Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Proper Criticism vs Anti-Semitism

During the first day of an anti-racism summit at the United Nations a number of nations walked out during the speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad because he called the State of Israel a “cruel and repressive racist regime” to a conference on race. Now, before we get carried away by the rants of the Iranian President, who may need a medication adjustment, take one moment to consider this: the United States decided to not attend this conference when some nations proposed that “Zionism” be considered as a form of racism. Canada joined several other nations who were too cowardly to consider this truth, including Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands ... oh, and Israel.

The important thing here is that Ahmadinejad made his comments, prompting about forty of the delegates – mostly from western European nations – to leave their seats in protest, but his message was still heard by many and reported to the world. Unfortunately, the reporting of this event is coloured by President Ahmadinejad's past comments in which he has denied facts about the holocaust. The walkout was prompted by Ahmadinejad's description of the relationship between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people, “They resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering.”

Another thing that was said seemed to be just about as concise an observation of the situation taking place in the State of Israel as anything else that has been said in the past sixty years: “... [I]n compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.” Not unexpectedly, the United States condemned the comments as being “vile and hateful” while the Vatican, an organization with 2,000 of human rights atrocities as their gift to humanity called the speech “extremist and unacceptable.”

But is that all there is to this? Should we dismiss the comments of Ahmadinejad simply because we want to think of him as some crazy Islamic fanatic? No, that is not how it ends; it cannot end here. The problem is, Ahmadinejad is right. No, the Holocaust happened, of that let there be no doubt, but the idea that the State of Israel is supposed to be the representation of God's promised land to His people, that is a myth that must be dispelled, along with the idea that the Zionist agenda is anything less than a form of racism with the genocide of the Palestinian people as the ultimate goal in order for the Zionists to ultimately cleanse their “Holy Land” of all non-Jews.

Before going any further into this discussion and allowing any confusion to set in, lets establish something of a foundation as to the difference between being critical and voicing that opinion and being hateful towards something or someone. Ask yourself this question: can you be critical of something or someone without hating them? Be honest, now, can you look at someone you love and tell them that you disagree with them and then explain why? What if one of your friends, or a relative, committed some heinous crime, would you encourage them to turn themselves in – to do 'the right thing', even if it felt like a difficult thing to do? These are difficult things to ask, but they go to the moral core of who we are as people. As moral beings we learn from the mistakes we make through life and from the critiques and criticisms that we receive from the teachers and others around us who care enough to point out what we can do to improve ourselves, to make us better members of society and better citizens.

Could you imagine for one second that when your mother or father corrected you, dare I say criticized you, as a child, did that diminish their love for you? Of course not – in fact, people usually only take the time of criticizing things that they really care about, otherwise they wouldn't bother taking the time to do so. If you were critical of the United States during the Bush administration (or any presidency) does that make you an anti-American or are you merely in opposition to certain policies of the government of the nation? Personally, I am a Canadian and I have been in disagreement with the policies of the Canadian government on many issues over the past several decades, but that does not change my love for this country, nor would I want to live anyplace else; it merely means that I want this country to be better than it currently is, I want Canada to live up to the promise that could be, if only the politicians would stop their partisan bickering and started putting the people first rather than the special interests that put them into power.

If you are honest and are able to say that you are at odds with a particular government and not the people then you are well equipped to judge between authentic anti-Semitism and the vile rhetoric used by many to protect inherently evil positions. It is important to understand that this is the true foundation of democracy; knowing that you are allowed the right to voice your ideas and opinions about the laws, leaders and the operation of the government without fear of reprisal for having an opinion that may be contrary to the official beliefs of the government, and that you, as an individual citizen, have a voice in the choosing of that government through your vote. Any nation that cannot suffer the indignity of facing criticism or being examined for its domestic policy, a policy that includes apartheid-like activities, active military oppression of a civilian population living within their borders, and multiple incidences of civilian “collateral damage” taking place during “defensive” operations, should seriously consider the century in which they live and the actions which they have been taking for the past several decades. There is no place in this wired world in which we live for the type of secrecy that allowed tyrants like Hitler and Stalin to carry out their malicious acts under a curtain of silence. It is no longer possible to control the flow of information as was done during the time of the Second World War and the cold war when people transmit news to websites and blogs at the speed of “twitter”, virtually as quickly as it happens. Propaganda has become something that once was called “spin”, often pathetic attempts by “official spokespeople” to put the “cat back in the bag” after the world has already seen the live images from several sources. It does not work.

If the State of Israel, and those who profess to be Zionists (or their supporters), had their way in regards to the flow of information at the U.N. conference in Geneva, Ahmadinejad would have been stopped in his tracks: the uttering of anything that could even be remotely interpreted as being “anti-Israel” would automatically be classified as being racist and, as such, would not permitted in a U.N. conference, let alone a conference on the elimination of racism. However, the glaring truth of the matter is that Zionism IS, in fact, a form of racism in several ways and, particularly in light of the recent events in Gaza, it has been demonstrated as an ideology devoid of anything but self-interest in their agenda coupled with a near manic defense of their “right” to protect their homeland from the people from whom they stole that land.

There is a serious problem when you begin to examine the Zionist position of “defense” of their land as a justification to use violence against the Palestinian people. It seems difficult to argue against the desire to retaliate when someone has launched a rocket into your settlement and it lands in your backyard or crashes into a school. These are terrible, tragic events that must be stopped; innocent lives lost are never things that seem justified, and they can never be compensated, nor can any act repay the loss that the survivors may be feeling. While some may desire revenge that can only lead to more acts of aggression and that, in the end, only leaves more innocent lives ruined, more people mourning, and more people seeking some sort of retaliation. Ultimately, if you follow the saying “an eye for an eye,” the entire world is left blind. It is time to restore the sight to the blind.

The idea that Israel is carrying out the violence against Palestinians to defend their land is laughable on several levels, especially if you have seen any of the photos or videos that were taken from the most recent Gaza conflict. What weaponry did the Palestinians have to threaten the Israeli Army and Air Force with? With what could they have hoped to shoot down an IAF F-16 or F-15, planes that can fly faster than the speed of sound, drop laser guided munitions (stand-off weapons – the plane does not even have to be near the target to drop the bomb), and other “smart” weapons that land within a few metres of their targets? An AK-47? Even if there were thousands armed with the ubiquitous AK, they could not scratch the air force; unlike the movies, it is not possible to shoot down a jet with a machine gun (unless the bird is flying about 500 feet off the ground and you are the luckiest shot in the world).

Let's face it, if you are critical of the ACTS of the Israeli government that does not make you someone that hates Jews. An anti-Semite is, by definition, someone that hates Semites. Semites are people of Semitic descent: Arabs and Jews. In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a Semite is defined as 1a “a member of any of a number of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs b: a descendant of these peoples 2: a member of a modern people speaking a Semitic language.” [Aramaic, Arabic, Amharic, and Hebrew] Now, if you hate Arabs for whatever reason, you are an anti-Semite (don't say, “but, I have an Arab friend ...”). You cannot hate some and like one as a token. Hatred is hatred, it is insidious, entering our being until it controls our every thought and action, guiding our lives until we our its slave. This is the root of Zionism: hatred of the Palestinian people.

The lessons of the Holocaust came at such a terrible price, the highest that could be paid, but what value are those lessons if they are squandered by those who have inherited that which came out of the ashes? The idea of creating a place – a safe place – for those Jews who wanted to leave Europe after the Holocaust seems now like an idea that may not have been the best conceived idea. One must ask, why would people who had just escaped extermination merely for being who they were not want to live in peace with their new neighbours? Why would they choose to adopt national policies that seemed more related to what they had just escaped rather than aiming at developing a true democracy in which every person living in the State was granted equal rights under the law, all the rights granted to a Jew: anything less is something called institutional racism and, quite frankly, is disgusting as it mirrors what was done in Nazi Germany after the Purification Laws were passed. Jews were denied all basic rights as German citizens, even if their families had been living in Germany for generations and had served in the military during the First World War. With the stroke of a pen, and a crooked cross, they were all disenfranchised. They became un-people.

This is the case, today, in the State of Israel. As a result of the placement of the settlements throughout the land that was promised to the Palestinians it is virtually impossible for these un-people to travel freely without being harassed by the countless Israeli checkpoints. They cannot travel to their jobs, to school, and there have been several cases where patients have died because they were denied access to essential medical care. Does this sound like the actions of a modern democratic nation or like some monstrous, “cruel and repressive racist regime.”

Image 'copyleft' by Carlos Latuff
Ultimately, the criticisms of Israel must not be dismissed under the flag of racism by labeling them anti-Semitic. There happen to be many Jews out there who do not agree with the actions of the State of Israel, we are not being anti-Semites ... I do not hate myself. As for President Ahmadinejad and his remarks, we must be careful; he was correct in what he said, but he is also someone who plays to the extremist movement in his country and is running for re-election in June and has been receiving criticism for the floundering Iranian economy. All of the anti-Western and anti-Israel rhetoric is fine for the press coverage, but it hasn't done a thing for the global isolation of Iran, resulting in high inflation and unemployment. For Ahmadinejad to earn the votes of the most radical voters in Iran he must continue to spew his invective and racist brand of anti-Semitism, if only to show that he is a leader that should not be underestimated. Unfortunately it only turns him into a caricature.

More than that, because a world leader mixes legitimate criticism of Israel with such highly charged language and denial of such historical things as the holocaust it makes the job of criticizing Israel all the more difficult for the rest of the world. We must show that our criticism is based on facts, not emotional reactions to things. Calling people names does not accomplish anything, save for demonstrating the level of maturity that is not present at the time.

Now we must find a way to clearly communicate to the world that the message is not about the Jews, nor is it about Israel, the message is about the way the government of the State of Israel is handling (or mishandling) the situation with the Palestinian people. Why are Palestinians not allowed the right of return when they have lived there for generations? Why are their homes seized and destroyed, without appeal, to make room for illegal settlements? Why to so many questions ... and so few answers. Ultimately, the answer is: things must change. They must. Not, “yes, we can”, but, “we must change, we must”.

Ultimately, there comes a point in time where something either change its ways and adapts to a new way of life which allows it to move on and survive, or it fails to adapt to change and it subsequently dies. We must change, we must.


Maurice said...

People concerned about anti-semitism should take a hard look at zionism itself. It has cast a lot of Jewish people in the role of butchers. Israel's wars of conquest, its settlements in the lands conquered, the massacres of Palestinian civilians all reveal a complete disregard for the rights of non-jews. What kind of creature do you have to become to engage in ethnic cleansing, whether the victim is a Jew in the ghetto or a Palestinian child in Gaza? The first victim of racism is the racist himself; the ravages that are carried out by his hands are preceded by the ravages that occured between his two ears.

The Israelis who are not racists have to live in harm's way because Zionism is making peace impossible between Israel and the Palestinians.

Zionism has done a lot of harm to a lot of jews and should be considered a form of anti-semitism.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Maurice, your comment is greatly appreciated and completely true - Zionism has definitely done more harm than good. Jews have far more to fear from it than from anything that they may ultimately gain from the fruits of its success.

Anonymous said...

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