The Problem with Asking Anti-Semites to Say Sorry

Feb. 13 2019

On Sunday night, the Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar again exposed her anti-Semitism on Twitter, and again expressed her regrets for doing so—this time after condemnations from her congressional colleagues on both sides of the aisle. In her ensuing statement, she apologized “unequivocally” and then went on to equivocate. Abe Greenwald comments:

Asking for an apology is an immoral response to anti-Semitism because it’s designed to allow the anti-Semite to move past his or her offense. In the public sphere, these apologies become a licensing fee paid by people like Omar every time they want to sound off about the evil Jews. She “apologizes,” people praise her willingness to learn and grow, and the headlines shift from her offense to the hysterics who won’t let her be. The only ones who benefit are the bigots and their allies. In the case of Omar, those allies are either her fellow Democrats trying to do damage control or anti-Semites who are thrilled to see one of their own successfully playing the game.

Then there are those who aren’t her allies but still encourage and seem heartened by these apologies. These are good people, some of them Jews and conservatives, who want to believe that the real problem is Omar’s lack of knowledge, and that it can be addressed through greater “dialogue.” They see in her semi-apologies evidence of an upright and amenable character. This is a nice thought but, as Martin Luther King wrote, “shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.” These decent people make claims about Omar’s willingness to grow and change despite all evidence to the contrary.

The truth is that Omar is almost forty years old and she’s being handled like a child. Her anti-Semitism is in keeping with her worldview. . . . The only proper response to anti-Semites in public life is to expose them and get them out of power. Every requested apology strengthens their position. That’s what it’s supposed to do.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Ilhan Omar, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Politics

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat