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The new anti semitism and the moral casualties of the Gaza war

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Ali A. Mazrui

 Director, Institute of Global Cultural Studies and

Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities, Binghamton University

 Who were the losers in the Gaza war on the eve of the changing of the guards in both Washington and Israel?  The most tragic casualties were of course the people of Gaza who were killed in their hundreds – men, women and children.

The next losers were the majority of Israelis who supported one of the most inhumane conflicts even by the standards of the Middle East.  The Israeli army took full advantage of its superiority in range of weapons and its capacity to destroy – and managed to give real meaning to the concept of “state terrorism”.  More than half of the Palestinians killed were innocent civilians, many of them women and children.


The Nazis in occupied France in World War II used to threaten French villagers as follows: “If you kill a single German soldier, we shall come and select at least twenty of you for execution.”

 In the Gaza war the Israelis outperformed the Nazis in occupied France.  For every Israeli killed in that Gaza war, the Jewish war machine literally killed one hundred Palestinians.  Indeed, some of the thirteen Israelis killed were shot by fellow Israelis as a result of friendly fire.

The Gaza war tarnished the reputation of Israel to a greater extent than almost anything else the Jewish state has ever done.  In the six-day war in 1967, and in the Entebbe rescue raid in Idi Amin’s Uganda, Israelis emerged as spectacular heroes.  But in the Gaza war the Israelis were seen worldwide as cruel military bullies, recklessly bombing the homes and schools of a relatively defenseless population.

The third category of losers of the Gaza war were the Jews of the world.  This latest war has been another trigger of new forms of anti-Semitism (in the sense of Judeophobia) in Europe, Asia, Africa as well as the Middle East.  When comparing anti-Semitism in the first half of the twentieth century and the new anti-Semitism of the new millennium, a painful paradox emerges.  In the first half of the twentieth century the Jews were unjustly hated for their creative talents.  Universities like Harvard and Columbia in the United States had quotas for a number of Jews admitted because so many young Jews were intellectually successful and qualified for competitive vacancies.

In European capitals Jews were often envied because of their wealth and economic achievements.  In Western high culture like musical composition, opera, theater, literature, ballet, European Jews excelled out of proportion to their numbers.  In the sciences Jews won a remarkable number of Nobel prizes.  In the liberal professions of medicine, law, and academia, Jews were both admired and envied.

 The anti-Semitism (or Judeophobia) of those years was partly rooted in professional jealousies born out of Jewish creative achievements.  Unfortunately, the anti-Semitism generated by Israeli militarism is born out of Israeli destructive power.  Jews were once envied because they were creators of culture and exemplary in invention and innovation.  Israelis are now hated because they excel in targeted assassinations and large-scale destruction of the homes of their neighbours.

The anti-Semitism of the first half of the twentieth century was doubly unjust.  It hated and destroyed Jews partly because they were innovative benefactors of the human race.  The new anti-Semitism is a child of the brilliance of Israelis in annihilating hundreds of their neighbours collectively, and sometimes in murdering them one by one in their beds at home.

Whenever Israel commits war crimes and crimes against humanity as it has done in Gaza, Israel narrows the moral distance between itself and the Nazis.  When the Israeli military goes to the disproportionate degree of killing one hundred Palestinians for every Israeli killed, the army is drifting towards what Professor Yeshayahu Leibovitz of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem once called “Judeo-Nazism.”  He was editor of the Encyclopedia Hebraica and was warning fellow Israelis against giving meaning to such an unthinkable concept.

As Israel is now producing racist political parties, disfranchising Arabs, and initiating the first stages of domestic apartheid, is the concept of “Judeo-Nazism” becoming less and less a contradiction in terms?

The fourth casualties of the Gaza war are Arab moderates in the Middle East – both in government circles and among intellectuals.  It has become less and less respectable to regard Israelis as viable partners for peace.  An influential Saudi Prince, Prince Turki al-Fasal, wrote an unprecedented article in the Financial Times of London, warning the new administration in Washington, D.C. that Arab governments could no longer accept American indifference to reckless Israeli destruction of Arab lives.

The United States added insult to injury when the U.S. Senate voted almost unanimously in support of what Israelis were doing in Gaza.  The House of Representatives had only about twelve members voting against the pro-Israeli resolution.

The two Muslim members of Congress voted present instead of taking sides.  The pro-Israeli atmosphere in Congress intimidated any honest Congressman or Senator from voting according to their conscience.  Excessive support for Israel has become a threat to American democracy.