by Jonathan Cook
Part 2 - Guilt by association
This isn’t even a double standard. I can’t find a word in the dictionary that conveys the scale and degree of hypocrisy and bad faith involved.
If the American Jewish scholar Norman Finkelstein wrote a follow-up to his impassioned book The Holocaust Industry – on the cynical use of the Holocaust to enrich and empower a Jewish organisational establishment at the expense of the Holocaust’s actual survivors – he might be tempted to title it The Antisemitism Industry.
In the current climate in Europe, one that rejects any critical thinking in relation to broad areas of public life, that observation alone would enough to have one denounced as an antisemite. Which is why the Haaretz article – far braver than anything you will read in a UK or US newspaper – makes no bones about what is happening in Germany. It calls it a “witch-hunt”. That is Haaretz’s way of saying that antisemitism has been politicised and weaponised – a self-evident conclusion that will currently get you expelled from the British Labour party, even if you are Jewish.
The Haaretz story highlights two important developments in the way antisemitism has been, in the words of intellectuals and cultural leaders cited by the newspaper, “instrumentalised” in Germany.
Jewish organisations and their allies in Germany, as Haaretz reports, are openly weaponising antisemitism not only to damage the reputation of Israel’s harsher critics, but also to force out of the public and cultural domain – through a kind of “antisemitism guilt by association” – anyone who dares to entertain criticism of Israel.
Cultural associations, festivals, universities, Jewish research centres, political think-tanks, museums and libraries are being forced to scrutinise the past of those they wish to invite in case some minor transgression against Israel can be exploited by local Jewish organisations. That has created a toxic, politically paranoid atmosphere that inevitably kills trust and creativity.
But the psychosis runs deeper still. Israel, and anything related to it, has become such a combustible subject – one that can ruin careers in an instant – that most political, academic and cultural figures in Germany now choose to avoid it entirely. Israel, as its supporters intended, is rapidly becoming untouchable.
A case study noted by Haaretz is Peter Schäfer, a respected professor of ancient Judaism and Christianity studies who was forced to resign as director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum last year. Schäfer’s crime, in the eyes of Germany’s Jewish establishment, was that he staged an exhibition on Jerusalem that recognised the city’s three religious traditions, including a Muslim one.
He was immediately accused of promoting “historical distortions” and denounced as “anti-Israel”. A reporter for Israel’s rightwing Jerusalem Post, which has been actively colluding with the Israeli government to smear critics of Israel, contacted Schäfer with a series of inciteful emails. The questions included “Did you learn the wrong lesson from the Holocaust?” and “Israeli experts told me you disseminate antisemitism – is that true?”
The accusation of antisemitism is a club that allows one to deal a death blow, and political elements who have an interest in this are using it, without a doubt… The museum staff gradually entered a state of panic. Then of course we also started to do background checks. Increasingly it poisoned the atmosphere and our work.
Another prominent victim of these Jewish organisations tells Haaretz:
Sometimes one thinks, “To go to that conference?”, “To invite this colleague?” Afterward it means that for three weeks, I’ll have to cope with a shitstorm, whereas I need the time for other things that I get paid for as a lecturer. There is a type of “anticipatory obedience” or “prior self-censorship”.