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Tags: antisemitism | israel | activism

What Motivates Anti-Israel Activists?

What Motivates Anti-Israel Activists?
Ireland-Palestine Solidarity protestors in Dublin, Ireland, Nov. 15, 2012. (AP Photo / Niall Carson, PA) 

By    |   Thursday, 20 July 2017 03:52 PM EDT

Galway, Ireland — Professor Alan Johnson, a highly respected political theorist of the British left, and a contributor to the new book, "The Anti-Israel Agenda – Inside the Political War on the Jewish State," delivers his address to an auditorium of students. He speaks in his characteristic soft, measured, thoughtful tones. He presents his analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, unsparing in his criticism of both sides, and outlines the path to peace: two states for two peoples.

As Johnson speaks, at the back of the lecture theatre, a group stands huddled in the corner, whispering excitedly. A final pep talk perhaps, or a hasty revision of tactics. Then the leader surges forward, flailing, bellowing, clad in the colours of Palestine.

"Get the f*** off our campus, now, you f***ing Zionist, f***ing prick." His body contorts with rage. His acolytes obediently pound the desks in wild approval. "We don’t want your Israeli money around here."

The protestors weren’t there to engage with Professor Johnson’s ideas, or to advance ideas towards a negotiated, peaceful outcome to the conflict. They were there to "resist." What they were resisting in that lecture theatre on the western coast of the Irish Republic is not clear. Common sense and tolerance perhaps? But there they were. Seething westerners draped in keffiyehs and kitschy woven Palestine bracelets, the essential uniform of today’s fearless "revolutionary." Che Guevara shirts are so 2001.

Brendan O’Neill, the British libertarian, calls this phenomenon the "politically correct form of blacking up." Ashamed of their "white privilege," the activists appropriate the stereotypical symbols of a people they see as noble and downtrodden. They reduce that people to a crude stereotype, a positive one in their minds, but an insulting, racist caricature nonetheless.  

For the Israel-haters, Palestinians are helpless victims, totally without agency and therefore without fault. They exist only as an abstract symbol of untarnished innocence, a nation of goatherds and olive farmers.

But this deception is only one half of the equation. To complete the resistance fantasy, one must conceive of a villain worth opposing. This is the "Zionist Jew." This equally mythical figure, evil beyond redemption, has been invented just so that it can be slain. It is as far removed from reality as the caricature of the Palestinian as pure victim. All-powerful, menacing, insatiable, and lethal. The "super-Jew" as London Times columnist David Aaronovitch calls it. If the traditional racist stereotype of the Jew is greedy, ruthless and cunning, wait till you meet the Zionist.

Yet Zionism is no more than the secular, national movement of the Jewish people. It sees the nation-state as the expression of a people’s right to self-determination. It makes no immutable claims regarding the State’s borders. It does not seek to deny equal citizenship rights for members of ethnic or religious minority groups. It does not aspire to impose the religion of the majority on others.

But fighting real Zionism, a people’s inalienable right to self-determination, hardly qualifies as the noble struggle about which self-righteous westerners fantasize, leaving their pretentions to heroism unfulfilled. It is a far more intoxicating prospect to defeat imperialism, colonialism, apartheid, genocide, ethnic cleansing, fascism, and Nazism in one dizzying swoop. Slay the Zionist beast and redemption is achieved.

Australia had its own Galway moment in March 2015. A guest lecture delivered by the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp, on the ethical dilemmas of modern asymmetric warfare, was stormed by anti-Israel activists, intent on shutting the lecture down. The activists chanted through a megaphone, accused Kemp of supporting genocide and killing of children, until they were forcibly removed by security staff. Scuffles ensued, audience members and activists traded insults and a senior academic at the University was filmed in the unedifying act of waving banknotes in the face of an elderly Jewish woman.

In January 2016, anti-Israel activists in London threw chairs, smashed windows, and set off fire alarms at Kings College London during a talk by an ex-Israeli official.

A talk by Palestinian human right activist Bassem Eid at Chicago University in February 2016 culminated in a disruption during which a student shouted in Arabic, "I’m going to destroy this place!" and was later heard saying, "I’m going to kill this motherf*****!" Eid later recalled that he was left "terrified" during the incident and required a police escort when leaving the university.

A persistent feature of the anti-Israel movement is the handful of Jews who are to be found in its ranks. They are immensely useful to the "cause." Firstly, they provide essential cover against charges of anti-Semitism, merely by citing their Jewish background. Secondly, they are positioned as "experts" with supposedly intimate knowledge of the nature of the Zionist Jew and the evils of which he is reputedly capable.

What motivates the tiny number of Jews who turn completely against Israel and the Jewish community, instead of constructively criticizing or contributing from within? The answer is perhaps best left in the realm of psychoanalysis. But certainly in the theatre that is the anti-Israel movement, there is no more heroic role to play than that of the "dissident" or the "revolutionary"; the Jew who is so enlightened, so courageous and so moral that he or she will stand against the community, speak truth to power (Jewish power no less) and risk social exclusion. "Not in my name" is the catch-cry. Wearing the tag of "self-loathing" with honor, the Jewish dissident can cloak themselves in the righteous retort, "I loathe only injustice."

But bigotry has never been a genuine form of dissent. It would take far greater moral fortitude and be far more "revolutionary" to be mavericks among their peers and stand up to the hatred that underpins the anti-Israel movement instead of denying that the hatred exists.

Driven by fanaticism and the desire to act out fantasies of heroism and resistance, the anti-Israel movement is defined by symbolic acts that change nothing. They celebrate when pro-forma anti-Israel resolutions are driven through hospitable forums and pop stars are intimidated into cancelling their gigs in Tel Aviv. How this improves the life of a single Palestinian has never been established.

When a moderate voice in the Palestinian leadership emerged some years ago in the form of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, a technocrat who understood that a Palestinian state must be built before it can be recognized, he was invariably labelled a "stooge" and "collaborator," and hounded from office.

When Palestinians starve in their thousands in Syria barely a whimper is raised, never mind a street protest or a petition. When Palestinians are left homeless in Gaza by the Egyptian demolitions of houses to make way for an impenetrable cement barrier, through which not a bag of aid or food can pass, the activists are nowhere to be seen or heard, frozen into indifference since Israel cannot be blamed.

And so, the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people are buried under the fantasies, delusions and self-gratification of their would-be rescuers. Meanwhile, the Palestinians remain stateless, divided, and infantilized, suspended in the role of victims, despite being actors in a conflict it is within their power to resolve.

Alex Ryvchin is a writer, speaker, and media contributor on the Arab-Israeli conflict, foreign and national affairs, and religion and identity. He is a lawyer and the Director of Public Affairs at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. His new book is "The Anti-Israel Agenda: Inside the Political War on the Jewish State" (Gefen Publishing House, 2017). To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Driven by fanaticism and the desire to act out fantasies of heroism and resistance, the anti-Israel movement is defined by symbolic acts that change nothing.
antisemitism, israel, activism
Thursday, 20 July 2017 03:52 PM
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