7th Global Forum of Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem 13-15 july 2021
par Yana Grinshpun
Anti -Zionism in Europe
Antisemitism is a complex psychological historical, political, religious and discursive phenomenon running the gamut of negative feelings towards the Jews up to their actual extermination. A huge amount of literature is dedicated almost daily to this issue: state-owned media, alternative media, social networks, research literature deal with anti-Jewish violence on a regular basis.
In this talk I will briefly show that in Europe ideological political and media discourse widely contribute to the rise of lethal forms of antisemitism which call itself proudly anti-Zionism.
Over the last two decades, France has undergone a growing number of attacks and murders of the Jews. This violence has been associated with a discourse of denial that consists in minimizing the importance of these attacks and even ultimately reversing the blame, holding the Jews themselves or Israel accountable for the attacks they suffered.
Thus , in the late 11 days war with Hamas, the central French media and important political leaders as French prime minister Jean Castex and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Yves Le Drian have clearly showed this replacement functioning. The first one never mentioned Hamas but the suffering of the Palestinians and the second one went farther accusing Israel of the “risk of apartheid”.
The “New” face of Antisemitism in contemporary France
The former forms of antisemitism that have been in existence since the 19th century have actually never quite disappeared in France. Nevertheless, nowadays we witness the rebirth of very aggressive anti-Semitic movements that come either from the extreme right (a kind of antisemitism that has never stopped) and, more prominently, from the convergence of the antisemitism of the extreme left under Islamic influence, a more and more powerful force at work in French society. This new form of judeophobia is no longer the offshoot of the concept of “race” or “religion” but also includes a political factor, i.e. the existence of the Jewish State based on Zionist ideology. The main expression of this phenomenon is the confluence of cultural, religious, political and ideological attitudes that come from the extreme left, from the extreme right, from the influence of Islamic culture in the Western social and political landscape as well as from a gradual “mythification” of the Palestinian “cause” in Europe, exalting it to the status of an irrational set of beliefs.
The “Palestinian cause” in Europe has been transformed into a « universal cause », to the extent that it has been elevated to the exemplary cause of victims, capable of being espoused by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Indeed, the narrative about Palestinian nationalism is widely defended by the French national media.
It reactivates seemingly new stereotypes attributed to Jews and Israel: « racism », « apartheid », « genocide », “imperialism”. Looking back to the history of the antisemitism, there is nothing new in theses ideological patterns, they have been fabricated in the former USSR in the back offices of the KGB. For the Stalinists, Zionists (the word was used to designate both Jews in Israel, in America and in the Soviet Russia) represented Western imperialism and capitalism.
If the right wing parties and their Islamic allies are characterized by the Jew hatred and also the hatred of Israel, and this, since the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Hussejni established a solid cooperation with Nazis during the World War II, the radical left has met Islamic fundamentalism in the common hatred for imperialists, capitalists, colonialism, America and Israel.
What is striking is the convergence of the main types of anti-Jewish discourse, those coming from the left and the extreme left, those coming from the right and the extreme right, and those claiming to be Islamists, whether they are identified as Islamists or not. This is the conjunctural alliance of all the anti-Jews. And all these voices sing the anti-Zionist refrain in unison.
I would like to underline here the importance of two factors during last decades:
- The advent of the Postcolonial era. It’s both a political and an ideological term or concept. It implies a massive emigration from former colonized countries. The West has experienced and is experiencing the massive arrival of populations with a Muslim cultural background that have, to some degree, altered some of its cultural fabric. Their arrival coupled with the ideology of post-colonialism includes the post-colonial movement that and openly claims an essential and existential opposition to the West, Whiteness and Israel, which is considered to be the quintessence of the Evil.This post-colonial movement gave birth to a political and ideological thought called decolonialism that literally dominates the French intellectual and associative landscape. Decolonialism is an ideological movement emerged in Latin America. It focuses on untangling the production of knowledge from what they claim is a primarily Eurocentric « episteme ». The decolonialsim is inspired by the post-marxist and third world theories. It claims the Western Culture, also called Judeo-Christian culture, is oppressive . Decolonial perspectives see this hegemony as the basis of Western imperialism and Israel is its ultimate the incarnation.
Decolonial thought transfers this status of innate victim of the western domination from the individual to the group, called “minority”, be it quantitatively important: being a collective victim opens up a recognition that is not without affinities with the positive discrimination. Decolonial ideology gives a large place to « Islamophobia », which is said to be a form of racism against Muslims. Recruitment begins with the seduction of words: by inserting the word Islamophobia into a device for fighting an injustice, its propagators have been able to place the defense of Islam in the camp of so-called progressivism, even as it has become an offensive concept used to silence political and philosophical criticism of Islamic entryism into the European institutions. The word carries with it the idea that Islamophobia would be the Muslim condition itself and that France would thus be a land of apartheid, just like Israel.
- The word Islamophobia is constructed on a model of “judeophobia” and its promoters claim that any critic of Islam is a proof of “islamophobia”. Muslims are depicted by these ideologues as victims, oppressed and persecuted population like were Jews before and during the World War II. Anti-Semitism has been replaced by Islamophobia to the point that the contemporary left doxa is that “Muslim are the Jews of today”.
For example, Enzo Traverso says in his The end of Jewish Modernity (2013):
“Islamophobia plays a role for the new racism that Antisemitism had in the past. The memory of the Holocaust – a historical perception of antisemitism through the prism of its culmination in genocide – tends to obscure these clear analogies. The portrait of the Arabs or Muslims sketched by contemporary xenophobia does not differ much from that of the Jew constructed by antisemitism in the early 20th century.”(p.102 https://thecharnelhouse.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Enzo-Traverso-The-End-of-Jewish-Modernity.pdf)
It is in fact a denial of the Judeophobia existence. The antisemitism Enzo Traverso is speaking about has transformed into the demonization of Zionism and Israel by the mecanism of replacement.
It’s a sort of paradox that the legitimation of Islamism in Europe is done by the « left » who presents it as progressive, anti-Western and postcolonial movement. Despite all we know about the fate of secularists and democrats in Islamic states, in Turkey, in Saudi Arabia, in Iran, in Pakistan. And that the religion is the opium for the people.
A main channel for spreading anti-Zionist poison is the media. That large sections of public opinion are now affected by the pruritus of antisemitism is not surprising; it is the result of a cleverly distilled political will. In matters of opinion, and the politics of opinion, there is no spontaneous generation. The major media have been responsible for spreading the anti-Zionist doxa since the end of the 1960s, and three generations of French people have drunk from this milk. This new modality of antisemitism has been consciously inculcated, and few minds have sifted the anti-Zionist evidence with a critical mind. Anti-Zionist expression is all the more uninhibited because it is based on noble motives: anti-Zionism presents itself as humanist and anti-racist. It is in the name of humanism and anti-racism that one claims to be anti-Zionist.
I will give just one example of a manipulation of history, language and rhetoric that never stopped since the Soviet anti-Zionist era. It is about the word “apartheid”. 6 years ago I asked my students f Master degree, what does apartheid mean. They answered, well it is about Israel, isn’t it? They didn’t define the phenomena, and I didn’t ask them were it was. I asked them how they knew that and where they took it from. From the media, was the answer.
The definition of apartheid is unambiguous.
“Systematic segregation in South Africa between whites and blacks (abolished in 1991)”. Even the word comes from Afrikaans.
The list of political leaders who used this word is important. Ex- French ambassador in Israel, Gérard Arnaud denounced “politics of apartheid”, Jimmy Carter, the ex-president of the USA wrote a book Palestine, Peace and not Apartheid. Oussama ben Laden recommended it hotly to his flocks. For the first time and officially, the accusation of apartheid was pronounced from the podium of the United Nations by Ahmed Choukairy, the first PLO’s president. He did it to blacken Israel (he pronounced his speech during Eichmann’s process that was taking place in Jerusalem) and to prepare the ideological ground for its destruction. It was after this speech that the formula Zionism=racism was adopted in Europe. The PLO charter states (Article 22):
- “Zionism is racist and fanatical in nature, aggressive, expansionist and colonialist in its aims and fascist in its methods”.
That’s the official discourse of the French radical left or of “islamo-leftism”. Le Monde, Libération, Médiapart specialize in its usage. PLO can be proud of its representatives in France.
Then the media gave it a free rein. We had “mineralogical apartheid” (colors of the plates are different, so it’s apartheid), “apartheid wall”, “apartheid law” (Nation state of the Jewish people), lately the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Yves le Drian spoke about the risk of apartheid during Lod pogroms.
Today, this common knowledge or ignorance weaves a very complex web, which the total absence of historical knowledge makes difficult to unravel. Hence the existence of an ideological phenomenon that is globally very structured. The anti-Zionist discourse is conveyed both by the University, by the political discourse and by the media. It constitutes a real trap structure from a cognitive point of view, from which it is almost impossible to escape.