The ongoing protests at the Gaza security fence, and Israel’s efforts to contain them, have once again brought people to the streets of European cities—and even more people to their social-media accounts—to express their outrage at the Jewish state. Noting that these same people are largely indifferent to, for instance, Turkey’s persecution of Kurds or Syria’s gassing of civilians, Brendan O’Neill asks what makes Israel the object of so much hatred:
Israeli activity doesn’t only elicit a response from these campaigners where Turkish or Saudi or Syrian activity does not—it also and always elicits a visceral response. The condemnation of Israel is furious and intense, and the language used about it is dark, strikingly different from the language used about any other state that engages in military activity. Israel is never just wrong or heavy-handed or a country that “foolishly rushes to war,” as protesters would say about Tony Blair and Iraq, and very occasionally about Barack Obama and Libya, and, if they were pressed for an opinion, would probably say about the Turks and the Saudis, too. No, Israel is genocidal. It is a terrorist state, a rogue state, an apartheid state. It is mad, racist, ideological. It doesn’t do simple militarism—it does “bloodletting”; it derives some kind of pleasure from killing civilians, including children. . . . This Jewish state is the worst state, the most bloodthirsty state. . . .
There is no getting away from it: the thing that is really unique about Israel is how much they hate it.
[The next step is to say that Israelis] are fascists, that the victims of fascism now practice fascism. This is the sentiment behind much of the myopic focus on Israel: that the Jews now do to others what people once did to them. Even though actually they don’t. Even though they do nothing that bears even the remotest resemblance to the Nazis’ effort to exterminate the Jews. And yet at anti-Israel demonstrations, placards compare Gaza with the Warsaw Ghetto; people implore the Jews to remember their own suffering; Israeli flags with swastikas on them are held up. This is not anti-imperialist, it is anti-Jewish; it is the gravest insult to say that Jews or the Jewish state are the new Nazis, and [these protestors] know it is a grave insult.
The treatment of Israel as uniquely colonialist, as an exemplar of racism, as the commissioner of the kind of crimes against humanity we thought we had left in the darkest moments of the 20th century, really captures what motors today’s intense fury with Israel above all other nations: it has been turned into a whipping boy for the sins of Western history, a punching-bag for those who feel shame or discomfort with the political and military excesses of their own nations’ pasts and who now register that shame and discomfort by raging against what they view, hyperbolically, as a lingering expression of that past: Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians.