“A Jew boycotting Israel? Must be a joke” is the title of an article by Assaf Wohl, published Wednesday on the Israeli Ynet. It is a vile, ignorant and even anti-Semitic rant against Justine Sachs, a Jewish activist from New Zealand for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) who was instrumental in persuading her compatriot pop-singer Lorde to cancel her performance in Israel due for June (as Lorde announced last Sunday).
Assaf Wohl is an Israeli author of… an empty book. His 137-page blank book titled “The History of the Palestinian nation From Ancient Times to the Modern Era” was published this year and even sold on Amazon before it was pulled. Israel’s top diplomat, deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, even used his book to wave at Palestinian-Israeli parliament members, calling them “thieves of the Jewish history” in her fulmination against the UNESCO recognition of Al-Khalil (Hebron) as a Palestinian World Heritage Site. Wohl’s empty book received an amazing 2nd place in her inciteful presentation, after the bible.
So now Wohl continues in his tradition of emptiness, this time with some actual words, in his op-ed on the major daily Yediot Aharonot’s website Ynet.
Wohl hurls thinly veiled accusations of Sachs being a kind of Nazi-collaborator, a ‘kapo’, when he writes:
“[Y]ou choose to play the role of the classic Jewish wimp, who has to prove his animosity towards his Jewish brethren in order to survive. You’re not the first person to do so. Some people, by the way, have been much more successful than you, and this isn’t the place to quote from the history of the early 1940s.”
Usage of the notion of ‘kapos,’ the name for Jewish prisoner guards who worked in Nazi death camps, is common among Zionists who attack other Jews whom they perceive as too liberal, unto the level of treason. US Ambassador David Friedman, who is a major settler supporter, has used the term “worse than kapos” to describe even the liberal Zionist group J Street.
In using the term “classic Jewish wimp”, Wohl is playing on the “strong Jew” notion which has informed Zionist idealism and thinking from its very early stages. Zionist leader Max Nordau had coined the term “Muskeljudentum” (‘Muscular Judaism’) in the 2nd Zionist Congress 1898.
Wohl makes it clear that the essential difference between him and Sachs is precisely this ‘nationalism’:
“The difference between you and me, Justin [sic], is that I’m an Israeli Jew and you’re a Jew. That’s it. You have no nationality. You live in a negligible, insignificant sheepfold stuck somewhere at the end of the universe: New Zealand”, he writes.
This formulation is really novel, and deserves special attention. Because the fact of the matter is that Wohl has simply turned reality on its head, and made a huge case for Jewish involvement in BDS; he just doesn’t realize it. You see, it is Wohl, who as an Israeli, does not have a nationality. This is because Israel does not recognize an Israeli nationality (as I have written). To put it bluntly – Israelis simply don’t exist in a national sense. Sachs, on the other hand, can be a New- Zealand national as well as a Jew. But Wohl cannot be both a Jew as well as an Israeli national. He can only be a JEWISH national, according to Israel’s definition of nationality. This novel construct exists precisely because Israel seeks to be the Jewish State, and hence the only ones who enjoy actual national rights, as opposed to mere citizenship rights, are Jews. This whole construct means that all Jews wherever they be, are considered ‘Jewish nationals’ by Israel, and hence eligible for automatic citizenship under its Law of Return. This fact makes Jews all over the world complicit in Israel’s policies, according to Israel itself. And that makes a very strong case indeed for Jews all over the world to oppose Israeli policies. So Wohl is not only wrong, he makes a huge case for Jews supporting BDS internationally.
Wohl furthermore addresses ‘auto anti-Semitism’ to Sachs, in a formulation which suggests that her notions are just laughable:
“Personally, I believe this is something even more Jewish than auto-anti-Semitism. As a Jew to a Jew, let’s be honest, it’s the same unique Jewish sense of humor”, he writes.
Thus Wohl applies the term which Education Minister Naftali Bennet recently explained, ‘auto Anti-Semitism’, as a trendy form of the famous ‘Jewish self-hater’ accusation.
Wohl projects violence on Sachs:
“Do you want to know what you’ve caused by violently and childishly pushing for this boycott? I’ll give you a hint: Violence brings more violence”, he writes.
This is again turning reality on its head. Where is the evidence for Sachs acting ‘violently’? There is none. Because BDS is by definition a non-violent movement, protesting against state violence through democratic non-violent means. Wohl seeks to portray Israel as a non-violent state, which Sachs supposedly causes to become violent through her protest. In an attempt to strengthen his claim about violence, Wohl suggests that the whole Palestinian (or perhaps he would call it Arab) culture is one of terror and nothing else:
“I, for example, feel no need to take the side of a culture which hasn’t brought anything to the world apart from terror. The confidence I am given by the Israeli nationality allows me to pick the democratic, free side.”
Wohl is suggesting that a mere siding with the other side is violence, whilst a mere siding with Israel is siding with ‘democracy and freedom’.
Wohl regurgitates various tiresome and typical Hasbara points to bolster the ‘democracy and freedom’ points:
“Only a particularly developed Jewish sense of humor can explain why you have chosen to turn your back on the democratic, Western side, which develops medicine (at least until Teva goes bankrupt), feeds millions around the world through agricultural developments, sends doctors to every place hit by an earthquake across the globe and develops cyber defenses against the forces of evil.”
That, as opposed to the ‘Palestinian side:’
“which hijacks planes, the side which hangs gay people on electric poles, the side which rips out girls’ throats in honor killings, the side which has failed to establish any state or society which isn’t totalitarian, chauvinist, primitive and/or murderous”.
Wohl finally ends his piece with an offer to send Sachs a copy of his empty book, assuring that
“you’ll be able to read the entire book in less than one minute”.
But Wohl’s piece in Ynet also took about a minute to read, and the bile therein was cloak for as much emptiness as his other grand achievement, the empty book.
The question then becomes, how does Yediot Aharonot, a mainstream Israeli outlet representing the center in terms of politics and opinion, allow itself to publish such anti-Semitic garbage?
The answer seems to lie in the close relationship between the Israeli ministry of Hasbara and Yedioth Ahronoth. I had mentioned lately during the controversy over Ahed Tamimi:
As the Israeli Seventh Eye has been uncovering recently, the Israeli Ministry of Strategic affairs under Gilad Erdan is also a ministry of Hasbara, which has been infusing millions of shekels into various organizations worldwide in an attempt to bolster Israel’s image through supposedly independent organizations. This also includes Israeli media such as Yedioth Ahronoth– the same media which hosted an anti-BDS conference last year, the same media which was ready and rolling yesterday, when Israeli lawmaker Oren Hazan (Likud) got on an ICRC bus of Gazan Palestinian families visiting relatives in Israeli prison, calling them “dogs”, “human scum” and “beasts”. As the Seventh Eye’s Itamar Benzaquen notes, “the relationship between the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Yedioth Ahronoth is only part of a much broader, well-funded campaign: in June and July of 2017 the ministry spent nearly NIS 7 million ($2 million) on spreading its messaging to the public in Israel and abroad. That is larger than any of the other campaigns that have been exposed by The Seventh Eye in recent years.”
Is Assaf Wohl’s piece a part of this campaign? If so, the campaign promises to be great for BDS. Such pieces only strengthen its cause.
It is doubtful that we will hear any significant uproar from Israelis about how Jews are being attacked with anti-Semitic tropes. When Prime Minister Netanyahu recently threw Jewish Philanthropist George Soros under the bus after a thinly veiled anti-Semitic ad campaign aimed at Soros by Hungarian President Viktor Orban, this garnered relatively little outrage in Israel. After a critical statement about the ads by the Israeli Ambassador, Netanyahu hastened to override it by pointing out that “in no way was the statement meant to delegitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself”.
Because for most Israelis, BDS is representative of a challenge to their Zionist religion – which is the real state-religion of Israel, and not Judaism. As Israeli journalist Gideon Levy says, “Zionism is Israel’s fundamentalist religion”, and Levy also argues that BDS is “the only game in town”. There are several of us Israelis who understand this. But Wohl would call us ‘auto anti-Semites’, whilst spouting his anti-Semitic curses at us, even if he thinks we’re “Israeli nationals”. For him and his like, we’re just traitors, ‘kapos’, “the wrong kind of Jews”, as Zionist leader and Israel’s 1st President Chaim Weizmann would say. And for Israelis to challenge Wohl might seem like a question of ‘taking sides’ – ‘Western democracy and freedom’ versus ‘terrorism’. For most Israelis, BDS still somehow represents “the forces of evil” as Wohl formulates it, and they are likely to keep quiet about this.
That’s why we need more people like Justine Sachs.