When the accusation of antisemitism becomes a weapon in the hands of neofascism

Netanyahu has become the darling of the global far right, not only as a role model for them, but also because of his tireless efforts to clear his mates around the world from the accusation of antisemitism and attach it to those they hate. By Gilbert Achcar


Arabs are accustomed to being accused of antisemitism whenever the Zionists and their supporters are unable to refute their criticism of the State of Israel and its oppressive colonial behaviour. In fact, critics of Zionism of Jewish origin themselves are accustomed to being subjected to the same slander, with increased severity since the Zionists consider them to be “traitors” or “self-haters” according to the racist logic that dictates that every Jew should be a Zionist (which is the same logic that prevails in the thinking of those whose hostility to Zionism forms a thin veil to a racist hostility to Jews as a whole).

What is new in recent years is the expansion of the scope of those targeted for antisemitism to include a wide spectrum of left-wing critics of the State of Israel, whose critical position has a long political history, and who have been convinced, during decades of blaming Israeli governments for their colonial racist acts towards the Palestinians, that they were sharing this stance with left-wing Israeli Jews. This expansion went along with the increasing drift of the global political scene towards the right and the far right, pushed and stimulated by the latter.

Benjamin Netanyahu has been a pioneer in this drift. In more than one way, the Zionist Prime Minister is a pioneer of the global far right. He played this role in particular after his return to power in 2009 and his persistence in government, setting the record for the duration of the tenure of prime minister in the State of Israel, as he held the position for more than twelve years until 2021, only to return and reoccupy it at the end of 2022. During those years, Netanyahu has been a role model for the global far right for his brazen opportunism, his ability to lie shamelessly, and his ability to unhesitatingly resort to the vilest political methods against his Israeli opponents and to outbidding everyone in practising a Zionist excommunication of adversaries of unprecedented scope, which he turned into his ideological weapon of choice.

Netanyahu has become the darling of the global far right, not only as a role model for them, but also because of his tireless efforts to clear his mates around the world from the accusation of antisemitism and attach it to those they hate. This was very much consistent with the coincidence between the rise of the far right on the international scale and the rise of Islamophobia, through the combination between racist hostility towards immigrants coming from Muslim-majority countries and the ideology of the “War on Terror”, stimulated by the criminal attacks carried out by Al-Qaeda and ISIS in the Global North.

In his endeavour to clear the accusation of antisemitism from the sources of traditional antisemitism on the far right in order to pin it on everyone who criticizes Zionism, Netanyahu went so far as to attempt to partially absolve Adolf Hitler himself of responsibility for perpetrating the genocide of European Jews, blaming it on Amin al-Husseini in a way that led to protest and denunciation of all Holocaust historians. Netanyahu’s intent was not only to amplify racist hostility towards Arabs and Muslims through the character of Al-Husseini – the favourite argument of Zionist propaganda for more than eighty years because of the harm he did to the Palestinian cause by collaborating with German Nazism and Italian Fascism during World War II. Netanyahu’s intent was also to exonerate the antisemitic European far right through the character of Hitler.

Thus, Netanyahu became the favourite pretext for the leaders of the global far right to cover up their antisemitism, even when still blatant. From Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister whose hatred for Jews is no secret, to Donald Trump, who believes that it is the duty of American Jews to be unconditionally loyal to the State of Israel and its government, to Vladimir Putin, another role model for the global far right, to Marine Le Pen who is eager to conceal the antisemitism that is historically inherent in the movement it leads, a long line of figures of the global far right have become the best friends of Netanyahu and his Zionist far-right government which is so similar to them. They outbid everyone in supporting them because it is a cheap way to hide their antisemitic past and present, especially that the number of European Jews has become very limited since the Nazi genocide, while immigrants from the Global South have become the far right’s new favourite scapegoat in the Global North.

A very telling case in relation to all this is the announcement by Amichai Chikli, one of Netanyahu’s ministers and a member of his Likud Party, that the entire Israeli government rejoiced for the victory achieved by the Le Pen’s party in the first round of the French parliamentary elections last Sunday. Chikli holds a ministerial portfolio specialized in “Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism”! What is worse is that the political “centre” parties have decided to benefit from the instrumentalization of the accusation of antisemitism for right-wing purposes in their fight against their leftist opponents, as in the heinous campaign waged in Britain by the Conservative right and the right of the Labour Party (“the centre”). to politically eliminate Jeremy Corbyn, and the similar campaign waged against Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France by the “centre right” led by current President Macron, and the right of the left, that is, the “centre left”.

By participating in these slander campaigns without even directing their fire at the same time against the far right and exposing its hypocrisy on the subject of antisemitism, the “centrist” forces contributed to covering up the far right and giving credibility to its claim of innocence from antisemitism. They thus prioritized this consideration over the condemnation of anti-Black and anti-Muslim racism and xenophobia in general, which the far right does not claim to have overcome but is rather proud of and uses as a central ideological argument in its activity. Thus, the “centrist” political spectrum, from right to left, ended up participating in joint demonstrations against antisemitism with the antisemitic far right, as happened in France in the wake of the operation led by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The bottom line is that making the accusation of antisemitism an absolute evil to the point of belittling all other aspects of racism and accepting that “the Jews” are represented by a Zionist government led by a party of fascist origin and in which “neo-Nazi” ministers and Jewish religious fundamentalists participate, a government that has brought the “Jewish State” closer to the “management of savagery” along the model embodied by the “Islamic State”, such a stance adopted by the “centrist” forces has greatly contributed and continues to contribute to strengthening the global far right, as they also do by tail-ending it in other matters, especially racist hostility towards immigrants.

Translated from the Arabic original published in Al-Quds al-Arabi on 2 July 2024.

Source >> Gilbert Achcar’s blog

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Gilbert Achcar’s newest book is The New Cold War: The United States, Russia and Ukraine, from Kosovo to Ukraine (2023).

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