City of Brass

City of Brass

Gaza and anti-semitism

I am frustrated, because in the past few weeks I’ve received various email forwards from many people I respect that are laden with anger and frustration at Israel’s campaign of collective punishment in Gaza. These are intelligent, tolerant people – mostly muslim, but also christian, hindu and atheist – who have never been tainted by anti-Semitism in the past. But the emails are vicious and invoke Hitler and draw the usual Nazi comparisons. One of the most upsetting is an email which pairs images from Nazi occupation of Poland with images from Gaza and the West Bank, which makes a visceral equivalence that is virtually impossible to reason against.

Gaza has been radicalizing public opinion against Israel worldwide. It’s sad to see how anti-Semitism flourishes and takes root in the space created by the anger and helplessness. Israel may claim to have won the tactical battle but it has suffered a massive, self-inflicted, strategic defeat. And so too have the Jewish people as a whole.


It bears repeating in black and white – the actions of Israel, despite the Isaeli government’s own propaganda to the contrary, are NOT representative of Judaism or Jews as a collective whole, any more than the actions of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are of Islam and muslims as a whole, or even the actions of the Bush Administration were of America or Americans as a whole.

There is yet hope. Just as electing Obama virtually ended anti-Americanism’s spread worldwide overnight, so too can Israel fight anti-Semitism worldwide, by doing the right thing: dismantling the settlements in the West Bank, opening up Gaza, and engaging in genuine diplomacy towards a two-state solution. In other words, to choose Jewishness and Democracy over Greater Israel. If Israel does not, then the only option left will be a binational state.


UPDATE: in response to an analogy to the Holocaust at Talk Islam, I comment:

Israel is certainly inflicting collective punishment on the
Palestinians. But did I miss railroad cars and forced deportations? Are
there concentration camps built around giant ovens somewhere I haven’t
been paying attention?

Lets be as accurate as possible so that our genuine moral outrage
isn’t so easily deflected. Israel is engaged in war crimes and is
violating the Geneva Convention; it deserves censure, boycott, and
sanctions. Israel is not, however, gassing Palestinians en masse.


Note, however, that “Israel isn’t as bad as the Nazis” is damning with faint praise, indeed.


related – The One State Solution and Who Won the War in Gaza? at Syria Comment; The Wrong Path by Larison; and Anthony Cordesman at CSIS about Israel’s strategic defeat

  • thabet

    As I said at TI, I have NO sympathy for anyone who feels the ‘need’ to be antisemitic. As a social phenomenon antisemitism may be studied in relation to social or political contexts (just like Islamophobia or any other racism, discrimination, bigotry, etc) and understood. But endorsement of, or promotion of, antisemitism is COMPLETELY unacceptable. Anyone who does so does not help Palestinians at all, and should just crawl back under the rock from which they emerged.
    (And I know what you mean about being forwarded stupid antisemitic material. I just got into a fight with someone who was doing this.)
    “the actions of Israel, despite the Isaeli government’s own propaganda to the contrary, are NOT representative of Judaism or Jews as a collective whole, any more than the actions of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are of Islam and muslims as a whole, or even the actions of the Bush Administration were of America or Americans as a whole.”
    There are some flaws in these analogies. One may argue that democratic governments express the will of their people (obviously, we know this nonsense for a number of social, political, cultural reasons). Al-Q are not the democratic expression of Muslims in any sense, since we never voted for Bin Laden to be our caliph… They are not a government; not even a theocratic one like Iran. However, this view is what I have read about Israeli civilians (and their sympathisers on the internet) watching the violence against Palestinians in Gaza taking this view — that Palestinians ‘deserve’ what they got for voting in Hamas.

  • Aziz Poonawalla

    I agree that the analogies are flawed – and certainly teh fact of Israel (and the US, and the UK) being democratic entities does put some responsibility for te govt’s actions on its citizens. But dmeocracy doesn’t translate into immediate ocntrol; after all, the US is instructive – the President was elected in 2000 with a minority vote, and that president went to war in Iraq against universal public opinion. And was re-elected (barely) for a second term. In democracy, 51% is enough to win, but can you really say that actions of a leader with 51% support are really any better than random?
    The cheering section of Israelis bothered me quite a bit too, but of course they are not necessarily representative of the public either. It is a self-selected sample of people who are inclined to gather and cheer for blood who get on the media. much like muslims and the media, for that matter – again, imprecise analogies, but I think teh same overarching principle does apply.

  • Willow

    You did miss forced deportations, Aziz. The majority of Palestinians have been displaced by Israel. You apparently also missed concentration camps–not death camps, certainly; in that sense the comparison between Israeli and Nazi Germany is grotesquely overblown. But they are concentration camps nonetheless.
    There is no excuse for the anti-Jewish sentiment that has sprung up in the Muslim world in response to Zionism. There is no excuse not to differentiate between zionism as a political philosophy and Jews and Judaism as a people and a religion. But neither is there an excuse to split hairs over what is happening in Palestine.

  • Scott R.

    Perhaps you missed it – in 1948, almost every Jew in the Arab world was thrown out of their homes, had all their possessions taken, and shipped off to Israel, told never to return.
    That fact is always conveniently forgotten.

  • Thomas Nephew

    While analogies to the Holocaust as a whole and to the concentration camps in particular are imprecise and mistaken, I think the Gaza situation does bear too close a resemblance for comfort to that of the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation of Poland: a people nominally given the vestiges of self rule, but trapped within narrow geographical confines and collectively punished both by that situation and for what are arguably acts of resistance to it. That would be wrong even if it isn’t followed by mass extermination.
    As Twain said, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes; I therefore said “bear a resemblance to,” not “are the same as”. Are Hamas rockets resistance to an intolerable status quo, or are they an actual existential threat to the survival of Israel? Hamas and Israeli officials might tell us one thing, Gazans and Israelis might eventually say another, given a chance.

  • Your Name

    Hamas rockets are intolerable, whether or not they are an existential threat. And Israel is not practicing collective punishment. Israel is practicing sensible security measures against genocidal opponents, and they are trying to do so with reasonable humanity.
    One should also note that Jews lived in Gaza and the West Bank prior to 1948, and were actually forcibly deported in 1948, unlike the Palestinians who fled Israel. Some Jewish actions probably encouraged the Palestinians to flee, but some Jewish actions encouraged them to stay, thus calling that a forced deportation is a risible untruth.
    It is instructive to compare the fate of the Palestianians to Africans in Sudan and the Congo. Israel actually treats their enemies far better than the Sudan government, the Hutus, and the LRA treat theirs. The death toll in the former Palestine mandate is far, far lower. And how about the Iran/Iraq war? By any concievable measure Iraq treated both it’s own people and the Iranians worse than Israel treats the Palestinians. Similarly Iran treated both it’s own people and the Iraqis worse than Israel treats the Palestinians. And these are not isolated cases. Have you considered Russia vs Chechnya? China vs. Tibet? Colombia vs. FARC?
    The Palestians are blessed to have enemies who are so nice.

  • David

    Gaza is not the Warsaw Ghetto. It’s a large area that Palestinians could have farmed and created factories in. Instead they chose to take Iranian money and make the entire area the launch-pad for war against Israel. Israel should be praised for fighting an enemy whose aim is to destroy rather than build and that opposes everything that caring western people hold dear.

  • Matt

    There is no justification for antisemitism, period. Lamenting the spread of antisemitism due to supposedly justified anger over Israel’s actions is a justification of antisemitism in its own way.
    Let’s be clear: any comparison between the state of Israel and/or its leaders and Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden or any other terrorist group or individual is absurd. In doing so, you make a mockery not only of yourself, but also of the definition of terrorism.
    We rightly condemn bin Laden and his ilk because they seek to maximize the number of innocents they maim and kill as a fundamental plank of their political platform. Whatever your political persuasion, it defies reason to charge that Israel sought to kill or maim as many innocents as possible in Gaza. If they had, there simply would be very few people there still alive.
    Every Jew everywhere could and should feel proud of the Jewish state, not as a perfected ideal, but as a living polity that makes mistakes, but nevertheless, in the best traditions of liberal democracy, tries to do the right as best as it is able and as well as it knows it.

  • tg

    “Every Jew everywhere could and should feel proud of the Jewish state, not as a perfected ideal, but as a living polity that makes mistakes, but nevertheless, in the best traditions of liberal democracy, tries to do the right as best as it is able and as well as it knows it.”
    Thanks for the good laugh.

  • Aziz Poonawalla

    “Lamenting the spread of antisemitism due to supposedly justified anger over Israel’s actions is a justification of antisemitism in its own way”
    how, exactly? unpack that logic please.

  • Susan

    Israel’s invasion of Gaza did not create antisemitism. It just brought it out into the open. The Arab and Muslim world has been permeated with antisemitism for a long time. I do understand that it is classic Western antisemitism that now pervades the Arab and Muslim world, but it started as far back as the 1800s. Talk to Iraqi Jews about what happened to them in 1941.
    Anger over Israel’s invasion of Gaza, whether justified or not, did not suddenly cause Arab or Muslim leaders to say that Jews control the media or to quote the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery created by the Czar’s secret police force in the early 1900s.
    As an American Jew, I have no effect on Israel’s actions. No one in the Israeli government cares what I think. Why should I or any other Jew get a Black eye from Israel’s actions?
    It is Hamas and the Arab world that has adopted Nazi propaganda and hatred of Jews. The comparisons are backward. Hamas, in particular has a Nazi-like hatred for ALL Jews everywhere.

  • Reflective

    Since Hamas does not build underground shelters for Gaza’s civilian population, they were enforcing collective punishment against their own people. Deliberately placing civilians near military installations to serve as human shields is another example of collective punishment. Why do the critics who expressed such vitriol over Israel’s operation of self-defense not cry out over Hamas placing civilians in harm’s way? Why weren’t these same critics expressing outrage during the years (after Israel withdrew from Gaza)when Israeli towns were being attacked with rockets on a daily basis?
    Perhaps this double standard is an example of anti-semitism.

  • Miriam

    where to build underground shelters for 1.5 MILLION? there’s already little room to LIVE! aren’t you aware that the Gaza is the most densely crowded place on earth on that 6 x 22 mile strip ?

  • Susan

    You left out the most obvious difference between what the Nazis did and Gaza. German Jews were loyal citizens of Germany. They never denied Germany’s right to exist. They never attacked their fellow Germans. German Jews were the most assimilated Jews in Europe, yet they were still hated. The Nazis were not defending themselves from attacks from Jews.

  • chels

    You do say that anti-Israel comments are not anti-jew, but I don’t see examples of anti-semitism in this post. It is not so horrible to criticize a state which has international legitimacy, not to mention recieves plenty of money from other countries to fund its military. Why percieve this as purely anti-semitic, when no one would be rash enough to claim that decrying the atrocities of the palestinian government is anti-arab? Granted, there is bigotry in some people’s protests, but unfortunately, Israel is not keeping a clean enough record.

  • Coins

    The fact is the majortiy of jews are not even Semites. The majority are Caucasian of Ashkenazic descent. Ashkenaz is son of Japheth not Shem. I am not speaking Sephardis.
    Arabs however are semites.
    One may ask who are the real anti-semites?
    I would say the Zionists and those engaging in and cheering the destruction of the Palestinian people.
    Gog, Magog?
    Think About it.

  • Bozoer Rebbe

    Since the Gazans are capable of building tunnels to smuggle in arms, I suppose they know enough about excavating to build bomb shelters instead. When buildings are built in Israel, sufficient shelter space is created. Gazans could do the same, but then there’d be fewer civilian casualties for which to blame Israel. It’s much more important for Hamas and other Palestinian groups to have dead “civilians” to parade in front of a credulous western media than it is to protect their own people.
    Besides, Hamas wants to have it both ways. They claim that every Palestinian is a member of the “resistance”. They claim they are combatants but are quick to label them civilians when it suits their propaganda needs.
    As for the lie that Gaza is the most densely populated place on earth, Tel Aviv has a higher population density. If the Gazans don’t like how densely populated it is there, perhaps they should have fewer children.

  • Abumarwan

    The unidentified writer offers a clear explanation here:
    “the actions of Israel, despite the Isaeli government’s own propaganda to the contrary, are NOT representative of Judaism or Jews as a collective whole.. “.
    When Israel stops representing itself as the global protector, moral compass an sole representative of world Jewry then non-Israelis will cease to identify Israel with world Jewry. Until then Israel will mean “the Jews” to quite a lot of people across the world.
    This obviously works in the interests of the Israeli government, which is then able to draw a false equivalence between opposition to its policies and racism.
    As for a “right to exist”, well, perhaps our friends in Jerusalem might one day wake up to the fact that everyone has a right to exist.
    I saw the chain-mail juxtaposing images of Israeli occupation with the Nazi’s in Poland sixty years ago and it was astonishing. That was also propaganda, but not Israeli.
    Arabs insist that this is a political, not a religious controversy. Perhaps we should start listening to them about this at least.

  • FRank Perdue

    The gaza boat thing is clearly anti-semitism cloaked in phony concern for Gaza. My experience has been, the greatest anti-semites are Irish women, may of whom were on those boats.

  • Pertti

    Nice to see we were on the same page on the Gaza withdrawal. I racell feeling like a voice crying in the wilderness in my support for it. Sharon counted on the heedless bloodlust of the Pals and they didn’t let him down. It drove a stake through the heart of ‘land for peace.’ And then Hez volunteered to chop off its head and stuff garlic in its mouth. Even the Four Mothers have now been mugged by reality.

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