17 January 2009

17 January 2009 - The Jewish extreme left and Hamas denialism

Doron Isaacs, former Zionist youth leader and now radical critic of Israel, demonstrates the phenomenon of "Hamas denial" that is prevalent among members of the Jewish extreme left in a letter to the Sunday Times attacking South Africa's chief rabbi.

Before addressing the rabbi's arguments, Isaacs tries to cover himself by acknowledging some of Hamas's flaws--though he does his best to minimize them:

Hamas is an authoritarian organisation whose legitimate opposition to Israeli occupation and aggression too often blurs with vicious anti-Semitism...


To say that Hamas's antisemitism "blurs with" its "legitimate" objectives is to deny that antisemitism is in fact one of its core objectives. Isaacs has taken this line before, even denying the genocidal aims of the Hamas charter.

(Note that in the source referenced above, Isaacs also mistakenly cites the Qur'an as the source of the infamous "rocks and trees" quote, which actually comes from the Hadith. It's yet another example of a member of the Jewish far-left claiming to bring Jews and Muslims closer together yet actually misrepresenting Islam's core text.)

Isaacs's Hamas denialism is intellectually similar to former South African president Thabo Mbeki's Aids denialism. Mbeki acknowledged that the "syndrome" of immune deficiency existed, but denied that a virus was the cause. Instead, he pointed to poverty as the real cause.

Poverty certainly leads to conditions in which HIV is more likely to spread. But one does not need to be poor to contract HIV and develop Aids, a fact Mbeki apparently was unable to acknowledge even when the disease killed some of his close associates.

Similarly, there are legitimate Palestinian grievances, but in Gaza those grievances were removed and Hamas remained as committed to killing Jews as ever. And while antisemitism is not the sole factor in Palestinian hostility to Israel, it is essential in determining the fanatical and exclusively violent way in which Hamas pursues its objectives against Israel. As Hitler diverted essential supplies from the war effort to the killing of Jews, so too has Hamas prioritized killing Jews over reasonable steps to improve the welfare of Palestinians. The fact that the organization puts hatred of Jews in its founding charter is proof enough that antisemitism is at the core of its identity, its tactics and its goals.

Isaacs makes his own charges of denial, accusing the chief rabbi of denying the "fact"--an article of faith on the left--that the occupation of Gaza continued after the disengagement. That distorts the very meaning of the word "occupation," just as Mbeki distorted the term "syndrome" to suit his own purposes.

The Fourth Geneva Convention--the critical instrument of international law on occupation--applies "to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party."

Leaving aside the question of whether Hamas is a "High Contracting Party" (even the status of "Palestine" as a High Contracting Party is in doubt), the Geneva Convention specifically refers to territory. It does so again, numerous times, throughout the text of the document.

So Isaacs, not the chief rabbi, is on the wrong side of international law--and reality. To say that Hamas merely "blurs" its goals with antisemitism is to blur the boundary between criticizing Israel and siding with its most radical antisemitic enemies.

Finally, an interesting note: the blog It's Almost Supernatural has reported on an effort in the South African Muslim community to boycott Jewish businesses. The boycott specifically exempts any business associated with those Jews who have criticized Israel publicly. The bloggers at IAS suggested, rather snarkily, that Jews who want to avoid the boycott should contact Nathan Geffen, who along with Isaacs has led Jewish criticism of Israel lately.

Geffen responded to IAS by accusing the blog of "anti-semitism" [sic], as if criticism of one particular Jew is criticism of all Jews! Some of the same activists routinely accuse Jewish leaders of conflating criticism of Israel with antisemitism, but criticize them and you're an antisemite!

I think it is commendable for Geffen to criticize the organizers of the boycott, as he has now done. But when the "not in my name" Jews spend much of their time attacking those Jews who don't agree with them (he calls the chief rabbi a "fundamentalist," for example, in his letter of protest), and very little effort critiquing Muslim antisemitism, while indulging in Hamas denialism, they do have something to answer for.

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