Thursday, December 22, 2016

With friends like these, who needs anti-Semites? Er, that is...

Bibi in the Dark Tower, via The Forward (and another take on how somebody could be an anti-Semite and a Zionist at the same time).
Great piece in Tuesday's Times by Omri Boehm ("Liberal Zionism in the age of Trump"), in the philosophical opinions rubric, dealing with the current strangeness in the American Jewish community, with regard to US and Israeli politics, where most vote Democrat here and feel increasingly alienated with the far-right government there and illegal settlers in the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem, while much of the traditional leadership continues to treat the Israeli right as sacrosanct and beyond criticism and finds itself increasingly accommodating to the incoming Trump administration, even to its anti-Semitic associations in the person of Trump adviser Stephen Bannon, who has consorted with Nazi-inspired denizens of the so-called "alt-right" in his professional life as chairman of Breitbart News and has been reported (including in a sworn deposition) to have made vicious remarks about Jews in his private life. And who was invited to the Zionist Association of America annual gala in late November, to meet Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett and ambassador to US Danny Danon.
Alan Dershowitz, the outspoken Harvard emeritus professor of law who regularly denounces non-Zionists as anti-Semitic, preferred in this case to turn not against Bannon, but against his critics. “It is not legitimate to call somebody an anti-Semite because you might disagree with their politics,” he pointed out.
In the end Bannon skipped the party, showing that he may indeed be uncomfortable socializing with Jews in quantity, just as he told his ex-wife (apologists claim he was afraid of the protesters out in front of the Grand Hyatt, but Phil Weiss is pretty sure he was just blowing the Jews off).

It's funny how Dershowitz seems to have misspoken there; surely he meant "unless you disagree with their politics". Or Israeli politics in particular, since that is what he habitually does, throwing the term freely at those who oppose Likud policy, and refusing to use it on anti-Semites like Bannon who agree with Likud.

There's always been a plausibility to the concept of collaboration between rightwing Zionism and the anti-Semitic right, from Avraham Stern's proposals to work with "Herr Hitler" on populating Palestine with Jews by ethnically cleansing them out of Europe (and Boehm points out that Binyamin Netanyahu appears to have named his son Yair after Stern's nom de guerre) to the interest of Apocalyptic US Protestants in backing Israel all the way in a final war with Arabs to bring on the conditions for the Second Coming, after which the Jews will have served their historical purpose and Jesus can toss them into the lake of fire. And Heinz-Christian Strache of the neo-Nazi Austrian Freiheitspartei visiting Israel and embracing the rightwing leadership in April, and visiting Trump Tower and embracing General Flynn just the other day.

And there's a reason for that, when you think about it, though a very awkward one, in that both sides yearn, in the long run, for the same thing, a monoethnic state: a Jewish state in Palestine for the Zionists (not just the people in it but the state itself), a Muslimrein Austrian state for the Austrians, whoever they are, and for the Great-Again in North America what Bill O'Reilly helplessly found himself calling "the white establishment" yesterday:

To be of the right is to "believe in closed", as David Brooks would say, to believe in a community as a kind of delicate biosphere governed by a cozy old hierarchy and the rules of parliamentary procedure that you don't want to disturb with a lot of new-fangled ideas and strange folk. Naftali Bennett and Stephen Bannon might dislike having to shake hands and eat at the same table with each other, but they have that much in common.

But for the liberal American Zionist there is, or ought to be, a real problem in the concept of a Jewish state. Back in the 1950s and 60s it was easy and perhaps necessary not to see it, in the flood of revelations about the horrors of the Shoah and the pleasant picture of the tough Israelis building their safe socialist society in the desert. And in those days the anti-Semites (I'm thinking Buckley and Nixon) didn't love Israel, either, though they might for certain purposes pretend they did.

But after the conquests of the 1967 war things began to look different, and with the rise of the conservative coalition and the awful degradation in their ranks from figures like Begin (who at least had some sincere beliefs) to cynical ego-monsters like Netanyahu and Sharon. It became something a Jew should not ignore (just as Jews, at the same historical moment, were not ignoring the plight of the African American). The ruling class among the Jews in the former Palestine was becoming everything that Jews fled from over the previous millennia of ethnic cleansing through enslavement, inquisition, and pogrom.

What the emergence of Trumpery is doing now, it seems to me, with its genuine fascists crawling out into the light, is making it impossible to ignore. People like Flynn and Bannon making common cause with Netanyahu on one side and Strache (who just signed a cooperation agreement with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin's United Russia party, by the way, and if you think Putin's reputation for non–anti-Semitism extends to the party, you're wrong) on the other, look too much like a single happy family, bringing rightwing Jews and Jew-haters together in an appalling joint purpose in which Israel is implicated, and the rest of us need to be saying no.

No comments:

Post a Comment