Munich comes to Oxford

The setting was not a beer hall but a prestigious university campus.

oxford u 224 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
oxford u 224 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The response to the decision by the student union of the London School of Economics to launch a campaign to boycott Israel is instructive. Britain is so teaming with boycotts and boycott attempts that the news of the latest one barely rated mention in the Israeli media. After the Oxford Union debating society invited Hizbullah champion Norman Finkelstein, of all people, to represent the pro-Israel stance in a debate about whether Israel has a right to exist, not much more could surprise me. However, the Oxford Union's decision, is significant because the subject of the planned debate did not revolve around opposition to settlements in the occupied territories, but rather something else completely. The decision to hold the debate on "This house believes that one-state is the only solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict" made no effort to conceal the union's hatred for Israel. Not a single word was said about the terror attacks against Israelis, the rockets from Gaza, or even a call for peace based on two states for two peoples. The official motion mentions the Nakba, but says not a word about the invasion of Israel by Arab armies. The Oxford Union narrowly defeated a resolution calling for the Right of Return and demands that Israel become a "state of all its citizens." The motion quotes an article by a former attorney-general of Israel, Michael Ben Yair, who wrote: "We founded an apartheid regime in the territories immediately after their occupation. This oppressive regime continues to exist to this very day." It is true that the settlements, the expropriation of land and the checkpoints have made a significant contribution to the creation of an anti-Israeli atmosphere. It is also true that the settlements and the division between one law for Israelis and one law for the Palestinians must not be justified. But it was not about that that the debate in Oxford was to be held. THIS DEBATE, and others like it, is part of a vast propaganda campaign, funded by Arab capital - not to put an end to the occupation - but to completely delegitimize the Jewish state and prepare the ground to "wipe it off the map" as the Iranian president has threatened to do. It would be, in short, a diatribe in the tradition of Durban. The Jews have no human or national rights (But why should I be complaining about the British? The Association for Civil Rights in Israel - ACRI - has refused for the very same reason to demand the return of Israel's abducted soldiers, or even that they be granted the right to be visited by the Red Cross). It is difficult to imagine a similar campaign against any other country, not even against South Africa in the days of apartheid. The world has never seen such a wave of abysmal hatred. The only precedent in the past for what is happening now is the Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda in the 1930s. And indeed, there is much similarity between the two: First comes the demonization: Just as the Jews, according to the Nazi narrative, poisoned all the West and became "our catastrophe," thus tiny Israel is portrayed, from Teheran to Berkeley as the mother of all evil, as the one solely responsible for all the Arabs' and the world's woes, as the embodiment of Satan himself. SECOND, just as the Jews were described as vermin and microbes but at the same time, also as a cruel international force that posed a threat to every German; both as miserable parasites and also as monsters about to destroy the world, thus Israel too is portrayed: as both as flimsy as a spider's web, while at the same time wielding enormous international power and influence; as both a horde of ignoble wretches and as evil plotters capable of infecting the entire Middle East with AIDS; as both being on the verge of disappearing and passing into oblivion and of destroying the world. Indeed, it is only recently that the vast similarities between the Arab and Nazi propaganda have begun to be noticed. The German scholar Matthias Künzel discusses this similarity in his book Jihad and Jew-Hatred. He points out that Hizbullah and Hamas leaders employ Nazi terminology in their propaganda and that this resemblance, he maintains, is no coincidence: The Nazis considered it a national mission to make the Arabs anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist, and the dissemination of Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Arabic was an important part of this effort. Künzel relates that former Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi told him, "The question is not what the Germans did to the Jews but what the Jews did to the Germans." The Jews, he said, got what they deserved. Künzel views these haters and this hatred as the successors of the mufti of Jerusalem as well as of the Nazis and their legacy. WHAT PURPOSE does this campaign serve? What explains why so many Israelis and foreign Jews have joined forces to support it? Whatever the answers, the efforts only pushes ever further away the possibility that the Arabs will ever make peace with the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East. It has a destructive influence on Israelis too because it undermines their willingness to make tangible concessions for any kind of peace settlement in a reality in which every agreement with the Palestinians produces only more hate and more hostility. Throughout the world, this campaign to delegitimize Israel is fueling anti-Semitic sentiments and attendant attacks on Jews and their institutions. Any way you look at it, it is a monstrous mirror image of the anti-Jewish narrative of the 1930s. It is to this campaign that the Oxford Union has lent a hand. But it did not happen in a Munich beer hall, but rather in the most highly respected debating society in Britain. The writer is a professor of law at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, a former minister of education and MK, and the recipient of the 2006 Israel Prize in Law.