Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Anti-Zionism is Racism"

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Anti-Zionism is Racism -- by Judea Pearl

In the past three months, I have visited four “troubled” campuses — Duke, York (Canada), Columbia and UC Irvine — where tensions between Jewish and anti-Zionist students and professors have attracted national attention. In these visits, I have spoken to students, faculty and administrators, and I have obtained a fairly gloomy picture of the situation on those and other campuses.

Jewish students are currently subjected to an unprecedented assault on their identity as Jews. And we, the Jewish faculty on campus, have let those students down. We have failed to equip them with effective tools to fight back this assault.

We can reverse this trend.

Many condemn anti-Zionism for being a flimsy cover for anti-Semitism. I disagree. The order is wrong. I condemn anti-Semitism for being an instrument for a worse form of racism: anti-Zionism.

In other words, I submit that anti-Zionism is a form of racism more dangerous than classical anti-Semitism. Framing anti-Zionism as racism is precisely the weapon that our students need for survival on campus.

Anti-Zionism earns its racist character from denying the Jewish people what it grants to other collectives (e.g. Spanish, Palestinians), namely, the right to nationhood and self-determination.

Are Jews a nation? A collective is entitled to nationhood when its members identify with a common history and wish to share a common destiny. Palestinians have earned nationhood status by virtue of thinking like a nation, not by residing where their ancestors did (many of them are only three or four generations in Palestine). Jews, likewise, are bonded by nationhood (i.e., common history and destiny) more than they are bonded by religion.

The appeal to Jewish nationhood is necessary when we consider Israel’s insistence on remaining a “Jewish state.” By “Jewish state” Israelis mean, of course, “national Jewish state,” not “religious Jewish state” — theocratic states (like Pakistan and Iran) are incompatible with modern standards of democracy and pluralism. Anti-Zionist racists use this anti-theocracy argument repeatedly to delegitimize Israel, and I have found our students unable to defend their position with conventional ideology that views Jewishness as a religion.

Jewishness is more than just a religion. It is an intricate and intertwined mixture of ancestry, religion, history, country, culture, tradition, attitude, nationhood and ethnicity, and we need not apologize for not fitting neatly into the standard molds of textbook taxonomies — we did not choose our turbulent history.

As a form of racism, anti-Zionism is worse than anti-Semitism. It targets the most vulnerable part of the Jewish people, namely, the people of Israel, who rely on the sovereignty of their state for physical safety, national identity and personal dignity. To put it more bluntly, anti-Zionism condemns 5 million human beings, mostly refugees or children of refugees, to eternal statelessness, traumatized by historical images of persecution and genocide.

Anti-Zionism also attacks the pivotal component of our identity, the glue that bonds us together — our nationhood, our history. And while people of conscience reject anti-Semitism, anti-Zionist rhetoric has become a mark of academic sophistication and social acceptance in Europe and in some U.S. campuses.

Moreover, anti-Zionism disguises itself in the cloak of political debate, exempt from sensitivities and rules of civility that govern interreligious discourse. Religion is ferociously protected in our society — political views are not.

Just last month, a student organization on a UC campus hosted a meeting on “A World Without Israel.” Imagine the international furor that a meeting called, “A World Without Mecca,” would provoke.

So, in the name of “open political debate,” administrators would not think twice about inviting MIT linguist Noam Chomsky to speak on campus, though his anti-Zionist utterances offend the fabric of my Jewish identity deeper than any of the ugly religious insults currently shocking the media. He should be labeled for what he is: a racist.

Strategically, while accusations of anti-Semitism are worn out and have lost their punch, charging someone with racism makes people ask why anyone would deny people the right of self-determination in a sliver of land in the birthplace of their history. It shifts the frame of discourse from debating Israel’s policies to the root cause of the conflict — denying Israelis their basic rights as a nation.

Charges of “racism” highlight the inherent asymmetry between the Zionist and anti-Zionist positions. The former grants both Israelis and Palestinians the right for statehood, the latter denies that right to one, and only one side. This asymmetry is the most effective weapon our students should use in campus debates, for it puts them back on the high moral grounds of “fair and balanced” and forces their opponents to defend an ideology of one-sidedness.

For example, I have found it effective, when confronting an anti-Zionist speaker, to ask: “Are you willing to go on record and state that the Israel-Palestine conflict is a conflict between two legitimate national movements?” Western audiences adore even-handedness and abhor bias. The question above forces the racist to unveil and defend his uneven treatment of the two sides.

America prides itself on academic freedom, and academic freedom entails freedom to teach hatred and racism — we graciously accept this fact of life. However, academic freedom also entails the freedom of students to expose racism, be it white-supremacy, women-inferiority, Islamophobia or Zionophobia wherever it is spotted. Not to censor, but to expose — racists stew in their own words.

In summary, I believe the formula “Anti-Zionism = Racism” should give Jewish students the courage to both defend their identity and expose those who abuse it.

Source - http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/preview.php?id=14207

Judea Pearl is a professor of computer science at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, named after his son.

Daniel Pearl was a journalist who was kidnapped and beheaded in Pakistan while investigating the case of a convicted shoe bomber. Judea Pearl is co-editor of "I am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl" (Jewish Lights, 2004), winner of the National Jewish Book Award.

CRITICAL RESPONSE:

This article illustrates a noxious example of the concerted effort being orchestrated by the Zionist political establishment to malign all criticism of its murderous policy towards the Palestinian people.

Zionists attempt to equate any opposition to the colonial policies of the Israeli state with hatred of the Jewish people in general and the infamous and reactionary anti-Semitism of the Nazis in particular. Moreover, as this strategy of crying anti-Semitism at every turn wanes in persuasiveness, they have fallen on the new charge of "racism."

The assertion that anti-Zionists are racists aims to reserve for Zionism a sphere of immunity and seeks to ultimately, silence opposition to the Apartheid regime--to legitimize its Greater Israel project. This tested and failed Zionist plan to rewrite history and color current brutality towards a people who bear absolutely no responsibility for the Holocaust, is evoked only to bludgeon any dissent concerning Zionism’s righteousness.

The charge that anti-Zionism is racism seeks to indemnify Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians and offers the Zionist junta a carte blanche to do whatever it wishes. Using a politics of amalgam, Zionists link anyone who criticizes the Israeli state with anti-Semitism and racism, irrespective of their political views.

This new charge against westerners opposed to the draconian methods of Israeli occupation mirrors the collective punishment Israel practices against the Palestinians in the occupied territories. Everyone who questions Zionism is guilty of racism in the view of Zionists. As far as the Zionists are concerned it is impermissible to note that Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians are reminiscent of those employed by the Apartheid system of South Africa and the very Nazis that seem to haunt their every endeavor.

Zionist Israeli policy in effect denies the importance of the Holocaust precisely, because they are reinventing the dynamic by victimizing Palestinians in a routine manner. Worse still, the harsh Zionist methods against Palestinians provide a proactive nullification of the Holocaust because the banal occupation normalizes a brutality that was once seen as exceptional.

Anti-Zionists are not racists, many of us empathize with the century long suffering of the Palestinians. On the contrary, anti-Zionists legitimately, identify the tragic irony of history—that the Jewish people, who claim millennia persecution including discrimination, racism and oppression, should themselves be perpetrating gross human rights violations against an oppressed people. Indeed, such observations are often framed as an appeal to the Jews’ sense of history, morality and social conscience — principles that seem lost on brazen Zionists bent on subduing Palestinians at any cost to attain their Eretz Yisrael Hashleima--a Greater Israel.

Zionists have historically, painted all critics as anti-Semites therefore, the label "racist" is not surprising. This additional claim of racism is fundamentally dishonest and is contradicted by the fact that many of those critical of Zionism's brutal treatment of the Palestinians are themselves both Israelis and Jews. The author cites Noam Chomsky as an example of this new racist phenomenon, which he claims is more dangerous than anti-Semitism. However, Noam Chomsky is a Zionist in the true sense of the term. He believes Israel should continue to exist in the lands taken from the Palestinians to resettle the victims of the Nazis even though, the Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust. Moreover, Noam Chomsky is the son of concentration camp survivors and spent his formative years in Kibbutzim in Israel--Mr. Chomsky, cannot honestly, be described as an anti-Semite let alone a racist against his fellow Jews. The thesis presented by Mr. Pearl is arrogantly preposterous.

To be Jewish does not incur a reality of being ipso facto a Zionist. If that were the case then, all Jews would be living in Israel. Sixty three percent of the world's Jews choose not do so. Moreover, a recent study by Professors Steven M. Cohen and Ari Y. Kelman, has shown that Diaspora Jews and young Jews in particular are feeling increasingly alienated and disconnected from Israel and would not care if Israel no longer existed. Are these detached Diaspora Jews racists as well? The assertion that anti-Zionism is racism rests on the conflagration of the actions of the Israeli state and the interests of the Jewish people as being the same. Such an equation is historically and factually incorrect.

Zionists insist that the anti-Semitism that gave rise to the Holocaust can only be answered by the removal of the Jewish people to a fabled homeland and the establishment of their own Jewish state--Israel. Although, Zionists fail to explicate the necessity of a religious homeland for a secular people who are minimally observant of any specifically Jewish religious laws, attend synagogues or even declare a belief in God. However, the creation of that homeland on the land of another people by brutalizing and ethnically, cleansing them into camps around the middle east and into the Diaspora is what is at issue some 60 years later. The contention of anti-Zionists is with the historical and political record of Zionism's atrocities, an examination of which Zionists rule out of bounds--Jewishness is not the focal point of the anti-Zionist movement.

A cursory review of Zionism reveals a horrendous record, which began before its christening. Israel’s founding was carried out through terrorism and the forcible expulsion of the indigenous Palestinian people. This was not just the result of a war that led people to flee their homes, but the explicit policy of the state — the Zionist terror groups — that were given license by Israel’s founding fathers to make the Zionist motto "a people without a home for a land without a people" come to pass.

Since then Israel has fought numerous wars, including unprovoked wars of aggression against other countries: Egypt in 1956, the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars were preemptive affairs, Lebanon in 1978 and 1982 were solely Israeli projects. Israel has openly defied numerous United Nations resolutions. It has repeatedly breached international law in relation to the West Bank and Gaza, which it has illegally occupied since 1967 (as well as the Syrian Golan Heights and parts of Lebanon). Israel has appropriated territory to itself, including East Jerusalem and built hundreds of settlements by wiping out hundreds of Arab villages.

Israeli armed forces have carried out repeated incursions into Palestinian cities and against its neighbors. The IDF and Zionist settlers have killed thousands of Palestinians, the great majority of which were unarmed civilians and many of them children and women.

As one of the most violent governments in the world, Israel has demolished people’s homes, destroyed farms and uprooted thousands of olive trees and orange groves, close roads and institute curfews while erecting a web of checkpoints that cripple the Palestinian economy, bringing people to the brink of starvation. Israel regularly detains people without charge or trial. Torture and inhumane treatment of detainees is normalcy. Israel has exiled people. It has declared and practice a policy of extra judicial killing fortressed by political assassination of its opponents. Israel is always ready "to pre-empt, to deter, to defeat" fathomed threats to its existence.

Israel’s strategy of closing roads not only to and from but also within the occupied territories, combined with its infamous security wall that separates the West Bank from Israel, has created a series of ghettos for the Palestinians. The conditions for the vast majority of those who live in the Gaza Strip, separated off from Israel by means of an electrified barbed wire fence and denied any manner of earning a living, resemble those of a giant concentration camp.

Israel is a nuclear state that refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty or let international inspectors examine its facilities. Yet everyone knows that Israel has developed hundreds of nuclear weapons and has an extensive biological and chemical weapons programme. It has even said that it will take pre-emptive strike action against Iran, which it claims has begun to develop nuclear weapons. Israel is willing to violate its international obligations to destroy the nuclear facilities of Iran at its own choosing as it did against Osirak, Iraq in 1981.

Within Israel itself, the government operates a nefarious scheme towards the Palestinian Israelis reminiscent of the infamous apartheid regime in South Africa. It discriminates against its Arab citizens, curtails their political rights and denies them a fair share of economic resources and social welfare. Israel has recently passed racist legislation denying Israeli citizens who marry Palestinians the right to live with their partners in Israel.

Jews are not a race. There are Jews of every description from all over the world, but even if Jews were a race anti-Zionists would not be racists. However, the record clearly, shows that Zionist Israel is a racist state occupying Palestinians with the modus operandi of its Nazi and Apartheid counterparts.

It is time to recognize that Zionism has been a terrible mistake and a sad failure. Its continuation promises only further oppression for both Palestinians and Israelis and the grievances it avails must culminate in a most bitter and terrible war.

The only way out of the current impasse is the development of a political and social system that unites Arabs and Jews. Once a regime of reparations is instituted and an all out effort of reconciliation is undertaken -- similar to what occurred in South Africa -- then the 60 years wound can begin to heal inside a nation based on equitable law and equal opportunity for all citizens.

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