Poisoning the Well: The False Equation of Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism

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Mr. Khawaja is adjunct professor of philosophy at The College of New Jersey and Rutgers-Camden, and Executive Director of the Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society. The views he expresses here are his own.

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In a recent review of Dennis Ross’s book The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace, the military historian Victor Davis Hanson writes:

The world is obsessed with the so-called occupied territories in Palestine, but not from any abstract principle of postbellum equity or worry over civilian deaths. Otherwise UN resolutions, European subsidies, and American envoys would have been focused on occupied Tibet or Lebanon, or the killing of tens of thousands of innocents in Rwanda and Darfur. So Palestine is not so much a moral issue as a political lightning rod that involves Arab oil, Arab global terrorism, Arab fundamentalist violence in and beyond the Middle East, and Arab anti-Semitism that finds resonance in Europe.

Hanson is one of the most prominent academics identified with the non-isolationist Right, and Policy Review is one of the premier journals of conservative thought in the United States. If a passage like Hanson’s finds its way into Policy Review, we can safely take it as representing more than an idiosyncratic twitch of a single author’s pen. What then is the significance of this particular twitch?

Taken at face value, the passage asserts the following remarkable propositions:

1. The West Bank and Gaza Strip are not occupied.

2. Those concerned with the rights of Palestinians do so from ulterior motives but lyingly assert that they do so from moral motives. Principal among these ulterior motives are greed and bigotry.

3. To prove their veracity, “the world” should focus (or should have focused) more attention than it has on Tibet, Lebanon, Rwanda and Darfur.

These claims are a textbook example of the fallacy of poisoning the well—the fallacy, in logic, of rebutting someone’s argument by adducing the ulterior motives he might have had for making it.

Well-poisoning is a ubiquitous feature of our misologistic culture, but Hanson’s commission of the fallacy differs from the run-of-the-mill variety by its subtle introduction of the issue of anti-Semitism. The claim here is not the truism that Arab anti-Semitism finds resonance in Europe, but that such interest as “the world” expresses in Palestine is merely a cover for its anti-Semitism.

This claim is a casual instance of a broader trend: the reflexive equation, by defenders of Israel, of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, itself part of the emerging literature on “the new anti-Semitism.” Focusing on the undeniable fact that many anti-Zionists are anti-Semites, and that anti-Zionism can easily be used as a disguise for anti-Semitism, writers in this genre simply insist over and over that no one can be an anti-Zionist without simultaneously being an anti-Semite.

For a breathtakingly ludicrous instance of the equation, consider Gabriel Schoenfeld’s 2003 book The Return of Antisemitism, endorsed by such luminaries as Elie Wiesel, Francis Fukuyama, Natan Sharansky, and Cynthia Ozick. The book, to be sure, contains some valuable information about the rise of anti-Semitism in the Arab/Muslim world and elsewhere, and amply documents the claim that anti-Zionism can be exploited for anti-Semitic purposes. But a book of this sort ought to do more than convey useful information. Anti-Semitism is, to say the least about it, a form of hasty generalization and conspiracy theorizing. Given this, we would expect a morally-credible critic not only to condemn these vices in anti-Semites, but to refrain from indulging in mirror-image versions of them.

To say that Schoenfeld “indulges” in these vices is perhaps the least that can be said of the section of the book which purports to discuss anti-Semitism among American intellectuals. Among the absurdities asserted here, we find the following twenty-five people accused of anti-Semitism in the space of sixteen pages (pp. 123-139).

  • Maureen Dowd, of The New York Times, (pp. 123-4);
  • Fred Donner, of the University of Chicago (p. 124);
  • Stanley Hoffman, of Harvard (p. 124);
  • Georgie Anne Geyer, a syndicated columnist (p. 124);
  • Joel Kovel, writing in Tikkun (p. 124);
  • Paul Buhle, writing in Tikkun (p. 124);
  • Jason Vest, writing in The Nation (p. 125);
  • Kathleen and Bill Christison, former CIA agents, writing in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (p. 125);
  • Edward Said, who was at Columbia University (p. 125);
  • Michael Lind, writing in the British magazine, Prospect (pp. 125-6);
  • Gary Hart, the former senator (p. 129);
  • Noam Chomsky, of MIT (p. 131);
  • Norman Finkelstein, of DePaul, who is also accused of Holocaust denial (p. 132);
  • Steven Rose, of the Open University (p. 133);
  • Uri Avnery, an Israeli journalist and activist (p. 133);
  • Ilan Pappe, of Haifa University (pp. 133-4);
  • Israel Shahak, who was at Hebrew University, Jerusalem (p. 134);
  • Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun, (p. 136);
  • Marc Ellis, of Baylor University, (p. 137);
  • Daniel Boyarin, of the University of California, Berkeley (p. 137);
  • Susannah Heschel, writing in Tikkun, (p. 137);
  • Cornel West, of Princeton (p. 139);
  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu (p. 139); and
  • Christopher Hitchens, of Vanity Fair and the Atlantic (p. 139).

What is the basis for these extraordinary claims? In some cases, Schoenfeld takes umbrage at questions about the power of “the Jewish lobby,” and construes the asking of such questions as evidence of anti-Semitism. In some cases, he thinks that a particular criticism of Israel is overwrought, and takes its being overwrought as evidence of anti-Semitism. In some cases the claim is that a Jewish author is self-hating, which becomes evidence of anti-Semitism. In some cases we are told that a person draws attention to his Jewish friends while criticizing Israel, which only proves that the person wishes to be insulated from charges of anti-Semitism—which proves, in advance of any actual accusation, that he must be an anti-Semite.

What is at work here is less a discernible principle than a robotic sort of cut-and-paste procedure: Come up with a list of people who a priori must be anti-Semites; then cast about for ‘evidence’ of this claim by finding sentences here or there to which you give an anti-Semitic interpretation regardless of the intention of the author or the context of the utterance. Where the evidence is simply too thin to support a straightforward accusation, insinuate that anti-Semitism is at work without actually making an assertion that it is. Repeat the process until you run out of people.

Stated baldly, Schoenfeld’s procedure is simply a travesty. But is there another way of describing it? It’s not merely that the evidence for Schoenfeld’s claims is “insufficient.” It’s that the evidence is so thin, and the claims so preposterous, that one wonders how the author worked up the nerve to offer them as a claim on our credence. But then, one begins to wonder how a Nobel Laureate, a famous political theorist, a famous refusenik, and an acclaimed writer could so blithely have lent their prestige to it. And then one remembers the Joan Peters affair, and one learns for the nth time that on this topic, anything goes.

One sees the same standards on display in a recent anthology of essays on the subject, Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism, edited by Ron Rosenbaum, a columnist for the New York Observer, and the author of Explaining Hitler (1999). Like Schoenfeld’s book, Rosenbaum’s boasts some undeniable virtues, with particularly insightful contributions by Harold Evans, Jonathan Freedland, Laurie Zoloth, Eli Muller, and Bernard Lewis.

But like Schoenfeld’s book, Rosenbaum’s is in many ways a showcase for the “anything goes” genre of rhetorical performance. In Part Two of the book, we get a reprise from Schoenfeld, whose essay summarizes the claims of his book. In Part Four we come upon an essay by Ruth R. Wisse of Harvard, intended to undermine the anti-Zionist/anti-Semite distinction. Having concluded that Arab anti-Semitism is worse than Nazi anti-Semitism, Wisse makes this comment:

In the light of this adoration [Arab ad`oration of mass murderers], it has become more and more difficult to maintain the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, with the latter defined as ‘merely’ a political-territorial objection to the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. Rather, contemporary anti-Zionism has absorbed all the stereotypes and foundational texts of fascist and Soviet anti-Semitism and applied them to the Middle East. (pp. 191-2).

Consider the structure of this argument, insofar as it claims to be one. We start with the uncontroversial assertion that Arab suicide bombers are anti-Semites. From there we move to the legitimate (if vague) claim that their anti-Semitism is somehow connected to their anti-Zionism. The vagueness of the latter claim permits a quick slide to the colossal non-sequitur that all “contemporary” anti-Zionism is connected in some unspecified way to anti-Semitism (and murder). From that preposterous misinference it’s but a short leap to the insinuation that all anti-Zionism is really anti-Semitic murderousness in disguise. And so, quod erat demonstrandum, at least for purposes of the peanut gallery.

But step outside of the peanut gallery for a minute and ask yourself this question: How is a conceptual distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism erased by the malfeasances of anti-Semites and terrorists claiming to be anti-Zionists? In fact, how is a conceptual distinction erased by anyone’s malfeasances at all?

A few examples should drive this issue home. There is a conceptual distinction between just and unjust war; the distinction remains in tact when tyrants wage unjust wars in the name of justice. There is a distinction between a prison for convicted criminals and a concentration camp; the distinction remains in place when the proprietors of concentration camps describe their inmates as “criminals.” There is a distinction between a court of law and a lynch mob; the distinction remains one when a lynch mob accords itself the jurisdiction of a court of law. There is a distinction between science and pseudo-science; the distinction stays one when pseudo-scientists claim to be scientists. There is, for that matter, a distinction between truth and falsity. The distinction stays in place when people lie; it wouldn’t even be erased if everyone always lied. It doesn’t take very much conceptual sophistication to see that a legitimate concept can be hijacked by con men and criminals. Why should this recognition not extend to the case of anti-Zionism?

The Afterword to Rosenbaum’s book is a hysterical piece by Cynthia Ozick called “The Modern Hep! Hep! Hep!”—a title borrowed from an 1878 essay by George Eliot, itself (supposedly) a reference to the acronym for the Crusader slogan Hierosolyma est perdita (“ Jerusalem is destroyed”). (Despite Ozick’s claims to virtual omniscience on historical matters, I am not certain of the historical accuracy of this last claim about the Crusaders; I merely repeat it here from her essay.) The essay begins with a tendentious account of the history of Israel and Palestine from roughly 1920 until the present day, in which Ozick summarizes the entire anti-Zionist case by reducing it to an “eight-decades-long Arab assault on Jewish national aspiration and sovereignty” (p. 600). Having tossed off that proposition, Ozick’s move to this, her coup de grace:

This is the history that is ignored or denigrated or distorted or spitefully misrepresented. And because it is a history that has been assaulted and undermined by world-wide falsehoods in the mouths of pundits and journalists, in Europe and all over the Muslim world, the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism has finally and utterly collapsed. It is only sophistry, disingenuousness, and corrupted conscience that continue to insist on such a distinction. To fail to trace the pernicious consistencies of Arab political aims from 1920 until today, despite temporary pretensions otherwise, is to elevate intellectual negligence to a principle. (p. 605)

“Sophistry, disingenuousness and corruption”: quite a set of assertions from an author whose account of the relevant history has all of the factual heft of an overwrought tabloid editorial. But Ozick’s claims would constitute a series of non-sequiturs even in the hands of a historically-omniscient being. For like Wisse, she simply ignores the pertinent issue: how do “falsehoods in the mouths of pundits and journalists” erase a conceptual distinction? Since there is not a single sentence in Ozick’s essay that even purports to define “anti-Zionism” (or “anti-Semitism”), or bothers to address the anti-Zionist case, she has no way of addressing this simple question.

But suppose that the anti-Zionist case was false. To infer from its falsity to the moral corruption of its proponents is to assume that there is no honest way of being an anti-Zionist. Is it an instance of cogency, sincerity and moral probity to make such a claim without even trying to address the case?

As for the “pernicious consistencies of Arab political aims,” it’s enough to point out that (a) Arab political aims are not necessarily a guide to the nature of anti-Zionism, much less equivalent to it, (b) not all anti-Zionists are Arabs, (c) not all Arabs have the same political aims now, and (d) not all Arabs have had the same political aims since 1920. A person unwilling to deal explicitly with such obvious counter-examples to her thesis has no business accusing anyone else of “intellectual negligence.”

As with Hanson, many of the authors in Rosenbaum’s book accuse anti-Zionists of inconsistency: why do anti-Zionists focus so insistently on Israel, they ask, while ignoring so many other worthy targets? Shalom Lappin offers a typical example:

Critics of Israel who object to its identity as a Jewish state are, for the most part, not exercised by the fact that Iran and Saudia Arabia [sic] define themselves as Islamic states. They may reject their governments as theocratic and reactionary, but they do not regard these countries as illegitimate. They do not, in general, have problems with the religiously based partition of the Indian subcontinent between Pakistan and India, which took place at the same time as the creation of Israel…Most significantly, they have no difficulty whatsoever with Arab states that purport to be both secular and Arab. They see these states as natural political frameworks for the national groups that constitute their populations. The obvious question, then, is why they have such difficulty with a country that provides for the political independence of a Jewish population. (pp. 503-504).

It’s a fair point—where applicable. But how applicable is it? Lappin shows more awareness than most in qualifying his claims with the phrases “for the most part,” and “in general.” Fair enough. What, then, would he say to the exceptions whose existence he himself acknowledges? What would he say to an anti-Zionist who was exercised by the Islamic nature of Iran and Saudi Arabia, who did have problems with the religiously-based partition of India and Pakistan, and who has lots of “difficulty” with Arab states that purport to be founded on mythical conceptions of “Arab identity,” whether secular or religious?

Let me be more explicit. What would Lappin say to someone who loudly and explicitly asserted that Islamic states like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan should go out of existence as Islamic states—that they have no right to exist as Islamic states, that they are in the relevant respects much worse than Israel? In short, what would he say to an anti-Zionist whose anti-Zionism was rooted not in bigotry, but in a consistent commitment to secularism—not focused on Israel, but applicable to it? Like so many authors on this subject, Lappin seems not to have imagined this possibility, as though no motive for anti-Zionism could possibly exist but anti-Semitism.

Speaking of inconsistency, you would think that a book like Rosenbaum’s, intended to expose double-standards, would try not to instantiate them. But if you did, you’d be wrong. On the one hand, Rosenbaum is (justifiably) at pains to enjoin readers not to make excuses for anti-Semitism. On the other hand, he goes out of his way to excuse a well-known practitioner of a similar prejudice. Thus Rosenbaum proudly cites Oriana Fallaci in his Introduction, twice, as a brave critic of Arab/Muslim anti-Semitism (pp. lxiii, lxviii). Gabriel Schoenfeld does the same both in his contribution to Rosenbaum’s book (pp. 109-110), as well as in his own book (pp. 143-144). The journalist Christopher Caldwell, voluble on the subject of Muslim anti-Semitism, has written a brazenly incoherent defense of Fallaci for Commentary (“The Fallaci Affair,” Oct. 2002), and her praises have widely been sung in the right-leaning press (National Review, Frontpage Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard), by Charles Taylor of Salon, and by numerous pro-Israel organizations.

Pause for a moment to reflect on Fallaci’s mode of expression in her book The Rage and the Pride (2002). On p. 178, after a long passage in which she inveighs against “a hideousness defined ‘rap’” and (among other things) liberal attitudes toward “the crippled” and “gays” (her scare quotes in the latter case), we read this:

The fad or rather the farse [sic] that in Italy worships a Moroccan scribbler who pompously claims that the Western culture [sic] discovered Greek philosophy through the Arabs, that the Arab language is the Language of Science [sic] and the most important in the world, that Jean de La Fontaine [sic] did not write his “Fables” after Aesop, inspired by Aesop, but after reading certain Indian tables [sic] translated in French by an Arab guy Ibn al-Muqaffa.**

No, that isn’t a full sentence or even an intelligible one, but it comes with an explanatory gloss (p. 179):

**Author’s note. I am referring to the individual whom the UN Secretary, Kofi Annan, has generously honored with a prize which has something to do with peace. And who slanders me declaring that my dislike for Islam is due to the mortifications or letdowns I have had with Arab men. (In a sentimental and sexual sense, of course.) Well… [sic] To this individual I reply that, thank God, I never had any sentimental or sexual or friendly rapport with an Arab man. In my opinion there is something in his brothers of faith which repels the women of good taste.

Here is Fallaci on the same edifying subject in the NY Observer, the paper for which Rosenbaum writes as a columnist:

Do you know the only thing the Muslims and the Arabs have been teaching to me [sic]? The only one? To eat with the hands….The Arabs, the only thing they do well is how elegantly they touch the food. (George Gurely, “The Rage of Oriana Fallaci,” New York Observer, Jan. 26, 2003.)

Would it be anti-Semitic to write this way about Jews? Well, let’s try a thought-experiment. Suppose you saw the following in print from the pen of a writer with a Muslim-sounding name:

Thank God I’ve never touched or been friendly with a Jewess. In my opinion, there is something in her sisters of faith which repels the man of good taste….The Jews, the only thing they do well is how assiduously they save the money.

Would you regard the author as fundamentally opposed to bigotry? Would you give him unqualified praise for defending Muslims against anti-Muslim bias? Or would you file him under “the new anti-Semitism”? What we learn from Rosenbaum et. al is that if you do the same in the Arab/Muslim case, you have done nothing wrong. In fact, having done so, you’re entitled to assume the moral high ground on the subject of bigotry—because while everyone knows what “anti-Semitism” is, when it comes to Arabs, there isn’t even an accepted phrase to describe the bigotry in question. Nullum nomen, nullem nominandum: “where there is no name, there is nothing to be named.”

I’ve mentioned just a few examples here, but whatever its virtues (and there are some, as I’ve been at pains to suggest), the deficiencies I’ve described characterize the “new anti-Semitism” literature as a whole. For examples, consult Phyllis Chesler’s The New Anti-Semitism (pp. 4, 171-179, 182-185), Abraham Foxman’s Never Again: The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism (pp. 17-21), Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel (p. 210), the writings of Bat Ye’or, as well as scattered essays in Rosenbaum’s anthology, Commentary, at WorldNet.Daily, or in your local Jewish paper. The modus operandi is more or less the same: First we are informed, accurately enough, of the existence of the new anti-Semitism. Then we are told that anti-Zionism is now ubiquitously used as a cover for that anti-Semitism. From there we skate imperceptibly to the equation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. And from there we are blackmailed into accepting the equation on pain of being accused of anti-Semitism.

Nor is blackmail the least of it. The sheer incoherence of the literature is simply staggering. What do you have to do to avoid the accusation of anti-Semitism? Well, one author says that you had better not identify Israel with “the Jews”—else you’re an anti-Semite. Another author says that you had better do so—else you’re an anti-Semite. One author says that only an anti-Semite would criticize Judaism as a religion. Another says that the fight against anti-Semitism obliges us to criticize Islam…as a religion. One author says that a single-minded concern for the plight of the Palestinians is a sure sign of anti-Semitism. The next author says that lack of single-minded concern for Israel is a sure sign of Jewish self-hatred. One author tells you that “the Jews” is a problematic locution because it collectivizes Jewish identity and responsibility. The next author tells you that the failure to collectivize Jewish identity is a sure sign of anti-Zionism—which is proof of anti-Semitism.

Which is the more plausible hypothesis: (a) that the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism has “collapsed” or (b) that the term “anti-Semitism” is undergoing a process of hyper-inflation?

There is a sad irony here. In the Middle Ages, it was Jews who were accused by Christians of well-poisoning in the literal sense of that term:

When the Black Death swept through Europe in the middle of the fourteenth century, killing an estimated twenty-five million people, the rumor quickly spread that Jews were engaged in a conspiracy to infect all the Christians. Never mind that Jews were not immune from the ravages of the plague; they were tortured until they ‘confessed’ to crimes that they could not possibly have committed. In one such case, a man named Agimet was put on trial in Geneva on October 10, 1348. To spare himself further torment before his execution, Agimet was coerced to say that Rabbi Peyret of Chambery (near Geneva) had ordered him to poison the wells in Venice, Toulouse, and elsewhere. In the aftermath of Agimet’s ‘confession,’ the Jews of Strasbourg were burned alive on February 14, 1349. (P. 84 in Arthur Hertzberg and Aron Hirt-Manheimer, Jews: The Essence and Character of a People, [Harper Collins, 1998].)

So we seem to have gone from protecting Christendom by accusing Jews of poisoning literal wells to protecting the Jewish state by poisoning the discursive ones. The constant here seems to be false accusation in the name of a state, plus some connection with Jews.

I suppose we can be thankful for the progress we’ve made since 1349. And yet at some level I think those of us repeatedly on the receiving end of the “anti-Zionist =anti-Semite” slander are also entitled to a bit of displeasure. No one is going to burn us alive, true. But the slander of “anti-Semitism” associates us by implication with those who have burned others alive. I think we’re entitled to wonder why we should be obliged to accept this charge with equanimity (cf. Rosenbaum, pp. xxix-xxxii)—from people who seem to make it without trepidation.

The point is not that the charge of “anti-Semitism” should never be made: some people deserve it. Nor must it always be made with trepidation: some people obviously deserve it. Nor must anti-Zionists be thought immune to the charge: too many of them are guilty. Nor should Jews be permitted without challenge to exploit their Jewish “credentials” while pandering to Arab/Muslim anti-Semites: an Eric Alterman speaks only for himself, not for a political principle. But the equation of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism is a farce that has gone on long enough, and it’s time that those who saw through the farce said so—at length, if necessary.

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Khawaja has evidently been accused so often (or severely or recklessly) of being anti-Semitic that his patience has worn out, and so he has produced a rebutal to end all rebutals which has done nothing of the sort.

It is an impressive intellectual feat, but other than scoring high on HNN's all time table for numbers of comments and numbers of commenters, it is difficult to see what has been tangibly accomplished. Certainly the stated goals of HNN “to put events in context” and “remind us all of the complexity of history” do not appear to have been served to any significant extent.

If one accepts the standard interpretation of “anti-Semitism” to mean holding negative preconceptions about Jews, then anti-Semitism, as an “ism”, seems more straightforward than most. Unfortunately, however, since roughly 1945, most anti-Semites prefer not to admit to being such, and thus expend greater or lesser efforts to conceal their politically incorrect hatreds and biases. Analysts wishing to prove or disprove anti-Semitism nowadays are therefore forced into a vague world of innuendo, guilt by vocabularly, and hypertropic logic.

Anti-Semitism, nevertheless, looks crystal clear compared to “anti-Zionism”. To defend himself against charges of one imprecise ism, Mr. Khawaja has espoused a vastly more imprecise ism. (This is somewhat reminiscent of G.W. Bush attacking a whole country (Iraq) and turning it into a cesspool of terrorism in order to defend himself against not properly protecting a few key buildings against terrorists from a completely different set of countries on 9-11, except of course that Khawaja is expending rhetoric and logic, not America’s long term security).

Why not try concrete facts, issues, problems, statements, and history instead ?

In prior comments on this website, I have been one of the most vocal critics of the policies of Ariel Sharon during 2000-2004, but I would not dream of classifying myself as “anti-Zionist”. I do not see any meaningful connection between the rights and wrongs of Herzl,Weizman, etc. and the policies of assassination and collective punishment in the West Bank many decades later. It would be like saying I am an “anti-patriot” or criticizing George Washington, in order provide a category within which to place my extensive disagreement with the actions of George W. Bush.

Adolf Hitler was very deeply anti-Semitic, but that is not why we remember him. The genocide of millions of Jews, not his views on them, are what have led to vows of “never again”, the establishing of vast academic appartuses on Holocaust studies, etc. Ben Franklin and Richard Wagner were also publicly anti-Semitic, but stopped well short of murder, and they too are remembered for their deeds -in science, statesmanship, art, and music- not for their unsavory isms.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

"You were the one who chose to run with the assumption that it was not possible to separate someone's political position from a motivation of hatred against those who would be hurt by it."


Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Every post of yours that I read is a misrepresentation of something I said--even the ones that purport, backhandedly, to compliment me. Unfortunately, there is no way for me to correct every misrepresentation. I'm just going to have to trust that an honest, informed reader can see the differences between what I actually said and what you are putting in my mouth.

Pertaining to post 57823, WHERE did I say that 'morally culpable' is the same thing as anti-Semitic? I said the OPPOSITE--that some Germans were morally culpable for supporting Hitler but may not have been anti-Semites. Here is the sentence:

"Second, while not every German who supported Hitler was motivated by anti-Semitism, I don't think one could support Hitler without being morally culpable of something."

Do you really not see the difference between "they were morally culpable of something besides anti-Semitism" and "they were morally culpable of anti-Semitism"? Like the difference between "something" and "nothing," this is the difference between a proposition and its negation. You literally seem not to have grasped the difference between those two things.

As for animus, I think your little multiple choice quiz nearby is all the evidence I need of it.

Incidentally, the phrase "I apologize for the tedium of having to..." is self-contradictory. An apology says that the apologized-for thing wasn't necessary, and shouldn't have been done. The phrase "the tedium of having to..." implies that the tedious thing needed doing. To "apologize for the tedium of having to do something" is to say, "Sorry, but I really had to do it..."--which is not an apology but an explanation with an apologetic word prefixed to it.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Mr Clarke thinks that nothing has been accomplished here. I think something very useful has been accomplished.

I've defended a form of anti-Zionism that most of the respondents (after some struggle) have been forced to agree is NOT anti-Semitic. They simply refuse to accept that what they regard as my unique brand of anti-Zionism is really anti-Zionism.

In my view, their verdict is a consequence of the narrowness of their acquaintance with the forms of anti-Zionism, and also with anti-Zionists as individuals. I'm sure in their view, their verdict is a consequence of the eccentricity and confusedness of my idiosyncratic brand of anti-Zionism.

OK, that is a new disagreement. But it's better than the old one. From the reflexive equation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, we've now moved to a more useful question: what are the essential features of anti-Zionism? Granted that "Khawaja anti-Zionism" isn't anti-Semitic, and granted that it's different from someone else's, is it REALLY anti-Zionism? That is a question that can't even be raised if you confront nothing but the equation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

As for whether this is "history", it's not primarily political or economic or diplomatic or social history (though none of that is irrelevant). It's intellectual history. But since thoughts, ideals, goals, ideologies, etc. motivate action, it's perfectly reasonable to discuss them in a historical context.

You say you are willing to attack Sharon but wouldn't dream of calling yourself an anti-Zionist. I am much more sparing in my criticism of Israeli policy, which is a mixed bag. My point is that almost all Israeli policy, Labor, Likud or religious, is constrained by agreement on certain essentials, which are fixed by Zionist ideology. That ideology sets the terms of legitimacy in Israel, and when (like the current Attorney General), someone crosses those boundaries they are perceived by Israelis of ALL stripes as doing something vaguely problematic. The feeling is intense on the right and among the religious parties, and less intense on the left, but still present. It is only absent among anti-Zionists.

One needs to understand that to understand the overall direction of Israeli politics, and I think that is more important than Ariel Sharon's latest "outrage". There is a post-Zionist sensibility in Israel among the younger, secular, educated elite. Is this sensibility a form of anti-Zionism? Does it constitute a willingness to repudiate Zionism? If so, this demographic will go in a radically different direction than say, Benny Morris, who started out on the left but has drifted rightward.

As for concreteness, "isms" put concrete facts in perspective. In a discussion here with N Friedman, I've quoted the Israeli attorney general's moves to have the Jewish National Fund lease land to Arabs. If you want my "concrete" view, I applaud that. To be really concrete, we could start talking about how many dunams of land are involved, etc. etc.

But there is a deeper question here: is such a move a CONTINUATION of the Zionist project or does it signal its END? I think the latter, and I comfortable with the idea that the Zionist project should COME to an end in just this sort of way. Some Israelis would agree, others would not. But it makes a difference to policy whether you are carrying out a policy to carry out an old ideological commitment or to end it.

In order to discuss that topic, one has to clear the way and make it discussable. The aZ=aS equation makes that impossible, and I think I've managed to make it slightly more possible.

Of course, there have been a lot of useless threads here as well, but that's because there have been so many threads in aggregate.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

E. Simon asks where on this board I have been accused of being an anti-Semite. He asks this because unlike me, has hasn't had the burden of reading every post. But the accusation was made at the very beginning of the discussion--the first thread, at the top of the page.

N. Friedman made the claim there that anyone who calls himself an anti-Zionist bears the burden of proving that he is not an anti-Semite. Well, my article says that I am an anti-Zionist. If I bear the burden of proving that I am not one, then before I have proven that I am not one, I must BE one.

I later ended up proving to N's satisfaction that I was not an anti-Semite, but prior to that "proof", the accusation was there.

Since N offered no criteria for that proof, I had no idea when the burden would be met. (I actually have no idea how they were ultimately met, either.) And since he had dispensed with the usual criterion (the accuser has the burden of proof), it's not clear what criteria he was using. (It still isn't.) Since his exoneration of me depends on a claim that I don't accept (that IK is not an anti-Zionist), I myself can't accept his exoneration.

So however you slice it, I was accused. Whether I stand accused is more complex but I could easily imagine someone saying, "Hey, he calls himself an anti-Zionist, so let's take him at his word!" Once you take me at my word, by N Friedman's terms, there is no way for me not to be an anti-Semite.

While I'm on this subject, it's worth noting that no active, multiple-post participant in this discussion has clearly repudiated the mode of argument I discussed in my article. People were very resistant to repudiating, say, Schoenfeld's blacklist. (For that matter, no one has asked why Ron Rosenbaum, Gabriel Schoenfeld, Commentary, The Weekly Standard and the AJC go out of their way to praise Oriana Fallaci. Nor does anyone ask what the reaction would be if the tables were turned, and an Arab had said about Jews what Fallaci had said, and Arab American organizations or writers went out of their way to praise him.) To that degree, it's not so much that an accusation has been made, as that a latent accusation remains.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Derek, for a person who elsewhere "prides" himself on being a defender of the burden of proof principle, you sure are uninhibited with unsupported accusations against unnamed persons. Here we have a series of accusations from you based on nothing in the way of evidence, against no one in particular, with the insinuation that they apply to me. If you actually want to accuse me of something, have the grace and courage to make the accusation explicitly, naming names.

Never mind that in that characteristically Olympian way you have with evidence, you don't bother to address or acknowledge a single claim I made in my article. And never mind that you instantiate the very well-poisoning that I criticized (that, of course, would be "hairsplitting"). That's more or less par for the course in this debate.

But I am curious: when you actually get to the task of reading my article (if ever), I'd be interested to know your verdict on the accusation made against the 25 people in the bulleted list. Did they deserve to be called anti-Semites? Is it just OBVIOUS that Archbishop Tutu or Christopher Hitchens or Michael Lerner are more or less on par with David Irving, Josef Goebbels or Julius Streicher? Or are Tutu et al actually "worse" than anti-Semites? Are you willing to smear them all as "bigots"? You've gone half-way; why not finish the job?

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006


You lack even a minimal ability to argue in good faith--or for that matter, to argue at all. As for my being "the cutest adjunct," the more you draw attention to my being an adjunct, the more you draw attention to (a) your inability to hold your own against one, and (b) your obsession with questions of status. That redounds not to my discredit, but to yours.

I put "prides" in quotes because you used it, and my use of your use of it was ironic. Standard operating procedure. Incidentally, even if my grammar had been off, that wouldn't change the substantive point I was making--a point you've managed to evade with remarkable persistence.

If we really are to belabor matters of grammar and punctuation, we may as well remember that on a previous thread (the one about Weiner and Princeton), you managed to butcher my name over and over, misspelling it in each iteration more comically than in the previous one. I didn't correct you then, because I don't find pedantry a useful mode of discourse. Since I see that you do find it useful, I bring it up now with the following question: could all of your previous posts be invalidated by your spelling errors? If not, ask yourself why you're harping so triumphantly over trivia like the placement of quotation marks.

You described anti-Zionists as bigots. I described myself as an anti-Zionist. A little bit of intro-level logic would tell you that whatever you took yourself to be discussing, as a matter of logic, your accusation applies to me. If all a-Z are bigots, then if X is a-Z, X is a bigot. Has anyone ever taught you elementary logic? Someone should. I teach it, and you can enroll in my class, if you like. I think you'll enjoy it--if you don't mind being taught by an adjunct.

I am very glad to see you know so much about Bishop Tutu. Put your thinking cap on for just a moment, and you'll see that the question was not about the quality or quantity of your scholarship on South Africa. You will also see that the list I drew up in the article was not mine but Gabriel Schoenfeld's. When you're in a mental state conducive to figuring all this out, you'll see that the question I posed in the article is: regardless of whether Tutu is WRONG, is he an ANTI-SEMITE?

Schoenfeld is not merely saying the former; he's saying the latter. My article was not about the former, either, but about the latter. One needn't be an expert on South Africa or Tutu to discern any of this. If you think expertise on South Africa is required to see it, you might condescend to explain why.

Incidentally, if we are talking about anti-Semitism, we are ipso facto talking about Goebbels, since he was a paradigm example of an anti-Semite. So when one accuses Tutu of anti-Semitism, one ipso facto compares him, along some relevant dimension, to every anti-Semite--especially the paradigm examples, and including Goebbels. If you have an argument to make on this subject, feel free make it.

As a final, parting thought: In our last discussion (re Weiner and Princeton), you were quite adamant that "anecdotal evidence" doesn't cut it as REAL evidence. So could you explain: what is your evidence for the claim that anti-Zionists are bigots? Anecdotal? Sub-anecdotal? Mystical revelation? Or is it the sort of thing that doesn't require evidence, since it comes with the overwhelming authority of Professor Catsam?

I hate to tell you this, but there is a difference between pedantry, pomposity, and self-importance (on the one hand) and the capacity for cogent argument (on the other). We can all see that you've mastered the first set of skills, but what about the second? Surely there's more to that impressive professorial title of yours than the hot air you've so far produced....?

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006


I see that there are lots of posts there that I have yet to respond to, and I may not get to them all. (Alas, we adjuncts tend to have such large teaching loads....)

But the crux of your criticism is that my form of anti-Zionism is so eccentric that it doesn't count as anti-Zionism at all.

You're right that my views are very different from those of most anti-Zionists. I haven't met many anti-Zionists who are willing (as I've been, in public) to defend Israel's actions at Jenin in the spring of 2002. Most anti-Zionists defend the Palestinian right of return; I reject it. Most anti-Zionists want a Palestinian state; I don't. Most anti-Zionists want divestment from Israel; I don't absolutely say "no" to that, but I am sufficiently skeptical as to be close to a "no." I am adamant (for instance) that Pakistan MUST accept Israel's right to exist, and I find it embarrassing that Pakistan, of all countries, does not accept it. (I have a self-interested reason, too: how can I combine a trip to Israel and Pakistan if I can't enter Pakistan with an Israeli visa stamp?) On many security issues, my views are to the "right" of many Labor-voting Israelis.

But to call my position incoherent begs the question. You're simply assuming that the eccentricity of my form of anti-Zionism implies that I'm not one. No, it merely implies that there are reasonable and unreasonable ways of holding the anti-Zionist position (as there are of any position), and that today's anti-Zionists have taken anti-Zionism in an unreasonable, indefensible direction.

But not all. The position I hold is similar to that held by the late Charles Issawi of Princeton, an erstwhile professor of mine, and by Christopher Hitchens, the journalist. (I'm not saying that our views are identical, merely that they're similar.) The target of my form of anti-Zionism is less Israel the country (which has a mixed record) than Zionism the nationalist ideology (which is false--like most nationalist ideologies). I have no particular animus for Israel, but I am adamantly opposed to nationalist ideologies based on religio-ethnic identity. Zionism is one example, but only one.

It is worth noting that Bernard Lewis, in his book "Semites and Anti-Semites" as well as in his essay in Rosenbaum's book, goes out of his way to reject the equation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, as does the journalist Jonathan Freedland, also in Rosenbaum's book. Both authors are staunch defenders of Israel, but both accept the point I'm making. Lewis, as far as I'm concerned, is THE expert on this subject. If he can distinguish anti-Z from anti-S, my view can't so easily be dismissed as an eccentric view by some eccentric guy from nowhere. The question to ask is: why would a Bernard Lewis reject the equation if the two things were so obviously the same? Why would he go out of his way to do so in a book about Arab/Muslim anti-Semitism? My answer: because there is a distinction to be made, and it is vital to make it.

I would go so far as to say that the so-called "post Zionist" sensibility in Israel--espoused by many sensible Israelis who would hardly surrender their country without a fight--is really anti-Zionism by another name. That is why I find the equation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism so incredibly idiotic. If the two were equated, large numbers of Israelis would have to qualify as anti-Semites.

There are many variants of this post-Zionist view, but one sensible version of it holds that one can be an anti-Zionist about Israel's past while maintaining (i.e., defending) its right to exist now. On questions of security, there can be no compromise, but security aside, post-Zionist Israelis are slowly, peacefully dismantling the specifically Zionist features of Israel. What I find inspiring about this is that it is a good example for what Islamic countries might do, if they can bring themselves to emulate Israel.

In my view, the Attorney General's radical surgery on the JNF is pure anti-Zionism. He may not call it that, but the Israeli Right does call it that, and they are 100% correct to do so. Many Israelis sympathize with the AG's move, and I sympathize with them. The difference lies with the diagnosis. They refuse to call themselves anti-Zionists. I call them that, because like or not, that's what they are. The only reason they refuse to use "anti Zionism" is that the term has been hijacked by anti-Semites and people with otherwise disreputable views. But I am not convinced that the concept or the term must be surrendered to such people, and thus refuse to let it go.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

I reject the idea that "Israel is the Zionist project." It may sound counter-intuitive, but the two things can be distinguished, and many Israelis have begun to distinguish them. Israel is a nation which, in its current form, meets the criteria of legitimacy and can preserve its existence by any normally-justifiable method. Zionism is a nationalist ideology based on ethno-religious identity. The two things are not the same, and Israel can survive in a post-Zionist (or non-Zionist) form.

Many of Israel's governmental institutions are just normal state institutions with no essential connection to Zionism: the IDF, Shin Bet, the Knesset, the civil courts, etc. But its specifically Zionist institutions have to be put into a different category: the ILA, the settlements, the religious component of the marriage laws, the religious courts, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, etc. Many Israelis themselves are coming to oppose the existence of the institutions in the second category. Their opposition, in my view, is anti-Zionist.

As I've said, an analogous thesis can be maintained about Pakistan. Some Pakistanis, like some Israelis, equate the nation with the false ideology on which it was founded. It's the same mistake, and it calls for the same remedy.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006


You are systematically misreading what I wrote.

On "anti-Zionist", I've explained myself elsewhere, and your argument is a classic example of the fallacy of begging the question. You are simply assuming, over and over, what you need to demonstrate.

On "anti-Semite," I did not say that "anti-Semitism" is defined by its paradigms. The point I am making is really a matter of elementary logic, and I really am astonished at your inability as well as Catsam's to grasp the point.

If you predicate a term, whatever it is, of two individuals, whoever they are, then the two individuals are similar in respect of the term predicated of them. If this apple is red, and that apple is red, it simply does not matter how many shades of red there are; the two apples are similar in a certain respect.

If you describe two people as "anti-Semites", it does not matter AT ALL how many kinds of anti-Semitism there are. In some relevant respect, as anti-Semites, the two individuals resemble one another. There would be no point in predicating the SAME thing of them if the two individuals did not RESEMBLE one another.

Yes, Nazism is one variant of anti-Semitism. There are other variants. But if both Tutu and Goebbels are described as "anti-Semites," regardless of the variation between them, the same property is being ascribed to both, and that is what I was challenging. The similarity transcends any differences--hence the use of the same term. In what respect are Tutu and Goebbels the same, in reality? The answer is: in none. But Schoenfeld is committed to saying: in some. And I would like to know--I would like Derek Catsam to explain to me--what it is.

Here's the general point illustrated on examples: Fascism and communism are both different forms of "totalitarianism"; but regardless of variations, they are both the same in that respect. Serengeti lions and Ngorongoro lions are different subspecies of lion, but as lions, they are the same. MacIntosh apples and delicious apples differ, but as apples they are the same.

This doesn't mean that they are the same in every respect, but they must be the same in some relevant and essential respect--or else there would be no point in describing them the same way, using the same term. I don't know how to make this clear point any clearer.

As for BHL, nothing in that passage is really relevant to this discussion, much less to Derek Catsam's ranting. Daniel Pearl was killed because his captors were anti-Semites and murderers. But for that very reason, to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is to describe anti-Zionists as on par (in some relevant respect) to Pearl's killers. It is not necessarily to describe anti-Zionists as killers, but to describe them as expressing the same hatred as killers. That is what I refuse to accept. It is also a claim that Catsam has made with not one iota of evidence or argument to back up his claims.

Incidentally, I regard BHL's book as a pathetic specimen of reporting, and BHL himself as the paradigm of a fuzzy thinker who dogmatically refuses to deal in a straightforward way to objections to his book. I've not only read the book, but written about it right here at HNN, amplifying criticisms made by the journalist William Dalrymple. I found BHL's response (to Dalrymple) lame--kind of reminiscent of Derek Catsam, actually.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Here is my article on BHL:


Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Let me for now simply address the first three paragraphs of your post.

You admit forthrightly that there is a distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. To admit that is to concede the whole point of my article. You then ride roughshod over this concession by saying that while there is such a distinction, we can "in practice" ignore it.

It certainly is possible to make a reasonable case for who is and isn't an anti-Semite. It isn't reasonable, however, to admit that anti-Zionism isn't ipso facto anti-Semitism--and then to turn around and say, "Well, even so, for practical purposes, let's act as though it was."

If there is a distinction between a-Z and a-S, as you yourself admit, there is no reason whatsoever for advocates of a-Z to labor under the burden of proof you describe. What you are literally demanding is that you should have the right gratuitously to insult us; meanwhile, we should accept such insults with perfect equanimity and then labor to prove, in a spirit of charity, that we don't deserve to be insulted. This is not a legitimate approach to argument in any domain of discussion, much less in one where the accusation in question has the effect of destroying someone's reputation. The premise seems to be: "I have the right to make false accusations and destroy reputations because you never know--the accusation could turn out to be right!" That's pretty weak tea.

It's ALWAYS the accuser who has the burden of proof, not the defender against a charge. Once you evade that principle, what you get is the sort of free-for-all I ascribed to Schoenfeld in the article. Would it be obligatory for the 25 people in my bulleted list to prove that they are not anti-Semites, simply because Gabriel Schoenfeld has arrogated to himself the right to make unfounded accusations against them? Like it or not, that is what you're defending.

But there are no limits to unfounded accusations. If we can so blithely equate anti-Z with anti-S, why not equate stringent criticism of Israel with anti-Z? Sure, they aren't identical; but then, neither are anti-Z and anti-S. If we simply proceed on the assumption that "lots of anti-Z and are anti-S," it also happens to be true that lots of critics of Israel are anti-Semites. The principle here is, "So long as there are a sufficent number of anti-Israeli anti-Semites, any critic of Israel is fair game for the accusation of anti-Semitism. And if they aren't an anti-Semite, well, no problem, they'll be able to prove their innocence quickly enough!" And if they can't?

Anyway, if we're going to apply this principle, why stop with Israel and Zionism? Apply the same principle to everyday life. Lots of lawyers are liars. Why not equate "lawyer" with "liar"? Lots of academics are arrogant. Why not equate academia with arrogance? Lots of bond traders are greedy. Why not equate bond trading with greed? Lots of cab drivers are obnoxious. Why not equate cab driving with obnoxiousness? The principle here is: "Make adverse moral judgments on the basis of stereotypes."

Once you follow out the logical consequences of this principle, you'll begin to see that it has the ludicrous result of contributing to...anti-Semitism.

After all, if it's "OK" to equate anti-Zionists with anti-Semites on the basis of stereotypes, it's "OK" to equate Jews with whatever stereotypes people have of them. At this point, in walks the anti-Semitic lunatic who says, "Well, LOTS of Jews are bankers...there are LOTS of Jews in the media...Jews are OVERrepresented in academia and law...therefore Jews tend to be greedy, argumentative ideologues in control of the media..." blah blah blah.

There's only one way out of this trap, and that's to say that it's NOT "OK" in either case. Which was my point.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Sandor's question strikes me as stunning in its ability to miss my point. In case you haven't figured this out, the person saying that Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan should go out of existence as Islamic states is ME! I am, after all, the Executive Director of an organization dedicated to making their non-existence a reality.

But I'm beginning to see that saying something once is never enough in this debate, so I'll say it again, more explicitly than I did in the article, increasing the volume for the hard-of-hearing:

In the case of Saudi Arabia, my view is that the country should never have come into existence, and has NO right to exist. The kings have NO right to govern; their regime has NO right to control the oil. It would be morally legitimate to DESTROY the regime and simply start over.

I would not go quite as far in the case of Pakistan. I would say that Pakistan should never have come into existence; the partition of India was a mistake. But we can distinguish those aspects of the Pakistani regime that are secular and legitimate features of any government, and those which are specifically Islamic (sharia, hudud, institutions flowing from that). The proper course here is to make the distinction, encourage institutions in the first group, and abolish institutions in the second. I would call this "de-Islamization."

In the case of Israel, there is no need to go nearly as far as Pakistan. I would say that the partition of Palestine was a mistake. But that is a historical judgment. As for current policy, there are two distinctions to make: those pertaining to Israel proper and those pertaining to the territories.

In the first category, Israel needs a milder analogue of what I said about Pakistan. That would mean the abolition of certain specifically Zionist institutions like the Jewish National Fund. It would also involve pushing back the influence of organized religion over personal life via law. But all things considered, many Israeli government institutions are more or less fine as they are. They're just secular, legitimate institutions that any government needs, e.g., the IDF, the courts, the Knesset, etc. etc.

Something more radical would be required for the territories. What exactly that would be, I don't pretend to know, but I would say that Israeli policy in the territories is systematically wrong (in the sense of counterproductive to Israel's interests) and unjust (to the Palestinians).

I don't take "anti-Zionism" to be the claim that Israel should be overthrown or that the core functions of its government have no right to exist. Saudi Arabia has no right to exist, but now that it's here, Israel does and I would grudgingly admit that even Pakistan does.

I take "anti-Zionism" to be a partly ideological and partly historical claim: the Zionist way of conceptualizing "the Jewish problem" was wrong, and the idea of partitioning Palestine as a solution to that problem was a mistake. Incidentally, I would say exactly the same thing about Pakistan: the Muslim League's way of conceptualizing the Muslim minority problem in India was wrong, and the idea of partitioning India was a bad one. (In fact, the most ridiculous irony of all is that while Pakistan doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist, all of the arguments for Pakistan's existence are analogues of the Israeli ones.)

But there is no direct line to be drawn from anti-Zionism conceived that way to contemporary policy, as I've tried to explain. Incidentally, it is the people who equate anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism who have managed to confuse this issue as badly as it's now confused. Having habitually equated anti-Zionism with suicide bombers and Nazis, they've lost any sense that anti-Zionism could mean something else, and the minute that someone tries to explain what the "something else" could be, he's met with the challenge that he has to prove he's not an anti-Semite before he says another word. Well, the proof is in the pudding, and nothing I've said is anti-Semitic.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006


Almost nothing you say here has any relevance to anything in my article. My article disputes the equation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Your post doesn't deal with my claims; it just offers up a series of irrelevant cliches.

You agree with Ozick on the "eight decades" claim. But you don't go any further than her in bearing it out, and I'm not clear why your sheer assertion of it should constitute a proof.

Your second paragraph says that Arab/Muslim countries have anti-Semitic policies. True. How does this prove that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism?

You say that we should make no distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism because anti-Semites make no such distinction. Well, I don't think we should be accepting or replicating the intellectual standards of anti-Semites.

You say that anti-Zionists claim Jews, alone among nations, are not entitled to a state in their own homeland. For a fuller answer to this, see my response to Sandor Lopescu nearby. For now, let me simply express the thought that you seem to have concocted this boilerplate without bothering to read my article--because there is no conceivable way of reading my article and concluding that I regard Israel or Zionism as unique phenomena. I explicitly said just the reverse.

But just to be as explicit as possible: As a person of Pakistani descent, my claim is that the idea of a PAKISTANI homeland was a colossal mistake. (What to do with this mistake is a separate issue in the case of Pakistan, as it is in the case of Israel.) So I can hardly be accused of double-standards. That was the whole point of my response to Shalom Lappin in the article.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

"No one questions the right of Egypt or Syria to exist?" Really? What I said to Sandor Lopescu applies as much to Egypt and Syria as to any of the other countries I mentioned.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

I can't even figure out what you're trying to say here. I never heard of Israel Shamir before, but I'll take your word for it on his anti-Semitism. The link to the US dollar with the Star of David on it is anti-Semitic, yes.

What has either thing to do with EI? Are you saying that the people who run EI are anti-Semites? And even if they were, how would this prove that all anti-Zionists are anti-Semites?

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006


I think the most appropriate way to respond to that is to offer you the following thought-experiment: Imagine that a bunch of people began to equate anti-liberalism with anti-humanity. If you are against liberalism, they say, you are against people; liberalism and humanity are just the same, "by definition". Obviously, conservatism is anti-liberal. So, by definition, conservatism is anti-human.

As a conservative, you might protest that the accusation was unfair; "Golly," you might say, "but I kinda LIKE people".

Imagine that the consistent response was: No. "In order to like people, you HAVE to be a liberal, and that's all there is to it."

To prove this, you hear the following: "Look at Mussolini. He was an anti-liberal. And he was anti-human! Look at Hitler. He was an anti-liberal. HE was anti-human!" After a long list of this type, they get to Bill Heuisler, and of course the same logic applies. BH is a conservative, therefore anti-liberal, therefore anti-human.

Whose obligation would it be in this context to define the term "liberal"? And whose obligation would it be to come up with evidence for the initial equation? Not Bill Heuisler's. That is the point of my article--which you're missing.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Which fallacies does E. Simon's quiz commit?

a) False alternative.
b) Begging the question.
c) Poisoning the well.
d) All of the above.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

I reject Wittgenstein's game-claim. Here is a definition of "game": "A game is a form of recreation, constituted by a set of rules that specify an object to be attained the permissible means of attaining it." That definition covers both baseball and 20 questions, as well as anything that counts as a game. The refutation of Wittgenstein on that point as well as that particular definition are in David Kelley's logic textbook, "The Art of Reasoning," (Norton) in the chapter on definitions.

Anyway, even Wittgenstein would concede that there is often a family resemblance between individuals of which a term is predicated. That may end up...resembling my view. But the bottom line is that I regard Wittgenstein as basically wrong on this. My own views come from Ayn Rand.

BHL's errors are not "minor." They're large and ubiquitous. Dalrymple discusses them in some detail. (The link is at the bottom of my article.) One necessary condition of offering a portrait of an ideological movement is that you have a minimal grasp of what you are talking about. He doesn't.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Right. One "could" do all those things. The trouble is, I'm not doing any of them, and a "could" is not evidence of an "is." You needn't trouble yourself with more examples; the point is clear enough. Offensively clear, to paraphrase Nietzsche.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

That's a "compliment" I'm going to have to return to sender. My campus is not particularly anti-Israel or anti-Zionist. At any rate, I don't formulate my views with a view to what others think of it. I've defended Israel to its critics and attacked Zionism to its defenders. If I were really all that worried about what academics thought of me, I wouldn't have been so vocal in defense of the Iraq war--surely a bigger sin on campus than being a Zionist.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

There is almost no point in replying to someone so blinded by animus that he willfully refuses to grasp one's point, but banking on the "almost," I'll say this:

First of all, there is a cottage industry of scholarship on the question you've raised (two people in my very small department work on it), so it's hardly a "minor academic point."

Second, while not every German who supported Hitler was motivated by anti-Semitism, I don't think one could support Hitler without being morally culpable of something. By contrast, my point in the article was that one can be an anti-Zionist without being morally culpable of anything. It may surprise you to learn that there is a difference between "something" and "nothing." But there is. And your analogy founders on that small difference.

Finally, I haven't said that everyone defending Israel is poisoning the well. Not all defenses of Israel require that the defender hurl an accusation of anti-Semitism, much less an unfounded one. What I said was that it's the equation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism that poisons the well. The difference between those two things is not a terribly complex one, and I find it hard to believe that a person could in good faith read what I wrote and confuse them.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

I don't think it's an error. I simply don't accept the idea that "Jew" can denote an ethnic group.

Either "ethnicity" is a racial-biological concept, or it is a matter of belief, practice and conviction.

If it's the latter, it simply reduces to religion. In this belief-practice sense, Jews have nothing in common but religion or a shared history tied to that religion. They don't speak the same languages, don't belong to the same social classes, don't live in the same locations or in the same countries, don't have the same occupations, etc. Religion aside, there is just variation and difference.

But it can't be the former. There is no such thing as a "racial-biological" Jew. There is no Jewish phenotype or genotype. There is no "way" Jews look or act that has biological roots, and no gene for "Jewishness". At the very most, one might say that a subgroup of Ashkenazi Jews share certain propensities for certain heritable conditions (e.g. Tay-Sachs disease). But that is just a medical fact with no larger consequences, and it doesn't even apply to all Jews.

If being Jewish is not a matter of belief-practice and not a matter of race, and not a matter of the usual sociological or anthropological categories (class, language, etc.) there is nothing left for it to be.

And I would insist it's a matter of self-conscious religious belief. If you believe, and meet the relevant religious criteria, you're Jewish; if not, not.

I simply fail to see how a person born in a Jewish family who renounces the faith is in any intelligible sense Jewish. The philosopher Ayn Rand was born in a Jewish family in Russia in 1905. She became an atheist at age 12 and stayed one thereafter. There is no sense in which she was Jewish at that point.

The philosopher Mortimer Adler was born in a Jewish family but converted to Catholicism. He wasn't a Jew after that (and vehemently insisted that he wasn't).

I'm not Jewish. Suppose my spouse is Jewish in the sense of being the daughter of a Jewish couple, and we have a daughter in turn. Is the daughter Jewish simply because my spouse's parents are? I don't see how.

Suppose that our home life is in no sense Jewish (i.e. in the religious sense), and the daughter herself becomes...a Hindu. She certainly can't be Jewish in the religious sense if she is a Hindu. But there is no other sense in which she can be one.

Suppose the daughter marries another Hindu. It just isn't plausible to think that THEIR children are Jewish because my spouse's parents were.

I can (just barely) accept the idea that people can be Jewish in the sense of engaging in Jewish practice without the belief. If a person of that description identifies with Jewish history, I can understand it. If that is what you mean by "ethnicity," I accept the phenomenon but not the term. I simply regard that as a form of religious or maybe cultural observance.

But if by ethnicity you literally mean something akin to a race in the biological sense, I would say there is no such thing.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006


You've hit on the crux of the matter, and it applies much more to Saudi Arabia than to Israel or any other country. It is not "Khawaja" who is, out of the blue, telling the poor Saudis what to do. In saying that, you are minimizing who they are, what they do, and how the US has allowed them to do it.

It is not merely that there is "little" to admire in the Saudi state. It is that the Saudi state is EVIL. You describe part of this, but you then inexplicably claim that Saudis have the "right" to perpetuate it. What right? The right to enslave? The right to steal? The right to rape and murder? The right to support terrorists? For that matter, the right to support groups that want to overthrow Israel?

There are no such rights. But this is what the entire Saudi regime is based on. There is NOTHING MORE to their regime than that. It is nothing BUT a criminal enterprise.

It is not merely that I happen "not to like" the Saudi regime. I probably can't convey the intensity of my loathing for it in words. But to describe it as mere "dislike" is to trivialize its nature, and also to ignore its influence on our lives.

For one thing, the Saudi regime is supported by your tax dollars and mine. They get AWACS, F-16s, the best weapons, etc. straight from us. The day that their regime goes under, all those guns will be pointed at us (and at Israel).

For another, the Saudis have instant access to EVERYTHING and EVERYONE in Washington DC.--as well as corporate boards--as well as universities--as well as mosques--as well as to prisons. From Chevron to your local Wahhabi mosque to the Wahhabi cleric at the county lock-up, scratch a bit and you will find Saudi influence in the weirdest places.

And then there is the oil. What did the Saudis do to earn control of that oil? Nothing. They sat on it for millenia until Americans dug it out of the ground for them. Then they nationalized it and used it against us in 1973. And given our oil dependence, they could use it against us at any time. Think of the oil shocks of 1973 or 1979 or 1990. Now multiply them by the biggest factor you can think of. That's the kind of power they have over us.

The regime you merely "disapprove" of has you by the throat. If you think that your disapproval is going to induce them to let go, you're mistaken.

Finally: I am not a believing Muslim, but as one Muslim recently put it to me, "People talk about occupied Jerusalem. Who cares? What about occupied Mecca and Medina?" I disapprove of the way the Israelis run East Jerusalem. But I disapprove even more of the hypocrisy of Muslims who care more about that than the Saudis' totalitarian control over Mecca and Medina. These are the holiest shrines in the religion, and they're presided over by a bunch of aging sybaritic bigots--bigoted not only against other religions, but against their co-religionists. That is not something that merely affects the Saudis. They are the one who have claimed control over what should be international shrines for all Muslims. But that isn't what they are. They control access for their own politico-economic reasons. That's not an internal matter but an international one.

Enough said. I don't put Israel and Saudi Arabia in the same category. But if we support Israel by foreign aid, we have some say over Israeli policies. And as a critic, anyone should feel free to judge any country's institutions, even if, as in the Saudi case, his verdict is, "Overthrow them."

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

No, there's no organized movement to destroy Egypt, though there is a healthy movement to try to secularize and liberalize it.

If you mean that there is a hypocritical difference between attitudes toward Egypt and those toward Israel, I don't disagree. Such hypocrisy exists and is reprehensible. But I am not advocating the destruction of Israel, and I don't think I've adopted any double-standards about Egypt, either. So I'm not guilty of the relevant hypocrisy. I can't answer for the hypocrisies of other anti-Zionists. But I don't think I need to.

My claim is not that "Egypt should have no right to exist." (Nor is it that "Israel has no right to exist." The only country whose right-to-exist I've disputed is Saudi Arabia.) I would put Egypt in the same category as Pakistan. What Egypt lacks is a right to exist *as an ethno-religious state*, i.e., those parts of the state that institutionalize Arab Islam have no right to exist.

As to consistent criteria, that's actually very easy, and I would defy you to show me where my criteria are applied inconsistently.

The criteria are those of a Lockean liberal state--a secular constitutional republic with powers strictly limited to the protection of individual negative rights. Negative rights are rights to free action--life, liberty, property, contract. A state limited to protecting those rights has no business describing itself as a Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Hindu state. It's a state of its citizens, no more and no less.

A state is legitimate to the extent that it instantiates the principles I've just described, and illegitimate to the extent that it departs from them.

If EVERY feature of a regime departs SIGNIFICANTLY from those criteria, that regime should be destroyed. In my view, Saudi Arabia fits this description. (Israel does NOT.)

But if (1) a regime's major institutions depart from those criteria, those particular institutions are illegitimate. But (2) if illegitimate institutions define the very identity of the state, the state is itself illegitimate. Pakistan definitely falls into category (2), Israel probably into category (1).

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Well, we are certainly making progress. I'd rather be called "confused" than an anti-Semite, but I don't think I'm either.

To answer your latter question, "Can one say that about any other country?" Yes--Pakistan. The Muslims of the Indian subcontinent defined themselves both as a nation and as a religious community. Like the Zionists, the Muslim League was at first a largely secular movement, and its first leader, Jinnah, was a non-believer who ate pork and drank alcohol--contrary to Muslim religious practice. He also married a non-Muslim. One of his most famous statements was that Pakistan was a nation of all its citizens. "Religion is not the business of the state," he said.

Unfortunately, Jinnah was as confused as Ben Gurion--and, I think, as you. Just as it makes no sense for an atheist to describe himself as a Jew, much less to found a Jewish state, it made no sense for Jinnah to play games with "Islam as a nation" and "Islam as a religion"--to found a religious state that was secular, etc. A Lockean state is based on rights and citizenship, not ethnicity OR religion.

And just as Jinnah gave way to hard-core religious leaders (like Zia ul Haq), so Ben Gurion gave way to similar leaders (like Begin and Shamir). The original Muslim League was supposedly secular; today's Muslim League isn't. So it is with Israel's political parties. The problem of the ultra-orthodox in Israel is parallel to the problem of the ulema in Pakistan. It's an unavoidable feature of an ethno-religious state, no matter what semantic games you play.

As for Lockean principles, I don't see how to reconcile them with, say, the principles and policies of the Jewish National Fund--which has been central to Zionism for more than 100 years.

Here is an item from the March 13 issue of "Israel Today". It describes two things: (a) how Zionist principles are flatly incompatible with Lockean liberalism, and (b) the proper form that anti-Zionism should take.

Jewish National Fund now available to Arabs

Israel’s Attorney General Menachem Mazuz set off a storm of controversy by ruling that state land owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) can be sold to Israeli Arabs and not exclusively to Jews, as was the case until now. The JNF owns 13 percent of Israel’s state land.

It is an astonishing decision because the JNF was established in 1901 to buy properties in Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel) for the creation of a Jewish homeland. The money came from Jewish donors in the Diaspora. However, Mazuz ruled that selling property only to Jews was discriminatory and unconstitutional. The decision is problematic because it negates the concept of a Jewish homeland, and reverses Israel’s national and legal possession of the Land over the past century.

While Israeli Arabs are indeed citizens, they sympathize with the Palestinian cause and could be used as tools for pan-Arab national goals. Wealthy Arab states and the Palestinians will likely seize this as an opportunity to grab territory and weaken Israel’s control over the Land.

There is no equivalent of the JNF in Israeli Arab or Palestinian towns and villages, but they have regulations that are quite similar to the original JNF charter. In these Arab areas, there is a law prohibiting the sale of property to Jews. On both sides there is a fear that each will lose precious land to the other.

Criticism and Praise
The attorney general’s decision sparked outrage on the right of the political spectrum. “The attorney general does not have the right to violate the principles upon which Israel was founded and give preference to the democratic character of the state over its Jewish character,” said parliamentarian Arieh Eldad of the National Union party. “This decision is leading to a bi-national state.”

Moshe Kachlon, an official in the ruling Likud party, is trying to muster support to block the decision, saying that it will lead to the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. Others say that the state of Israel has no right to decide since JNF properties belong to the Jewish people and not to the state.

By contrast, the liberal left wing praised the decision as historic. “Finally the Arab citizens of Israel have received justice,” said Knesset Member Ran Cohen of the Meretz party. “The Declaration of Independence clearly states that Israel will treat all its citizens equally, including Arabs.”

JNF chairman Yehiel Leket categorically rejected the charges of discrimination. “The state of Israel is still fighting for its right to exist, including the right to retain its Jewish character, which is ever more disputed,” he said. According to a JNF poll, more than 70 percent of Israeli Jews object to allocating state lands to Arabs.

220 Million Trees
Thanks to JNF donations from around the world during the past 100 years, over 220 million trees have been planted on about 200,000 acres across Israel. Each year, more than 4,900 acres of forest are planted with new seedlings.

The JNF has played a major role in the beautification and reforestation of the Land in just a century. By contrast, the Arabs did nothing with the Land and left it a desolate backwater for the nearly two millennia of Jewish exile. (The Arabs first came to the Land in the 7th century.)

The JNF has been funded mainly by Jewish donors, but in recent years, Christian friends of Israel have been donating in greater numbers. This underscores the covenant between the state of Israel and Bible-believing Christians, who are playing an increasing role in the restoration of the Land.



The right-wingers are correct: the Attorney General's decision IS a violation of Zionist principles, and it WILL eventually lead to ending Israel's character as a Jewish state.

But the left-wingers are correct in a deeper sense: the decision is a victory for justice. What I am not sure that the left-wingers see (or if they see it, they can't say it) is that this victory for justice comes at the expense of Zionism. It is a victory for Israel and its citizens, but a defeat for Zionism.

A Lockean liberal would go farther than the left, however: the root problem is that the State of Israel owns so much land. That ought to be the next thing to tackle. But the Israeli left is on the right (i.e., correct) track, at least as far as it's gone.

I have written in a different context of the so-far failed attempts in Pakistan to bring the religious authorities under the rule of law, but I see it as part of the same struggle as the one about the JNF:


Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

One: Because they violate rights. If governments exist to protect rights, and a government doesn't protect but rather violates them, it has no raison d'etre. As witness Baathist Iraq (which existed for decades) and Taliban Afghanistan (which existed for years), which thankfully went out of existence.

Two: Negative rights. Does a country respect them or systematically violate them? I've already answered this question before.

Three: If a country deserves to go out of existence, then once it does, the non-criminal people living there can finally enjoy their rights. Meanwhile the criminals can be put on trial. As witness Iraq.

To reiterate what I've said several times now, I do not think that Israel 'should go out of existence' nor do I think anti-Zionism requires this. But I am glad that Iraq and Afghanistan did cease to exist, and I would be very pleased if Saudi Arabia did.

Four: I find this a confused question. The question only makes sense if you specify the time-period you're referring to.

As a contemporary claim, now that Israel exists, I am not saying that its citizens within the 1948-9 boundaries have to go anywhere. So the fact that they have 'nowhere to go' is irrelevant. I have never even remotely suggested that they had to move. (In fact, what I explicitly suggested was that Palestinians had no right to move BACK.)

As a historical claim, I would say that it was a mistake to try to create a Jewish majority state in a place where the majority population wasn't Jewish. This should have been clear by the time of the Balfour Declaration. Instead of clamoring for Israel, it would have made more sense to immigrate to the US.

By 1924, immigration to the US was heavily restricted. But so was immigration to Mandate Palestine. So there was a question of priorities to be raised, and I think the Zionists got the priorities wrong. Instead of insisting that Jews "return to their homeland" against the wishes of Arabs, it made far more sense to try to get the US to reverse its immigration policies against the wishes of Americans. This remained true between 1924 and say the late 1930s.

By the early 1940s, the (coming) Holocaust made it imperative for Jews to immigrate wherever they could manage to go. So if the US wasn't an option, Palestine was all that was left. Fair enough--as regards immigration. But as regards sovereignty, this doesn't change the fact that it STILL made no sense to create a Jewish majority state in an Arab majority place. As Benny Morris has argued, there was no way to create such a state without expulsion of the Arab population.

By the time we get to 1947-48, we reach a situation so morally confused that I have nothing to say about it except that almost every party, Arabs and Zionists included, was somehow in the wrong.

Incidentally, omitted in your claim of 'Palestinians promising a bloodbath' is that the Zionists also promised and delivered on bloodbaths in 1947-48, so that the Arab fear of Israel had a perfectly rational foundation.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

I defined what I meant by anti-Zionism in a different place:

I don't take "anti-Zionism" to be the claim that Israel should be overthrown or that the core functions of its government have no right to exist. Saudi Arabia has no right to exist, but now that it's here, Israel does and I would grudgingly admit that even Pakistan does.

I take "anti-Zionism" to be a partly ideological and partly historical claim: the Zionist way of conceptualizing "the Jewish problem" was wrong, and the idea of partitioning Palestine as a solution to that problem was a mistake. Incidentally, I would say exactly the same thing about Pakistan: the Muslim League's way of conceptualizing the Muslim minority problem in India was wrong, and the idea of partitioning India was a bad one.

I personally do not and cannot think of issues in terms of "being against Semites" or "aggrandising Semites".

The point you made about "expanding the definition of liberal to include everyone" is exactly the point I was making in my article. The term "anti-Semitism" has now expanded so that it can include anyone.

It is, incidentally, more than a little odd that I am being asked to offer my definitions of various terms when no one has bothered to make this demand of the people making the anti-Zionist = anti-Semite equation. They are the ones on MAKING the accusation, while I am on the receiving end of it. So apparently one can make an accusation without defining one's terms; but if one is on the receiving end of an accusation, one is obliged to define the terms...of one's accuser! Anyone willing to accept this principle as a general proposition?

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

OK, it took me a while to unravel the connection between the dollar sign/Star of David link and EI, but I see that the credit for the link is "Nigel Parry," and he turns out to be a principal of EI. So I agree; that is anti-Semitic, and EI is guilty of it. It doesn't prove that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic, but it proves that EI tolerates anti-Semitism, and should be treated accordingly. If you have a link that goes to EI itself, I'd appreciate it.

I have addressed the issues you raise in the middle paragraphs of your posts in several threads elsewhere (with N. Friedman), so I won't repeat them here.

You allude several times to the idea of "playing with the lives of over five million actual human beings." In saying this, you simply ignore the several million "actual human beings" in the territories who are the victims of Zionism. Their rights are systematically violated on a daily basis, and have been for several decades: the question of "destruction" applies to them not hypothetically but actually. Their rights do not seem to play any role whatsoever in anything you have so far written in this discussion. They do in mine.

So I don't see myself as "playing" with anyone's life. I see myself as defending Palestinian rights in a context where people feel free to act as though Palestinians don't exist. But they do, and their claims have to be given weight. Part of giving them due weight is locating the responsibility for their predicament. Zionism is part of the explanation, and it has to get part of the blame.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

No N., you are wrong. Not only have you "implied" the accusation, you have MADE it. You don't see this because you have not grasped the meaning of your own words.

In one of your very first posts, you wrote:

"So, if someone is an anti-Zionist, I think the onus is on that person to disprove their antisemitism."

The claim says--very explicitly--that if a person announces that they are an anti-Zionist, we are to assume without any further evidence that they ARE an anti-Semite until they have PROVEN the contrary.

Well, I said I was an anti-Zionist, so your very words accuse me of anti-Semitism. And I can't be exonerated of that accusation--according to you--until I have PROVEN that I am NOT an anti-Semite. What is remarkable is that in defending this in two separate posts, you never described what would be required to meet the burden of proof. Your view is literally that the accused must meet the burden of proof--where the burden of proof just consists in whatever the accuser wants it to be.

In the same post, you go on to chide me, in advance, for raising the issue of 'proving a negative'. This suggests that the burden of proof is pretty high. Not only do I have to meet the burden of proof, but the usual rules of logic are to be thrown out, too.

So when *have* I met the burden of proving I'm not an anti-Semite? When am I free of any taint of suspicion? Presumably, when I make a convincing argument for my position. But so far you haven't been convinced by any of my arguments for anti-Zionism, or much else. So surely if I stood accused to start with, and I have not yet acquitted myself, I remain accused until you say, "OK, that's enough; I believe you." But you never specified when "enough" would be, and you never actually said "enough."

Now, you're writing as though you never made an accusation. But that just flatly contradicts what you wrote. (In fact, in a different place, you wrote something like 'Scratch an anti-Zionist and you'll find an anti-Semite'. Given that, it's not unreasonable to interpret this whole discussion as an attempt to 'scratch' me to discern my anti-Semitism.)

You may now sincerely think that I am misinformed rather than an anti-Semite, but that is incompatible with your original position. And that is exactly why I objected so vehemently to that position when you first stated it. I saw the implications of holding it; evidently, you didn't.

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

"What would Lappin say to someone who loudly and explicitly asserted that Islamic states like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan should go out of existence as Islamic states—that they have no right to exist as Islamic states, that they are in the relevant respects much worse than Israel?"

And these people would be whom????

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

The point is, if you seperate "Jewish" from its theological roots, you are left with nothing but reactive ideology. Some of these poeple were nice guys, but that doesn't make them Jews.
Why Lenin and Marat are part of a Jewish tradition that Sharansky and Churchill are not is beyond me.
But congratulations for not putting Stalin on your list.

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

It's certainly a sign of the dismal level of political discourse in the Arab World if it takes three failed wars for the leader of Saudi Arabia to even "broach" the subject of Israel's right to exist. And what are the details of Crown Prince Abdullah's deal? Something tells me they involve forfeiting Israeli sovreignty over Jerusalem and accepting several million Arab refugees "returning."
No thanks!

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

Very well-stated, Friedman. The continued promotion of this particular refugee situation as a central event of world history is usually done for alterior motives. All the other refugees in 1944-49 were settled. The Arab world refused to do in order to use them as a hammer against the victorious Jewish nation. For Michael to bring this up is either foolishness of pure bad faith.

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

While there are many parts of your piece I agree with, I'd like to take issue with the notion that Jews lived in the ME and North Africa in comparatively benign conditions. This idea, known to Jewish historians as the "myth of the Islamic golden age" is mostly mythical, It was largely the fantasy of European Jews who knew little of the suffering of their correligionists elsewhere.

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

I wonder how Arnie qualifies as "more Jewish intellectually" than others? Is it his knowledge of Talmud and Torah? Perhaps his identification with Kafka and Freud? How, in any event, would one quantify a statement like that?

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

Very good points! Except for one--
Benjamin Franklin never, as far as we know, said an anti-Jewish (much less antisemitic) word. Perhaps Mr Clarke is referring to the fabricated quotation attributed to him, but fabricated it was!

Charles Lee Geshekter - 4/6/2005

It's actually spelled "Reagan" and he was quite prophetic after all.

Arnold Shcherban - 4/3/2005

You see, that's where perhaps the major ideological difference between us lies: you understand "Jewish", primarily as a particular religious phenomenon;
I interpret "Jewish", as not a special religious entity,
but as the extremely complex brew of the religion, historical events, with enormously rich socio-economic and cultural/ intellectual traditions, in great measure borrowed and transformed from the other nations and civilizations, i.e. I view "Jewishness" in its dialectical, historical evolvement and its mutual interaction with many other cultures and traditions.
So for me a Jew is a person with certain nationality, but
not a religion (since there is quite a lot of not religious, secular Jews). But intellectually/culturally the Jewish creme of creme is a Jew with a wide international, not just national, vision, the Jew that is higly competent not only in specifically Jewish matters, but soaked in the best intellectual and cultural traditions of the mankind, in general, the Jew that feels
for not only Jews, but (remembering the multitude of tragic episodes of the Jewish history) for all desolated
and persecuted, for all poor and weak people of the world, regardless of their nationality and religious beliefs, instead of taken kind of cruel revenge for their own well-known tragedies on others.
(By the way, the exact same thing I could say about non-Jewish intellectuals and historians.)
It is exactly the reason for my enlistment of Lenin and Marat, and exclusion of Sharansky and Churchill.
Your purported irony about Stalin is noted, but at this point I'm leaving it without corresponding ironical response.

N. Friedman - 4/3/2005


Many of the Zionist institutions opposed by Irfan are related to the creation of Israel or sustenance of Israel. However, institutions and a political movement are two different things. One can say that the Jewish National Fund has had its day and is no longer needed. That does not make you anti-Zionist. Which is to say, the institution can be opposed or supported on Zionist grounds.

Opposing the right, in theory, of Israel to defend itself is, by contrast, anti-Zionist as non-defense leads to the end of Israel. However, objecting to particular Israeli policies in defense of Israel is not anti-Zionist.

N. Friedman - 4/3/2005

Mr. Simon,

Thank you.

N. Friedman - 4/3/2005


Good point.

E. Simon - 4/3/2005

For someone who poses the question, you still haven't managed to seem interested in answering it: "what are the essential features of anti-Zionism?"

E. Simon - 4/3/2005

IK: Desmond Tutu not anti-Semitic.

IK: Desmond Tutu is anti-Zionist.

Your implication is that therefore it is not possible that anti-Zionism could have problematic implications regarding how it would affect Jews.

ES: I disagree.

E. Simon - 4/2/2005

And I'm not sure why you didn't focus on it from the beginning. It might not matter to you that post-Zionism and anti-Zionism are two different things, but they are - regardless of whether or not the Israeli right wants to politicize the former so as to equate it with the latter. But again, assuming our interest is the future direction of Israel and not 60-year gone counterfactuals, or a well of a definition that has been poisoned by others with an agenda of a different nature, far less open-minded than the participants of these threads, this approach was less productive than it could have been.

I have a feeling that your bizarre use of the term "project" is not more likely to stimulate conversations that could otherwise be more productive, either.

E. Simon - 4/2/2005

If one finds anti-Zionism (again, as it has been defined by almost everyone on this board except you know who) to be problematic, then the whole Desmond Tutu et al examples are otherwise meaningless. That is, unless you think good intentions are necessarily something other than a way to pave the road to hell, then I could give a damn if someone who holds a political position that I find problematic, is or is not motivated by anti-Semitism, or anti-Lamarckism, anti-heliocentricism or anti-whatever. I implore that you allow yourself to consider that I have actually made the distinction on behalf of which your piece has crusaded and have found it to be not an entirely meaningful one vis a vis the larger discussion.

In other words, this discussion thread has focused on the significance of a distinction, not the fact that a distinction may or may not exist.

E. Simon - 4/2/2005

Your obsession with phrasing is preventing you from grasping semantics. As for what I do and do not understand, you need not reiterate the difference between anti-Semitism and culpability of something of a moral nature generally. Post #57823 states as much. There were people who supported Hitler yet were not anti-Semitic. However the proposition that they were morally culpable of something is something I am not challenging. We agree on that as far as I'm concerned (unless you think I'm challenging it), so there is no more of a point to overanalyzing the linguistics of stating as much other than to divert the argument or create the illusion of a disagreement on this point - at least none that I can discern. I would find that boring and not worthy of engaging.

Feel free to accuse me of what you want. Personalizing this is diversionary and I am not convinced of your powers of analysis on that front. Call me guilty of initiating the diversion, accuse me of doing it to offend you personally (which I did not) - sometimes a change of format can be interesting, but I can't say the same for extending it if only to nurse a sense of feeling aggrieved.

As far as misrepresentations go, I think one can only stake out so tortured a position and still hope to maintain a meaningful representation thereof. When one adds on multiple layers of qualifiers, such that the original meaning of the position is too mutated to be recognized according its understood usage, I don't think one can expect to be recognized as meaningfully contributing to a debate. Given the scattered trails of breadcrumbs left here and there purporting to explain your position, it sounds like you would put yourself closest to the post-Zionist movement circulating among some Israeli academics. I could be wrong, I am not trying to falsely identify your position, that just seems to be the best concise summary that I can see. It is not being done in bad faith, so feel free to further refine your position to me if you so feel you need to. The only caveat is there are only so many layers of refinement to a definition that can be tolerated before it detracts from the ability to actually proceed to meaningful engagement.

If you don't disagree with the assessment, and of course you're free to, my only response is that - as I've tried to outline - I think it is a philosophical position that has not been analyzed to the extent that it can actually resonate within and successfully shape Israeli society. If it can't do that, then assuming Israeli society and government as we know it aren't dimantled, it also can't effectuate many of the changes within Israel that you have stated you would like to see. Only so many changes can go straight through the AG and courts.

E. Simon - 4/2/2005

Additionally, I don't think nationalism is an ideology so much so as a driving force. It is natural that groups of humans tend to govern themselves within the context of a common language through which to communicate the affairs of importance to them; individual languages, as one might note, having evolved among groups of humans who have been in contact with another long enough to be better suited to understanding their own needs - political and otherwise - as a group. What Zamenhof was driving at, on the other hand, sounds more like an ideology, false or otherwise, to me.

E. Simon - 4/2/2005

After re-reading post #57719 I think there is a more direct way to characterize Irfan's broader ideas that might get us away from being bogged down in the presumptive counterfactualism/anti-counterfactualism slogfest that this has become. Irfan states that nationalism is a false ideology and opposes a Palestinian state. I would suppose this is the same line of reasoning that fuels his rejection of the historical (and historically real) phenomenon of Zionism. As a self-proclaimed Lockean and secularist, he would probably have favored the emergence of an avowedly secular binational state in a land more steeped in religious history and a region more steeped in ethnic/tribal factional rivalry than almost any other. There are reasons that the binational model wouldn't work and they have to do with the fact that while Irfan may reject nationalism, the people whom he would have to convince to live in this binational state do or did not. It's a problem forcing other people to swallow the democracy you would construct on them that specifically rejects their input, I admit. It's also a problem when you reject the right of countries to determine, in conjunction with neighboring countries, their own boundaries. I suppose we could all live in one world state specifically constructed according to Irfan's designs, one that unlike Mr. Pettit's one world state, would be not only avowedly secular but specifically liberal and not merely a judicial tribunal, but these visions of compulsory agglomeration are forced to ignore the kind of communal autonomy that is more conducive to liberal democratic interests than are larger polities. The latter, if not specifically federal in some nature (and therefore, cognizant of intra-state boundaries), tend to comprise some kind of autocratic definition that is forced to place its unifying theme above all other values.

Irfan might not like nationalism, and he might have many followers on that front, but the kind of communal autonomy seen in federal polities seems to be the strongest force in marrying political liberalism with a stable governmental structure. If nationalism and ethnic self-determination is what it takes for those units to develop, so be it.

E. Simon - 4/2/2005


Thanks, and thanks for your contributions as well.

E. Simon - 4/2/2005

I think it's true that Israel can do a better job of integrating its non-Jewish minorities into its larger society, culture, etc. Perhaps some of these bureaus can be reformed, land sale/ownership issues might be increasingly liberalized through the judiciary and I think the settlements issue will have to be resolved within the context of a comprehensive and durable peace treaty with the Palestinians. But changing the founding motivations and rejecting the priniciples that propelled a nation to modern statehood requires the kind of internal upheaval that I don't see as likely or any more productive than the other suggestions in Israel today. In other words, as concerns the theoretical post-Zionist/anti-Zionist constructs, as a productive force for the kind of social change for which Irfan pines I see them as unlikely at this point. Doing so would require a re-assessment of the mission of the country as a refuge for Jews around the world, which given the state of the region more broadly (and neighboring Europe), is currently impossible. It would be metaphorically akin to the U.S. deciding to demolish Ellis Island or the statue of liberty.

However, in the meantime, this doesn't stop the State of Israel from accepting Muslim refugees from less politically enlightened Arab countries, and although an example is no less liberalizingly secular - Arab refugees who face persecution in their own countries due to the fact that they are homosexuals.

Michael Barnes Thomin - 4/2/2005

E. Simon,
No need to apologize but it is warmly welcomed and accepted anyway. I appreciate your very generous praises and find your posts quite informative and original.

Best regards,

E. Simon - 4/2/2005

Mr. Thomin,

I apologize if the post seemed unduly directed at you. I have become frustrated with Irfan's confusion of terms, and should not have allowed that to transfer to your ideas, which I think are being addressed in good faith. I am interested in seeing that his misappropriations not be perpetuated, and I don't think you would do so intentionally, or as he does, negligently.

Best regards,

Michael Barnes Thomin - 4/2/2005

E. Simon,

"If you seek to define a new phenomenon, be intellectually honest and give it a new name."

I am not seeking to define anything, for as far as I am concerned it is now an ambiguous term. I simply gave the definition that Irfan laid out. Nothing more, nothing less.

Best regards,

E. Simon - 4/1/2005

I appreciate this and the quality of context and reasoning you so amply provide in helping to so facilitate these discussions through your own important contributions.

I can think of only one analogy. I will provide it because I think Irfan has tired of me (or the board, or responding generally): One can believe a conception occurred wrongly (i.e. rape) but be absolutely committed to maintaining the life that would result. In this case we have remedies. You try the rapist and then leave the kid alone. In this situation, however, people keep beating up on the kid for not being the prettiest one in the class. Plus there are no legitimate "remedies," for establishing functional, somewhat liberal nation states, even if one disagrees with the circumstances that facilitated their emergence (which, as a post-mortem is usually not discussed anyway). Further, Irfan himself admits that the situation in 1948 was morally confusing for both sides at best. So what does he want?

If he wants to secularize Israel he could do himself a favor and be open to the idea of learning more about Israel, and Zionism. He does not seem to care that his conflation of the movement that created Israel with the movements that block its secularization helps those who seek academic justification for the country's disestablishment. So if he cares to engage those of us (himself included) who don't seek Israel's disestablishment, I can't understand why he is so disinterested in getting his terminology right, and identifying which movements (despite their "wrong" use of terminology with which they would be more familiar) that would be capable of facilitating what he really seeks.


E. Simon - 4/1/2005

Irfan is grossly confused and fighting another battle. He aims to secularize Muslim societies and thinks that Israel's "sectarian" holdovers (which, by the way, don't prevent the non-partisan, non-profit NGO Freedom House from rating it a 1 [highest] in political freedoms and 3 [mostly free] in civil freedoms), if not changed, are somehow an obstacle to secularizing the other countries of the Middle East.

Zionism had nothing to do with establishing (make that, maintaining from Ottoman rule) religious courts, the marriage laws, the ministry of religious affairs, etc. Zionism had largely secular roots, with any religious inspirations being largely metaphorical and not scriptural. The Knesset is not dominated by parties that want these holdovers out of any motivation that has anything to do with Zionism. The only party or parties that combine Zionism with religious motivations are minor and come nowhere near dominating the Knesset. Their role as a minority is, of course, important in forming coalitions, but waving the banner of banning political parties on secular grounds sounds like a misplaced effort in a country where the diverse nature of religious freedom is exponentially greater than in any of its neighbors. It would also be an odd thing to do to a country that thrives economically on the number of pilgrims and tourists who flock each year to see the Church of the Nativity, the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, etc. etc.

Zionism has a definition. It was the national movement among Jews for self-determination. That has occurred and is not now being challenged by the particpants on this board. Jews are a distinct ethnic or ethno-cultural group defined by their Hebrew-speaking, culturally or religiously Jewish origins and subsequent common history and shared identity as a group. Quit conflating and redefining things out of one's own confusion or need to fight a broader battle on its weakest front. If you seek to define a new phenomenon, be intellectually honest and give it a new name.

Michael Barnes Thomin - 4/1/2005

Mr. Friedman,
I was almost was inclined to agree with you had he not clarified, at least for me, his defintion of "anti-Zionism" on post (#57721):

"Israel is a nation which, in its current form, meets the criteria of legitimacy and can preserve its existence by any normally-justifiable method. Zionism is a nationalist ideology based on ethno-religious identity. The two things are not the same, and Israel can survive in a post-Zionist (or non-Zionist) form.

Many of Israel's governmental institutions are just normal state institutions with no essential connection to Zionism: the IDF, Shin Bet, the Knesset, the civil courts, etc. But its specifically Zionist institutions have to be put into a different category: the ILA, the settlements, the religious component of the marriage laws, the religious courts, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, etc. Many Israelis themselves are coming to oppose the existence of the institutions in the second category. Their opposition, in my view, is anti-Zionist."

Michael Barnes Thomin - 4/1/2005

I guess nobody took the bait. April Fools anyway!!!!

N. Friedman - 4/1/2005

Mr. Simon,

Brilliant as you usually are!!!

N. Friedman - 4/1/2005


In fact, Irfan is having difficulty convincing some of us that he is even an anti-Zionist. I do not think he is. I think he is misusing words.

E. Simon - 4/1/2005

Unless you want to upend the field of anthropology as we know it, it seems ludicrous to assert that Jews are not a cultural group.

One can change one's religious beliefs more easily than they can deny the pattern of behaviors, personal and social values, celebrations, life events, linguistic quirks, foods and sense of shared or group identity with which they were brought up. Some do, but that doesn't invalidate the concept of the categorization of various ethno-cultural groups.

Ethnicity I would define more narrowly as a shared religion and/or language. I guess once the Hebrew schools that Jews send their kids to become explicitly ecumenical and discourage the teaching of Hebrew then we can say that Jews no longer exist as a distinct ethno-cultural group.

E. Simon - 4/1/2005

Irfan, enlighten me. What is the purpose of attacking a cause that directly led to a status quo which you support?

I don't want to throw you off with something so illogical as a sense of context, so consider this a minor aside: protests (against events or causes past or present) are generally coordinated so as to effectuate something in the present. You might not want to disestablish Israel, but that is the cause embraced by most who go under the anti-zionist label and the supporting "anti-Zionist" writings with which they seek to furnish their cause. Again, don't let that bog you down from answering the simple question posed above.

E. Simon - 4/1/2005

Can you point to even a single post on this board where Irfan has been accused of anti-Semitism?

E. Simon - 4/1/2005

I daresay that you have not convinced anyone here that anti-Zionism, as a dictionary or historian would define it, and not how you would choose to selectively define your own views by it, is an unproblematic position to take. You were the one who chose to run with the assumption that it was not possible to separate someone's political position from a motivation of hatred against those who would be hurt by it. I successfully refuted this assumption. If you find that fact offensive, the problem is yours, not mine or Nietzsche's.

Michael Barnes Thomin - 4/1/2005

To all:

After exchanging points of views on these threads over the past year I have finally come to the conclusion that the Bush cabinet has been right all along. My liberal professors have led me astray from the truth and I renounce all that they have written/said, and all the commie rags I have read and taken to be objective critics as well. God bless George Bush and I hope that any conservatives I have disagreed with in the past will forgive me for my sins.

Best Regards,

E. Simon - 4/1/2005


"Morally culpable" is not the same thing as anti-Semitic. As someone unblinded by animus you might have chosen to acknowledge that the point raised by the thread, therefore, stands. And you might note, while most of the participants on these posts have found anti-Zionism, at best, a morally suspect cause, they have also not found your personal views to be anti-Zionist.

Arnold Shcherban - 4/1/2005

I'll tell you why I'm "more Jewish intellectually".
First, Talmud and Tora, as any religious books, refer not to intellect, but to human emotions and blind faith.
But perhaps you got a point here: my intellectual, logical, analytical or call it scientific approach creates
the huge gap of understanding between me and the so-called
Believers, who start off with the dogmas that already contain the conclusions they allegedly arrive through the "analysis of facts" later.
'Cause I depart off the best cultural and scientific traditions of the best of the Jews, but far from ONLY the Jews: beginning with legendary, such as Jesus (provided such human existed historically, and not as a GOD or son of God, which is pure ballony), and great philosophers and metaphycisists of ancient Greece and India and China, and continue with gigantic figures of Renessance, and yes - Kafka and Freud and Shakespear, and Kant and Kantor and Kantorovich and Feurbach and Hegel and Marx and Engels and Dostoevsky and Newton and Gauss and Marat and Robespeir (I probably spelled the latter name wrong) and Lenin and Lincoln and Washington, and Einstein, Dirac, Shroedinger, Bohr, Born, Sakharov, Feyman, Chomsky and many many others.

Such figures as Begin or Sharansky or Sharon or Reigan or Churchill, or Teller, or Stalin or Hitler or Mao-Tse-Dun or Chai-Khan-Shi, prominent on other folks' lists and many many others, including those who claim the Jews is the tribe with special relationship with God Almighty don't make my list.

Another words my acceptance of the best and most progressive for its time and today among international, not just Jewish cultural, scientific and social traditions/heritage, makes me more Jewish INTELLECTUALLY
than many others, so-called Super-Jews, inclusive.

N. Friedman - 4/1/2005


I read the Dalrymple when it first came out. I note that his view about Pakistan appears to be very similar to BHL's. BHL, he correctly points out, is careless. But, the two of them say basically the same thing.

N. Friedman - 4/1/2005


Accept it or not, for millennia, Jews have been considered an ethnic group.

E. Simon - 4/1/2005

It's not animus. And if you read a few threads back I've stated that you've made some good points, not that they've convinced me that your larger point is yet a particularly strong one. I've repeatedly distinguished between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on these posts, going further to delineate various likely motivations for anti-Zionism than most, and in so doing, have actually done you a favor by bringer your larger point closer to the realm of historical relevance.

Not all defenses of Israel require accusations of anti-Semitism, you're dead-on with that one. So I apologize for the tedium of having to do the former so much so recently that it has brought me to an entertaining volley as intentionally sloppy as your original point is narrow.

E. Simon - 4/1/2005

a) It's not comprehensive. (Nothing in life is unless one assumes perfect knowledge).

b) Have a sense of humor (and a willingness to allow for the possibility that you might not be the ultimate authority on this topic, either).

c) The well has too many dead fish for some of us to be tempted to drink so readily of it.

N. Friedman - 3/31/2005

Mr. Simon,

I think we should consider Irfan's view an attempt to support Israel within the hostile, anti-Zionist academia.

Arnold Shcherban - 3/31/2005


I'm not anti-Zionist (if one uses denial for Israel's existence, as the definition of this term) and I'm definitely not anti-Semitic.
Moreover, I can claim that I'm more Jewish intellectually and by birth than many of those who tear (at least try) these boards and such folks like myself apart in their zealous defence of the overwhelming majority of Isreal's actions, accusing them in all kinds of deadly sins, and especially of anti-semitism. Why do they do that?
They tell us themselves why and you basically second them. On the main reason that they equate not only anti-Zionism in its original definition, but even a couple of anti-Israel's remarks made by anyone, with anti-semitic
ones. (I'm not saying that such "fruits" don't exist, if you know what I mean, but those apologets apply it wholesale to anyone who contradicts them on "Jewish" issues).
But, of course, they would continue to assert that not what they do, while simultaneously doing exactly that.
Which is not only funny, but ourageous behaviour that helps ONLY to real anti-Semites in their claim
of the inborn Semitic nastiness.
They probably confuse stubborness in blind adherence
to their religion with the honest intellectual debate.

E. Simon - 3/31/2005

You know, you actually make some great points in this post, but I have a couple of problems. First off, why assume that if Israel become that much more secular, THEN it will suddenly be seen as a catalyst for the constipatingly slow pace of liberalization in the region generally? If it hasn't happened by now, when? What more does Israel need to do for itself so that other countries will suddenly have a "reason" to do something for themselves? Israel already is, by many standards, much freer politically and in terms of civil rights. If the other countries will liberalize they will do it by appealing to arguments that their own cultures understand.

This is the same reason that further liberalization of the country of Israel doesn't really occur organically under anti-Zionist pretenses. I don't know how much progress Shinui has been able to make on their domestic platform, and a lot of that probably has to do with acquiescence based on Israel's current state vis a vis more pressing issues such as economic stasis and the Palestinian quagmire. But it seems it stands a much better chance than did liberal "non-Zionist" parties. Social-political transformation is a taller order than most people realize, and I think sometimes one can accomplish similarly liberalized results by appropriating them, clearly or vaguely, under principles that historically led to a nation's previous redemption of a different sort. A populace may associate better with the emotional strength of a necessary historical precedent than with its technical similarity or difference to a current proposal.

Third, Israel's existence need not be justified by how easily it can facilitate political transformations regionally.

People have to learn to take charge of their own affairs.

E. Simon - 3/31/2005

Mr. Friedman,

Thanks again.

N. Friedman - 3/31/2005


I think that some amount of generalization is necessary in short posts. However, your point is well taken.

N. Friedman - 3/31/2005

Mr. Simon,

Very good point.

E. Simon - 3/31/2005

It may surprise Irfan that not every German who supported Hitler was motivated by anti-Semitism. I'm sure many were happy to have food and jobs. Had they been given the choice between someone who could have offered similar economic results minus the Jew-baiting and xenophobia, perhaps some might have taken it.

But they were not. Therefore, without their actions, 6 million Jews and 4 million Gypsies, Slavs, communists, homosexuals and state "enemies" could not have been exterminated. This did not occur because such voters hated those people specifically. It's their support of Hitler that led to these mass murders incidentally.

And yet I somehow don't see Irfan up to the noble task of authoring a piece to prevent poisoning of the well of supporting Hitler with the sins of the Third Reich.

That's probably because far from a noble cause, it's a minor academic point. This doesn't mean it's undeserving of exploration, just that it merely deserves the sort of exploration that acknowledges that it is, indeed, a minor academic point. But why make a minor academic point when you can make an accusation such as "poisoning the well?" Of course, minor academic points come with much less extravagance than does the dispensation against those who would defend Israel as serially perpetuating a logical fallacy.

E. Simon - 3/31/2005

A. One who opposes the concept of the nation state (Marxism)

A' - The above selectively applied to Israel (anti-Semitism).

B. One who prefers to await a messianic age whereby a diety rules the affairs of a theocratically Jewish state (Neturei Karta et al)

C. One who opposes a Jewish majority democratically exercising their right to self-govern (Anti-Semitism).

D. Someone who seeks to roll back the state of the MidEast conflict 57 years to a point when it lacked a possible resolution (Retrograde).

Someone who either:

E. doesn't know what he's talking about,

F. wants to score a philosophical point of questionable utility,

G. believes he can make most of us believe that the most propagandized counterfactual in world history actually has some kind of relevance or validity.

E. Simon - 3/31/2005

One can hold an anti-Semitic position, not merely because they hate Jews, but because they hold a position that incidentally concerns the rights of Jews.

At one time one could hold a racist position - like supporting Jim Crow laws, not because blacks mattered less to such a person than any one else would have, but because this person might have preferred an unrelated political agenda that an enfranchised constituency might have opposed.

So one can hold a bigotted position regardless of whether or not the personal motivation is specifically bigotry.

One could have opposed deposing Saddam and not in favor of his deprivation of the rights of Iraqis. Such a person, by default, would have supported retaining the Ba'athist regims, and incidentally, all the evils that went with it.

Such a person was probably not an evil person, but rather, like the vast majority of those noted by Niemoller, unwitting bystanders who foolishly denied a reason to oppose a specific agenda.

How many more examples would you like, Irfan?

Arnold Shcherban - 3/31/2005

And who was Reigan, the apostle of truth?

N. Friedman - 3/31/2005


Not so fast with regard to your comment: If you describe two people as "anti-Semites", it does not matter AT ALL how many kinds of anti-Semitism there are. In some relevant respect, as anti-Semites, the two individuals resemble one another. There would be no point in predicating the SAME thing of them if the two individuals did not RESEMBLE one another.

This discussion might be illustrated by Wittgenstein's example of games and words. The word "game" can cover things which have nothing in common. For example: 20 questions and baseball.

As for BHL, my comment was not about Pearl or Pakistan. I was interested in his specific comment about antisemitism. As for the book, I think that it is rather interesting, despite BHL's habit to make himself central to the story. I can imagine that BHL makes the sort of minor mistakes you note and about which you are no doubt correct. I am not sure they much detract from his book which, after all, is a portrait of an ideological movement as much as anything else. As a portrait, I thought the books provided rather useful information.

N. Friedman - 3/31/2005


Not so fast with regard to your comment: If you describe two people as "anti-Semites", it does not matter AT ALL how many kinds of anti-Semitism there are. In some relevant respect, as anti-Semites, the two individuals resemble one another. There would be no point in predicating the SAME thing of them if the two individuals did not RESEMBLE one another.

This discussion might be illustrated by Wittgenstein's example of games and words. The word "game" can cover things which have nothing in common. For example: 20 questions and baseball.

As for BHL, my comment was not about Pearl or Pakistan. I was interested in his specific comment about antisemitism. As for the book, I think that it is rather interesting, despite BHL's habit to make himself central to the story. I can imagine that BHL makes the sort of minor mistakes you note and about which you are no doubt correct. I am not sure they much detract from his book which, after all, is a portrait of an ideological movement as much as anything else. As a portrait, I thought the books provided rather useful information.

N. Friedman - 3/31/2005


I addressed this point in a different post. The short of my point is that Israel was founded on a secular ideology by a predominantly secular population which aspires to modernism. Pakistan was founded on a secular ideology but, so far as I can discern, is populated and has always been populated by a predominantly religious population. I thus do not think that there is a very good analogy except to note that the origins of the country are, in fact, somewhat similar.

Regarding Israel's institutions:

One. The settlements are not primarily religious in nature. Most were established with a normal secular motive, namely, populating territory won in war that the country decided in the 1980's would never be ceded. The settlers themselves are - the vast majority of them - no more religious than those living inside Israel and many of them are as religious as you, which is to say, not at all. A small group - those settling in places like Hebron (which is of great historic significance in Judaism [the religion] and more so than Jerusalem is to Muslims, by way of analogy) - has substantial religious motivation.

The religious courts should, I think, be abolished as well. However, they are not a zionist creation. Rather Israel took over institutions left over from the Turks, namely, millet.

The ministry of religious affairs has many purposes. Some might be called religious but others are not. However, I would abolish it as well. The founders of Israel, historically speaking, only created these institutions because they could not obtain a political majority - based on Israel's proportional representation system - without making concessions. The problem is the country's voting system. That, however, is not an element of Zionism one way or the other.

In short, I think you are mistaken.

N. Friedman - 3/31/2005


I addressed this point in a different post. The short of my point is that Israel was founded on a secular ideology by a predominantly secular population which aspires to modernism. Pakistan was founded on a secular ideology but, so far as I can discern, is populated and has always been populated by a predominantly religious population. I thus do not think that there is a very good analogy except to note that the origins of the country are, in fact, somewhat similar.

Regarding Israel's institutions:

One. The settlements are not primarily religious in nature. Most were established with a normal secular motive, namely, populating territory won in war that the country decided in the 1980's would never be ceded. The settlers themselves are - the vast majority of them - no more religious than those living inside Israel and many of them are as religious as you, which is to say, not at all. A small group - those settling in places like Hebron (which is of great historic significance in Judaism [the religion] and more so than Jerusalem is to Muslims, by way of analogy) - has substantial religious motivation.

The religious courts should, I think, be abolished as well. However, they are not a zionist creation. Rather Israel took over institutions left over from the Turks, namely, millet.

The ministry of religious affairs has many purposes. Some might be called religious but others are not. However, I would abolish it as well. The founders of Israel, historically speaking, only created these institutions because they could not obtain a political majority - based on Israel's proportional representation system - without making concessions. The problem is the country's voting system. That, however, is not an element of Zionism one way or the other.

In short, I think you are mistaken.

N. Friedman - 3/31/2005


A couple of small points. First, Lewis' book Semites and Anti-Semites is quite a great book. Anyone who has not read it should. And he makes the very distinction you claim.

You ask if Lewis has a motive for not connecting antisemitism directly to anti-Zionism. The answer is: yes he does. It is the same motive which allowed him to say that Turkey did not commit genocide against the Armenians, namely, he may not have wanted to be shunned in the very region of the world he studies.

Please note, however, that I also said that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. I said the association between the two is such that almost all anti-Zionists are antisemites. Which is why I said that proof that someone is an anti-Zionist - as I understand the word and as it is traditionally understood - creates a presumption that the person is also an antisemite. Again, the presumption is rebuttable but it is, nonetheless, a reasonable presumption.

I note that a good part of Lewis' premise about antisemitism in the Muslim regions has been forcefully undermined by Bat Ye'or books The Decline of Christianity under Islam and Islam and Dhimmitude, the first book being a masterpiece while the second book, albeit containing much interesting information, a flawed but useful book.

My second point. You oppose religious nationalism. I think there is something to that. I do not think that Israel is much of an example of a religious country. Which is to say, most Jews do not define themselves by religion. They define themselves ethnically. Which is to say, Jews see themselves qua being Jews as French see themselves being French. Judaism, the religion, is the religion that those within the Jewish nation, whether or not Israeli, would likely respond to, at least to the extent that they would respond to any religion. But that is a very different thing.

Jews who favor Israel mostly see Israel as a place where the civilization of Jews, as in the people and not in the religious sense, can thrive. Having read a bit about Pakistan, I can understand the connection you see. On careful examination, I think you confuse a country which, as you assert, had non-religious roots but a very religious population (i.e. Pakistan) with a very different country which has both non-religious roots and a predominently non-religious population where modernist ideas are pretty firmly rooted. Very different sorts of countries.

So far as I know, Israel is less religious than most European countries. While there are surely religious fanatics, they are in numbers smaller, by percentage, than, for example, the US and likely less than in any European country.

N. Friedman - 3/31/2005


Two serious problems with your argument.

One: You evidently do not understand the word "anti-Zionist."

Two: You mispeak when you write: Incidentally, if we are talking about anti-Semitism, we are ipso facto talking about Goebbels, since he was a paradigm example of an anti-Semite. So when one accuses Tutu of anti-Semitism, one ipso facto compares him, along some relevant dimension, to every anti-Semite--especially the paradigm examples, and including Goebbels. If you have an argument to make on this subject, feel free make it.

With the above quote in mind, I do not think you have a clear understanding of antisemitism either.

By any understanding of the word, antisemitism simply is not defined, paradigmatically or otherwise, by what occurred in Germany. That is sloppy thinking - no offense intended -. Antisemitism is a long standing movement of which Nazism is merely one varient.

Some claim that antisemitism is connected with the nationalism in Europe. Such was - you will note - Nietzsche's view. You will recall that he opined an abatement of antisemitism with reference to the more internationalist notion of a good European. Unfortunately, as anyone who has visited Europe lately can tell you, the rise of the Europe Union has not exactly abated antisemitism.

Others claim that it is merely a modern form of pre-existing anti-Judaism. Given the variety of events that clearly led to violence and shunning and general hysteria about and dislike of Jews, the more likely argument is that antisemitism is a shape shifting phenomena.

Either way, Goebbels is part of one strain of antisemitism. His is eliminationist antisemitism.

You might read Bernard-Henri Lévy on this topic (with reference to the butchering of Daniel Pearl):

And then, finally, there's a third reason. Pearl was a Jew. He was a Jew in a country where Judaism is not a religion, and even less an identity, but another crime, another sin. He was a positive Jew. He was a Jew in the way Philip Roth or Albert Cohen are Jews. He was proud of it. Affirmative. Didn't one of his colleagues tell me the story of this scene in Peshawar, an Islamist fiefdom, where, in a group of journalists asked about their religion, he placidly replied "Jewish," which turned the atmosphere glacial. He was a Jew like his father, like his mother. He was a Jew like one of his grandfathers, Chaïm Pearl, who gave his name to a street in B'nei Brak, Israel. He was this sort of Jew able, at the moment of supreme martyrdom, to proceed in the sanctification of the name of Jew. And he is most surely a victim of modern anti-Semitism, the anti-Semitism that starts, in fact, with B'nei Brak, ties the name of Jew to the name of Israel and, without renouncing any of its timeworn clichés, readapts them to a new set of charges, reintegrates the whole thing into a system where even the name of Israel has become a synonym for the worst of this world-making the figure of the actual Jew the very face of crime (Tsahal), of genocide (the theme, trotted out ever since Durban, and even before then, of the massacre of the Palestinians), of the desire to falsify history (the Shoah as a lie designed to conceal the reality of Jewish power). From Durban to B'nei Brak, the clothing of hatred. From "one Jew, one bullet," chanted by some NGO members in Durban, to the Yemeni knife that actually murdered Daniel Pearl, a sort of a sequence. Daniel Pearl is dead because he was a Jew. Daniel Pearl is dead, victim of neo-anti-Judaism that is blossoming before our eyes. I've been talking about this neo-anti-Judaism for the past twenty-five years. There are a few of us who have sensed the processes of legitimization of this ancient hatred are being profoundly reworked, and who have written about this fact for the past quarter century. For a long time, the rabble said the Jews are hateful because they killed Christ (Christian anti-Semitism). For a long time because, on the contrary, they invented him (modern, anticlerical, pagan anti-Semitism). For a long time it was because they are supposed to be a race who will always be foreigners in any land and this race must be erased from the face of the earth (birth of modern biology, racism, Hitlerism). Well, my sense is that that's all over. I have a feeling we will hear less and less that the Jews are hateful in the name of Christ, the anti-Christ, or racial purity. And what we see is a reformulation, a new means of justification for the worst which, as in France during the Dreyfus Affair, but on a more global scale this time, will associate hatred of Jews with the defense of the oppressed-a terrifying stratagem. That, against the backdrop of the religion of victimization, using this transformation of the Jew into executioner and the Jew-hater into the new Jew (that's right, the rabble is intimidated by nothing, slander is nothing new to them, they can well lift towards real Jews the pure image of a victimized "Jew" now embodied by others) will legitimize the murder of a Jew as the henchman of Bush and Sharon: "Busharon" as they would say. Again, Daniel Pearl died, of this.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, Who Killed Daniel Pearl?, Melville House Publishing (2003) at 392-394.

Charles Lee Geshekter - 3/31/2005


Lucid, logical, accurate, persuasive and very amusing - a pleasure to read and to download for sharing with my students. Thanks heaps.

As for the noble South African Bishop, I am reminded of Reagan's reply when asked how was his meeting with Tutu? "So-so" was his memorable reply.

Shawn McHale - 3/31/2005

Mr. Simon's post seems very reasonable and thoughtful.

On Bernard Lewis: well, we all know that he is a controversial figure. Some love him, some hate him.

There are arguments among Muslim intellectuals today as to what exactly constitutes the dar ul-harb and the dar ul-Islam, if this distinction is apt for all times, and so on. The interesting point is that Americans, not surprisingly, don't pay attention to those areas where most Muslims live where some of these arguments are happening -- South Asia and SE Asia -- as well as in the Middle East.

This all goes back to a simple point: you (NF) tend to homogenize what Muslims think. There is no central authority. Different Muslims, and different schools of thought, come to different conclusions over these issues.
Most Muslims in the world, I'd bet, don't want to live under shari'a!

But a lot of these arguments are somewhat irrelevant to the orginal article on anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. The bottom line for me is that yes, anti-Semitism is unfortunately alive and well; yes, anti-Zionists are often (but not always) are anti-Semites; BUT that one cannot just assume that opposition to Israel's policies is necessarily motivated by anti-Semitism. One can be skeptical of another's beliefs -- even cynical -- but sometimes, the charge of anti-Semitism is a convenient way to avoid debate on the issues.

N. Friedman - 3/31/2005


Regarding grammer: I think it is customary - to the extent that grammer texts say it is acceptable - to use quotation marks around slang terms. In the context employed by Irfan, I think you are being a bit too critical.

Regarding Irfan's position: I think the problem with his argument - and read his posts carefully since they display his idea of what anti-Zionism means - is that he uses anti-Zionism so broadly that it removes the distinction between Zionist and anti-Zionist.

Consider, he considers himself to be an anti-Zionist yet he does not demand or advocate or even suggest that Israel be dismantled or that Israel take in any so-called refugees. In fact, he says that Israel should do neither.

At most, he suggests that Israel should in theory withdraw from portions of the Samaria, Judea and Gaza and recast some of the country's laws in a manner that might better embrace the country's non-Jewish population. Such, you will note, is a position that one can agree or disagree within the context of the Zionist endeavor. Given what he has posted elsewhere on HNN, it is my impression - and Irfan, you could clarify this so that the issue is clear - that he well recognizes that the Arab population is hostile to Israel's ongoing existence such that making one-sided demands regarding Israel is wrong.

Which is to say, I think that Irfan's argument is incoherent. That calls for replying to him that his views, in fact, can be reconciled better with Zionist views than with those of anti-Zionists.

He does, I suppose, have a point when he says that screaming antisemitism against anyone who holds a negative view of Israel's policies is not quite fair. On the other hand, Irfan, the fact is that the nature of language used to criticize Israel can only be explained as antisemitic and the frequency of the criticize is explained best by antisemitism although clearly oil money and political policy adopted by the EU to advance their Arab agenda contribute to the problem substantially.

I agree with you that real anti-Zionism is an eliminationist philosophy that, at least for now, is worse than antisemitism. On the other hand, as I have asserted, anti-Zionism traces back to antisemitic arguments in the Church. Jews, according to Church, are the deicide people who must wander the earth forever and ever. Which is to say, it is no small wonder that The Protocols, as much an anti-Zionist as antisemitic screed, can be traced back to traditional antisemitic sources in France.

N. Friedman - 3/31/2005


Regarding grammer: I think it is customary - to the extent that grammer texts say it is acceptable - to use quotation marks around slang terms. In the context employed by Irfan, I think you are being a bit too critical.

Regarding Irfan's position: I think the problem with his argument - and read his posts carefully since they display his idea of what anti-Zionism means - is that he uses anti-Zionism so broadly that it removes the distinction between Zionist and anti-Zionist.

Consider, he considers himself to be an anti-Zionist yet he does not demand or advocate or even suggest that Israel be dismantled or that Israel take in any so-called refugees. In fact, he says that Israel should do neither.

At most, he suggests that Israel should in theory withdraw from portions of the Samaria, Judea and Gaza and recast some of the country's laws in a manner that might better embrace the country's non-Jewish population. Such, you will note, is a position that one can agree or disagree within the context of the Zionist endeavor. Given what he has posted elsewhere on HNN, it is my impression - and Irfan, you could clarify this so that the issue is clear - that he well recognizes that the Arab population is hostile to Israel's ongoing existence such that making one-sided demands regarding Israel is wrong.

Which is to say, I think that Irfan's argument is incoherent. That calls for replying to him that his views, in fact, can be reconciled better with Zionist views than with those of anti-Zionists.

He does, I suppose, have a point when he says that screaming antisemitism against anyone who holds a negative view of Israel's policies is not quite fair. On the other hand, Irfan, the fact is that the nature of language used to criticize Israel can only be explained as antisemitic and the frequency of the criticize is explained best by antisemitism although clearly oil money and political policy adopted by the EU to advance their Arab agenda contribute to the problem substantially.

I agree with you that real anti-Zionism is an eliminationist philosophy that, at least for now, is worse than antisemitism. On the other hand, as I have asserted, anti-Zionism traces back to antisemitic arguments in the Church. Jews, according to Church, are the deicide people who must wander the earth forever and ever. Which is to say, it is no small wonder that The Protocols, as much an anti-Zionist as antisemitic screed, can be traced back to traditional antisemitic sources in France.

N. Friedman - 3/31/2005

Mr. Simon,

I cite those articles as they have helped uncover - that may be too strong a word but I cannot think of anything better - an issue which really does instill antisemitic anti-Zionism among Christians, namely, neo-marcionism. The people sited by Phillips and Bostom really appear to be heavy weight antisemitic anti-Zionists - about which there can be no doubt -.

Moreover, Bat Ye'or, as Bostom notes, has done a great deal to analyze the issue within the context of Islamist theory. Her collection of evidence on the subject is rather astounding. Her argument - which appears to have a great amount of supporting evidence - is that to the Islamists, anti-Zionism (and Israel generally) is a smokescreen through which to challenge both Christians and Jews.

Derek Charles Catsam - 3/31/2005

Oh Irfan, you are the cutest little adjunct. My favorite in your latest response to me is your use of the scare quotation marks around "prides", as if someone had actually used the word in such a way that you needed to quote it. But as I ask my students whenever they dopily include quotation marks around words -- "why the quotation marks?" (Note proper use of quotation marks.) Are you quoting someone? Or do you just think you are using a naughty term that needs quotation marks? In other words, what I guess I am saying is that even an adjunct ought to know why quotation marks exist and act accordingly.

And in any case, what a bizarrely stupid little way to start a post. My argument was not about anyone in particular, though that you feel singled out is a rather interesting aspect to all of this. Or as you might note it, rather "interesting," with quotation marks full of pregnant pauses, utterly misused. I made a general assertion, that in the whole line of argument people were bothering to assert that one was somehow different from the other, when they were not pausing to realize that the one that was supposedly lesser might actually be worse. I would not think that learned people would be confused.

As for Olympian claims, (or, quotation marks used as they were intended, "Olympian claims") you might note that I was addressing the comment strain, not your little screed of an article. You see, if you write something on HNN, and if there are many comments, you might assume that a comment that comes somewhere around 32nd or so might not be addressing that little jumble of an article. It might just be addressing the argument, more interesting in fact, as it has developed. In any case, I stand by my assertion -- anti-Zionism is not especially noble even when someone daffily tries to separate it from antisemitism. Clever wordplay aside, the one is not so qualitatively better than the other to warrant distinction. That you try to do show shows a capacity for splitting hairs. That's about all it shows.

But just when I cannot imagine that your argument could get any daffier, well, my imagination fails me. You listed 25 people. Beyond wondering whether Bishop Tutu (about whom I would bet I have a lot more words published than you, South Africa being a bit of an, I dunno, hobby of mine, but never mind) would actually qualify himself as an anti-Zionist, I also have to ask: if so, so what? You list 25 people, most of whom have the unfortunate status of having little if any relation to Zionism. Your little celebrity snapshot does not much impress me. I care about as much about what Tutu has to say about Israel as I do about what Stephen Hawking has to say about preparing risotto. Bishop Tutu is a noble and important man for his anti-apartheid resistance in the 1980s and for his role on the TRC. His views on Israel are both wrong and do little to diminish my view of someone whose fame does not spring from the Israel conflict.

In any case, by the end, by quoting the word "bigots" you at least get the form (of quotation marks) right, if not the function. In your little reductio ad absurdum I guess you got me -- Tutu is not as bad as Goebbels. Ooohh -- ZING!!! The problem is that we are not now arguing with Goebbels. But if that is the big ah-ha to which your comment crescendoes, well, the problem is not mine. Good job --You have actually managed to bring Goebbels into the discussion. It doesn't actually enhance your argument one iota, but at least we now understand the quality of your argumentation. I probably ought to remind you that we presumably were talking about current dialogue related to Israel, anti-semitism, and anti-Zionism, and that Goebbels has long since had little relevence to the discussion. But hey, that seemed to be your ace in the hole, and you used it. Very cunning. Utterly vacuous, mind you, but in its way cunning. Or is it "cunning"? I get confused.



E. Simon - 3/30/2005

Thanks for the links. If I get a chance to formulate something deeper I'll mention it. Troubling, but I guess they paint a broader picture in that it would be intellectually dishonest to bring up anti-Zionism from a historical perspective without exploring its potential theological roots. Of course, if one's deeper religion allows for a form of Lockeanism in practice, as well as just in theory, there should be no conflict between Jews, self-determination, and private land purchases. Of course the history of Zionism and Israel is more complex than that and not without issues that can be approached from a contrary moral and political standpoint, but I think that perspective is more limited than current fashion would have some believe.

N. Friedman - 3/30/2005

Mr. Simon,

I hope you had the chance to read these two articles I cited for you in http://hnn.us/comments/57500.html (#57500). They are well worth your time and thought.




N. Friedman - 3/30/2005

Mr. Simon,

I hope you had the chance to read these two articles I cited for you in http://hnn.us/comments/57500.html (#57500). They are well worth your time and thought.




E. Simon - 3/30/2005

Irony noted.

N. Friedman - 3/30/2005

Mr. Simon,

In Jordan, by law, anyone can become a citizen unless, as the law says, the person is a Jew.

E. Simon - 3/30/2005

2nd sentence - "we" as in Irfan and me. I don't think there's much on this piece with which we'd disagree.

E. Simon - 3/30/2005

After watching these threads develop their own lives over the last several days, I find myself in agreement with you - that the position Irfan holds is not anti-Zionism. There are other issues upon which we will not agree, and although I am still unclear on exactly what position Irfan would have held in 1948, I am nonetheless heartened by his admission that at that point he would have found the situation too morally ambiguous to clearly stake out one position or another.

How to resolve democracy vs. individual rights, negative rights is an interesting idea. Perhaps people deserve the polity they get - particularly in a democracy - perhaps not. Perhaps the idea itself is self-evident. But given that Irfan does not favor the dismantling of Israel, but outlined several scenarios in which he would, I wonder what he would make of the following map.


(Zoom should be available in the toolbar. Israel is at the junction of Africa, Europe and Southwest Asia).

Notice the levels of freedom of the vast surrounding areas and contrast that with the tiny sliver of land in the center that is Israel.

Verily, many of these countries might meet Irfan's required criteria for dismantling. Ironically, it is the dismantling of Israel with which so many of them have striven as a matter of foreign (and more importantly - domestic) policy. Given the dichotomy between this position and the embodiment of Zionism that has become the state of Israel, it is interesting to think what the implications for Lockean values and the region would be if Irfan advocated on behalf of the anti-Zionism that, until now, virtually everyone on this board understands it to mean.

Also note which nation is both most free and closest to Israel.

Hint: It's Jordan.

I don't know that Israel is a regional catalyst for the scenarios that would cause Irfan to NOT argue for the dismantling of a state, but it's interesting that given his more clearly discernible positions and the political state of the region and he chose to write this piece instead of one geared against, say - (hypothetically, of course) - "anti-Arabism." But he should be given credit for participating in these discussions, and for writing a piece with which to stimulate them. They have been interesting and enlightening.

And they have shown just how utterly bankrupt of any meaningful value is, in the 21st century, the self-proclaimed label of anti-Zionist.

N. Friedman - 3/30/2005


When you object to certain institutions in Israel (e.g. the Jewish National Fund), are you saying that such institutions are not to your liking or are you saying that such institutions must be corrected?

N. Friedman - 3/30/2005


I think Irfan merely has suggestions. Which is to say, he would prefer Israel do this or that.

That makes him a critic, not an anti-Zionist.

N. Friedman - 3/30/2005


You have yet to address the burden of proof issue directly but have instead used it to avoid dealing with the issues.

In that you are dealing with an associational relationship, the issue is whether there is a real correlation between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. As I have shown - but you have failed to deny, as it is rather self evident -, most anti-Zionists are, in fact, antisemitic and the very origins of anti-Zionism (apart from some religious Jews who believe that only God could recreate Israel and not atheist ben Gurion), was among religious antisemites and conspiratorial antisemites.

Were this matter a question of court proof - and since we are dealing with proving things by a real world standard -, there would be strong basis to make a rebutable presumption, namely, that proof of anti-Zionism presumptively proves antisemitism. In that the presumption is rebuttable, that leaves open the logical possibility that one can oppose a state for Jews without being an antisemite.

I also remind you that, by any ordinary standard, you are simply not an anti-Zionist. Your views are rather similar to most of the world's Zionists. Think about it.

N. Friedman - 3/30/2005


The position that Jews held before Israel came to be is rather irrelevant to whether Israel should continue to be at this point. Prior to Israel's creation, there was a reasonable question among Jews about how best to solve the problems faced by Jews due to persecution endemic in Europe and elsewhere. Now that Israel exists, almost all of those who wish Israel's destruction are rabid antisemites.

Diana Applebaum - 3/30/2005

Just to keep things straight, the Orthodox Jews who oppose the State, the Neturai Karta, are a very, very tiny group.

A more sizeable gorup, although still not large, are neutral on the subject. Preferring to wait to for the Messiah, but refraining from actively opposing the state, or supporting it passively.

The overwhelming majority of ultra-orthodox Jews (ultra-orthodox jews are only a fraction of the population of Israel, or of Jewish communities in other countries) vote, accept state offices and salaries, and certainly support the existence of the state. Or, if they live abroad, they send money to Israel just as secular and modern orthodox Jews do.

Diana Applebaum - 3/30/2005

I do see your point. Irfan has redefined anti-Zionism to mean opposition not to the right of Israel to exist, but to the right of a nation to define its own institutions.

This is problematic on two levels.

On a simple level, anti-Zionist already had a meaning, and English is complicated enough without redefining words for single-use purposes.

More troubling to me is Irfan's apparent feeling that he can tell entire nations what they may and may not do, apparently because he does or does not happen to like it, and decide on the legitimacy, or illegitimacy - of nations whose policies he dislikes.

I can find little to like or admire in any aspect of the Saudi State. This state supresses women, abuses guest wrokers, supports terrorism, imposes a State religion, beheads missionaries, and exportes a virulent forms of racism and hate-filled ideologies of intolerance. Nevertheless, I admit the right of the Saudi ctiizens to define what they want their nation to be. The current government is, of course, a confiscatory monarchy imposing itself on its subjects. If, however, a truly free election were held tomorrow, I understand that those familiar with the Kingdom feel confident that some form of strict Wahabi Islam would be freely voted in. Irfan would not like it, I could not admire or approve of such a system, but I do concede the right of a nation to impose on itself a theocratic regime that I find reprehensible in almost every way.

Nations get to choose their own institutions, even ones that we disapprove of. And they get to make their own mistakes. Foreigners can scold, they can model new choices, they can translate ideas they advocate into Arabic. But advocating the abolition of a state because we do not like the choices that its citizens make is a dangerous enterprise.

Arnold Shcherban - 3/30/2005

Mr. Catsam,

I allow myself to remind you that a large group of orthodoxal Jews, as Jewish as it gets, have opposed Israel as a state formation for decades, therefore being clearly anti-Zionist (though, of course, on religious grounds).
Following your logical pattern they are anti-Semites, as well. My congratulations to you as to a Super-Jew!

Derek Charles Catsam - 3/30/2005

It seems as if during all of this debate over whether or not anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism we are missing a pretty vital point: Even on those terms, anti-Zionism is quite bad enough. So let us say that they are not the same thing. I disagree. But fine. But that anti-Zionism is different does not make it a whole lot more acceptable. In fact, it might make it less so, for as a political movement, anti-Zionism is more dangerous. I'm not quite certain whether the Jews of Israel care whether or not you like them or even if you hate them (anti-Semitism). But they damned well care if you think their entire nation state endeavor should not have ever happened (anti-Zionism). Some of you can pride youselves on being bigots of a different stripe. I think the pride might be a wee bit misplaced.


N. Friedman - 3/30/2005


Irfan is not, if you follow closely, really an anti-Zionist. He does not seek Israel's destruction either directly or by forcing alleged refugees into Israel.

What I think he seeks is that Israel (a) become more secular - although, compared to most countries, it actually is quite secular, (b) provide better rights for the Arabs and other minority groups living in Israel - although Israel provides better rights to such groups than any European country - and (c) cede sufficient land for Palestinians now living outside of Israel to form a viable entity. At least that is what I understand him to say. All of these points are questions about which reasonable people can differ.

As for the position that the Jewish claim is legitimate, while I agree with you, I think the issue is irrelevant. What makes any country legitimate is its existence. What makes a country cease to be legitimate is its dismantlement.

For example, no matter what horrible things Germany, France and the UK have done historically - and they are certainly among history's most vicious regimes and, by any standard, far, far worse than Israel could ever be accused of being -, there is no movement of any consequence to delegitimize any of these countries (other than, perhaps, the part of the EU which funds the Euro-Arab Dialogue and other similar institutions - a bit of self-immolation) because the notion is rather absurd.

What makes the delegitimization of Israel conceivable - and thus something that someone, particularly antisemitic bigots, might advocate - is that Israel is small player in a hostile region forced to make alliances with traditionally antisemitic regions. Were Israel, for example, to have a population of 100 million people or if a major oil field were found in the Negev, the issue of legitimacy would vanish instantly.

Note that the driving force for Israel's deligitimacy - aside from college professors - is the EU itself. The EU has forged very substantial business arrangements with the Arab states. The arrangement reached are explicitly contingent on the EU adopting a hostile stance against Israel. As part of such arrangement, the EU has basically funded in universities, in the press and elsewhere the Arab League position on Israel. The EU, itself, has acted as the megaphone for the Arab League position. In fact, the pronouncements of the two groups are nearly identical.

Diana Applebaum - 3/30/2005


You are repeatedly committing an elementary error. "Jews" refers to both the members of the Jewish religion, and to an ethnic group.

Diana Applebaum - 3/30/2005


History has certainly created two groups of victims. Those Palestinian Arabs whose ancestors were living in the Holy Land before the economic boom created by the Zionists, certainly lost the possibility of living in the homes of their grandfathers in an Arab Muslim nation-state. Then, of course, those Palestinians who heeded the advice of Arab leaders to flee were refused citizenship by the nations to which they fled, the same Arab leaders insisting instead on the creation of a special UNRWA for the purpose of forcing Palestinians to remain generations. This situation, now in its thiird generation, is unparalleled. All grandchildren of other refugees of the 1940's have long been citizens of some nation state. I believe that the first instance "blame" for the situation of the Palestinian refugees falls on the Arab leaders who enforce refugees status on them for political purposes.

The Jews did have a valid claim to the land. Israel was taken from the Jews by the Romans, and from the Romans by the Arab conquest. The Jews left in chains to be sold as slaves, and that only after what is usually considered the most serious pair of provincial revolts in Roman history. The arch of Titus is massive for reason, Titus was prous of winning a hard-fought war. Then the Romans under Trajan had to fight the whole war over again from 130-136. I will not reiterate the entire history of Jewish efforts to return, or the ways in which Byzantine Christians, Arabs, Crusaders, and Ottomans regularly reduced the Jewish population. The fact remains that the Jews never abandoned the claim to the land. I do not cease to own a stolen posession. If a second thief steals it formthe first thief, it is still mine. Perhaps the Jebusites would have a claim to make, if we could find a Jebussite (Interestingly, the Al Quds Universtiy WEB site makes precisely this claim, a Jebusite land claim on the bogus grounds that Arabs are really Jebusites. I mention this fantasy because it reveals Arab awareness that the Jewish claim has precedence. It is not trumped by conquest, but could be trumped if the Arabs could prove that they are the true Jebusites)

The Zionists did something virtually unprecedented in human history, they did not reconquer their stolen homeland, they purchased it form the current occupants. Then had the purchase validated by the United Nations.

The difficulty is that in most cases, conquest establishes ownership. Having conquered Roman Palestine, the Arabs thought that they owned it. But, as Rashid Khalidi demonstrates in Palestinian Identity, they were always aware that either the Jews or the Christians might attempt to make good their competing claims to the land, and resisted both Christian gestures that appeared as preludes to such claims, and the return of the Jews.

While the Arabs deserve soem sympathy, surely it is not just to expect the other gorup of victims, the Jews, to, as you suggest, "accept part of the blame." At least, not until or unless the Arab community as a whole accepts the blame for the umprovoked war of aggression known as the Arab Conquest. And for the historicl treatment of Jews and Christians as second class citizens.

What is needed is for everyone to get over the past and to discover a way for both Jews and Palestinian Arabs to achieve national self-determination, and citizenship in viable states. Since at this point in history a Muslim majority state in which either Jews or Christians are treated as equal citizens with Muslims is inconceivable (barring miracles,) this means supporting the Zionist enterprise of a Jewish State. To oppose this Zionist solution is to deny to Jews a right that the Arabs enjoy in 23 existing states - the right to national self-determination.

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


The reason that anti-Zionism stops conversation and usually raises the spectre of antisemitism is that anti-Zionists - those who are actually anti-Zionist - hold that Israel must take in 4 million people who have leaders who claim that, given the choice, they would kill off the entire Jewish population of Israel or force them to flee. And it is difficult to imagine how anyone can demand Israel take such people in and not be an antisemite. In fact, such a person almost certainly holds to the eliminationist strand of antisemitism - which is, by far, the worst form of the disease -.

Consider, Oscar, that anti-Zionism really did not come out of thin air. It is a position which began with antisemites connected with the Church and was expressly promoted as part of the antisemitic position. Until the Shoah, people proudly promoted the two as being a united position. Today, people tremble at being called antisemitic but, if you look back, people held that position with pride and there were, in Europe, antisemitic parties that fielded candidates for office. And also note that most anti-Zionists are, in fact, rabidly antisemitic.

I reiterate: Irfan is not an anti-Zionist, as the word is normally undestood. On that score, despite what you say, I think the appropriate thing to say is that he is misinformed - at least if he does not realize that he uses the words rather differently than everyone else I have ever read or heard using that word.

Irfan, had he been alive before Israel's existence, would not have been an advocate for Zionism. But, of coure, that is irrelevant as - and he agrees - Israel, which is the Zionist project, exists. As an existing country, he does not favor the dismantlement of the country or the demand that Israel take in Palestinian refugees. So, there is no imaginable argument, that is consistent with the use of the word as people use it, which makes him an anti-Zionist.

Oscar Chamberlain - 3/29/2005

That is what I thought. I just wanted to be sure.

I think he is better informed that you do, but that's not the point I want to make this second. I would simply point out that he finds the use of these terms, Anti-Zionist, Anti-semitic, along with their equation as something that stops dialogue in its tracks, both with him and with many others. I think that's a point we need to consider.

I do not think that it is foolishly idealistic to put such rhetoric aside in order to explore areas where new understanding and agreement might be possible. This does not require an abandonment of core principles by anyone, simply a temporary cessation of some of more hackle-raising phrases.

It is equally fair to put on the table terms and charges that are conversation-stoppers from your standpoint. Or mine. Most of all it asks for a generosity and patience on all sides that has been sorely lacking.

There are opportunities present these days. It would be the height of foolishness not to explore them.

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


Words are one thing. Your statements are another thing. You do not hold views that any anti-Zionist I have ever heard of holds.

I go by what views people hold. And I reiterate: an anti-zionist must prove he or she is not an antisemite because such a person is a rare bird indeed.

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


You write: "It is, incidentally, more than a little odd that I am being asked to offer my definitions of various terms when no one has bothered to make this demand of the people making the anti-Zionist = anti-Semite equation."

I think you are confused here. The issue is that you use the word anti-Zionist in a way which has no traditional correlation with the word anti-Zionist. By contrast, those of us who make a correlation are assuming that people are using words the way they ordinarily are used.

I reiterate: by any stretch of the word, your statements on this page you are not that of an anti-Zionist. You do not expect Israel to take in Arab refugees and you do not expect the government to cease to exist. One may agree or disagree with your view of how the Israeli government should run and the exact borders of the country but by any logic, you simply do not hold anti-zionist views.

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


You are welcome.

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


Based on the positions you hold, I do not think that any real anti-Zionists would recognize you to be an anti-Zionist. I actually think you are confused.

Such is what I thought from the beginning.

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


For the zillionth time, the connection is associational, not logical. The two isms - anti-Zionism and antisemitism - correlate very closely. And, in fact, anti-Zionism was a child of the antisemitic movement.

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


I am not convinced that Irfan is really an anti-Zionist. I do not think he is a friend of Israel but that is a different thing.

I sense someone who is basically not well informed but who is not an intractable opponent. And - he can correct me if I am wrong - I do not see him demanding the Israel take steps which would, so far as the Jewish population's welfare is concerned, be suicidal.

There is, by contrast, no debate with an anti-Zionist. Such a person is willing to discuss the terms of Israel's surrender, not its boundaries.

Michael Barnes Thomin - 3/29/2005

"One: Because they violate rights. If governments exist to protect rights, and a government doesn't protect but rather violates them, it has no raison d'etre. As witness Baathist Iraq (which existed for decades) and Taliban Afghanistan (which existed for years), which thankfully went out of existence."

Ponder this: Iraq existed for decades because of the United States, and went out of existence because of the United States... The Taliban existed for years because of the United States, and went out of existence because of the United Sates. Oh the irony!!!

Mr. Friedman,
Thank you for your kind gesture regarding your comments in my defense.

Oscar Chamberlain - 3/29/2005


I'm trying to understand your position better. So let me ask a question.

On the basis of this article, I think that Irfan Khawaja is worth having a dialogue with? Do you agree?

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


I think you make a good point.

While it is, in theory, possible to want to destroy Israel without hating Jews, the great, great probability is that hating the one seems almost always be associated with hating the other and vice versa.

In that historically, antisemitism was rampant, I am at loss to understand how anyone can not notice the historical association and wonder whether, in fact, the two hatreds are really manifestations of the same illness.

Bill Heuisler - 3/29/2005

Mr. Khawaja,
Your, "...bunch of people (who) began to equate anti-liberalism with anti-humanity." Would be an "anti-truism" or an impossibility. Equating Libs with humans and denying any difference - when their only connection is a very subjective state-of-mind - is untenable when both definitions are examined. If you deny the difference between Libs and humans you expand the definition of Liberal to include everyone and thereby render the term, Liberal, meaningless.

Meaning no disrespect, your point is clear, but your definitions are not. Being against Semites of a certain type and being against the aggrandizement of Semites of a certain type is essentially the same thing.

Bill Heuisler - 3/29/2005

Mr. Shcherban,
Excellent analogy, although we seem to reach different conclusions. At their base, Creationist and Evolutionist theories aren't exclusionary. Both must eventually trace back to an uncaused cause - a spark in a nucleotide or a protein - or a species without evolutionary forbearers. Darwin wrote the fossil record shows "a sudden appearance of whole groups of allied species all at once". While this does not demand a creationary event, it certainly recognizes the appearance of an uncaused cause.

Anti-Semites (as understood in relation to Jews) dislike Jews for whatever reason. Anti-Zionists would like us to believe they've simply found political reasons to dislike people willing to settle in a desolate part of the world few would live in before the Twentieth Century.

The political objection to Semites governing/living-with other Semites escapes me unless there is a distinction. The cause is the Jew in both cases.

Excepting a purely pacifist orthodox objection to Israel, to say one is anti-Zionist, but not anti-Semitic, is to pretend political animus without cause.
Bill Heuisler

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


Now, as to your comment: the Jewish national fund was and is a trust. While it has close relations with the government, it is not the government. So, again, you are confused.

The issue raised by the article is what to do with the trust going forward.

Lockeans, the last time I looked, believed that private actors can use their property as they best desire. Evidently, you do not hold to Lockean principles rigidly.

Now, there are, in Israel, roughly 4% percent of the population, if that much, which is ultr-orthodox. Is that a parallel to Pakistan? In fact, not even close.

Irfan, what you are writing is not bigotted. It is, however, misinformed.

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


Before considering your comments - which I shall separately address -, I have not called you an antisemite. I have not even implied as much.

I note that I do say - and continue to say - that anti-Zionists have an obligation to distinguish themselves from antisemites. I gave my reasons for that and, I think, such reasons are historically valid. I also say that the vast majority of anti-Zionists - probably better than 95% to 99% - are antisemitic.

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


What is the dialogue that one can have with a person who says, "You have no right to be" or "Your country has no right to be." Those, historically, are fighting words, not a dialogue.

If anti-Zionists - people who come forward with fighting words - want a dialogue, then they have to espouse something to dialogue about, not the terms of surrender.

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


If we apply Lockean principles as you describe, Israel is more secular than most European countries. Israel is referred to as a Jewish state not in the religious sense but in the ethnic sense.

I suggest that you consider that historically, Jews have defined themselves both as a nation and as a religious community. Zionism was largely a secular movement and the country's first lead, ben Gurion, was an avowed atheist. Can you say that about any other country?

In other words, I think you are confused.

Oscar Chamberlain - 3/29/2005


Thanks for the article. In a way, it's a good example of what makes Irfan's article here important. The problem with constantly referring to Anti-Zionism (and therefore Anti-semitism) is that the charge slams the door on any further dialogue. (How well do you respond to be called a bigot? I certainly don't respond well.)

Khaled Almaeena is a person to have a dialogue with. So is Irfan. For the sake of such dialogue, it is worthwhile to forgo the epithets and explore what we do have in common (without denying the differences that do exist).

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005



Oscar Chamberlain - 3/29/2005

That's ok. Sometimes I agree with Arnold in part. Sometimes I don't. I certainly did not feel insulted. I just wanted to make sure you weren't reading those positions in my comments.

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


Oscar Chamberlain - 3/29/2005


Do you think I'm Arnold?

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


Is there an organized movement across the entire globe to destroy Egypt? If so, what is the movement? Who, other than you, advocates for it?

Also, why should Egypt have no right to exist?

I am going to say this in the hope you respond to the main point. Find me consistent criteria to apply in order to know which countries deserve to exist and which do not.

Frankly, I do not think you can apply such criteria consistently.

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


I consider myself very liberal. And I do not consider myself to be much of a nationalist - at least not to any extreme.

I note that, until very recently, almost all liberals agreed with the view I have espoused. And, today in the US, most liberals still tend to be pro-Israel. On the other hand, people on the far, far left and far, far right have tended to be both anti-Zionist and antisemitic. Is that just a coincidence? Who knows.

What I think is that, with very few exceptions, anti-Zionists are antisemitic and, once you converse with such people to sound them out, you can almost always get them to unmask themselves. It usually comes in small comments but it is, if you are willing to persist, rather easy to detect.

Arnold Shcherban - 3/29/2005

I observe one curious pattern that runs without almost any exception: all those who traditionally take what is called in this country "conservative" or "pro-conservative" positions on these boards (the positions allegedly or actually having nothing to do with the main issue discussed in the article) equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. On the other hand, the folks traditionally exhibiting so-called "liberal" stance oppose the equation.
To me it looks very similar to the creationist v. evolutionist or idealist v. materialist debates, i.e. the debates of faith v. historical and factual analysis.
Could it be just coincidence or there is much more to it?

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


Three issues with your theory.

One: Why do countries which exist require any justification to continue existing?

Two: What criteria have you identified to judge which countries should go out of existence?

Three: If a country is to go out of existence, what about the people living in the country?

Four: With respect to Israel specifically: Because (a) Palestinians have repeatedly promised a bloodbath and (b) for the most part Jews in Israel have no where else to go, what makes you think Jews would have been better off without a state that protects Jewish interests the way France protects French interests and Japan protects Japanese interests?

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


You are entirely correct.

While there is a case - a debatable one, but nevertheless a case - that Jews were better treated under Islam than in Christiandom, such is a far cry from the view that Jews were well treated.

In fact, Jews were well treated far better in India under Hindu rule and in other parts of the orient not dominated by religions in which Jews play a role. Which is to say, Jews were, by the standards of ancient times, treated better in places where Christianity and Islam were not dominant.

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


Not so fast. Anti-Zionism is a political movement with religious overtones that has existed for two centuries. For the vast majority of that time, nearly all anti-Zionists proudly proclaimed that they were antisemitic.

Which is to say, you have created a false analogy.

N. Friedman - 3/29/2005


I think you have made a few serious errors in what you write.

You write: "It's ALWAYS the accuser who has the burden of proof, not the defender against a charge."

Actually, what you write is incorrect if we are dealing with the practical world. Take the crime of posession of tools for purposes of committing a burglary. The prosecutor, in most states, merely needs to prove possession of the tools that would be helpful in committing a burglary. Intent is presumed and the accused, if he or she does not wish to be found guilty, must come forward with evidence to undermine the presumption of intent.

In trademark law, a trademark is abandoned if the owner ceases using the mark with the intention not to resume use of the mark (or, if we follow the common law, with the intent to abandon the mark). However, to prove abandonment, a third party claiming that the mark was abandoned needs only to show that the trademark has not been used for 3 consecutive years. At that point, intent not to resume use is presumed and the accused must come forward with persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption.

With respect to anti-Zionism and its link to antisemitism there are substantial reasons to believe that the two are linked and that a presumption of linkage should exist.

First, historically, opposition to Zionism initially arose and still arise among those, at one time the vast majority of Christians, who opined that Jews are the deicide people (who must wander the Earth forever and ever). Further, opposition also initially arose and still arises from those who opined that Jews sought to conquer the world as evidenced by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and by their disproportional representation in certain professions and callings. So, there is the historical link, particularly among people raised in the Christian tradition. For those raised in the Muslim tradition, there is the issue that Jews are infidel, albeit tolerated, but only within a dhimma which provides conceded privileges rather than inherent rights and, as a result, never with equal rights. I am not quite sure that one would speak of traditional antisemitism among Muslims but, instead, condescension and a prejudicial attitude. Someone brought up in an Islamic culture, like a person brought up in a Christian environment, is likely to have such attitude instilled from early in life - at least I would think so -. Moreover, judging from sales of the Protocols and other racist literature about Jews in Muslim regions and among Muslims in the West, there must be considerable amount of antisemitism of the European stripe among such Muslims as well.

Second, as even you admit, a very large percentage of anti-Zionists are, in fact, antisemites. In practice, that means effectively that where there is smoke, there is very often fire.

Which is to say, there are two very good reasons to presume, absent corrective evidence, that an anti-Zionist is an antisemite. Which is to say, a person who is an anti-Zionist is appropriately presumed to be an antisemite although, since it is conceivable that a person might be anti-Zionist on other grounds - although I have yet to see grounds which apply to anyone other than the state which happens to have a Jewish majority -, the presumption is certainly rebuttable.

Regarding Israel's comparison to Pakistan: the initial histories of the countries are rather similar. Thereafter, the histories diverge substantially. Pakistan became rather religious. Israel became primiarly secular and democratic. Both countries have been embroiled in dispute. However, the disputes are not all that unusual by world standards.

It seems to me, Irfan, that outside of the university and outside of bigots, people accept that countries that exist have a right to exist because, frankly, the question itself is moronic. A country exists unless and until its enemies destroy it. Nothing more and nothing less. Despite Hitler's regime, no one claims that Germany has no right to exist and, until Hitler attacked all of its neighbors, no one claimed that Germany under Hitler had no right to exist. And, frankly, if that is the gage, there is no basis for claiming a country has no right to exist. And surely, the Israelis have not done anything that is remotely comparable with any of the awful regimes of history. Needless to remind you but, since 1983, Sudan has killed 2 million of its own people. 18,000 people are dying per month at this time. Somehow, Sudan is a lot more problematic as a state than Israel but I hear no one saying Sudan has no right to exist or Sudan has no right to have a Muslim government.

It would seem to me that you need to have a logical basis, other than there is a dispute with Palestinians who may a competitive claim to the land, to oppose a country's existence - which is what anti-Zionism is about -. If we go by the criteria of disputes, that would disqualify a good half of the world's country's from existence. If you say that Israel was founded on other people's land, well so is the US, Canada, Mexico, Egypt, France, Spain and everyone else on Earth. France's origins include the complete annihilation of the other ethnic groups which shared the territory. So does Mexico. You live in the US where, at one time, there were a lot of Indians. So, clearly, a country's origins are not a disqualifyer and, by comparison to any of the noted countries, Israel's origins are tame.

If religion is the thing, note that a high percentage of European countries that have an established state religion. If you visit Quebec, you will note the cross that appears in a promiment location (i.e. behind the equivalent of the speaker of the House where, in Congress, we would have the flag) in the National Legislature. So, frankly, religion is not a ground for opposing a state. Britain, a state with an established religion, is dominated by England which conquered its surrounding states Wales and Scotland and, at one time, all of Ireland but now only Northern Ireland - where there is a dispute involving settlers who are not told to leave although, clearly, the Catholic majority would prefer and, at times, has fought for such a solution -. So conquest and ongoing conflict does not seem to disqualify a state either.

Frankly, I do not think you can, in fact, find a legitimate ground to castigate either Israel or Pakistan's right to exist which does not apply to the vast majority of the nations on Earth.

Arnold Shcherban - 3/29/2005

Mr. Chamberlain makes an excellent general point of
applying HISTORICAL approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict
and to the distinction between anti-semitism and anti-zionism, i.e. analyzing the latter issues as the complex gradual processes, as they were and still are, and not as any clear-cut case of ideological dogmatism, the approach
that has become so popular recently, riding on the new wave of the right (religious) conservatism, militarism, and refreshed imperial ambitions of the world's superpower and the coordinated efforts of its close allies.
Not taking anything away from the validity of the
Mr. Chamberlain's methodological "initiative", I would like to remind the board that the entire pathos of practically all of my comments was the attempts to establish historically balanced approach in analysis
of historical phenomena versus the double-standard one, as the norm among historians; the non-trivial attempt, considering the theoretical unilateral support of it along with... stubborn resistance to its practical applications by many of the ideological historians.

Diana Applebaum - 3/29/2005

The people who run EI make the claim that they are anti-Zionist and opposed to the existence of the Jewish State without being anti-Semitic. Then they run anti-Semitic material such as the dollar bill with the Star fo David. I assert that this demonstrates that many who say, "I don't hate Jews, I just want to destroy the Jewish Sates" are hypocrites, or liars.

It was certaily possible to oppose Zionism at any time before the 1940's without necessarily being anti-Semitic - although even then opponents of Zionism had to argue that Jews could be accepted as full citizens in the non-Jewish countries where they lived, and this has always been a difficult position to support.

However, now that there are over 5 millin Jews living in the Jewish State, opposing Zionsm must necessarily mean that one either wishes for a.) five million Jews to be left at the mercy of a Palestinian Arab government, or b.) for over five million Jews to be driven from their homes as refugees. This is certainly anti-Semitic.

One problem with arguing that one can be anti-Zioist without being anti-Semitic is that we are playing with the lives of over five million actual human beings.

The other problem is that this sort of argument gives cover to actual anti-Semites like the folks who run Electronic Intifada. Folks who say, we are not anti-Semitic - we just want to destory the Jewish State. Their position should not be given intellecutal respectability.

N. Friedman - 3/28/2005

Mr. Simon,

You make some good points. You might, however, read these two articles regarding something called replacement theology, a doctrine which has found many adherents in both Middle Eastern Christian antisemites and in British antisemites. The doctrine, as the second article explains, has its roots in marcionism with a Palestinian Arab twist to it.




N. Friedman - 3/28/2005


You make some fair points. I would look at things a bit differently than you.

Indeed, the weakness of the the Muslim regions in the 17th through 19th centuries led eventually to some secular movements. The most important such movements were transnational or pan movements. However, there were some secular movements which could be considered nationalistic. That is certainly true.

With some exceptions, these secular political movements have declined, I think, as the Muslim regions have become more and more independent of the West so that what had once been pan-arabism (or Nassarism or Ba'athism) is now really pan-Islamism. There are certainly still pockets of nationalism.

That, notwithstanding, what we can observe in the Muslim regions is, I think, a slow revival - which is not yet complete - of what had been prior to the time of Europe's dominance over the Arab and other Muslim regions. So my theory is a bit projective. However, historically speaking, politics among the Muslims has generally been organized around an idea, Islam, and, hence, has the character of empire rather than a nationalist state. It is only with the destruction of the Islamic empires that nationalism would be seen as an alternative but, given that the religion itself has an imperial character to it (and recall VS Naupaul's comment that Islam is a form of imperialism) - and consciously imperial at that - pan movements will probably always play a large, if not the largest, role as long as Islam plays a leading role in society. And, you will note that the trend in the region is unequivically toward an increase in the role of Islam.

As for the Palestinians, Palestinian nationalism began after the 1948 war and was also a result, in part, of the unwillingness of the Arabs to settle the refugees as well as the loss of the war of 1967 and the onset of Israeli rule over the territories. Whether there is a long term Palestinian nationalism that could exist without Israel as a foil is, I think, very, very unlikely but, of course, Israel is not planning to leave the scene so, I suppose and hope we shall not have much opportunity to test your theory. I am, however, very skeptical.

In my view, for what it is worth, the notion of a Palestinian state that is not federated with at least Jordan makes no sense. Without such a federation, what will be created is non-viable state that is jealous of Israel and will lead to worse bloodshed than we have now. In that such a state seems to be on the world's agenda, I hope my theory is wrong.

Bill Heuisler - 3/28/2005

Mr. Khawaja,
This article is in the Arab News today (Tuesday 29 March). The article goes on beyond the copied section to list the litany of dictators and political oppression, but I thought it quite significant that, as always, Israel tops the list as cause for Arab economic failure. It's a shame, but the delusion seems to hold throughout even those who should know better.

"We Can Do It and We Will"
Khaled Almaeena, almaeena@arabnews.com
"In Algiers last week I met a foreign correspondent who asked me, “Why?” To which I replied: Why what?

“Why does the Arab world lag behind almost every part of the world except of course sub-Saharan Africa?”

Good question, I thought. The man was reasonable. I have met him several times in the past. His question, however, did make me think. The total GDP of the Arab world is about $500 billion. This amount is less than that of Spain that was until recently one of the poorest European economies.

“What is wrong with the Arab world?”

Many things, I answered. And then I began the litany. First of all the region has been rocked by wars and conflicts. Israel is another matter altogether. Its occupation, suppression and oppression of the Palestinians have caused tension, anger and frustration and will continue to do so. Anger and frustration, if unaddressed, will produce problems of their own and what is often worse, their own attempts at solution.

I quickly added, however, that we Arabs must not use Israel as an excuse for our failures and shortcomings. We have enough problems that we ourselves have created and for which the Israelis, guilty as they are of so much, are not responsible. The takeover of power by colonels and generals, the brutal suppression of the Arab people by their own dictators, the lack of freedom and the absence of transparency and accountability have deprived us of the fruits of success."

Fruits of success? Where do you begin the reality check?

E. Simon - 3/28/2005

I think it's important to distinguish that the main objection among jews to zionism derives from sects of orthodox religious groups who literally believe that human-based political system among Jews in Israel are forbidden and must await a literal kingdom ruled by God instead, to be ushered in by a messianic age. I think it's fair to say the anti-zionism brought up by the essay has nothing to do with this.

Among non-religious Jews my understanding is that opposition to zionism stemmed from a system of global socialism as a widespread replacement for nationalism generally. I believe this movement lost out to Zionism once the Nazis proved that a socialist movement could still harness nationalism to full effect toward attempting a literal obliteration of European Jewry.

Some people nowadays confuse militant settlers as the standard bearers of Zionism, which they are not.

Among Israeli academics, some have speculated on a "post-Zionist" era in Israel, whereby the Arab and Jewish communities are better reconciled with each other on the basis of the advent of a "pan-Semitic," or "Canaanite" nationalism. I would suppose this idea is still a hypothetical one.

The most widespread and powerful anti-Zionist movements that remain today are actually derived from the rejectionist philosophies held by Arab leaders at the time of the founding of Israel, although these have been cosmetically modified to "recognize" Israel, except with the caveat that this is conditioned upon accepting enough descendents of Palestinian refugees to basically become a Palestinian state. This is why King Fahd's offer didn't go down so well, despite its being transmitted over the airwaves as a direct appeal to the Israeli public at an Arab League summit in Beirut a few years back.

Among Western supporters of anti-Zionism today, many probably sympathize with the King Fahd view, that along with a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel is seen as a colony that must repratriate descendents of Palestinian refugees to its country, regardless of whether or not it then becomes a second Palestinian state. Certainly others either adhere to the Socialist model alone, or in addition to this idea. Many aren't sophisticated enough to discern a difference and simply are separating their worldview into an oversimplistic dichotomy of "Imperialism/Colonialism" vs. the Palestinians whom they've decided to define as more authentically native to the land. Perhaps many others feel that there is something fundamentally wrong about the situation in the land, based either on whether they have religious sympathies that it is "holy land" and therefore more pressing - or not - and feel that Israel, if not contributing somewhat, is contributing preponderantly to the problem. These people are probably not technically anti-Zionists, but rather feel that the actions committed by Israel which they think contribute to the conflict are performed under Zionist pretenses, and therefore they sympathize with those who organize under the umbrella banner of "anti-Zionism."

Unfortunately anti-semitism has been easily appropriated by more than a few of these. In the Middle East it's been incorporated and heavily ingrained into government propoganda to the point where there is no difference. In Europe, I think anti-Semitism has been facilitated by the large number of immigrants who grew up under this propaganda, the heightened fear of terrorism and their geographical proximity to Middle Eastern countries for whom it is more feasible for their governments to appease as a matter of diplomacy than it is for the U.S. I think the Socialists have somewhat morphed with the anti-Globalists/anti-"Imperialists" and although they might not be that interested in incorporating anti-Semitism into their agenda, they probably allow it to go undisturbed under the rubric of giving "oppressed" peoples the chance to let off rhetorical steam. The interesting thing is these last groups have a worldview that is not all that different from classical anti-Semitic theories which describe a conspiracy of wealth aimed at Jewish global control, it is pretty much identical to it - minus the Jewish part.

Bill Heuisler - 3/28/2005

Bill Heuisler - 3/28/2005

Mr. Khawaja,
This discussion has too few distinctions and definitions by people who are too refined and too polite to speak the truth about others. Do Arab Anti-Semites hate themselves? Of course not. Modern anti-Semites are really anti-Jew. And anti-Zionists are people who are anti-Israel because it is a State controlled by Jews. Both terms really mean people who dislike Jews. But, all Jews, or just these?

After all, Semites speak Semitic languages like Arabs, Aramaeans, Jews and some Ethiopians. Semite ancestry is traced to Shem, Noah's son. Semitic nomads migrated in large numbers from Arabia to Mesopotamia centuries before the Christian Era. So when the 636 AD Arabs conquered the Middle East, they were conquering their Semitic cousins and driving out temporary Byzantine (European)landlords.

Most of the disputed land near the Dead Sea is desert wasteland nobody has wanted for centuries, but where some Jews have settled and made livable. There are few Arabs who have wished to live in the Wilderness of Judea, the salty wadis west or east of the Jordan near the Dead Sea (200 to 300 feet below main sea level) or the deeper salt-wastes near Sodom. Walking the land in Judea - east of Jerusalem toward Jericho and south of Bethlehem toward the Dead Sea - one is struck by the utter desolation and lack of vegetation. Occasional goatherds with scrawny charges must move constantly to eke out subsistance. No people. No villages. Sparse water. South to En-gedi, farther to Masada, emptiness is only broken three times very dramatically by lush tree farms and the greening desert of Jewish collective farms. I sense you've been there, so I ask: would Palestinians want the land if it were given? Are not envy and hatred more motive than the call of some supposed Motherland? But hatred of whom?

Could the possible dislike be more for European-looking Ashkenazim than for Jews as a whole? Sephardic Jews have apparently lived in the Middle East and North Africa in comparatively benign conditions for centuries, but Herzl, the Hungarian, and many of his followers from Germany and Eastern Europe were more European than Semitic - in appearance if not also in custom and language. Could not this argument be missing the point? Maybe Semitic Arabs dislike the Jews and the Jewish State simply because the new guys don't look like them.

That begs the question who Noam really hates doesn't it?

N. Friedman - 3/28/2005


I like Michael. He is - if past is prologue - arguing in good faith. However, he is simply mistaken.

N. Friedman - 3/28/2005


I do not claim to be the world's authority on Islam. On the other hand, I am rather conversant with the religion - both its good side and its not so good side -. Which is to say, the religion is a fascination of mine and I have read more books on that religion and its culture and history, at this point, than I can possibly count.

Islam, as noted in Bernard Lewis' book The Political Language of Islam, divides the world into two regions, the House of Islam (dar al-Islam) and the House of War (dar al-Harb). The House of War is deemed, by definition, to be at war to destroy the House of Islam. As such, Muslims, if they are zealous (which is not universal, to note, but a large group is and has always been) must act to defend the House of Islam. Such involves Jihad and, to some extent, da'wa (roughly evangelism).

Jihad is to continue until the entire world is brought within the House of Islam and under the rule of Muslim law (i.e. Shari'a). Jihad, traditionally, ended only if the infidels - at least those who met the character of being "people of the book (e.g. Jews and Christians) under attack submitted to a dhimma (concessionary arrangement) or converted to Islam (whether or not sincerely because Mohammed consciously permitted non-sincere conversions). As dhimma, the dhimmi conceded away, among other things, their right to rule Muslims.

The same, however, does not apply to Muslims living in the House of War. There are a number of special considerations for such people. First, such people are traditionally in the land of war by agreement (a temporary agreement that remains in place until such time as Jihad can be pursued - in theory no longer than 10 years - and under the condition, during the period of non-hostility, that da'wa is permitted) and, as such, are not entitled to persue Jihad, only da'wa, because, among other things, Jihad would endanger the Muslim community and, second, because the agreement already permits da'wa as a temporary expedient. In addition, such persons must, if they wish to pursue Jihad, leave the territory before returning outside the agreement. But note: Jihad is not a mindless activity. It is a strategy of war under Mohammed's phrase that war is deception. And Jihad is traditionally pursued when conditions permit, not willy nilly but according to a plan.

Now, when I said that there is a serious problem for Muslims living under non-Muslim rule, I did not speak quite as carefully as I might have. There is no temporary agreement or the like with Israel so far as traditional Muslims are concerned. Which is to say, living in Israel is, in fact, problematic for Muslims because they are submitting to non-Muslim rule in a state that does not have a temporary agreement permitting da'wa (although Israel, in fact, permits da'wa). Instead, a Jihad was issued calling for Israel's destruction.

I hope the above answers your question.

Israel is not expelling Muslims from their land. On the surface, there is, at present, a dispute over land. However, if Arafat's words during the Oslo period represent the actual Palestinian position, then there is no basis for settlement since, as he said, any territory conceded by Israel would only be stage one in Israel's destruction.

Oscar Chamberlain - 3/28/2005


If Pan Arabism is so powerful what happened to the United Arab Republic of Syria and Egypt?

Yes, Pan Arabism is an idea of "force" (for lack of a better word) in the Middle East. It is an ideal that some in Islam who want a caliphate try to use to an advantage.

But you make it sound like the single most important force, and I have my doubts. Consider nationalism. Egyptian nationalism emerged during the Ottoman empire. (Indeed, one fascinating might-have-been is what Egypt would have become if the British had not secured the canal (and, in effect, Egypt with it) in the early 1880s.

Tribalism is also a powerful force. Consider the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan (or Iraq, for that matter). Tribal loyalties are at least as important as religious ones, and probably more important than nationalism, except perhaps among the Kurds.

The events of the past fifty years or so has created a Palestinian nationalism. As best as I can tell, it is not divided by tribablism. It can by used by supporters of Pan Arabism and by a caliphate, but the nationalists can use the others too. In short I think it is real and not simply a subterfuge.

In all of this debate, I feel like the complexities in the Arab world are slighted in a way that the complexities in the West, or within Israel are not.

Charles Lee Geshekter - 3/28/2005

Folks like you probably also "take it" that 2+2 = 23, that crows are opera singers, and that you can readily identify the three most important things that Arabic-speaking peoples have contributed to world culture and global science in the past 300 years.

Say it ain't so.

Shawn McHale - 3/28/2005

So you seem to admit that one can be anti-Zionist and not an anti-Semite. But you also seem to believe that while that is possible if one is Jewish, it is impossible (virtually impossible?) if one is not Jewish. While I disagree, I think that it is obvious that many who are anti-Zionist slip into anti-Semitism.

You write: "Now, your position regarding Zionism and anti-Zionisms feeding off each other makes no sense. Zionists, the vast, vast, vast majority of them, hope for the saga of the Jews being restored to their place among the nations will come to a successful conclusion. Which is to say, Zionism is a liberation movement. Anti-Zionism, by contrast, has no meaning apart from Zionism as it seeks to defeat Zionism."

The logic in that argument is not clear. You seem to be saying that because Zionism is a liberation movement, it can't feed off other movements. If that is the argument, it it strikes me as a bold assertion that you are trying to pass off as an argument. I frankly know of many liberation movements that have been oppressive. . . .

On dhimmi communities: something tells me that you are not a scholar of Islam. I'm not either. But it simply is not true that Muslims can't live under the authority of dhimmis. It has happened so many times in history. To be a Muslim in Europe or the US, or in the Netherlands East Indies under the Dutch, or in Algeria under the French, was to be under the rule of members of another community.
Furthermore, non-Muslims have served in positions of authority in Muslim empires (e.g. Ottoman). So, could Muslims live under Jews according to shari'a? Well, I assume so, under particular conditions. Is this state of affairs acceptable? Well, in many cases, I assume so. You write as if these issues are settled according to shari'a when in fact they are debated.

In any event, it is unclear what the relevance of these issues is to the point on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Zionists don't want to live under Muslim rule. Muslims do not want to live under Jewish rule. Both communities, however, have in the past. But. . . I am not Muslim. I am not talking about expulsion of Jews from Arab lands, I am not talking about Israeli explusion of Palestinians from their lands. These kinds of arguments are brought up again and again. I simply think that it is possible to not be thrilled with the actual practices of the Israeli state today and not be anti-Semitic. That's all.

N. Friedman - 3/28/2005


It has been 56 years since Israel's birth. We are beginning the third generation of the dispute. Palestinian Arabs are one small group among the tens of millions of people displaced in the period immediately following WWII. In all of the other displacements immediately following the end of WWII, the place of origin accepted none of those who were displaced. Why should Israel do what Poland, Czechoslavakia, Pakistan, India and the various Arab countries have not done and, to this day, refuse to do?

And note: there are 12.5 million Sudetens and 14 million Indians (of Hindu and Muslim faith) displaced without a right of return. There are also, in the immediate aftermath of Israel's creation, hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries who, unlike most Palestinian Arabs, were not partisans and who were forced, in most cases, to leave all their possessions behind and to flee far from home, not -as the case is with the Palestinian Arabs - 5 to 10 miles from their original homes and not to a culture remotely similar to the one they knew.

The quotation mark is properly around the word "returning" because the vast majority of those claiming to be Palestinian refugees are not refugees. They were, instead, born in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian controlled areas. The actual refugees have, for the most part, died since, in fact, the average life span of Arabs in Arab regions is rather low by world standards. As such, the issue is what to do with the children and grandchildren of refugees.

Moreover, the definition of refugee used in connection with Palestinian refugees is unlike the definition in any other world dispute and includes people who, by any normal understand, are not refugees at all.

Michael Barnes Thomin - 3/28/2005

"Something tells me they involve forfeiting Israeli sovreignty over Jerusalem and accepting several million Arab refugees 'returning.'"

I take it that you believe there was nobody living in Israel before 1948?

Michael Barnes Thomin - 3/28/2005

"Something tells me they involve forfeiting Israeli sovreignty over Jerusalem and accepting several million Arab refugees 'returning.'"

I take it that you believe there was nobody living in Israel before 1948?

N. Friedman - 3/28/2005


The debate relates to Irfan's article. My point, which you have only half-correctly represented, is that the vast, vast majority of anti-Zionists are antisemites.

Regarding your comment about anti-Zionist rabbis. Zionism, anti-Zionism and antisemitism are, to considerable extent, intellectual positions that can be held by anyone, Jew or gentile.

In the case of rabbis who are anti-Zionist, they generally belong to a splinter sect (at least post 1948) of Judaism which holds that only God, through a meshaich, can recreate Eretz Y'srael (the Land of Israel). Such people would take the view that the atheist/socialist ben Gurion does not qualify as a meshaich such that Israel is a political entity of no consequence and that the attempt to argue otherwise is akin to a form of blasphemy.

On the other hand, if you find an ordinary rabbi who, post 1948, who claims to be an anti-Zionist, I would not assume automatically that the person is incapable of being an antisemite. In fact, the person may well be an antisemite.

Now, your position regarding Zionism and anti-Zionisms feeding off each other makes no sense. Zionists, the vast, vast, vast majority of them, hope for the saga of the Jews being restored to their place among the nations will come to a successful conclusion. Which is to say, Zionism is a liberation movement. Anti-Zionism, by contrast, has no meaning apart from Zionism as it seeks to defeat Zionism.

In the West, Anti-Zionists have traditionally argued a number of different things. Historically, the main argument (and the argument has its roots in Christianity) has been that Jews are the deicide people who must, as they had done before 1948, wander the Earth forever and ever. Which is to say, the argument, historically speaking, has its main root in anti-Judaism. An offshoot of that argument is that Zionists seek to conquer the world. That argument finds its advocacy in documents such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery written in France in the 19th Century in order, evidently, to combat pre-modern Zionism and was initially used by the Czarist government but later the Nazis. Again, this version of anti-Zionism is really antisemitism. The antisemitism/anti-Zionism which has its roots in The Protocols is eliminationist in cast and is, in fact, the antisemitism/anti-Zionism of the Nazi party. Lastly, there have been Marxists who have argued against Zionism on the ground that the nation state is a thing of the past. While the argument sounds, on the surface, like it is universal, in practice there are no countries, other than Israel, singled out for annihilation by Marxist. Which is to say, they make Israel the test case. [With reference to Marxism, it is worth noting that Marx's writings regarding Jews were, to put it politely, bigotted.] So, if the argument is not really disguised antisemitism, it is reasonable to inquire why Israel, but not a prospective Palestinian state (or Jordan or France or Mexico), should be the focus of Marxist ideologues.

Arguments regarding zionism have also been made by Muslims. Such arguments generally derive from tenets of Islam. It is simply not appropriate, at least where it can be fought, for a Muslim to submit to rule by a dhimmi people. Hence, the creation of Israel, even if it had no actual impact on Muslims, would still not be acceptable because rule by dhimmi violates Shari'a. It is debatable whether, in fact, Muslim theology is, on the noted point, antisemitic. Whether or not it is, the objection is not significantly different from the Christian argument that Jews are the deicide people with the exception that Jews under Islam (as well as Christians) may only have conceded privileges that include substantial prohibitions.

[It is worth noting that the Arab countries have essentially expelled all of their Jews and Christians, as remarked by Paul Marshall of Freedom House, are severely persecuted in the Muslim regions - in fact, more so than anywhere else on earth including, as I have posted numerous times, in Sudan (where 2 million Christians and animists were massacred and/or intentionally starved to death in a publically declared Jihad), in Indonesia, in Egypt, in the PA, in Iran, in Pakistan, among other places. My point here is that the prohibitions regarding dhimmi are rather important to Muslims.]

I would note that Ephraim Karsh has shown that a great many Palestinian Arab refugees left what became Israel on urging from religious and other authorities who declared that a Muslim must not submit to rule by a Jew.

I cannot speak, lastly, to what Crown Prince Abdullah states. If his position remains that Israel would be fully normalized but only if the refugees and their offspring are settled in Israel, then his argument is no different from King Faisel's argument that Israel should perish. Please note, however, that the objection from Saudi Arabia has its roots directly in religion.

Charles Lee Geshekter - 3/28/2005

Friedman's points hit the bullseye.

Verily, scratch an anti-Zionist, find an anti-semite.

Shawn McHale - 3/28/2005

No, it is not a good point. And this "debate" is puzzling.

Let me begin with an obligatory statement that I believe that Israel has the right to exist AND has the right to safe and secure borders. And let me add that some anti-Zionists pretend not to be anti-Semites but are. And yes, I think that some commentators on Israel and the Middle East focus their rage on Israel and Palestine while conveniently forgetting other countries that have failed their populations, tortured suspects, and so on. I hope we are now on the same page on this.

Ms. Friedman's main point seems to be that it is possible to be anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic in theory, but not in reality. But it is obviously possible to be anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic *in practice*. I have heard two rabbis speak who are anti-Zionists, and the idea of calling them anti-Semitic just strikes me as bizarre. (You can call them wrong -- but anti-Semitic?)

Perhaps more to the point, I find it odd that there are only two allowable views in this debate: pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist. There are many well-meaning individuals in the world who can see clearly that Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has come at a cost of numerous violations against human dignity. At the same time, while believing this, these individuals are not ready to jump up and down and celebrate an intifadah which has seen Israeli civilians blown to bits.

Such individuals would like to see a third way out of this confrontation. They are not pro-Zionist -- but they are not anti-Zionist. They tend to think that Zionists and anti-Zionists feed off each others ideological broadsides -- each side *depends* on the others to marshall followers to their cause. They are realistic -- they want Israel to continue to exist, they want safeguards to make this possible, and they think that Palestinians have had a bad deal. Yes, I am one of these individuals.

And back to my first comment. It is not a good point to say that no one demands that Saudi Arabia "cease to be Islamic." No -- the point was whether or not Saudi Arabia will ever stop being an Islamic *state.* That is a totally different issue. I am not quite sure what it has to do with a post on anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, though, as Crown Prince Abdullah has actually broached the topic of recognition of Israel and its right to exist, something which Faisal in the 1970s never would have done.

N. Friedman - 3/27/2005


The point, of course, is that if there a separate Palestinnian Arab people, self-defined, such would run contrary to what Arabs had thought for millennia and, moreover, such would be contrary to the politics which have dominated the Arab regions in our life time, namely, the various pan movement: pan-Arabism, Ba'athism and pan-Islamism.

The Palestinian Arabs, self-identified, are a reflection of post-1948 politics. One need only read the Palestinian national charter to understand as much since it says that, for now, the identity of Palestinians as such should be emphasized but that such identity is part and of an Arab nation, not a separate nation. And note: a Palestinian entity, seperately existing other than as a short term expedient, makes no sense against the backdrop of the region's long-standing politics.

To Oscar, this is not to suggest that the Palestinian Arabs should not obtain a better deal than they have. It is, instead, to suggest that (a) the two state solution now on the table matters to westerners but is short term expedient to Muslim Arabs and (b) that there is not much chance of a settlement by creating a separate Palestinian state. Or, in Arafat's long standing formulation (one that, for some reason, many scholars simply ignore but which Arafat opined repeatedly even after signing Oslo), a Palestinian state is merely part of the by stages plan to dismantle Israel and force its residents to flee.

Diana Applebaum - 3/27/2005


The Arabs in Palestine pre-1967 (and yes, I have given Rashid Khalidi's Palestinian Identity a careful reading and can find in it no evidence of a Palestinian identity pre-dating the 60's - only of the wish that Khalidi shares with a small handful of pre-1948 nationalists that the Palestinians should have developed a national consciousness decades before they did so) had identities as Arabs, as Muslims, and as citizens of Ramalleh, Jerusalem, and other localties. They had no Palestinain identity. Their right to self-determination could have been fulfilled in either of two ways. By the two-state solution proposed by the UN in 1948, or by absorbing them into the eastern half of British Mandatory Palestine (i.e. Jordan.) and other Arab states. These two solutions were precluded not by any Israeli action, but by the refusal of Arab leaders both in Mandatory Palestine and in neighboring countries to create a Palestinian State in 1948 or to integrate the refugees into neighboring Arab States. The Jews of Syria and Egypt found self determination in integration into the population of Israel. Syria and Egypt might have integrated the Muslim refugees into their societies. Indeed, they might have settled them into the properties confiscated by the Egyptian and Syrian governemnts from the Jews forced to flee to Israel. As Turkey settled Muslim refugees from the Balkans into properties it confiscated by driving the Greeks into the sea - fortunately for the Greeks, ships appeared to take the great majority of them to Greece after the Turks murdered several tens of thousands at Smyrna.

Certainly, whether to integrate the Arab population of Mandatory Palestine into the populations of existing Arab states , or to set up a small Palestinian nation state - which will be in two parts and as natual-resource poor as Israel is, is a choice for Arabs must make. No one, certainly not American armchair pundits, can make it for them.

What we can say as ethical actors if that to make the third choice, that of continuing the “eight-decades-long Arab assault on Jewish national aspiration and sovereignty,” is not morally defensible. The Arabs have a right to self-determination. They do not have a right to self-determination at the expense of the Jewish right to self-determination.

Yet since the first Zionists arrived now well over a century ago, this has been a one-sided ocnversatin. Jewish opinion varies, but no one denies the right of Arabs to live in self-govening Arab states. There are, however, very few Arab voices that admit the right of Jews to live in a sovereign Jewish State. This has been so for eight decades. And it is the stubborn Arab refusal to concede that Jews have the right to self-determination in the historic Jewish homeland that is at the root of the problem.

N. Friedman - 3/27/2005

Mr. Simon,

I still think we should hear what Irfan has to say.

As for your comment, taken on its own merit, I agree entirely.

N. Friedman - 3/27/2005


For a change, I agree with some of what you write. Which is to say, tragedy is the appropriate description of what occurred.

I do, however, note the following points of subtle but critical correction.

You write: "My first point is this: if one took a snapshot of circumstances in the Middle East at the time of the Arab revolt of 1936--and one did not know the future--one could have concluded reasonably that while the Zionists were attempting to create a homeland peaceably, it was at the cost of denying the majority of the region self-determination."

You also write, consistent with the above: "At that time there were no Middle Eastern Arab Countries that were truly independent (unless you count Turkey) They were either mandates or client states."

First, your theory is premised on the nation state and the notion of self-determination by different groups in the Arab regions being on the agenda of those in the region. Such position, so far as I know, is contradicted by more than a millennia of politics in the region and, most likely, by the politics even now existing in the region. Consider this quote from historian Bat Ye'or:

Arabs who had settled in the Byzantine Holy Land after the early Arab conquest had never manifested any political or cultural autonomy that differentiated them from other Muslim Arab conquerors in the surrounding regions. The idea of an Arab Palestinian people distinct from the larger Arab-Islamic nation was not only utterly new, but contrary to two fundamental historic concepts: that of the umma (the worldwide Islamic community), and of the Arab nation—the ideology, dating from the 1890s, that promoted a pan-Arab totalitarian nationalism proclaiming the Arabs and superior people and combined with pan-Islamism.

Which is to say, the chances that Jews were really interfering with Palestinian Arab self-determination in 1936 or otherwise is simply about zero. This is not to suggest that Palestinian Arab resistance to Israel was mindless or entirely bigotted. Some was but clearly not all. Rather, my point is to suggest that the resistance came from different directions than you identify.

Second, you write: "However, none of this negates this fact: the Arab majority in Palestine were denied the right to determine their own future. Instead they (along with the Jews) were offered partition."

That is not so. Partition was proposed after all other solutions failed. Which is to say, efforts by Jews to work with Arabs to form a joint state were rebuffed repeatedly by the Arab side. Violence flaired and the ruler had no choice other than to attempt to separate the parties - just like we see now occurring -. Hence the idea of partition.

Further, Arab resistance was in considerable, but not totally, due - and this point is rather important to understanding why the dispute has not and likely will not settle in our lifetimes - to the Muslim notion of a justly ruled state. Please consider this point because it goes to the very heart of what Muslims, to the extent they follow their faith, believe and must believe. Specifically, a just political order involves Muslim rule as part of the dar al-Islam (house of Islam). So a state organized as a Jewish homeland within the dar al-Islam with Jewish rule violates basic tenets of Islam. Historically, this issue played out by the leader of the Arab side by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, acting as an implacable opponent to any compromise or joint rule or anything that would involve Jews playing a role in the region.

The tragedy in this circumstance is one of peoples with different world views and expectations being placed in a common drama. It is not one of denial of Arab rights as the Arab side did not understand their position as involving rights. They understood their position in the context of their history and the politics of the time which, as Bat Ye'or accurately notes, was pan-Arab which, in reality, meant pan-Islamic.

E. Simon - 3/27/2005

Where's the conflict between the two?

"However, none of this negates this fact: the Arab majority in Palestine were denied the right to determine their own future. Instead they (along with the Jews) were offered partition."

Were the Jews wrong to not see a contradiction? By your reasoning preventing a nation from becoming an empire would also constitute a denial of self-determination. The "right" of a nation to determine the extent of its own boundaries in this regard is really a stretch.

E. Simon - 3/27/2005

Obviously if my agenda was to poison the well I wouldn't provide links to pieces from The Guardian -


E. Simon - 3/27/2005

As you've titled the thread in such a way that does address him directly, I believe it's likely he'll end up reading my posts as well. I suppose it's understood that he could respond to any one of the comments, and although I've appreciated his insight and reasoning in the past, I'm not sure I can say I'd look forward to his responses here. Discourse should not be discouraged, but the difference between philosophy and history is that context plays a greater role in the latter, and I find it incredibly unfortunate that the gravity of the historical arguments for the establishment of a tiny nation of a few millions has been so cursorily disregarded over the course of just a few short decades; not only disregarded, but subjected to scrutiny such that no other nation has in proportion to its deeds and situation has. Of course, he took the philosophical "high road" by essentially dismissing a sense of fairness, context and equity, concerning the question of disestablishmentarianism but if statehood does play a role in the preservation of nations (and most of us, I believe, would regard the Jews as such) then I think we should ask why it is fair to question the means of self-preservation of one but not all. If the founding of one is questionable, why not all? And ignoring the historical context of anti-Zionism displays far too much generosity to Hitler's allies and decades of mass murder directed by self-proclaimed anti-Zionists against Jews. How often is it that every baby, grandmother, etc., etc., who is blown up is reported by the organization that perpetrated it as another dead "Zionist." Nice.

Re: the dissolution of Israel selectively: Would Irfan also be willing to entertain the notion that ethnic groups who have been involved in a higher percentage of crimes should be denied access to firearms on that basis? This ethnic group "wrongly" obtained a state - therefore let's revoke their right to one. (Actually, they wrongly defended their independence, but that's an aside, of course). Forgive me for not believing self-determination to be a privelege.

Irfan would probably argue: If a convicted serial murderer begs to be released from prison and his sentence overturned on the basis that we can't know _for certain_ that he will kill again, then we should investigate every possibility of taking him at his word that this really is the case. On what kind of a bizarro world do people have the resources to so jeopardize their collective safety by ignoring deduction, context, past knowledge and the like for the sake of such philosophical purity? He might very well have to get used to the idea that erring on the side of self-preservation in the face of imperfect knowledge is perfectly acceptable in today's world, and arguing against it will require that people entertain the abandonment of their own fundamental human nature.

I remember an HNN post by someone who said something to the effect that they saw nothing insidious about Israel's military history (including, as stated, its 1948 War of Independence), "especially considering the fact that Israel did not initiate any of the aforementioned wars (unless one wishes to consider the birth of a nation from the ashes of Hitler's ovens to be an act of aggression.)" Jonathan Dresner also linked a great reply to our friend, Mr. Pettit, on the peculiar nature of anti-Zionism, and I'll provide the link here once I find it.


Oscar Chamberlain - 3/27/2005


To conflate the complex struggle in Palestine so that opposition to a Jewish state there in 1925 is the same as opposition to a Jewish state in 2005 is unworthy of the usual high quality of your writing.

In 1925, Palestine was controlled by a foreign power (from every perspective). The dominant majority was Arab. The majority of Arabs were Muslim. (This analysis of the population numbers looks pretty balanced.) At that time there were no Middle Eastern Arab Countries that were truly independent (unless you count Turkey) They were either mandates or client states.

Thus the Arabs in Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s were not in the circumstances you describe in your second paragraph. There were no truly independent Arab states. In Palestine, the British told Arabs that any aspirations they have must be compromised with the creation of a Jewish homeland.

That creation process in this period was largely peaceful. The land purchases were legal, and there were attempts to create a government that represented both Arabs and Jews. But no matter how you cut it, the majority had to bow to the barrel of British guns.

Such circumstances can result in legitimate resistance. That happened. They can also lead to the rise of demagogues playing on fear and bigotry. Alas, that also happened, and the two became entwined.

My first point is this: if one took a snapshot of circumstances in the Middle East at the time of the Arab revolt of 1936--and one did not know the future--one could have concluded reasonably that while the Zionists were attempting to create a homeland peaceably, it was at the cost of denying the majority of the region self-determination.

World War II changed things radically. It raised the issue of a Jewish homeland from a question of aspiration to a question of survival. (While Zionism was founded on the well-founded fear of oppression, very very few people expected anything resembling the Holocaust before WWII was well underway.) This new worldview was reinforced by the West, which refused to open its doors to most of the millions of displaced Jews who did not (or could not) return to the land of their birth.

Had I been a Jew in Palestine in 1946 or 1947, or a displaced Jew in Europe, I have little doubt that I would have fought for a Jewish state as a matter of right and of self-preservation. I do not think the world gave them a credible alternative. That alone is sufficient to legitimize Israel's right to exist.

However, none of this negates this fact: the Arab majority in Palestine were denied the right to determine their own future. Instead they (along with the Jews) were offered partition.

There was a new factor, also a result of World War II. Many Arab states were no longer client states--at least no longer reliably so on this issue. They offered to help; many Palestinians Arabs accepted that help; many did not, apparently preferring partition to war.

From the standpoint of the the Jews in Palestine, these Arab nations threatened to enact a second Holocaust by invading, a fear supported by Arab rhetoric both inside and outside Palestine. They invaded. The Jews, with some Palestinian Arab allies, resisted successfully and fought to expand the partition borders--which could only have functioned in peacetime--to something more workable in time of war. In doing so they forced out many Palestinian Arabs who had not actively resisted them as well as the many who had.

Diane, in short, the story up to the creation of Israel is not the cheap "they're all bigots" approach of your post. Nor is it the cheap "the Jews with British help have been conquerers and thugs from day one" story still pumped out by people who wrongly argue that Israel has no right to exist.

It is a tragedy, in which the denial of rights to two groups of people--including injustices committed by both sides--resulted in a terrible conflict. We need to be able to speak of this with the sympathy and complexity that it deserves, and not with soudbites like your comment above.

N. Friedman - 3/27/2005


You might also read Walid Phares on the topic of Christians in the Muslim world.

The bottom line is that they are leaving as fast as they can.

N. Friedman - 3/27/2005

Mr. Simon,

You have raised some fair questions and, as you know, you and I stand pretty much together on the questions you raise. You might therefore direct your points to Irfan directly.

Diana Applebaum - 3/27/2005

Electronic Intifada is an anti-Zionist, anti-Israel Web site that prides itself on not being anti-Semitic. The editors of EI have taken the lead , for example, in "outing" Israel Shamir, an old-fashioned Christian anti-Semite who was, for several years, a darling of the anti-Israel radical left because he had legally changed his name in Sweden and published virulently anti-Semitic articles under the new Jewish identity. Even the Presbyterian Church felt free to publish anti-Semitic rants from Israel Shamir under the mindless excuse that something written by a Jew could not be anti-Semitic. When he was exposed, EI immediately took his articles down and called on other anti-Israel WEB pages to follow suit. This, in other words, is a group that explicitely claims to separate anti-Semitism from a desire to eliminate the Jewish State.

Take a look at this http://www.peacewithrealism.org/headline/divest01.htm
to see how shallow their pretense is. I particularly like the image of the American dollar with George Washington's portrait replaced by the Star of David.

Diana Applebaum - 3/27/2005

Christians in the Zionist State enjoy full legal freedom, including the right to serve in Parliament and to hold University Chairs. They could choose to serve in the army as do the Druze and and Bedouin do, but they have chosen to ally themselves politically with Muslims.

The contrast there is to the treatment of Christians in Arab nationas, even in secular Arab nations like Egupt and Syria. Yet no one questions the right of Egypt and Syria to exist.

Church of Martyrs by Anthony Browne , Saturday March 26, 2005 Anthony Browne is Europe correspondent of the Times. http://www.spectator.co.uk/article.php?table=§ion=&issue=2005-03-26&id=5882

For most citizens of Iraq, the invasion meant the end of tyranny. For one group, however, it meant a new start: the country’s historic Christian community. When the war stopped, persecution by Islamists, held in check by Saddam, started.

At a church in Basra I visited a month after the war ended, the women complained of attacks against them for not wearing the Islamic veil. I saw many Christian-owned shops that had been firebombed, with many of the owners killed for exercising their legal right to sell alcohol. Two years and many church attacks later, Iraq may still be occupied by Christian foreign powers, but the Islamist plan to ethnically cleanse Iraq of its nearly 2,000-year-old Assyrian and Armenian Christian communities is reaching fruition.

There is nothing unusual about the persecution of Iraqi Christians, or the unwillingness of other Christians to help them. Rising nationalism and fundamentalism around the world have meant that Christianity is going back to its roots as the religion of the persecuted. There are now more than 300 million Christians who are either threatened with violence or legally discriminated against simply because of their faith — more than any other religion. Christians are no longer, as far as I am aware, thrown to the lions. But from China, North Korea and Malaysia, through India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, they are subjected to legalised discrimination, violence, imprisonment, relocation and forced conversion. Even in supposedly Christian Europe, Christianity has become the most mocked religion, its followers treated with public suspicion and derision and sometimes — such as the would-be EU commissioner Rocco Buttiglione — hounded out of political office.

I am no Christian, but rather a godless atheist whose soul doesn’t want to be saved, thank you. I may not believe in the man with the white beard, but I do believe that all persecution is wrong. The trouble is that the trendies who normally champion human rights seem to think persecution is fine, so long as it’s only against Christians. While Muslims openly help other Muslims, Christians helping Christians has become as taboo as jingoistic nationalism.

On the face of it, the idea of Christians facing serious persecution seems as far-fetched as a carpenter saving humanity. Christianity is the world’s most followed religion, with two billion believers, and by far its most powerful. It is the most popular faith in six of the seven continents, and in both of the world’s two biggest economies, the US and Europe. Seven of the G8 richest industrial nations are majority Christian, as are four out of five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The cheek-turners control the vast majority of the world’s weapons of mass destruction.

When I bumped into George Bush in the breakfast room of the US embassy in Brussels last month, standing right behind me were two men in uniform carrying the little black ‘nuclear football’, containing the codes to enable the world’s most powerful Christian to unleash the world’s most powerful nuclear arsenal. Christians claiming persecution seem as credible as Bill Gates pleading poverty. But just as Christian-majority armies control Iraq as it ethnically cleanses itself of its Christian community, so the power of Christian countries is of little help to the Christian persecuted where most Christians now live: the Third World.

Across the Islamic world, Christians are systematically discriminated against and persecuted. Saudi Arabia — the global fountain of religious bigotry — bans churches, public Christian worship, the Bible and the sale of Christmas cards, and stops non-Muslims from entering Mecca. Christians are regularly imprisoned and tortured on trumped-up charges of drinking, blaspheming or Bible-bashing, as some British citizens have found. Just last month, furthermore, Saudi Arabia announced that only Muslims can become citizens.

The Copts of Egypt make up half the Christians in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity. They inhabited the land before the Islamic conquest, and still make up a fifth of the population. By law they are banned from being president of the Islamic Republic of Egypt or attending Al Azhar University, and severely restricted from joining the police and army. By practice they are banned from holding any high political or commercial position. Under the 19th-century Hamayouni decrees, Copts must get permission from the president to build or repair churches — but he usually refuses. Mosques face no such controls.

Government-controlled TV broadcasts anti-Copt propaganda, while giving no airtime to Copts. It is illegal for Muslims to convert to Christianity, but legal for Christians to convert to Islam. Christian girls — and even the wives of Christian priests — are abducted and forcibly converted to Islam, recently prompting mass demonstrations. A report by Freedom House in Washington concludes: ‘The cumulative effect of these threats creates an atmosphere of persecution and raises fears that during the 21st century the Copts may have a vastly diminished presence in their homelands.’

Fr Drew Christiansen, an adviser to the US Conference of Bishops, recently conducted a study which stated that ‘all over the Middle East, Christians are under pressure. “The cradle of Christianity” is under enormous pressure from demographic decline, the growth of Islamic militancy, official and unofficial discrimination, the Iraq war, the Palestinian Intifada, failed peace policies and political manipulation.’

In the world’s most economically successful Muslim nation, Malaysia, the world’s only deliberate affirmative action programme for a majority population ensures that Muslims are given better access to jobs, housing and education. In the world’s most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, some 10,000 Christians have been killed in the last few years by Muslims trying to Islamify the Moluccas.

In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, most of the five million Christians live as an underclass, doing work such as toilet-cleaning. Under the Hudood ordinances, a Muslim can testify against a non-Muslim in court, but a non-Muslim cannot testify against a Muslim. Blasphemy laws are abused to persecute Christians. In the last few years, dozens of Christians have been killed in bomb and gun attacks on churches and Christian schools.

In Nigeria, 12 states have introduced Sharia law, which affects Christians as much as Muslims. Christian girls are forced to wear the Islamic veil at school, and Christians are banned from drinking alcohol. Thousands of Christians have been killed in the last few years in the ensuing violence.

Although persecution of Christians is greatest in Muslim countries, it happens in countries of all religions and none. In Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, religious tension led to 44 churches being attacked in the first four months of 2004, with 140 churches being forced to close because of intimidation. In India, the rise of Hindu nationalism has lead to persecution not just of Muslims but of Christians. There have been hundreds of attacks against the Christian community, which has been in India since ad 100. The government’s affirmative action programme for untouchables guarantees jobs and loans for poor Hindus and Buddhists, but not for Christians.

Last year in China, which has about 70 million Christians, more than 100 ‘house churches’ were closed down, and dozens of priests imprisoned. If you join the Communist party, you get special privileges, but you can only join if you are atheist. In North Korea, Christians are persecuted as anti-communist elements, and dissidents claim they are not just imprisoned but used in chemical warfare experiments.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the Barnabas Trust, which helps persecuted Christians, blames rising global religious tension. ‘More and more Christians are seen as the odd ones out — they are seen as transplants from the West, and not really trusted. It is getting very much worse.’

Even in what was, before multiculturalism, known as Christendom, Christians are persecuted. I have spoken to dozens of former Muslims who have converted to Christianity in Britain, and who are shunned by their community, subjected to mob violence, forced out of town, threatened with death and even kidnapped. The Barnabas Trust knows of 3,000 such Christians facing persecution in this country, but the police and government do nothing.

You get the gist. Dr Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Centre for Religious Freedom in Washington, estimates that there are 200 million Christians who face violence because of their faith, and 350 million who face legally sanctioned discrimination in terms of access to jobs and housing. The World Evangelical Alliance wrote in a report to the UN Human Rights Commission last year that Christians are ‘the largest single group in the world which is being denied human rights on the basis of their faith’.

Part of the problem is old-style racism against non-whites; part of it is new-style guilt. If all this were happening to the world’s Sikhs or Muslims simply because of their faith, you can be sure it would lead the 10 O’Clock News and the front page of the Guardian on a regular basis. But the BBC, despite being mainly funded by Christians, is an organisation that promotes ridicule of the Bible, while banning criticism of the Koran. Dr Marshall said: ‘Christians are seen as Europeans and Americans, which means you get a lack of sympathy which you would not get if they were Tibetan Buddhists.’

Christians themselves are partly to blame for all this. Some get a masochistic kick out of being persecuted, believing it brings them closer to Jesus, crucified for His beliefs. Christianity uniquely defines itself by its persecution, and its forgiveness of its persecutors: the Christian symbol is the method of execution of its founder. Christianity was a persecuted religion for its first three centuries, until Emperor Constantine decided that worshipping Jesus was better for winning battles than worshipping the sun. In contrast, Mohammed was a soldier and ruler who led his people into victorious battle against their enemies. In the hundred years after the death of Mohammed, Islam conquered and converted most of North Africa and the Middle East in the most remarkable religious expansion in history.

To this day, while Muslims stick up for their co-religionists, Christians — beyond a few charities — have given up such forms of discrimination. Dr Sookhdeo said: ‘The Muslims have an Ummah [the worldwide Muslim community] whereas Christians do not have Christendom. There is no Christian country that says, “We are Christian and we will help Christians.”’

As a liberal democrat atheist, I believe all persecuted people should be helped equally, irrespective of their religion. But the guilt-ridden West is ignoring people because of their religion. If non-Christians like me can sense the nonsense, how does it make Christians feel? And how are they going to react? The Christophobes worried about rising Christian fundamentalism in Britain should understand that it is a reaction to our double standards. And as long as our double standards exist, Christian fundamentalism will grow.

E. Simon - 3/27/2005

I would then deduce that Irfan would find legitimate the sentiment that the Kurds should not have a state as the majority population of their "place" would be Turkish, or that the Tibetans should not have a state since the majority Han Chinese population of their "place" (the boundaries of which, conveniently enough, are arbitrarily defined according to the interests of the expansionist PRC) reject that. Or of Pakistan against the wishes of the "majority" of the subcontinent (since we've arbitrarily chosen that to be the distinguishing land mass) that preferred it to remain wholly India. And so on. Obviously this line of reasoning requires that the majority group defines its boundaries to include areas where the minority live. So it looks like enclaves like Swaziland and Lesotho also have to go. As well as the PNA, so long as the majority in that arbitrarily defined "place" remain Israeli. He's encouraging a war of reproduction, a lesson the Palestinians indicate they've taken seriously. Is this a good thing?

Further he claims ignores that no other mechanism than the nation-state has been more instrumental in protecting its majority ethno-cultural groups from persecution and genocidal attempts at annihilation. Any other proposal is hypothetical and discounts the importance of an at least equal and existential interest on the part of that polity toward the group in question.

And he claims that simultaneously ignoring the much more sectarian nature of dozens of other states in the region, states which have specifically been interested in doing away with Israel and never credibly presented a viable alternative for "saving Jews" (yet have killed thousands of them) does not indict anti-Zionism. Let us then address the issue of balance. Why does that particular nature of Israel come to the forefront? It's an agenda that cares nothing for Jews. Since their self-preservation was a defining motivation for the establishment of Israel, it's incumbent upon these "alternative solution" advocates to present a convincing construction that would. So far, those most interested in doing away with Israel have shown incredibly bad faith in that regard.

Of course, this is a real world analysis where things like observation of past history, incentives and deduction matter, so it might not interest the esoterical abstractions and philosophical purity that seem to motivate Irfan's analysis here.

N. Friedman - 3/27/2005

Mr. Simon,

I do not know Irfan's writings well enough to judge his real views. The only article on Israel he previously wrote - or at least the only one he wrote which I read - expressed the Arab side position from the perspective of Edward Said and countered that view with the Jewish side as represented by, among others, Hillel Halkin (who notes that to oppose Zionism is to believe in the dismemberment of the Jews). Interestingly, in opposition to Halkin, Irfan writes - and this addresses your point in a way -:

The Zionist Orientalist thesis involves a complex and controversial set of claims, almost every one of which may legitimately be disputed. Precisely because it is complex, however, and difficult to dispute in a soundbite culture, defenders of Israel have often (in fact, typically) taken the path of least resistance in dealing with it, making reflexive charges of "anti-Semitism" against its proponents in lieu of dealing with their arguments. We see a succinct example of this in a recent essay by the Israeli writer Hillel Halkin:

One cannot be against Israel or Zionism, as opposed to this or that Israeli policy or Zionist position, without being anti-Semitic. Israel is the state of the Jews. Zionism is the belief that the Jews should have a state. To defame Israel is to defame the Jews. To wish it never existed, or would cease to exist, is to wish to destroy the Jews.

Despite its syllogism-like appearance, Halkin's argument is little more than an exercise in obfuscation. First, Zionism is not merely "the belief that the Jews should have a state"; it is the belief that the Jews should have had a Jewish state in a place where the majority population was not Jewish-a difficulty Halkin neither addresses nor even acknowledges. Secondly, to reject Zionism is not to "defame" anyone or anything; it is to reject its principles, something that can surely come from a well-intentioned commitment to incompatible principles. (Nor in any case is "Israel" to be so blithely equated with "the Jews.") Thirdly, "to wish Israel never to have existed" is not "to wish to destroy the Jews" so long as one thinks that there were other viable options for saving them. And it's an open question whether there were. Finally, "to wish that Israel cease to exist" is ambiguous. In its non-malevolent sense, it refers not to a wish to harm Jews, but to a wish to do away with the specifically Jewish character of the Israeli legal system so as to promote a secular as opposed to sectarian conception of citizenship. In short, whatever the merits or demerits of the anti-Zionist position, no argument like Halkin's counts as a legitimate response to it. The deficiencies of the argument, however, have done nothing to weaken its currency, and one regularly finds pro-Israeli polemicists using it in brazen attempts at insult and defamation.

Irfan, of course, fails to consider that there is no place on earth where a Jewish homeland could be established without running into another established group. Which is to say, Halkin's view actually does answer Said's orientalism argument quite well.

As I have written, wherever Israel might have been created, other than on land created in the middle of the ocean, large numbers of people would be adversely affected. More generally - since there are, according to the Boston Globe, 50 million refugees today and most of them, like the Jews until the re-creation of Israel, have no prospect of obtaining rights -, there is an irreconcilable moral dilemma that pits stateless refugees and those who already have states. Which is to say, those without states, with as much right, morally speaking, as the rest of humanity to a state, will not have real rights without concessions by those with rights and states including concession of land to form states. Such, you will note, is the basis of any argument for the Palestinian Arabs. The very same argument supports the right claimed by the Jews which, somewhere, would have pitted them against other people.

E. Simon - 3/27/2005

I think there is one particular thing which Irfan needs to answer to, assuming - as I and I would think many others do, that anti-Zionism is a form of Israel disestablishmentarianism. That thing would be the fact that no instrument has been constructed with which to provide ethno-cultural groups a better means for self-preservation than the nation state. As Ms. Applebaum has stated, some groups endorse ideologies that envision the withering away of nation-states as part of a comprehensive global philosophy. Those that would specifically seek to deny Jews the established fact of political nationhood or delegitimize Israel have largely ignored the human elements for arguing for its foundation.

If we can't assume to rely on the "goodwill" of states to protect minorities - such as Jews - the only likely instrument whereby Jews would not be at risk from attacks by the state or, in other cases, through its bystander status, is a state established explicitly, (but not only) for that purpose, as implicitly or explicitly occurs in virtually every other state where the majority population tends to not suffer discriminating and disproportionate attacks from its government or actors who go ignored by it. So the anti-Zionists have generally chosen to ignore this fundamental dilemma. And as long as anyone else continues to do so, they will not be able to convince anyone that the delegitimization of Israel, cannot result in the revocation of the only explicit and politically viable refuge for victims or potential victims of anti-Semitism.

In other words, I think he's being a bit generous to a viewpoint that apparently (perhaps even intentionally?) avoids engaging concepts of self-preservation and the instrumentality of statehood in this regard. Is it really about anti-Zionism or selective anti-Self Preservationism? If the latter case is his rationale, I would think a philosopher would want to be consistent in applying this denial of a fundamental means for the self-preservation of nations across the board.

E. Simon - 3/27/2005

Thanks -

N. Friedman - 3/27/2005


Very well said.

N. Friedman - 3/27/2005

Mr. Simon,

Well said.

N. Friedman - 3/27/2005


First, to answer your question directly: those who oppose Israel's inclusion of portions of Judea, Samaria and Gaza but admit to Israel's existence within defensible borders are not anti-Zionist. In fact,most, if not all, of the people criticized by Irfan favor Israel ceding territory if it will end the dispute. So, frankly, I think you are barking up the wrong tree.

The issue, as I understand it, for Jews and, most especially, to those like Elie Wiesel, Natan Sharansky and Bat Ye'or, among others (and also among non-Jewish supporters of Israel), is the rendition of Israel's minor border dispute into Europe and the radical Left's cause celebre. Such rendition has no rational conceivable justification based on the amount of harm alleged to be caused or on any other criteria - yet Israel's "occupation" has become a cause celebre.

I argue that making Israel's "occupation" into a cause celebre has no rational basis because there are so many other, far, far worse things going on in the world. Which is to say, there is no correlation between the harm being caused and the centrality that Israel's sins have been assigned.

Were the harm caused the issue or even part of the issue, then people would find a way to focus on disputes which have caused real harm. I point out frequently on these pages that Sudan has had 2 million people killed since 1983. Most of those killed were Christians and animists and the killers were mostly Muslim Arabs. The deaths were due to a publicly declared Jihad and has involved widespread massacres as well as the intentional starving to death of innocent people. Moreover, slavery was reintroduced in Sudan by the Muslim side and there are, today, about 200,000 slaves. Further, food has been used as a weapon to force Christians and animists to convert to Islam. And children have been taken from their parents in very large numbers and been raised, against their parent's will, as Muslims. That war, as you may know, has finally died down but now there is a new conflict involving a related issue in which 18,000 people are being killed per month.

Where is the world's outrage about Sudan? How did the humanitarian Left let Sudan's Jihad proceed without objection yet scream about Israel? Hypocrisy does not even begin to explain the silence about Sudan and misplaced moral outrage about Israel.

In other words, what is happening in Sudan should be the cause celebre of anyone who cares one wit about people. Yet, a different dispute where the issues are far from black and white and where only a few thousand people have died, albeit needlessly (and there are no good ways to die), over whether Jews can have a state or, as some claim, over Israel's exact borders or where Jews will and will not reside, is the cause celebre.

Perhaps antisemitism is not what is behind the non-coverage of what occured in Sudan while Israel, where a 4,000 - not 2 million - people were killed, but the event makes the centrality to Europeans and leftists of Israel's alleged sins an outrage and shows such critics to be morally bankrupt.

In my mind, many of those singled out as antisemitic really are antisemitic. While some may be captured by an overwide paint brush, most are not. Such people apply different criteria for judging Israel than they apply anywhere else in the world. And that is certainly a clear sign of antisemite.

E. Simon - 3/27/2005

Zionism is the movement without which the state of Israel would not have been brought into existence. The good will of Western benefactors alone would not have been sufficient to replace a will to self-determination on the part of Jews and their search for a historically significant jurisdiction in which to express it. Clearly since that exists within Israel proper, a large number of self-declared Israeli Zionists have no problem condemning state or non-state affiliated actions commited in the occupied territories. Conflating the actions of fringe groups or even state actions with the basis of mainstream Zionist philosophy is like saying Muslims at large need to be anti-Muslim in order to condemn 9/11.

If your position is that anti-Zionists don't generally believe in Israel-eliminationism, I would prefer to see more evidence. Either that, or I think they are confusing terminology; a confusion that would largely then be the result of a decades-long regional propoganda campaign that also has no problem appropriating Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, depending on the intended audience.

Diana Applebaum - 3/26/2005

The entire anti-Zionist case can quite fairly be reduced to an “eight-decades-long Arab assault on Jewish national aspiration and sovereignty.”

There are - count them - 23 Arab states. Many of them have constitutions that explicitly prohibit Jews from becoming citizens (Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the list continues.) Almost all of them stripped their ancient Jewish communities of their property and turned them into penniless stateless refugees, usually slaughtering some to make the rest understand that they had better leave quickly. The Arab and Iranian governments who behaved this way said that they were expelling not Jews, but "Zionists." Almost half of the population of Israel are refugees or the descendents of refugees from Muslim anti-Semitism.

It is absurd to ask the intellectuals or Jews distinguish anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism when the Anti-Semites make no such distinction.

To be anti-Zionist is to state that the Jews, alone among the nations of the world, are not entitled to a state in their national homeland.

There are, of course, proponents of one-world ideologies like Marxism and Islamism, who advocate that no nation-state has the right to exist (the whole wolrd ought to become a stateless, workers utopia, or the whole world ought to surrender to to belief in the God of Islam and live in unity under a righteous caliph.) People who advocate for such utopian causes are dangerous on many levels. They are anti-Semites when they say that nation states should be abolished, and choose among the 190-odd sovereign states to target the lone Jewish State for elimination.

Oscar Chamberlain - 3/26/2005


Your statement is built on a false assumption, which is that anti-Zionism must=rejection of the right of Israel to exist. Remember Zionmism has been used to defend not only the right of Israel to exist but also its right by virtue of history to incorporate "Judea" and "Samaria" without regard to the wishes of the people in those regions.

So here is the problem. Most of the examples in this article refer to the occupation. Nearly all acts of expansion in this area have been justified by some groups within Israel on the basis of Zionism, which at its core asserts the right to a homeland in this region.

Given that reality, how could someone oppose some of the actions of Israel in the territories conquered in the six days war and not be anti-Zionist, by some standards at least?

N. Friedman - 3/26/2005


That is a very, very good point.

To Irfan: Sandor's point, that no one actually demands that Saudi Arabia cease to be Islamic, speaks volumes about the hypocrisy and antisemitism which, in fact, does dominate debate about Israel.

N. Friedman - 3/26/2005


As much as I am impressed by your intelligence, your argument confuses theory with history. In theory, there could be a real distinction between Anti-Zionism and antisemitism but, historically, opposition to Zionism was likely not only the driving force behind eliminationist antisemitism of the Nazi stripe but also, historically, public criticism of things involving Jews has almost always broken down, as it has in Europe, into antisemitism (e.g. the Dreyfuss affair).

Which is to say, it is possible to oppose Israel's right to exist and not be an antisemite. On the other hand, that distinction simply will not hold up in practice. Hence, while people sometimes use an overwide brush to paint those who attack Israel's right to exist into the antisemitic portrait, the reality is that most critics of Israel's right to exist - and even, occasionally, criticism of Israel's policies - really are almost certainly antisemitic. So, if someone is an anti-Zionist, I think the onus is on that person to disprove their antisemitism.

And please do not tell me about the difficulty of proving a negative. Lawyers and other practical people face that problem all the time. In the realm of what is practical, it is possible to make a reasonable case for who is and is not antisemitic.

Now, I would like to address the question of the logic of arguing that a country, which already exists, run by Jews has no right to exist. Frankly, I do not think that there is an argument that objects to Israel's existence which does not, if it is consistent, also argue against the existence of nation states.

I suggest another point. Why does a country which exist have to have a right to exist? That, to me, is a crazy notion. What is the basis for the judgement of that right? Is it the decency of the government's policy? In that case, Germany would long ago have been eliminated since, quite obviously, German nationalism and also pan-Germanism (i.e. Nazism) have proven themselves a danger for the world - 80 million dead in 2 terrible wars -. England would have been eliminated since its nationalism tends toward world domination.

My point is not to harp scorn on Germany and the UK. My point is that the objection to a state is an intellectually meaningless thing.

Or, to put the matter differently, the justification for a country is its existence, not its origins (since almost all countries have an origin which involved massive expulsions or massacres of people) and not its policies - as Germany has demostrated -. So, in reality, anti-Zionism is another form of hypocrisy that, for historical reasons, is closely related to Antisemitism.

Needless to remind you: in Christian society, the notion of a Jewish dominated state is an anathema. Jews are the deicide people and are condemned to wander the Earth forever and ever. The notion that Western society, as an historical matter, has really passed that view is nonsense. That view was the dominant view not 60 years ago as it was for the millennia before. At best, there was a short hiatus in antisemitism post WWII but world tension has caused antisemitism to resurface with a vengeance.

In Islamic culture, Jews are "tolerated" but only upon submitting to a dhimma. The relationship between Jews and Muslims is, at best, unequal and, as Bernard Lewis notes, traditionally one of contempt by Muslims for Jews. And the Muslim regions, most particularly the Arab parts thereof, do not acknowledge the inherent right of Jews to play a leading role in governance. The notion that anti-Zionism among Muslims is not closely tied to the Muslim notion of who rules a just society is ludicrous.

Consider, at the time that Israel came to be, countries in Asia objected to Israel on colonialist grounds. Those arguments have largely given way - since colonialism does not create a permanent stain as it is not religious and, hence, not permanently reinforced - and, where there is criticism by such countries of Israel, it is limited to siding with the Muslim bloc at the UN while trading with Israel and having friendly relations with Israel (e.g. China, Japan and India).

Only in Europe (i.e. post-Christian Europe) and in the Muslim regions is anti-Zionism widespread. I submit to you that such has a great deal to do with Israel being a country run by Jews and the basic mindset of people raised in Europe and the Muslim regions regarding the appropriate role in society of Jews. Which is to say, if one speaks about what is actually driving opposition to Israel, it is antisemitism.