Weaponising antisemitism impedes justice and peace

Apr 3, 2024
Full screen material of the military crisis between Israel and Palestine including the Gaza Strip conflict due to the war.

Weaponising a real fear in the West of being called or being seen as “antisemitic”, while simultaneously exploiting long-entrenched anti-Arab prejudice, the Israeli government has successfully exempted itself from legitimate interrogation, reproach and effective sanctions for its unchecked expansionist ambitions and inhumane, racist actions against Palestinians.

The oldest newspaper in Israel is Haaretz, published daily in both Hebrew and English and widely accessible online. Haaretz journalists are to be commended for taking what has become a uniquely courageous public stance, covering at least some of the immeasurable harm being caused by Israel to Palestinians in Gaza and (increasingly) on the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

A week ago, Haaretz writer David Rothkopf published this call:

The fighting in Gaza must stop. Not tomorrow. Today.

All available resources must immediately be directed to stopping the unprecedented famine that is underway in that embattled sliver of land that has already seen unspeakable suffering. As bad as the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 was, the people and government of Israel must now recognise that today not just the country’s security but its legitimacy are at stake as never before.

Reports, however, are closer to what we routinely read locally and internationally where the unchecked “right” of Israel to solely determine the fate of Palestinian lives is taken as a given. Meaningful self-determination for Palestinians is, in this now entrenched Western narrative, aberrant.

This factual report does not reflect on Haaretz, but rather on the normalisation of the profound chasm in basic human rights between Jewish Israelis and their Palestinian neighbours. (I have taken the liberty of emphasising in bold where we might pause to consider the implications of what is reported here, and the horrors the writers at least partially and probably unconsciously mask).

The article begins: “We [the German Government] thank Israel for this important humanitarian gesture.” The headline reads:

“Israel Temporarily Evacuates 68 Palestinian Orphans From Rafah to West Bank at Germany’s Request”

68 Palestinian children, along with 11 caretakers, were evacuated from an orphanage in Rafah, Gaza Strip, to Bethlehem in the West Bank as part of a humanitarian operation approved by Israel, the German Embassy in Tel Aviv announced on Tuesday.

According to the embassy, the evacuation aimed to immediately remove the children from “acute” danger and is temporary and is not intended as a permanent relocation. The IDF conducted the evacuation under the instructions of the Israeli government.

The statement expressed gratitude to Israel for this “important humanitarian gesture.”

In the embassy’s statement, it was mentioned that in November, the ‘SOS Children’s Villages’ organisation reached out to Germany’s Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, seeking assistance for their branch in Rafah. “We are relieved that our efforts were successful,” the statement read, “and we want to thank everyone involved.”

Additionally, it was stated that “Germany continues to stand by Israel in its fight against Hamas,” and remains committed to releasing all hostages and providing humanitarian relief for Gaza’s civilians.

image supplied

On Tuesday, it was reported that European Union leaders will demand an “immediate humanitarian pause leading to a sustainable cease-fire” in Gaza and urge Israel not to launch a ground operation in Rafah, according to draft conclusions of a summit to take place this week.

“The European Council urges the Israeli government to refrain from a ground operation in Rafah, where well over a million Palestinians are currently seeking safety from the fighting and access to humanitarian assistance,” says the draft text, seen by Reuters.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated in a recorded message to AIPAC conference on Tuesday that Israel will win the Gaza war “no matter what,” and emphasised the necessity of a Rafah operation to that end.” (End of quote.)

How, you hardly need ask, were these children orphaned? And many hundreds more like them? Who determined that only these children should/can be taken to safety? What provisions are made for them to receive adequate support while in Bethlehem? Or for them to be returned to family members if or when this hell in Gaza is subdued, and who will decide that?

What kind of life will those children return to now that the infrastructure of Gaza is reduced to rubble, there are no homes for minimal shelter, and there is open, shameless talk of the “very valuable” waterfront real estate opportunities in Gaza being articulated by some Israelis as well as by Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner?

The “humanitarian gesture” is made by the same people who control every aspect of Palestinian life – and whose bombs or weapons likely “orphaned” these children.

The role of the German government in calling the IDF’s rescue action “humanitarian” exemplifies the ethical knots in which so many governments and individuals have become tied. That includes the Australian Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, who seemingly lacks the courage (or will?) to condemn Israel for the extreme barbarity of their response to the (yes, vile) Hamas attack of 7 October.

On Israel, binary thinking has become absolute. You are either FOR Israel and willing to excuse whatever harm it causes, or you are AGAINST Israel if you dare raise human rights questions about Palestinians.

Wong’s inability to call for meaningful sanctions is dispiriting. So is her unwillingness to publicly condemn the United States government for the rotten, amoral, self-interested part they have played in enabling Israel to illegally “occupy” Palestinian land over decades to support their own regional and global interests. Then, in a supreme act of gaslighting, she – and the Australian media more generally – continue to support Israel in defining Palestinians as the “problem” and calls for any restoration of Palestinian lands and safety as undermining of Israel’s self-defined “sovereignty”.

Antisemitism” is a word coined as late as 1879 by Wilhelm Marr. However, it denotes nothing new and comes laden with a millennia-long history of intense suffering, shunning, prejudice and persecution experienced by Jewish people, both religious and secular, especially in “Christian” Europe.

Trading on that appropriate guilt, and a genuine fear of being judged as antisemitic, is now though – and increasingly since 7 October – being used as an attack on anyone who dares speak up for universal human rights, including for Palestinians (or Arab Israelis).

Exploiting this fear (and its dark history), the most right-wing government in Israel’s history now successfully places itself outside or above the ethical and moral standards that should apply to every nation-state on earth. And most especially to a state armed by the United States and other Western powers that is controlling and facing down a stateless, imprisoned population whose lands and autonomy have already been taken without global reproach.

That antisemitism is real, ugly and dangerous makes it worse, in my view, when this accusation is made to prevent serious interrogation of conduct that is cruel, abhorrent, arguably fascist, certainly profoundly racist.

Five months into the crushing of Gaza, Western mainstream media is currently talking less about Israel’s “right to self-defence”. However, media and political rhetoric around the “existential threat” Israelis live under continues, justifying – apparently – not just the bombardment of Gaza but also the deliberate, denied starvation of its citizens.

That it is Palestinians enduring a real-time existential threat has little or no propaganda currency in most nations in the West.

Just as it has become immensely problematic to criticise Israel’s brutal hyper-religious, hyper-nationalistic government without risking being dismissed as antisemitic, so too it is impossible to draw adequate attention to 70 years of continuing land grabs -and the 700,000 “settlers” illegally occupying Palestinian land – without risking being accused not simply of antisemitism but of “siding with” or supporting terrorists.

We are witness to a deepening normalisation of the dominant Western view that Israelis remain more vulnerable than Palestinians, and that Israeli “rights” to life and safety self-evidently prevail.

As for the orphans? It is also clear that in the eyes of Western governments and their ever-obedient media, a Palestinian child’s life is of different and lesser value from that of a Jewish Israeli child. Or perhaps any child, anywhere else.

Share and Enjoy !

Subscribe to John Menadue's Newsletter
Subscribe to John Menadue's Newsletter


Thank you for subscribing!