The pass over from antisemitism to anti-Zionism: and back again
24 April 2014
This year's Pesach coincided with antisemitic events in the USA, the Ukraine, Venezuela and the Palestinian Authority.
Four examples, from four continents, all different: yet inhabiting the same antisemitic ballpark.
Taken together, they show how antisemitism and anti-Zionism pass over, one into the other: and back again.
On 13 April, the day before Pesach, three people (including a grandfather and his grandson) were murdered in shootings at two Jewish sites in Kansas by an American white supremacist, Frazier Glenn Miller, who's track record reads like a cliché of all that is worst about American extremism. It includes the usual rage against "ZOG", the so-called "Zionist Occupation Government". In Miller's words:
I warned those federal SOBs. I told them repeatedly that if ZOG (Zionist Occupation Government) framed our leaders that we would wage war against them because war would then be our only hope for the survival of our Race I, Glenn Miller, this 6th day of April 1987, do herewith declare total war against ZOG.
We have been sentenced to death by Jews who rule over us and our death is acquiesced to by corrupt, cowardly, political whores the Jews-media allows to get elected.
On 14 April, as Pesach began, Jews leaving synagogue in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, were handed leaflets by armed men, masked and in uniform. Written in Russian, bearing the Russian national symbol and the insignia of the (pro-Russian breakaway) Donetsk People's Republic, it read:
Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality, due to the fact that the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine...oppose the pro-Slavic People's Republic of Donetsk...all citizens of Jewish descent, over 16 years of age...are required to report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and register...ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property...Evasion of registration will result in citizenship revoke and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property.
Local officials strenuously denied the leaflet's authenticity and it is now widely described as a hoax: but that inadequately describes something distributed by armed men in uniform outside the synagogue and reportedly elsewhere. The fear is certainly real enough, as is the grave historical and contemporary context.
On 18 April, the Jewish Chronicle reported that Jewish leaders in Caracas, Venezuela, had that week issued a plea "for understanding and respect" between the ruling and opposition parties. Since February, political unrest in Venezuela has seen the deaths of at least 39 people. Yul Jabour, the deputy of Venezuela's ruling (left-wing) National Assembly blamed a familiar source, stating:
International Zionism is involved in the wave of Nazi-fascist violence in Caracas
The statement was distributed by the Ministry of Communications. It continues the rhetoric of the previous Chavez administration; and draws upon one of the opposition leaders, Henrique Capriles Radonski, being of Jewish descent.
On 19 April, in Ramallah, a press statement by Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf described Al-Qaeda and its leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri as serving "global Zionism". The Palestinian presidency-controlled news agency Wafa website reported (translation by BBC Monitoring):
Assaf said that "The cards of Al-Zawahiri and his ilk, the contractors of international terrorism, were exposed long time ago. These people have one mission only, which primarily aims to serve the goals and schemes of world Zionism...we have not seen a single action by them against the Israeli occupation. What does this mean?"
Assaf added that...Al-Zawahiri comes out to publicly declare his direct contribution to the Zionist schemes and to participate in the pressure, distortion, and falsification campaigns...He said: "For whose benefit is Al-Zawahiri carrying out this dirty and suspect mission?"
The Kansas shootings passed through the 24 hour news cycle, but with little if any examination of their meaning for American Jews. This, in a country where the very worst rhetoric appears to be allowed, as is the possession of deadly weaponry, despite repeated mass shootings in public places.
By contrast, the Ukrainian leaflets struck an exceptionally raw nerve, more so even than actual physical attacks upon Jews in that fracturing country. If the limited reaction to the Kansas shootings perhaps showed how secure American Jews are perceived to be, the exact opposite can surely be said for the Ukrainian leaflet story - with the actual true identity of the perpetrators (Ukrainian, Russian, real, or false flag) seeming hardly to matter to the outside world.
The Venezuelan and Palestinian stories were practically invisible.
In Venezuela, at least half of the 18,000 strong Jewish community has emigrated since President Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999. His anti-Americanism came fully laden with anti-Zionism, and the enactment of such policies by a national government has provided a harsh and valuable warning for mainstream Jewish communities everywhere. Unfortunately, it remains largely unknown.
In the Palestinian Authority and in many Muslim countries, it is utterly routine to abuse opponents as Zionists and to claim that Zionism wields global power. Nevertheless, saying the word "routine" risks blinding us to the antisemitic resonance and impact of such rhetoric. Similarly, whilst it may be cogently argued that this anti-Zionism is primarily driven by the conflict against Israel, this risks wrongly categorising it all as merely being overheated or wrong-headed anti-Israel expression.
Overall, these four cases exhibit strikingly similar beliefs and patterns in very different settings. First comes their mutual understanding of antisemitism and anti-Zionism, believing that Jews and Zionists possess colossal power and are irredeemably hostile to the rest of society and the body politic. Second comes their understanding of how antisemitism and anti-Zionism can be harnessed as a political force, to be used against your opponents every bit as much as it is to be used against actual Jews. Third comes intimidation and violence against the target of the rhetoric.
We know the lessons from Ukraine. Let us try and learn them elsewhere too.