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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Left and Right: Anti-Israel-ism in America

from the Stephen Roth Institute's Analysis of Antisemitism Worldwide 2003/4

The excerpt pertaining to the United States is posted here in full because, well, because it is so long. That in itself should tell you something.

USA

The notion that Israel and influential Jews in America were trying to push the United States into a war in Iraq was quite often discussed in American mainstream papers. This allegation was also made in a speech of American Congressman Rep. James Moran, who accused the American Jewish community of promoting the war (see ASW 2002/3). However, in contrast to western Europe, the demonization of Israel and the depiction of American Jews as diabolic accomplices are generally not part of the mainstream. It should be noted that the Nation of Islam’s (NOI) allegations (see below) coincided with the appearance of such charges in the general media, particularly in February.

In 2003 the State of Israel was often targeted by antisemitic extremist groups in the United States. Israel was perceived as dictating American foreign policy, and in this context American Jews themselves were seen as controlling the Bush administration, leading to further antisemitic statements. One of the main voices in such allegations was Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the NOI. In the past year Farrakhan and activists of other radical black groups have blamed the war in Iraq on Zionists and Jewish interests, and used the issue to introduce other antisemitic beliefs about Jewish control of the media and the Jewish role in secularization of the United States.

Farrakhan’s annual NOI Saviors’ Day speech, given on 23 February 2003, included several attacks on the Jewish community and Israel. Farrakhan blamed the war in Iraq on “the warmongers in [Bush’s] administration, the poor Israeli Zionists” who “have literally gotten America’s foreign policy to protect Israel.” The Final Call, NOI’s weekly newspaper, printed articles on the USS Liberty conspiracy (alleging that during the 1967 Six Day War Israel intentionally attacked the USS Liberty, an American intelligence-gathering vessel, and that the American government concealed the truth) and the role of Jewish neo-conservatives in American foreign policy during 2003. Similar attacks on Israel and its Jewish supporters in America appeared in the speeches of Malik Shabazz, national chairman of the New Black Panther Party, a racist, antisemitic Black Nationalist group. Shabazz’s efforts focused on the Million Youth March, held in Brooklyn, New York, on 6 September 2003. During the march, Shabazz made inflammatory comments and denounced Israel: “Palestine you know originally belonged to Black people... That land has been occupied by the Zionist devils.”

Prior to the march, on 3 July, Shabazz went to Morristown, New Jersey, to voice support for Amiri Baraka, New Jersey’s poet laureate. Baraka was sharply criticized for his poem “Somebody Blew Up America,” which repeated the myth that 4,000 ”Israelis” stayed home from work at the World Trade Center on 11 September, thereby suggesting that Jews and Israel had foreknowledge of the attacks. During the news conference, Shabazz said the Panthers supported Baraka “100 percent” and welcomed proof that Jews and Israel knew about the attacks in advance. “If 3,000 people perished in the World Trade Center attacks and the Jewish population is 10 percent, you show me records of 300 Jewish people dying in the World Trade Center,” Shabazz said. “We’re daring anyone to dispute its truth. They got their people out.”

The Nation of Aztlan, is a small California-based, virulently antisemitic Latino group that, via its website and e-mailings, repeatedly attacks Israel and the Jews for being at the root of almost every evil in the world, including the Middle East conflict, and blames Zionists for the war in Iraq, 9/11, and the “heartless, wanton murder of innocent Palestinians.” In 2003 and through the beginning of 2004, Hector Carreon, editor of its publication La Voz de Aztlan, continued to hold the Jews and Israel responsible for every event that negatively affected the Mexican community in the United States. In regard to the war on terror, Carreon wrote that while the dangers the world faced appeared to come from Islamic terrorists, “our experience has been different. We fear Zionist terrorists more. They have been trying to take away our constitutional right of freedom of political expression through acts of terrorism.” On 13 November he wrote that the large Mexican-American population in Los Angeles might become the indirect victims of a justified mass biological or nuclear attack upon the city that targeted the area’s Zionists. La Voz de Aztlan claims that the Jews controlled the American government and the media. Following United States Congressman James Moran’s comment that if it had not been for “the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this,” Ernesto Cienfuegos, another editor, joined the chorus blaming the Jews for the American war in Iraq. Cienfuegos wrote, “It is the Jews, however, that are orchestrating the varied interests involved in pushing the war” so that Israel can take over the entire Middle East and have an opportunity to “implement an ‘ethnic cleansing program’ in Palestine.” La Voz de Aztlan’s website has links to a page containing a petition to stop American aid to Israel and supporting the prosecution of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for crimes against humanity.

As in the previous two years, the divestment campaign remained the major focus of anti-Israel campus groups. By evoking the anti-South African apartheid campaign of the 1980s, the divestment movement attempts to denigrate Israel and supporters of Israel, while enlisting students conscious of human rights and the rights of indigenous people and of the effects of globalization to join the pro-Palestinian pro-intifada camp.

This campaign – widely known as the Palestinian Solidarity Movement (PSM) – was formed and is supported by a coalition of mostly far left and radical Muslim groups (student and non-student) who refute the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Any support for Israel is considered support for racism and apartheid, and all students who defend Israel are considered racist supporters of oppression. Some proponents have gone further and distributed antisemitic literature. Yet, in the 2003/4 school year there were fewer reported cases of the use of Holocaust imagery and antisemitic stereotyping at anti-Israel campus events. The organizers of these campaigns have striven to avoid controversy and accusations of antisemitism, which they believe are unfair.

However, an attempt to similarly tone down their political message, and to distance the solidarity movement from the more heinous acts of Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians, did not succeed because from the start, the movement was highly supportive of the Palestinian intifada and dismissive of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Furthermore, the movement relied on its radical message to attract attention and encourage supporters to act.

Two separate divestment conferences were held in 2003. The first was on 10-12 October at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and the second on 7-9 November at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. The Rutgers conference, which was held off-campus, was hosted by the New Jersey (NJ) Solidarity/Activists for the Liberation of Palestine, a radical leftist group led by Charlotte Kates, a law student at Rutgers. NJ Solidarity wants the movement to continue advocating an uncompromising and unapologetic line supporting the intifada, and “an end to the Jewish state.” Groups endorsing the conference included Al-Awda, a movement that calls for the destruction of Israel (its motto is “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”); Islamic Association for Palestine, an antisemitic organization which, according to the FBI, coordinates its activities directly with Hamas terrorists; Free Palestine Alliance (FPA); International Action Center and its affiliated ANSWER; Muslim Student Association – National; and Students for Justice in Palestine.

The conference at Ohio State University reflected the trend in the anti-Israel movement to use Jews and Israelis as speakers, in order to prove that the movement is not antisemitic. “Many of the conference organizers are Jewish, so those claims [that the PSM conference in Ohio State University promoted antisemitism] are just absurd,” said Nahla Saleh. Indeed, two prominent anti-Zionist Jewish activists are associated with the CJP (Committee for Justice in Palestine), the group that hosted the conference: Joseph Levine, faculty adviser to the CJP, and Ora Wise of Jews against the Occupation.

Groups that endorsed the Ohio conference included: Al-Awda Chicago; AWARE, a NJ-NY activist forum which claims that support for Israel is support for “racism, apartheid and terror;” and SUSTAIN (Stop US Tax-Funded Aid to Israel Now), a coalition of student and non-student activists that sees the divestment campaign as part of a ”global intifada.” Yoshie Furuhashi, a CJP activist who feels that PSM should oppose suicide bombings, stated that Israel’s Law of Return, which allows Jews to immigrate to the country, is “the practice of Jewish supremacy, much like white supremacy in US and South African histories.”

Several anti-Israel organizations have argued that “Israelization of the United States” has occurred. This new spin on the claim that America is controlled by Israel is more palatable than that of a conspiratorial cabal that directs events. According to this argument, America’s special relations with Israel have enabled Israel’s political culture and values to seep into its political system, causing America to abandon its civil rights foundation and adopt a militaristic approach in foreign policy. First, they contend, the United States neglected its own interests for the sake of those of a foreign country, Israel. Second, America abandoned its core values. The Patriot Act, enacted after 9/11, and the occupation of Iraq, are manifestations of the results of this process, which now affect the world’s entire Muslim population, rather than just the Palestinians.

On 20 February, CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) spokesman Ibrahim Hooper suggested on MSNBC that US investigations of terrorism were politically driven by support for Israel. He stated: “The entire controversy began with the attack dogs of the pro-Israel lobby going after Sami Al-Arian [see below], the Holy Land Foundation [and] other groups in the United States... The [pro-Israel lobby] wanted to shut them down because they oppose the occupation in Palestine.” According to Hooper, this was part of a process of “Israelization” of “American policy and procedures.”

On 27 June, Marwan Bishara, a lecturer at the American University of Paris, published an op-ed piece in the International Herald Tribune, titled “The Israelization of American Policy: Fighting Fire with Fire,” in which he wrote: “Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Washington has internalized Israel’s claustrophobic view of a world full of hatred and terrorism.” In an article he published in the US-based Internet publication, Palestine Chronicle, Bishara asks, “Why, then, does Washington mimic worldwide the worst of Israel’s chutzpah and, for lack of a better word, plagiarize Israeli doctrine and policy?”

The US Campaign to End the Israel Occupation, an influential Palestinian support organization, uses the “Israelization” argument to protest the occupation of Iraq, which it compares to Israeli control of Palestinian areas. A flier the UCEIC put out in preparation for a large anti-war protest planned for March 2004 claims that “increasingly, the two occupations are coming to resemble each other, as the occupiers actively collaborate to put down indigenous resistance.”

Following the September 11 attacks, Muslim American organizations found themselves forced to take a stand on terrorism. Some organizations, which in the past had avoided condemning terrorist attacks, began doing so. However, many organizations differentiate between al-Qa`ida-style terrorism and the terrorist campaign waged by Palestinian organizations against Israel: organizations that condemned al-Qa`ida did not criticize Hizballah and the Palestinian terrorist organizations. Furthermore, they argued that fighting those organizations was carried out on Israel’s behalf, and was in fact counterproductive to the effort to neutralize the terrorist threat to America.

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, who is considered a moderate in Washington, told The Washington Post (8 May 2003) that “by criminalizing attempts to send money to Hizballah or to support it, the FBI is confusing and alienating people here who could be allies in the war on terrorism.” The Post article also interviewed Osama Siblani, publisher of the Dearborn, Michigan paper, Arab American News, who said: “Mr. Bush believes Hizballah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions are terrorists, but we believe they are freedom fighters.”

CAIR’s Dallas-Fort Worth chapter issued a press release in December 2002 condemning the arrest of four Dallas residents who were accused by the US of dealing with Hamas terrorists, saying “One is left wondering whether these arrest orders were issued from Tel Aviv or from Washington, DC!”

In February 2003 Sami Al-Arian, a University of South Florida professor, was arrested on suspicion that he had served as a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. For supporters of Al-Arian, the arrest proved that the US was doing Israel’s bidding and was, in effect, helping it to suppress the Palestinians. The tactic of Israel’s supporters, they claimed, was to unfairly equate the intifada with al-Qa`ida’s international terrorist campaign. Anti-Israel advocacy groups sought to portray Al-Arian as a symbol of the Palestinians’ just fight against Israel, and of freedom of speech, and his arrest as irrelevant to the war on terror.

On an MSNBC program, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper suggested that the arrest of Sami Al-Arian was part of the “Israelization” of “American policy and procedures,” and argued that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was not a terrorist organization in the way al-Qa`ida was. When asked “Are they the same?” Hooper replied: “Well, obviously, I’m not going to support some tactics of the Islamic Jihad, but they’re in a world apart from al-Qa`ida. They’ve never threatened anyone outside of Israel and the occupied territory.... they oppose the occupation in Palestine.”

Following his arrest, Sami Al-Arian compared himself to Jesus, stating that he, too, “was persecuted by his contemporaries.” Al-Arian’s teenage daughter delivered her father’s statement outside the courtroom: “I’m being crucified because of who I am, a stateless Palestinian, an Arab and a Muslim, and because I’m outspoken in defending Palestinian rights.” Al-Arian also asserted that he lives by Patrick Henry’s famous call to arms: “Give me liberty or give me death!” He also went on a prolonged hunger strike. The implication is clear and well calculated: Al-Arian embodies both the aspirations of the indigenous Palestinian people fighting for their land and the true spirit of American freedom; on the other hand, those who have betrayed these ideals are the American authorities which are crucifying another revolutionary (Al-Arian as Jesus) on behalf of the Jews.

Anti-Israel rhetoric among extreme right-wing groups in the US accelerated dramatically during 2003. Although focusing on current events such as Israel, the Middle East crisis, the war in Iraq and 9/11 conspiracy theories, across the entire spectrum of extremist groups there was an underlying continuation of classic themes of Jewish totalitarian power and of Jews striving to manipulate and control world events for their own benefit. Israel itself is seen as the exemplar of all things wrong with Jews throughout the ages.

The real problem in today’s world, they say, is Israel, Israeli omnipotence, and by implication, the Jews. In January, Free American, a right-wing anti-government publication, noted, “But what if, unknown to most people, the world’s power élite were using Israel to advance their New World Order? What if Israel’s role were to colonize the Middle East, and to become the seat of the World Religion.” Other extremists wrote that Israel was committing genocide using US weapons and supplies, that Mossad killing teams were invading the West, and that Israel was developing a “genetic bomb” targeted at Arabs. Regarding the Iraq war, a common sentiment, voiced by Tom Metzger of White Aryan Resistance, was that Israel was the problematic country in the Middle East, not Iraq. He wrote in March that many of the world’s difficulties could be solved if the “United States would only bomb Israel instead of Iraq.” Media Bypass, a right-wing publication with conspiracy overtones, wrote in April that “Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East, the only country in the Middle East that refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, that refuses to allow international inspections of its nuclear facilities, and that stands in defiance of more than 60 United Nations resolutions.”

Israel was perceived as being the driving force behind the Iraq war, and also as being the country that truly gained from the war. American Free Press (17 Feb.) felt that “Israel is clamoring for war and is the one country that stands to gain anything from any US invasion of Iraq.” Media Bypass noted in April that “the principal beneficiary of the war against Iraq will be Israel.” The Truth at Last (no. 44, Summer) wrote that the fact that “Bush declared war on Iraq on the Jewish feast of Purim” demonstrated that the war was not for America, but for Israel. The author describes outbursts of joy in synagogues on 14 March as Bush stated he was determined to rid Iraq of Saddam Husayn.” The anti-Israel website of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke stated, on 21 March, that “the war in Iraq is surely not a war for America, but one for Israel. It is a terrible betrayal of all our fighting men.” Criminal Politics (March 2003), a conspiracy magazine, wrote that President Bush had funded Saddam Husayn’s endeavors to kill Arabs in the Middle East in order “to solve Israel’s population imbalance.” In May, America’s Promise Newsletter, a Christian Identity publication, claimed that the main reason for the war was “because Iraq is one of the main suppliers of weapons for the Palestinian people in their war against Israeli aggression.” It also added that “this conflict is only for the purpose of creating a final resolution of the Palestinian-Jewish conflict. To do this, it will be arranged to transfer the Palestinians to a new home in Iraq.”

While one can argue that the more Israel is identified with the power of the United States, and the United States is increasingly hated worldwide, the more Israel is also abhorred and identified as powerful. Conversely right-wing extremists often believe Zionists and associated groups control the United States government and its policies. In March Media Bypass wrote: “U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has been hijacked by some neocons who have strong allegiance to Israel’s extremists.... some reportedly having Israeli citizenship in addition to their American one.” Sometimes specific political figures are implicated, such as Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice Michael Chertoff, who was allegedly responsible for releasing members of an Israeli spy ring in the United States after 9/11, and prosecuted several White supremacist leaders. In May the Nationalist Times also railed against the Christian Right as a political power, dubbed the “Zionist-fundamentalist Christian coalition.” American Free Press claimed in September that “topping the fundamentalists’ Christian political wish list is the sovereignty and supremacy of Israel in the Holy Land.” Further, Chronicles, a paleo-Conservative magazine, wrote in February that, “the friends of Israel in the policymaking community in Washington... are contemplating a thorough reconstruction of the Middle Eastern political architecture.” American Free Press concluded on 1 September that there was a “broad-ranging campaign by ‘neo-conservative’ imperialist-minded elements to destabilize the entire Arab world.”

Two years after the 9/11 attacks on America, conspiracy theories claiming that the attacks were actually carried out by Israelis and Jews continue to abound, uniting American far right extremists and white supremacists and elements within the Arab and Muslim world. This theory is a modern manifestation of the antisemitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion. September 11 conspiracies have led to the proliferation of similar theories about other global disasters. For example, some conspiracy theorists claim Israel was implicated in the destruction of Space Shuttle Columbia and suggest that shuttle astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon was actually a ”spy” for Israel. September 11 conspiracies have spawned an entire industry that includes antisemitic books, pamphlets, videotapes, websites and speakers.

Speaking at the Islamic Conference Organization summit on 16 October 2003, Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad of Malaysia told the assembly of leaders of 57 nations that Jews “rule the world by proxy” and “get others to fight and die for them.” He called for a “final victory” by the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, whom, he said, “cannot be defeated by a few million Jews.” The response to these remarks by America’s extreme right – united in their belief that Jews exercise power by proxy – was almost immediate. On the popular extreme right website Stormfront, visitors were encouraged from the day of the speech to call the Malaysian embassy (the number was provided) and express support for Mahathir. The web forum sponsored by the hate music label Resistance Records, owned by the virulently antisemitic neo-Nazi National Alliance, also encouraged visitors to call. The National Alliance said that Mahathir’s comments “certainly sound like a good idea. Many Aryans through the National Alliance have been organizing to free our people from being the Jews’ proxies.”

Antisemitic web journalist Alex Linder said “we are going to have to kill the Jews controlling the country.”