[News] Norman Finkelstein - Kill Arabs, Cry Anti-Semitism

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Sep 12 12:18:01 EDT 2006


September 12, 2006

The Dream Philosophy of Paranoids

Kill Arabs, Cry Anti-Semitism


A central thesis of my book 
Chutzpah is that whenever Israel faces a public relations debacle its 
apologists sound the alarm that a "new anti-Semitism" is upon us. So, 
predictably, just after Israel faced another image problem due to its 
murderous destruction of Lebanon, a British all-party parliamentary 
group led by notorious Israel-firster Denis MacShane MP (Labor) 
released yet another report alleging a resurgence of anti-Semitism 
(Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into Antisemitism, 
September 2006). To judge by the witnesses (David Cesarani, Lord 
Janner, Oona King, Emanuele Ottolenghi, Melanie Phillips) and sources 
(MEMRI, Holocaust Education Trust) cited in the body of the report, 
much time and money could have been saved had it just been contracted 
out to the Israel Foreign Ministry. (The report's statement that "we 
received no evidence of the accusation of anti-Semitism being misused 
by mainstream British Jewish community organizations and leaders" 
perhaps speaks more to the selection of the witnesses than the reality.)

The single novelty of the report, which mostly rehashes fatuous 
allegations already disposed of in Beyond Chutzpah, is the new 
thresholds in idiocy it breaks. Consider the methodology deployed for 
demonstrating a new anti-Semitism. The report defines an anti-Semitic 
incident as any occasion "perceived" to be anti-Semitic by the 
"Jewish community." This is the school of thought according to which 
it's raining even in the absence of any precipitation because I feel 
it's raining. It is the dream philosophy of paranoids, especially 
rational paranoids, for whom alleged victimhood is politically 
serviceable. The report includes under the rubric of anti-Semitic 
incidents not just violent acts and incendiary speech but 
"conversations, discussions, or pronouncements made in public or 
private, which cross the line of acceptability," as well as "the mood 
and tone when Jews are discussed." The wonder is that it didn't also 
tabulate repressed anti-Semitic libidinal fantasies. In the category 
of inherently anti-Semitic pronouncements the report includes 
"drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the 
Nazis" (only comparisons of contemporary Arab policy to that of the 
Nazis are permissible) and "theories about Jewish or Zionist 
influence on American foreign policy" (even if Jewish and Zionist 
organizations boast about this influence).

Much of the evidence of pervasive British anti-Semitism requires real 
strains in credulity. * The lone item listed under the ominous 
subheading "The Blood Libel" is a Syrian television series "that 
would be possible for viewers in the UK to see if they had suitable 
satellite receiving equipment." It also notes the unreferenced "case 
of a Jewish university lecturer who was subjected to an anti-Semitic 
tirade from a student in the middle of a lecture and subsequently 
asked to explain to the university authorities why he ha upset the 
student." Is it anti-Semitic to wonder whether this is a crock? And 
then the report cites the warning of the London Assembly Conservative 
Group that "there is a risk that in some political quarters 'views on 
international events can, almost subconsciously, lead to subtly 
different attitudes to, and levels of engagement with, different 
minority groups.'" The new anti-Semitism business must be going 
seriously awry when British conservatives start sounding like Lacan. 
Finally, it is anti-Semitic for student unions to advocate a boycott 
of Israeli goods because this "would restrict the availability of 
kosher food on campus." Maybe Israel can organize a "Berlin airlift" 
of gefilte fish.

Although claiming that, in the struggle against anti-Semitism, "none 
of those who gave evidence wished to see the right free speech 
eroded," and "only in extreme circumstances would we advocate legal 
intervention," the report recommends that university authorities 
"take an active interest in combating acts, speeches, literature and 
events that cause anxiety or alarm among their Jewish students," and 
it registers disquiet that "classic and modern anti-Semitic works are 
freely available for ordering on the Amazon.com website," and that 
"the United States in particular has been slow to take action" in 
closing down "anti-Semitic internet sites." It is at moments like 
this that even the least patriotic of souls can take pride in being 
an American.

* The police data on an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in itself 
proves little because, as the report concedes, the spike might be due 
to more incidents being reported and a coarsening of British life 
generally, as well as the "spillover" from the Israel-Palestine 
conflict. In addition, there is little evidence of "organized," 
"politically motivated" anti-Semitic attacks; there is no evidence 
that perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks were disproportionately 
Muslim; and most of the suspects in the incidents were adolescents. 
For 2005 the report cites a couple incidents that were "potentially" 
life-threatening. It cites no comparative data for other minorities 
in Britain, although tacitly acknowledging that "the level of 
prejudice and discrimination by Jews in Britain remains lower," a 
considerable understatement . On a related note, it deplores that 
"less than one in ten [anti-Semitic] incidents reported to the police 
resulted in a suspect becoming an accused" , but cites no comparative 
data indicating whether this ratio is aberrant.

Norman Finkelstein's most recent book is 
Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history 
(University of California Press). His web site is 

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