The Presbyterian Church is helping to make anti-Semitism once again socially acceptable.
March 27, 2005 - At the time of this writing these images (actual size) are prominently on display on Electronic Intifada, a well known pro-Palestinian web site that styles itself "the leading Palestinian portal for information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its depiction in the media." (Nigel Parry, the creator of the graphic, is one of the founders of that web site.)
The language - "strategic, selective sanctions against Israel" - comes right out of the Presbyterian divestment campaign.
The images are not just anti-Israel. That is not an Israeli flag on the dollar bill. It is a Jewish star.
The first graphic - "Take back the power" - is not just a threat but an allusion to a classic anti-Semitic stereotype. The image of the "powerful Jew," the Jews who control the government and are even planning to take over the world, has been used for many years to inflame anti-Jewish hatred. The "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," an anti-Semitic classic about Jewish power conspiracies, still circulates widely in the Arab world. The next graphic, the dollar bill with the Jewish star, calls up other stereotypes of the greedy money-grubbing Jew, a popular anti-Jewish theme since the Middle Ages and popularized by Shakespeare's Shylock.
If the Palestinian web site simply wanted to criticize Israeli policy, it could have done so. Instead, it chooses to publicize images that go way beyond Israel to attack the Jewish people.
I can guess what the Palestinians and the Presbyterians will say. They have said it many times before: "Whenever we criticize Israel, you accuse us of anti-Semitism." This is very often said, even when no accusation of anti-Semitism has been made. Many times people have told me, after having made some one-sided criticism of Israel, that they are not anti-Semites - when I never even remotely suggested that they might be! The message seems to be: Just declare yourself not an anti-Semite and you can say anything you like about Israel, or even about Jews, no matter how outrageous.
Constantly accusing Jews of calling people anti-Semites is a disingenuous attempt to discredit any Jewish defense of Israel. This is especially ironic considering that anti-Semitism appears to be on the increase. It's like saying: "Even if there is more anti-Semitism now, you're not allowed to mention it, even when it's there." The fact is, Jews do not make the anti-Semitism charge nearly as often as they are accused of doing. The accusation itself has become a propaganda technique: one can justify any condemnation of Israel simply by saying, "I'm not an anti-Semite, and don't you dare call me one."
Justifying any attack on Israel by repeating the charge that Jews keep calling people anti-Semites (even when they don't) makes one thing clear: Those who accuse Jews of calling them anti-Semites whenever they criticize Israel want people to go from a true statement - "Not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic" - to a false inference - "No criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic." With this inference planted in people's minds, the next step is to slip real anti-Semitism into their presentations and justify it as criticism of "Israel." The proof is in openly anti-Semitic displays like this one, which are now deemed acceptable since "No criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic."
The divestment movement comes at a very odd time. It is a one-sided attack on Israel's economy at the very moment that Israel is taking steps to withdraw from the territories. Isn't withdrawal what Israel's critics want? Why choose this moment to attack Israel, instead of joining with Israel to support the disengagement plan and make sure it is carried out? A one-sided attack on Israel at a time like this only lends support to those who say, Why should Israel make any efforts towards peace, Israel will be condemned no matter what it does. Have not the Palestinians, by refusing to give up their hatred of Israel and end terrorism once and for all, done much to obstruct the peace process? Why punish only Israel? The divestment plan contributes nothing to peace; it only creates polarization.
Therefore one may justifiably question the motives of the divestment movement. Anti-Semitic exhibitions like this one reveal the true face of divestment. Thanks in large part to the Presbyterians and those who follow their example such as the World Council of Churches and the United Church of Christ, a pro-Palestinian web site can now display these images without shame.
Peace with Realism