“An anti-Semite used to be a person who disliked Jews; now it is a person who Jews dislike.” – Dr Hajo Meyer, physicist, anti-Zionist campaigner and holocaust survivor.
I can’t be the only one who has noticed the similarity between the recent video of an Israeli sniper picking off an unarmed Palestinian on the Gaza border, and that scene from Schindler’s List, where the camp commandant, Amon Goeth, takes pot shots from his balcony at the Jewish internees below.
The video, which looks like mobile phone footage, was shot in December 2017, and is accompanied by a commentary by the sniper’s colleagues, who are obviously enjoying the scene.
“Wow, what a video! Yes!” one of them screams, after the body has slumped to the floor, with a note of vicious triumphalism at the death of a complete stranger.
“Son of a bitch,” says another.
“Somebody was hit in the head”; “look, look, wow”; “what a fabulous video”; “I didn’t see it bro’,” they continue, bantering amongst themselves.
“He flew in the air, like with his leg,” says another, laughing.
“Take that you sons of bitches,” is the cool, almost whispered, final comment, probably from the sniper himself.
It’s not clear how many voices there are or how many people are taking part in the conversation, but it must be three, at least, including the sniper, probably more.
It’s like they are playing shoot-’em-up video games, and the people down below are mere avatars on a screen, rather than people with families who might mourn them.
It’s obvious that the Israeli soldiers, at least the ones who took part in this video, do not view their Palestinian neighbours as human beings at all.
The scene in Schinder’s List is very similar. Ralph Fiennes, who plays SS-Hauptsturmführer Amon Goeth, a real-life character, is standing, shirtless on his balcony overlooking the concentration camp, with a rifle. We see him aiming the rifle, then a scene through the viewfinder, moving about erratically, as if picking targets from amongst the people below.
He pauses, takes a drag on his cigarette, aims and focusses once more, finally selecting a single individual, a woman in the centre of the screen, who falls limply to the floor as the rifle cracks, accompanied by an explosion several yards behind.
This bit is exaggerated for cinematic effect, of course, since a normal bullet wouldn’t cause such an explosion. Later shots show him simply picking off random workers without any incendiary accompaniment. People are running about. Others, who are working, pick up the pace of their work. There is a random scream of horror, otherwise the camp just goes on with its daily routine.
We are meant to understand that this is mere sport to the commandant, that he views the people in his charge as little more than animals.
Israel has responded to the release of the video by disciplining some of the people who took part. Not the sniper who killed an unarmed Palestinian, of course, but the one who took the film – for “unauthorized filming” and “distribution” of the video – and the others who were adding the commentary. The words on the recording, the army said, “do not suit the degree of restraint expected of IDF soldiers and will be dealt [with] by commanders accordingly.”
That film was taken late last year, but there’s been more footage recently, of Israel Defence Force (IDF) snipers killing Palestinians involved in the Land Day protests on the Gaza border, also using live ammunition. So far 31 have been killed and several hundred injured.
Perhaps this should put into context the row over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
Jeremy Corbyn was quick to condemn the killings. This is what he said, in a message read out at a demonstration outside Downing Street:
“The killing and wounding of yet more unarmed Palestinian protesters yesterday by Israeli forces in Gaza is an outrage.
“The majority of the people of the Gaza Strip are stateless refugees, subject to a decade-long blockade and the denial of basic human and political rights.
“More than two thirds are reliant on humanitarian assistance, with limited access to the most basic amenities, such as water and electricity.
“They have a right to protest against their appalling conditions and the continuing blockade and occupation of Palestinian land, and in support of their right to return to their homes and their right to self-determination.”
He added that “firing live ammunition into crowds of unarmed civilians is illegal and inhumane and cannot be tolerated”.
Is it too much like conspiracy theory to suggest that the Israeli government knew that Land Day was coming up, that they had already given the go-ahead for the use of live ammunition, that they knew how Corbyn, a life-long supporter of Palestinian rights, would react, and that the anti-Semitism row was drummed up in the media in anticipation of this? After all, if he’s an anti-Semite, his condemnation of the IDF killings – portrayed as self-defence – isn’t going to carry very much weight is it?
Of course, the identification of Israel with Nazi Germany is considered an anti-Semitic “trope” by supporters of the Jewish state, and comes into the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which has been adopted by the British government.
“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” it says. It then goes on to give a list of examples.
This “might include the targeting of the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity”; “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”; “applying double standards by requiring of it [Israel] a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”; “comparing Israel to Nazi Germany”; and “accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.”
Spreading conspiracy theories about Jews is also included as one of the examples.
That makes me doubly an anti-Semite then: firstly for making the comparison between a Nazi concentration camp commander and an Israeli sniper, and then for suggesting that members of the Jewish Labour Movement – who, along with the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews were behind the demonstrations against Corbyn – might have been taking instructions from the Israeli embassy.
In fact such links have been shown to exist, as a recent article by The Electronic Intifada shows.
I should also add that I do also consider the State of Israel to be a racist endeavour. How else would you describe a country which some people want to make “the nation-state of the Jewish people”, and which allows Jews from anywhere in the world the right to become Israeli citizens, even if they’ve never been to Israel, and have no connection to the land whatsoever, while, simultaneously, allowing Palestinians, who may still hold the keys to property in their former country, and who can trace their ancestry back for several generations, no right of return?
That seems like the very exemplification of racism to me.
Any time you make any comments critical of Israel, you will almost instantaneously find yourself being labelled an anti-Semite; or, even more viscerally, a “Jew-hater”.
But you soon find that there is an inherent racism in the tone of those people accusing you of anti-Semitism. It’s often the same people who are putting up violent, hysterical posts about Muslims, who are also posting about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party; and defence of Israel very often boils down to some form of racism against Arabs: accusing all Palestinians of being terrorists or jihadists, saying they want to die, or that they are paid to die, saying that Palestinian Mother’s allow their children to be killed in order to become Martyrs, and other such Islamophobic tropes. Such language applied to Jews would very rightly be considered the most extreme form of anti-Semitism, and yet this goes almost unnoticed in the media.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of conflating the Jewish State with the Jewish people. The line between them is made even more slippery by the State of Israel itself, which very deliberately, and almost continuously, attempts to blur the lines between the two.
Zionism is weaponised Judaism. It is not the same as Judaism. Zionism is a 100 year old political project, while Judaism is a 3,000 year old religion. Not every Zionist is a Jew, and many non-Jewish Zionists are themselves anti-Semites. Meanwhile significant numbers of Jews are opposed to Zionism.
But it serves Zionist interests to want to increase anti-Semitism, to want to make Jews uncomfortable in their own country, because this increases support for their project.
Who better to attack than Jeremy Corbyn, a renowned anti-racist campaigner, and the leader of Britain’s historic anti-racist party? What more effective way to muddy the waters?