03.09.2005Brian Klug - Robert WistrichWhen Is Opposition to Israel and Its Policies Anti-Semitic?
The history of anti-Semitism teaches us, in my view, that there is a continuum of prejudice leading from social discrimination against Jews to ghettoization and the more violent forms of antagonism culminating in the Holocaust. Thus we should be careful not to treat the systematic vilification of the State of Israel too indulgently as mere bias. Such a radical negation often presents Zionism as a corrupting or "alien" influence in the Middle East; as a racist, fascist or even "Nazified" ideology. In most cases, such anti-Zionism builds, therefore, on a pejorative view of Judaism, Jewry and Jewish collective existence.
Whatever its source, it is unmistakably influenced by the anti-Semitic categories of thought you mentioned – which see the Jews as cruel, duplicitous, and conspiratorial by nature. Islamist movements from Hamas and Hizbollah to Al-Qaida all view the Palestine issue through the prism of such anti-Semitic conspiratorial theories in which "Crusaders" and "Zionists" deliberately seek to conquer, enslave and humiliate Muslims.
The Jihadist world-view involves eradicating Israel as part of the global battle between Islam and "unbelief"; there can be no peace with the Jews, only war and Jihad. No wonder such anti-Zionism draws on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, suitably Islamicized for the holy war against the Jews. This category of anti-Zionist anti-Semitism has unfortunately infected many Palestinians – and some of their supporters in the West.
It feeds off the bitter Israeli-Palestinian conflict to which you allude but it is also nourished by the pervasive cult of hatred and martyrdom in the Muslim world. Anti-Semitism, I would suggest to you, has become the opium of the Arab masses and hence it will be difficult to roll back. It is, after all, so convenient for Arab rulers to channel the discontent and rage of their own populations against Israel, America and the Jews.
Moreover, in the absence of free debate in the Arab world, of a reformation within Islam and the empowerment of women, militant Islam will continue to fill the political void. Still, there are some things that can be done. Current levels of anti-Jewish incitement in the PA and Arab States must be reduced; Europe should take a more active stand against Muslim anti-Semitism, in the Middle East and on its own soil. Israel, too, could show more sensitivity to the Palestinian grievances – difficult though this is in the middle of the current disengagement from the Gaza strip.