In my opinion, there is a large component of anti-Israelism in the Arab and Islamic worlds that could essentially disappear with a peaceful solution to the conflict. But if Arab and Muslim communities throughout the world cannot distinguish between random Jews they may subject to mob violence and villification, and the policies of a sovereign government, they may be beyond reasonable persuasion. Besides – although Ehud Barak and Israel were not beyond reproach at Camp David in 2000 – Yasir Arafat's tragic decision to return to violent tactics, along with the Palestinians' electoral choice of Hamas in 2006 and their insane ongoing (although mostly impotent) attacks on Israel, even in the face of last year's disengagement, indicate that Israel faces a people who don't yet know how to make peace. From where I sit, there's plenty of blame to go around. – R. Seliger
Perhaps the most outstanding example of the fulsome introduction of classic anti-Jewish notions into Palestinian politics – and at once an indication of the relative shallowness of its impact – is the Hamas Covenant. Here is an extract from Article 22:
With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.Although the token term ‘Zionist interests’ is casually thrown into this extraordinary rant, the historical events alluded to, from the French Revolution onward, leave no doubt that the object of this calumny is the Jews in general rather than the Zionists in particular. However, the very crudeness of the propaganda illustrates its imported, undigested, unmediated quality. It is as if, with minor adaptations, it had been transplanted wholesale from the notorious Tsarist-era forgery, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," or from a Nazi song-sheet, direct into the heart of the Hamas Covenant without having passed through the minds of the mass of the organization’s Palestinian supporters. According to one informed commentator, the covenant “was written by one individual without broad consultation.” This is not in any way to minimize its appallingly racist content, but rather to contrast the import of archetypal foreign antisemitism with the authentically indigenous sentiments of anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism and anti-Zionism, all of which arose from the historical experiences of the native Arab populations themselves.
You may speak as much as you want about regional and world wars. They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it.
These are important distinctions for – to the extent that Arab antisemitism is a by-product of a contemporary political conflict – it may start to dissolve as a natural consequence of the settlement of the wider problem. But time is of the essence. The longer the broader conflict continues, the deeper will be its poisonous legacy. There may unhappily come a time when antisemitism per se will indeed take root throughout the region. In that event, it would not only outlive the putative end of the Arab-Israeli conflict but enormously complicate its resolution in the first place.
These are matters of serious concern not just for Israelis and their government. They could affect the standing and safety of Jews everywhere. If only for their own protection, Jewish communities around the world have a strong interest in distancing themselves from Israel’s repressive practices and annexationist tendencies. Beyond this, they are sometimes in a position to influence Israeli policies and – in concert with other concerned groups – to help bridge the gaps between the antagonistic parties. To engage in such initiatives would entail jettisoning their more common instinct of unquestioningly following the Israeli government`s cue, whatever it may be.
It is not as if Israel’s governments have such an unimpeachable track record. Former Prime Minister Sharon’s withdrawal of Israeli settlers from Gaza was lauded within Israel and internationally as a great achievement, as if he had not been principally responsible for implanting them there in the first place in defiance of expert warnings and at huge wasted expense. And for years, many commentators warned that if Israeli leaders declined to deal constructively with the Fatah/PLO leadership, they would end up with Hamas. So this really should not have come as a surprise either. Now, if they fail to deal with Hamas, they could end up with the far more perilous Al Qaida. Meanwhile, growing chaos and deepening distress are stalking the Palestinian territories. With a little more humility and self-reflection and a little less hubris and self-deception, the current predicament may have been avoided.
The election of Hamas in January’s Palestinian parliamentary elections is a watershed. Whatever else may be said of it, it exposes the fallacies of official Israeli concepts and represents a resounding defeat for Israeli policies and strategy. Yet, the reflex reaction of the Israeli government, supported by several allied governments, is to boycott and isolate a Hamas-led government and demand that it abandon all of its principal positions overnight and replace them with the policies of the party it had just trounced in the polls. [A plurality of 44% to 42% does not a trouncing make, but Klug has a point – ed.] Just to spell this out is enough to see how ridiculous and unrealistic this stance is. The new situation provides fertile ground for mature, visionary – and greatly needed - leadership on the part of leaders of overseas Jewish communities.
What is required at this point is an independent approach to the very people that the Israeli government currently views as its foes. Israel is a state and, like other states, its geopolitical circumstances sometimes throw up enemies and sometimes allies. These are not fixed positions. Israel today has durable peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, countries with which it used to be at war. On the other hand, Iran was once Israel’s chief ally in the region, and may again be so in the future. For years, the PLO called for Israel’s destruction and Israelis were barred from having any contact with its members. Then, all of a sudden, it became Israel’s peace partner. An enemy today is not necessarily an enemy tomorrow, and an enemy of Israel is not necessarily an enemy of the Jewish people. It does not follow that because the Israeli state chooses to shun certain parties, or vice versa, that Jewish communities elsewhere should automatically fall in line. On the contrary, reaching out and engaging with such parties and their followers at times of flux may be precisely what would be of most benefit. It is, of course, a two-way street, but there is nothing to lose by making the attempt and maybe such encounters would engender some positive waves. Now that would be a tsunami worth going for.
Dr. Tony Klug is senior policy consultant at the UK-based Middle East Policy Initiative Forum, vice chair of the Arab-Jewish Forum and a co-founder of the Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights. He has been writing on the Middle East for over 30 years.