Racism now masquerades as anti-racism: the accusation of anti-Semitism is increasingly being used to defend racist ideology.
WHEN THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY Rowan Williams backed a general synod motion calling for the disinvestment of church funds in Caterpillar, the US company whose bulldozers have been and continue to be used by Israeli forces to demolish Palestinian homes, he was widely accused of anti-Semitism and supporting terrorists. Was this a fair accusation?
A Semite, according to the dictionary, is a member of any of the peoples said to be descended from Shem (one of Noah's sons, Genesis 10), or who speak a Semitic language — Assyrian, Aramaic, Hebrew, Phoenician, Arabic, Ethiopic or any other language of this Afro-Asiatic subfamily. Whilst the Bible or Torah may not be completely accurate historically, genetic research does show that Palestinians, Syrians, ethnic Jews and other Near-Eastern people share significant common ancestry. So both Arabs and Jews can legitimately claim Shem (if indeed he existed at all) as one of their founding fathers.
An anti-Semite is a hater of Semites. In modern usage, however, the definition has been narrowed to a specific hater of Jews. However, it is also used for anybody who dislikes Judaism or any aspect of Jewish culture. This means that many people who are not racist are being labeled anti-semitic for showing disregard for anything remotely Jewish. The term "anti-semitism" has this broad meaning because the Jewish religion is particular to a specific group/race of people. Whereas Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism are religions of belief, Judaism is primarily a religion of race — you largely have to have a racial or genetic connection to be allowed to fully join the club (there are converts, but these are few and far between and they often are required to have some sort of blood line or marriage connection).
Strictly speaking, this makes Judaism a racist religion, for its ideology centres on one particular race of people. And it means that it is difficult to criticize Jewish religious ideology without being branded a racist, a position which results in Judaism and more concernedly its political component — Zionism — goes relatively unchallenged in the Western world, whereas Christian, Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu religious/political ideology get their fair share of criticism.
No religion is free from politics because all religions manipulate their followers into believing a certain dogma and behaving in a particular manner. This control, by definition, is politics. So alluding to the "sacred" nature of religion as a means to discourage criticism is invalid. We have the recent incident of cartoons being published in Denmark which are offensive to Islam. But it is a fact that Islam has been used to justify terrible crimes, just as all fundamental religions and ideologies can be and have been used in this manner. When a religion spreads its ideology and intolerance, it is acting politically. And yet those very same religions will turn around and accuse anyone criticizing them as attacking the sacred.
There is nothing sacred about blowing yourself up to kill Jewish people and destabilize governments, even in retaliation. There is nothing sacred about bulldozing Palestinian homes, even if those Palestinians are regarded as a threat. There is nothing sacred about believing that you are "God's chosen" or that your religion affords you special rights and privileges in pluralistic and democratic societies. And no particular race of people has an exclusive on sacredness. We are all equal and all sacred in this beautiful human life. However, the desire of humans to control other humans means that most religions are anything but sacred, with 99% of their activity decidedly political.
Fundamentalist ideologies are largely blind to human rights and basic decency because ideology always takes precedence over people. Sometimes that ideology results in kind and compassionate behaviour, but many times it does not. So religions MUST be challenged if we are to be civilized. What would have happened if the authority of the Catholic church had not be largely broken by secular governments? Pedophilia and other terrible abuses so common to that religion would have continued. Because society as a whole here in the West is set up to put people before ideology, the care of people usually takes precedence over the sanctity of religious and political ideologies.
I say "usually takes precedence" because it is not always the case. Religions often try to demand special treatment on threat of violence and endless litigation. Recently, the UK government has even introduced an anti-religious hatred bill that is so loosely written that it can and no doubt will be used to silence legitimate critics of abusive and inhumane religious dogma. Governments seem to be increasingly kowtowing to powerful religious special interest groups in the hope of earning votes. But it is precisely this pandering to special interest groups that erodes democracy and human rights.
Earlier this month, British historian David Irving given a three year jail term in Austria for expressing an idea — that the Holocaust did not happen. This odious man, who is most probably an anti-Semite in the true sense of the term, had been lecturing in Austria about his views (since he had gone that far, he should have continued on to Poland and seen this humanity's shame for himself) and fell foul of Austria's barmy laws against Holocaust denial. Whilst most thinking and rational people would dismiss Irving out of hand on the basis of hard historical evidence, few would not support his freedom to express an opinion, albeit a false one. As Voltaire once said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," and Carl Sagan wrote, "The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas." These libertarians understand the true value of free speech and the eradication of censorship. Sure, many things said will offend certain people, but the alternative of censorship is far worse because it breeds an intolerant and authoritarian society — the sort of society that gives rise to fascist and totalitarian government.
But David Irving was denying the Holocaust, one of the most despicable crimes in history. Surely we should legislate against insensitivity to something as terrible as that? If we do that, however, where do we draw the line? Do we gag or imprison anybody who puts forward an alternative view to orthodox and accepted history? If you did that we might still believe that The British Empire was a civilizing and benign influence on the world, that the Native Americans were savages that needed to be tamed, that the recent 100,000 civilian Iraqi deaths at the hands of the US/UK is just anti-war propaganda, that Jewish people from around the world have a legitimate claim to Palestine, that the Conquistadors were bringing God to the heathen peoples of South America, that the US was justified in dropping the atomic bomb on Japan, that the troubles in developing countries have little to do with their exposure to capitalist "free" markets, and so on. As soon as we start making ideological exceptions to free speech we open a whole Pandora's box.
That is not to say that free speech should not have limits. There should be limits imposed on those who directly inciting unlawful activity or abuse of human rights. But even in this situation it is sometimes morally justified, on grounds of human rights, to encourage unlawful activity. For example, breaking confidentiality to expose cruel and amoral behaviour of secret services, multinationals and governments. Yes the law is broken, but it is being broken for the good of society. So even though it may be illegal, the morality of the crime needs to be taken into account. Overall, free speed should be kept as open as possible for the good of society.
However, the price of a society that allows free speech, so long as it does not directly incite illegal activity, is that a few hatred-peddlers will get a platform. The alternative of outlawing free speech when it is not directly inciting violence and the abuse of human rights is to restrict debate and eventually even thinking itself — a passport to the Orwellian world of thought control and thought crime. Diversity in thoughts and opinions — meme diversity — is essential for a healthy society, just as gene diversity is essential for a healthy human race.
Going back to David Irving's Holocaust denial: why do countries such as Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Switzerland feel the need to legislate against Holocaust-denial? The official explanation is that they have prominent neo-Nazi sections in their societies that they are trying to actively discourage. But there is more than that going on. The burden, guilt and shame of an all-to-recent past that involved the most despicable crime in modern history has been too much for them to bear. So they have outlawed it at the expense of freedom. Whilst this may put restrictions on neo-Nazi groups it also puts restrictions on individual freedom, which is one of the main hallmarks of fascism itself. In other words, these governments are acting like fascists to prevent fascists, and in so doing actually continuing the tradition of fascism in this part of Europe, under the guise of anti-fascism.
This is also the reason why countries like the United Kingdom, which has a good tradition of free speech, are reluctant to join a United Europe: at its heart are countries such as France, Belgium and Germany that are still fundamentally fascist, a fact born out by the new EU style of dictatorial centralized government which undemocratically issues "directives", just as Mr. Hitler did 70 years ago. Control, control and more control has become the modus operandi of EU government, just as it was in Nazi Germany. Europeans in these countries do not value individual freedom because their psychology is fascist: they believe in strong and central authority that takes precedence over individual freedom. Even the legal system in these countries is based on Napoleonic Law involving the need to establish the innocence rather than, as Anglo Saxon law does, assume it in the first place. Napoleonic Law countries are perpetually suspicious of their electors, which is why the EU legislates so strongly against individual freedom.
These fundamental differences in psychology and consciousness should not be underestimated. Of course the fascism of the EU is dressed up as democracy, but we all know that democracy in the real sense of the word no longer exists… we choose between a couple of dishonest and power-hungry politicians who care little for the people they represent. Most of Europe remains fascist precisely because it is so distrustful of individual freedom that it constantly legislates against it.
This fascist treatment of fascists extends even to those who have most directly experienced the evil of fascism — the Jewish people. Few countries in this world are more cruel and controlling of segments of their population than Israel, a people that continue the grand tradition of stealing another's land, just as the Americans, Australians and British did earlier in history. You would think that having experienced the evils of fascism first hand, anybody would want to embrace its exact opposite — a loving and inclusive society. Israel, however, is at permanent war with its own people, the Palestinians, because it puts ideology before humanity. And at the base of this ideological justification for immoral behaviour is Judaism and its belief in the Jewish race being "God's chosen" and that Palestine is their "God-given" homeland. (Most religious fundamentalists see themselves as God's chosen whatever their religion. You can be assured that a fundamentalist Christian or Moslem state would act with exactly the same cruelty and impunity as Israel does today.)
And this is my point: any belief system that separates us from them, and any ideology that makes second-class citizens of a segment of society should be debated and criticized, for it actually has no place in a modern and civil world. Diversity is fine if ideologies truly respect the right of other ideologies to exist, but many do not. So we have a situation in society today whereby we bend over backwards to be tolerant of intolerant ideologies. Just because such ideologies are considered sacred by those that hold them does not mean that they are beyond criticism, for the very nature of these sorts of ideology is to breed superiority, separation and conflict — all of which must ALWAYS be challenged.
Another recent event that happened here in the United Kingdom was the month suspension of Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, for telling a reporter who was hounding him that he was acting like a Nazi guard without realizing that the reporter in question was Jewish. Here is how it happened according to the BBC:
Ken Livingstone was recorded asking reporter Oliver Finegold if he is a "German war criminal".
Mr Finegold replies: "No, I'm Jewish, I wasn't a German war criminal. I'm quite offended by that."
The mayor then says: "Ah right, well you might be, but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard, you are just doing it because you are paid to, aren't you?"
As a result of this exchange, Livingston, a local government official elected by millions of Londoners was suspended by the decision of just three unelected officials from The Adjudication Panel for England — a travesty of democracy if there ever was one. Livingstone broke no laws and was not being racist because he didn't know that Finegold was Jewish, and yet he has been branded "anti-Semitic" and suspended from his important job.
The Chairman of this quango, David Laverick, explained that, "The case tribunal is, however, concerned that the mayor does seem to have failed, from the outset of this case, to have appreciated that his conduct was unacceptable, was a breach of the code (the GLA code of conduct) and did damage to the reputation of his office." What conduct exactly was unacceptable? To call a spade a spade and tell the reporter Finegold that he was acting like a Nazi? Why is this unacceptable? Are Jews who act in a Nazi manner beyond reproach because of a terrible crime that happened nearly 70 years ago in Eastern Europe? Sure it was insensitive of Livingstone in today's pluralistic society but it was no more insensitive than inadvertently talking about cancer to someone who has just lost their spouse to the disease. Regrettable but certainly not unacceptable. Perhaps Finegold should apologize for his alleged Nazi-like behaviour, after all it was he that instigated this unfortunate exchange in the first place?
Why is the Holocaust being used as a political pawn in this case? Yes, it happened 70 years ago to mostly Jewish people but it is a crime that belongs to humanity, and one that we all need to take notice of — a powerful warning against fascism of any kind. It should not be a reason to give descendants of its victims special treatment, just as the slave trade is not a reason for positively discrimination. The reason for this is that even positive racial discrimination for whatever reason is still racial discrimination, and institutionalising racism in this way — positively or negatively — gives it official sanction and acceptance in society.
Racism of any kind is one of the most insidious and destabilizing influences in modern societies, so any ideology that supports a racist outlook needs to be discouraged, or at the very least criticized. Judaism supports the belief that one race, the Jewish race, is "God's chosen people", implying that all other races are inferior to it. This is racist, period. To call someone anti-semitic who criticizes the Jewish religion per se is itself racist because the accusation is being used to defend racism — in this case that of Judaism. In this modern world where there is so much hatred, it is vital that we all start to realize that EVERYBODY is equal, whatever race or creed.
Most true humanitarians love humanity because they can look past the cultural and ideological differences of people and champion our shared humanity. They know that we are one people — a single species. But any humanitarian worth his or her own salt does not love ideologies that separate humanity into us and them, into God's chosen and the heathens, because such thinking encourages abuse of and disrespect for others. If this means such people are labeled anti-semitic, anti-Christian, anti-Islam, anti-whatever… so be it. We can all live with the judgments of ignorant people. And it is not just religion that is fundamentally racist. Passionate nationalism and patriotism also encourage racism. Do the majority of American's protest over the killing of 100,000 Iraqi civilians over the past few years? Of course not, an Iraqi life is not considered valuable enough to protest over. And many Muslims in the United Kingdom refer to those outside their religion as "dirty Westerners". Again, this is racism. The most terrible crime in modern history was perpetrated by the Nazis in World War Two based on racism — the ideology of a "Master Race". (Both the Jews and the Nazis believed in their own racial superiority.)
Today racism now masquerades as anti-racism (the opposite of an extreme ideology is often the same ideology with a few cosmetic differences). The individuals who dare criticize philosophies of exclusion are branded racist, whilst those ignorant men and women doing the branding fail to see that it is in fact themselves that are fuelling and supporting racism. It is ironic that the individuals who speak out against intolerance are often the most intolerant. This abuse under the guise of anti-racism must stop if we are to collectively enjoy a peaceful society. This does not mean that we should rid humanity of multi-culture and multi-religions, rather we should educate them so that they no longer preach exclusion, separation and specialness for specific groups of people. We need to come together and bury our differences for the sake of our children's future.
The world is in a perilous situation both ecologically, societally, economically and spiritually, and so we must change the belief systems that support our destructive behaviour and our separation. The current ones DO NOT WORK and it is insanity to continue protecting belief systems from criticism because of fearing offending someone. If we don't change we will die. And to have the best chance of a future we need to drop all the ridiculous religious and political fundamentalism that poisons our society in mindless superstition and thought control, and that keeps the majority in Neanderthal psychology. We cannot afford to keep pandering to racist religions and political philosophies that hinder a collective effort at implementing solutions.
One place we can all start in this is to stop this anti-semitism tar-brushing that is becoming increasingly commonplace. The term must reserved ONLY for racial intolerance, period. Otherwise its perverted use harms Jewish interests and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, turning the majority against anyone too willing to play the race card. This is especially tiring for younger generations who are so much less racist than their parents because of increasing exposure to other cultures, either directly or via the media. It is time for humanity to grow up and start accepting every human being as precious and of equal value in the eyes of whatever God or State we happen to believe in.
So when Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams supports the disinvestment of church funds in Caterpillar, rather than disingenuously dismiss his activities as racially motivated we must first condemn the real racism displayed by the Israeli government in targeting Palestinian homes in the first place. And we must not worry that just because fault it being found with the Jewish nation that we are somehow anti-Semitic in our denouncement of Israel's crimes. After all, those of us who criticize these sorts of injustice criticize injustice everywhere we see it. We are not racists and it is time that society stops "anti-semitic" name-calling and starts focusing on where the real discrimination is.
Copyright © 2006 Jenny Marsh