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November 10, 2010

Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism?

Reuel S. Amdur

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Before I went to Montreal on October 22 to attend the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions event held at the campus of the University of Quebec at Montreal, I came across an article in the webzine Shalom Life. "Among the speakers will be Bongani Masuku, a top official in the Confederation of South African Trade Unions who has been found guilty by the South African Human Rights Commission of anti-Semitic hate speech."

When I arrived at the conference, I asked one of the organizers about his invitation.  He had heard about the matter as well, and he pled ignorance.  As well, he indicated with some relief that Masuku was unable to attend after all.  One workshop at the conference was on Jewish opposition to Israeli Apartheid. 

There are some lessons from this incident: The most obvious is the need to be careful about whom one selects as a participant.  Next is the conflation of anti-Semitism with opposition to Israel and/or its policies. 

Masuku said, “No pro-Israel Jews should ever consider South Africa to be their home,” and Jews supporting Israel should “not just be encouraged but forced to leave South Africa.”  Jews are “arrogant.”  He indicated that he used to think all Jews “inhumane” till he encountered anti-Zionist Jews.

His vituperation aimed at Jews is incited by Jewish support of Israel, not apparently by anything else.  The implication: Zionists have been successful in linking support for Palestinian rights and opposition to Israeli oppression with anti-Semitism. 

The formula of “Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism” has borne fruit.  Zionists have succeeded with having some people adopt the formula, and as much as they would like to define the Jew-hate as the cause of anti-Zionism, in this case the anti-Zionism is the thing that incites anti-Semitism.  How do the Zionists feel about that?  Of course, Masuku’s vituperation feeds into Zionist aims.  Israel would just love to have the Jews of South Africa driven out, having them flee to Israel.

The final implication of the reaction to this Masuku affair is that some well-healed Jewish organizations do a good deal of research about anyone who crosses their path.  They knew all about Masuku even when the organizers of the event didn’t.  I also have been under their microscope.

I took part in a panel discussion on Israel/Palestine at Ottawa’s First Unitarian Congregation.  The panel was made up of members of the Congregation, and care was taken to include a balance: two people more sympathetic to a Palestinian perspective and two more pro-Israeli.  The session was publicized in advance.  It happens that the church facility is also used by the local Jewish Reconstructionist congregation.  Eric Vernon, a member of the Reconstructionist congregation, wrote to the minister and the president of the Unitarian Congregation expressing concern.  He is also the Canadian Jewish Congress’ Director of Government Relations and International Affairs.

Vernon wanted a pro-Israel voice that he could recognize, feeling that since he didn’t know who the two on the panel were, they must be inadequate to do the job.  However, he was well aware that Sean Barron, the other pro-Palestinian on the panel, was an organizer of Israel Apartheid Week.  He identified me by saying that my columns “support the line of Independent Jewish Voices.”  While I am pleased that IJV may agree with my “line’, I am not a member of that group.

Vernon’s denigration of the other two panelists indicates that CJC may be less familiar with its friends. 

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