New York Times columnist Bari Weiss joined the chorus of condemnation against freshman congresswoman Ilhan Omar for tweeting back in 2012 that “Israel hypnotizes the world” and that it is doing “evil deeds” in Gaza (in the midst of the 2012 onslaught).
Weiss says that certain critiques “cross the line into anti-Semitism when they ascribe evil, almost supernatural powers to Israel in a manner that replicates classic anti-Semitic slanders”.
Applying the Bari Weiss measure, let us look at a small selection of prominent Israelis – journalists, politicians and intellectuals, who have ascribed “evil, almost supernatural powers” to what Israel is doing.
Haaretz journalist Amira Hass wrote a piece last year titled “In Gaza, Israel Surpasses Its Usual Evil”. So – not just occasionally evil, but routinely evil, with upsurges.
Haaretz columnist Bradley Burston wrote that “Israel’s Nation-state Law Has Redefined the Self-hating Jew”:
In the bare couple of weeks since Netanyahu cracked open the Pandora’s Box marked the nation-state law – a sealed container which had lain, rotting, reeking, and locked in a corner of his office since his current string of terms began more than eight years ago – the ills and demons which have exploded forth have rephrased the aspirations of Israeli society, poisoned its roots, betrayed, infuriated, polarized and alienated masses of the most loyal of its citizens. (My emphases).
In response to the settlement “regularization law” passed in 2017 (retroactively legalizing settler land-theft), former Likud minister Dan Meridor called the law “evil and dangerous”. Haaretz called it a “theft law.” So did Likud lawmaker Benny Begin.
Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy spoke of “Israeli evil” in promoting the spilling of “gallons of blood” two days ago, when criticizing Benny Gantz’s political campaign boasting of his role in the destruction of Gaza:
Israeli evil has already led to the commitment of plenty of war crimes. But it’s doubtful we’ve ever seen such pride in the killing of human beings and the destruction of their homes. Funerals as sales promotions? Bombed-out neighborhoods as an elections gimmick? Numbers of dead as propaganda spin? Gallons of blood on one’s hands as something to be proud of?
The late professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who was hailed by Former President Ezer Weizman as “one of the greatest figures in the life of the Jewish people and the State of Israel in recent generations” and “a spiritual conscience for many in Israel”, said the following:
The State of Israel represents the darkness of a state body, where a creature of a human form who was the president of the Supreme Court decides that the use of torture is permitted in the interest of the state.
Leibowitz was referring to the Landau Committee on torture. Leibowitz also said in that context that “there are Judeo-Nazis”.
You see the point. Usage of such expressions, which relate to “evil, almost supernatural powers”, are meant to awaken the senses and morality. Remember, Ilhan Omar was not saying that Israel was just evil. She was referring to particular deeds it was doing in Gaza – being arguably softer than for example Amira Hass.
Bari Weiss said that Omar was drawing upon an anti-Semitic trope, the “Myth of Jewish hypnosis.” Weiss is applying loose association here. Omar condemned Israeli governmental military actions, rather than “Jews” (as she keeps pointing out).
And Weiss brought up instances of anti-Semitism and sought to associate them with Omar when Omar never addressed any of those instances. Weiss desperately points to three examples of supposed “hypnosis”:
- First the killing of Jesus, which, Weiss writes, served as “the template for the anti-Semitic conspiracy: the ability of this tiny minority to use its wiles and its proximity to power to con others into accomplishing their evil ends”.
- Then a Nazi propaganda film by Josef Goebbels, Jud Süss, about an assimilated Jew who brings destruction to a German city. Here, Weiss maliciously puts words in Omar’s mouth: “The Jewish power to hypnotize the world, as Ms. Omar put it, is the plot of Jud Süss”. Omar never spoke of “Jewish power,” those are Weiss’s words.
- And third, three Jewish neocons whom Weiss says it is “common to blame” for the Iraq war (Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feith).
Thus she seeks to portray Omar as a puppet on the end of some Nazi conspiracy. This is so sloppy and unfair it is vile.
Weiss’s conflation of Israel and Jews is not accidental. It really is the point of it all. Weiss seeks to protect Israel from strong condemnation by the notion that criticism is anti-Semitic. The late Israeli minister Shulamit Aloni pointed out in 2002 (to Amy Goodman) that the ‘anti-Semitic’ claim is a “trick” which “we always use” to rebuff criticism of the Israeli government.
And now Bari Weiss is using this “trick”. It’s an unfathomable irony. If Ilhan Omar had tweeted that Israel “tricks the world,” as Aloni said, then Bari Weiss would surely be making the same accusation against her and title the piece, “Ilhan Omar and the The myth of Jewish trickery”.
Oh, and speaking of trickery, let us not forget Benjamin Netanyahu, who in 2001 said on hot mic, “I know what America is. America is something that can be moved easily.” Gideon Levy’s piece about that video from 2010 is called “Tricky Bibi”. Netanyahu “thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes,” Levy wrote. That’s pretty much like saying Netanyahu thinks he can hypnotize Washington, and by that, the world. And really, it’s a fair assessment.