If Anti-Israel Equals Anti-Semitism, Let’s be Anti-Semitic Then

This article delves into the inherent contradictions within the origin of Zionism and Israel's role in the contemporary West-dominated international order, exploring how these dynamics could ultimately lead the Israeli state towards a path of self-destruction.
July 2, 2024
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The armed conflict between Israel and Palestine since October 2023 has lasted for more than half a year. During this period, Israel’s brutality and incompetence have been fully exposed to the world, with even internal opposition in Europe and the United States rising higher and higher. First, there was Aaron Bushnell’s self-immolation in protest, and since late April, the protest movement in American universities has spread to various Western countries.

However, under the strong support of the United States, Israel has become even more unscrupulous. From claiming at the beginning of the conflict that the United Nations no longer “has an ounce of legitimacy” to threatening UN General Assembly resolutions by having the United States stop paying UN dues, its UN ambassador Gilad Erdan even staged a blatant act of tearing up the UN Charter at the General Assembly. The last person who tore up the UN Charter was Muammar Gaddafi, and we all know where he ended up.

Why has this country gone so mad? May 22, Spain, Norway, and Ireland have announced their recognition of the State of Palestine. It can be expected that this is the beginning of a shift in attitude among EU countries on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Once the core EU countries of France and Germany also start to waver, the fate of Israel may enter its countdown.

At this point, beyond the dimensions of nation-states and religion, we need another piece of the puzzle to jump out of the popular perspectives of Jewish influence and American geopolitics. This is to explain the symbiotic relationship between Israel and contemporary Western ideologies, and why Israel is ultimately heading towards madness.

The Holocaust — The Justice Myth of the West

Examining the modern history of the 20th century from the perspective of the communist movement, Germany’s fascism ultimately saved the entire capitalist world. It wasn’t just the clearing out of industrial capacity caused by the war; the Yalta system’s World War II historical view shaped modern society’s ultimate villain — the Nazis. In the interpretation of the Western intellectual circles, the Nazis represent the greatest disaster that modern society’s instrumental rationality can cause, namely, the Holocaust.

In the concepts of Western scholars like Hannah Arendt, the Holocaust is not simply a killing event. Killing events are driven by selfish motives and carried out by private will. The Holocaust is not a simple “war crime” because it was a crime carried out by the sovereign machinery of Nazi Germany under the operation of instrumental rationality, and it had little to do with the war process. The gas chambers and concentration camps couldn’t stop the Red Army’s victorious march or the Allied forces’ advances.

Hannah Arendt distinguished between “crimes against humanity” and “crimes against human beings.” A “crime against human beings” is a crime against the universal concept of “human” and often becomes a continuous paradigm or mechanism, posing a universal threat to human beings themselves.

Because of these notions, the Western intellectual community does not consider the killings committed by the Imperial Japanese militarism against Chinese people as genocide or another Holocaust, because the Japanese killings did not embody “modernity” and were just no different from the general massacres in ancient wars.

Ultimately, the side representing justice in Western civilization won World War II and has since been committed to preventing the recurrence of such tragedies of the Holocaust. The entire intellectual development of the West after World War II is built on reflections on the Holocaust and the tragedies of modernity.

However, putting aside the war with Nazi Germany, did the United States, Britain, France, and other countries fundamentally change before and after that period? The shadow of imperialism still looms over the globe, the great powers are still keen on launching wars, and the colonialist international order of inequality and oppression has not fundamentally changed — at most, it has shifted from old colonialism to new colonialism.

But just because of the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, the West seized the power to define a series of concepts such as civilization, justice, genocide, and crimes against humanity. By associating Nazism with so-called “totalitarianism”, they rewrote the main historical narrative of the global anti-imperial and anti-colonial communist movements of the 20th century into a narrative of so-called “civilized democratic societies fighting against evil totalitarian states.”

Israel — The Manifestation of the Western Myth

As mentioned above, on one hand, Europe and the United States do not consider the actions of Imperial Japanese militarism as genocide. On the other hand, the Western victors, led by the United States, do not consider their own war crimes as genocide either. So, despite Hannah Arendt’s view that the Holocaust is a “universal threat,” the only aspect that can truly be reflected upon and constructed is the Nazi genocide of the Jews.

Without the Nazi genocide of the Jews, the victorious countries of the United States, Britain, and France after World War II would still be the imperialist oppressors awaiting revolution. Therefore, the establishment and development of the state of Israel, and the elevation of Holocaust reflection to a sanctified position, beyond geopolitical and other practical factors, fundamentally serve the need of the West to use the Holocaust narrative to maintain their myth of justice after World War II. The actions of the Western intellectual community, whether consciously or unconsciously, align with this myth-making need.

The philosopher Karl Jaspers pointed out the contradictions in this myth-making. During the trial of the Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann, Jaspers calmly presented a dissenting view: Why is a universal human crime being judged by an Israeli court?

Clearly, the trial of a universal crime should be conducted by a body representing “all of humanity,” not a single victimized nation. If only a single victim nation conducts the trial, it actually “lightens” the crime because there is a core problem: Israel, presiding over the trial, cannot simultaneously represent its own interests and the interests of humanity.

If Israel conducts the trial from the standpoint of a sovereign state, judging Eichmann’s war crimes and genocide of Jews, there is no problem. However, Israel conducted the trial on behalf of universal humanity within the discourse of Western societal political empathy, which introduces some “hybrids” brought by the realistic international interest exchanges.

Speaking frankly, the existence of Israel is a realistic product of the post-war ideological tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, geopolitical contests, and the coordination mechanisms of the United Nations’ major powers, following the retreat of the British colonial empire. The international political vacuum allowed Israel to establish a foothold in Palestine and gradually expand before the development of nation-states in the Arab world.

This “hybrid” is the reason why we the Chinese people, who also suffered during World War II, find such historical narratives to be strange. The entire process of constructing the Zionist ideological framework itself “hybridizes” universal human values and Israeli nationalism. On the universal level, it uses religious narratives of “God’s chosen people” and the “Promised Land” combined with post-war reflections on human values to build Israel’s religious and national identity and the concept of being the “chosen people.”

On the other hand, Zionism observes Jewish history with Palestine as its focal point. It disregards all the other peoples living in Palestine, highlighting only the historical presence of Jews in the region. The famous slogan “A land without a people for a people without a land” frames Palestine as an “empty land.” This “empty land” is viewed as the rightful ancestral home of the Jews, awaiting its true owners, the Jews, to achieve “redemption.”

This hybrid of “universality” and “nationalism” also manifests in another aspect. The post-war culture of reflection and the rise of youth anti-war movements led Western intellectual circles to study the operational mechanisms of Nazi Germany and the primary causes of war from a “universal human” standpoint. This led to critiques and analyses of instrumental rationality and certain cultural roots of Germany, as well as explorations of the possibilities of a “world peace” mechanism from the post-war period to the early Cold War. During that time, the “United Nations” was even seen as a significant step towards achieving permanent peace for humanity.

In these shared reflections and critical analyses, the central issue revolves around the position of the “victim” within the political space of that time. However, due to the narrow focus of Western cultural critics, the “overall victims” of World War II were often replaced with the “Jews,” excluding World War II victims from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Of course, this narrow focus also stems from the urgent need of the Western intellectual and cultural circles for a paradigm to enhance the intensity of their critique. Just as Lyotard needed a visual overlapping “face,” the narrative of Jewish suffering itself became the concretized image that the cultural circles wanted to create as a representative of critique for all humanity.

The core subject of this “hybrid” constitutes the political symbol of “Israel.” The significance of Israel’s existence is not merely to establish an independent Jewish state or to find a “home” for Jews scattered around the world. Rather, it is to transform the “diaspora people” into a “settled nation” through the influence of the global landscape and religious culture. The narrative of Jewish culture in the global cultural field, as the spokesperson against racism, now has the support of a tangible nation-state.

Therefore, international Jewish cultural organizations, led by Jews, have always been keen to bind “anti-Israel” with “anti-Semitism.” Opposing or criticizing Israel is equated with anti-Semitism, not just for Israel’s political interests but also to prevent the collapse of the global Jewish narrative.

Edward Said harshly criticized this Jewish narrative, constructed with the help of Western intellectual circles, as a form of “colonialism.” Jews, hijacked in the identity of “civilization” within the world narrative, carried out a special form of colonial occupation against the “uncivilized” Arabs—a form of occupation that claimed to bring “redemption” while erasing the historical existence of Palestinians with the support of various forces.

This brings us back to Edward Said’s famous critique of Orientalism: “They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented.” At this moment, Arabs, entangled with European civilization for millennia, became the “Orient,” and Palestinians were marginalized in the history books today. Israel, constructed as a political symbol, successfully used the narrative of “liberation” to exile Palestinians from legitimate status.

Even more tragic is that the Arab world, embroiled in conflicts of interest after the traditional colonial empires’ withdrawal, left the marginalized Palestinians as the neglected “old inhabitants” of Jerusalem in the scuffles between new crusaders and emirs.

From the current historical perspective, although Edward Said and Karl Jaspers foresaw the internal contradictions within Israel and the construction of Zionist consciousness and identity, their cultural naivety led them to place too much hope in the disunited Palestinian organizations and even in the United Nations, a peculiar organization that is neither “united” nor a “nation.” This is a common trait among Western intellectuals.

Slavoj Žižek, however, noticed the game and conflict between Israel and the Western world regarding the Palestinian issue. From the traditional defensive realism perspective in international relations theory, Israel would not truly eliminate Hamas because organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah serve as tools for Israel to maintain its strategic space in the Near East through continuous military intervention. However, Netanyahu changed all this, aiming to annex Gaza and the West Bank, and establish a “Greater Israel” from the river to the sea. Surprisingly, Netanyahu is not the most radical figure, and to a large extent, he papered over the internal fractures within Israel’s political parties.

Therefore, Israel’s actions in Gaza over the past nine months have significantly transformed the political symbol of “Israel”—the embodiment of the post-World War II Western myth of justice—into a contemporary Satan, causing the mythological narrative of the post-war world in various fields to begin to crack.

We are witnessing a fracture and confrontation between the “elite establishment” and the “youth movement” in the Western world. Against the backdrop of the establishment’s “overt condemnation but substantive support” for Israel, various youth groups with different stances are taking to the streets in protest, leading to a public political stalemate characterized by silencing, threats, arrests, and panoramic media amplification.

From the perspective of the Western world’s need to construct contemporary myths, this naturally dispels certain conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the world. For Israel, this means that it rose because of this myth, and it will also fall because of it. The inherent contradiction between Zionism and the “Israel” that represents universal human values ultimately leads contemporary Israel towards its own negation:

From a universal perspective, one cannot hijack post-war anti-war and leftist liberal world currents to justify racist crimes.

From a nationalist perspective, one cannot seek substantial regional hegemony and war profits while also expecting to find justification in the global narrative and contemporary Western political values.

To achieve these self-contradictory goals, Israel increasingly needs to emphasize its identity as the embodiment of this myth and to bind all actions against Israel to the sacred concept of anti-Semitism.

Clearly, this approach by Israel is fatal to the post-war Western myth. It ultimately fosters the growth of “anti-anti-Semitism.” If being anti-Israel is equated with anti-Semitism, people will choose anti-Semitism. Slavoj Žižek saw this point, which is why he has made various ambiguous statements about the Israeli-Palestinian issue over the past year. He might essentially be suggesting that once “anti-anti-Semitism” truly grows, it might breed something more dangerous. The statements by Spain and Norway recognizing the State of Palestine indicate that the EU does not want to blindly follow the mythological narrative with the U.S. into the abyss and is testing a shift in stance.

But Israel can no longer turn back, or rather, as the embodiment of the post-war Western myth, it has the potential to drag everyone in this myth into the abyss. Ultimately, either the Western establishment and Israel will extinguish the sparks of the youth movements and non-Western forces together, or Israel will disappear substantively from history, with no middle ground left.

This may be the tragic scenario that the “chosen people” in the divine revelation never foresaw.


Chinese Social Media Influencer
Top picks selected by the China Academy's editorial team from Chinese media, translated and edited to provide better insights into contemporary China.
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