Nothing is new beneath the sun.
Steve Apfel is director of the School of Management Accounting, Johannesburg. He is the author of the book, "Hadrian’s Echo: The whys and wherefores of Israel’s critics" and a contributor to "War by other means" (Israel Affairs, 2012). His articles are published in several foreign journals and his new work, "Bilaam''s curse" is due out next year.
King Solomon the wise discerned that everything existed from the beginning, so that ‘new’ things are really very old things, manifestations of eternal concepts; like the shameful badge that Jews have been made to wear.
To many the yellow star, inset with Jude, Juif, or Jood, brings to mind the Holocaust. Yet the idea and its uses predate Hitler’s Reich by a millennium or two. Already in medieval times Jews were compelled to wear identifying badges of a sort. For a wily despot that opened up all kinds of possibilities. Treat the Christ killers like pestilence, isolate or concentrate them, deprive or deport them, or kill them on demand, as the need might be.
Now that polite society bends over backwards to accommodate minority cultures and faiths, surely the yellow star is a collector’s item to ogle behind glass?
If only that were true. Some technical or tactical adjustments may alter the substance or appearance or method, but never the essence of an eternal obsession to quarantine Jewish people. Our global village may not be the medieval hamlet, but the hallmarks of the yellow star are there. Borne instead of worn it sets Jews apart, along with their products and businesses like Ahava cosmetics or Max Brenner chocolate shops. Boycotted by stores, besieged by mobs, shunned by shoppers, products now carry the warning label, ‘Made in Israel’ or ‘Made in the Occupied West Bank.’ Like tobacco products and alcohol, consumers are warned and weaned off the deleterious effects of Zionist-made goods.
“Hah,” boycott spokespeople cry, “Our fight is not with Jews. Show us a Kauft nicht bei Juden – ‘Don''t buy from Jews’ label or sticker. Our fight is with Israel and Zionists, and companies that do business with them. As you well know many Jewish boycotters identify with Palestinians and the violation of their rights. They feel that all Israel-supporting Jews bear responsibility, because Israel commits crimes in their name.”
But this veil is light, and penetrated with ease. We have only to ignore the meaning of words and focus on what words mean.
Two great linguists harped on the idea that words may serve a tactical purpose. One was the philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre who wrote that anti-Semites devaluate words. By absurd remarks they intimidate and disconcert adversaries, which is both quicker than persuading by argument, and easier. Indeed, the more absurd the remark, the wilder the fib, the bigger the advantage gained.
The other linguist is Noam Chomsky. His focus is not anti-Semites but “manipulative totalitarian regimes.” Totalitarians, of which American President George Bush was one, use words not to communicate but to provoke an effect, to disconcert and intimidate; which funnily enough is Noam Chomsky’s own characteristic style.
Back to the yellow star: what is the tactical word for Jude? What caricature now gets up everyone’s nose? In the post Holocaust era it is infra dig to hate Jews, publicly. The Jude that Germans loved to hate has transmogrified into Zionist. Nowadays people don’t hate Jews, they hate Zionists, or the same thing, Israelis.
Often when their guard is down Zionist haters lump all together. Only this year a Xhosa speaking mob chanted ‘Dubula iJuda’ – ‘Kill the Jews’ as patrons filed into a campus jive in Johannesburg. The artists were Israeli and the promoter was a Zionist body – two combustible elements to ignite even a well-disposed crowd. Dubula iJuda!
The mob in its fury forgot the golden rule: be careful to avoid the J-word. Thus warned Azzam Al-Tamimi, Director of London-based Institute of Islamic Political Thought, when he thought he was out of earshot. “There is an organization called MEMRI, and it monitors your channel, as well as Al-Jazeera TV, Al-Hiwar TV, Al-Quds TV. Therefore, my advice to brothers in Al-Aqsa TV and the other Arab channels is that we must be very careful not to speak of ‘Jews’.”
Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, also dropped his guard. “The Zionists have been inflicting very heavy damage and suffering on the whole of humanity for over 2,000 years, especially over the last four centuries.” Sure there were Jews to inflict damage and suffering 2,000 years ago, or even four hundred years ago. But Zionists?
Thanks to one of Egypt''s top journalists, and confidant of the late president Anwar Sadat, we know of the other euphemism for Jew: Israeli. "There is no such thing in the world as Jew and Israeli,” said Anis Mansur. “Every Jew is an Israeli. No doubt about that.”
A German publisher recently agreed, when Tuvia Tenenbo wrote a book on rampant anti-Semitism in modern Germany. The head of the publishing company went into a rage. “He told me I couldn’t write and that the book needed serious editing. I asked him to show me what good writing was. He did. If there was a line in the book about people not liking Jews he demanded that I change the word to Israel.”
Examples could fill a book. The terrible twins, Zionist and Israel, are the new face of the Jew of old.
Now to another tactical word: anti-Semite. Expelled from one fortress the anti-Zionist will hurry to the next. Heavy with ridicule he’ll decry that no one can be critical of Israel without being called anti-Semitic. How that shot brings adversaries up short. Yet how flimsy the fortress from where it is fired. Two quick questions and the game is over for the abused critic:
1) Why would a mere critic demand that thriving Israel be replaced by yet another failed Muslim state? And,
2) Why would a critic be indifferent to the murder of Jews?
“Implementing the right of return means eradicating Israel," admits Amos Oz, author and left wing peace advocate. "It will make the Jewish people a minor ethnic group at the mercy of Muslims, a protected minority, just as fundamentalist Islam would have it."
Oz, nothing if not politically correct, stops mid way through. He fails to look over the fence at his neighbors. What is happening now to Christians in Egypt and Syria will happen to Jews in the boycotter’s one state solution. The right of return would eradicate more than Israel, it would eradicate Jews. Dismantling the security barrier, another of their demands, would have the same effect, be it at a slower rate.
Every boycott ‘critic’ of Israel – Christian, Jew, Muslim or secularist – fully understands that his demands amount to the shedding of Jewish blood. And if he calls that a lie, or tut tuts, or laughs disdainfully, remind him to address the two questions. And while he’s thinking up a diversion, ask him why he never protested when Palestinians bombed, shot, and knifed Israelis to death.
Along with products, Israeli academia finds itself shunned like the devil. “All Israeli academic institutions, unless proven otherwise”…The manifesto of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel echoes with Hitler’s Nuremberg Decrees to strip Jews of their basic rights and begin the process of separating them from the population. A professor at the University of Manchester wrote to her Israeli colleagues: “I will always regard and treat you both as friends, on a personal level, but I do not wish to continue an official association with any Israeli.”
As it was dangerous in Nazi Europe to associate with Jews, today it’s ill-advised to have Zionist colleagues. Israel’s deputy ambassador in London noted, "The last time that Jews were boycotted in universities was in 1930s Germany."
Academies, wrote French author Julian Benda, have become “An arena for the intellectual organization of political hatreds’. He wrote this in 1927, and how presciently. Rhodes University, South Africa, is a living model of the intellectual organization of Zionist hatred. Fear-ridden pockets of Jews who came out in support of Israel were branded racists, Islamophobic, apartheid supporters, problems to be gotten rid of, disgraceful.
To be sure the new model yellow star exempts, for now, ‘good Jews.’ They are Jews canny enough to set themselves free by excoriating Zionism or Israel or still better, both. Effectively they sell their Jewish identity and reap a decent return, both in kind and in cash.
The boycott movement is flush with funds, though it keeps who the funders are close to the chest. ‘Israel-bashing is the contemporary key to acceptance,’ observed Professor Robert Wistrich. How right. Even a humble saxophone player may aspire to minor celebrity status. “It is Gilad Atzmon’s blunt anti-Zionism rather than his music that has given him an international profile,” wrote the Guardian.
Anti-Zionist Jews are nothing if not materialistic. They never sell themselves short, but think nothing of selling out the rights of Jewish brethren – rights to freedom of speech and association. At the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, a concert with an Israeli-born pianist was invaded when boycotters burst onto the stage blowing vuvuzelas and forcing the event to be abandoned.
Even then, we have not touched the limit of yellow star-exempt Jews. If motivated at bottom by human rights, one might overlook their failings. But that’s the problem: boycotters have no concern for Palestinian rights. Or they have, when Israel is in the equation. But take Israel out of the equation and boycotters wither away. If they had a credo it would be: ‘What Muslims do to Palestinians is Muslim business; what Palestinians do to Jews is no one’s business; what Jews do to Palestinians is criminal.’
But let their idol, Noam Chomsky, put it squarely: “The current BDS movement''s hypocrisy rises to heaven.” Let them deny it. Boycotters are not concerned with Palestinian rights, they are concerned with trashing Jews; sorry – Israel, to where that people have returned from a long hard exile.