South Carolina just passed a law deeming any criticism of Israel in public schools or universities to be anti-Semitic.
.. Israel attracts additional scrutiny because it is a top recipient of U.S. foreign aid and the only Western nation currently carrying out a military occupation of another people.
.. anti-Semitism on the right is often easier to spot
.. At rallies on college campuses, speakers regularly list “Zionists” in the same category as white supremacists and Nazis.
So how can you tell the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism? Here are five useful markers.
Seeing Jews as insidious influencers behind the scenes of world events
On the left and the right, anti-Semitism often manifests in a nefarious belief in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy that wields outsize power. On the right, it’s “globalists” and “elites” who manipulate events. On the left, it’s “Zionists.” The terms may differ, but the fundamental conspiracy theory is the same.
Using the word “Zionist” as code for “Jew” or “Israeli”
.. But refusing to call Israel or Israelis by their internationally accepted names denies the very existence of the state and its people’s identities. These coy linguistic tricks are as unacceptable as the right-wing penchant for denying the existence of Palestinians and Palestinian identity.
Denying Jewish history
.. Statements like these ignore the fact that, unlike most white people here and elsewhere, Jews have been subject to racially based discrimination — and that more than half of Israeli Jews are not Ashkenazi, meaning their families did not come from Europe.
.. Dismissing the humanity of Israelis
.. one young activist told me, “I can’t judge how other people carry out their liberation movements.”
.. Assuming that the Israeli government speaks for all Jews
.. Imagine assuming that all Americans support President Trump’s policies, or asking Americans to expressly disown their own country before engaging in any international human rights campaigns.
.. Jews who care about Israel — many of whom revile Netanyahu and his politics — should not be excluded from progressive spaces based on their answers to such questions.
As you know, everybody sees the Middle East through his or her own narrative. Conservatives see it through the “front line in the war on terror” narrative and defend Israel’s actions on the Gaza border fence this week. Progressives see it through the “continued colonialist oppression” narrative and condemn those actions.
.. sometime in the 1990s, a mental shift occurred. Extremism grew on the Israeli side, exemplified by the ultranationalist who murdered Rabin, but it exploded on the Palestinian side. Palestinian extremism took on many of the shapes recognizable in extremism everywhere.
.. First, the question shifted from “What to do?” to “Whom to blame?” The debates were less about how to take steps toward a livable future and more about who is responsible for the sins of the past.
.. Second, the dream of total victory became the only acceptable dream.
.. extremists stop trying to win partial victories, insisting that someday they will get everything they want — that someday the other side will magically disappear.
.. Third, extremists over time replace strategic thinking with theatrical thinking. Strategic thinking is about the relation of means to ends: How do we use what we have to get to where we want to go? Theatrical thinking is both more cynical and more messianic: How do we create a martyrdom performance that will show the world how oppressed we are?
.. If you read the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s April 30 speech or much of the commentary published over the past week, it’s clear that some powerful Palestinians now believe that the creation of the state of Israel is the wrong that needs to be addressed, not the expansion and occupation.
.. They rejected incrementalism. After Israel withdrew from its settlements in Gaza, the Palestinians could have declared a new opening, taking advantage of the influx of humanitarian aid. Instead, they elected Hamas, an organization that lists the extermination of the state of Israel as an existential goal. They expended resources that could have improved infrastructure to fund missiles and terrorist tunnels.
.. Yasir Arafat was once a terrorist, but at least he used terror to win practical concessions. The actions today — the knife attacks, the manipulation of protesters to rush the border fence — are of little military or strategic value. They are ventures in suicidal theater.
.. The shift from the politics of Rabin and Shimon Peres to that of Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman is a move from pluralism to ethnocentrism, from relentless engagement to segregation. It’s a shift from tough realism to the magical thinking that Palestinians are somehow going to go away.
.. sometimes Israeli policies seem callously designed to guarantee an extremist response.
.. That’s the problem with extremism: It is a flight from reality. It makes you stupider. Instead of cleverly working to advance your own interest in a changing context, you end up shouting your own moral justifications into a whirlwind.
.. Extremism is naturally contagious. To fight it, whether at home or abroad, you have to answer the angry shout with the respectful offer. It feels unnatural. But it’s the only way.
It wasn’t always like this. In his 36 years as a diplomat and politician, Mr. Netanyahu has been reprimanded by the Reagan administration, nearly barred from entering the White House, and banned from the State Department during George H. W. Bush’s administration because of his criticism of its policies. He has been at loggerheads with President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama, both of whom could barely conceal their disdain for him. Now he has an administration that shares his positions almost instinctively.
The simplest explanation for this reversal of fortune is that the Trump administration is dominated by the two types of ideologues with whom Mr. Netanyahu has always gotten along best: foreign policy hawks like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the national security adviser, John Bolton, and Christian evangelicals like Vice President Mike Pence. And presiding over it all is Mr. Trump, a man who has known and admired Mr. Netanyahu since they first met in New York in the 1980s.
.. On May 9, the morning after the announcement on the Iran deal, Mr. Netanyahu was in Moscow as guest of honor at Russia’s Victory Day, standing beside President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Putin still supports the Iran deal, and is in tacit alliance with Iran, Israel’s deadly adversary. And yet the Russian president presented the Israeli prime minister as his country’s close ally. He has also allowed Israel to attack Iranian bases and weapons depots in Syria, and even to bomb Russian-built antiaircraft batteries.
.. Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump are not alone. Mr. Netanyahu has recently been feted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, President Xi Jinping of China, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, as well as a host of leaders of smaller countries — including those with far-right governments like Hungary, Poland and Austria. No less significantly, he has maintained close contacts with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and behind the scenes with the Arab leaders of the Persian Gulf.
Mr. Netanyahu is the toast of the new wave of right-wing, populist and autocrat-like (if not outright autocratic) leaders. They see in him a kindred spirit, even a mentor. He is the leader of a small country who has taken on American presidents and outlasted them. He has successfully defied the Western liberal human rights agenda, focusing instead on trade and security. Israel’s success as a regional economic and military power is proof in their eyes that the illiberal approach can prevail.
He has spent more time than any of them on the geopolitical stage, winning election after election. In many ways, Mr. Netanyahu is the precursor to this new age of “strongmen” who have come to power in different parts of the world. It is the age of Bibi.
.. He has identified a trend: The world is tiring of the Palestinian issue.
.. Mr. Netanyahu has hastened this trend by expanding Israeli diplomacy with Asian and African countries, which have shown little interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict, but are eager to acquire Israeli technology, both civilian and military.
.. Mr. Netanyahu believes he has won the argument. He has proved that the world, not even the Arab nations, doesn’t really care about the Palestinian issue. That Israel can continue enjoying economic growth, regional military dominance and improving foreign relations despite its military control over the lives of millions of stateless Palestinians.
Our guest, Israeli investigative reporter Ronen Bergman, says that Israel has developed the most robust streamlined assassination machine in history. His new book, based on a thousand interviews, chronicles decades of shootings, poisonings, bombings and drone strikes. The targets were perceived enemies of the Jewish state, ranging from British colonial officials in the 1940s to leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and the PLO to Iranian nuclear scientists. Bergman describes the planning and approval process for targeted killings, which typically involved young military and intelligence operatives making the case for a strike to the country’s prime minister.
Bergman writes that Israeli assassination teams were effective at eliminating their targets but often at a moral and political price their leaders would only come to understand years after their missions. Ronen Bergman is a senior correspondent for military and intelligence affairs for Yedioth Ahronoth, the country’s largest daily newspaper, and a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine. He spoke to FRESH AIR’s Dave Davies about his new book “Rise And Kill First: The Secret History Of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.”
.. one of the most powerful things I have ever seen on a screen was the movie “The Gatekeepers” by Dror Moreh, the Israeli filmmaker. And I’m sure you’re familiar with this. He interviews all of the living heads of Shin Bet, which I guess is the internal intelligence service in Israel.
DAVIES: All of them in their later years felt that the violence and retribution which they had engaged in earlier had to be stopped, and there had to be a negotiated arrangement with the Palestinians. Did you find that in – among the intelligent professionals that you spoke to as they grew older?
BERGMAN: Yeah. The same five that are interviewed in “Gatekeepers” are extensively quoted in “Rise And Kill” as well, as well as many, many others – the chiefs of the intelligence. And you’re absolutely right. They rule. The rare exception is that all the chiefs of Israeli intelligence and military commanders and operation commanders all believe that there’s no other way but a two-state solution and a political discourse with the Palestinians.
The problem is that I think when they were on duty and the political level above them opposed such a path, they usually stayed silent or, you know, in a very quiet voice say, well, maybe there’s another way. But once they were ordered to confront the problem by force, they did that with whatever they could. And they supplied the solutions that just prolonged the problem. They supplied the solution for many, many, many years that kept the Palestinian population in the occupied territories relatively quiet.
And that – and I’m quoting one of the chiefs of the – of Shin Bet. And that enabled the government basically to do whatever it wanted because they were not confronting a lot of riots or demonstration or terrorism. And they could build settlements, and they could enjoy the cheap labor. And they didn’t need to understand and confront the problem of occupying another nation, another country and another people.
.. And what Mossad was able to do instead of just shooting him was to get very close to him and replace one of the things that he uses frequently with the same substance but mixed with poison. They call the poison the potion of gods. That was the nickname. And they poured that into his toothpaste which he used quite frequently. Then he got the ill. Nobody knew what happens to him.
.. Israeli military intelligence who is supposed to deliver information for a targeted killing operation in 2003, said, I’m not going to do so. You want to destroy a building belonging to the Fatah, one of the Palestinian factions in Gaza. You want to destroy it, he told his commanders, because there are people inside but not specific people. You just want to destroy it with people in order to send a message to the Palestinians. I think this is forbidden. This is illegal, manifestly illegal. This is a war crime. And he declared…
.. But at that time, after a horrific suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that took place just hours before, the chief of staff ordered to destroy a building with someone inside. Someone – doesn’t matter who – has to be killed as a – sort of a message sent to the Palestinians. And that junior brave intelligence officer says, this is the line. I’m drawing it here. I’m not going to do so. This is war crime. This is illegal.
DAVIES: You know, military organizations assume that people will follow orders, whatever qualms they might have. What was the fallout of this refusal to carry out this mission?
BERGMAN: The echoes that there’s was a mutiny in Unit 8200 – which is considered to be creme de la creme, prime of Israeli intelligence – immediately reached every corridor of the – thundered through the corridors of the military and reached the prime minister himself. No one could believe that these people, the intelligence officers could ever rebuild. People at the chief of staff said this guy should be court martialed. And someone said, even, he should be shot. But I think the IDF didn’t want this to be brought to trial because they understood that the order, from the beginning, was illegal. So they just dismissed the junior officer. They didn’t want to deal with that.
But they were afraid that it will lead to a wave of other people refusing to take orders, so they preferred to hushen (ph) that.
.. He didn’t – he still, even today, doesn’t want to be identified because he understands that some people in Israeli society would judge him for that. And he doesn’t want to have problems in his civilian life.
.. just before Trump was elected and before the inauguration, they suggested that the Israelis stop giving sensitive material to the White House. They said we are afraid that Trump or someone of his people are under leverage from the Russians. And they might give sensitive information to the Russians who, in their turn, would give that to Iran. They said we have evidence that part of the material that Edward Snowden stole from the CIA and NSA – and was not yet published – found its way to Iran. And we believe, of course, that he gave everything he had to the Russians.
.. you know of specific information that the U.S. shared with the Russians that has not been revealed publicly and that you are not revealing publicly?
BERGMAN: The nature of the information that President Trump revealed to Foreign Minister Lavrov is of the most secretive nature. And that information could jeopardize modus operandi of Israeli intelligence.
.. I had 1,000 people speaking from prime minister and minister of defense, chiefs of staff, chief of the Mossad to the actual operatives and assassins.
.. But the main reason, I think, that led most of these people to speak was that after so many years in the shadows – after so many years in secret, they wanted to tell people how they defend Israel, how they were the guards on the wall. And they thought that I’m writing – not the authorized of course. I’m not working for the administration, but this is the unauthorized, unofficial – but the history of Israeli intelligence. And they wanted to make sure that their footprint is set upright in this book.