Wednesday, June 15, 2016

If you dare to criticise Israel, you must be "anti-Semitic"

Last week, a blog post I wrote following a talk by a Holocaust survivor was described as “hate-mongering”.

In the piece, I dared to suggest that it was deeply saddening that the descendants of the people who suffered so much in 1930s and 1940s Europe had become oppressors themselves.

I wrote that some Israelis and Palestinians had “dehumanised” the other side in ways which were eerily similar to what went on in Germany back in the 1940s.

There is no doubt that the whole of Europe should have collective shame over the extermination of six million Jewish people by the Nazis during World War Two.
Jewish children in a Nazi concentration camp.
The world should never forget the horror of the Holocaust.

That shame extends to Ireland, where our Government – just a few years after independence – did next to nothing to help those who were trying to escape from persecution.

It was natural and understandable that revulsion over the Holocaust led to widespread public support across the globe for the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948.

The only problem was that nobody seemed to take the needs or rights of the native Palestinians on board when Israel came into being.

And so began a myth that here was a “land without a people for a people without a land”, as those who had earlier been colonised by Britain either did not exist or had no right to their own self-determination.

The relatively minor abuse last week got me to ponder how far Israel has shifted to the right since the days when enthusiastic young Europeans used to travel there to volunteer and live in cooperatives known as kibbutzim. Not any more.

My Twitter feed soon filled up with abusive attacks.

I am no expert on the Middle East, but I have been to that part of the world on about 15 occasions and love the hospitality and culture of the people.

I am no expert on Israel and Palestine, but I do recognise a gross injustice when people are colonised, forcibly ejected from their homes, or forced to live as second class citizens.

As an Irish person, whose land has a long history of oppression and colonisation; it’s natural to feel a tendency to side with the oppressed.

The abuse I received came just a month after the British Labour Party was torn apart by accusations of “anti-Semitism”.

Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, of all people, was given this label after he made some ill-advised comments about Hitler and Zionism.

Nowadays, it seems, it is impossible to criticise Israel in any way without being smeared.

Palestinian loss of land since 1946
The on-line abuse got me to thinking …

If you think that villagers have a right to return to the land and homes they were forced to flee by colonising settlers in 1948 or 1967, you must be anti-Semitic.

If you find it appalling that more than 550 children were murdered in one of the most crowded places on earth in just a few weeks in 2014, you must be anti-Semitic. (After all, their parents voted for murderous Hamas terrorists).

If you cannot, in your wildest imagination, see any justification in the bomb which killed four young boys on a Gaza beach, you must be anti-Semitic.

If you think it’s a war crime to bomb a hospital, you must be anti-Semitic. (Don’t you know that the patients inside were being used as human shields by dangerous terrorists?)

If you oppose a wall which cuts through farms and villages on occupied land, you must be anti-Semitic.

If you think it’s racist or even a form of Apartheid when roads are reserved for one particular race or religious group, at the expense of another, you must be anti-Semitic.

If you think ‘peace’ is impossible now that 800,000 settlers have built houses on occupied land in the West Bank, you must be anti-Semitic. (Even the UN, hardly great supporters of Palestinian rights over the years, recognise the 1967 border as ‘legal’).

If you think it’s hypocritical to talk ‘peace’ while stealing land which is outside your country’s borders, in contravention of the Geneva conventions, you must be anti-Semitic.

If you oppose institutional discrimination because you think it’s just as bad as the South African regime in the 1980s was, you must be anti-Semitic.

If you question why the US gives $3 billion a year in military aid to one of the richest armies on earth, who then try out new arms in heavily populated areas, you must be anti-Semitic. (Israeli arms dealers actually boast that new weapons are “tried and tested” in Occupied Palestine).

If you understand why people who have been cut off by land, air, and sea by colonisers might want to smuggle essential goods through tunnels, you must be anti-Semitic.

If you think it’s not ok to murder 2,200 people, because some of them may have voted for appalling terrorists, you must be anti-Semitic.

If you feel the people of Gaza should be allowed lift the siege in order to rebuild their homes, you must be anti-Semitic. (They cannot even get concrete in, for God’s sake).

If you call for a boycott of companies who locate their factories on stolen land in the West Bank, you must be anti-Semitic. (They do employ Palestinians, but at a fraction of the cost of hiring Israelis inside the recognised 1967 borders).

If you see no hope for children who are tear gassed on their way to school in Hebron, you must be anti-Semitic.

If you think the villagers of Bili’in have a right to protest after the huge wall cut them off from their own olive fields, you must be anti-Semitic. (Almost every Friday for years now, they have been fired upon by occupying soldiers).

If you don’t think it’s right to appoint a racist (with widely-reported anti-Arab views) as Minister for Defence, you must be anti-Semitic.

If you think it’s hateful for a Prime Minister to spread fear about a minority’s voting habits on the eve of an election, in any country, you must be anti-Semitic.

If you think groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace are heroes for exposing and denouncing atrocities committed in their name, you must be anti-Semitic.

If you laud the bravery of the ex-soldiers in Breaking the Silence who fear the toll this cruel occupation is taking on both sides, you must be anti-Semitic.

If you pay attention to the human rights abuses exposed by Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, you must be anti-Semitic.

(Even though all three of these organisations are predominantly made up of Jewish members.)

It doesn't matter if you agree that Holocaust-denial is a crime. It is simply ludicrous to deny that six million Jewish people were murdered by the Nazis, in what was the darkest period in the entire history of humanity.

It doesn’t matter if you think Hamas are murderous thugs or that the Palestinian Authority are guilty of corruption.

It doesn’t matter if you think public executions, which are sometimes authorised by Hamas and seen on the streets of Gaza, are crimes against humanity.

It doesn’t matter if you recognise that “radical Islam” is a scourge which threatens the entire world.

It doesn’t matter if you think ‘Sharia Law’ is an abomination and that women deserve equal rights in every country on earth.

It doesn’t matter if you completely oppose the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel, rockets which have killed innocent civilians.

It doesn’t matter if you think that ‘suicide bombers’ are deplorable and that attacks on Israeli civilians are terrible.
A graphic which examines the similarities between South Africa
under Apartheid and modern-day Israel. 

It doesn’t matter if you think all human life is sacred, that the shooting of four innocent people sitting at a cafe in Tel Aviv last week is as much of a tragedy as the killing of the young boys playing on the beach in Gaza in 2014.

Yes, all human life, without distinguishing between Muslims, Christians, Jews, and non-believers.

It doesn’t matter if you think Egypt, by closing the Rafah border, is just as complicit as Israel in the terrible siege of Gaza.

It also doesn’t matter if you recognise that the Governments of Egypt, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, etc, are controlled by tyrants and that Israel does have a right to defend itself.

Because, if you dare to criticise Israel in any way, you run the risk of being labelled as “anti-Semitic” or a “hate-mongerer”. Even if you know, deep in your heart, that there will never be peace in the Middle East, not while one side chokes the life out of the other and brutalises a whole new generation of hopeless children.

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