Trump and the West Seek to Put All Jews in the Pro-occupation Basket

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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President Donald Trump shows the executive anti-Semitism order he signed during a Hanukkah reception in the East Room of the White House in Washington, December 11, 2019.
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

Something terrible is brewing in the West, including the United States. Last week President Donald Trump signed an executive order that adopts a broad and controversial definition of anti-Semitism that includes certain types of criticism of Israel, according to the Haaretz report. But the process of extending immunity to Israeli government policy began seven months ago in Europe, when the German parliament passed a resolution defining the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel as anti-Semitic. Then the French National Assembly a few weeks ago passed an even sharper resolution saying that anti-Zionism is a type of anti-Semitism.

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In theory, these developments are an unprecedented victory for Israel’s extreme right; the world, or at least a substantial part of it, is agreeing to an extreme interpretation of anti-Semitism. Moreover, these resolutions grant Israel near-total immunity from any criticism. But after all of the surrounding verbiage is cleared away, this immunity is being given to Israel in regard to a single issue: the occupation in general and the oppression of the Palestinian people in particular.

It’s difficult to find a historical precedent for this type of immunity. What other country enjoys, or has ever enjoyed, such a privilege? That is, to be above criticism. Is there a legislature in any democratic country that would dare to pass a law determining that criticism of Russia’s policy in Ukraine is “anti-Russian”? Or that criticism of America’s policy toward Mexican migrants is “anti-American”? Only Israel is given this dubious privilege: Don’t touch its precious occupation. 

Now the right-wing government and the ideological groups that surround it are trying, somewhat successfully, to create an absolute identity between the Jewish individual and government policy, between the ideology and the person. They want the world to relate to individual Jews and Israeli government policy as a single unit — the ban on “certain types of criticism of Israel” in the U.S. executive order, and also to have the individual Jew totally identified with a certain ideology — France’s  “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.” 

It should be noted that only a minority of the Jewish people supported Zionism until after the state was established. While most Jews, at least in Israel, now consider themselves Zionists, this doesn’t mean that all Zionists are in favor of the occupation and the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Moreover, there are Jews who — gasp — are not Zionists. Some of these are leftists, liberals and religious Jews; there are even anti-Zionists. Now come the Jew-lovers from across the sea and decide that all the Jews are “Moshe,” just as racists see all Arabs as infinite copies of “Ahmed.”

This is a pyrrhic victory, because there are two sides to this coin. The flip side of this Western embrace is that all the Jews in the world become responsible for all the injustices committed by this messianic right-wing government in the occupied territories. This is the unholy covenant that is being realized between the anti-Arab right in Israel and the Western right, which considers all Jews responsible. Therefore, if you reverse the logic, these resolutions are actually anti-Semitic because they don’t allow any room for criticizing or opposing Israeli policies. The term “bear hug” was invented for exactly this situation.

Isn’t it puzzling that, precisely after this wave of embraces, anti-Semitic crimes have gone up a notch, or even many notches, especially in the United States? After all, these resolutions make a statement to the Western public that respectful criticism of Israeli government policies is out of the question, leaving the public domain to the anti-Semitic racists.

It’s time for a revolution of consciousness, that will be led by wide circles in Jewish public life both here and abroad under the slogan, “Don’t put us all in one basket” — the pro-occupation basket. Here’s another slogan: “Release us from your choking embrace.”

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