Is anti-Semitic pro Palestinians

Middle East conflict and anti-Semitism

The decision of the US President Donald Trump to relocate the embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem has caused a stir around the world since December 2017 and in some cases led to harsh protests. In Berlin there were also anti-Semitic statements and public burning of Israeli flags. The case of a Berlin pupil who left his school because he was repeatedly exposed to anti-Semitic hostility and acts of violence by his classmates also made headlines. Here, too, the perpetrators justified their actions primarily with the actions of Israel and “the Jews” in the Middle East conflict.

The events and public debates surrounding Donald Trump's decision are almost symptomatic of the conflict in the Middle East: It seems as if every political event in this context would lead to similar debates, questions and protests. In hardly any other conflict do the fronts seem so hardened. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is much more than just one of the countless armed conflicts around the world today. It is the subject of antagonistic interpretations, a focal point of the most varied of political and religious interests, is also extraordinarily present in the media, forms and stabilizes identity, a foil for all kinds of fantasies and positioning. Here, it seems, the basic ethical and moral questions of our time are concentrated, questions of the relationship between identity and ascription, truth and lies, right and wrong, guilt and atonement, past and present, power and powerlessness, victims and perpetrators. An explosive, highly explosive and deeply emotional mixture.

Anti-Semitic references, statements, actions or positions on the Middle East conflict are so frequent that they are now considered a specific form of anti-Semitism and are summarized under the term Israel-related anti-Semitism. The Middle East conflict, the State of Israel and the Palestinian Territories serve as a projective frame of reference. After 1945, open anti-Semitism is largely taboo in Germany and is instead expressed through allusions, ciphers, codes or argumentative detours. Israel-related anti-Semitism is one such form of detour communication. It can be identified as anti-Semitic when alleged criticism of Israel works with images of classic anti-Semitism, when Jews around the world are held liable for the actions of the State of Israel, or when Israel has the right to exist due to its (self) positioning as a Jewish state is discussed.

A complex, almost confusing situation arises from unifying and shortening positions as well as from clearly anti-Semitic statements and references to the Middle East conflict. Different narratives, some of which are diametrically opposed to each other, are charged with the most varied of references. In addition, when talking about the conflict, questions of identity, coexistence, migration and the culture of remembrance in Germany are usually implicitly negotiated, which further exacerbate the projective character. A conflict-laden topic that not only poses special challenges for educators.

Real conflict and projection screen for hostility towards Jews

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not just a projection screen, it is a reality for many people who are individually and collectively affected by it. Even if unifying positions, abbreviations, instrumentalizations, polarizations and resentments often play a role in references to the Middle East conflict, not all references to it have a fundamentally projective character. At the same time, the conflict constantly produces and reproduces images that can be linked to problematic and anti-Semitic interpretations and which they supposedly confirm.

According to the historian Dan Diner, there are two major narratives in conflict: The collective consciousness on the Israeli side is based on the experience of a historical minority and is shaped by the will never to allow persecution, displacement and extermination again. In contrast, the Palestinian self-image is based on a premise of historical legitimacy and a demographic majority position, which only does not come into play under the current political conditions. This is one of the reasons why the conflict between Israel and Palestine can no longer be defined singularly as a 'national conflict' that only deals with questions of territory and borders. These questions would be overshadowed by debates about justice and historical claims about land grabbing and colonialism, about flight and migration, about religion, identity and legitimacy. In addition, the conflict itself is characterized by an asymmetry of political and military power relations as well as an unequal distribution of resources and is also intensifying against the background of global political interests in the Middle East.1

According to Diner, this already complex, deadlocked, often belligerent confrontation is becoming more polarized and radicalized through the depiction of anti-Jewish stereotypes that were either influenced by early Islam or taken over and internalized there in the course of a transfer from the West to the 'Orient'. Thus, the Middle East conflict should not be interpreted either as a cause or as a consequence of anti-Semitic thought patterns in the Arab-Muslim world, but rather as their catalyst: “In this respect, the images that foam up in the conflict between Arabs and Jews, Israelis and Palestinians are anti-Semitic in the classical sense of the word when they do not arise from the conflict in the narrower sense, but are imposed on it from outside, that is, from afar in terms of time and space. "2

The fact that references to the actual conflict and anti-Semitic stereotypes often confuse diffusely can sometimes make it difficult to distinguish between clearly anti-Semitic and non-anti-Semitic attitudes. In addition, as a consequence of the reception of the Middle East conflict, there is a reciprocal influence of anti-Semitic images and actual events in the Middle East conflict: “So we are confronted with a mutually dependent relationship between the imaginary and the real. The real Middle East conflict feeds the ideological appropriation of the imaginary construction of 'the Jew' and the appropriation of belief in the existence of 'the Jew' influences the perception of the Middle East conflict. "3

Between (collective) concern, solidarity and memory competition

In a society shaped by and by migration, conflicts can also play a role, the centers of which appear geographically distant. This is also the case with the Middle East conflict. In Germany, too, there are personal or family concerns, for example among the Palestinians and Israelis living here, and various forms of references and solidarity with the various parties to the conflict. In addition, the conflict is often used as a projection screen to negotiate issues of belonging and recognition.

Various studies have found that anti-Semitic references to the Middle East conflict among young people who understand themselves as Muslim are often based on their own experiences of discrimination and devaluation. These are charged and reinterpreted with anti-Semitic images and narratives. Personal experiences of discrimination, for example because of religious affiliation, appear as part of a larger narrative in a transnational context in which both 'the Jews' and the USA or 'the West' are portrayed as global persecutors and opponents of Muslims. Anti-Semitism becomes a wrong interpretation of the world, which gives one's own experiences of exclusion or devaluation a supposedly deeper meaning. Furthermore, solidarity effects can also arise if the `` fight against oppression '' received by Palestinians symbolizes struggles for recognition by `` the Muslims '', `` the Arabs '' or even `` the foreigners ''.

From this mixed situation a phenomenon can arise, which also refers back to the Middle East conflict and is known in the (anti-Semitism-critical) educational work as a victim or memory competition. According to the perception, `` Jews '' are the only group in Germany, but also globally, to be granted a general victim status, while other experiences of discrimination, racist and social exclusion or collective stories of suffering, flight and displacement are hidden and ignored. Against the background of how Germany was dealing with the Holocaust, non-Jewish experiences of discrimination would, so the impression, fade. The collective national memory of the Nazi crimes and the Jewish victims is perceived as an exclusive form of recognition of victims and that - so the further argumentation - although 'the Jews' are supposedly perpetrators in the Middle East today. Such forms of memory competition are fed from different references and perspectives, also from a majority German perspective, through the demand for recognition of the suffering of German war victims and expellees. They can be expressed for the motive of acquitting oneself from responsibility for German history by referring to allegedly 'Israeli crimes'. With such anti-Semitic connotations, the connections to secondary anti-Semitism become clear.

Between anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim instrumentalization

Instrumentalizing references to the Middle East conflict or to the State of Israel and its politics can fulfill the function of anti-Semitic detour communication. However, there are also shortening and stereotyping references to the Middle East conflict, which are primarily fed by anti-Muslim, racist resentment. In a pointed form of this instrumentalization of the conflict, the Jewish state is portrayed as the 'bulwark of the European Enlightenment' or 'the West' against a 'backward', 'medieval' Islam. Such an understanding of the conflict goes hand in hand with racist resentment in society and has always been used by right-wing populist actors, especially in recent years. The fact that this is neither about actual Israel, the Israeli population nor about a solution to the conflict that is satisfactory to all sides, but rather about one's own worldview, is deliberately concealed and declared as supposed support in the fight against 'Islamic anti-Semitism'.

Analytical skills and sensitivity

The range of references to the Middle East conflict is diverse. The motives for positioning oneself on one side or the other are also broad and range from personal concern to negotiating questions of social recognition or participation through reference to the conflict. Many of these positions or references are unifying or shortening. However, it becomes particularly problematic when the Middle East conflict is instrumentalized to express anti-Semitic or racist expressions or the conflict is reinterpreted as the real cause of anti-Semitism. It is important here - whether in educational practice or in political debate - to develop the necessary sensitivity, since the transitions between one-sided criticism and anti-Semitism are often fluid and not always clearly distinguishable at first glance. There is no doubt that anti-Semitic statements in the context of the Middle East conflict must be criticized as well as any other form of exclusionary and prejudiced thinking. This is not a legitimate expression of opinion or a position manifested by personal concern, but simply a resentment that tries indirectly to exclude, humiliate or persecute people on the basis of ascribed characteristics.