I believe there has been an increase of anti-Semitism among some of the community activists on Facebook postings I have been following during the last Gaza-Israel conflict.
Much of it unwitting reflects a lack of awareness of the diversity and complexity of Jewish culture; an absence of any reading on Zionism and the history of the modern establishment of Israel.
Zionism is important for Hellenes. Society of Friends (Φιλική Εταιρεία), the secret 19th-century Greek diaspora organisation, developed to initiate the creation of modern Greece out of the Ottoman Empire, was the model for Theodore Herzl, the father of Zionism. The reliance of Greece and Israel on the diaspora ‘coming back’ resulted in these two nations in having the very unique Law of Return.
Recent Facebook attacks on Israel reveal strange obsessiveness and the deployment of classic anti-Semitic tropes. This as hundreds of thousands of poor men, women and children have been killed by the Syrian regime since 2011 in Syria, many of them Palestinians.
I believe the conditions of Palestinians in Gaza – calls for the destruction of Israel by Hamas and the terrible loss of Palestinian lives – makes it too easy for those who think they are seeking justice for Palestinians to be trapped into latent anti-Semitism.
During the 2014 bombings in July of Gaza by Israel in reaction to the firing of thousands of rockets from Gaza into Israel, pro-Palestinian community arts activists on Facebook provided no examples of Israeli and Palestinian creative collaboration as antidotes. There have been creative collaborations, but sadly many of them have failed because of their respective leaders’ stubbornness.
Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that has a secular democratic constitution, civil rights and a vibrant intellectual and creative culture. Whatever the prejudices of some Israelis, you can be vocally anti-Israel, you can be gay or lesbian, you can follow any religion, you can pursue creative or scientific endeavours and you can be assured of the rights afforded to citizens in a democracy. The same cannot be said of most of Israel’s neighbours.
Israel should not be exempt from criticism. There are human rights abuses, as there are in Greece, Australia, the US and UK. There are unlawful settlements, disputed borders, as in Greece. And like Greece, there is a rise of ultra-nationalism. But you can be a Muslim or a Christian living in Israel, you can be an Arab or Jew, I do not think you can be a Christian, definitely not a Jew anymore, and certainly not all types of Muslims, living in Israel’s neighbours. Imagine Golden Dawn, an aberration with seats in parliament, used as the template of judging Greece’s legal, civic and political system, yet that is how Israel is judged by the so-called progressive anti-Israeli movement.
Nowhere did my peers reflect on Israel’s secular and religious divides, or the left and right. None lifted their gaze to comment on the ethnic cleansing and appalling civilian casualties of Syria, Iraq, Libya or the religious conflicts across most of the Arab-speaking Middle East.
Zionism took in socialists, liberals, social democrats, conservatives and nationalists. It still contains the political splinters evident in all national revolutionary movements. Like Hellenism or pan-Arabism, Zionism was about the establishment of a state for stateless cultural/religious groups. Israel has no more and no less legitimacy than Greece, Italy, or for that matter, an emerging Palestine.
Facebook friends aligned Palestinian claims to Australian indigenous land rights and anti-colonial struggles. None revealed any knowledge of Israel’s anti-colonial struggle against Britain with the support of other revolutionary groups, like EOKA from Cyprus and the IRA both fighting the British. From the 1930s to 1947 the British colonial masters of the Palestinian Protectorate considered Israeli guerrillas as terrorists.
I believe Indigenous land rights are important, so why are Jewish indigenous rights not? The argument leads to the same cul-de-sac: “These Jews are mainly European, Australian and American Zionists usurping the land of the indigenous Palestinians.”
When I raised the issue of diaspora rights, like the rights of Greek Australians to enjoy citizenship in Greece, or for American Palestinians to live in Palestine (when the nation is established), the responses were replete with right wing narratives of, ‘belonging to the nation you live in, not a foreign state’, yet most of these ‘advocates’ support multiculturalism and dual citizenship in Australia.
‘One person’s terrorist is another’s liberation fighter’, I get the old saying. Just as the NLF of Algeria were seen as terrorists by the French, EAM/ELAS Greek resistance by the Nazi occupiers and Quisling Greek government, or Haganah against the British and secular Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) against the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) were all seen as terrorists by the occupiers and revolutionaries by their constituents. On the other hand, suicide missions where young men and women blow themselves up as martyrs has little to do with resistance and more to do with brainwashing.
The strategic value of a suicide killer/bomber is nil, but the ideological value is high. It states, ‘we are prepared to die for our cause and our cause is bigger than us and our cause is the end our enemy’s existence’.
The most telling difference between those who seek peace and those who don’t was the 2011 killing of Juliano Mer Khamis, the son of a Jewish mother and a Palestinian Greek Orthodox father. Khamis was an actor, director, filmmaker and human rights activist; his purpose in life was to bring Jews and Palestinians together through The Freedom Theatre. He was murdered by a masked jihadist in the Palestinian city of Jenin.
The killing of three Israeli Jewish teenagers by Palestinian fanatics is filed in the ‘understandable response to oppression’ category by the anti-Israeli camp. The revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager by Israeli ultra-orthodox nationalists, considered terrorists by the Israeli state, is never mentioned by the pro-Palestinians on Facebook. The killers of the Palestinian youth are standing trial in Israel for murder. Israel’s prime minister paid his condolences to the family of the victim, the Israeli president visited them, and Israeli peace protesters chanted for justice for the slain Palestinian boy. Yet, none of that seemed to have occurred in the occupied territories when the three young Israelis were slain.
Worse, many anti-Israeli postings were accompanied by images of dead Palestinian children, demolished houses and other ‘evidence’ of Israeli aggression. At the same time, ISIS/ISIL was releasing social media with grotesque displays of crucified children, beheaded men, enslaved women, massacres and mass graves.
My concern is with my fellow progressives, those who seek social justice but who unwittingly seem to promote anti-Semitic views, while saying nothing about the fascist theocratic regimes led by Hamas and groups like the Islamic State.
An IDF attack killing Palestinians, combatant and/or civilians, is met with visceral disdain in the Facebook chatter. Yet the religious, cultural and sexual dehumanisation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, Assyrians, Kurds and Christians by the Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq is relegated to an ‘internal conflict’ as a result of the ‘intervention’ of Anglo-American-Australian and European (and Arabic states) forces into those areas.
The fact that progressives who promote the rights of minorities can without any moral uncertainty post something about the ‘genocide of Palestinians’ or compare Israelis to Nazis reveals something wrong with the intellectual and moral compass in these discussions.
This new anti-Semitism will have corrosive effects within the progressive camps. Their values, including rights for refugees, support for cultural diversity and Aboriginal civil and land rights, place them squarely in the anti-racist camp. But their pathological attack on Israel, Zionism and Jews mirrors the racist tenets of anti-Semitism in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the anti-Semitic hoax used by Hitler to legitimise the Holocaust.
* Fotis Kapetopoulos is an arts consultant and runs the annual Bite the Big Apple Arts and Cultural Management Tour of New York City. He was the former editor of Neos Kosmos English Edition and was a multicultural media adviser to former Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu.