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Reflections from Gaza on anti-Semitic language

Opinion
on 17 Comments

One of the most controversial issues raised lately in Gaza is the relationship between Palestinians and Jews, sparked after an improvised speech by a senior official in Hamas who called for Palestinians diaspora to “attack every Jew in the world through slaughter and murder” in July. The speech further claimed that Hamas has a factory churning out explosive vests for Palestinian women to detonate along the border fence with Israel during Friday protests. 

To its credit, Hamas promptly condemned the speech in a statement that stipulates it does not have “a conflict with Jews in the world or with Judaism as a religion.” As well, senior officials in Hamas excoriated the speech over social media. 

About two weeks later the speech circulated again when Ofir Gendelman, the Arabic spokesperson for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeted a series of clips of the video with English subtitles. 

Watch: Senior Hamas leader Fathi Hammad calls on 7 million Palestinians all over the world to murder Jews, exposing once again that Hamas is a genocidal anti-Semitic terrorist organization,” Gendelman wrote on July 15. “Hamas tries to fool int’l public opinion. Fathi Hammad shows Hamas’ true terrorist colors,” he said naming the Hamas official. 

Gendelman’s current pinned tweet is the most problematic, because he uses Fathi Hammad’s wildly inaccurate and much renounced speech to justify the very real killings and shootings of Palestinians at Gaza’s Great March of Return. Gendelman wrote, “Now you know why we protect the border with Gaza from Hamas.”

A closer look will show there is a propaganda machine at play. No suicide vests were ever used at these protests. In the course of the demonstrations, the United Nations reported Israeli forces killed 206 Palestinians and shot almost 8,000 with live ammunition.

Israeli activists post pictures on the fence between Israel and Gaza of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli soldiers while protesting during the Great March of Return, June 2018. (Photo: Return)

In fact, the most effective form of resistance that has succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of all Palestinians and the endorsement of the overwhelming majority of Palestinians civil society is the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel, or BDS. It is premised on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which explicitly stipulates that all human beings are equal regardless of race, religion and sex. The Boycott National Committee, known as BNC, is the largest coalition of Palestinian civil society sectors and political forces, has emphasized more than once its rejection of all forms of racism including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

The Palestinian people have been facing a multitiered system of orientalist, colonial and imperialist oppression over a two-century course. Therefore, as victims, they cannot adopt any immoral rhetoric flirting with anti-Semitism since justice and equality are two central goals in the Palestinian national struggle. The great majority of our factions, intellectuals, syndicates and campaigns have over the past century emphasized that our struggle was never against Jews or Judaism as Zionism insists on falsifying it. On the contrary, our struggle is against Zionism as a European settler-colonial movement that aims at emptying the land of its indigenous population and replacing them with new European societies.  

Any anti-Semitic language, therefore, lacks the clear-cut vision of our struggle and goes hand in hand with colonialism and imperialism in perpetuating the Palestinian Nakba, and worse, denies us international solidarity with our just cause. In addition to its immorality, anti-Semitic language obscures the fundamental role of imperialism and colonialism in destroying Palestine, ethnically cleansing its people, and sustaining the current multi-tiered system of oppression, namely occupation, apartheid and settler-colonialism– let alone the fact that it alienates solidarity movements.

Palestinians have repeatedly expressed appreciation for the very important role played by progressive and anti-Zionist Jews in supporting their struggle for freedom, justice and equality.  The intervention of organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) and Boycott from Within in not only heeding the BDS call made by Palestinian Civil Society, but actively promoting BDS has touched every Palestinian heart. Our struggle for liberation has always been inclusive, and that is a principle that will not change until we have an egalitarian society where all are equal regardless of race, religion, and sex.

 

Haidar Eid

Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza's al-Aqsa University. He has written widely on the Arab-Israeli conflict, including articles published at Znet, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, and Open Democracy. He has published papers on cultural Studies and literature in a number of journals, including Nebula, Journal of American Studies in Turkey, Cultural Logic, and the Journal of Comparative Literature.

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17 Responses

  1. tamarque on August 2, 2019, 8:38 am

    What strikes me is that Hamas was not comfortable in explaining the nature of anger that build over a lifetime of abuse nor feeling in a position to note the rage of many Israeli Jews that is constantly expressed in the denigrating racist language often used and the physical abuse they feel entitled to mete out with impunity. And never a statement of contrition from the power structure of Israel or even from international Jews who often share the same visceral rage towards Arabs/Muslims.

    But it is definitely a problem that this member of Hamas lashed out as reported. I am assuming the presentation here is accurate in what he said in his speech. We know Israel will only use it to their advantage.

    I have to ask/wonder what was the trigger that set this man off?

  2. Ottawa observer on August 2, 2019, 8:43 am

    Excellent commentary.

    Canadians will not even consider accepting the “right of return” as long as Palestinian political leaders, like Mr. Hammad call for killing Jews around the world.

    When he made essentially the same comments at a funeral a year ago, i did not see any other Palestinian leaders objecting.

    The fact that Hamas responded this time, disowning his remarks, is an encouraging development.

    • Elizabeth Block on August 2, 2019, 4:40 pm

      The Canadian government has shown no sign of accepting the right of return under any circumstances, whatever Palestinian leaders say or don’t say.
      In a recent interview, Amira Hass was asked about Palestinian holocaust denial. She said that Israel tells so many lies that they figure this is just another one. And besides, when their cities are being bombed, you can’t expect them to have much sympathy to spare for other people’s troubles, especially when the other people are the ones who are bombing them.

      • Nathan on August 4, 2019, 7:27 pm

        Elizabeth Block – When being asked about Palestinian Holocaust denial, one should answer truthfully by saying that it’s a terrible phenomenon, period. However, when you have an ax to grind against Israel, it is apparently impossible to say a word of criticism against the Palestinians for fear that you might sound pro-Israel. So, here we have Amira Hass’ answer (that you bring to our attention) in which she portrays Israel as the “liar” when it’s so obvious that Palestinian Holocaust denial is the terrible lie – and it deserves condemnation.

      • eljay on August 4, 2019, 8:36 pm

        || Nathan: When being asked about Palestinian Holocaust denial, one should answer truthfully by saying that it’s a terrible phenomenon, period. … Palestinian Holocaust denial is the terrible lie – and it deserves condemnation. ||

        Palestinian Holocaust denial deserves condemnation. I condemn it. I’m sure you do, too.

        Jewish / “Jewish State” supremacism, colonialism and (war) crimes deserve condemnation. I condemn them. Do you?

        Yeah, I didn’t think so.

      • oldgeezer on August 4, 2019, 11:27 pm

        @Nathan

        I’m with eljay. Any Palestinian denial of the holocaust is every bit as reprehensible and disgusting as denial of the Nakba.

        Both need to be fought equally through truthful education.

        zionists really don’t have any justification to only worry about one of the two.

      • oldgeezer on August 5, 2019, 12:33 am

        @Nathan

        Israel is a liar. It’s far much worse than a mere liar at the same time. Your calling out of Haas is actually quite laughable considering the crimes of Israel and zionism. zionism is a remnant of the horrible ethno nationalism that led to the Holocaust. It’s the same belief system. Immoral, vile, criminal and murderous.

      • Tuyzentfloot on August 5, 2019, 10:13 am

        I don’t care much about Palestinian Holocaust denial or antisemitism. It should not be an issue, it’s disingenuous to bring it up and it doesn’t disgust me the way Nathan’s denialist comments did recently ( https://mondoweiss.net/2019/07/photo-beautiful-places/ )

        To state the bleeding obvious: In the current situation the sensitivities of the colonialist crowd can be dismissed even in the cases where they are sincere. It’s a matter of priorities.
        If the power balance changes the questions can be revisited.

        zero tolerance and other instances of ‘high standards’ are little more than ways to target anyone who suits the agenda.

      • Talkback on August 5, 2019, 10:28 am

        Nathan: “When being asked about Palestinian Holocaust denial, one should answer truthfully by saying that it’s a terrible phenomenon, period.”

        I’m not going to say anything about it until Nakba denial is a criminal offence in Israel, too:

        “Prohibition of Denial of Nakba 2. A person who, in writing or by word of mouth, publishes any statement denying or diminishing the proportions of acts committed in the period of the Zionist regime, which are crimes against the Palestinan people or crimes against humanity, with intent to defend the perpetrators of those acts or to express sympathy or identification with them, shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of five years.

        Prohibition of publication of expression for sympathy for ZIonist crimes 3. A person who, in writing or by word of mouth, publishes any statement expressing praise or sympathy for or identification with acts done in the period of the Zionist regime, which are crimes against the Palestinian people or crimes against humanity, shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of five years.

        Permitted publication 4. The publication of a correct and fair report of a publication prohibited by this Law shall not be regarded as an offence thereunder so long as it is not made with intent to express sympathy or identification with the perpetrators of crimes against the Palestinian people or against humanity.”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_against_Holocaust_denial#Israel

  3. Misterioso on August 2, 2019, 8:44 am

    Speaking of Gaza:

    http://www.palestinechronicle.com/clear-and-decisive-win-why-netanyahu-needs-a-war-on-gaza-more-than-ever-before/

    “‘Clear and Decisive Win’: Why Netanyahu Needs a War on Gaza More Than Ever Before”
    The Palestine Chronicle, August 1/19, by Ramzy Baroud.

    “Media reports of an impending Israeli war on the besieged Gaza Strip are now a regular occurrence. The frequency of these reports fluctuates based on Israel’s own political landscape.

    “Empirical experience has taught us that when Israeli leaders are in trouble, they wage a war on Gaza. Now that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing the greatest challenge in his political career, Gaza is bracing for another Israeli war.

    “The war rumors are no longer just that. Right wing Israeli newspaper, The Jerusalem Post recently reported that Israel’s military chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Aviv Kochavi, ‘has already approved operational combat plans and recently set up an administrative unit to handle the formation of a list of potential targets in the coastal enclave for when the next war breaks out.’

    “The Post’s own military correspondent, Anna Ahronheim concurs, that, indeed, war on Gaza ‘is not far away.’ But unlike previous wars, the upcoming war must ‘have a clear and decisive win’ by Israel so that ‘the other side will think twice about going to war in the future.’

    “The fallacy in Ahronheim’s analysis is obvious. Israel always approaches its wars in Gaza with the aim of having a ‘clear and decisive win,’ aims that are often thwarted by strong Palestinian resistance in the besieged and impoverished Strip.

    “Second, Gaza never initiates wars. The Strip has no army or military strategy beyond self defense tactics carried out by organized resistance factions, including Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and various PLO groups. However, if Israel thinks that a ‘decisive win’ would eradicate Palestinian resistance, it will be greatly disappointed. Gaza’s resistance, in all of its forms, against Israel and Israeli occupation goes back to the late 1940s. No amount of firepower will ever end this kind of determined resistance.

    “However, it is likely that Israel measures the decisiveness of its ‘victory’ based on the amount of destruction it is able to inflict on Palestinians.

    “Marvel at these numbers from the last major Israeli war on Gaza, in 2014, to understand the real target of Israeli wars on the Strip:

    “According to United Nations figures, more than 2,300 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s so-called ‘Operation Protective Edge.’ The causalities, most of whom were civilians, included 551 children. Moreover, 11,231 were also wounded, and more than 20,000 homes were destroyed. The massive destruction was also aimed at the already ailing infrastructure of impoverished Gaza, reaching schools, hospitals, mosques and even UN shelters.

    “How more ‘decisive’ must the next Israeli war be so that Israel’s warmongers may feel satisfied that their war achieved its intended objectives?

    “Israel wants Palestinians to accept their perpetual besiegement, embrace their fate as an occupied nation with no rights, subject to the whims of Israel and its racist, deadly policies.

    “However, Israeli leaders are now driven by a second objective: winning the upcoming elections.

    “There is much at stake for Netanyahu and his prospective coalition of right wing ideologues and religious zealots. Israel has never held two national elections in one year, but this year is an exception.

    “The April 9 elections failed to achieve a decisive victory for either camp. After weeks of attempting to form a coalition government, Netanyahu accepted the inevitable: another election, which is set for September 17.

    “But Netanyahu is not only politically embattled. He, along with his family and close aides have been embroiled in a series of corruption charges that could potentially end his political career.

    “On June 6, Israel’s attorney general Avichai Mandelblit rejected Netanyahu’s bid to postpone for the second time the pre-indictment hearing in the several corruption cases concerning his misconduct while in office.

    “However, Netanyahu hopes to secure his position at the helm of Israeli politics a while longer, to evade corruption charges, and to eventually strike a deal to drop the charges altogether. He is desperate to remain a prime minister. For that to happen, he will do whatever it takes to appeal to the most powerful constituency in Israel: the right wing and their religious allies.

    “For Israel’s right, a war is a normal state of affairs. They seem to acquire their sense of collective safety when Palestinians suffer. And, for months, Israeli right wing voices calling for war against Gaza have massively amplified.

    “Even the supposedly sensible political center has joined the chorus, knowing that an anti-war stance in Israel is a losing strategy.

    “Head of Blue and White party, Benny Gantz, who remains Netanyahu’s strongest opponent said in an interview released last May with Channel 13: ‘We must strike hard, in an uncompromising manner .. We must restore the deterrence that has been eroded catastrophically for more than a year.’

    “Of course, there will be a next war on Gaza. It will be as ‘decisive’ and deadly as Israeli leaders need it to be, to serve their political calculations.

    “But they must also be aware that wars on Gaza are no longer the cakewalks of the past. The resistance in that small, but unbreakable region, is tougher than it has ever been in the past, a natural outcome of 12 years of a relentless siege, interrupted by massively destructive and lethal military onslaughts.

    “A war on Gaza will also come with a price for Israel. Are Netanyahu and his government willing to endure the political fallout of another failed war? It all depends on how truly desperate corrupt Netanyahu is to remain in power and out of prison, at least for a while longer.”

    – Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His last book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and was a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is http://www.ramzybaroud.net

  4. echinococcus on August 2, 2019, 9:49 am

    It’s all nice and dandy to use accurate speech and correct expressions but not everybody can afford them.

    Especially if the clear majority of the people who call themselves Jewish do support the Zionist invasion, theft and genocide. That statistical fact doesn’t disappear by ignoring it.

    If the Zionists themselves insist that they represent all Jews and acy on their behalf, and that their illegitimate genocidaire state is the Jewish state, it’s not their victims’ responsibility to deny it.

    • oldgeezer on August 2, 2019, 11:14 am

      @ech
      “If the Zionists themselves insist that they represent all Jews and acy on their behalf, and that their illegitimate genocidaire state is the Jewish state, it’s not their victims’ responsibility to deny it.”

      There’s a lot of stupid in that statement.

      • Elizabeth Block on August 2, 2019, 4:43 pm

        There’s a typo (what is “acy” supposed to be?) but no stupidity. Israel claims to represent all the world’s Jews. Zionists agree. So they have no right to complain when their victims take them at the word, and blame all Jews for Israel’s crimes.

      • oldgeezer on August 2, 2019, 5:31 pm

        @Elizabeth

        The word should be act.

        I disagree. I’d suggest no one ever take the word of a zionist in any event. Even the left wings one’s are dishonest. I guess you need to be quite bent in order to even take on a zionist belief system. Hmmmm no guessing needed. You do have to be quite morally bent in order to follow zionism

  5. MHughes976 on August 2, 2019, 5:47 pm

    I went to Venice for my 75th birthday 2 weeks ago. The Biennale arts festival was in full swing. The theme of Palestine was quite strong. The Danish exhibit was a film by Larissa Sansour set amid the blasted rubble of an Israeli bombardment.
    I then went to see the Israeli exhibit – you may say I shouldn’t have, but I wanted to know what they were saying to the world. The exhibition concerned the crimes of the Israeli medical community and gave, in its second stage, an extraordinarily graphic analysis – a Palestinian artist was collaborating at this point – of the contempt in which, at least according to the artists concerned, Palestinians hold Israelis. Not so much as Jews but as representatives of a rather spurious modernity.. Well, that is one discouraging view of matters.
    Elsewhere there was an exhibition called ‘Sabra Beauty Everywhere’ by the photographer Chiara Dynys, set in the Sabra/Chatila refugee camp, about how people bring beauty into their difficult lives. Quite moving.

    • Ottawa observer on August 3, 2019, 3:40 pm

      I was not referring to the Canadian government. Even progressive political parties (incl Green Party and NDP) and progressive churches (eg. United Church), avoid talking about the right of return, because that challenges the very notion of a Jewish state.

      I think these organisations unconsciously agree with the basic Zionist idea – that Jews neef and deserve their own state.

  6. JoeSmack on August 2, 2019, 6:56 pm

    This is such cringe-worthy, pandering, self-tokenizing nonsense. Outside of how clearly fake and dishonest it is (e.g. Haider Eid condemns “orientalism” while writing this English-language article on a website with an exclusively Western readership while signal-boosting a bunch of Jewish groups in America and Europe), the entire thing reeks of the kind of racism that no other oppressed people is expected to validate.

    There is an entire nation of people being ethnically cleansed from the earth by an incredibly powerful nation with a privileged network of political, religious, and cultural allies in other countries that can lobby effectively for that state’s war crimes. The only purpose of drudging through Palestinian propaganda and looking for chauvinism is to discredit the obvious inequality that underpins their struggle. It is not the job of people in the West — or Palestinians who self-tokenize for Western audiences — to further dehumanize them by policing their anger. The only job of people speaking to the West is to explain the obvious. The tone-policing is just further sanitizing the obvious inequality by making it appear as though there is a threat of “reverse discrimination” against the settlers.

    We saw similar cheap racism in the response to Ilhan Omar, saying she should be more “nuanced,” etc. etc. and then forcing her to apologize. Now Haider Eid is writing in English about how people living in a concentration camp should avoid saying the wrong things about the people murdering their children.

    The only reason this piece is useful is to post it on Facebook, see who thinks it is useful, and then avoid them.

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