Chris Knight

Zionist ambivalence and real anti-Semitism

Chris Knight
Zionist ambivalence and real anti-Semitism

The ongoing ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign against supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party rests on many unfounded assumptions. One of these is that Zionist supporters of Israel are the people best qualified to define and confront anti-Semitism.

While it would be an exaggeration to claim that these activists don’t care at all about real anti-Semitism, it seems clear that this struggle is not their main concern. As with all nationalists, their priority is to defend what they consider their country, right or wrong.

Here are some quotations which illustrate at best ambivalence on the part of Zionists toward real anti-Semitism. The first is from the founder of the Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl, made at a time when his project was still being rejected by most Jews. Herzl published this disturbing diatribe against ‘anti-Zionist’ Jews in his own newspaper, The World, on October 15, 1897:

Yid is anti-Zionist. We have known him for a long time, and just merely to look at him, let alone approach or, heaven forbid, touch him was enough to make us feel sick. But our disgust, until now, was moderated by pity; we sought extenuating historical explanations for his being so crooked, sleazy, and shabby a specimen. Moreover, we told ourselves that he was, after all, our fellow tribesman, though we had no cause to be proud of this fellowship. . . . Whenever he perpetrated some dirty deal, we tried to hush it up. When he compromised us all, we felt ashamed but kept silent.

Now at least the Yid has done something that merits praise – he has rejected us.

But who is this Yid, anyway? A type, my dear friends, a figure that pops up time and again, the dreadful companion of the Jew, one for the other. The Jew is a human being like any other, no better and no worse. The Yid, on the other hand, is a hideous distortion of the human character, something unspeakably low and repulsive. Where the Jew experiences pain or pride, the Yid feels only craven fear or twists his face into a sardonic grin. . . . The Yid is the curse of the Jews. . . .

And then came Zionism. Both Jew and Yid had to take a stand, and now for the first time, the Yid rejects our community. The Yid is anti-Zionist! . . . This is one of the first and most beneficial consequences of the movement. We’ll breathe more easily, having got rid once and for all of these people whom, with furtive shame, we were obliged to treat as our fellow tribesmen. . . . Watch out, Yid.

Zionism might proceed like William Tell . . . and keep a second arrow in reserve. Should the first shot miss, the second will serve the cause of vengeance. Friends, Zionism’s second arrow will pierce the Yid’s chest.

[Lawrence Dreyfus, Wagner and the Erotic Impulse, 2012, pp. 165-6 citing from: Ernst Pawel, The Labyrinth of Exile: A Life of Theodor Herzl, 1990, pp. 345-6 ]

The second quote is from an article entitled ‘Israel's Long History of Cooperation with Ruthless, anti-Semitic Dictators’ , first published in the liberal Israeli newspaper, Harretz (4/7/18). The article summarises Israel’s support for one of the most murderous anti-Semitic regimes of the late 20th Century, Argentina’s military junta (see photo above) in the late 1970s and early 1980s:

[Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem] Begin cooperated closely with the murderous Galtieri regime in Argentina during the early 1980s. During this period, Israel sold Argentina over 20 Nesher fighter jets as well as numerous Skyhawks and Mirage jets and other military hardware. This was controversial for several reasons.

First, Israel’s military cooperation with Buenos Aires brought it into confrontation with London as a result of the 1982 Falklands war between Britain and Argentina.

Secondly, members of the military junta were implicated in attacks on Argentina’s Jewish community.

Within days of the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands (a British territory) on 2 April 1982, reports abounded of Israeli arms sales to the Galtieri regime. …

Just a year later, on 28 October 1983, a number of leading U.S. congressmen wrote to the Argentine ambassador in the United States to express their dismay over the junta’s complicity in the severe anti-Semitism in the country since it seized power in 1976:

This worsening anti-Semitism is the latest expression of hatred against the Jews in Argentina. Leading anti-Semites who themselves identify with Hitler and Mussolini serve in high educational and cultural posts in the government. There have been hundreds of anti-Semitic acts against Jews. Yet in its seven years in power the Argentine government has arrested not one of the perpetrators of these acts.

Once Argentina returned to democracy in 1984, an official report was published exposing the abuses of the military junta.

Jacobo Timerman, an outspoken critic of the junta who later found refuge in Israel, had been abducted and held incommunicado where he faced anti-Semitic harassment and torture. Nazi emblems and portraits of Hitler were found in Argentinean detention centres, while swastikas were daubed on the backs of Jewish victims.

This adoption of Nazi tropes and institutionalized anti-Semitism was not exactly new or foreign: In the post-WWII period, Argentina had already gained infamy as a key sanctuary for Nazi war criminals.

By the early 1980s, possibly up to 30,000 political opponents had been rounded up and never heard from again (the ‘disappeared.’) A disproportionate 10 per cent of these victims were Jews. While there were strong condemnations of the junta in the United States and in Europe, the Begin government never followed suit.

Israel saw its arms supplies to Buenos Aires as a means to exert pressure on the junta to improve its treatment of Argentine Jews. Indeed, some Jewish community leaders themselves supported the arms deliveries, believing that it would help their situation in the country. The military exports were also a lifeline for Israel economically and politically, during a time of severe economic crisis.

Yet as Israel stepped up its level of military assistance, the attacks on Argentina’s Jewish community actually increased. …

The final quotation is from another Israeli paper, Hadashot (28/9/90). The article is entitled: ‘Israel Denied Shelter to Left-wing Argentine Jews During Junta Rule’ (available at: ‘Argentina – Proof that Israel is no Refuge from Anti-Semitism’ , Tony Greenstein’s blog). It describes further Israel’s indifference to anti-Semitism particularly when it affects left-wing Jews:

The Israeli government could have saved hundreds of Argentine Jews, who were murdered or kidnapped during the rule of the generals between 1976 and 1983, claims Marcel Zohar in his book Let My People Go to Hell, soon to be published by Zitrin.

The military censor this week decided to at last permit the publication of the book, except for several paragraphs which, so he claimed, might endanger certain person's lives or harm Israel's relations with other countries. The publisher, Ben Zion Zitrin, is about to offer the book to foreign publishing houses.

Zohar, who was Yedi'ot Aharonot [an Israeli evening newspaper] correspondent in Argentina between 1978 and 1982, describes how the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency and other official bodies refrained from processing immigration applications from Jews with left-wing background, in order to preserve Israel's good business and political links with the ruling junta. In the same period, arms sales worth about one billion dollars were concluded between Israel and Argentina. According to Zohar, both Likud and Labour leaders shared in the conspiracy of silence.

His book recounts the struggle which took place between Danny Rekanati, the immigration official based in Argentina, and the Israeli ambassador, Ron Nergad. Rekanati tried to help persecuted Jews escape from the country, while Nergad, according to the book, complained about his activities. The unwritten instruction was to refuse any help to Jews defined as 'too left-wing'.

The late Menahem Savidor, who was Knesset chairman at the time, admitted to Zohar that he had prevented a public Knesset debate on the situation of Argentina's Jews at the government's request in order not to harm Israel's crucial links with Argentina. The prime ministers of the period covered, would not discuss the book. Yigal Alon and Moshe Dayan, who were Israel's foreign ministers then, are no longer alive. The foreign ministry refused to cooperate or to open its archives for the period.'


Dulwich and West Norwood CLP