03.09.2005Brian Klug - Robert WistrichWhen Is Opposition to Israel and Its Policies Anti-Semitic?
As I write these lines, Britain's Association of University Teachers (AUT) has formally decided to boycott a number of Israeli universities.* They have taken no similar action against human rights violations elsewhere in the world; there is, for example, no boycott of Russian academics for the Chechen atrocities, of China for its occupation of Tibet, of Saudi Arabian universities for gender apartheid or Palestinian campuses for glorifying jihadi terrorism.
Only Israel's pluralist universities are singled out for discriminatory treatment. By your criteria, such double standards and hypocrisy are merely an expression of bias – which (according to you) exists on both sides. I disagree. Any decision to boycott Israel is inexplicable without taking anti-Semitism into account. Your position, far from being "objective," radically underestimates the cumulative effects of the liberal-left delegitimisation of Zionism. What we have seen in recent years is indeed a new form of anti-Semitism operating under a humanist façade which (falsely) pillories Israel and Jews as being inherently "racist."
Not only that, but your response also ignores the undeniable mainstream character of Muslim Jew-hatred in the Middle East and the degree to which it has already poisoned the debate in Europe. Contrary to what you imply, anti-Jewish hatred is no longer primarily driven by classical European, Christian or racist motives.
It is Islamists who set the tone with their demonization of America, Israel and the Jews, while the media, the academic, artistic, religious and political elites in the European Union meekly follow suit. Hence, your call for a joint struggle against "Islamophobia" and anti-Semitism seems strangely out of touch with reality. Moreover, denying the specificity of diverse forms of bigotry does no service to the anti-racist cause; it also ignores the fact that Muslim Arabs are the main perpetrators of anti-Jewish attacks in the EU today.
What is also missing in your letter is any serious reckoning with the implications of the fixation on Israel as the prime cause of violence and terrorism in the world – an obsession uncannily reminiscent of the fantasies underlying classical anti-Semitism. The contemporary Islamist and leftist mind-set holds Israel responsible for Arab backwardness and decadence, just as Europe traditionally projected the guilt for its own unresolved crises on the Jewish "other."
Let me conclude with the following thought. I do not believe that the "normalization" of Israel or the Jewish people is either possible or even desirable. Such "solutions" to anti-Semitism have already been tried and failed. However, once the Arab world understands that ignorance and lack of freedom, not Israel, is its main enemy, then peace will indeed be possible.
© Qantara.de 2005
The letter-debate was initiated by Monika Jung-Mounib.
* The boycott of the Association of University Teachers has meanwhile been discontinued. (ed. remark)