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Left right out on Israel

By Fotis Kapetopoulos - posted Wednesday, 3 December 2014

I believe there has been an increase of anti-Semitism among some of the community arts activists on Facebook postings I have been following during the last Gaza-Israel conflict.

Much of it, I believe, is unwitting and premised on one-sided notions of justice; a lack of awareness of the diversity and complexity of Jewish culture; an absence of any reading on Zionism (except from anti-Zionists) and the history of the modern establishment of Israel.

Worse, the attacks on Israel seem to bear the hallmarks of deeply rooted and latent anti-Semitism. I think they reveal an overt obsessiveness in attacking Israel, thinly veiled deployment of classic anti-Semitic motifs and tropes as an anti-Israel and anti-imperialist rhetoric. Much of this as over hundreds of thousands of men women and children have been killed by the Syrian regime since 2011 in Syria, and many of them Palestinians.


I believe the conditions that Palestinians in Gaza find themselves in - the constant call for the destruction of Israel by Hamas leading to the futile loss of many Palestinian lives lost - makes it too easy for the those who think they are seeking justice for Palestinians to become trapped into the latent anti-Semitism, much of it very alive in Europe.

During the bombings in July of Gaza by Israel in reaction to the firing of up to 3000 rockets from Gaza into Israel, the pro-Palestinian activists I follow on Facebook provided no examples of Israeli and Palestinian creative collaboration as antidotes to conflict. There are and have been creative collaborations, but sadly many of them have failed because of their respective leaders' stubbornness.

There were few specific attacks on the 'hawks' of Israel, and in my discussions and observations at least and no public Facebook denouncement of Hamas. The core narrative seemed to be: "Israel is an apartheid state, Israelis use overwhelming force against civilians, they kill children and innocent civilians, they (the Jews), should know better," a reference to the Nazi Holocaust. When pressed by me, most were indignant at the suggestion their views sounded anti-Semitic. The response was: "I am not an anti-Semite, I am anti-Zionist."

Yet Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that has a secular and democratic constitution, functioning courts separated from the state, civil and civic rights and a vibrant intellectual and creative culture. Whatever the prejudices of some Israelis you can be vocally anti- government in Israel, you can be gay or lesbian, you can follow any religion, you can pursue any creative, or scientific endeavors and you can be assured or the rights afforded to citizens in any functioning democracy. The same can't be said of most of Israel's neighbours.

But Israel can't and should not be exempt from criticism. Yes, there have been human rights abuses, as there have been in Australia or the UK, but the system militates against the extension of abuses into civic life or government. The civic and legal structures of Israel are far more secure and fair than any of its neighbours.

But, nowhere, in my conversations did my peers reflect on the complexity of Israel, its secular and religious divides, or the left and right conflicts in Israel. Even more profoundly, none lifted their gaze to comment on the horrendous fratricides, ethnic cleansing and civilian casualties of Syria, Iraq, Libya or the ethnic, religious and class conflicts across most of the Arab speaking Middle East.


Zionism is complex and there is no room to discuss it in full here but its history and its role, as a movement was broad. The Zionist movement took in socialists, liberals, social democrats, conservatives and ultra nationalists. It was born with, and still contains, the various splinters evident in national and revolutionary movements. The unifying theory of Zionism, like Hellenism, or Pan Arabism later, and even later the PLO was, the establishment of a state defined by a stateless cultural and religious group. In this context, Israel has no more or no less legitimacy to exist than Greece, Italy, or Palestine.

Many of my Facebook community arts colleagues aligned Palestinian claims to Australian indigenous land rights, as part of a global anti-colonialist struggle. Yet, none made public any knowledge they may have had of Israel's anti-colonial struggle against Britain with the support of various other revolutionary groups, like the EOKA from Cyprus and the IRA also fighting the British. From the 1930s to 1947 the British colonial masters of the Palestinian Protectorate considered Israeli guerillas terrorists.

If indigenous rights are legitimate, and I believe they are, why are Jewish indigenous rights not? The argument always led to the same cul-de-sac: "These Jews are mainly European, Australian and American Zionists usurping the land of the indigenous Palestinians".

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About the Author

Fotis Kapetopoulos heads Kape Communications Pty Ltd a cultural communications consultancy. He was Multicultural Media Adviser to Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu and former editor of Neos Kosmos English Edition. He lectures in communication and marketing at various academic institutions and will be undertaking a PhD at the University of Canberra.

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