How W.E.B. Du Bois Combated Anti-Semitism

March 8 2019

While attending the University of Berlin in the late 19th century, the African-American thinker W.E.B. Du Bois studied under the tutelage of the anti-Semitic historian Heinrich von Treitschke, and after returning to the U.S. occasionally deployed anti-Semitic stereotypes in his writings. By the second decade of the 20th century, however, he had rejected such ideas, as Harold Brackman writes:

Du Bois’s attitude . . . changed when he worked with Joel E. Spingarn, Henry Moskowitz, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, Lillian Wald, and other Jews prominent in forming the NAACP. Zionism [also] provided a model for Du Bois’s own pan-African ideology: “The African movement means to us what the Zionist movement must mean to the Jews,” [he wrote].

He condemned anti-Semitism in Poland and Hungary, as well as in Germany, and commended Albert Einstein. In May 1933, he editorialized about the dangers of Nazism, and [attending] Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics, . . . decided that Nuremberg was worse than Alabama.

In 1940, Du Bois warned against African-American anti-Semitism, inflamed by German and Japanese propaganda. Despite initial doubts about America entering World War II, Du Bois remained steadfast in denouncing Hitler’s war against the Jews and supporting Zionism. As the Nazi war machine rolled east in June 1941, Du Bois joined African-American intellectuals like Ralph Bunche in warning of the threat of “a new slavery and barbarism, terrorism and darkness” engulfing the world.

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More about: African Americans, American Jewry, Anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Holocaust


Despite What the UN Says, the Violence at the Gaza Border Is Military, Not Civilian, in Nature

March 22 2019

On Monday, a UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry issued its final report on last spring’s disturbances at the Gaza border. Geoffrey Corn and Peter Margulies explain why the report is fatally flawed:

The commission framed the events [in Gaza] as a series of demonstrations that were “civilian in nature.” Israel and its Supreme Court, [which has investigated some of the killings that occurred], framed the same events quite differently: as a new evolution in Israel’s ongoing armed conflict with the terrorist organization Hamas. Consistency and common sense suggest that the Israeli High Court of Justice’s framing is a more rational explanation of what occurred at the Israel-Gaza border in spring 2018.

Kites, [for instance], played a telltale role [in the violence]. When most people think of kites, they think of a child’s plaything or a hobbyist’s harmless passion. In the Gaza confrontation, kites [became] a new and effective, albeit low-tech, tactic for attacking Israel. As the report conceded, senior Gaza leaders, including from Hamas, “encouraged” the unleashing of waves of incendiary kites that during and since the spring 2018 confrontations have burned thousands of acres of arable land within Israel. The resulting destruction included fires that damaged the Kerem Shalom border crossing, which conveys goods and gasoline from Israel to Gaza. . . .

Moreover, the incendiary-kite offensive was an effective diversion from the efforts encouraged and coordinated by Hamas last spring to pierce the border with Israel and attack both IDF personnel and the civilian residents of the beleaguered Israeli towns a short distance from the border fence. . . .

The commission also failed to acknowledge that Hamas sought to use civilians as an operational cover to move members of its armed wing into position along the fence. For IDF commanders, this increased the importance of preventing a breach [in the fence]. Large crowds directly along the fence would simplify breakthrough attempts by intermingled Hamas and other belligerent operatives. The crowds themselves also could attempt to pour through any breach. Unfortunately, the commission seems to have completely omitted any credible assessment of the potential casualties on all sides that would have resulted from IDF action to seal a breach once it was achieved. . . .

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Laws of war, UNHRC, United Nations