Anti-Semitic Anti-Zionism

(Financial Times-UK) Simon Schama - Criticism of Israeli government policies has mutated into a rejection of Israel's right to exist. What we are dealing with is, in Professor Alan Johnson's accurate coinage, "anti-Semitic anti-Zionism." When the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement singles out Israel as the perpetrator of the world's worst iniquities, notwithstanding its right of self-defense, it is legitimate to ask why the critics' wrath does not extend, for example, to Russia which rains down destruction on civilian populations in Syria? Why is it somehow proper to boycott Israeli academics and cultural institutions, many of which are critical of government policy, but to remain passive in the face of Saudi Arabia's brutal punishment of anyone whose exercise of freedom of conscience can be judged sacrilegious? Why is the rage so conspicuously selective? Or, to put it another way, why is it so much easier to hate the Jews? We have to worry about those who, in their indignation at the sufferings visited on the Palestinians, and their indifference to almost-daily stabbings in the streets of Israel, have discovered the excitement of saying the unspeakable, making hay with history, so Israel is the new reich, and a military attack on Gaza indistinguishable from the industrially processed incineration of millions. Enter the historian. And history says this: anti-Semitism has not been caused by Zionism; it is precisely the other way round. Israel was caused by the centuries-long dehumanization of the Jews. For the Jews, the modern world turned out to be a lose-lose proposition. To characterize the country in which the language, the religion and the cultural identity of the Jews was formed as purely a colonial anomaly is the product of historical innocence. The writer, an English historian, is Professor of History and Art History at Columbia University in New York.

2016-03-09 00:00:00

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