Necessary Illusions Copyright © 1989 by Noam Chomsky
Appendix V Segment 20/33
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There is no space to comment here on the vicious racist depiction of Arabs in novels, television, cartoons and cinema, or the crucial support in the American Jewish community for Rabbi Kahane, who is commonly denounced as a Nazi in Israeli commentary, and for other groups within Israel that are only marginally less extreme in their intentions with regard to the Arab population and attitudes towards them.

Those who express their fear and concern over manifestations of anti-Semitism among Blacks and others might be taken seriously if they were to pay even the slightest attention to what is said by their friends and associates. They do not.

The matter of racism and the Arab-Jewish conflict is more complex. The anti-Arab racism that has become so familiar as to be unnoticed has been accompanied by apparent concern over anti-Semitism; that the qualification is accurate is evident from a closer look at the revision that the concept of anti-Semitism has undergone in the process. There have long been efforts to identify anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in an effort to exploit anti-racist sentiment for political ends; "one of the chief tasks of any dialogue with the Gentile world is to prove that the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is not a distinction at all," Israeli diplomat Abba Eban argued, in a typical expression of this intellectually and morally disreputable position.113 But that no longer suffices. It is now necessary to identify criticism of Israeli policies as anti-Semitism -- or in the case of Jews, as "self-hatred," so that all possible cases are covered.

The leading official monitor of anti-Semitism, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith, interprets anti-Semitism as unwillingness to conform to its requirements with regard to support for Israeli authorities. These conceptions were clearly expounded by ADL National Director Nathan Perlmutter, who wrote that while old-fashioned anti-Semitism has declined, there is a new and more dangerous variety on the part of "peacemakers of Vietnam vintage, transmuters of swords into plowshares, championing the terrorist P.L.O.," and those who condemn U.S. policies in Vietnam and Central America while "sniping at American defense budgets." He fears that "nowadays war is getting a bad name and peace too favorable a press" with the rise of this "real anti-Semitism." The logic is straightforward: Anti-Semitism is opposition to the interests of Israel (as the ADL sees them); and these interests are threatened by "the liberals," the churches, and others who do not adhere to the ADL political line.114

The ADL has virtually abandoned its earlier role as a civil rights organization, becoming "one of the main pillars" of Israeli propaganda in the U.S., as the Israeli press casually describes it, engaged in surveillance, blacklisting, compilation of FBI-style files circulated to adherents for the purpose of defamation, angry public responses to criticism of Israeli actions, and so on. These efforts, buttressed by insinuations of anti-Semitism or direct accusations, are intended to deflect or undermine opposition to Israeli policies, including Israel's refusal, with U.S. support, to move towards a general political settlement. The ADL was condemned by the Middle East Studies Association after circulation of an ADL blacklist to campus Jewish leaders, stamped "confidential." Practices of this nature have been bitterly condemned by Israeli doves -- in part because they fear the consequences of this hysterical chauvinism for Israel, in part because they have been subjected to the standard procedures themselves, in part simply in natural revulsion.115

Anti-Semitism, in short, is not merely conflated with anti-Zionism, but even extended to Zionists who are critical of Israeli practices. Correspondingly, authentic anti-Semitism on the part of those whose services to Israeli power are deemed appropriate is of no account.

These two aspects of "the real anti-Semitism," ADL-style, were illustrated during the 1988 U.S. presidential campaign. The Democratic Party was denounced for anti-Semitism on the grounds that its convention dared to debate a resolution calling for a two-state political settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In contrast, when an array of Nazi sympathizers and anti-Semites were exposed in August 1988 in the Bush presidential campaign, the major Jewish organizations and leaders were, for the most part, "curiously blasé about both the revelations and Bush's response to them," largely ignoring the matter, John Judis comments.116 The New Republic dismissed as a minor matter the "antique and anemic forms of anti-Semitism" of virulent anti-Semites and Nazi and fascist sympathizers at a high level of the Republican campaign organization. The editors stressed, rather, the "comfortable haven for Jew-hatred on the left, including the left wing of the Democratic Party," parts of the Jackson campaign, and "the ranks of increasingly well-organized Arab activists," all of whom supported the two-state resolution at the Party convention and thus qualify as "Jew-haters."117

The point is that the ultra-right Republicans are regarded as properly supportive of Israel by hard-line standards, while the Democratic Party reveals its "Jew-hatred" by tolerating elements that believe that Palestinians are human beings with the same rights as Jews, including the right of national self-determination alongside of Israel. Following the lead of the major Jewish organizations, the Democrats carefully avoided the discovery of anti-Semites and Nazis in the Republican campaign headquarters and the continuing close links after exposure.

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113 Eban, Congress Bi-Weekly, March 30, 1973.

114 Nathan and Ruth Perlmutter, The Real Anti-Semitism in America (Arbor House, 1982); see Fateful Triangle, 14f., for more extensive quotes and discussion.

115 Colin Campbell, NYT, Jan. 30, 1985. See Fateful Triangle (11f.) and Pirates and Emperors (29f., 46n) for some references to the condemnations by Israeli doves of the hysteria, fanaticism, Stalinist-style methods and sheer cynicism that they see -- correctly, in my view -- as profoundly harmful to the interests of their country.

116 Seven were discharged from the Bush campaign after the revelations, four of them retaining their leadership positions in the Heritage Groups Council, the ethnic outreach arm of the Republican National Committee. See Russell C. Bellant, "Will Bush Purge Nazi Collaborators in the G.O.P.?," Op-Ed, NYT, Nov. 19, 1988.

117 Judis, In These Times, Sept. 28; New Republic, Oct. 3, 1988. See David Corn, Nation, Oct. 24, 1988, for more on the "haven" for "anti-Semites and fascist sympathizers" in the Republican party. Also Holly Sklar, Z Magazine, Nov. 1988; Charles Allen, Village Voice, Nov. 1, 1988. On the downplaying of the story by the New York Times, see FAIR, Extra!, Sept./Oct. 1988.