Sympathy for Palestinians is not Anti-Semitic

Sympathy for Palestinians is not Anti-Semitic

A colleague of mine wrote an opinion editorial on November 14, 2018. I have problem with some of the specific details, as well as the overall theme. Here is the piece if you would like to read it. I encourage you to, as it will make what comes next a little easier to understand.  


First, the claim that support for Israel remains a non partisan issue is flat out incorrect. A survey from Pew Research Center states:


“Since 2001, the share of Republicans sympathizing more with Israel than the Palestinians has increased 29 percentage points, from 50% to 79%. Over the same period, the share of Democrats saying this has declined 11 points, from 38% to 27%.”


In the very next line, Van Inwegans said, “Needless to say; the global Jewish community has been the most violated, abused and oppressed minority group.”


It is important to point out that the op-ed then switches from the American opinion of Israel to the persecution of Jews, worldwide throughout all of history — a problematic, if not dangerous connection.


I worry that the conflation of anti-Semitism with showing solidarity for the Palestinian people is already at the tip of the author’s tongue. It is important to remember that the politics of the State of Israel and anti-Semitism are two separate topics.


In a Washington Post perspective piece titled, “Israel lets Jews protest the occupation. It doesn’t let Palestinians,” the author mentions a gathering of a few hundred Israeli’s protesting their own country’s illegal settlements.  


Furthermore, the ranking of an oppressed religion, or a minority group, by some terrible set of statistics, is something you should try to make sense of on your own time. I feel it is inappropriate to politicize atrocities.


I would suggest changing the phrase “the most” to “ain the above quote. As in, the global Jewish community has been a violated and oppressed minority group.    


I would go further, too. Hate shown towards the Global Jewish Community has, but also continues, to exist. Justice shall continue, and wrongs need to be made right, yet there is still no need to rank oppression of one group in spite of another.


Inwegen then proceeds to make specific claims about the state of global anti-Semitism. The quotes used, and their sources need to be scrutinized, for the sake of transparency.


In the next section, the author uses quotes from an interview that Jeff Goldberg did with the Council on Foreign Relations. The author describes Goldberg as an “expert on Middle Eastern Politics,” but such a title might be hyperbolic.  


Goldberg is a writer for the New Yorker, and the author of an article titled, “The Great Terror,” a wonderful slice of pre-Iraq War fear mongering, beautifully crafted to terrify a 2002 America into supporting an illegal invasion. Here is the first sentence, out of two, of that article’s closing paragraph:


“There is little doubt what Saddam might do with an atomic bomb or with his stocks of biological and chemical weapons.”


Stocks of biological, and chemical weapons, that of course, proved to be non-existent. Well, what else do you have for us, Mr. Goldberg?


Since I don’t have the time to listen to the entire podcast, I will have to take Inwegen’s quoting of Goldberg at face value. Goldberg claims that the (anti-Semitism) situation in Europe is dire for Jews, citing a Pew Research study showing that the Jewish population of Europe, from 1945, has dropped 65%.


If you read the study that Goldberg quotes as I did, you find out that the immigration of European Jews to Israel explains the significant decrease during this time. It does not attribute the immigration of Jews to Israel to anti-Semitism. It does, however, mention that the global Jewish population, 14 million as of 2010, is at its highest since the end of World War Two, a figure around 16.5 million people.


The study also makes note that such declines have other explanations, such as a decrease in people identifying as Jewish or claiming any religion at all. For instance, another Pew study finds that Europeans ages 18-39 are 7% less religious than Europeans aged 40 and above.


While the study that Goldberg cites does not list Anti-Semitism as a reason for Jewish immigration to Israel, it does make note that anti-Semitism in the UK hit record levels in 2014. However, the statistics used for such a conclusion where provided by Community Security Trust, a “charity” group with links to the government of Israel and Mossad, the Israeli overseas spy agency.


I think Inwegen’s earlier statements that politicians tend to incite fear to manipulate people should be used as a lens when reading such reports of anti-Semitism. Especially when such stories have intimate connections to political institutions.   


Marie Le Pen is then quoted. Inwegen uses the bombastic line, about Nazi-occupied France not being so bad, to try and an anti-Semitic climate in Europe. Marie Le Pen is not a true stateswoman, she is a demagogue. So it comes as no surprise that she said something brutally ignorant considering she was fined for hateful comments aimed at Roma refugees, calling them, “…smelly.”


Demagogues direct hate toward minorities quite evenly. So the struggle of minorities should be recognized uniformly and should be seen as equals in their fight for justice. The urge to put one group’s oppression above another’s is counterproductive.


Le Penn’s antics deserves an article to itself. However, hateful comments by such an obscene figure should not be cherry-picked, and repurposed, to promote a political point.


Inwegen introduces the next paragraph by incorrectly claiming that American media is biased towards “Palestinian mobs.” The body of the section then seeks to defend the actions taken by Israeli forces during this year’s Nakba day protests.


Interestingly enough, Inwegen fails to mention just what those actions were. So I did a little research.


When the dust settled on the morning of May 15, 2018, 60 protestors were dead, and over 2,700 were injured. Among the dead was a baby that had choked to death on tear gas and a paramedic attending to wounded protestors.


The Israeli military claimed that Hamas militants hiding within the protestors forced them to open fire, but admitted they had only killed 24 “terrorists.”


Of those injured, 2,200 had gunshot wounds to the leg. Israeli forces shot live ammo, rubber bullets and dropped bombs from IDF Aircraft causing the high casualty count.     


The paragraph concludes with, “Israel is attempting to defend itself against Palestinians who want to scale the border walls and burn every last Jew in Israel.” Inwagen uses a quote from one Palestinian man to justify this such a claim.


This sentence labels an entire ethnicity, roughly 4.75 million people, as homicidal. The indirect comparison of the protestors to certain anti-Semites of the mid 20th century is thrown in for good measure.  


I don’t know what I was expecting at the end of a paragraph defending Israeli war crimes, but then again I seldom find myself reading such paragraphs.  


By this point, Inwegen’s narrative descends into fear mongering, neatly tying the op-ed back to its introduction. The piece then moves onto another ranking of Judaism as “the most discriminated minority group in human history,” and then makes the call to “indiscriminately reprimand” media organizations that display an anti-Semitic bias.


I encourage everyone to do a critical analysis of the Israel and Palestine conflict. Start by forgetting anything, and everything, your crazy uncle has ever told you. Begin reading. Here are some authors I recommend: Norman Finkelstein, Max Blumenthal, and Joe Sacco. I would also recommend watching Abby Martin’s work documenting the issue, as well as a film called Killing Gaza.


Try to put yourselves in both party’s shoes, don’t be afraid to call bullshit when the evidence isn’t there, but most importantly talk to people who have lived the conflict.    


Photo attributed to Getty Images

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