Book review: Israelophobia by Jake Wallis Simons
Review by Daphna Whitmore
Israelophobia was published just a month before the gruesome October 7 massacre by Hamas death squads in Israel. The following day leftists were cheering the Palestinian “resistance” as Israel’s first responders were counting the dead: several hundred young people unarmed at a music festival gunned down, hundreds of families dragged out of their beds, tortured, raped, murdered. Children saw their parents killed, and infants, women and elderly were among the 240 taken hostage. This utterly barbaric bloodfest was being celebrated on campuses and in the streets of Western countries. In Arab countries, there were sweets being handed out on the streets to the delighted masses.
In the nineteenth century, people were proud to be antisemites. It was a “scientific” view of “the Jewish problem”. Jake Wallis Simons, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, argues that today there is a new form of respectable antisemitism: Israelophobia.
This latest form of the old hatred manifests as extreme loathing of Israel and it has a wide reach from elite campuses in Western countries to across the Muslim world. It fixates on the Jewish state, rather than the Jewish race or the Jewish religion.
Antisemitism has survived by being a shapeshifter. When religion was the dominant idea in society Jews were hated for their religion. With the Enlightenment and the development of a scientific worldview view Jews were seen by antisemites as an inferior race. Today it is the Jewish nation that is hated. The nineteenth and early twentieth century antisemites saw themselves as the heroes. So too do those who are uber critical of Israel today.
For the hard left Israelophobic language feels good because it is not about race. The campus progressive doesn’t hate Jews individually, he just hates the nation of Jews. This hatred comes dressed up in the language of social justice and has a strange alliance with extremist Islamism.
There are a suite of views held by progressives which is why there is the odd sight of “Queers for Palestine”. These are luxury beliefs, an insightful concept, whereby the elite signal social status through an assortment of bizarre views that don’t materially affect them.
The extreme hatred shown to Israel didn’t happen by chance, there have been skilled propagandists from Berlin, to Moscow and Tehran driving this. The direct importation of Nazi ideas into the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world in the 1940s and its direct lineage with Hamas and other Islamist organisations is little understood by Western leftists. The forged antisemitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion were translated into Arabic and serialised in Arab newspapers and are still widely believed to be authentic in the Arab world. Similarly, the Soviet Union waged a long propaganda campaign against Israel from the early 1960s until 1988 as part of the cold war. In 1990 just before the USSR collapsed Pravda published a belated mea culpa of sorts revealling “Considerable damage was done by a group of authors who, while pretending to fight Zionism, began to resurrect many notions of the antisemitic propaganda of the Black Hundreds and of fascist origin”. https://fathomjournal.org/soviet-anti-zionism-and-contemporary-left-antisemitism/
The baton was passed to Tehran which since the Islamic Revolution has waged a hate campaign against Israel.
Throughout the ages antisemitism has never related to real life. In medieval times Jews were seen as demons. They were accused of killing children and using their blood for making matzah. Today the image of the Israeli soldier or settler is like a modern day demon, and they too are accused of purposefully killing children, conveniently ignoring the very real problem of Palestinian terror groups recruiting youth and using them as armed combatants.
This form of bigotry requires fetishisation and demonisation, argues JWS. So Israel as a country and its citizens are held to higher standards than other people or countries. The hallmarks of Israelophobia are double standards, bad faith arguments, and intensive criticism. There is much talk of a Zionist Lobby as if it was a puppet master, yet many countries and corporations have lobbyists and Israel is not even in the top 10 big spending lobbies. Israel’s national football team is ethnically mixed and happens to have more Arab than Jewish players, so Israel is accused of “sports washing”. Tel Aviv has one of the biggest and most joyful Gay Parades in the world and so it is denounced as “pink washing”.
The apartheid slur is one of the main weapons of Israelophobes. They equate Israel with South Africa and Jim Crow laws. For instance, Amnesty International accuses Israel of apartheid while in the same sentence it says it is not analogous to South African apartheid! What they don’t address is how Israel can be an apartheid state while there is legal equality, where Arabs are top judges, there are Arab diplomats, top Arab sports people, and Arabs win top military awards? Nor can it be said that the slur only applies to the West Bank or Gaza as it was in use and in fact invented by Soviet propagandists before 1967 when those territories were under Jordanian and Egyptian rule. Apartheid like the holocaust is one of those things that everybody can condemn.
As well as demonisation of Israel there is weaponisation and falsification. “Zionism is racism” and “Israelis are settler colonialists and white supremacists” say the Israelophobes. “The Jews are as bad as Nazis” and “are carrying out ethnic cleansing and genocide”. They overlook the majority of Jews in Israel who are of Middle Eastern origin. Indeed the world is silent about the ethnic cleansing of 900,000 Jews from Arab countries in the 1950s. The genocide slur against Israel just doesn’t add up as the Palestinian population continues to grow.
Israelophobia is a thought provoking publication and its arguments are playing out in real time. One area that needs to be put under the spotlight is the link between political Islamism and the Western progressive left. JWS has started the discussion and it really does need more scrutiny. Iran’s Islamic regime slaughtered the Marxists who helped overthrow the Shah and brought the Ayatollah to power. Today’s neo-Marxists have learnt nothing it seems. Or perhaps in their postmodern, post-truth world there are no consequences?
Ultimately JWS argues that Israel should be neither demonised nor fetishised but treated for what it is: remarkable in many ways, troubling in many others, with heroes and villains. Just another country.