Professional Jewish critics of Israel – those commentators who in some manner leverage their connection to Judaism to garner more credibility when launching often hysterical attacks on the Jewish state – are as much defined by their hubris as their political orientation.
Writers like Peter Beinart, Richard Silverstein, or Daniel Levy truly believe they are equipped with a superior intellect and moral understanding, and often suggest – when offering criticism indistinguishable from the rhetoric of the most ardent anti-Zionists – that they are actually engaging in a political form of ‘tough love’. They are saving Israeli Jews from their own destructive tendencies – “saving Israel,” as it were, “from itself.”
The following is the headline from Rachel Shabi‘s latest ‘Comment is Free’ commentary, opining on recent news regarding European Union guidelines which restrict EU funding for Israeli projects across the green line.
Whilst the quote concerning water thrown at a “drunk” was actually from the site of the far-left group Gush Shalom, it was specifically cited by Shabi (in the passage which follows) to illustrate Israel’s collective state of mind in refusing to bow to such international criticism over the construction of homes across the green line.
Israel sees international policy on settlements as simply a guideline or position statement, as opposed to actual law. This escalating sense of hubris over settlement expansion – and getting away with it – is what makes the EU move such a shock for Israel: Gush Shalom, Israel’s peace bloc, likened the EU decision to “a bucket of cold water poured on the head of a drunk”.
Of course such gratuitous pejorative depictions and smears of the Jewish state are nothing new for the frequent ‘Comment is Free’ contributor.
Since 2002 Shabi (born to Iraqi Jewish parents) has published over 100 essays at ‘Comment is Free’ on the topic of Israel, and the themes have been as predictable as they have been facile. Israelis (or Jews as such) are almost never the object of Shabi’s sympathetic imagination, and she quite excels at imputing to Israel the the very worst motives, regardless of the issue being addressed.
Themes explored by Shabi at ‘Comment is Free’ include the following:
- Israelis oppressing Palestinians
- Israelis oppressing its Arab citizens and other minorities
- Israelis oppressing foreign workers
- Narratives attempting to deny Israel’s democratic advantages
- Suggestions that Israel is moving to the extreme right politically
Themes not explored by Shabi:
- Palestinian incitement and the glorification of terrorism
- Extreme antisemitism within the Palestinian territories and throughout the Arab world
- Political freedom in the Jewish state, and the rights afforded to women, gays, and religious minorities unique in the region, and which matches or exceeds Western standards
In addition to downright petty critiques of even the most benign aspects of ordinary Israeli life – such as accusing the state of, in effect, ‘colonising’ hummus – her capacity to twist and turn prose in a way which assigns maximum malice to the Jewish state has few limits. In one ‘CiF’ essay she mocked Israel’s efforts to unfairly ‘smear’ Hamas as a terrorist group, and once even managed to spin Israeli concerns over the potential rise of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood as evidence of Israeli racism – unmoved, it seems, by the genocidal racism expressed by the group’s spiritual leader, who called for Allah to literally kill every Jew on earth.
An essay she published at CiF last year, commenting on anti-immigrant rhetoric by some Israeli politicians, suggested Israeli parallels with European fascism. But, perhaps her most insidious accusation was leveled in a piece which appeared shortly after the 2008-09 Gaza War, where she wrote the following:
Likewise, mention the civilian casualties in Gaza and the stock response is to blame Hamas, cast as a bloodthirsty, death-worshipping cult, a terror group that by definition forces Israeli soldiers to kill Palestinian children. One email that did the rounds during the assault was a cartoon depicting two fighters, facing each other. The Israeli fighter aimed his gun with a baby in a pram behind him, shielded; the Palestinian fighter had the baby in front of him, as a shield. What’s astounding is not how often this circular jammed email boxes, but how often Israelis repeat the cartoon set-up as though it were fact, or as though it thereby legitimises the bombing of civilians.
“Most Israelis, in other words, seem to have convinced themselves that their own moral superiority somehow sanctions and justifies their own acts of moral repugnance.
In addition to her dangerous flirtation with antisemitic narratives of so-called ‘Jewish Supremacism‘, the final passage represents the ultimate projection, and anti-Zionist leftist critics’ most pronounced deceit: their belief that they are uniquely equipped with the penetrating moral intelligence necessary to see through the racism which informs Israelis’ “belief” in their state’s moral advantages over reactionary Islamist extremists. Jewish anti-Zionist agitprop artists like Shabi, inebriated by post-colonial ideology, fancy themselves more sophisticated and politically enlightened than Israeli Jews, whose obtuse nationalism and ethnocentric loyalties, it is suggested, blind them to the dangerous folly of their path.
Such condescension and visceral animosity towards her fellow Jews, under the guise (of course!) of “progressive” political thought, is as risible as it is repugnant.
- Alice Walker evokes Che Guevera in post on Trayvon Martin at ‘Comment is Free’ (cifwatch.com)
- Thoughts on the Guardian while at the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism (cifwatch.com)