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Israeli Occupation Has Had A “Spillover Effect” Internationally, Author Declares

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
March - April 2005

In some quarters, anger at Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has “undoubtedly spilled over to an animus to Jews generally,” writes Norman G. Finkelstein in Tikkun (March-April 2005). The article by Finkelstein, who teaches political science at DePaul University, is adapted from his forthcoming book, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, which will be published by the University of California Press.  

He cites a report by the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia which states that, “All cases in which the Jews are made collectively responsible for the policy of the Israeli government represent a form of anti-Semitism.”  

Finkelstein provides this assessment: “Does it really surprise if the cruel Occupation by a self-declared Jewish state engenders a general antipathy to Jews? ... If many Jews themselves repudiate any distinction between Israel and world Jewry, indeed, if they denounce such a distinction as itself anti-Semitic; if mainstream Jewish organizations lend uncritical support to every Israeli policy, however criminal, indeed, abetting the most virulent tendencies inside Israel and muzzling principled dissent outside Israel; if Israel defines itself juridically as the sovereign state of the Jewish people, and Jews abroad label any criticism of Israel anti-Jewish — the real wonder is that the spillover from antipathy towards Israel to Jews generally hasn’t been greater.”  

In her book, The New Anti-Semitism, author Phyllis Chesler writes that, “Anyone who does not distinguish between Jews and the Jewish state is an anti-Semite.” In the same book she also avows that “American and Diaspora Jews” must understand that “Israel is our heart and soul ... we are family.”  

Italian journalist Fiamma Nirenstein is quoted by Ron Rosenbaum, in the book Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism as saying: Jews everywhere should consider their being identified with Israel a virtue and an honor and should insist that, “If you’re prejudice against Israel, then you’re against the Jews.”  

Gabriel Schoenfeld, editor of Commentary, reports that, “Iranian anti-Semitic propagandists make a point of erasing all distinctions among Israel, Zionism and the Jews.” Yet, in an article in Commentary, Hillel Halkin asserted: “Israel is the state of the Jews. Zionism is the belief that the Jews should have a state. To defame Israel is to defame the Jews.”  

Thus, Finkelstein states, “It would seem to be anti-Semitic both to identify and not to identify Israel with Jews ... Are Halkin and Commentary’s editor also anti-Semitic?”  

A distinction needs to be made, declares Finkelstein, between “anti-Semitism — the unjustifiable targeting of Jews solely for being Jews — and ‘anti-Semitism’ — the instrumentalization of anti-Semitism by American (or other) Jewish elites ... ‘anti-Semitism’ is an ideological weapon to deflect justified criticism of Israel ... Those Jews committed to the struggle against the real anti-Semitism must, in the first instance, expose this specious ‘anti-Semitism’ for the sham it is.”  

Finkelstein suggests this remedy for the problem: “If, as all the important studies agree, current resentment against Jews has coincided with Israel’s brutal repression of the Palestinians, then a patent remedy and quick solution would plainly be to end the Occupation. A full Israeli withdrawal would also deprive those real anti-Semites exploiting Israel’s repression as a pretext to demonize Jews — and who can doubt they exist? — of a dangerous weapon as well as to expose their real agenda. And, the more vocally Jews dissent from Israel’s Occupation, the fewer will be those non-Jews who mistake Israel’s ... policies and the uncritical support (indeed encouragement) of mainline Jewish organizations for the popular Jewish mood.”  

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