There is a perception among many people that being critical of the policies of Israel is racist. A charge of racism always deserves careful consideration and introspection. For instance, my family had racist attitudes. Towards Blacks, Italians, Polish, Arabs, and yes Jews. Jokes were told, generalizations made. Not overt racism, my parents would have balked at that, but it was there. They were not religious people, but they raised their children in a Christian tradition. They taught us, ‘love thy neighbor’ and that hate was wrong, but they didn’t realize the full dimensions of the problem and how deep it went in themselves or their culture. Neither did I. Until I married a Palestinian Muslim, I wasn’t fully aware of the dimensions of this problem. Our marriage uncovered aspects of racism in both of our families. From frank disapproval to subliminal attitudes, it became clear to me how hard it is to step outside of oneself and take an accurate assessment of one’s attitudes in regards to other race. Most people don’t have an inter-racial marriage to point up these facts, so you’ll have to take my word for it if you think you are immune. Most abhor racism in principle but not in practice, but the fact was and still is that all of us are to some degree racist. Once you accept that you are a racist too, an internal conflict can begin.
This is a good thing. If being racist is inevitable, you can at least minimize the effects. Having an internal debate or conflict may be uncomfortable, but it is worth the effort if you feel racism is a bad thing. Once you no longer take it for granted, you realize that charges of racism are a serious matter, whether you are being accused or leveling them against others.
That’s why I want to address a claim of racism that has been leveled at me because of my Anti-Zionist views. Some have come right out and said it. Others have made horribly racist comments to my wife and myself, assuming that because of our views on Palestine that we would share their racism towards Jews. We don’t. We find these attitudes repellent. Also for the record (because as I’ve mentioned, one can never take the “correctness” of one’s views for granted) if I’ve made any racist comments myself about Jews or other groups, I apologize unconditionally. There is no excuse for it other than to say that it is a disease of the human condition right now and hopefully someday there will be a cure.
Having said all of that, there needs to be a distinction made between Anti-Zionism and racism. They are in fact opposites. Jews are no more immune to racism than the rest of us. And being a victim of racism doesn’t seem to help make people less racist. It appears the opposite is true. One of the greatest on-going tragedies of the German genocide of the Jews during the Second World War is that that racism has been institutionalized by the Zionist experiment. This happened because a fanatical fringe group of fundamentalists cynically manipulated the motions of world Jewry about the Holocaust.
Imagine Christian fundamentalists or the Taliban were given the green light by the most powerful nation on earth (including military and financial support) to colonize a small defenseless country by forcefully expelling the indigenous people, creating the largest refugee crisis in history. Further imagine that this was allowed to go on for 50 years by continuing oppression and victimization of these people. And all this time, the perpetrators think themselves the victims. It’s perverse, but it happened. Worldwide horror and guilt about the holocaust combined with the opportunism of the Zionists combined to create this deadly brew.
The propaganda will tell you that Israel is a democratic, secular state. It is if you are a Jew or if you don’t live in one of the occupied territories. Palestinians (Who did not flee their homes in 1948) living in the West Bank and Gaza vote for their own policeman (the PNA). And even these elected officials can be ejected by Israel if her leaders aren’t satisfied with the job they are doing. (Sharon, a deeply flawed actor by Israel’s own admission, is doing this right now.) Palestinians in Israel proper are also discriminated against as second-class citizens with unequal access to education, public services and opportunities. In essence an apartied state.
This counter-intuitive viewpoint about the causes of racism cuts both ways. Hatred of Jews worldwide is growing, especially in the Muslim world. It is deplorable and wrong, but it is happening. It is also a direct result of the Zionist experiment and its treatment of the Palestinians. Zionists would argue that this makes all the more necessary the need for a Jewish homeland. This is a cynical and self-serving argument and a deliberately misleading chain of causality. We see it in the treatment of Jews after 1948 in other Arab countries where there had been small but enduring communities of Jews for centuries, but who were subsequently expelled or oppressed. The
Zionists were not only aware of this outcome, but in fact encouraged and conspired with their Arab neighbors in order to increase the Jewish immigration to Palestine. Like many zealots, they are totally ruthless, even to their own people, in pursuit of their goals.
A part of Judaism has been hijacked by terrorists. (The Israelis have institutionalized terrorism, regardless of how they and the U.S. misuse the term) Zionism is not the same thing as Judaism. There are more Anti-Zionist Jews in the U.S. than Anti-Zionist gentiles. There are even more Anti-Zionist Israelis than Anti-Zionist U.S. Jews. The Anti-Zionist movement is a perfectly legitimate Jewish position dating back as far as the Zionist movement itself. Men and women such as Norman Finklestien, Noam Chomsky, Tom Womack, and Amira Hass are some of the most courageous people on the planet. They have not only taken stands against U.S. and Israeli policies, but also withstood withering, vicious attacks by Zionist Jews who feel they are traitors to their own race. They are called “self-hating Jews”. They are not. They are humanists and true heroes. For us non-Jews it is easy to take a stand against oppression once we learn the facts. For these brave men and women it is much more difficult, because they are resisting not only their own well meaning but misled people, but also their own emotions as Jews concerning the holocaust. Not an easy task but an extremely important one. Jews must resist Israel’s oppression of Palestinians or this situation has no end. Judaism as we know it could be fundamentally changed, isolated and radicalized if it is not addressed. This would be the greatest tragedy of all for the proud and noble traditions of the father of Christianity and Islam. A religion and tradition which by all rights should be looked to with respect and in common cause with its two offspring religions, not looked at in fear and hatred.