Speaking about the state of Israel these days, it’s hard to argue that the persecuted have become the persecutors, and “two wrongs don’t make a right.” The flames of anti-Semitism are increasing, and this fire is fuelled by both left and right.
For instance, Georgia’s Republican House of Representatives member Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon follower, has spread videos on Facebook claiming that “Zionist supremacists are guilty for many ills”. She was subsequently sanctioned by the Democratic-controlled Congress and stripped of her committee appointments—with great fanfare—in a vote without precedent in the modern Congress.
In response, she also disavowed many of her own most outlandish and repugnant statements. She said she believed that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks “absolutely happened”, and that the Sandy Hook school shootings were “absolutely real” after previously suggesting that aspects of both were staged.
But there is a double-standard as who get sanctioned, especially when it involves a freshman member of Congress who admitted her wrongs in her postings and utterances prior to being democratically elected to her House of Representatives Seat.
Questioning anything that touches the Democratic Party base is becoming taboo – immigrants, gender issues, sexual preferences, illegal immigrants, etc. It is this, rather than the actual content of what Greene said, which has resulted in the restrictions on her involvement in Congress – which explains why it was that punishment, rather than anything which would stand up in a court of law.
So much can be done under the guise of retaliation against terrorists, and unfortunately this practice has evolved into a “flimsy disguise” of the means to achieve or block political solutions to complicated issues. To support the BDS movement, for instance, is tantamount to anti-Semitism, a charge bearing the possibility of being labelled a domestic terrorist or losing a job or a contract with a government entity—at least in the US. And if Jewish, you can be defined as a self-hating Jew!
The BDS movement is a non-violent lobbying group which provides a democratic way to support the Palestinian cause, in the context of illegal Israeli settlements, the seizure of Palestinian land and the blatant refusal by Israel to abide by numerous UN resolutions. Israel has effectively made Gaza into the world’s largest prison, yet forbids the inmates even to protest against this, as to do so can literally mean death or the destruction of their homes, or being arrested.
Hundreds of peaceful Palestinian protesters have been shot dead by Israeli troops since 2018.
Protestors are often detained in military jails almost indefinitely, without being charged or having access to traditional courts.
Few are willing to discuss this problem, and especially the need for sanctions against the Apartheid-style tactics imposed by the Israeli government. Even to suggest that such a discussion should take place could lead to being labelled a national security threat.
It is very odd how quickly it is becoming illegal by law to criticize Israel, a land which has been forcefully championing apartheid, in open defiance of UN resolutions, ever since its establishment. Anyone subjected to any sort of media attack will wonder what they have to do to earn such immunity, and why only a Jewish homeland can automatically do no wrong.
Calling a Spade a Digging Device
When a country has a two party system, there are always people who fall in between. If the two parties are close enough to make those people the difference between winning and losing, the views of these people are considered. But if either side feels secure, nationally or locally, they are happier attacking avowed opponents than trying to persuade the people in the middle to vote for them.
If a person does not endorse either Republicans or Democrats almost unconditionally, nor feel any particular empathy for either side when in office, they are the enemy, and as GW Bush would say, there is no-riding-the-fence. The only way out is to make the Democrats acceptable simply because they are the only opposition to the Republicans, or the reverse.
In civil war situations, most people don’t want to get involved, or have any sympathy with the combatants. Only when one side or another puts guns in their faces are they forced to take sides out of self-preservation. Is this really what should happen in a mature democracy?
The people of the United States really don’t have any political tools, except being a member of one party and loathing the other—a kind of paralysis and death.
The Israeli Lobby in the US is highly-motivated, well-organised, well-funded, and willing to contribute to the campaigns of politicians who oppose the BDS movement. They will support those who will vote for the anti-Palestinian state, and enact enabling legislation to discriminate against those who want to claim the moral high ground.
But in reality all such legislation has more to do with governors and political types looking to gain campaign contributions and appease lobbyists than anything else. Keeping anti-Israelis off the streets, and out of debate, does not help one single American, including the American Jews who are being put into the same position of blind privilege which has always formed the basis of the argument against their presence in any country.
During the world famous Jack the Ripper murders in London in 1888, a graffito was found on a wall in Goulston Street reading something like, “The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing”. It may or may not have been connected to the murders themselves, but this same thinking is always used as the rationale for anti-Semitism.
Yet here is the US Government openly encouraging such attitudes by giving a blank cheque to the Israeli lobby – as if the Jews want to be persecuted again so they can try the same trick, with richer pickings, a few generations later. There is no excuse for persecuting Jews, but if anyone really wanted to stop it, they would look to the positive example of the Republic of Georgia, which never has whatever the nature of its government, rather than looking for negative examples everywhere.
No one expected the Trump administration to buck this trend. Such policies will likely continue under Biden. The US administration will close ranks with the Israeli government’s approach in using false and politically motivated accusations of anti-Semitism against peaceful activists, including human rights defenders and politicians.
If it were otherwise, there would be accountability for violating the rights of indigenous peoples. As any Native American will tell you, the US can’t dare allow that, and that is why free speech cannot exist when it comes to the policies of Israel and the plight of the Palestinians.
Now the Shoe is on the Other Foot
This double standard came across as particularly hypocritical and deceitful during the previous administration, which openly emboldened neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other fringe groups who advocated violence and discrimination. But the Democrats have come to power promising to be the same in reverse, reaction to Trump for the sake of it being their chief selling point in their own eyes.
Biden’s America is Back speech did not live up to its billing – as he committed his country to continuing down the path of showing “a callous disregard for international law, and favoured Israeli policies that result in institutionalised discrimination and systematic human rights violations against millions of Palestinians,” as described by Amnesty International in its reports.
In his speech at the state Department, Biden said “Diplomacy is back at the centre of our foreign policy”. He also said that the US “will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrows”.
How many of those challenges it would now face if it had actually conducted itself as America for the last fifty years, rather than imposing values foreign to its own on everyone else, was predictably not mentioned. America is back to how it was before Trump, but that was no more the America described on the tin than Trump’s version was.
Time will tell just how many of the new White House policies will be implemented when they come up against the one-sided support of Israel, and how the US Embassy has been moved to Jerusalem, in opposition to international law.
Israel has led the world in vaccinating its population against COVID-19. But it’s a different story for Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza. They have no access to a vaccine, and Israel is refusing to share its supply.
We will have to see if anyone in US public life has the fortitude to question why COVID 19 vaccinations are not being provided to Palestinians, especially those in Gaza, on an equal basis with Israelis of Jewish descent. Maybe the conditions of the remaining “Indian reservations” will give them a clue about why they should care, and why they never will.
Maybe Biden will remember that when speeches fail and American diplomacy falls short, military operations must be well-planned and targeted against legitimate targets, leaders, those who have taken blood – not collateral targets, no innocent populations maimed and killed out of punitive revenge.
But the way alleged anti-Semitism in the US is being treated suggests that the only way the US can function as a state is to blindly attack anyone who does not toe the line – not as an individual, but as someone who must be in the wrong because they had this or that view. What happened to the Serbs in Yugoslavia will happen to everyone else; and just it does today, with whole populations automatically declared enemies for having the wrong religion, or voting for the wrong people.
America’s political system is fast becoming a one-party system which cleverly presents itself as a two-party system. The only difference is whether you want one form of words or another.
The sacred cows are the same, the enemies are the same, and if you don’t like it, you’re not a real American, so have no voice. Blind support of Israel is just one of the manifestations of this – but that is what has to change, before anyone can start addressing the rest.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.