Demystifying the myth of anti-Semitism ? | By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi


Demystifying the myth of anti-Semitism ?

IT remains a hard fact that the West is committed to mystifying anti-Semitism with racism or hate speech against the Jews, but the fact remains that proclaiming the truth by no means be attributed with anti-Semitism.

Branding Pakistan’s FM Shah Mahmoud Qureshi’s remarks about Israel (In a CNN interview) with that of Anti-Semitism is a tactical western ploy.

The controversy erupted after Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told CNN anchor Bianna Golodryga that Israel is losing “the media war, despite their connections.” The anchor swiftly asked the Pakistani leader to explain those “connections.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry dismissed those assertions in a statement Friday, saying the remarks could not be “construed as anti-Semitic by any stretch of the imagination.”

Criticism of Israel or of the policies of the Israeli government is not automatically anti-Semitic.

For example, anyone is free to reject or criticise the Israeli government’s policy regarding the Palestinian territories.

This happens in Israel, too. Criticism of Israel often ties in with anti-Semitic myths and symbols.

You may come across hurtful, hateful cartoons about rich Jews or about Israel pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Using those images and symbols to criticise Israel evokes memories of persecutions from the past, of the Holocaust. They fit in with the long history of anti-Semitism.

The 2016 International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) “working definition of anti-Semitism,” has become a tool of choice for so-called pro-Israel organizations.

In contrast to the agenda perceived by the IHRA, the political correctitude argues, when a state’s actions and its government’s policies cannot be critiqued, then the pursuit of knowledge and academic freedom are threatened.

If successful, Israel’s use of the anti-Semitism charge to silence serious and well-grounded criticism could very well become the template for other countries, including the United States government, and powerful corporations to mobilize different kinds of hate-speech accusations to protect rights-abusive behavior
The IHRA’s “working definition of anti-Semitism,” however, was never intended to be legally binding.

The organization developed the definition as a tool for member states to track incidents of anti-Semitism. It was to serve as an aid in data collection: nothing more, nothing less.

The Jewish Declaration on Anti-Semitism (JDA) challenges the definition proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and adopted by the US government.

More than 200 Jewish-studies scholars and academics have endorsed a definition of anti-Semitism that accepts criticism of Israel.

Kenneth Stern who drafted the IHRA-WDA., in his 2017 testimony to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, he stated his concerns that, if enshrined into law, the definition might be used to suppress reasonable speech that some people did not like.

Alas, his fear was realized and in 2019 he wrote: “I drafted the (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. Right-wing Jews are weaponizing it” to limit legitimate free speech.

Remarkably, a Holocaust survivor — someone who knows first-hand the dreadful effects of Nazism — was censored by Manchester University because of the IHRA-WDA. The reason: she called her talk “You’re doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to me.

In a recent move, the leading Israeli academics working in the U.K. have written a letter denouncing the definition and called on university leaders to refuse the demand by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to adopt the definition or face punitive action.

As noted in an extensive report about anti-Semitism on campus from a working group at the University College of London: “The IHRA working definition is unhelpful in identifying cases of harassment … the core definition itself is too vague and narrow, and the 11 examples often do not match experience.”

Based on this report, the university’s academic .board recommended retracting the adoption of the definition and replacing it with one “fit for purpose.”

Nazi racism, an ideological waste product of the worldwide scientific enlightenment, divides people into “creative and destructive” races of differing worth.

It thus reinforces the notion that nature has thrust individuals, peoples and races into a perpetual struggle for survival in which the “weak” and “sick” will be destroyed by the “strong” and “healthy. “History tells us that Hitler studied American eugenics laws.

He tried to legitimize his anti-Semitism by medicalizing it, and wrapping it in the more palatable pseudoscientific facade of eugenics.

Hitler was able to recruit more followers among reasonable Germans by claiming that science was on his side.

While Hitler’s race hatred sprung from his own mind, the intellectual outlines of the eugenics Hitler adopted in 1924 were made in America.

In the same vein, Netanyahu is replicating his racist policy on the pretext of Anti –Semitism.

There is a growing propensity in the Muslim world that Anti-Semitism-the poster child of the Zionist movement is being utilized as an instrument to justify unlawful, ethical, and neoliberal Zionist agenda against the Muslims in general and the Palestinians in particular.

A leading progressive voice in Congress, Bernie Sanders, called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “desperate, racist authoritarian” for inflicting miseries on the Palestinian people.

The US lawmaker was addressing the Senate floor on Wednesday where he called for an immediate cease-fire between the Israeli armed forces and Hamas.

Yet arguably, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia fit into different historical and political frames of references. anti-Semitism connotes the atrocities of the Holocaust and the formation of Israel.

On the other hand, Islamophobia implies terrorist acts and repressive totalitarian regimes in the Middle East; Muslims are seen as the perpetrator.

Harry de Winter, a founder of “A Different Jewish Voice”, argued that both are completely the same.

Presently, the international community and its allied agencies must address the challenge to keep balance between hate speech and freedom of expression in the absence of one comprehensive policy dealing with hate speech versus freedom of expression.

The lacking of such policy badly undermines the notion of interfaith dialogue between Judaism- Christianity and Islam.

The strategy could define concrete policy goals for the UN member states, targeting the most severe forms of hate speech and hate crime. There must be no overriding leverage given to anti-Semitism laws in the West.

—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies.

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