Benjamin Netanyahu and the weaponization of “Anti-Semitism”
Anti-Semitism is a powerful word, and with good reason. However, there is a problem with such powerful words. If the story of a boy who cried wolf is any indication, words, especially powerful ones like anti-Semite, should only be used when applicable, or else they lose that power.
It seems however, that this potential overuse does not bother Benjamin Netanyahu or his supporters. Any Google search of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS) on Google, a movement aimed at boycotting any businesses associated with Israel, will get you many opinion pieces on how they are anti-Semitic and that people should not support them. This brings up the question of whether supporting Palestine in and of itself is anti-Semitism.
Is supporting Palestine inherently an anti-Semitic act? To put it short, no. According to Nazir Harb Michel, a Sociolinguist at Georgetown University, anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. This can include rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions, and religious facilities.
None of the examples Harb Michel uses to describe anti-Semitism, nor any examples on the State Department website for that matter, would make supporting the state of Palestine anti-Semitic, without some serious leaps in logic. Yet time and again, people like Russell Brand, Mark Ruffalo, John Stewart, and Bernie Sanders are accused of either anti-Semitism or being a self-hating Jew, just for voicing support for Palestine.
Similarly, organizations like BDS are often labelled anti-Semitic by Israel and its allies. Is BDS anti-Semitic though? This is a subject tackled by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and the answer to whether or not BDS supporters are anti-Semites is still no. BDS’ goals are not inherently anti-Semetic. While there is no doubt that there are people who support BDS who are also anti-Semitic, that does not make the movement itself anti-Semitic.
Besides the fact that the Israeli government calls all of their political enemies anti-Semites with no regard to the truth, there is the issue that Israel itself is backing anti-Semitic groups. According to The Washington Post, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu signed a deal with Poland that absolved Poland of any Polish support for the Nazi’s and the Holocaust, despite the evidence of collaboration, both passive and active.
Furthermore, Mr. Netanyahu supported a propaganda campaign created by Viktor Orban, the leader of Hungary, to attack George Soros, a Jewish Philanthropist and Holocaust survivor, which was rife with anti-Semitic attacks directed at Mr.Soros by Mr. Orban’s campaign.
Mr. Netanyahu has also blamed the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, for the Holocaust. Mr. Al-Husseini was a Palestinian who supported Arab nationalism and was an Anti-Semite who certainly supported the Holocaust. This statement is problematic because it backs the false narrative that Hitler did not want to kill Jews, just move them out of the nation, and that the Holocaust was encouraged by Palestinians by refusing to accept Jewish refugees and pushing for extermination.
So what purpose does this all serve? It seems to be an effort to undermine any potential support for Palestine. By calling any group that supports Palestine anti-Semitic, Mr. Netanyahu’s government isolates Palestine internationally and hurts their ability to help the cause.
According to the New York Times, by supporting Mr. Orban, they stunt the amount of aid Mr. Soros can give humanitarian and pro-Democracy groups both in Israel and internationally, which could undermine Netanyahu’s control and would oppose the nationalistic right-wing Israel that he supports.
By supporting groups like Azov’s Battalion, they can keep larger powers from intervening in Israeli politics. Finally, by supporting Poland and blaming the Holocaust not on Nazi’s but on Palestinians, he can justify allying with nations whose ruling parties might have ties to neo-Nazi groups because Mr. Netanyahu can then claim that Hitler was forced to kill the Jews and that it’s really Palestine’s fault for forcing them to do it.