Advocating for Palestinian rights is falsely labeled “antisemitism” by some pro-Israel groups. (Pictured: 2019 pro-Palestinian rights demonstration.)
A Jewish American exposes the often-used tactic of deflecting criticism of Israel by viewing it falsely through a lens of antisemitism. Even some supporters of Palestinian rights miss the sleight-of-hand that casts this negative light on their own movement and have mistakenly attacked longtime activists.
by Ira Glunts, reposted from the Palestine Chronicle, June 2, 2021
Unfounded or unconfirmed charges of antisemitism made by US pro-Israel organizations, which are then parroted by the pro-Zionist US mainstream press, always increase when Israeli actions become so hideous they shame even some of its most dedicated supporters.
With the latest Israeli shelling of Gaza, its evictions of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem, and the continuing Israeli police riots, raids and terrorism in and around the al Aqsa mosque and in mixed Jewish/Palestinian cities, this is just such a time. This is a time for the expected explosion of false reports trumpeting the sudden outbreak of violence against Jews throughout the US and the alleged alarming increase in antisemitic incidents generally.
All ethnic, racial and religious minorities experience hatred and racially motivated aggression. Jews are a minority and thus are included in this, but Jews are also a very privileged ethnic group in American society. The systemic antisemitism that existed in the 50s and 60s is a thing of the past. Today Jews have the highest average income of any ethnic or religious community. They are integrated into the power structure, with overrepresentation in many professions including politics, medicine, law and the media. Recently Jews married into the families of two former presidents (Clinton’s and Trump’s).
When you add the fact that most Jews are physically indistinguishable from the white majority, it makes the purported antisemitism crisis sound very illogical, especially when contrasted with discrimination and hate crimes against other minorities. However, Jewish organizations have a long, documented history of successfully promoting the concept of an antisemitism crisis especially when there is an increase of criticism of the Jewish state.
Manufactured antisemitism crisis
“Documented” antisemitic crimes have included everything from waving a Palestinian flag, not mentioning the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at Christmas time, to not recognizing the Jewish 2000-year-old claim to sovereignty over the land of Israel. Not to mention that the offense is counted as extra harmful if one states the undeniable truth that many Jews have and employ political and economic power in the US to support and defend Israel.
One recent glaring example of the manufactured antisemitism crisis, is when the New York Times, the most powerful unabashedly pro-Israeli US media outlet, ran a story by Ruth Graham about what she characterized as a violent antisemitic hate crime committed by pro-Palestinian protesters in the streets of West Los Angeles. According to Graham, a caravan of pro-Palestinian street demonstrators assaulted Jewish patrons who were sitting in an outdoor dining facility at a Los Angeles sushi restaurant.
The main source of this story was a conference call that featured a representative of the LA Police hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. The latter is a pro-Israel organization that has devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to defending Israel against criticism and to attacking those it considers enemies. The activities of the LA Federation include financing the Canary Mission, a website that smears young Palestinian-American activists, pro-Palestinian academics and other activists with false charges of antisemitism.
The Federation has caused many of their victims to suffer numerous indignities including losing their jobs. For Palestinian-Americans a listing on the Canary Mission website may lead to searches and hostile interrogations upon entering Israel, and for some, to being refused entry to visit family upon arrival there.
It is highly inappropriate for the LA police to be participating in a press conference about an ongoing investigation into an alleged antisemitic hate crime that is hosted by an organization like the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, one that has a long history of promoting false charges of antisemitism. It should be noted that the Los Angeles Jewish Federation donates large sums of money to many organizations and institutions which can help them with their pro-Israel agenda.
Perhaps, the LA Police Department is a natural place to invest money to finance US police trips to Israel where officers are taught to use the same repressive methods that are used against the Palestinian population in the apartheid Jewish state. And – among the numerous large monetary donations the Federation makes, one should not be surprised if a gift given to the LA police department would gain a sympathetic ear when the Federation and other pro-Israel groups direct the police to crimes they claim are motivated by hate against fellow Jews.
More (and less) than meets the eye
Max Blumenthal, editor of thegrayzone.com, has written an eye-opening article about the many dubious recent claims and videos purporting to show antisemitic violence being committed by pro-Palestinian activists, which includes a debunking of the alleged Los Angeles restaurant attack video. Blumenthal documents how the numerous reports of pro-Palestinian violence against Jews are mostly either instigated by violent Jewish pro-Israel counter-demonstrators or simply fabricated events by pro-Israel groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, or the many local Jewish Federations in US cities. The fabricated incidents are later promoted as real to the US media by these same groups.
These propaganda operations are greatly facilitated by the social networking pro-Israel community of users of the Act.IL app which is supported by Israeli government security institutions such as the Office of Strategic Affairs and Jewish organizations in the US such as The Maccabee Task Force. The app users amplify and create messages that are helpful in promoting a pro-Israel agenda. Furthering the idea of the growing problem of antisemitism in the US is now one of the top priorities of Act.IL.
Articles such as Ruth Graham’s Times piece also portray the LA restaurant incident in the New York as a continuation of the “escalating violence” in Israel (with no mention that Israel is the cause of the violence), which has “sparked” a series of violent hate crimes against Jews across the US. The inference is clearly that the clashes in the US are somehow equivalent to the horror of Israeli war crimes. Incredibly, it aims to take the news focus away from those crimes onto the imagined plight of Jews in the US. Graham continued to plough similar ground six days later in a piece titled.
US Faces Outbreak of Anti-Semitic Threats and Violence with prominent mention of the LA restaurant incident (but no further details of the investigation) and with a heavy reliance on surveys conducted by the very pro-Israel ADL, which has a long history of dirty tricks promoting Israel and attacking its critics.
This false narrative about marauding Palestinian activists terrifying innocent Jewish bystanders because they are Jewish and the creation of a myth of an antisemitism crisis in the US, is being amplified not only by the media, but also by pro-Palestinian activists like Yousef Munayyer and Rebecca Vilkomerson on Twitter.
Munayyer, a Palestinian-American and former head of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights is a moderate, even-tempered advocate for the Palestinian cause. He is articulate and widely published with the ability to ingratiate himself with Jewish progressives like the JVP who are longtime supporters of false claims of antisemitism. In this tweet by Munayyer …
Those doing this [antisemitic crimes] are not in solidarity w/ Palestinians, they are in solidarity with racism, a force we suffer from. What separates our struggle for freedom from Zionism is it is about securing our rights by not denying them to others. Anyone in solidarity with us must model that.
… he swallows the narrative of Palestinian antisemitism and violence hook, line and sinker and thus reinforces the dubious assumption that there exists a serious problem with violent antisemitic Palestinian activists. Maybe this is the price a Palestinian must pay to get his/her voice onto the New York Times opinion page.
Rebecca Vilkomerson, the former head of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), unsurprisingly amplifies the false antisemitism narrative with this tweet:
Antisemitism, by people purporting to support Palestinians or anyone else, is never ok. My Palestinian comrades have consistently spoken out against antisemitism & continue to say clearly, even as they fight for their very survival, that antisemitism is antithetical to their values.
Vilkomerson follows up by approvingly quoting the Munayyer tweet above.
The JVP under Vilkomerson progressed from a liberal Zionist organization to one with a declared position of anti-zionism. They have made productive intersectional alliances and brought attention to the training of US police in Israel among many other important activities.
False antisemitism charges growing out of tribalism?
However, Vilkomerson and the JVP also attacked activists as Alison Weir and the Jewish Israeli-American, Miko Peled, with unfounded claims that both had made antisemitic statements. JVP even prohibited its local chapters from hosting Weir despite her popularity with the rank and file. JVP now runs numerous webinars and devotes many tweets to the subject of antisemitism.
Showing concern about alleged rising antisemitism is a signal to the greater Jewish community that one still feels loyalty to the tribe. I think that for the JVP leadership there also exists the assumption that a campaign against antisemitism will earn them credibility with their co-religionists and somewhat protect them from the wrath of pro-Israel organizations.
In the Syracuse, New York area where I live, the Jewish Federation of Central New York has conducted a campaign against a handful of pro-Palestinian activists, many in their 70s and 80s, with not only false charges of antisemitism, but with the claim that their demonstrations have caused the local Jewish community to be “concerned about their physical safety.”
Pressure from the Federation has already apparently convinced a local progressive group, the Syracuse Peace Council, to consider adding combatting antisemitism, on an equal footing with their Native American and Black advocacy. The Peace Council has formed a special committee dedicated to communicating with the Federation. In an internal email communication, one prominent Jewish member of the group who is leading a campaign for Jewish rights be part of the agenda of the group, wrote that Jews suffer from “systemic oppression” [bold letters in email, ig] in the US. And this from a leader of a group that has anti-imperialism and anti-war as one of its guiding principles!
Pro-Israel lobby pressures are obviously being felt and acted upon at the highest levels. On May 27, Democratic Party spokesperson and political operative Donna Brazile, wrote a hyperbolic op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, which like the New York Times is a newspaper that enthusiastically peddles Zionist propaganda.
Brazile claims her bona fides as a child of slavery and the Black struggle in the US and informs us that during the year of Black Lives Matter protests over the George Floyd and other police killings of her Black brothers and sisters, an equivalent attacks motivated by irrational hatred against American Jews also appeared across the US.
Then the Democratic Party spin queen makes the startling statement that not only is antisemitic violence “sparked” by “fighting” for which Israel, of course, bears no responsibility, but what seems to be politically motivated violence is not political at all, but just “an excuse to mount assaults against Jews.”
The latest eruption of anti-Semitism has been sparked by fighting between Israel and Hamas, the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip. But the perpetrators of these vile anti-Semitic attacks, in the U.S. and elsewhere, use the actions of Israel as an excuse to mount assaults against Jews. (emphasis mine, ig)
How Brazile came to this totally erroneous conclusion that what may be isolated incidents of politically motivated violence is actually a pandemic of pure racial violence against Jews is never explained. How could it be? It is insane spin. And that is what is going on here.
The Brazile op-ed presaged the heavy-handed events which happened next. Douglas Emhoff, the Jewish husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, convened a meeting of influential representatives of the Jewish pro-Israel community to assure them that the Biden administration is “all in” for what appears to be a massive campaign to combat antisemitism.
This administration war on antisemitism will no doubt include more laws against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, more pressure from the Department of Education to restrict pro-Palestinian events at colleges and universities, more pressure to limit the freedom of speech and activism of Students for Justice in Palestine (SPJ) and more pro-Israel officials in the administration. So it goes ….
In contrast to the attitude of Vilkomerson, Munayyer, The New York Times writers, the husband of the Vice President and so many others, a recent voice of reason has garnered considerable attention on social media. That voice belongs to Amer Zahr, whose Twitter account describes him as a comedian, law professor, Palestinian and surrogate in the Bernie Sanders campaign.
A video from a recent Twitter thread demanding that pro-Palestinian activists stop condemning antisemitism because it “plays into the opponents’ game” has received almost a half a million views. He reminds his followers that false antisemitism charges have been a tactic used by Zionists for decades to divert attention from Israeli crimes. In his Twitter thread Zahr correctly points out that if a few idiots may have acted inappropriately, then people should condemn the specific acts, and not assume the Zionist narrative that antisemitism is a problem in the pro-Palestinian movement, because it simply is not and has never been.
Out of the mouth of an Israeli
As Shulamit Aloni, an Israeli politician quoted in Zahr’s thread, famously stated in a 2002 interview with Democracy Now, “antisemitism is a trick we [Israel] always use it” to stop people from criticizing Israel. What is now called “weaponized antisemitism” was not only by Israelis but also by pro-Israel groups in the US and Europe for years.
It is still employed to attack critics of Israel, by Israelis and its international supporters. The difference between then and the present is that the antisemitism charges are not only limited to attacks upon individual critics but are employed against groups such as activists, particularly Palestinians. Antisemitism charges are even used to characterize US society as a whole as discriminatory and violent toward Jews, at least, on a par with anti-Black or anti-Muslim discrimination.
It is obvious that the campaign to promote antisemitism as a significant social problem in the United States, serves to divert attention from the actions of the Israeli government. It also suppresses pro-Palestinian speech and activism because of the threat of a campaign of smears of antisemitism directed at the activists.
But when the false antisemitism charges move from being directed at individuals to being directed at groups and even the whole society, those charges serve to indemnify Israel and the massive support army of pro-Israel partisans both Jewish and non-Jewish, from facing opposition to the injustices they are promoting. In a truly Orwellian twist, the defenders of Israel become the victims and not the aggressors in the eyes of many.
The purveyors of the false narrative of antisemitic activists threatening Jews in the streets of America and the fabricated myth of the growth of antisemitism in the US (the research for which is generated by pro-Israel institutions like the Anti-Defamation League) are Americans that are predominately part of a very privileged class with much to lose by supporting positions which are considered unjustifiable. These people should be challenged not coddled or feared.
Malcolm X never pined over the possibility of innocent members of American white society being made to feel uncomfortable by the growing righteous anger of Blacks in the ghettos. Anti-apartheid activists in the 1970s and 1980s did not empathize with the pain that Afrikaners said they suffered because their way of life was being threatened.
When the pro-Israel community comes to us with their ludicrous cries of discrimination and absence of physical safety in the United States, we should follow the example set by Malcolm and the anti-apartheid activists.
Do not coddle the oppressors with pledges to fight antisemitism, shame them and make them feel the guilt they deserve and the righteousness of your anger for what they are doing to help promote the destruction of Palestinian society.
Ira Glunts is a Jewish-American retired college librarian who lives in Central New York. His articles about Palestine/Israel have appeared in Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Palestine Chronicle, AntiWar and Mondoweiss. Mr. Glunts’ Twitter feed is @abushalom. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle
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