I am appalled that art historian Ranjit Hoskote had to resign from the finding committee of Documenta 16, a prestigious German art exhibition, after being accused of anti-semitism. His so-called crime was signing a petition in 2019 criticising a discussion organised by the Israeli consulate seeking to develop an intellectual link between Zionism and Hindutva.
The West has reached a stage where anyone criticising Zionism or Israel can be pilloried as anti-semitic. Germany feels so guilty about the Holocaust that it cannot tolerate the slightest criticism of Israel.
This new form of discrimination must be called ethnic hounding. It is morally indefensible and diverts attention from neo-Nazis who are truly anti-semitic. Many Palestinian sympathisers are also strong critics of both neo-Nazism and Hamas extremism, but are not permitted to air their views in mainstream western media. The ethnic hounders seek to silence rational critics of Israel as immoral Jew-haters.
This is a new form of McCarthyism. Ironically, ‘Oppenheimer’ is the biggest film hit of the year. It highlights how anybody in the McCarthy era (early 1950s) with Communist friends, such as Oppenheimer, could be falsely labelled a traitor and driven out of work. Oppenheimer, a Jew, was declared a security risk. Had he been alive today, he would have castigated fellow-Jews for using McCarthyist tactics against Palestinian sympathisers.
This new form of discrimination must be called ethnic hounding. It is morally indefensible and diverts attention from neo-Nazis who are truly anti-semitic.
Many eminent Jews have long criticised Israel. Historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote in his book Interesting Times that when young, his mother said never to do anything “that might suggest that you are ashamed of being a Jew.” Hobsbawm adds, “I have tried to observe this ever since, although the strain of doing so is sometimes intolerable in the light of the behaviour of the government of Israel.”
Noam Chomsky, another eminent Jewish scholar, has long castigated both Israeli and Palestinian extremists and supported a two-state solution. Yet he cannot get anything published in the mainline US media because he castigates Israel’s excesses. He once said, “What Israel is doing in the Occupied territories is worse than apartheid.” This is true but unprintable in the US media.
Students in many US universities have staged demonstrations against Israel’s killing of civilians in Gaza. US politicians and media have condemned this as neo-Nazism. Not at all, it is the sort of nuanced dissent mislabelled treason in the McCarthy era.
The new ethnic hounding is wreaking havoc. TV channel MSNBC replaced three Muslim anchors after the Gaza attack although they were arguably the channel’s top experts on the region. Harper’s Bazaar editor Samira Nasr was forced to apologise for calling Israel’s move to cut power to Gaza “the most inhuman thing”.
Pro-Palestine demonstrators take part in a rally at Harvard University. US politicians and media have condemned such protests as neo-Nazism (Image: Reuters)
The Frankfurt Book Fair cancelled an award ceremony for Palestinian writer Adania Shibli. Donors threatened the job of the president of the University of Pennsylvania because it had held a literary festival called Palestine Writes in September.
Editor of science journal eLife, Michael Eisen, was fired after reposting an Onion article about Gaza with the headline ‘Dying Gazans Criticized for Not Using Last Words to Condemn Hamas.’ Paddy Cosgrave, CEO of Web Summit, which holds possibly the biggest tech conference in Europe, had to resign for tweeting “war crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies.” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen, who was to speak at a Manhattan cultural hub 92NY, saw his event abruptly pulled after signing an open letter criticising Israel’s Gaza action.
Hamas’ attack on Israel caused many civilian deaths and can certainly be called terrorism. But to be fair, the same label should be attached to Zionist leaders guilty of terrorist activity when Britain ruled the region till 1948.
Extremists on both sides have made their conflict unsolvable. There are no heroes or villains. Yet it must be said that Jews, for centuries an oppressed minority, are doing in Palestine some things done to them in Europe.
Zionists sabotaged railways and bridges, blew up the British civilian headquarters in the King David Hotel, killed Palestinian civilians galore, and assassinated former British secretary of state for the colonies Lord Moyne and UN mediator Count Bernadotte. The western media know this but refuse to recall the Jewish terror that preceded what Hamas has done.
I feel extremists on both Israeli and Palestinian sides have made their conflict unsolvable. There are no heroes or villains. Yet it must be said that Jews, for centuries an oppressed minority, are doing in Palestine some things done to them in Europe.
Nachem Goldman, a founder of the Zionist movement and Israel, once said it was “sacrilege” to use the Holocaust as a justification for oppressing others. For this he was ostracised in Israel. Yet such “sacrilege” has inspired ethnic hounding, of which Hoskote is the latest but surely not the last victim.