John Armitage on Thu, 25 Apr 2002 22:05:18 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Old Hates Fueled By Fear

[A footnote to Keith Sanborn's footnote as it were, from Toronto Globe andMail ... John.]
Old Hates Fueled By Fear 


Naomi Klein

I knew from e-mail reports that something new was going on in Washington
last weekend. A demonstration against the World Bank and International
Monetary Fund was joined by an antiwar march, as well as a demonstration
against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

In the end, all the marches joined together in what organizers described as
the largest Palestinian solidarity demonstration in U.S. history, 75,000
people by police estimates.

On Sunday night, I turned on my television in the hope of catching a glimpse
of this historic protest. I saw something else, instead: triumphant
Jean-Marie Le Pen celebrating his newfound status as the second-most popular
political leader in France. Ever since, I've been wondering whether the new
alliance displayed on the streets can also deal with this latest threat.
As a critic both of the Israeli occupation and of corporate-dictated
globalization, it seems to me that the convergence that took place in
Washington last weekend was long overdue. Despite easy labels like
"antiglobalization," the trade-related protests of the past three years have
all been about self-determination: the right of people everywhere to decide
how best to organize their societies and economies, whether that means
introducing land reform in Brazil, or producing generic AIDS drugs in India,
or, indeed, resisting an occupying force in Palestine.

When hundreds of globalization activists began flocking to Ramallah to act
as "human shields" between Israeli tanks and Palestinians, the theory that
has been developing outside trade summits was put into concrete action.
Bringing that courageous spirit back to Washington, where so much Middle
Eastern policy is made, was the next logical step.

But when I saw Mr. Le Pen beaming on TV, arms raised in triumph, some of my
enthusiasm drained away. There is no connection whatsoever between French
fascism and the "free Palestine" marchers in Washington (indeed, the only
people Mr. Le Pen's supporters seem to dislike more than Jews are Arabs).
And yet, I couldn't help thinking about all the recent events I've been to
where anti-Muslim violence was rightly condemned, Ariel Sharon deservedly
blasted, but no mention was made of attacks on Jewish synagogues, cemeteries
and community centers. Or about the fact that every time I log onto activist
news sites such as, which practice"open publishing," I'm
confronted with a string of Jewish conspiracy theories about 9-11 and
excerpts from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The globalization movement isn't anti-Semitic, it just hasn't fully
confronted the implications of diving into the Middle East conflict. Most
people on the left are simply choosing sides and in the Middle East, where
one side is under occupation and the other has the U.S. military behind it,
the choice seems clear. But it is possible to criticize Israel while
forcefully condemning the rise of anti-Semitism.

And it is equally possible to be pro-Palestinian independence without
adopting a simplistic "pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel" dichotomy, a mirror
image of the good-versus-evil equations so beloved by President George W.

Why bother with such subtleties while bodies are still being pulled out of
the rubble in Jenin? Because anyone interested in fighting Le Pen-style
fascism or Sharon-style brutality has to deal with the reality of
anti-Semitism head-on.

The hatred of Jews is a potent political tool in the hands of the right in
Europe and in Israel. For Mr. Le Pen, anti-Semitism is a windfall, helping
spike his support from 10 per cent to 17 per cent in a week.

For Ariel Sharon, it is the fear of anti-Semitism, both real and imagined,
that is the weapon. Mr. Sharon likes to say that he stands up to terrorists
to show he is not afraid. In fact, his policies are driven by fear. His
great talent is that he fully understands the depths of Jewish fear of
another Holocaust. He knows how to draw parallels between Jewish anxieties
about anti-Semitism and American fears of terrorism.

And he is an expert at harnessing all of it for his political ends. The
primary, and familiar, fear that Mr. Sharon draws on, the one that allows
him to claim all aggressive actions as defensive ones, is the fear that
Israel's neighbors want to drive the Jews into the sea. The secondary fear
Mr. Sharon manipulates is the fear among Jews in the Diaspora that they will
eventually be driven to seek safe haven in Israel. This fear leads millions
of Jews around the world, many of them sickened by Israeli aggression, to
shut up and send their checks, a down payment on future sanctuary.
The equation is simple: The more fearful Jews are, the more powerful Mr.
Sharon is. Elected on a platform of "peace through security," his
administration could barely hide its delight at Mr. Le Pen's ascendancy,
immediately calling on French Jews to pack their bags and come to the
promised land.

For Mr. Sharon, Jewish fear is a guarantee that his power will go unchecked,
granting him the impunity needed to do the unthinkable: send troops into the
Palestinian Authority's education ministry to steal and destroy records;
bury children alive in their homes; block ambulances from getting to the

Jews outside Israel now find themselves in a tightening vise: The actions of
the country that was supposed to ensure their future safety are making them
less safe right now. Mr. Sharon is deliberately erasing distinctions between
the terms "Jew" and "Israeli," claiming he is fighting not for Israeli
territory but for the survival of the Jewish people. And when anti-Semitism
rises at least partly as a result of his actions, it is Mr. Sharon who is
positioned once again to collect the political dividends.

And it works. Most Jews are so frightened that they are now willing to do
anything to defend Israeli policies. So at my neighborhood synagogue, where
the humble fagade was just badly scarred by a suspicious fire, the sign on
the door doesn't say, "Thanks for nothing, Sharon." It says, "Support Israel
. . . Now more than ever."

There is a way out. Nothing is going to erase anti-Semitism, but Jews
outside and inside Israel might be a little safer if there was a campaign to
distinguish between diverse Jewish positions and the actions of the Israeli
state. This is where an international movement can play a crucial role.
Already, alliances are being made between globalization activists and
Israeli "refuseniks," soldiers who refuse to serve their mandatory duty in
the occupied territories. And the most powerful images from Saturday's
protests were rabbis walking alongside Palestinians.

But more needs to be done. It's easy for social-justice activists to tell
themselves that since Jews already have such powerful defenders in
Washington and Jerusalem, anti-Semitism is one battle they don't need to

This is a deadly error.

It is precisely because anti-Semitism is used by the likes of Mr. Sharon
that the fight against it must be reclaimed.

When anti-Semitism is no longer treated as Jewish business, to be taken care
of by Israel and the Zionist lobby, Mr. Sharon is robbed of his most
effective weapon in the indefensible and increasingly brutal occupation. And
as a bonus, whenever hatred of Jews diminishes, the likes of Jean-Marie Le
Pen shrink right down with it.

Naomi Klein is author of No Logo.

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