Israel’s anti-Semitic defenders

May 30, 2012

The defenders of Israel who smear BDS activists as "anti-Semitic" tolerate actual anti-Semitism among Israel's right-wing U.S. supporters, explains Wael Elasady.

MORE THAN 50 students and community members participated in a May 14 demonstration at Portland State University to protest a presentation by Islamophobe and apologist for Israeli apartheid Erick Stakelbeck.

Protesters entered the presentation with tape over their mouths, holding signs that read, "Show racism the red card," "Your bigotry is showing" and "Free Palestine." Twenty minutes into the presentation, the demonstrators, who made up half the crowd, walked out together to send a message that Islamophobia is not welcome on campus.

The reaction to the demonstration was familiar to anyone involved in organizing Palestinian solidarity efforts: label your opponents anti-Semites to deflect attention from your own bigotry and to justify immoral support for the oppression of the Palestinian people. In this case, not only was the charge of anti-Semitism against the protesters unfounded, but ironically, the organization making the charge turned out itself to be truly anti-Semitic.

Stakelbeck is best known as host of the television show "Stakelbeck on Terror," which airs on the fundamentalist Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and features Stakelbeck stoking the fires of religious intolerance and hatred by regularly equating Islam with terrorism.

Protesters arrive at Erick Stakelbeck's presentation
Protesters arrive at Erick Stakelbeck's presentation

Last year, Stakelbeck released a book titled The Terrorist Next Door: How the Government is Deceiving You About the Islamist Threat in which he claims that acts of terrorism frequently attributed to Muslims are not the act of "isolated extremists," but instead are inherent to the Muslim religion. Stakelbeck warns that Muslim extremists have infiltrated cities all over the U.S., including Dearborn, Mich., which he derisively calls "Dearbornistan" and describes as a "radical Islamic enclave."

Stakelbeck's warped logic is not only Islamophobic, but it advocates discrimination as part of a solution to what he perceives as a Muslim threat. The danger in this logic becomes clear when Stakelbeck comes to the conclusion that "[t]he U.S. government cannot be relied on for protection...because it is crippled by political correctness and a lack of cultural self-confidence."

For Stakelbeck and his right-wing promoters, the rampant vilification of Muslims by U.S. politicians, the countless civil rights violations Muslims have suffered since September 11, 2001, and the hundreds of thousands of Muslim lives lost as a result the U.S. "war on terror" are clearly not enough. One can only imagine what the horror of a less "politically correct" and more "culturally self-confident" response from the U.S. government would look like.

IN RESPONSE to the silent protest, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the group that invited Stakelbeck to campus, tried to smear the protestors as anti-Semites by falsely connecting them with the defacement of a flier advertising Stakelbeck's presentation--an unknown person had altered a flier by drawing a swastika inside the Israeli flag, and writing next to it the words, "Never again includes Palestinians."

While one may disagree with the use of a swastika to send a political message, the intent of the person who wrote the comment was clearly not to harass and intimidate Jewish students, as CUFI suggested.

In the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians have been isolated into increasingly smaller ghettos, surrounded by checkpoints and massive walls. Several months ago, Israeli papers reported on an ultra-nationalist Israeli mob attacking Arabs in shopping centers while chanting "Death to Arabs," and Israeli politicians regularly stoke this hatred by calling for the expulsion of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

After 60 years of dealing injustice to the Palestinians in the name of a "Jewish state," it's not surprising that many leverage moral indignation at Nazi crimes against the Jewish people to draw attention to oppression of the Palestinians by Israel. If the lesson of the Holocaust is truly "never again" for anyone, then the point is an important--"never again" should include Palestinians.

With this said, it must be made clear that for Christian Zionist organizations like CUFI, the charge of anti-Semitism is no more than a smokescreen to hide their own racist agenda.

Christian Zionists are a part of the extreme right-wing Christian evangelical movement. The founder and national chairman of CUFI is none other than John Hagee, the senior pastor of the Cornerstone Mega Church in San Antonio, Texas, and the CEO of Global Evangelism Television (GETV). Hagee is notorious for spewing racist, homophobic and sexist ideas.

In 2004, for example, Hagee authored What Every Man Wants In a Woman: 10 Essentials for Growing Deeper in Love, a cornucopia of misogyny and sexism, whose main premise was that, "Man has the God-given role to be the loving leader of the home."

Some of Hagee's most vile comments came just days after Hurricane Katrina. He preached that the hurricane was God's punishment of New Orleans for holding a gay pride parade the week preceding the tragedy.

With this laundry list of hate, it's no surprise that just beneath the surface, organizations like CUFI are fundamentally anti-Semitic. As journalist Bruce Wilson wrote of the group in an investigative article about CUFI's founder:

A close analysis of Pastor Hagee's views seems to indicate that Hagee holds beliefs about liberal Jews that mirror sentiments to be found on conspiratorial websites promoting the debunked Protocols of the Elders of Zion...Hagee also blames the Holocaust on Jews themselves and states that Nazi persecution of Jews was God's way of driving Jews to Israel, seems to blame Jews for the death of Jesus Christ, holds that Jews cannot get into heaven, calls liberal Jews "poisoned" and "spiritually blind," believes that the preemptive nuclear attack on Iran that he advocates will lead to a Mideast conflict that will kill most Jews in Israel.

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Yet at Portland State University, Portland Hillel co-sponsored an event with CUFI the day following Stakelbeck's event. Zionist groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Hillel and Stand With Israel regularly collaborate with Christian Zionist organizations, despite having members and leaders who openly hold and promote such views.

WHILE THIS may seem shocking, capitulation to anti-Semitism has been an important thread in the history of Zionism. Theodore Herzl, who is considered the "father" of political Zionism, once stated:

I achieved a freer attitude toward anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognized the emptiness and futility of trying to combat anti-Semitism.

This "pardoning" of anti-Semitism is central in Zionism's claim that the only solution is the separation of Jews from non-Jews through the creation of a "Jewish state." Zionists and anti-Semites both agree on the need for this separation, and this convergence is the reason anti-Semitic organizations such as CUFI can call themselves ardent Zionists and be accepted by most Zionist organization as allies.

Progressive blogger Max Blumenthal exposed this hypocrisy in a recent article:

It does not necessarily matter to AIPAC if you preach "New World Order/Illuminati" conspiracy theories involving "international bankers," a classic coded anti-Semitic trope. Nor does it necessarily matter to them if the rhetoric you have spewed about the Holocaust sounds like a Christian version of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...What matters more to AIPAC and its allies--all that matters perhaps--is that you back the hardline Israeli government without reservation, support the institutionalized dehumanization of Palestinians and offer crucial moral support for the illegal usurpation of Palestinian land.

Right-wingers like Hagee not only hold anti-Semitic views, but the Islamophobia that is a central pillar of their bigotry also parallels classic anti-Semitic themes from the early 20th century.

European anti-Semitism promoted the idea that Jews were untrustworthy and mysterious outsiders, plotting a conspiracy to take control of the world. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, written by Tsarist secret police to create divisions among Russian revolutionaries, perpetuated this idea while attacking the communist movement as a Jewish plot to trick the working class. Hitler himself incorporated these ideas into Mein Kempf, writing that communism was "Jewry's 20th century effort to take world dominion unto itself."

The main purpose of these ideas was to render invisible the capitalist class, the real rulers of Europe, by shifting class anger onto the Jewish population, while simultaneously undermining the communist movement--the only political force that could expose and challenge the rule of German capital.

Stakelbeck's explanation for the PSU student protest mirrors this classic anti-Semitic theme by simply substituting Muslims in place of Jews. After the PSU protest, Stakelbeck dedicated his next show to "exposing the unholy alliance that has developed between radical Islam and the radical left."

The connection of "radical Islam" and the "radical left" is a regular theme among right-wing pundits, ranging from Fox News to the Christian Broadcasting Network. One author, Andrew McCarthy, has made a career out of writing books on this subject with titles such as The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

In these narratives, Muslims, just like the Jews of Europe, are portrayed as mysterious and dangerous outsiders who cannot be trusted. Instead of a "global Jewish conspiracy," today's racists warn of the threat of Muslim domination in the form of a "global caliphate." Anti-Semites of yore talked of Jewish infestation--today's racists speak of "creeping sharia" and the spread of "extremist Islamic enclaves."

Jews were charged with being the puppet masters of Europe through supposed control of the banks, and today, it is insinuated that Muslims control the highest office in the land--after all, Obama is a secret Muslim. In all of these scenarios, the Muslim conspiracy is fused with a leftist, socialist or Marxist conspiracy.

Clearly, the right's habit of lumping together "Islamists" and "socialists" can't simply be written off to political ignorance. Today's racists may lack creativity, but they have indeed sought to resurrect the conspiracies of their predecessors in order to protect their present-day corporate overlords.

Those who care about justice must continue to build a fighting left that stands up to oppression in all its forms--whether Islamophobic or homophobic, sexist or anti-Semitic.

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