sufficient power 'to deter any challenger from ever dreaming of challenging us on the world stage'. However, the idea of pre-emptive defence, now official doctrine, takes this a leap further, much further than Powell would wish to go. In principle, it can be used to justify the destruction of any other state if it even seems that that state might in future be able to challenge the US. When these ideas were first aired by Paul Wolfowitz and others after the end of the Cold War, they met with general criticism, even from conservatives. Today, thanks to the ascendancy of the radical nationalists in the Administration and the effect of the 11 September attacks on the American psyche, they have a major influence on US policy.
To understand the genesis of this extraordinary ambition, it is also necessary to grasp the moral, cultural and intellectual world of American nationalism in which it has taken shape. This nationalism existed long before last September, but it has been inflamed by those attacks and, equally dangerously, it has become even more entwined with the nationalism of the Israeli Right.
To take the geopolitical goals first. As with National Missile Defense, the publicly expressed motive for war with Iraq functions mainly as a tool to gain the necessary public support for an operation the real goals of which are far wider. The indifference of the US public to serious discussion of foreign or security affairs, and the negligence and ideological rigidity of the US media and policy community make searching debate on such issues extremely difficult, and allow such manipulation to succeed.
The immediate goal is indeed to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. There is little real fear, however, that Saddam Hussein will give those weapons to terrorists to use against the United States - though a more genuine fear that he might conceivably do so in the case of Israel. Nor is there any serious prospect that he would use them himself in an unprovoked attack on the US or Israel, because immediate annihilation would follow. The banal propaganda portrayal of Saddam as a crazed and suicidal dictator plays well on the American street, but I don't believe that it is a view shared by the Administration. Rather, their intention is partly to retain an absolute certainty of being able to defend the Gulf against an Iraqi attack, but, more important, to retain for the US and Israel a free hand for intervention in the Middle East as a whole.
From the point of view of Israel, the Israeli lobby and their representatives in the Administration, the apparent benefits of such a free hand are clear enough. For the group around Cheney, the single most important consideration is guaranteed and unrestricted access to cheap oil, controlled as far as possible at its source. To destroy and occupy the existing Iraqi state and dominate the region militarily would remove even the present limited threat from Opec, greatly reduce the chance of a new oil shock, and eliminate the need to woo and invest in Russia as an alternative source of energy.
It would also critically undermine the steps already taken towards the development of alternative sources of energy. So far, these have been pitifully few. All the same, 11 September brought new strength to the security arguments for reducing dependence on imported oil, and as alternative technologies develop, they could become a real threat to the oil lobby - which, like the Israeli lobby, is deeply intertwined with the Bush Administration. War with Iraq can therefore be seen as a satisfactory outcome for both lobbies. Much more important for the future of mankind, it is also part of what is in essence a strategy to use American military force to permit the continued offloading onto the rest of the world of the ecological costs of the existing US economy - without the need for any short-term sacrifices on the part of US capitalism, the US political elite or US voters.
The same goes for the war against al-Qaida and its allies: the plan for the destruction of the existing Iraqi regime is related to this struggle, but not as it has been presented publicly. Links between Baghdad and al-Qaida are unproven and inherently improbable: what the Administration hopes is that by crushing another middle-sized state at minimal military cost, all the other states in the Muslim world will be terrified into full co-operation in tracking down and handing over suspected terrorists, and into forsaking the Palestinian cause. Iran for its part can either be frightened into abandoning both its nuclear programme and its support for the Palestinians, or see its nuclear facilities destroyed by bombardment.
The idea, in other words, is to scare these states not only into helping with the hunt for al-Qaida, but into capitulating to the US and, more important, Israeli agendas in the Middle East. This was brought out in the notorious paper on Saudi Arabia presented by Laurent Murawiec of the Rand Corporation to Richard Perle's Defense Policy Board. Murawiec advocated sending the Saudis an ultimatum demanding not only that their police force co-operate fully with US authorities, but also the suppression of public criticism of the US and Israel within Saudi Arabia - something that would be impossible for any Arab state. Despite this, the demand for the suppression of anti-Israeli publications, broadcasts and activities has been widely echoed in the US media.
'The road to Middle East peace lies through Baghdad' is a line that's peddled by the Bush Administration and the Israeli lobby. It is just possible that some members of the Administration really believe that by destroying Israel's most powerful remaining enemy they will gain such credit with Israelis and the Israeli lobby that they will be able to press compromises on Israel.
But this is certainly not what public statements by members of the Administration - let alone those of its Likud allies in Israel - suggest. Rumsfeld recently described the Jewish settlements as legitimate products of Israeli military victory; the Republican Majority Leader in the House, Dick Armey (a sceptic as regards war with Iraq), has advocated the ethnic cleansing ('transfer') of the Palestinians across the Jordan; and in 1996 Richard Perle and Douglas Feith (now a senior official at the Pentagon) advised Binyamin Netanyahu to abandon the Oslo Peace Process and return to military repression of the Palestinians.
It's far more probable, therefore, that most members of the Bush and Sharon Administrations hope that the crushing of Iraq will so demoralise the Palestinians, and so reduce wider Arab support for them, that it will be possible to force them to accept a Bantustan settlement bearing no resemblance to independent statehood and bringing with it no possibility of economic growth and prosperity.
How intelligent men can believe that this will work, given the history of the past fifty years, is astonishing. After all, the Israelis have defeated Arab states five times with no diminution of Palestinian nationalism or Arab sympathy for it. But the dominant groups in the present Administrations in both Washington and Jerusalem are 'realists' to the core, which, as so often, means that they take an extremely unreal view of the rest of the world, and are insensitive to the point of autism when it comes to the character and motivations of others. They are obsessed by power, by the division of the world into friends and enemies (and often, into their own country and the rest of the world) and by the belief that any demonstration of 'weakness' immediately leads to more radical approaches by the 'enemy'.
Sharon and his supporters don't doubt that it was the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon - rather than the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories - which led to the latest Intifada. The 'offensive realists' in Washington are convinced that it was Reagan's harsh stance and acceleration of the arms race against the Soviet Union which brought about that state's collapse. And both are convinced that the continued existence of Saddam Hussein's regime of itself suggests dangerous US weakness and cowardice, thus emboldening enemies of the US and Israel across the Middle East and beyond.
From the point of view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, war with Iraq also has some of the character of a Flucht nach vorn - an 'escape forwards' - on the part of the US Administration. On the one hand, it has become clear that the conflict is integrally linked to everything else that happens in the Middle East, and therefore cannot simply be ignored, as the Bush Administration tried to do during its first year in office. On the other hand, even those members of the American political elite who have some understanding of the situation and a concern for justice are terrified of confronting Israel and the Israeli lobby in the ways which would be necessary to bring any chance of peace.
When the US demands 'democracy' in the Palestinian territories before it will re-engage in the peace process it is in part, and fairly cynically, trying to get out of this trap. However, when it comes to the new rhetoric of 'democratising' the Arab world as a whole, the agenda is much broader and more worrying; and because the rhetoric is attractive to many liberals we must examine this agenda very carefully.
Belief in the spread of democracy through American power isn't usually consciously insincere. On the contrary, it is inseparable from American national messianism and the wider 'American creed'. However, this same messianism has also proved immensely useful in destroying or crippling rivals of the United States, the Soviet Union being the outstanding example.
The planned war against Iraq is not after all intended only to remove Saddam Hussein, but to destroy the structure of the Sunni-dominated Arab nationalist Iraqi state as it has existed since that country's inception. The 'democracy' which replaces it will presumably resemble that of Afghanistan - a ramshackle coalition of ethnic groups and warlords, utterly dependent on US military power and utterly subservient to US (and Israeli) wishes.
Similarly, if after Saddam's regime is destroyed, Saudi Arabia fails to bow to US wishes and is attacked in its turn, then - to judge by the thoughts circulating in Washington think-tanks - the goal would be not just to remove the Saudi regime and eliminate Wahabism as a state ideology: it would be to destroy and partition the Saudi state. The Gulf oilfields would be put under US military occupation, and the region run by some client emir; Mecca and the Hejaz might well be returned to the Hashemite dynasty of Jordan, its rulers before the conquest by Ibn Saud in 1924; or, to put it differently, the British imperial programme of 1919 would be resurrected (though, if the Hashemites have any sense, they would reject what would without question be a long-term death sentence).
Beyond lies China. When the Bush Administration came to power, its major security focus was not the Middle East. There, its initial policy was benign neglect ('benign' at any rate in the case of Israel). The greatest fears of right-wing nationalist gurus such as Robert Kagan concerned the future emergence of China as a superpower rival - fears lent a certain credibility by China's sheer size and the growth of its economy. As declared in the famous strategy document drawn up by Paul Wolfowitz in the last year of the first Bush Administration - and effectively proclaimed official policy by Bush Jr in his West Point speech in June - the guiding purpose of US strategy after the end of the Cold War should be to prevent the emergence of any 'peer competitor'anywhere in the world.
What radical US nationalists have in mind is either to 'contain' China by overwhelming military force and the creation of a ring of American allies; or, in the case of the real radicals, to destroy the Chinese Communist state as the Soviet Union was destroyed. As with the Soviet Union, this would presumably involve breaking up China by 'liberating' Tibet and other areas, and under the guise of 'democracy', crippling the central Chinese Administration and its capacity to develop either its economy or its Army.
To judge by the right-wing nationalist media in the US, this hostility to China has survived 11 September, although in a mitigated form. If the US can demonstrate overwhelming military superiority in the Middle East, there will certainly be groups in the Republican Party who will be emboldened to push for a much tougher line on China. Above all, of course, they support formal independence for Taiwan.
Another US military victory will certainly help to persuade these groups that for the moment the US has nothing to fear from the Chinese Navy or Air Force, and that in the event of a Taiwanese declaration of independence, the island can be defended with relative impunity. Meanwhile, a drastic humiliation of China over Taiwan might well be seen as a key stepping-stone to the overthrow of Communism and the crippling of the Chinese state system.
At present these are only long-term ambitions - or dreams. They are certainly not shared even by a majority of the Administration, and are unlikely to be implemented in any systematic way. On the other hand, it's worth bearing in mind that the dominant groups in this Administration have now openly abandoned the underlying strategy and philosophy of the Clinton Administration, which was to integrate the other major states of the world in a rule-based liberal capitalist order, thereby reducing the threat of rivalry between them.
This tendency is not dead. In fact, it is strongly represented by Colin Powell, and by lesser figures such as Richard Haass. But their more powerful nationalist rivals are in the meantime publicly committed to preventing by every possible means the emergence of any serious rival or combination of rivals to the US, anywhere in the world, and to opposing not just any rival would-be world hegemon, but even the ability of other states to play the role of great power within their own regions.
Under the guise of National Missile Defense, the Administration - or elements within it - even dreams of extending US military hegemony beyond the bounds of the Earth itself (an ambition clearly indicated in the official paper on Defense Planning Guidance for the 2004-09 Fiscal Years, issued this year by Rumsfeld's office). And while this web of ambition is megalomaniac, it is not simply fantasy. Given America's overwhelming superiority, it might well work for decades until a mixture of terrorism and the unbearable social, political and environmental costs of US economic domination put paid to the present order of the world.
As things stand, the American people would never knowingly support such a programme - nor for that matter would the US military. Even after 11 September, this is not by historical standards a militarist country; and whatever the increasingly open imperialism of the nationalist think-tank class, neither the military nor the mass of the population wishes to see itself as imperialist. The fear of casualties and of long-term overseas military entanglements remains intense. And all opinion polls suggest that the majority of the American public, insofar as it considers these issues at all, is far more interested than this Administration in co-operation with allies.
Besides, if the US economy continues to stagnate or falls sharply, the Republicans will most probably not even be in power after 2004. As more companies collapse, the Administration's links to corrupt business oligarchies will become more and more controversial. Further economic decline combined with bloated military spending would sooner or later bring on the full consequences of the stripping of the public finances caused by this Administration's military spending and its tax cuts for the rich. At that point, the financial basis of Social Security would come into question, and the Republican vote among the 'middle classes' could shatter.
It is only to a minimal degree within the power of any US administration to stimulate economic growth. And even if growth resumes, the transformation of the economy is almost certain to continue. This will mean the incomes of the 'middle classes' (which in American terminology includes the working proletariat) will continue to decline and the gap between them and the plutocracy will continue to increase. High military spending can correct this trend to some extent, but because of the changed nature of weaponry, to a much lesser extent than was the case in the 19th and most of the 20th centuries. All other things being equal, this should result in a considerable shift of the electorate to the left.
But all other things are not equal. Two strategies in particular would give the Republicans the chance not only of winning in 2004, but of repeating Roosevelt's success for the Democrats in the 1930s and becoming the natural party of government for the foreseeable future. The first is the classic modern strategy of an endangered right-wing oligarchy, which is to divert mass discontent into nationalism. The second, which is specifically American, is to take the Jewish vote away from its traditional home in the Democratic Party, by demonstrating categorical Republican commitment not just to Israel's defence but to its regional ambitions.
This is connected both to the rightward shift in Israel, and to the increasingly close links between the Republicans and Likud, through figures like Perle and Feith. It marks a radical change from the old Republican Party of Eisenhower, Nixon and Bush père, which was far more independent of Israel than the Democrats. Of key importance here has been the growing alliance between the Christian Right - closely linked to the old White South - and the Israeli lobby, or at least its hardline Likud elements.
When this alliance began to take shape some years back, it seemed a most improbable combination. After all, the Christian Right and the White South were once havens of anti-semitic conspiracy theories. On the other hand, the Old Testament aspects of fundamentalist Christianity had created certain sympathies for Judaism and Israel from as far back as the US's 17th-century origins.
For Christian fundamentalists today the influence of millenarian thought is equally important in shaping support for Israel: the existence of the Israeli state is seen as a necessary prelude to the arrival of the Antichrist, the Apocalypse and the rule of Christ and His Saints. But above all, perhaps, this coming together of the fundamentalist Right and hardline Zionism is natural, because they share many hatreds. The Christian Right has always hated the United Nations, partly on straight nationalist grounds, but also because of bizarre fears of world government by the Antichrist. They have hated Europeans on religious grounds as decadent atheists, on class grounds as associates of the hated 'East Coast elites', and on nationalist grounds as critics of unconstrained American power. Both sides share an instinctive love of military force. Both see themselves as historical victims. This may seem strange in the case of the American Rightists, but it isn't if one considers both the White South's history of defeat, and the Christian Right's sense since the 1960s of defeat and embattlement by the forces of irreligion and cultural change.
Finally, and most dangerously, both are conditioned to see themselves as defenders of 'civilisation' against 'savages' - a distinction always perceived on the Christian Right as in the main racially defined. It is no longer possible in America to speak openly in these terms of American blacks, Asians and Latinos - but since 11 September at least, it has been entirely possible to do so about Arabs and Muslims.
Even in the 2000 elections, the Republicans were able to take a large part of the white working-class vote away from Gore by appealing to cultural populism - and especially to those opposed to gun control and environmental protection. Despite the real class identity and cultural interests of the Republican elite, they seem able to convince many workers that they are natural allies against the culturally alien and supercilious 'East Coast elites' represented as supporting Gore.
These populist values are closely linked to the traditional values of hardline nationalism. They are what the historian Walter Russell Mead and others have called 'Jacksonian' values, after President Andrew Jackson's populist nationalism of the 1830s. As Mead has indicated, 11 September has immensely increased the value of this line to Republicans.
If on top of this the Republicans can permanently woo the Jewish vote away from the Democrats - a process which purely class interests would suggest and which has been progressing slowly but steadily since Reagan's day - there is a good chance of their crippling the Democrats for a generation or more. Deprived of much of their financial support and their intellectual backbone, the Democrats could be reduced to a coalition of the declining unionised white working class, blacks and Latinos. And not only do these groups on the whole dislike and distrust each other, but the more the Democrats are seen as minority dominated, the more whites will tend to flee to the Republicans.
Already, the anti-semitism of some black leaders in the Democratic Party has contributed to driving many Jews towards the Republicans; and thanks to their allegiance to Israel, the liberal Jewish intelligentsia has moved a long way from their previous internationalism. This shift is highly visible in previously liberal and relatively internationalist journals such as the New Republic and Atlantic Monthly, and maybe even in the New Yorker. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that as a result the internationalist position in the Democratic Party and the US as a whole has been eviscerated.
The Democrats are well aware of this threat to their electorate. The Party as a whole has always been strongly committed to Israel. On Iraq and the war against terrorism, its approach seems to be to avoid at all costs seeming 'unpatriotic'. If they can avoid being hammered by the Republicans on the charge of 'weakness' and lack of patriotism, then they can still hope to win the 2004 elections on the basis of economic discontent. The consequence, however, is that the Party has become largely invisible in the debate about Iraq; the Democrats are merely increasing their reputation for passionless feebleness; whereas the Republican nationalists are full of passionate intensity - the passion which in November 2000 helped them pressure the courts over the Florida vote and in effect steal the election.
It is this passion which gives the nationalist Right so much of its strength; and in setting out the hopes and plans of the groupings which dominate the Bush Administration, I don't want to give the impression that everything is simply a matter of conscious and cynical manipulation in their own narrow interests. Schematic approaches of this kind have bedevilled all too much of the reporting of nationalism and national conflict. This is odd and depressing, because in recent decades the historiography of pre-1914 German nationalism - to take only one example - has seen an approach based on ideas of class manipulation give way to an infinitely more subtle analysis which emphasises the role of socio-economic and cultural change, unconscious identifications, and interpenetrating political influences from above and below.
To understand the radical nationalist Right in the US, and the dominant forces in the Bush Administration, it is necessary first of all to understand their absolute and absolutely sincere identification of themselves with the United States, to the point where the presence of any other group in government is seen as a usurpation, as profoundly and inherently illegitimate and 'un-American'. As far as the hardline elements of the US security establishment and military industrial complex are concerned, they are the product of the Cold War, and were shaped by that struggle and the paranoia and fanaticism it bred. In typical fashion for security elites, they also became conditioned over the decades to see themselves not just as tougher, braver, wiser and more knowledgeable than their ignorant, innocent compatriots, but as the only force standing between their country and destruction.
The Cold War led to the creation of governmental, economic and intellectual structures in the US which require for their survival a belief in the existence of powerful national enemies - not just terrorists, but enemy states. As a result, in their analyses and propaganda they instinctively generate the necessary image of an enemy. Once again, however, it would be unwise to see this as a conscious process. For the Cold War also continued, fostered and legitimised a very old discourse of nationalist hatred in the US, ostensibly directed against the Communists and their allies but usually with a very strong colouring of ethnic chauvinism.
On the other hand, the roots of the hysteria of the Right go far beyond nationalism and national security. Their pathological hatred for the Clinton Administration cannot adequately be explained in terms of national security or even in rational political or economic terms, for after a very brief period of semi-radicalism (almost entirely limited to the failed attempt at health reform), Clinton devoted himself in a Blairite way to adopting large parts of the Republican socio-economic agenda. Rather, Clinton, his wife, his personal style, his personal background and some of his closest followers were all seen as culturally and therefore nationally alien, mainly because associated with the counter-culture of the 1960s and 1970s.
The modern incarnation of this spirit can indeed be seen above all as a reaction to the double defeat of the Right in the Vietnam War - a defeat which, they may hope, victory in Iraq and a new wave of conservative nationalism at home could cancel out once and for all. In Vietnam, unprecedented military defeat coincided with the appearance of a modern culture which traditionalist Americans found alien, immoral and hateful beyond description. As was widely remarked at the time of Newt Gingrich's attempted 'Republican Revolution' of the mid-1990s, one way of looking at the hardline Republicans - especially from the Religious Right - is to see them as motivated by a classical nationalist desire for a return to a Golden Age, in their case the pre-Vietnam days of the 1950s.
None of these fantasies is characteristic of the American people as a whole. But the intense solipsism of that people, its general ignorance of the world beyond America's shores, coupled with the effects of 11 September, have left tremendous political spaces in which groups possessed by the fantasies and ambitions sketched out here can seek their objectives. Or to put it another way: the great majority of the American people are not nearly as militarist, imperialist or aggressive as their German equivalents in 1914; but most German people in 1914 would at least have been able to find France on a map.
The younger intelligentsia meanwhile has also been stripped of any real knowledge of the outside world by academic neglect of history and regional studies in favour of disciplines which are often no more than a crass projection of American assumptions and prejudices (Rational Choice Theory is the worst example). This has reduced still further their capacity for serious analysis of their own country and its actions. Together with the defection of its strongest internationalist elements, this leaves the intelligentsia vulnerable to the appeal of nationalist messianism dressed up in the supposedly benevolent clothing of 'democratisation'.
Twice now in the past decade, the overwhelming military and economic dominance of the US has given it the chance to lead the rest of the world by example and consensus. It could have adopted (and to a very limited degree under Clinton did adopt) a strategy in which this dominance would be softened and legitimised by economic and ecological generosity and responsibility, by geopolitical restraint, and by 'a decent respect to the opinion of mankind', as the US Declaration of Independence has it. The first occasion was the collapse of the Soviet superpower enemy and of Communism as an ideology. The second was the threat displayed by al-Qaida. Both chances have been lost - the first in part, the second it seems conclusively. What we see now is the tragedy of a great country, with noble impulses, successful institutions, magnificent historical achievements and immense energies, which has become a menace to itself and to mankind.
Anatol Lieven, a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC, is the author of Chechnya and Ukraine and Russia: A Fraternal Rivalry.

Myth busting!
The deductions drawn in this essay seem obvious but are rarely broached in public because Jewish power is a taboo subject. As the intrepid Joseph Sobran puts it: "It's permissible to discuss the power of every other group, from the Black Muslims to the Christian Right, but the much greater power of the Jewish establishment is off-limits." [99] So in a check for "hate" or "anti-Semitism," let's recapitulate the major points made in this essay. First, the initiation of a Middle East war to solve Israeli security problems has been a long-standing idea among Israeli rightist Likudniks. Next, Likudnik-oriented neoconservatives argued for American involvement in such a war prior to the atrocities of September 11, 2001.

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“The War On Iraq: Conceived In Israel
by T Dillon Mon, Mar 17 2003, 10:44am

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What is antisemiticism?
by T Dillon Mon, Mar 17 2003, 8:59am
* Not even the ADL and B'nai B'rith include attacks on Israel in the tally; they speak of "The insidious way we have seen the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians used by anti-Semites". And like many other people, I don't count terrorist attacks by such as Al Quaeda as instances of antisemitism but rather of some misdirected quasi-military campaign against the US and Israel. Even if you count them in, it does not seem very dangerous to be a Jew outside Israel. Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. He can be reached at: mneumann@trentu.ca

What is Antisemitism?
By Michael Neumann
Every once in a while, some left-wing Jewish writer
will take a deep breath, open up his (or her) great big heart,
and tell us that criticism of Israel or Zionism is not antisemitism.
Silently they congratulate themselves on their courage. With
a little sigh, they suppress any twinge of concern that maybe
the goyim--let alone the Arabs--can't be trusted with this dangerous knowledge.
Sometimes it is gentile hangers-on, whose
ethos if not their identity aspires to Jewishness, who take on
this task. Not to be utterly risqué, they then hasten
to remind us that antisemitism is nevertheless to be taken very
seriously. That Israel, backed by a pronounced majority of Jews, happens to be waging a race war against the Palestinians is all
the more reason we should be on our guard. Who knows? it might
possibly stir up some resentment!
I take a different view. I think we should
almost never take antisemitism seriously, and maybe we should
have some fun with it. I think it is particularly unimportant
to the Israel-Palestine conflict, except perhaps as a diversion
from the real issues. I will argue for the truth of these claims;
I also defend their propriety. I don't think making them is on
a par with pulling the wings off flies.
"Antisemitism", properly and
narrowly speaking, doesn't mean hatred of semites; that is to confuse etymology with definition. It means hatred of Jews. But
here, immediately, we come up against the venerable shell-game
of Jewish identity: "Look! We're a religion! No! a race!
No! a cultural entity! Sorry--a religion!" When we tire of this game, we get suckered into another: "anti-Zionism
is antisemitism! " quickly alternates with: "Don't
confuse Zionism with Judaism! How dare you, you antisemite!"
Well, let's be good sports. Let's try
defining antisemitism as broadly as any supporter of Israel would
ever want: antisemitism can be hatred of the Jewish race, or
culture, or religion, or hatred of Zionism. Hatred, or dislike,
or opposition, or slight unfriendliness.
But supporters of Israel won't find this
game as much fun as they expect. Inflating the meaning of 'antisemitism'
to include anything politically damaging to Israel is a double-edged
sword. It may be handy for smiting your enemies, but the problem
is that definitional inflation, like any inflation, cheapens
the currency. The more things get to count as antisemitic, the
less awful antisemitism is going to sound. This happens because,
while no one can stop you from inflating definitions, you still
don't control the facts. In particular, no definition of 'antisemitism'
is going to eradicate the substantially pro-Palestinian version
of the facts which I espouse, as do most people in Europe, a great many Israelis, and a growing number of North Americans.
What difference does that make? Suppose,
for example, an Israeli rightist says that the settlements represent
the pursuit of aspirations fundamental to the Jewish people,
and to oppose the settlements is antisemitism. We might have
to accept this claim; certainly it is difficult to refute. But
we also cannot abandon the well-founded belief that the settlements strangle the Palestinian people and extinguish any hope of peace.
So definitional acrobatics are all for nothing: we can only say,
screw the fundamental aspirations of the Jewish people; the settlements
are wrong. We must add that, since we are obliged to oppose the
settlements, we are obliged to be antisemitic. Through definitional
inflation, some form of 'antisemitism' has become morally obligatory.
It gets worse if anti-Zionism is labeled antisemitic, because the settlements, even if they do not represent
fundamental aspirations of the Jewish people, are an entirely
plausible extension of Zionism. To oppose them is indeed to be
anti-Zionist, and therefore, by the stretched definition, antisemitic.
The more antisemitism expands to include opposition to Israeli
policies, the better it looks. Given the crimes to be laid at
the feet of Zionism, there is another simple syllogism: anti-Zionism
is a moral obligation, so, if anti-Zionism is antisemitism, antisemitism
is a moral obligation.
What crimes? Even most apologists for
Israel have given up denying them, and merely hint that noticing
them is a bit antisemitic. After all, Israel 'is no worse than
anyone else'. First, so what? At age six we knew that "everyone's
doing it" is no excuse; have we forgotten? Second, the crimes
are no worse only when divorced from their purpose. Yes, other
people have killed civilians, watched them die for want of medical care, destroyed their homes, ruined their crops, and used them
as human shields. But Israel does these things to correct the
inaccuracy of Israel Zangwill's 1901 assertion that "Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without
a country". It hopes to create a land entirely empty of
gentiles, an Arabia deserta in which Jewish children can laugh
and play throughout a wasteland called peace.
Well before the Hitler era, Zionists
came thousands of miles to dispossess people who had never done
them the slightest harm, and whose very existence they contrived
to ignore. Zionist atrocities were not part of the initial plan.
They emerged as the racist obliviousness of a persecuted people
blossomed into the racial supremacist ideology of a persecuting
one. That is why the commanders who directed the rapes, mulilations
and child-killings of Deir Yassin went on to become prime ministers
of Israel.(*) But these murders were not enough. Today, when Israel could have peace for the taking, it conducts another round
of dispossession, slowly, deliberately making Palestine unliveable
for Palestinians, and liveable for Jews. Its purpose is not defense
or public order, but the extinction of a people. True, Israel
has enough PR-savvy to eliminate them with an American rather
than a Hitlerian level of violence. This is a kinder, gentler
genocide that portrays its perpetrators as victims.
Israel is building a racial state, not
a religious one. Like my parents, I have always been an atheist.
I am entitled by the biology of my birth to Israeli citizenship;
you, perhaps, are the most fervent believer in Judaism, but are
not. Palestinians are being squeezed and killed for me, not for
you. They are to be forced into Jordan, to perish in a civil
war. So no, shooting Palestinian civilians is not like shooting Vietnamese or Chechen civilians. The Palestinians aren't 'collateral
damage' in a war against well-armed communist or separatist forces.
They are being shot because Israel thinks all Palestinians should
vanish or die, so people with one Jewish grandparent can build subdivisions on the rubble of their homes. This is not the bloody
mistake of a blundering superpower but an emerging evil, the
deliberate strategy of a state conceived in and dedicated to an increasingly vicious ethnic nationalism. It has relatively
few corpses to its credit so far, but its nuclear weapons can
kill perhaps 25 million people in a few hours.
Do we want to say it is antisemitic to
accuse, not just the Israelis, but Jews generally of complicity
in these crimes against humanity? Again, maybe not, because there
is a quite reasonable case for such assertions. Compare them,
for example, to the claim that Germans generally were complicit
in such crimes. This never meant that every last German, man, woman, idiot and child, were guilty. It meant that most Germans
were. Their guilt, of course, did not consist in shoving naked
prisoners into gas chambers. It consisted in support for the people who planned such acts, or--as many overwrought, moralistic
Jewish texts will tell you--for denying the horror unfolding
around them, for failing to speak out and resist, for passive
consent. Note that the extreme danger of any kind of active resistance
is not supposed to be an excuse here.
Well, virtually no Jew is in any kind
of danger from speaking out. And speaking out is the only sort
of resistance required. If many Jews spoke out, it would have
an enormous effect. But the overwhelming majority of Jews do
not, and in the vast majority of cases, this is because they support Israel. Now perhaps the whole notion of collective responsibility
should be discarded; perhaps some clever person will convince
us that we have to do this. But at present, the case for Jewish
complicity seems much stronger than the case for German complicity.
So if it is not racist, and reasonable, to say that the Germans
were complicit in crimes against humanity, then it is not racist,
and reasonable, to say the same of the Jews. And should the notion
of collective responsibility be discarded, it would still be reasonable to say that many, perhaps most adult Jewish individuals
support a state that commits war crimes, because that's just
true. So if saying these things is antisemitic, than it can be reasonable to be antisemitic.
In other words there is a choice to be
made. You can use 'antisemitism' to fit your political agenda,
or you can use it as a term of condemnation, but you can't do
both. If antisemitism is to stop coming out reasonable or moral,
it has to be narrowly and unpolemically defined. It would be
safe to confine antisemitism to explicitly racial hatred of Jews,
to attacking people simply because they had been born Jewish.
But it would be uselessly safe: even the Nazis did not claim
to hate people simply because they had been born Jewish. They claimed to hate the Jews because they were out to dominate the
Clearly such a view should count as antisemitic, whether it belongs
to the cynical racists who concocted it or to the fools who swallowed
There is only one way to guarantee that
the term "antisemitism" captures all and only bad acts
or attitudes towards Jews. We have to start with what we can
all agree are of that sort, and see that the term names all and
only them. We probably share enough morality to do this.
For instance, we share enough morality
to say that all racially based acts and hatreds are bad, so we
can safely count them as antisemitic. But not all 'hostility
towards Jews', even if that means hostility towards the overwhelming majority of Jews, should count as antisemitic. Nor should all
hostility towards Judaism, or Jewish culture.
I, for example, grew up in Jewish culture
and, like many people growing up in a culture, I have come to
dislike it. But it is unwise to count my dislike as antisemitic,
not because I am Jewish, but because it is harmless. Perhaps
not utterly harmless: maybe, to some tiny extent, it will somehow
encourage some of the harmful acts or attitudes we'd want to
call antisemitic. But so what? Exaggerated philosemitism, which
regards all Jews as brilliant warm and witty saints, might have
the same effect. The dangers posed by my dislike are much too
small to matter. Even widespread, collective loathing for a culture
is normally harmless. French culture, for instance, seems to
be widely disliked in North America, and no one, including the
French, consider this some sort of racial crime.
Not even all acts and attitudes harmful
to Jews generally should be considered antisemitic. Many people
dislike American culture; some boycott American goods. Both the
attitude and the acts may harm Americans generally, but there
is nothing morally objectionable about either. Defining these
acts as anti-Americanism will only mean that some anti-Americanism
is perfectly acceptable. If you call opposition to Israeli policies
antisemitic on the grounds that this opposition harms Jews generally,
it will only mean that some antisemitism is equally acceptable.
If antisemitism is going to be a term
of condemnation, then, it must apply beyond explicitly racist
acts or thoughts or feelings. But it cannot apply beyond clearly
unjustified and serious hostility to Jews. The Nazis made up historical fantasies to justify their attacks; so do modern antisemites
who trust in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. So do the closet
racists who complain about Jewish dominance of the economy. This
is antisemitism in a narrow, negative sense of the word. It is
action or propaganda designed to hurt Jews, not because of anything
they could avoid doing, but because they are what they are. It
also applies to the attitudes that propaganda tries to instill.
Though not always explicitly racist, it involves racist motives
and the intention to do real damage. Reasonably well-founded
opposition to Israeli policies, even if that opposition hurts
all Jews, does not fit this description. Neither does simple,
harmless dislike of things Jewish.
So far, I've suggested that it's best
to narrow the definition of antisemitism so that no act can be
both antisemitic and unobjectionable. But we can go further.
Now that we're through playing games, let's ask about the role
of *genuine*, bad antisemitism in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and in the world at large.
Undoubtedly there is genuine antisemitism
in the Arab world: the distribution of the Protocols of the Elders
of Zion, the myths about stealing the blood of gentile babies.
This is utterly inexcusable. So was your failure to answer Aunt Bee's last letter. In other words, it is one thing to be told:
you must simply accept that antisemitism is evil; to do otherwise
is to put yourself outside our moral world. But it is quite something
else to have someone try to bully you into proclaiming that antisemitism
is the Evil of Evils. We are not children learning morality;
it is our responsibility to set our own moral priorities. We
cannot do this by looking at horrible images from 1945 or listening
to the anguished cries of suffering columnists. We have to ask
how much harm antisemitism is doing, or is likely to do, not
in the past, but today. And we must ask where such harm might
occur, and why.
Supposedly there is great danger in the antisemitism of the Arab world. But Arab antisemitism isn't the
cause of Arab hostility towards Israel or even towards Jews.
It is an effect. The progress of Arab antisemitism fits nicely
with the progress of Jewish encroachment and Jewish atrocities.
This is not to excuse genuine antisemitism; it is to trivialize
it. It came to the Middle East with Zionism and it will abate
when Zionism ceases to be an expansionist threat. Indeed its
chief cause is not antisemitic propaganda but the decades-old, systematic and unrelenting efforts of Israel to implicate all
Jews in its crimes. If Arab anti-semitism persists after a peace
agreement, we can all get together and cluck about it. But it still won't do Jews much actual harm. Arab governments could
only lose by permitting attacks on their Jewish citizens; to
do so would invite Israeli intervention. And there is little reason to expect such attacks to materialize: if all the horrors
of Israel's recent campaigns did not provoke them, it is hard
to imagine what would. It would probably take some Israeli act so awful and so criminal as to overshadow the attacks themselves.
If antisemitism is likely to have terrible
effects, it is far more likely to have them in Western Europe.
The neo-fascist resurgence there is all too real. But is it a
danger to Jews? There is no doubt that LePen, for instance, is
antisemitic. There is also no evidence whatever that he intends
to do anything about it. On the contrary, he makes every effort
to pacify the Jews, and perhaps even enlist their help against
his real targets, the 'Arabs'. He would hardly be the first political
figure to ally himself with people he disliked. But if he had
some deeply hidden plan against the Jews, that *would* be unusual: Hitler and the Russian antisemitic rioters were wonderfully open
about their intentions, and they didn't court Jewish support.
And it is a fact that some French Jews see LePen as a positive development or even an ally. (see, for instance, "`LePen
is good for us,' Jewish supporter says", Ha'aretz May 04,
2002, and Mr. Goldenburg's April 23rd comments on France TV.)
Of course there are historical reasons
for fearing a horrendous attack on Jews. And anything is possible:
there could be a massacre of Jews in Paris tomorrow, or of Algerians.
Which is more likely? If there are any lessons of history, they must apply in roughly similar circumstances. Europe today bears
very little resemblance to Europe in 1933. And there are positive possibilities as well: why is the likelihood of a pogrom greater
than the likelihood that antisemitism will fade into ineffectual
nastiness? Any legitimate worries must rest on some evidence
that there really is a threat.
The incidence of antisemitic attacks
might provide such evidence. But this evidence is consistently
fudged: no distinction is made between attacks against Jewish
monuments and symbols as opposed to actual attacks against Jews.
In addition, so much is made of an increase in the frequency
of attacks that the very low absolute level of attacks escapes
attention. The symbolic attacks have indeed increased to significant
absolute numbers. The physical attacks have not.(*) More important,
most of these attacks are by Muslim residents: in other words,
they come from a widely hated, vigorously policed and persecuted
minority who don't stand the slightest chance of undertaking
a serious campaign of violence against Jews.
It is very unpleasant that roughly half
a dozen Jews have been hospitalized--none killed--due to recent
attacks across Europe. But anyone who makes this into one of
the world's important problems simply hasn't looked at the world. These attacks are a matter for the police, not a reason why we
should police ourselves and others to counter some deadly spiritual
disease. That sort of reaction is appropriate only when racist
attacks occur in societies indifferent or hostile to the minority
attacked. Those who really care about recurrent Nazism, for instance, should save their anguished concern for the far bloodier, far
more widely condoned attacks on gypsies, whose history of persecution
is fully comparable to the Jewish past. The position of Jews
is much closer to the position of whites, who are also, of course,
the victims of racist attacks.
No doubt many people reject this sort
of cold-blooded calculation. They will say that, with the past
looming over us, even one antisemitic slur is a terrible thing,
and its ugliness is not to be measured by a body count. But if
we take a broader view of the matter, antisemitism becomes less,
not more important. To regard any shedding of Jewish blood as
a world-shattering calamity, one which defies all measurement
and comparison, is racism, pure and simple; the valuing of one
race's blood over all others. The fact that Jews have been persecuted
for centuries and suffered terribly half a century ago doesn't
wipe out the fact that in Europe today, Jews are insiders with
far less to suffer and fear than many other ethnic groups. Certainly
racist attacks against a well-off minority are just as evil as
racist attacks against a poor and powerless minority. But equally
evil attackers do not make for equally worrisome attacks.
It is not Jews who live most in the shadow
of the concentration camp. LePen's 'transit camps' are for 'Arabs',
not Jews. And though there are politically significant parties
containing many antisemites, not one of these parties shows any sign of articulating, much less implementing, an antisemitic
agenda. Nor is there any particular reason to suppose that, once
in power, they will change their tune. Haider's Austria is not considered dangerous for Jews; neither was Tudjman's Croatia.
And were there to be such danger, well, a nuclear-armed Jewish
state stands ready to welcome any refugees, as do the US and
Canada. And to say there are no real dangers now is not to say
that we should ignore any dangers that may arise. If in France,
for instance, the Front National starts advocating transit camps
for Jews, or institutes anti-Jewish immigration policies, then
we should be alarmed. But we should not be alarmed that something alarming might just conceivably happen: there are far more alarming
things going on than that!
One might reply that, if things are not
more alarming, it is only because the Jews and others have been
so vigilant in combatting antisemitism. But this isn't plausible.
For one thing, vigilance about antisemitism is a kind of tunnel
vision: as neofascists are learning, they can escape notice by
keeping quiet about Jews. For another, there has been no great
danger to Jews even in traditionally antisemitic countries where
the world is *not* vigilant, like Croatia or the Ukraine. Countries
that get very little attention seem no more dangerous than countries
that get a lot. As for the vigorous reaction to LePen in France,
that seems to have a lot more to do with French revulsion at neofascism than with the scoldings of the Anti-Defamation League.
To suppose that the Jewish organizations and earnest columnists
who pounce on antisemitism are saving the world from disaster
is like claiming that Bertrand Russell and the Quakers were all
that saved us from nuclear war.
Now one might say: whatever the real dangers, these events are
truly agonizing for Jews, and bring back unbearably painful memories.
That may be true for the very few who still have those memories;
it is not true for Jews in general. I am a German Jew, and have
a good claim to second-generation, third-hand victimhood. Antisemitic
incidents and a climate of rising antisemitism don't really bother
me a hell of a lot. I'm much more scared of really dangerous situations, like driving. Besides, even painful memories and
anxieties do not carry much weight against the actual physical
suffering inflicted by discrimination against many non-Jews.
This is not to belittle all antisemitism, everywhere. One often hears of vicious antisemites in Poland
and Russia, both on the streets and in government. But alarming
as this may be, it is also immune to the influence of Israel-Palestine
conflicts, and those conflicts are wildly unlikely to affect
it one way or another. Moreover, so far as I know, nowhere is
there as much violence against Jews as there is against 'Arabs'.
So even if antisemitism is, somewhere, a catastrophically serious
matter, we can only conclude that anti-Arab sentiment is far
more serious still. And since every antisemitic group is to a
far greater extent anti-immigrant and anti-Arab, these groups
can be fought, not in the name of antisemitism, but in the defense
of Arabs and immigrants. So the antisemitic threat posed by these
groups shouldn't even make us want to focus on antisemitism:
they are just as well fought in the name of justice for Arabs
and immigrants.
In short, the real scandal today is not antisemitism but the importance it is given. Israel has committed
war crimes. It has implicated Jews generally in these crimes,
and Jews generally have hastened to implicate themselves. This
has provoked hatred against Jews. Why not? Some of this hatred
is racist, some isn't, but who cares? Why should we pay any attention
to this issue at all? Is the fact that Israel's race war has
provoked bitter anger of any importance besides the war itself?
Is the remote possibility that somewhere, sometime, somehow,
this hatred may in theory, possibly kill some Jews of any importance
besides the brutal, actual, physical persecution of Palestinians,
and the hundreds of thousands of votes for Arabs to be herded
into transit camps? Oh, but I forgot. Drop everything. Someone
spray-painted antisemitic slogans on a synagogue.
* Not even the ADL and B'nai B'rith include attacks on Israel in the tally; they speak of "The insidious way we have seen the conflict between Israelis and
Palestinians used by anti-Semites". And like many other
people, I don't count terrorist attacks by such as Al Quaeda
as instances of antisemitism but rather of some misdirected quasi-military
campaign against the US and Israel. Even if you count them in,
it does not seem very dangerous to be a Jew outside Israel.
Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario,
Canada. He can be reached at: mneumann@trentu.ca

by T Dillon Mon, Mar 17 2003, 8:38am
But America and logic are two different things. The group that is now in control in Washington - a mixed bag of Evangelical fundamentalists and Jews connected with the extreme right in Israel - has a logic of its own. They may direct and even push Sharon to extremes. It is, of course, clear that all the acts mentioned constitute war crimes under the Geneva Convention and other international laws. Some of them are crimes under Israeli law, too, being "manifestly illegal orders, over which a black flag is waving", Uri Avnery. Gush Shalom Israeli Peace Bloc

Gush Shalom

Uri Avnery

Black Flags

When I visited Ramallah last, it wore a shining white frock. Even after days of
sunshine, many areas where still covered with snow that hid the ravages of the
occupation, destruction and neglect.
I was driving slowly and enjoying the landscape, when I tensed instinctively.
Through the corner of my eye I saw a group of children. Something was hurled
forcefully against my windshield and landed with a bang. In the split of a second I
relaxed: it wasn't a rock but a snowball. I waved and they waved cheerfully back, in
spite of my yellow Israeli license plates.
But that was the only light moment during this visit. I had come to ask
Palestinian civic leaders about the dangers threatening the Palestinian population
in case of an American attack on Iraq.
They had no illusions. The present Israeli political-military leadership includes
groups that have been planning for a long time to exploit a war situation in order
to do things which cannot be done in ordinary times. The moral brakes that still
exist in parts of the Israeli public, as well as the expected international reaction,
prevent the implementation of these plans for the time being.
All this can change in a war situation. The attention of the world will be riveted
to the battle in Iraq. In the Arab countries, chaos may prevail, diverting attention
from the Palestinian territories. The Israeli public, fearful of Saddam's capabilities,
will be (even) less sensitive to the plight of the Palestinians.
What can happen?
The list is long, and every item is worse than the preceding one.
The first - and almost certain - act will be a prolonged closure and curfew in all
the occupied territories. The Palestinians have a long and painful experience with
these. It means that for days and weeks on end it will be impossible to get food
and medicines into towns and villages, especially to remote and isolated ones.
This time, electricity may be completely cut off, cutting all connections with the
outside world. Patients will not reach hospitals for ordinary treatment (dialysis
and chemotherapy, for example) or emergency procedures (wounds, operations,
births etc.). In many cases, this can literally be a matter of life and death.
Only some of these eventualities can be forestalled. For example, Villages can
be helped to stock essential supplies in advance.
It is clear to the Palestinians that the war will give the occupation forces the
opportunity to intensify even more the things which happen now every day: the
execution of militants and others, wholesale demolition of homes, uprooting of
plantations. It is difficult to know what new dimensions these can att

author by Colmpublication date Mon Mar 17, 2003 15:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is too long, way too long.

author by T Dillonpublication date Mon Mar 17, 2003 22:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

God forbid that you might have learned something from a piece of text longer than some banal SMS on your nokia portabrain.....snooze..... !

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