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Why is the Western left so obsessed with Israel?

It ain’t anti-Semitism. 

There’s no question – the evil perpetrated by Bashar Assad on the Syrians for the last year and a half makes the evils of the occupation during this time seem mild. So why does the Western left still seem so much more preoccupied with Israel, not to say obsessed, than it is with Syria? Or with Congo, or with Sudan, or with Afghanistan, or with any other place where man’s inhumanity to man is causing far greater agony and bloodshed than it is in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza?

The Israeli answer, of course, is anti-Semitism. The left naturally disagrees – but it has had a hard time defending its obsession – a fair word – with Israel’s injustices when, as even Israel-obsessed leftists will acknowledge, there is much, much worse shit going on elsewhere in Asia, and in Africa and Latin America.

The reason for the left’s difficulty in defending its Israel obsession lies in the embarrassment of leftists to admit who, in the overwhelming majority of cases,  they are – white, middle-class members of the First World’s educated elite. They number among the haves. As leftists (or progressives, liberals or social democrats), what they hate more than anything else is seeing the strong bully the weak – but the worst, by far, is when the bully comes from among their peers, the strong on a global scale – the Western-dominated, economically-advanced world. Then the left – the college students, professors, activists, writers, artists and other politically engaged people – have a personal stake in the injustice they’re seeing. When Syrians are bullying Syrians, or Sudanese are bullying South Sudanese, they don’t.

Israelis may not be as white as people think, but they are as Western as you get in the Middle East, and they are without doubt the haves against the Palestinians’ have-nots, while the occupation is without doubt a case of the strong bullying the weak. After nearly a half-century of this, how can any Western left-winger, how can any American liberal or European social democrat, not be incensed at what this country is doing?

Before Israel, there was South Africa as the most glaring example of the white, rich Westerner trampling the dark, poor Third Worlder. The left’s obsession with South Africa was no less intense or abiding than the one it carries for Israel; was this because of ethnic prejudice, of anti-Afrikanerism? No, it was because left-wing haves naturally recoil when they see fellow haves lording it over the have-nots.

The quality of the left’s enmity toward Israel in the last generation has always seemed to me basically identical to that of its enmity toward apartheid South Africa. Also to its fury at George W. Bush in Iraq, at Reagan in Nicaragua and El Salvador, at Nixon/Kissinger in Chile, and most of all at Nixon/Kissinger and LBJ in Vietnam. Before my time, the left’s fury was directed at European colonialism – at France in Algeria, Britain in India, Belgium in the Congo, and so on. Always, it’s directed at the spectacle of the haves stepping on the have-nots. For a leftist, that is the ugliest thing on earth, even when elsewhere, other have-nots are being beaten up much worse by “their own.” 

It’s important for leftists obsessed with Israel to keep some perspective, to judge this country not only against an absolute standard of justice but against other countries, currently and historically. It’s also important to be alive to other, greater evils going on in the world. But Western liberals – not to mention Israeli liberals – whose greatest moral outrage is reserved for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians have nothing to apologize for. It’s a natural reaction, an inevitable one. As with apartheid South Africa, Vietnam, European colonialism and other examples from the West’s history,  the occupation enflames leftists in a way that other, greater tyrannies in the world don’t, simply because this tyranny – the last of its kind still standing – is being perpetrated by their own side.

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    1. aristeides

      I’ll tell you why this leftist is obsessed with Israel. Because this leftist is an American and sees every day how the Lobby’s obsession with Israel corrupts my government. This leftist sees Israel dragging my country into another pointless war to appease Israeli paranoia.

      .
      This leftist sees one presidential candidate flying over to Israel for some facetime pandering, while the other one is signing an order giving away more military aid to Israel.

      .
      It’s not that other regimes aren’t worse than Israel, it’s that my country isn’t acting on their side as they carry out their crimes.

      Reply to Comment
    2. XYZ

      A somewhat different view is given by Prof Ernest Sternberg in this article on the “Purification” ideology:
      ———————————————–
      http://spme.net/library/pdf/PurifyingtheWorld.pdf
      ———————————————–
      The reason there is trouble in the world is because of the existence of “Empire” which is more or less American capitalism and its bastard child, Zionism. Only when these are eradicated, will the world be purified. In the Middle East if Syria is killing its own people, it is Zionism, i.e. Israel’s fault. If homosexuals are persecuted in Iran, it is Israel’s fault. If there is poverty in Egypt, it is Israel’s fault. This is because Israel’s existence allows for retrogressive forces to take in power exploiting emotions generated by the understandable strugge against Israel but then, in addition, misdirecting against other who should not be persecuted. This is how Jewish Professor Judith Baker defined HAMAS and HIZBULLAH as “progressive” forces. Most of us would consider them as reactionay bodies and philosophies, but since they oppose Israel, they are “progressive” and the more unpleasant aspects of their ideology (e.g. suppression of women and homosexuals) can and must be igorned while the strugge against Zionism is being waged. All “progressive” forces should join up with them in the war against Israel and Zionism. Once Israel and Zionism are overthrown, the naturally “progressive” element in the people who are controlled by HAMAS and HIZBULLAH will, in the course of things and with the help of outside “progressive” forces, get rid of these undesirable attitudes and the entire Middle East will evolve societies with policies more or less like secular Scandivanian Social Democrats.

      Sternberg points out that ultimately, Empire, i.e. American Capitalism must be overtrhown to save humanity from its impeding doom caused by global warming, exhaustion of natural resources and pollution, but this is a tall order and most Americans and Europeans are not yet ready for such a revolution, so it is easier to start with a smaller target, Israel and Zionism. Thus, all fire must be directed at them. Once they are overthrown, the conciousness of people all over the world will be raised, they will feel empowered and then the next, bigger target, Empire itself will be confronted, leading ultimately to the Purification of Humankind.
      ———————————————
      It should be pointed out that this ideology itself is exploited by others with other agendas. A good example is Prof Tariq Ramadan, grandson of the founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. He is constantly trying to create an alliance between radical Islam and western “progressives” because they have joint interests, i.e. overthrowing Zionism and “Empire” but whereas the Western “progressives” as I said, assume the world will ulimately look like Sweden, Ramadan wants to Islamize the world, which is a very different thing. It will be interesting to see if he is successful in using the rage both sides feel against Israel and the US to make an solid alliance, or whether the ultimately diverging goals will split them apart at an early stage.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Adam

      Larry– This is an extremely complex topic, and I think you’re wrong to dismiss outright the existence of any anti-Semitism on the left, especially in regard to their positions on Israel. Just to cite a blatant example: “Seven Jewish Children,” by esteemed leftist English playwright Caryl Churchill, is a vile example of contemporary anti-Semitism. This raises another complexity: I would say that anti-Semitism is much more pronounced among the the left in Europe. Their centuries old obsession with Jews has mutated in an obsession with Israel. The comments of Aristeides pose an interesting example. Are they anti-Semitic? I would say they are premised on anti-Semitic tropes. Yes, it’s true the Israel Lobby is powerful, but they did not drive America into war. This libel, that Jews are behind all wars, is a classic anti-Semitic canard. When Mel Gibson raved that the “Fucking Jews start all the wars,” he was saying not all that much different from Arsisteides’ claim “This leftist sees Israel dragging my country into another pointless war to appease Israeli paranoia.” Aristeides says it a way that’s acceptable in the universe of anti-Israel discourse, but it’s based on the same vulgar anti-Semitic trope informing Mel Gibson’s views.

      Reply to Comment
    4. paul

      Simply because “the West” created this mess.
      From the protestant missionaries, passing though the League of Nations and arriving to the shoah and the UN…
      .
      Moreover, ask to a taxi driver in france, italy or canada about Aleppo or Damasco: likely they don’t even know where these cities are.
      Then try with Bethlehem or Nazareth.

      Reply to Comment
    5. paul

      PS
      my answer was to the question:
      Why is the people in the West so obsessed with Israel/Palestine?
      It seems to me more complete

      Reply to Comment
    6. Palestinian

      I think because Israel is the only country that commits state terrorism , brags about how democratic and Western it is ,and gets away with it with extra donations and sympathy .

      Reply to Comment
    7. the other joe

      That is a fallacious argument. To protest about the occupation of Palestinians is not to ignore the reality of oppression in Sudan or Syria, the horrific barbarity in other Middle Eastern countries, brutal regimes in North Korea or anywhere else.
      .
      Yes, Israel is not Syria or Iraq or Sudan. But that is scare comfort when it is receiving massive amounts of financial and military support and does not justify the incarceration of minors, the stealing of the lawfully owned land of others or anything else.
      .
      And if you are thinking that this lefty cares not a jot for those other places then you are out of your tiny little mind.

      Reply to Comment
    8. PCPS

      While I can by no means speak for the rest of the western left, within Canada many solidarity activists are driven by a variant of what Mr. Derfner argues. But it is not just that we hate to see ‘our own’ beating up on the Palestinians. Rather, it is because we, via our states’ actions, are implicated in it. Canada has traditionally been a supporter of Israel, and our current Prime Minister has made us even more so. The same can not be said about Canada’s historical support for Syria, for example.

      Moreover, and in many ways even more importantly, our opposition to Israel is premised on the recognition of Israel being a colonial state, much as Canada is. Just as it is hard for the Israeli left to fully take an anti-occupation and anti-colonial stancem the same can be said about the left in Canada. We collectively benefit from the continued colonization of indigenous lands, in the same way that Israelis benefit from the continued colonization of Palestinians. But in focussing on Israel / Palestine, we can see the parallels in Canada. We can see that Canada is premised on a form of apartheid and settler colonialism as well, and hopefully by targeting colonialism elsewhere we can also combat colonialism here as well.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Adding the fact that no other country seems to have been defended morally, rhetorically, politically and otherwise than Israel. Those in favour and those against it have, in the course of the decades, created an ersatz-religion. For religion is about something that must be kept alive at all costs, be it in reality or just in some people’s dreams.

      Reply to Comment
    10. aristeides

      A steaming load of bullshit from Adam. No one here is claiming that “Jews are behind all wars.” This is a completely different claim from the true one that Israel is dragging the US into war. But Zionist apologists, having no good argument of their own, can only distort and lie and drag out the stinking rag of antisemitism to smear with.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Danny

      The reason for Israel’s singling-out is simple: Syria is a pariah state whose leader is supported mainly by Iran, Russia and China, and no one else. Bashar Assad makes no pretense of being a democratic, enlightened leader of a progressive state; on the contrary – he says flat out that his authoritarian rule is necessary to keep the country’s various factions (Sunni, Druze, Alawite) in balance. He has a point. I mean, look at Iraq now, nearly 10 years after the fall of Saddam. Is there anyone (other than Tony Blair and Condi Rice) who still thinks that present-day Iraq is better? As such, there are no expectations from the likes of Assad. He is a tyrant who is already pretty much shunned on every world stage. But Israel is another matter. Israel purports to be a democratic, enlightened and progressive state. Israel’s leaders carry on heavy pretense of western values, while in practice are every bit as tyrannical when it comes to the Palestinians as some of the most brutal dictators in the region. Israel demands that it be included in the family of western nations without adhering to the minimum requirements for membership. And most importantly – Israel is, as yet, not being held to western standards by any western officials (except for the odd verbal slight from the likes of Catherine Ashton). So, in a sense, Israel is allowed to have its cake and eat it too – a privilege bestowed upon NO OTHER COUNTRY. That’s why human rights NGO’s feel the need to pick up the gauntlet dropped by the western powers that be.

      Reply to Comment
    12. sh

      The European left is so obsessed with Israel because so many Jews were pillars of the left. French Jews whose families were leftist for generations cannot themselves believe what the Israel they expected to be a light to the world has become. Israel leaves leftist Jews, whether abroad or here, squirming and without a home (basically how your piece concludes).
      .
      The business of the haves is flawed thinking. Many Afrikaners were dirt poor in apartheid South Africa – “white poor” they were called – and Jews both in Israel and abroad are not all haves either.
      .
      Anti-semitism isn’t a province of either the left or the right. In that respect it’s an equal opportunity prejudice.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Aaron

      Larry is exactly right. There have been a very few of us making this argument for a long time. The disproportionate anti-Israel stance on the left – and it’s a stance, not an ideology or a theory – is not primarily anti-Semitic, nor anti-American, nor even anti-white (the Russians get a relatively free pass) – it’s anti-Western. I’d just disagree a bit and say that it’s not anti-haves, or pro-underdog, either: again, see what Russia and China get away with.
       
      So, leftists, here is an example of intellectual honesty, posted right in front of your eyes. You can follow the example, or you can try to weasel and evade and change the subject (hi, Other Joe!). Your choice.
       
      I’ve long been arguing a corollary to Larry’s point which wasn’t mentioned here. The long-term change in the leftist and Western European stance towards Israel – again, it’s a stance, not an ideology – over the past decades has been more a result of changing Western attitudes towards the West itself, than a result of anything Israel has or has not done. Israel can make relations better or worse in the short term, but in the long term, the Western anti-Israel stance is part of the West’s own self-critical, anti-Western stance. These were deep changes in Western culture; and by the way, American Jews played a disproportionate part. It’s about the West, not about Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    14. the other joe

      I don’t recall changing the subject – I think injustice is injustice wherever it is done.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Aaron

      SH, the point about the haves and have-nots is that the labels are based on America and western Europe, not Israel or South Africa or the Middle East. In America, Christians have power and Muslims don’t. Therefore, the Muslims are labeled underdogs, even when they persecute Christians in places like Egypt and Iraq. Similarly with Afrikaners: they’re white and Western, so they’re strong and dominant, even when they’re desperately trying to keep from being massacred on their farms.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Aaron

      Danny’s reply is familiar: Israel claims to be an enlightened, Western state, while states such as Syria never claim to be any such thing. I don’t know whether anybody really uses such a criterion or whether they just think they do, but it’s absurd. When children are being killed in Syria and Palestine, the criterion you use to judge the severity is the degree of hypocrisy in the regimes’ public relations? Please.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Aaron

      Aristeides, I think your personal reason for focusing on Israel is reasonable and valid. However, it certainly doesn’t explain the anti-Israel stance in European countries that don’t support Israel as the US does. Also, from what I’ve read and heard, it’s not even very representative of leftist motivations in America. In fact, it’s a much more common motivation for an anti-Israel stance among paleo-conservatives. For a long time, I even thought that you were a paleo-conservative, based on your particular anti-Israel style. Take that as a compliment, if you wish.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Jack

      Its not only the left that is fed up. The question is really easy.

      Namely, states that commit unlawful acts year after year decade after decade and threat world peace gets punished. They either get sanctions on them or they even get invaded and thus the problem is solved, the state in question cannot commit more of its unlawful acts.
      But when it comes to Israel, this will never happend due american power to reject such measures, thats a major reason why there is so much talk about Israel/Palestine conflict in the public spehere simply because the public realize that the politicians wont do anything about it.

      Reply to Comment
    19. berl

      The settler population in the West Bank has grown by 18 percent in Netanyahu’s three-plus years in office: but we are asking “Why is the Western left so obsessed with Israel?”.
      Mazkhik

      Reply to Comment
    20. Aviva

      I would argue that a more traditional anti-semitism which fears the Jew as an Other lurking inside society and destroying it from within (and which then has to become the scapegoat that carries society’s sins and allows the society to cleanse itself) is from a psychoanalytic perspective related to the fear of and disgust with the part of oneself that resembles in any way the despicable qualities which anti-semitism assigns to the Jew. So how is it not a form of anti-semitism (not against Jews but rather against what the role/concept of the Jew stands for–the ultimate Other within the self) for Western leftists to see Israel as that disgusting and bloodthirsty part of themselves that they need to denounce and purge?

      Reply to Comment
    21. sh

      I’m not interested in labels if they don’t fit, Aaron. Larry’s question about haves and have-nots:
      “was this because of ethnic prejudice, of hatred of Afrikaners because they’re Afrikaners? No, it was because left-wing haves naturally recoil when they see fellow haves lording it over the have-nots.”
      I saw barefoot, starving Afrikaner children in apartheid South Africa, stealing leftovers from a garden restaurant. The haves in that particular place were the Indian waiters chasing them away – at least they had jobs. I also think that right-wing haves are capable of recoiling at the sight of haves lording it over have-nots. They are no less human than left-wingers. It’s colonialism that annoys the left-wing ideologue. It’s like Algeria. The western (by your definition) left-winger sees Jews as having colonized Palestine.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Adam

      “A steaming load of bullshit from Adam. No one here is claiming that “Jews are behind all wars.” This is a completely different claim from the true one that Israel is dragging the US into war. ”

      No doubt the present Israeli government would like to US join forces in an attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities. But why does no one mention that Saudi Arabia is urging the US to do the same thing. In the Wiki documents, the Saudi’s urged the U.S. to “cut off the head of the snake,” the snake being Iran. What is a steaming load of bullshit is the claim on the left that Israel dragged the U.S. into a war with Iraq. That war was conceived and executed by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld for their own demented reasons. But the left was obsessed with falsely claiming that Israel was the driving force behind this war. No, no one on the left actually says the the Jews start all the wars, but when Cindy Sheehan says that her son died for Israel she is drawing from the exact same well of anti-Semitic mythology.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Syria, Congo, Sudan, Afghanistan don’t have a Chomsky, or a Finkelstein, or a Judt, or a Said, or an army of other influential intellectuals. You can’t have it all: just influential lobbies in the US, without important people opposing you.
      A second reason is that Israel is a threat to the western world with its suicidal expansionism, backed by nukes. Personally, I think “leftists” is just as silly a concept as “anti-semitism”, both nice propaganda tools, without any real meaning.
      There is real danger of escalation, since the Arab world (or China with its huge investments in Iran) will not continue to accept to be treated as the retarded child by western imperialists. Somalia poses no threat to the rest of the world, as bad as it is there. Israel does, that’s the main reason we should continue to put pressure on this failed experiment.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Harris

      Because the West that created Israel on top of the people of Palestine. It began with WWI, then Balfour Declaration, the League of Nation Palestine Mandate, U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 and today the uncontrolled support from the United States.

      Reply to Comment
    25. max

      @SH – the question isn’t why Israel but why Israel so much more than others, which are arguably worse.
      When it happens in the UN, notably the UNHRC, it’s easy to dismiss and political and recall that – more and more – a limited number of democracies need the favors of the vast non-democratic countries.
      But what’s the reason for the fact – and it is a fact – that a similar attitude is followed by the left, an attitude that drives it – in some, not insignificant cases – to associate with their ideological enemies?
      .
      I think that Larry and Aaron describe a similar idea: it’s about self reflection, based on wealth, extension of the notion of colonialism (I found PCPS’s comment intereting – first abroad, then at home), color of skin…
      all this – often, not always – ‘naturally’ fitting with age-old Antisemitism.
      .
      But in fact, the Radical Left has never been very good in identifying good and evil… praising Stalin, raising ‘democracy everywhere, any time’ to a goal on its own, preferring revolutions over political evolution, adopting only B&W views… and rarely coming up with proposed solutions

      Reply to Comment
    26. aristeides

      Aaron – that’s a very astute observation. I’m definitely on the political left, but I don’t regard my strongest anti-Zionist convictions as arising out of leftism but out of Americanism. And it’s often been said that the political spectrum isn’t linear but bent around in a circle, where far left and right sometimes meet in uncomfortable consensus.

      .
      If a miracle happened and support for Israel became anathema in the US, I’d still oppose the fundamental injustice that underlies Israel, but I’d probably put Israel in a row with other unjust and oppressive regimes.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Joel

      Leftists pick on Israel because she is a ‘soft target’.
      Israel is an open, pluralistic society of introspective, guilt consumed, life loving Jews. Soft and easy prey nowadays for Stalinist bully boys who talk tough with their keyboards only.

      I remember Baader-Meindoff, Japanese Red Brigades and the Munich Jewish nursing home massacre.

      Do you?

      Reply to Comment
    28. max

      @aristeides, you reinforce the concept: you’re especially anti-Israel because you feel that democracy in America – your country – isn’t strong enough. It’s not about Israel, it’s about America.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Richard Witty

      Why is the left fixated on Israel, as opposed to merely criticizing?

      A great question. The answer obviously varies.

      There are many Jews involved in social justice causes that grapple with the question of universalism (universal sympathy) relative to tribalism, come down on the universal sympathy side and conclude that “their” community’s tribalism is a gross abuse, whereas Palestinians is a just liberation.

      Those Europeans that promote BDS actively, who knows. Those Americans associated with nativist ideologies, probably a bit of classical and neo-classical anti-semitism.

      In all cases, there is the phenomena of people giving themselves permission to repeatedly condemn an ethnicity. What prompts that self-defined permission?

      Who knows?

      In forming the willingness to demonize Israel, there is formation of Israelis as an “other”. When most of the individuals of Jewish descent that go so far as to demonize Israel, there is an element of regarding Israelis as “other” even as they speak of “my people” (somewhat fraudulently, if they don’t do so consistently and participate in other aspects of Jewish affairs consistently and enthusiastically.)

      Reply to Comment
    30. aristeides

      Max – that’s right. To me, the real problem is the Israel-firsters taking advantage of the corruption in the US government to advance the interests of a foreign power over the interests of their own country, endangering world peace.

      .
      Of course, without their support, Israel wouldn’t be able to sustain its ongoing injustice and belligerence, so it’s about Israel, too.

      .
      That’s to say – if Israel were a normal, just and peaceful state, the activities of the Israel-firsters wouldn’t be such a problem.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Joel

      @Aviva

      Nice analysis.

      Thanks for keeping it real.

      Reply to Comment
    32. paul

      “Israel is an open, pluralistic society of introspective, guilt consumed, life loving Jews.”
      Also south africa was like that. but just for white people.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Rorr

      Your critical of Israel you get grants, book deals, etc. Your critical of Islam, you have to have security up your ass. Otherwise you might end up with a slightly more violent population coming to your front door.

      Reply to Comment
    34. aristeides

      Adam – you and your straw man can have a nice cosy talk, but you can leave me out of it, since nothing you say has anything to do with my comment.

      Reply to Comment
    35. David

      Aristeides basically nailed it in the first post.

      Israel commands the attention in a way that no other country does in the West, this is most especially true in America but Israel’s basic stance that only war will do with Iran means that everyone will suffer in a way that no other country can manage to.

      Because of the lobby, in short, is the answer. It makes sure that we get involved – whether we like it or not – in Israel’s wars.

      Mr. Derfner you should really be smarter than this.

      Reply to Comment
    36. VickiV

      I can only speak for myself, but in my case, it’s because we were lied to about what Israel is, and is not. Reality slapped me in the face upon my first trip to Israel, and in the intervening years, I was there for the 2006 war against Lebanon, in 2008-9 for Cast Lead massacre in Gaza, the completion of the Wall in Beit Hanina and Bethlehem, and of course the standard degradation and humiliation of Palestinians by Israeli security forces. I’ve been to Nablus, to Hebron and to Jenin. Need I say more? The US government supports the occupying force in every way, and the media has been silent, or worse, one-sided. I’m pissed off about it all.

      Reply to Comment
    37. Palestinian

      Danny , amen

      Reply to Comment
    38. RichardL

      If you’ve got to ask, Derfner, you’ll never know.

      Reply to Comment
    39. ginger

      Because Israel and her Lobby are USING the US to finance and provide diplomatic and military cover for the ethnic cleansing

      The Israeli Lobby is playing America like a cheap fiddle and has made the US complicit in the Israeli crimes

      Who wants to be sucker, who wants to be used, who wants to be forced to support and enable the dysfunctional Apartheid state?

      Reply to Comment
    40. Black Tom

      Two Points:

      1) Israel sees itself as a “Western Democracy” while suppressing and using Palestinians for target practice.

      2) Labeling refugees as “Nggrs, a Cancer or Infiltrators” who should go back where they come from is rich coming from Zionist Jews who make a big song and dance about Fleeing suppression from Europe.

      The Nazis looked down on Jews and now characters like Eli Yishai can play out the sick fantasy of the “Superior White Man,” looking childish and hypocritical.

      And then there are those who play out the Der Sturmer cliche’ of the “Greedy, manipulative, Self Obssessed, double talking, treacherous Juden”. It’s as though they want to draw attention to themselves by acting out the very thing the Nazis accused “Jews” of doing – Bernie Madoff, Sheldon Adelson

      Reply to Comment
    41. RichardL

      Larry Derfner: “So why does the Western left still seem so much more preoccupied with Israel, not to say obsessed, than it is with Syria? Or with Congo, or with Sudan, or with Afghanistan, or with any other place where man’s inhumanity to man is causing far greater agony and bloodshed than it is in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza?”
       
      To put a bit of context on this gripe which I have repeatedly heard and read from pro-Zionists I would like to ask how much Israel does for the oppressed and the victims of man’s inhumanity in any of the country’s mentioned (or anywhere else for that matter). As we have previously established in these comments, Israel’s humanitarian aid donations are the lowest of any OECD country. In 2011 even Greece, which is nearly bankrupt, gave more in humanitarian aid than Israel. If Israelis were really concerned about the enormous suffering in the Congo they could protest outside the Tel Aviv diamond exchange against Israeli involvement in blood diamonds. It wouldn’t take a lot of effort but to date I have yet to hear of any such protests. Despite all the crocodile tears for the Congo (when it suits) I wonder how many Israelis have even heard of the Great African War, let alone can recite how many countries were involved in that huge armed conflict. No, Israeli aid mostly takes the place of military arms and equipment. Let us not forget the collaboration with the South African nuclear weapons programme. Given this shameful record I really don’t think opponents of Israel’s human rights abuses need any advice from Israel about where they should be devoting their energies.

      Reply to Comment
    42. joel

      @Danny

      “..in a sense, Israel is allowed to have its cake and eat it too..”

      China, which holds a permanent seat on the UN Security Counsel, has it’s way with Tibet and the Western Provinces. Morocco has her way with the occupation of Western Sahara. Turkey has her way in Northern Cyprus and suppresses the national aspirations of Kurds. Iran has her way in Arabistan and Baluchistan. Russia in Chechneya, etc.

      But unlike Israel, China, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Morocco, etc, are hard targets were anti-government activism could get you in hot water fast.

      So Danny has to dig a little deeper to explain the Left’s obsession with Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    43. Kolumn9

      Both Larry’s argument and Aaron’s corollary hit the mark. Israel represents to its Western detractors absolutely everything that they hate about their own society, history, etc.
      .

      The interesting thing to me is that the exaggerated outrage from Western liberals is eventually going to drive Israel out of its quasi-Western orientation. What the liberals seem to miss is that less than a third of the population of Israel is at this point Western in its orientation and that percentage is shrinking. Between the Russians, National Religious, Mizrachim, Haredim and the Arabs, there is a majority and quickly growing chunk of the population that couldn’t give two figs for the Western liberal perception of the world or its outrage. In addition, within the shrinking third or so of the population that are still more or less Western in outlook the rational reaction to the Western liberal obsession is to seek alternative means of legitimization which inevitably will not include those aspects of the Western liberal outlook that are so hostile to Israel. Such substitutes are readily available and have always formed strong ideological undercurrents in Israel. The less rational reaction to the Western liberal obsession with Israel can be often found here in the self-hate and self-flagellation of various posters, but this in practice is a choice of ideological exile from the Israeli mainstream and its logical conclusion is a departure from Israel which doesn’t bode well for its influence within Israel.
      .

      The association of Israel with the ‘West’ is not terribly strong and only getting weaker. Western liberal values simply do not correspond with the reality in the Middle East. This is very much acknowledged by Western liberals in reference to every other state in the region though this is frustratingly not acknowledged as a potential constraint on Israeli policy and values. Nor are compromises made in the interest of preserving a semblance of Western values in the face of core security and existential constraints appreciated in the wider Western liberal world on which the universal/internationalist liberal/leftist outlook depends for legitimization and reinforcement. In other words, being an Israeli liberal is a thankless vocation of very questionable desirability. As such, Western liberals are contributing to this phenomenon of the dissociation of Israel from the West with their obsession with Israel because they continuously put Western-oriented Israelis in an impossible position from which the most reasonable reaction if one is to continue to remain in Israel is to abandon the Western orientation.

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    44. Kernod

      This particular conflict has several attributes the combination of which merit so much outrage, and so much attention. Some of these attributes are extremely damaging to the democratic discourse in many countries and is thus dangerous to their political culture.

      1. Israel is carrying out a strategy of containment and expulsion against an indigenous people that has been going on for a very long time — the Zionist invasion started in earnest in the early 20th century and has been progressing ever since for about 100 years.

      2. Israel is one of the last examples in the world of an ongoing colonization of a territory belonging to an indigenous population that has not been resolved nor acknowledged and is still being actively pursued.

      3. The Israelis have implemented several major massive campaigns of ethnic cleansing (the Nakba, Naksa, Golan Heights expulsion in 1967, administrative ethnic cleansing between 1967 and 1994) totaling nearly 1.5 million people and dozens of smaller incidents — one of the largest ongoing campaigns of ethnic cleansing on the planet and the largest ongoing campaign executed by Western colonizers against an indigenous people.

      4. The Israelis have carried out a very long series of mass killings against civilian Palestinians (too many to mention — Wikipedia has a list for 1948, the last one in the 2008/2009 Gaza Massacre), civilian Lebanese (starting in the 1980’s and ongoing — the latest in 2006 and the next one in planning stages — if the “promises” of the IDF are to be believed), and Egyptian POWs (in 1956 and 1967).

      5. Israel is continuously claiming the it is a “Western style democracy”, despite its crimes of institutional repression and discrimination against its Palestinian citizens, its absence of rule-of-law, its growing repression against internal opposition, and its repression of freedom of speech and freedom of association.

      6. Israel uses the support of the US to continuously ignore international law, the resolutions of the Security Council, the UN, and many other international bodies. It does not collaborate with international bodies and increasingly seeks to prevent access to investigators trying to determine and quantify its breeches of international law.

      7. Israel continues to lie in almost every possible forum about its actions, history, legal issues, and motivations. It and its apologists deny its deeds even when faced with irrefutable evidence, provide disingenuous excuses and “explanations”.

      8. Israel tries to leverage international trade to help it exploit illegally obtained natural resources by lying about the true origin of its goods and obfuscating its supply and value chains so it can export the products of its exploitation of the OPT and its illegal settlements to unsuspecting consumers.

      9. Israel abuses the democratic processes of other countries to allow it to gain and retain influence and advantages in its propaganda, legal, academic, and economic campaigns. The main tactic used is by intentionally blurring the differences between anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel on the one hand, and anti-Semitism on the other. This results in the unfair targeting of academics and other people through lobbying campaigns that result in the repression of free speech and the delegitimization of open debate on Israel/Palestine. It also uses heavy lobbying tactics to subvert political and democratic processes in other countries — primarily in the USA and the UK.

      10. Israel unabashedly exploits the Jewish Holocaust to justify its policies and practices, co-opting and desecrating the memory of the holocaust victims for its objectives and to justify its crimes.

      11. Israel and its apologists use deflection as one of their primary tactics. Very annoying.

      12. Israel uses extra-judicial killings (with significant collateral fatalities) as a tactic to remove its enemies anywhere in the world, even when legitimate or non-fatal courses of action are available to it.

      13. Israel subverts the Jewish organizations around the world to its objectives, creating an atmosphere that stifles debate and excommunicate its Jewish critics from their natural communal environments.

      14. Israel poses as the perpetual victim when it is blatantly obvious that nothing is further from the truth.

      15. Israel is a warmonger, seeking to resolve issues through force of arms while ignoring international law and trying to drag other countries into conflicts to further its own aims, oblivious to the fact that this seriously jeopardizes world peace. The latest example is with Iran, of course, with the Mavi Marmara another recent example

      16. Israel continues to ignore and abuse the human, property, civil, and national rights of the Palestinians under its occupation in the the OPT, implementing an apartheid system where millions of people are living in a two-tiered system where the colonizing Israelis have access to a legal, law enforcement, and infrastructure system that is completely separate, to their advantage, from the arbitrary military rule their forced-neighbors are subject to.

      17. Israel is founded in an ideology that is inherently anti-Semitic, continuously trying to create an identification between itself and its interests and that of Jews around the world.

      18. Israel funds and organizes shills and other tactics to subvert the democratic discourse on the Internet to further its agenda.

      19. The Israeli public, through elections, has time and again demonstrated its massive support for these policies and practices, proving that this is not simply a problem of a rogue regime that can be changed but of a rogue nation that needs to have its head examined.

      20. Israel supporters and apologists try to shout down and shut up the other side, since it is unable to address any of the criticism in a way that is not obviously disingenuous.

      I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

      While many other countries and organizations have in the past and do currently use a subset of these tactics, in some cases with even more brutality, none have been doing it for so long and subverting the legitimate institutions of other countries, international bodies, and communities to further their own illegitimate objectives to the extent Israel has.

      TL;DR: It is a brutal, sanctimonious, disingenuous, hypocritical, turd of regime that has been doing its deeds for 100 years and counting, and it is actively debasing the political cultures of other countries.

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    45. BOOZ

      “But Western liberals – not to mention Israeli liberals – whose greatest moral outrage is reserved for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians have nothing to apologize for.”

      Larry,

      I beg to differ. Yes they do have something to apologize for : being used as an easy excuse for ant-semites of all kinds as a “license to hate”.

      Based on my experience of the French political scene (which is the country where I live) one can’t help remarking that the poponents of the Palestinian cause here have have been VERY LATE to disscoiate themselves from such heinous types as Alain Soral or Dieudonné , and that the sort of neo antisemitisme pervading our “banlieues” (and the immigrant youths) is still excused by them as a consequence of the ME conflict.

      As far as I am concerned , I respect a Palestinian activist fighting for his cause ( up to a certain limit which does not include terrorism agaisnt civilians nor spreading outright lies about the Jews in general and the Zionist movement in particular).

      I have no such respect for third parties who in the West pour oil on the fire.

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    46. MIA

      @972 editors
      The post by KENROD is an anti-Semitic tract that has no place on your website.

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    47. Oriol

      You could also ask why Western European Right is so obsessed with defending Israel. It’s funny: anti-Semitic tradition has still some weight in European Right, but, at the same time, they feel compelled to love Israel. It is a well-known fact that Anders Breivik admired Israel, and, even if he is a looney who doesn’t know anything precise about your country, his devotion to it is not a casual folly. It reflects a mindset of current European Far Right-Wingers, which tend to admire Israel when they are not too subjected by dogmas of the past.

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    48. Kernod

      @MIA

      Why? Other then the usual tactic of calling anything critical of Israel anti-Semitic, can you point at anything that is anti-Semitic? While your at it, you might try to point out something that is not easy to document and prove.

      I have no doubt that your claim is impossible to substantiate and is yet another example of the anti-Israel == anti-Semitic tactic and is thus illegitimate. If you can’t debate a point — then don’t.

      Conversely, trying to drown it out through false accusations simply proves my points (specifically 9 and 20), so thanks.

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    49. Richard Witty

      Kernod answers the question of why criticize Israel, but does not answer the question of why criticize only Israel.

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    50. Richard Witty

      Nor does he answer the question of how to criticize Israel without being or appearing anti-semitic.

      There is more than one definition, form of anti-semitism.

      The classical form that is nearly universally rejected among enlightened and any that apply any form of the Golden rule, the form that underlies nazi holocaust, boycott of Jewish institutions, quotas on the number of Jews in professions, is the theme of prejudice against another for the “sin of what family they were born into”.

      Most on the left utterly reject that theme. They prefer a behavioral basis of judgment of another, over a racial.

      There is a second form of anti-semitism that many on the left alternately harbor and ignore. That is the hatred of one who is so “ignorant” as to continue to “archaic” (tribal) rituals, credos, focus of attention, defense.

      There is among too many a hatred of those that continue to self-identify prominently as Jewish.

      So, although few on the left hate Larry Derfner for example for being born Jewish, there are actually some on the left that hate him for continuing to advocate for an Israel, and for making aliyah to a culturally Jewish nation, for daring to continue to be Jewish, and further for continuing his family tradition as Jewish (I don’t know if he did bring up his children as Jewish or not, sorry to put words in his mouth if he did not).

      Most on the left, greatly appreciate Larry for his principled, consistent, and determined criticism of Israel, for telling his truth.

      Among the left there is a very very sad permission to condemn, to hate, the religious, again as clinging to “archaic” values and practices.

      I’ve come to consider the attitude of “all my relations” to be the primary basis of my Judaism, meaning to apply the prayerful invocation of unifying opposites. It is the very same ideology as underlies Tantra (not the sexual hype, but the underlying philosophy). It is the urge for coherence (not the same as the urge for consistency, but related.)

      Ein Od. Kevalya (in sanskrit), the ONE.

      So, I trivially make a joke of my credo as to “Make whole”, in contrast with “making holes”.

      One can be a dissenter that works to “make whole”, or one can be a dissenter that works to “make holes”.

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