In the past few months, several events highlighted further the alarming trend in liberal institutions approving of antisemitism from Palestinian and pro-Palestinian individuals. The emergence of the Western left as the principal source of anti-Zionist and antisemitic discourse in liberal democracies comes at a moment of increasing leftist hegemony over cultural, educational and political institutions, which is unlikely to subside. The development helped enshrine the idea that “exterminationist” hatred toward Israel is a legitimate expression of Palestinian human rights concerns.
Earlier this year, Deutsche Welle’s Arabic service, a German broadcasting international service, fired five employees, Palestinian and Lebanese, due to antisemitic social media. Their February termination occurred after an article in Sudduetche Zeitung exposing their online record. Maram Salem, one of the Palestinian journalists fired, protested, “You don’t know where the line stops at anti-Semitism – it was extremely hazy,” and accused the network of anti-Palestinian sentiment. She complained that she was prevented from writing “Israel kills children” as an example of “anti-Palestinianism.” Another Palestinian journalist, Farah Maraqa, who, on social media, compared Israel to cancer and expressed that she would join ISIS in a war against Israel, accused the network of banning content critical of Israel.
Had the story ended here, all would have been good. The story would have proved that despite mounting concerns of rising antisemitism in Germany, German society still has healthy democratic and liberal sensibilities. Yet, it didn’t. Earlier this week, a German court found the termination of the employment of the journalists on the grounds of antisemitism to be “legally unjustified” and ordered their reinstatement. Giovanni Fassina, director of the European Legal Support Center, ELSC, a pro-Palestinian group, told Aljazeera, “This case is illustrative of a worrying trend in Germany of institutionalized silencing of Palestinian voices and narratives by employing malicious practices.” The ELSC’s official position is that adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism is institutionalization of anti-Palestinian discrimination, implicitly identifying antisemitism with pro-Palestinian activism.
Across the Atlantic, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) holds a similar position. In March, AAUP issued a statement vehemently opposing the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism and any attack on Critical Race Theory. The fact that AAUP associated the two is not coincidental but perfectly consistent with contemporary leftist thought. In the first half of AAUP’s statement, which is dedicated to opposing the IHRA definition, constant references were made to Palestinian rights and pro-Palestinian activism and like the German ELSC, identifying antisemitic discourse with Palestinian rights.
In the second half, dedicated to defending CRT, AAUP constantly referred to slavery and minority rights. If one was to compare the two parts of the statements, the ideological construct emerges very clearly, an analytical dissolution of Zionism and Israel’s existence in an abstraction of “state interests” presupposed as a structure of systematic racism, settler colonialism, violence, imperialism, and political repression. Similarly, antisemitism is dissolved into “praxis” and the rights of the oppressed. In short, antisemitism is a Critical Theory of the Palestinians.
Earlier this month, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) issued a statement defending Nader Hashemi, Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver’s Joseph Korbel School of International Relations. In a recent podcast, Hashemi spoke of the possibility that the murderous attack on the author Salman Rushdie in New York last month was a Mossad plot posing as an IRGC act. The conspiracy theory was rightfully and immediately identified as an antisemitic conspiratorial thought prevalent in antisemitic circles in the Middle East and elsewhere.
The responses of rightful moral outrage forced the University of Denver to issue a statement distancing itself from the remarks. It is difficult to imagine any reputable figure, let alone a Western academic association, to rush to the defense of anti-Zionist conspiracy theories worthy of the Iraqi Baath or the Iranian regime, yet here we are. While it is not clear if MESA did this out of professional courtesy to a colleague, the long MESA record of anti-Israel bias makes it more sinister. In its statement, MESA considered the outrage directed at Hashemi to be an assault on academic freedom and pointed out in passing that the escalation resulted from “complaints from several Jewish organizations.”
The former are only a few examples of a way of thinking now recognized as the operative logic of contemporary thought of the international left that identifies hatred toward Israel and the Jewish people as a Palestinian human right to be protected from the assaults of the dark forces of colonialism and racism. This way of thinking, hegemonic in our educational system, prevalent in international institutions and making its way to political institutions revives global antisemitism in ways not seen in decades. But it is crucial to emphasize that this antisemitism is only a component of a larger ideological wave to which entire societies are now converting. To miss the whole picture is to miss any chance of understanding and to counter it.
The fact that major Jewish organizations, such as the ADL, supposedly tasked with protecting the Jewish people from antisemitism, unwittingly came to endorse the ideological precepts and the terminology of this way of thinking shows how pervasive it is in Western societies. The ADL may refuse to take the next logical step of concluding from the premises of “structural racism” and “power and resistance” that Palestinian antisemitism is merely a form of legitimate resistance against Zionist racist domination, but in doing so, it would have already defeated itself.
Moreover, this episode sadly shows how incompetent the well-trained expert and technical class is, so much so that it is objectively unable to identify the monster it claims to know so well, even while standing right next to it.
The US is Opposed to a Plan B
Threats on All Sides
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