Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Purge

When former president of Ireland Mary Robinson was being awarded the Presidential Peace Prize by President Obama in 2009 the Anti-Defamation League and other pro-Israeli lobbyists opposed the gesture. They said she did not deserve the prize due to what they claimed were her anti-Israeli views. Her support for the Palestinians and concern for their desperate plight was immediately construed as her being anti-Israeli. She has hate in her heart for Israel they thought, and therefore it would be preposterous that she be awarded a peace prize, of all things. 

Campaign Poster for Mary Robinson

This is by no means a unique incident.

Anyone in Ireland or around the world who is at all familiar with Mary Robinson knows that she could not be described as someone who carries hate in her heart. Far from it. But the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality propagated by the Israelis, a ‘for’ or ‘against’ mentality with little to no middle ground, takes many prisoners. 

Some of them stranger than others. 

They don’t come much stranger than David Icke. A former BBC sports presenter, Icke took a surprising turn when he claimed that he was a conduit for cosmic beings. He constructed an elaborate mythology and today is something of a demigod for certain aspects of the New Age, far out on the fringes of the mainstream.

Part of this mythology involves lizards that take human form, occupy positions of extreme wealth and power, and hold us all in bondage. In this view of things we are effectively slaves who toil unknowingly towards some nefarious goal, hidden by those would keep us in subjugation.

So far so loopy. 

David Icke, mid-rant

This is exactly what Jon Ronson thought. Himself Jewish, he followed Icke to one of his seminars where Ronson was surprised to see groups of protestors who were protesting on the grounds that Icke was an anti-semite. As Ronson found out, the Anti-Defamation League, an organisation dedicated to flagging anti-semitism in all it's forms, believes that the word “lizard” is a codeword in some conspiracy circles for “Jew”. Ronson concluded that this was a step too far. David Icke is a lot of things, he surmised, but anti-semitic is not one of them.

Here is a documentary Ronson made on Icke and the incident:

Still, these contemporary conspiracy theories do bear resemblance to much older ones that survive to this day. Events within these conspiracy theories play out something like this: there is a group which is secretly pulling all the strings, overseeing the accumulation of vast amounts of wealth, maneuvering the movement and actions of nations, eating away at traditional values. At every bad turn, every bad thing that goes wrong, there they are, behind it all, the ghosts and goblins of a secular age.

In Greece today, Golden Dawn blame immigrants, muslims and multiculturalism in general for the economic turmoil their country has faced recently. Similarly, from the middle ages through to very modern twentieth century horrors, in Europe there has been such a figure of hate, ridicule and suspicion - Jewish communities that worked and lived along side Europeans have been harassed for centuries, leading up to the mechanised slaughter of the gas chambers. 

Given what happened to them at the hands of the Nazis, not to mention centuries of persecution and discrimination, perhaps Israel is right to be suspicious of people critical of it. If not right, then their suspicion is at least understandable.

And yet, today, more than sixty years on, things are a bit more complex than that. There is still some unreconstructed anti-semitism floating around, spinkled with a dash of the old conspiracy mumblings. Take the example of Rupert Murdoch. This excellent piece by Michael Wolff elaborates on a tweet Murdoch made over criticism by “the jewish-owned press”, as Murdoch put it, of Israel’s recent bombardment of Gaza.

Mr. Murdoch

Wolff’s analysis of Murdoch’s particular brand of anti-semitism is brilliant. Wolff draws attention to the strange relationship that Israel has with the Right-wingers in America. The cosmopolitan Jew, an enemy to all traditional values and ideals has been a fixture of far-right ideology for years. Wolff holds that Murdoch still has similar conceptions of Jewish people, though he would prefer to keep them close, recognising supposed sneaky talents that they are supposed to have. “There are the Jews in his tent pissing out, and there are the Jews who think they are better than him pissing in,” is Wolff’s appraisal of Murdoch’s attitude. A “good Jew” for Murdoch, Wolff holds, is one who supports Israel, who perhaps upholds Western values in their vehement belief in the nation. That is, a version of the nation which is constantly being bombarded and attacked, that must violently reassert itself in opposition to the other. 

The other, in this case, being Palestine.

Perhaps this is not a peculiarly Western invention, but it certainly has reared its head many times before throughout the Western world. And, many times before, it has been the Jewish people at the brunt of it. With Israel’s recent bombing of Gaza, many have pointed out the irony in Israel’s position. There is a simple fact at the heart of this all; if Israel’s alliance with western powers was to falter, it will be in a very precarious situation for them, besieged on all sides by muslim countries that have watched aghast for over fifty years the treatment of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis. Israel has been in the blessed position of having Western support. But could this be a blessing in disguise?

Slavoj Zizek thinks that there is a certain anti-semitic element within Israel itself. He has pointed out a Jewish website which singles out Jews critical of the state of Israel (such as Noam Chomsky) as enemies of Israel. Again, the irony is palpable, but perhaps becomes more understandable when we think of Murdoch’s old world racist distinction between the good Jew and the bad Jew. Is this a distinction that some Israelis know all too well?

Here is the the first video (of eight) of a lecture that Zizek gave on the subject:

No comments:

Post a Comment