Stunning moral failure of anti-Zionist left: Rachel Shabi compares Zionism to European fascism

Rachel Shabi

The comment (attributed to August Bebel) that anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools can be extended to many other kinds of cheap and superficial errors which people make.

“The baffled, frustrated and the bewildered”, wrote Walter Russell Mead, “seeks a grand, simplifying hypothesis that can bring some kind of ordered explanation to a confusing world.”

Since 2002 Rachel Shabi has published over 100 essays at ‘Comment is Free’ on the topic of Israel, and the themes and memes have been as predictable as they have been facile.

Not only are Israelis almost never the objects of Shabi’s  sympathetic imagination; it is as if she, born to Iraqi Jewish parents, has gone out of her way to express sympathy for the Palestinian other. She even, in a ‘Comment is Free’ essay, mocked Israel’s efforts to “label” Hamas a terrorist organization.

When covering the painful withdrawal of 8,000 Israelis from Gaza in 2005 she asked:

“As Jewish settlers were evacuated from the Gaza Strip in August, the media caught every tearful, defiant move on camera. But how much was real and how much stage-managed?” [emphasis added]

Even a story about Jewish refugees from Arab lands was remarkably callous towards the 870,000 or so Jews who were ethnically cleansed by Arab governments, employing the following maddening moral obfuscation:

“There are significant points to make about the Jewish experience in Arab lands, caught in the crossfire of both Zionism and Arab nationalism”

Shabi’s desired narrative was clear: Jews were expelled from lands they lived for often thousands of years not by systemic expulsion by antisemitic Muslim rulers, but twin abstractions.

Typically, not only does Shabi question Israeli policies but – adopting the tropes of an increasingly hysterical Israeli far left – she often frames such political phenomena as inconsistent with democracy itself.

So a story about gender injustice on Haredi buses is not, for Shabi, an issue of women’s rights which needs to be addressed, but rather a societal fissure so serious as to be fundamentally at odds with Israel’s “claim” to be a “democracy”: Israel’s treatment of women is hardly that of a democracy (December 23rd, 2011).

Similarly, in her work at ‘Comment is Free’, the word antisemitism is almost never used – which is truly remarkable when you consider that she’s reporting in a region awash in the most crude and endemic Jew hatred.  In fact the only time I could find an allusion to the term antisemitism was in the context of an attack on an unfair use of it.

In a piece defending those accused of antisemitism, Shabi wrote:

“The real danger in all this is that the rush to throw charges of antisemitism at people who criticise Israel will desensitize vigilance over the real thing.”

Strangely, Shabi never got around to telling us what “the real thing” is.  Nor was I able to find any essay she had written at ‘CiF’ (or in any other publication for that matter) where she elucidated on the dangers of “real” antisemtism in the Arab world – or anywhere else.

Shabi’s themes at ‘Comment is Free’ include:

  • Israelis oppressing Palestinians
  • Israelis oppressing its Arab citizens
  • Israelis oppressing its minorities
  • Narratives attempting to undermine Israel’s democratic advantages
  • Israelis oppressing foreign workers
  • Israel moving to the extreme right politically

Shabi’s latest post at ‘Comment is Free’ adheres to these last two bullet points and is titled “Far-right Europeans and Israel: this toxic alliance spells trouble“, June 6th.

Here are some of Shabi’s themes:

  • Israeli TV reported that Haifa’s council had warned local businesses that they risked losing their licences if they employed African refugees

In the U.S. it is quite common for companies to be fined for hiring illegal immigrants.

  • So far, Israel’s approach has been to build a steel fence on the Egyptian border and a giant detention centre in the south and to pass a law which allows the detention of migrants for up to three years. 

By point of comparison, in the U.S. (even under Obama) over 400,000 illegal immigrants still face likely deportation in the near future and more than 1.1 million people have been deported in the last three years.  Reasonable people can agree or disagree with immigration policy, but such border controls have nothing to do with fascism. (Also, the U.S. will eventually have 700 miles of security fences along its border with Mexico to deter illegal immigration.)

  • There have been racist remarks about the African migrants by a couple of politicians.

Obviously, even one racist remark is one too many. But what democratic country in the world can claim that no such bigoted comments have at times been expressed by its political leaders?

  • Far-right Israeli ministers are basically repeating the anti-immigration, anti-Muslim sentiments of rising far-right parties in Europe. 

Here, Shabi’s moral inversion is simply stunning. Israel is, by nature, a state with a Jewish character: one which fosters Jewish immigration. That is and will always be its raison d’être.

Evidently Shabi hasn’t noticed that the Muslim Middle East has not been too hospitable to the Jews in the region – a hatred which continues to this very day and often manifests as an antisemitism without Jews even in nations such as Jordan and Egypt where there exists a cold peace.  

The most ominous cognitive dynamic of our times is – as scholar Robert Wistrich has written in his book ‘A Lethal Obsession‘ – that antisemitism in the Muslim world today is equal to that which existed in Nazi Germany at its worst. It is a sad fact that so many lack the courage to confront the modern manifestation of  such lethal Judeophobia.  

But, here is where Shabi’s most hideous moral pivot begins:

“The sight of Jewish Israelis – sons and daughters of refugees – echoing, pretty much window-smashing act by act and racist line by line, scenes from historic anti-Jewish pogroms in Europe, isn’t an easy one”

Not an easy sight, perhaps, because it is an utterly preposterous proposition.  

The analogy between anti-Jewish pogroms in Europe and a recent spate of anti immigrant hostility is as ahistorical as Nazi analogies.  The word “pogrom” refers to massive (typically government organized) violent attacks against Jews which date back at least to the Crusades such as the Pogrom of 1096 in France and Germany, as well as the massacres of Jews at London and York in 1189–1190. Pogroms against Jewish communities in Europe and N. Africa killed tens of thousands in the 19th and 20th centuries. [Elon, Amos (2002). The Pity of It All: A History of the Jews in Germany, 1743-1933. Metropolitan Books. pp. 102–105.]

To say that nothing even remotely on this scale occurred in Tel Aviv recently is an understatement of immense proportions.

But Shabi is merely following the playbook of committed anti-Zionists. It is never enough to criticize Israel or to propose solutions to social problems or inequities. She must completely delegitimize, demonize and characterize the modern Jewish state as morally beyond the pale – even on par with the 20th century’s other odious ‘ism’s’.  Israel’s sins are too immense to be merely atoned for; the state itself is irredeemable. Zionism itself must be overcome.  

The suggestion that the Jewish state is lurching towards fascism is, according to Shabi, a dovetailing agenda between European fascists and far-right Israeli nationalists. This toxic arrangement represents a near perfect example of the cognitive warfare in which we are currently engaged: dupes such as Shabi demonizing and delegitmizing Zionism as an organic obstacle to progress whilst ignoring the true danger of fascism, in its Islamist guise – a movement by definition hostile to liberal values on women, gays, democracy and religious tolerance.  

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi – the spiritual leader of perhaps the most popular Islamist movement in the Middle East – per a recently released WikiLeaks cable, called on Allah to literally kill every last Jew on earth.

The silence of Shabi and her political fellow travelers in the face of such chilling, fascist, extreme right, annihilationist antisemitism gives lie to the cliche of ‘never again’, as well as the anti-racism mantle they claim.  

CiF Watch is not merely a blog which aims to combat antisemitism and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy at the Guardian.  

Our broader mission is to elucidate on the intellectual battles which rage below the surface of the debate. We’re engaged in a fight for intellectual clarity against enemies of the Jewish state which often veer wildly from even the broadest rules of decency.

Shabi’s latest broadside on the Jewish state is more than an attack on one nation. It represents an assault on political and moral sobriety.

The nation I love is engaged in a multi-front war: one physical and one cognitive. My hope is that my counter attack on Shabi’s latest assault (representing the latter) inspires you to continue doing the same in battles yet to come. 

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