An Experiment in Anti-Semitism vs. Anti-Arab Racism
Imagine if an Arab spiritual leader referred to Jews as "foul", a "disease" or as a "devil". What if he called them "asses" and asked "why did God not create them walking on their fours?" In reply to his own rhetorical question, the imaginary Arab spiritual leader then coolly replies, "The answer is that they need to build and wash." You would be right to be angry and disgusted by such vile racism. And you would be right to wonder what institutional and cultural influences help create, perpetuate and sustain such anti-Semitic garbage.
But would you feel and think the same way if it was a Jewish spiritual leader targeting Arabs with this hateful, racist nonsense? We certainly hear, see and read both genuine and exaggerated claims of anti-Semitism almost daily in radio, T.V. and newspaper reports. But we don't see balanced attention given to anti-Arab racism. If we had the resources to conduct a methodical and systematic study documenting the discrepancy between media coverage of anti-Semitism and media coverage of anti-Arab racism I'm willing to bet that we'd find conclusive evidence of a profound neglect. And the source of this neglect can be found in the hesitation and fear of criticizing the state of Israel's policies and illegal occupation; the fear of being called an anti-Semite. Since all Jews do not identify with the state of Israel, or Zionism, despite Zionism's claim to act on behalf of all Jews, the accusation of anti-Semitism is of course nonsense.
I opened this commentary with "Imagine if an Arab spiritual leader...". There is in fact no real person as such. However, all the insults and vitriol spewed in this hypothetical anti-Semitism are the real words of a Jewish spiritual leader, Rabbi David Bazri, directed at Palestinians. His racist attack comes in the wake of a very sane, reasonable and necessary proposal for the establishment of a mixed Arab-Jewish school in Pat, Jerusalem.
Now it is true that anti-Semitism exists in the Arab World, just as anti-Arab racism exits among Jews. But not all Arabs are anti-Semites, just as not all Jews are racist. But it is not true, as the well documented daily humiliations of occupied Palestinian lives testify, that these forms of racism are given equal attention and consequently have equal outcomes. If the particular hypothetical anti-Semitism used here were a real incident, you can be sure it would receive wide spread media and political attention, used to justify Israel's illegal occupation - more rational to reign collective punishment down upon the Palestinians.
But the opposite is true; a particularly nasty anti-Arab racism was expressed. Will we see newspaper, T.V. or radio reports covering these extremely hysteric remarks? Why not? Do we even care? Can we even begin to ask what institutional and cultural influences help create, perpetuate and sustain such anti-Arab garbage? Would equal attention and examination of these issues illuminate the failings of a flawed ideology - Zionism, or the brutalities of Israel's occupation? In contrast to the hypothetical anti-Semitism above, the response to real anti-Arab racism directed at Palestinians from a Jewish spiritual leader is a vacuum of silence from our political leaders and dominant media institutions.
Walla!News (Haaretz) reported on Jan. 10, in a news item appearing only in Hebrew (see here for an unofficial English translation), that "Today the school is running in a temporary building and is looking for a permanentresidence in the Pat neighborhood of Jerusalem. The municipality assigned a territory for the school but because of repeating appeals to court the process isdelayed. Today [Jan 10.] the matter is scheduled for a debate in the High Court."
A Rabbi named Yehuda Der'i also participated in the conference against the school and said that "this is a thing that the Jewish mind, logic and soul cannot tolerate. We have to go from house to house and raise supporters in the neighborhood to prevent this horrid punishment."
More vacuous comments, and the news item quoted here is actually worse than I've let on?
Here are Rabbi David Bazri's words, in full, which I quoted above for the hypothetical anti-Semitism, "The establishment of such a school is a foul, disgraceful deed. You can't mix pure and foul. They are a disease, a disaster, a devil. The Arabs are asses, and the question must be asked, why did God not create them walking on their fours? The answer is that they need to build and wash. They have no place in our school".
This gross racist assault against a proposed school provides one window peering into the daily humiliations that Palestinians suffer in Israel. It is the foundation for the belief that there are "pure" and "foul" races, ethnic groups and cultures; and in the particular case of Israel, that there can be a "pure" "Jewish State". It enables the existence of second class citizenship for Palestinians in Israel, identification cards for Palestinians, checkpoints for Palestinians, systematic house demolitions for Palestinians, extra judicial executions and assassinations for Palestinians, an Apartheid Wall for Palestinians, a brutal military occupation which has practiced ethnic cleansing and denied Palestinians their Right of Return. It is a backward and insipid thinking that belongs to the Stone Age.
Sadly, anti-Arab racism is not confined to Israel alone. The US and Canada are both engaged in the illegal detention, deportation and torture of Arabs. As Noam Chomsky has noted "Anti-Arab racism in the US has long been extreme, the last "legitimate" form of racism in that one doesn't even have to pretend to conceal it. That's long before 9-11, and a deep problem in the society, which can't be ignored, any more than other forms of racism can." But that will have to be the topic of another commentary.
Chris Spannos is an anti-war activist, anti-capitalist, ZNet volunteer and member of the Vancouver Participatory Economics Collective. His email address is: spannos at gmail dot com He blogs for ZNet at http://blog.zmag.org