The Chutzpah bites back
by Jewish Anti Fascist Action Berlin*
In many areas of the left in Germany, the Jewish left is under attack. This is not unique to us. Our comrades, Palestinians, migrants and others who speak out against Israel’s policies of colonization, occupation and dispossession are being attacked even more forcefully. Recognizing this, and understanding the clear connection between things, we discuss ourselves and our position in this text.
We, Jewish leftists, especially immigrants from Israel, are systematically subjected to violence from the German left, and particularly from people who claim to love Israel. We are dealing with attempts of delegitimization, demonization, exclusion and even pathologization. Violence and bullying on the ideological level translates into harassment in everyday life. There are increasing cases of rejection from workplaces on the basis of having too “radical” left views, exclusion from community spaces, online and offline threats, cancellations of movies, performances and lectures, verbal attacks and even a physical attack once. Beyond this, we know that elements on the left are cooperating with workers at the Israeli embassy and various “Hasbara” (propaganda) organizations. This might sound conspiratorial, but it should be reminded that spying against left-wing organizations has been the declared and official policy of the State of Israel for many years.
We assert that the “Anti Deutsch” ideology has taken the definition of antisemitism out of its context. First it disconnected antisemitism from real Jews and their experiences, and made it a political tool that is designated to serve many political goals that are not related to Jews. Second, it defined any criticism of the political structure and policies of Israel as anti-semitic. In both cases, this move made it unnecessary to take into account the various and complex life experiences of Jews. This discourse created for itself the character of an “abstract Jew” – thus employing a strategy characteristic of anti-semitic attitudes throughout history. By emptying the concept of anti semitism from the Jewish experience, Germans can appropriate the concept for themselves, consistently blame Jews for antisemitism and even claim that they themselves are victims of antisemitism.
We are aware of the history of antisemitism in Germany and of the challenges that have been, and still stand with the German left that seeks to fight it. There is no doubt that anti semitism exists in many ways, inside and outside of the German left. It is important for us to clarify that we support anyone who takes a reflexive approach to anti semitism in their own culture. We also do not ignore criticism of structural antisemitism, and as Jews and as leftists, we view this as part of a wider criticism of the capitalist society in which we live. However, there is a fundamental reservation: the German left can not refer to antisemitism as a theoretical construct to be instrumentalized in inner-German discussions, especially since in these discussions there is an almost complete exclusion of Jews, particularly Jewish leftists.
We are also aware that anti-semitic positions often utilise anti-Zionist criticism, and we are very cautions toward our comrades in the movement. We believe that anti-Zionism as a political definition, and part of a wider anti-nationalist ideology, has no anti-semitic aspects. Some of the most inspiring Jewish people, including Marek Edelman, Yoel Teitelbaum, Hannah Arendt, Avraham Sarfati, Noam Chomsky, Erich Mihazem, Judith Butler and Emma Goldman, were/are anti-Zionists or sharply criticized Zionism.
As former Israelis who personally experienced the brainwashing systems of the Israeli government, we are very familiar with this gimmick, which is as old as the State of Israel: defining any critique of the State of Israel as anti-semitic and any critic of Israel as an anti-Semite.
This call comes from the current situation that is shaping in Europe and the U.S.A. The strengthening of the far-right (with its well-known anti-semitic and anti-Jewish roots), offers Zionist Jews, Israelis and the Israeli state a bear hug in return for creating a new front against the new ‘enemy’ in the form of Islam. Israeli politicians collaborate publicly and shamelessly with parties such as the “Freedom Party” of Austria, Marine Le Pen’s “National Front” (FN) and even with the German AFD. Further, parts of the pro-Israeli left in Germany want to exploit our existence as Jews to justify their longstanding racism and Islamophobia. With the migration of refugees from Arab countries as a result of recent colonial and capitalist wars, these trends are only intensifying.
“Social philosemitism always ended by adding to political antisemitism that mysterious fanaticism without which anti semitism could hardly have become the best slogan for organising the masses.” – Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt put it well: philosemitism and antisemitism work together and in many ways complement each other. In the pro-Zionist left in Germany with its abundance of Star of David and Israeli flag tattoos, and the “Mossad” and Beitar Jerusalem F.C shirts, the common use of Hebrew letters, and the militaristic (and often sexist) fetishism of the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces), it seems that Judaism and Israel have become some kind of a consumer product and a fetish for collectors. Some of the people who brought destruction on the Jewish people feel comfortable to appropriate Jewish and Israeli symbols that have profound historical and cultural significance. At the same time, the pro-Zionist German left expresses strong apathy towards the progressive parts of the Israeli left, and actively tries to silence the leftist Jewish people that live among them.
In the German pro-Zionist left it is common to refer to Israel as the “Jewish State”. It is surprising to see that the same people who oppose the “Islamic State”, and who certainly would oppose any idea that rights and freedom in a state should be based on the religious or ethnic affiliation of its citizens, are willing to live peacefully with a “Jewish State”. We see the “Jewish State” as a racist and discriminatory term toward Jews and the non-Jews who live between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea, including half of the population of the territories controlled by Israel, who are suffering from decades of daily systematic discrimination. This includes land confiscation, imprisonment, humiliation, beating and even murder. Their hopes for a life of prosperity and tranquility are destroyed as a result of the colonial aspirations of the Jewish and “only democratic state” in the Middle East.
We express solidarity with the BDS movement, which is probably the most defamed movement on the left and the amount of disinformation about it is among the largest. BDS activists, or anyone who dares to show any support of this initiative, suffer from the violent response of German left-wing people. Its opponents use the official propaganda tools of the Israeli state, with the help of Hasbara (propaganda) organizations such as “Stand With Us” which is known and proven to use shameful lies. As far as we are concerned, the demand for a boycott, divestment and sanctions signed by 195 Palestinian civil and social organizations is the minimum necessary for us to find ourselves on the good side of history.
www.boycottisrael.info – Palestinians, Jews, citizens of Israel for BDS.
We express solidarity with Berlin Against Pinkwashing. This organisation is also under attack and defamed over every possible platform for its attempts to talk against the Israeli-funded attempts to illustrate Israel as a homosexual heaven – specifically for colonial journeys of white European homosexuals men* to the Levant, ignoring and forgetting the crimes against lesbian, bisexual, trans, homosexual and heterosexual Palestinians enacted by Israel.
We express solidarity with For Palestine. Their uncompromising stand and vision for the de-colonisation of Palestine and toward a democratic and secular one state solution which includes the right of return for all Palestinian refugees and their families is an inspiration for us. We reject any accusations of antisemitism against them.
We express solidarity with Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost. Over the years the attempts to silence them have included closing their bank account because of their support of the BDS movement. At the same time the bank account of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which is still actively and directly responsible for land confiscation and violent removal of Bedouin people in the Negev (Israeli south region) and in Israeli settlements, is not under threat. Amazingly the closing of this bank account was the first time a Jewish bank account has been closed in the last 70 years.
We express solidarity with all those who have suffered over the years from this distorted hybrid within the German left, a hybrid created through a thousand years of the Reich’s dismal history and we say: no more. We demand the power to define for ourselves our own identity and politics. We stand in solidarity with the millions of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, within the borders of the State created in 1948 and the millions of Palestinian refugees all over the world whose fate does not seem to concern the pro-Zionist parts of the German left. The Palestinian struggle for liberation, freedom and justice should be the center of discussion in the Left around the world and in Germany specifically. As products of a violent and tragic history that ties us to the land of Germany and the land of Palestine. We declare that the de-colonisation of Palestine is the de-colonisation of ourselves, and as our partners from “If Not Now” said:
JEWS WON’T BE FREE
UNTIL PALESTINIANS ARE