Ok, so by now you’ve heard the story about Mohamed Cherif Abbas–Algeria’s minister for veterans affairs–who declared in an interview with the daily newspaper El Khabar that French President Nicolas Sarkozy was brought to power by a “Jewish lobby that has a monopoly on French industry.” Abbas also mentioned Sarkozy’s “roots,” an apparent reference to the French president’s maternal grandfather, who was Jewish.
But what you probably haven’t heard about yet is the other key piece of “evidence” proving that the Zionists were responsible for Sarkozy’s election. In his interview, Abbas noted: “Don’t you know that Israeli Authorities issued a stamp bearing the picture of Sarkozy amid his presidency campaign?”
Behold the stamp in question:
The Israeli post office has a service, whereby you can order customized stamps with a portrait of yourself, a family member, or even a pet. The stamps are intended for use within Israel, and include–as part of the standard template–declarations of “Mazel Tov” and the image of a gift box. (They’re mostly used for birthday cards, bar mitzvahs, and other festive occasions.)
Sylvain Semhoun–the Israel representative of Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement party and a member of the assembly of French citizens abroad–commissioned a four-shekel stamp to mark Sarkozy’s 52nd birthday, and then distributed more than 1,000 stamps as a souvenir to the party’s volunteer workers in January. (In doing so, he broke Israeli post office rules that such stamps should only feature portraits of family members…but the post office employee who processed the order either didn’t recognize Sarkozy’s portrait, or simply didn’t care.)
Now, in a sane world, the story would be end there. But, Semhoun decided to post an image of the stamp on the “photo album” section of the Terre d’Israel website.
The stamp eventually came to the attention of a rabidly anti-semitic, pro-Dieudonné website called “La Banlieue s’exprime” (“The Suburbs Speak”). In March, the site published news of the stamp, declaring that it was produced by the Israeli government and that “It calls for French Jews to vote for the candidature of Nicolas Sarkozy for the good of Israel.” One visitor to the site declared: “The stamp is a disgrace as well as a betrayal and proves one thing: all Jews are called to vote Sarkozy, otherwise, why would it be printed mostly in Hebrew?”
Inevitably, news of the postage stamp spread to Indymedia and various anti-Zionist blogs (see here), with titles like: “Sarkozy has Israel’s stamp of approval.”
Next, the stamp was the subject of a column by Bernard Langlois–in the leftist French weekly Politis—who decried that the State of Israel “which can distinguish its true friends, released a stamp bearing Sarkozy’s effigy. ” And then the story got picked up by the French Communist daily L’Humanité. The journalist, Marie Barbier, reported that, after careful inspection, the stamp was not a hoax, and concluded: “Since the end of January, the Israelis have actually a Stamp of approval for Nicolas Sarkozy. “
Eventually, the story made its way to an Algerian government minister: The “smoking gun” proving that there was a Zionist conspiracy to elect Sarkozy.
This is why I’ve never felt the urge to use hallucinogenic drugs: The real world is strange enough already.
My review? Two stars. It’s dense, academic and turgid (yes, I know those three words are redundant).
Still, two passages are definitely worth quoting. First, regarding the frequent tendency to label Israel as a “Nazi” or “apartheid” state:
Such language is justified, we are told by some on the self-proclaimed “progressive” left, because it serves to “isolate,” to “delegitimate” Israel, to establish it in the public mind as a “pariah state.” To those, like myself, just old enough to recall the events and atmosphere of the 1940s, there seems very little that could be called “progressive” either about these arguments or about the goals they serve. To isolate the Jews, to turn them into pariahs, to delegitimate their presence in Europe was precisely, after all, the object of Nazi policy toward the Jews.
And here’s a long-overdue take on the tired claim that the Jewish community (or Lobby, or cabal, whatever) uses accusations of anti-semitism to silence critics of Israel. Harrison ponders the scenario: What if these claims were true? How would this “great silencing” supposedly work?
Would publishing houses and major periodicals such as the New York Review of Books or the London Review of Books cease to offer space in their columns or book contracts to people like Judt or Mearsheimer and Walt, once the label “anti-Semite” had been publicly affixed to them, like the eponymous Scarlet Letter in Hawthorne’s novel? Might those people themselves, like certain Soviet writers warned of Joseph Stalin’s displeasure, be expected to humbly recant their former opinions in groveling letters of apology?
Is one to take this seriously? Walt and Mearsheimer received a contract from Farrar, Straus and Giroux for a book-length version of The Israel Lobby. At the very moment when Jimmy Carter was complaining on CNN about the “tremendous intimidation in our country that has silenced” media criticism of Israel, his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, was at the top of the Amazon best-seller list. If “the Jews control the media,” how have the views of left-wing opponents of Israel come to be so widely publicized and known? And how, in any case, could “the Jews” or anybody else “control” the American or, for that matter, the British media? The media in countries like ours, as our diplomatic representatives frequently observe when endeavoring to smooth the ruffled feathers of leaders of totalitarian states, are beyond control: They are a law unto themselves.
I’ve blogged before about Tony Greenstein, the Jewish anti-Zionist activist who believes that Zionism is like Nazism, that Zionists helped the Nazis carry out the Holocaust, that Israel, uniquely, is an essentially and unchangeably racist state.
Lately, Tony has been criticized by non-Jewish anti-Zionists–notably Gilad Atzmon and his fanbase–who accuse him of being a closet Zionist (gasp!) and Jewish supremacist for speaking out against anti-semitism.
Writing over at Middle East Online, Tony responds to his critics:
When the Zionists accuse supporters of the Palestinians of being anti-Semitic it makes sense for Jewish members to be the first to reject this libel.
But according to some writers, this was just another example of how only Jews engage in racially orientated peace campaigning. In fact, these writers claim that Jews acting politically under a Jewish banner are in practice left-wing Zionists.
The notion that anti-Semitism has anything to do with solidarity with the Palestinians is absurd….Without anti-Semitism there would have been no Zionist settlers. The only effect of a growth of anti-Semitism today would be a new wave of settlers immigrating to Israel.
This is the reason that I write to websites that publish anti-Semitic material and ask them to take those articles down. There are plenty of right-wing and conspiracy web sites which carry anti-Semitic articles, but for pro-Palestinian sites to do so is grist to the Zionist mill.
Translation: Anti-semitism empowers Zionism. Funny, that it never occurs to Tony to make the argument that anti-semitism should be opposed on the basis that racism is wrong, no matter what the context. It speaks volumes that such an argument doesn’t occur to him in making his case to his anti-Zionist fellow travelers.
A constant refrain from Walt & Mearsheimer is that you can’t discuss the “Israel Lobby” without being smeared as a closet anti-semite. Perhaps sensitive to that accusation, just about every review of their book–including the negative reviews–opened with a standard disclaimer that the two professors are very clearly not anti-semitic.
Still, Walt & Mearsheimer groupies like Philip Weiss are outraged over the negative press the two professors got in the United States, and are convinced they would get a much better reception in Europe–a safe distance away from “the Lobby” and its accusations of anti-semitism.
Writing in the Forward, Eric Frey, the managing editor of the Vienna daily Der Standard, observes that not only did Walt & Mearsheimer encounter a skeptical reaction in Germany and Vienna–but the issue of anti-semitism was more openly discussed than in the United States:
Indeed, more than a few book reviewers were nearly as harsh on the strange academic couple and their conspiratorial thesis as their American counterparts were when the book first came out.
Mearsheimer and Walt’s book is not about Israel. It is about American politics, specifically about the allegedly nefarious role played by a mostly Jewish circle of people and organizations in the politics of a predominantly Christian nation. The charge that Jews manipulate non-Jews to further their own interests is so much part of antisemitic lore here in Europe that discussing such a thesis almost immediately requires addressing the issue of anti-semitism.
That is what happened to Mearsheimer and Walt. In what seemed to be every interview and panel discussion, they were forced to address the charge that they were themselves anti-semites, or at least giving ammunition to anti-semites. In the interview I conducted with them in Vienna for my newspaper, Der Standard, the two authors themselves constantly returned to the theme of anti-semitism, sounding defensive and at times snivelling.
Even when it came to the issue of the Iraq war, the academics’ Jewish spin has tended to dampen the impact of their message in Europe. There is a near consensus here on the view that the Bush administration’s decision to go to war was at a minimum foolish and perhaps even criminal, and that the neoconservatives are largely to blame for that decision. But once you equate that group with the Israel Lobby, as Mearsheimer and Walt have done, the Iraq war gets tied up with the darkest sides of Europe’s own history.
Take what happened to Austria’s leading news magazine, Profil, when it published a cover story on Mearsheimer and Walt a few weeks before the launch of the book’s German-language version. The magazine’s attempts to seriously discuss the influence of the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington on American policy in the Middle East were overshadowed by their provocative headline: “Why is Israel so powerful?”, with the subtitle, “Or is it already antisemitic to ask?”
Yes it is, came the answer — even from more than a few people who rarely rise in defense of Israel.
If Mearsheimer and Walt would have written a more balanced and better-researched book, it possibly could have had a bigger impact on European mainstream thinking. The way it looks now, though, is that “The Israel Lobbby” will climb up the bestseller lists — its current ranking on Amazon.de is good, but not spectacular — but will then go the way of those freaky September 11 conspiracy books that blamed the terrorist attacks on the White House or on the CIA.
During the last few months, I’ve seen a number of editorials demanding that pundits be held accountable for their “complicity” in making the case for war in Iraq.
Writing in the National Interest, Justin Logan offers what he considers to be a practical solution:
Thanks to news cycles and short attention spans, pundits get away with murder. Columnists and talking heads can issue endless prognostications about what Iraq will look like in another six months, and because nobody’s going to remember to follow up six months on, it doesn’t matter whether they were right.
The best way to correct the situation is by developing a predictions database, where experts can weigh-in on specific, falsifiable claims about the future, putting their reputations on the line. Something like this was envisioned in a DARPA program developed under Admiral John Poindexter in 2003. The so-called “policy analysis “market” was designed to allow analysts to buy futures contracts for various scenarios. As the value of these contracts went up or down, other analysts could observe and investigate why, determining how and why others were “putting their money where their mouths were”, and whether they should do the same.
Well now, that’s interesting. What’s also interesting is that Justin Logan is an analyst at the Cato Institute, which is affiliated with the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt are among the Coalition’s founding members.
So, I find myself wondering: How would the venerable foreign policy realists fare in this proposed predictions database? Here’s a sampling:
John Mearsheimer: An academic with such a wretched track record, that if he had been a royal astrologer he would have been beheaded. His 1990 opus [pdf] for the Atlantic Monthly, “Why We Will Soon Miss the Cold War,” confidently predicted that the decline of the Soviet Union would usher in a new arms race in Europe, with nations–especially Germany–rushing to build nuclear weapons. In a 1991 NYT editorial [pdf], he made the case for the First Gulf War, predicting that “a quick victory will reduce losses on both sides.” (Iraqi casualties: 40,000 dead troops and more than 140,000 dead civilians.) In 1993, he declared [pdf] that a Ukrainian nuclear deterrent was “inevitable”, since the country would never return its nuclear warheads to Russia. (In 1995, Ukraine returned all of Russia’s nuclear weapons.) Then, in 1998, he said [pdf] the Kosovo peace agreement was “doomed” to fail because “neither the Albanians nor the Serbs are likely to stick to it.” (One year later, Milosevic agreed to withdraw troops from Kosovo, and the Kosovo Liberation Army agreed to disarm.)
Leon Hadar: His famous 1992 essay, “The Green Peril,” declared that fundamentalist Islamic movements posed no threat to the West. (Hey, how did that turn out?)
Ted Galen Carpenter, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute: A man who has predicted war so many times it’s a wonder that we haven’t been bombed back into the Bronze Age. In the last eight years he’s warned of a forthcoming war with China; a forthcoming Turkish war against Greece; a Marxist/narcotrafficking takeover of Colombia; and war with North Korea.
Steven Clemons, Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation: In 1998, he predicted an “economic tsunami” would soon strike Japan, and then engulf America and the entire global economy. (Ahhh! Run away! Run away!)
And there, my friends, are the “realist” pundits. By all means, let’s add them to the “predictions database,” so everyone can see firsthand their true market value.
If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to check out Mitchell Cohen’s essay in the fall issue of Dissent, titled “Anti-Semitism and the Left that Doesn’t Learn.”
Some highlights, starting with a wonderful takedown of Tony “waaah, I’m being silenced by the Israel Lobby” Judt:
What is “truth without fear” when we speak of the relation between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism? Is it to be found in Tony Judt’s declaration to the New York Times that “the link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is newly created”? How a historian—-or anyone else—could assert this is astonishing. Consider what it airbrushes out of the twentieth century-—the anti-Semitic binge of Stalin’s later years, just for starters.
And surely Judt, who is based at New York University and is now taking what has turned into obsessive anti-Zionist campaigning to the École Normale Supérieure in Paris NYU’s Remarque Center, which defines its goal as “the study and discussion of Europe, and to encourage and facilitate communication between Americans and Europeans” is opening a center there and Judt, its director, will, according to its website, inaugurate it not with an address European or French politics or transatlantic relations but rather: “Is Israel Still Good for the Jews?”
recalls the arrests and assassinations of the leading Jewish cultural figures of Soviet Russia on the grounds that they were “Zionist agents of American imperialism.” Surely a historian of Europe like Judt-—who was once a hard leftist but then rose to intellectual celebrity in the United States in the 1980s (that is, during the Reagan era) by attacking all French Marxists for not facing up to Stalinism—recalls the charges of “Zionist conspiracy” against Jewish communists who were victimized in the Czech purge trials in the early 1950s.
If he doesn’t recall them when he speaks to the New York Times, he might check them out in his own book on postwar Europe. There he cites Stalin’s secret police chief, Lavrenti Beria, urging Czech Communists to investigate the “Zionist plot” among their comrades. Surely a historian of Europe, especially one who now refers to himself as an “old leftist,” recalls the campaign in 1967 and 1968 to cleanse Poland of “Zionist” fifth columnists (I suppose they were the Israel Lobby of the Polish Communist Party).
I had similar thought the other day, when I took advantage of the free 24-hour pass to search the Guardian/Observer new digital archive, dating from 1821 to 1975. I was particularly interested in how the newspaper covered the issue of anti-semitism and anti-Zionism. These days, the Guardian never misses the opportunity to erect an ideological firewall between the two topics. I’d recommend that the Guardian editors take some time to review their archives, so they can see articles such as this one from 1953 on the “anti-Zionist” campaign in the Soviet Union:
For the first time since the anti-Zionist campaign began, the Kremlin has seen fit to categorically deny that anti-Zionism can be equated with anti-Semitism. The denial was made in a leading article of the Soviet Army newspaper, Red Star, on Friday. And the choice of vehicle is significant since it is in the Soviet Army that latent anti-Semitism has always been most strong. The struggle against Zionism, Red Star declares, has nothing to do with anti-Semitism: Zionism is the enemy of the working people all over the world, of Jews no less than Gentiles.
Certainly Stalin has only himself to blame for the common Western assumption that he has taken over Hitler’s mantle as the chief persecutor of Jewry. Although Zionism, as distinct from Jewry, has consistently been made the chief scapegoat of the new terror, the constant stress laid on the Jewish origin of nearly all those individually indicted has given the impression in the Soviet Union, no less than in the outside world, that the Jews as such are the target.
Or, this prescient 1975 editorial:
The United Nations resolution equating Zionism with racism is a tragedy….[Neither the interests of a Palestinian or Jewish state] are served by the current campaign against Zionism, which carries the inevitable risk that it will turn against the Jewish people as well.
Meanwhile, back to Cohen’s essay, which outlines the commonalities between anti-semitic and anti-Zionist discourse–
Major motifs that inform classical anti-Semitism:
1) Insinuations: Jews do not and cannot fit properly into our society. There is something foreign, not to mention sinister about them.
2) Complaints: They are so particularistic, those Jews, so preoccupied with their “own.” Why are they so clannish and anachronistic when we need a world of solidarity and love? Really, they make themselves into a “problem.” If the so-called “Jewish problem” is singular in some way, it is their own doing and usually covered up by special pleading.
3) Remonstrations: Those Jews, they always carp that they are victims. In fact, they have vast power, especially financial power. Their power is everywhere, even if it is not very visible. They exercise it manipulatively, behind the scenes. (But look, there are even a few of them, guilty-hearted perhaps, who will admit it all this to you).
4) Recriminations: Look at their misdeeds, all done while they cry that they are victims. These ranged through the ages from the murder of God to the ritual slaughter of children to selling military secrets to the enemy to war-profiteering, to being capitalists or middlemen or landlords or moneylenders exploiting the poor. And they always, oh-so-cleverly, mislead you.
Alter a few phrases, a word here and there, and we find motifs of anti-Zionism that are popular these days in parts of the left and parts of the Muslim and Arab worlds:
1) Insinuations: The Zionists are alien implants in the Mideast. They can never fit there. Western imperialism created the Zionist state.
2) Complaints: A Jewish state can never be democratic. Zionism is exclusivist. The very idea of a Jewish state is an anachronism.
3) Remonstrations: The Zionists carp that they are victims but in reality they have enormous power, especially financial. Their power is everywhere, but they make sure not to let it be too visible. They exercise it manipulatively, behind people’s backs, behind the scenes – why, just look at Zionist influence in Washington. Or rather, dominance of Washington. (And look, there are even a few Jews, guilty-hearted perhaps, who admit it).
4) Recriminations: Zionists are responsible for astonishing, endless dastardly deeds. And they cover them up with deceptions. These range from the imperialist aggression of 1967 to Ehud Barak’s claim that he offered a compromise to Palestinians back in 2000 to the Jenin “massacre” during the second Intifidah.
No, anti-Zionism is not in principle anti-Semitism but it is time for thoughtful minds—-especially on the left—-to be disturbed by how much anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism share, how much the dominant species of anti-Zionism encourages anti-Semitism.
A few months back, I wrote about how Turkish secularists claimed that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and his wife are closet Zionists and crypto Jews who secretly collaborate with the Mossad.
Now, from the other side of the aisle, the newspaper Asharq Alwasat has published an interview with Islamist politician Necmettin Erbakan.
Q: Can you tell me more about the motives that drove Erdogan to split from the Refah party to form a new and rival party?
A: We all know the founder of Israel is Theodor Hertzl and Jewish thinker and activist Haim Nahum and former US national security advisor Zbigniew Brezinski. What did Brezinski say? He said when we view the Islamic world; we see two types of people; the people of the world and the people of religion, we want to weaken the latter and collaborate with the former. You ask why Erdogan broke away from us and set up a new party? My answer is Brezinski’s words. Tayyip Erdogan did not establish the party by his own initiative; he was given orders to found the party. And why has Erdogan become a puppet in this project? Because he is weak with regards to location, money, leadership and position.
Q: Would you say you are dissatisfied with Mr. Erdogan’s policies?
A: I am dissatisfied with his actions, behavior and the direction in which he is headed. We complain because he is leading the Turkish people towards big problems. We are not satisfied with his loyalty and partnership with Zionism in some aspects. Why did Tayyip Erdogan dispatch Turkish forces in Lebanon within the framework of United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations in Lebanon? To disarm Hezbollah.
Q: Ten years have elapsed since the Refah government you led was overthrown; have you reevaluated the reasons that led the Turkish army to topple your government?
A: The reason is clear: The secular Zionist circles are behind it. The Jews have a dream to build the grand Jewish state between the Nile and the Euphrates. The Zionist forces wanted to seize control of Istanbul to build that Israeli state. If conquering Istanbul had been successful, it would have been the birth of the Israeli state. But what happened? They came with 600 ships and 600,000 soldiers and they failed, however founding a Jewish state between the Nile and the Euphrates is a quintessential part of Jewish beliefs and they will never change this idea.
Over 80 years, the Zionist forces have been working on distancing the Turks from their religion, in addition laying an economic siege to Turkey. In 1990, what happened? Communism collapsed and the US became the sole superpower, and America is in the hands of the Jews. Following the absence of the Soviet Union, the Jewish dream of building a state between the Nile and the Euphrates became alive again.
Adam Hanieh has penned an article for ZNet, titled “Next Steps for the Palestinian Solidarity Movement.”
Today the strength of our movement rests upon the widespread acceptance that there can be no normalization with Zionism and Israeli apartheid. The basic principle of our movement is that the way to winning justice is not through ‘dialogue’ or ‘joint projects’ or empty calls for ‘peace’. Rather, justice will be won by isolating the Israeli state and all those who support it.
An update on the 100 faculty members who signed a document criticizing the leadership of Columbia University president Lee C. Bollinger.
First, the New York Sun has published the text of the petition. Money quote:
The president’s address on the occasion of President Ahmadinejad’s visit has sullied the reputation of the University with its strident tone, and has abetted a climate in which incendiary speech prevails over open debate. The president’s introductory remarks were not only uncivil and bad pedagogy, they allied the University with the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, a position anathema to many in the University community.
I especially like that line, “incendiary speech prevails over open debate.” Funny that this crowd never applies that criteria to Norman Finkelstein…
Meanwhile, the Columbia Spectator reports that other faculty members are circulating a counter-petition (when do all these people ever find time to teach?). Money quote, which raises similar points as my earlier blog post:
That President Bollinger’s introductory remarks to Ahmadinejad “allied the university with the Bush administration’s war in Iraq”: As the publicly available transcript confirms, these remarks addressed sequentially: 1) Holocaust denial; 2) Ahmadinejad’s stated intent to destroy Israel; 3) Iran’s funding of terrorism; 4) Iran’s proxy war against US troops in Iraq; and 5) Iran’s nuclear program. Only the fourth item refers to the war in Iraq, and only in the context of Iran’s role in financing and arming terrorist attacks against our troops.
The New York Times reports that Lee C. Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, was confronted by discontented professors who gathered more than 100 faculty signatures for a document criticizing his leadership.
Their “statement of concern,” read to him at a faculty meeting, outlined a grab bag of charges, in particular his harsh introductory remarks when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered his speech at the World Leaders Forum in September.
I was particularly struck by the comments of the distinguished history professor Eric Foner, who read aloud some of Bollinger’s remarks to Ahmadinejad, and added, “This is the language of warfare at a time when the administration of our country is trying to whip up Iran, and to my mind is completely inaccurate.”
Now, I understand that an argument could be made that the Columbia forum was not the proper venue for Bollinger to deliver a ten-minute invective against their invited guest. But I find myself wondering–what about these remarks were “completely inaccurate”?
You can read the transcript of Bollinger’s speech here. The main points he touched upon were:
– Tehran’s crackdown on scholars, journalists, and human rights activists
– Promoting Holocaust denial
– Making threats against Israel
– Funding terrorism
– Arming and training Shiite militias in Iraq
– Iran’s repeated refusals to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency
So, what here is “completely inaccurate”?
And, at a time when academics are claiming that pro-Israel forces are seeking to inhibit freedom of speech at universities, criticism of the Iranian regime is stridently condemned because “this is the language of warfare at a time when the administration of our country is trying to whip up Iran.”
And when people complain that the demonization of Israel (likening it to Nazi Germany, accusing it of ethnic cleansing) fosters anti-semitic and anti-zionist sentiments, they are dismissed as inhibiting open debate. But when individuals criticize any human rights violation in Iran, they are suddenly complicit in a Bush administration/neocon strategy to demonize Iran as a precursor to war.
Guess I have some more material to add to my double standards list.