2009/03/04

Anti-Semitism, left and right

Here's a good, sober analysis of an explosive subject: Anti-Semitism in Venezuela, A Taboo Subject for the Left? by Nikolas Kozloff. Those of us who are enraged by Israeli aggression in Gaza, the encroachment of settlements and carving up of Palestinian territories in the West Bank and other abuses have to be wary of alliances with racist kooks who blame Jews for everything. As though military aggression and territorial expansion were especially Jewish traits (hardly the image of Jews back when Marx wrote his famous essay, see below).

The president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, Jacobo Israel, made the point in a recent interview that Israel is held to much higher standards than aggressors in, for example, Sudan, who have caused ten times as many victims as the Israelis in Gaza. True, but the reason may have less to do with contempt for (or is it fear of?) Jews than with contempt for Africans, from whom we expect no better. For a similar reason, many activists are quicker to excuse Hamas rockets and Muslim suicide bombers than Israeli bombs and bulldozers. In current U.S. and European mythology, Israeli Jews are imagined as a civilizing force upon those more barbarous Semites, the Arabs.

And that is the problem: Anti-Arab anti-Semitism, that is, hostility to the Semitic Arabs, in some diplomatic and business circles is stronger than their anti-Jewish anti-Semitism. The people running the U.S. have tried to use Israel to police the region, and those running Israel have used that support to advance policies that benefit themselves and their friends, but not the region, or the U.S., or even the Israeli population as a whole.

Jews are no better than any other people, and no worse. No more deserving of security in their homes, and no less. We either hold all human beings to the same moral standards, or we don't really have standards. Qassam rockets hitting an Israeli home or school are as horrible as aerial bombardments on apartment buildings and other schools in Gaza or Lebanon. BUT those with greater power -- in this case, those with the bigger army -- have the greater responsibility, because they are better able to take the risks of peace.

Karl Marx, On the Jewish Question (1844)

Devil from codshit.com

Photo: Interior of vandalized synagogue in Caracas last month.

Clip: The animated documentary Waltz With Bashir is Israeli filmaker and Lebanon (1982) war veteran Ari Folman's way of coming to terms with that violence and responsibility.

3 comments:

jewbonics said...

I have responded to this Kozloff piece at my blog, at this address:
http://www.maxajl.com/?p=626

I think Kozloff isn't entirely off the mark, and there is evidence of anti-Semitism within chavismo, which differs from Chavez. But it was irresponsible, I think, to ignore the roots of that anti-Semitism, which have a lot to do with Israel.

gef said...

Thanks for the comment, JB. But give us more: Why do you think the "roots" of anti-Semitism in Venezuela have more to do with Israel (and if so, just what about Israel?) than with, so, centuries of anti-Jewish propaganda by the Catholic hierarchy and the mythology dating to at least 1492 (expulsion of Jews from Spain)? The "roots" of anti-Sentimism in this case are very tangled, with opposition to Israeli state policy being a late addition, difficult to assimilate to the older image of Jews as secretive and cowardly evildoers. But maybe you have some insight I'm unaware of. Let us know. Thanks.

jewbonics said...

Gef,
Am on a tenuous internet connection, from Mexico. The above comment was hasty. Any tracing the "roots" of anti-Semitism in Venezuela to anything even approaching a valid social-scientific inference probably isnt possible. So 2 things:
1) the way the discourse seems to blame ALL Jews for Israeli atrocity suggests that anti-Semites in Venezuela are confused--they're conflating Israel with Jews in general. This IS anti-Semitism, but it has at least, I think, the partial cause--that Israel's "defenders" in the Am. government and intellectual classes call all criticism of Israel anti-Semitic. Hence they conflate Israel w/Jews in order to fend off criticism of Israel. In the short-run, that works. In the long-run, it confuses people--if criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, that can only be because Jews = Israel and culpability for Israeli crimes can be laid at the door of the ethnic group as a whole. This IS anti-Semitism, but the blame, again, lies with intellectuals more than with common chavistas, confused (which is not to say they are blameless, just less blameworth).

And 2: Kozloff taking on Venezuelan anti-Semitism is not a problem, in my view. I think he's earned the right to sympathetically criticize things in Venezuelan society that he disapproves of. BUT: his evidentiary base was really weak. And he doesn't talk about responsibility--in this case lying a lot less with chavez than with the Dershowtzies or the Peretzes of the Karlins (Buzzflash's publisher) of the world who conflate anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel.

Thanks for the civility.

-Max