When Yelling “Anti-Semitism” is a Cover for Racism

Originally published February 11, 2016

Protest @ Creating Change

By GLNers Andy Thayer & Roger Fraser 

Shouting false charges of “anti-Semitism” is a frequent tactic used by pro-Israel forces to marginalize those who protest the devastating, racist – yes, racist – policies that Israel carries out against the Palestinian people.
 
Pro-Israel reaction to our recent protest at the National LGBTQ Task Force “Creating Change” conference in Chicago is no exception. Never mind that many of the protest organizers were themselves Jewish. Never mind that Jewish Voice for Peace not only co-sponsored our protest, but organized a pro-equality Shabbat to precede it. And never mind that independent observers like Windy City Times noted it was false that we broke into the pro-Israel Shabbat service. 
 
Supporters of the reception, organized by “A Wider Bridge” (AWB), claim that our protest was misguided because AWB has no relationship to the Israeli government. This is false. AWB describes itself as a “pro-Israel” group and brags of marching with the Israeli consulate last year in NYC’s Pride Parade. Moreover, an anti-Zionist Jewish website notes that AWB “regularly partners with StandWithUs, a pro-occupation propaganda outlet that works closely with the Israeli government.”
 
The charge that our protest constituted “censorship” was also nonsense, unless you think that the Task Force should “balance” its pro-equality message by giving venues to homophobes, transphobes, sexists and racists. In fact, as with the vigorous protest against the Task Force for inviting immigrant-deporting ICE representatives, our protest against the racist AWB was also against the Task Force for failing to live up to its proclaimed ideals.
 
To avoid taking action, some say the issue is too “complicated.” But it’s not: Like apartheid South Africa, Israel was founded on the racist expulsion of people from their land. The areas under formal Palestinian control have yearly shrunk, now resembling the notorious Bantustans to which most South African blacks were once confined. Leading South African freedom campaigners, such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, recognize the parallels and explicitly call Israel a racist, apartheid state. 

To defend their rule, the Israeli government expends extreme violence against Palestinians. The 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza, for example,killed over 2100 Palestinians, including nearly 500 children, according to the UN, compared to 66 Israeli soldiers and seven civilians in Israel.Torture is widespread and frequently grotesque, according the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Imprisonment without trial and even charges is common.

Chicagoans organizing against the CPD’s racism also recognize Israel’s profound racism. Most local #blacklivesmatter organizations are now explicitly pro-Palestinian, and some helped lead the Creating Change protest. As one pro-Israel commentator noted, “American Jewish leaders confide that generating support for the Jewish state is becoming increasingly difficult these days — even within the Jewish community, and especially among younger people.”
 
Israel today resembles a country with a Donald Trump-like president. Think Trump is racist for talk about excluding Muslims and building a border wall? Well Israel already has such a wall, and leading Israeli politicians regularly call for the expulsion of remaining Palestinians. As a cabinet minister recently boasted, “I have killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there is no problem with that.”
 
As reflected in their politicians’ frank, racist comments, Israeli political life has gotten more brutal as Palestinians in the next few years areprojected to become a majority within the region controlled by Israel — what their commentators, echoing apartheid South Africa, call the “demographic timebomb” where a population’s majority is effectively disenfranchised.
 
Israel’s relentless land thefts have created a result that only a few deluded voices in the West still believe a two state solution is possible. The slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free” is a call for one secular state where no people or religion is privileged. It’s the only just solution.
 
It’s ironic that people, particularly LGBT activists, see no absurdity in Israel’s claim to be a “Jewish democracy.” We fought for decades against the Religious Right’s attempt to turn the U.S. into an oxymoronic “Christian democracy.” Why would we think it would be any different with a “Jewish democracy,” or any other kind of theocracy?

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