Playing the Race Card to Denounce Jewish Money

April 2 2019

This week’s New York Times Magazine features an essay by the veteran Israel-hater Nathan Thrall titled “How the Battle over Israel and Anti-Semitism Is Fracturing American Politics.” Employing a variety of lies, half-truths, illogical deductions, and insinuations, it draws a contrast between wealthy Jewish donors to the Democratic party who are sympathetic to Israel and minority, primarily black, activists who are anti-Israel. Jonathan Tobin comments:

Thrall’s object is to justify [boycott-Israel] campaigns that anchor the debate about the subject in “Black-Palestinian solidarity” and the effort to view the war on Israel through the “racial-justice prism.” The result is an 11,000-word essay that seeks to . . . paint Zionism as inherently racist and efforts to destroy Israel as idealistic attempts to defend human rights, [while also seeking] to portray the pro-Israel movement’s effort to push back at anti-Semitic attacks as tainted by prejudice against African-Americans and fueled primarily by the heavy-handed efforts of Jewish donors to manipulate the Democratic party.

One of Thrall’s primary sources is the former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. . . . The article . . . amplifies Rhodes’s specious claim that President Obama’s inability to persuade Israel’s supporters to back him on the [Israel-Palestinian] issue was due to racial prejudice. He claims that supporters of Israel assumed that Barack Obama was pro-Palestinian because he was black. Rhodes’s thesis, which Thrall endorses, is that this alleged fear of Obama was the result of the pro-Israel community’s understanding that the Jewish state really was “an oppressor.” According to Rhodes, Obama’s critics were “acknowledging, through [their] own fears, that Israel treats the Palestinians like black people had been treated in the United States.”

This argument has it backward. Jewish Democrats [went to enormous lengths] to maintain their faith that Obama had been sincere in his professions of support for Israel when he ran for president in 2008, in spite of evidence to the contrary, both then and later. Far from being prejudiced against him, most American Jews stuck loyally to Obama, despite his belief that more “daylight” was needed between Israel and the United States. They even supported his efforts to appease an Iranian regime that was bent on genocide.

The assumption that Palestinians and Israeli Arabs are treated the same way as the African-American victims of Jim Crow in the pre-civil-rights-era South is a big lie. . . . The standoff about the future of the West Bank exists because the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected offers of peace and statehood. They would have attained independence long ago had they been willing to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders might be drawn.

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More about: AIPAC, Anti-Semitism, BDS, Democrats, Israel & Zionism, New York Times, Racism, US-Israel relations


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