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Dr. Catherine Chatterley

 
Dr. Catherine Chatterley's Lecture during Middle East Week: What is Antisemitism and How Does It Affect the Conflict in the Middle East?

by Dr. Catherine Chatterley, March 10, 2013

Excerpts from a Lecture at the University of Winnipeg during Middle East Week
March 7, 2013


Historically, anti-Zionism was a Jewish phenomenon, part and parcel of Jewish life, thought, and debate in Europe. Zionism evolved out of the failure of Jewish emancipation in both Eastern and Western Europe. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there were Jews on the left (Communists and Bundists), traditional religious Jews, and many in Western Europe, especially Jews in Germany, who strongly opposed Zionism for diverse reasons without being Antisemitic.

Anti-Zionism has also been, historically, an Arab phenomenon in reaction to growing settlement of Jews in and around Jerusalem from the nineteenth century onward.

Antisemitism, by contrast, is not a phenomenon invented by Jews or Arabs; it is not a common form of human hostility or even hatred, or a form of racism the way people think it is. Antisemitism is the specific product of the bitter divorce between Judaism and the Jesus movement of the first century, which evolves into what we know as Christianity.

Antisemitism is defined by its Christian origins and cannot be understood apart from them. The impetus of Antisemitism is theological—that is its uniqueness and its strength. The character of “the Jew” (which I place in quotation marks to distinguish this character from real existing Jews) is a fiction produced by theology.

All forms of Antisemitism have been exported along with other products of Western culture to all the places Europeans have settled. Europeans have transmitted Antisemitism through culture, religion, and imperialism. It has also been disseminated on a global scale by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. During World War II, Antisemitism was introduced into the Arab world by Nazi Germany, via radio programs broadcast in Arabic and by the translation and distribution of Nazi antisemitic propaganda.

New research by Jeffrey Herf and Matthias Küntzel into the relationship between Nazism and the Arab world demonstrates the conscious attempt on the part of the Nazi regime to befriend the Arabs and followers of Islam by suggesting an alliance against the common enemies of Bolshevism, Great Britain, and the United States, all of which were believed to be under the control of the so-called “Jewish conspiracy to control the planet.” The Nazis reconceptualized the conflict between Arabs and Zionists for the land around Jerusalem, as part of the Nazi antisemitic war against the Jewish people. Here you have the clear convergence of anti-Zionism and Antisemitism, very much combined on purpose for the mutual benefit and strategic alliance of Nazi Germany and its Arab allies in the Middle East (Haj Amin Al-Husseini chief among them).

This new convergence between Antisemitism and anti-Zionism continued to gather strength in the period after 1948, once the State of Israel was established. Within a year of offering support for the UN Partition Plan and the establishment of the State of Israel, Stalin began to see Zionism as a serious threat to the Soviet Union and its interests. Israel was now accused of working in tandem with American imperialism, both in the Middle East and as part of a “wider conspiracy inside the USSR.”

The Six-Day War in June 1967 was a crushing defeat for the Arab armies, but also for the USSR and its international prestige. From this point forward, Soviet anti-Zionist rhetoric regularly used Nazi analogies, accusing Israel of behaving like Hitler, practicing racism, fascism, and genocide against the Palestinian Arabs.

In 2005, Israeli Apartheid Week was born in Toronto. That July, 170 Palestinian civil society organizations released an official call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (better known as BDS) against Israel until it complied with International Law. Israeli Apartheid Week was created to support the BDS movement and both advocate for a one-state solution to the conflict in the Middle East, which clearly means the erasure of a state with a Jewish majority, which of course is the stated purpose of the Zionist movement.

After so many centuries of Jews living as a vulnerable minority among dominant majorities, the modern Zionist movement argued that Jewish security and survival was dependent on the creation of a Jewish state in which Jews constitute a majority of the population. This became even more important after the Shoah and it is no less important today.

Currently, we are seeing the results of Western antisemitic propaganda in Arab and Islamic media, school curricula, and unfortunately in general thinking about the conflict with Israel. In the last several decades, the Antisemitism of Europe has been Islamized, translated, in other words made native to the culture, sensibilities, and politics of the Islamic and Arab worlds.

Since 2000, Antisemitism has become a truly globalized phenomenon and for the first time in history, it is flourishing outside a Christian cultural context. The Internet and satellite television are the main vehicles by which Antisemitism travels today.

Contemporary Antisemitism is a complex compound. There is considerable debate today over definitions of Antisemitism and where exactly the line exists between anti-Zionism and Antisemitism, if one exists at all.

To argue against Zionism and against the establishment of a Jewish state is one thing before such a state exists, however to do so when the state already exists puts one in the position of possibly suggesting a genocidal solution to the conflict in the Middle East. We are talking about the suggested destruction of a UN member state and of a people who barely survived an antisemitic war of annihilation less than 75 years ago.

After two thousand years, Antisemitism is a deeply ingrained—one might say habitual—way of thinking about Jews that I believe is endemic to Western culture and, at the same time largely invisible to people. One of the challenges we face is the very real lack of understanding on the part of most people about what exactly Antisemitism is, how it operates, and what it looks and sounds like.

For those possessed by the antisemitic imagination—a concept I have named and am developing in a second book by the same title—whether religious or secular, Christian or Muslim, left, center, or right, “the Jew” remains inherently unethical; arrogant, selfish, and willfully blind to the truth; powerful in a cosmic universal way; conspiratorial and deceitful by nature; intent upon achieving world domination, corrosive in effect, and an existential threat to humanity.
 
Regardless of where it appears, the truly frightening aspect of Antisemitism, remains the provocative and threatening nature of the fictional character at its center—“the Jew”. All anti-Semites, regardless of time and place, see themselves as victims of “the Jew.” This makes Antisemitism a particularly dangerous fixation—one that we should all work to uproot regardless of our specific political orientations or our perspectives on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

 

To watch the complete lecture by Dr. Chatterley, please visit: http://canisa.org/video.html

 

Thank you to Rhonda Prepes for extracting these excerpts from Dr. Chatterley's lecture.

 
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