For over six decades, the U.S. Congress
, successive presidents, media, public opinion, all have supported a story which portrays Israel
as wholly good and innocent, while painting those resisting its violence and injustice as anti-Semites, Nazis, and terrorists.
The myth that Israel
is the victim of unprovoked attacks by uncivilized Arabs persists, even in the face of Israel's
brutality and violations of international law in its 44-year long occupation of the Palestinian Territories.
The grip of this fiction on the American collective mind reflects a conjuncture of causes: the West's guilt about the Holocaust; the proto-Zionist theology of American evangelical sects; U.S. imperial interests in Middle East oil reserves; and the West's long-distrust of and contempt for Arabs and Muslims.
Propaganda produced by Israel
and the American Jewish establishment inverts reality.
It refutes the story told by pro-Israel zealots, who attribute hostility to Israel
in the Arab world not to Israel's
actions, but to Arabs' hatred of Jews
: hatred, they argue, which originated in Islam and flourished with the Arabs' collaboration with the Nazis during WWII.
Another attack, directed at Achcar's lecture in the Jewish Studies Department of the University of California at Davis
, came from BlueTruth, a blog devoted to "refuting the accusations and exposing the lies that are being told … about Israel
, Jews and pro-Israel organizations
…" One such lie, to judge by the article, is that Israel was "built on Arab land."
As someone whose mother and father were murdered in Auschwitz, and who herself survived the Nazis' barbarous nationalism thanks to the courage of a group of Catholics, Protestants, Communists, and Jews
, I find the idea that defending the "Jewish state" supersedes all other human obligations both immoral and senseless.
Nothing, not even the Holocaust, justifies Israel's
treatment of Palestinians or the continuing efforts of pro-Israel zealots to show Arabs and Muslims as less than human.
and its unconditional supporters are on a path leading to catastrophe not only for Palestinians, but in the not very long run, for Israel
The first part of Achcar's book covers the period from 1933, when Hitler acceded to power, until Israel's
foundation in 1948.
At that time, "liberal Westernizers" and Marxists took a strong stand against both Nazism and anti-Semitism.
In the various Arab nationalist movements, sympathy for the Axis varied but was overall low, and opposition to Zionism did not translate into hatred of "the Jews.
It is only among "reactionary and/or fundamentalist pan-Islamists" that significant anti-Semitism and support for Nazism were found.
Several recent studies confirm this.
For example, Achcar's book quotes Israel Gershoni, a professor of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, who wrote that in the 1930s:
The second part of Achcar's book traces the rise of anti-Semitism in the Arab world after the founding of Israel
writes: "There are more anti-Semites among the Arabs today than among any other population group-for obvious historical reasons" [emphasis mine].8 These historical reasons, which are indeed obvious, were they not again and again obfuscated by pro-Israel apologists, include: Israel's
ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinian Arabs in 1948-1949 and its systematic destruction of 418 Palestinian villages to prevent the refugees' return: creating 300,000 more Palestinian refugees in 1967; a brutal and tyrannical occupation accompanied by continued ethnic cleansing ever since; and atrocities against civilian populations in wars in the West Bank
, Gaza Strip, and Lebanon.
Even Bernard Lewis, a historian favored by defenders of Israel, wrote "for Christian anti-Semites, the Palestine problem is a pretext and an outlet for their hatred; for Muslim anti-Semites, it is the cause."9 Remove the cause-that is, end Israel's ethnocentrism and expansionism-and Arab anti-Semitism would likely fade away.
shows how Arab anti-Semitism is "reactive" and changeable-dependent on Israel's
actions, its violence, its propaganda (e.g., calling Arabs "Nazis"), and on the particular historical and political circumstances of the various Arab/Muslim countries.
The "Hasbara Handbook: Promoting Israel on Campus" (hasbara is Hebrew for "public relations, " or "propaganda"), published in 2002 by the World Union of Jewish Students, gives advice on how to score points "whilst avoiding genuine discussion": rather than addressing your opponent's arguments, make "as many comments that are positive about Israel as possible whilst attacking certain Palestinian positions, and attempting to cultivate a dignified appearance"; repeat points again and again, "If people hear something often enough, they come to believe it.
Stillwell and Greene claim that, unlike anti-Semitism in the Arab world, "'anti-Arab attitudes in Israel'
are neither widespread, [nor] promulgated through state-provided education and other official means.
"Other official means" of promulgating racism include laws that are the very foundation of the Israeli state: the 1950 Law of Return and 1952 Citizenship Law, which allow every Jew in the world to immigrate to Israel
and become an Israeli citizen.
These same laws forbid the return of Palestinians who were forced to flee their homes from 1947 to 1952.
This inequity may have made sense to those in the West who lived through the years after WWII, when the horrors of the Holocaust and general acceptance of colonialism blinded almost everyone to the injustice perpetrated against Palestinian Arabs.
But it is much past time to look at the situation through Palestinian eyes.
More recent laws show racism becoming increasingly institutionalized in Israel
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights
in Israel, reports that "the current government coalition has proposed a flood of new racist and discriminatory bills.
One such bill legalizes "admission committees" operating in nearly 700 small towns, allowing them to reject applicants deemed "unsuitable to the social life of the community … or the social and cultural fabric of the town"-for "unsuitable applicants," read principally "Arabs."18
Holocaust denial, Nakba denial
Israel's recent Nakba Law effectively forbids the public commemoration of the Nakba.
lodged a protest when UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon used the word in a telephone conversation with Mahmoud Abbas on May 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Nakba.
Livni makes luminously clear that Israel
is not a democracy for all its citizens.
For the Jews
, yes, although the rights of dissenters are increasingly restricted.
In effect, "a Jewish and democratic state" is an oxymoron, no matter how much ink has been spent to deny it: a state so defined must privilege the Jews
over other citizens.
And being Jewish is unlike being, for example, French.
One can become French by participating in the country's communal life for five years, but there is no way to become Jewish and qualify for the Law of Return except by converting to Judaism, or by being "a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew, and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew."
: innocent, victimized, maligned …
Gail Rubin J.D. author of the BlueTruth article, waxes indignant at Achcar for describing Israel as a "'settler colonial project' built on 'Arab land,'" and "accusing Zionists of 'ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.'"
was built on Arab land, whether bought or confiscated, is undeniable.
In any case, no one denies that Israel
prevented the return of refugees, a violation of international law.
It was Israeli policy to shoot as "infiltrators" Palestinians trying to return to their villages in the night.
Hundreds of villages were destroyed to foreclose their former inhabitants' return.
Arguments about the colonial nature of the Israeli state usually take the form of semantic nitpicking.
Sociologist Maxime Rodinson, a French Jew who first broke the taboo against calling Israel a "colonial-settler state," concludes his remarkable 1967 essay:
In fact, following the conquest of land and expulsion of its native Arab inhabitants, Israel
again and again inflicted great harm on Arabs and Muslims-primarily the Palestinians, but also those living in the border states-through actions that cannot be attributed to Israel's
need to survive.
Consider the annexation of Jerusalem, a city sacred to Islam; the occupation of the Palestinian territories and of the Golan Heights; and wars such as that against Lebanon in 2006, supposedly a response to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers that resulted in 1,200 Lebanese deaths, almost all of them civilians.
One example provides strong evidence that Arabs have not inherited the Nazis' exterminatory will.
The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, re-endorsed unanimously by the Arab League in 2007,25 calls upon Israel to withdraw from all the territories occupied since 1967, and for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The Arab countries would then commit to establishing normal relations with Israel
and provide security for all the states of the region.