Whither Zionism?

Slavoj Žižek writes: In July 2008, the Viennese daily Die Presse published a caricature of two stocky Nazi-looking Austrians, one of them holding in his hands a newspaper and commenting to his friend: “Here you can see again how a totally justified anti-Semitism is being misused for a cheap critique of Israel!”

This joke turns around the standard Zionist argument against the critics of the policies of the State of Israel: Like every other state, the State of Israel can and should be judged and eventually criticized, but the country’s critics misuse the justified critique of Israeli policy for anti-Semitic purposes.

When today’s Christian fundamentalist supporters of Israeli policies reject leftist critiques of those policies, is their implicit line of argumentation not uncannily close to the caricature from Die Presse? Remember Anders Breivik, the Norwegian anti-immigrant mass murderer: He was anti-Semitic, but pro-Israel, since he saw the State of Israel as the first defence line against Muslim expansion—he even wanted to see the Jerusalem Temple rebuilt.

His view is that Jews are okay as long as there aren’t too many of them — or, as he wrote in his Manifesto: “There is no Jewish problem in Western Europe (with the exception of the U.K. and France) as we only have 1 million in Western Europe, whereas 800,000 out of these 1 million live in France and the U.K. The U.S., on the other hand, with more than 6 million Jews (600% more than Europe) actually has a considerable Jewish problem.”

His figure thus realizes the ultimate paradox of a Zionist anti-Semite — and we find the traces of this bizarre stance more often than one would expect.

On his visit to France to commemorate the victims of the recent Paris killings, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a call to France’s Jewish community (which is the largest in Europe) to move to Israel for safety reasons. Even before his departure for Paris, Netanyahu announced that he planned to tell French Jews that they would be “welcomed with open arms” in Israel.

The title in the main Polish daily Gazeta wyborsza tells it all: “Israel wants France without Jews.” So do the French anti-Semites, one might add. [Continue reading…]

I remember once hearing a highly respected American academic (who I will decline to name but who is frequently denounced in Israel as an anti-Semite simply for shining a light on Israel’s influence on American politics) going out of his way to make it clear to any Jews within earshot that he has always been a philo-Semite.

I have no doubt his declaration was heartfelt, yet I suspect that if one is Jewish, expressions of philo-Semitism are a bit awkward to hear. At least to my ear, to say that one loves Jews is a bit like loving Red Pandas, making them all too exotic, endangered, and other.

Jews in France or anywhere else where there is evidence of rising anti-Semitism surely don’t want or need additional love as much as to be able to sustain the reasonable expectation that they will be treated as no different from anyone else.

In response to Netanyahu’s appeal that they should flee their homes, a lot of French Jews seemed to have less interest in expressing gratitude for his offer of refuge than they felt the need to underline that they are French.

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