A new study on anti-Semitism by Tel Aviv University contains a brazen lie.
In an attempt to slander the international Palestine solidarity movement, the report alleges that “extreme right-wing and extreme-left wing activists joined forces” in a protest against a concert by the Israeli military band Tzahal in Antwerp, Belgium, last year. As well as teaming up, the activists were “shouting ‘Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas,’” the study alleges.
I attended the protest in question and can say with certainty that the accusation is baseless.
For a start, the protest was called by a number of human rights and Palestine solidarity groups. Organizers of the protest have confirmed to me that they do not cooperate in any way with the far-right.
While it appears that a small far-right demonstration may have taken place at the same time as the one I attended, this was not visible to the protest held by Palestine solidarity groups, who are firmly opposed to all forms of racial and religious intolerance.
There is no evidence whatsoever, then, that the far-left and far-right “joined forces.”
The claim that the protesters chanted “Jews to the gas” cannot be taken seriously either. The organizers are adamant that they did not hear anyone shouting such a slogan.
It’s always possible, of course, that one or two individuals in a crowd will say something problematic. But there is nothing to back up the study’s assertion that an alliance of extremists from both ends of the political spectrum “joined forces” in a display of anti-Semitism.
The study’s claim appears to be based on a news story published by the Flemish Zionist website Joods Actueel. That story included a short audio file, which mainly features one female voice chanting slogans. It cannot seriously be considered as proof that the far-left and far-right had “joined forces.”
Furthermore, the study betrays a fickle knowledge of Belgian politics. The main far-right party in Belgium, Vlaams Belang, has a history of anti-Semitism. But one of its most prominent politicians, Frank Vanhecke, stated in 2008 that he was one of Israel’s “staunchest defenders.”
This kind of opportunistic U-turn will be familiar to observers of Europe’s far-right. Like a number of similar parties, Vlaams Belang routinely panders to Islamophobes; I sometimes receive vile literature from local Vlaams Belang representatives who portray Muslims living in the neighborhood as a threat.
So the idea that the far-right would team up with Palestine solidarity campaigners is laughable.
Published this week, the study was conducted by Tel Aviv University in conjunction with the European Jewish Congress (EJC), a Zionist lobby group.
Although it purports to give an overview of anti-Semitic incidents throughout the world during 2012, it conflates criticism of the State of Israel with enmity towards Jews in general. The Antwerp protest took place at a time when Israel was undertaking Operation Pillar of Defense, its eight-day bombing offensive against the civilian population of Gaza.
Insinuating that protesters horrified by Israel’s criminal conduct are Nazis in disguise is a favorite tactic of the Israel lobby. It smacks of desperation.
The Antwerp protest notched up a political success. Yves Leterme, Belgium’s former prime minister, had been scheduled to attend the Tzahal performance but stayed away, after receiving an appeal from Palestine solidarity activists. It’s not surprising that the Zionist lobby would wish to distract from that triumph with fake accusations of anti-Semitism.
Both the EJC and the American Jewish Committee have pounced on the new report in order to warn that anti-Semitic incidents are on the increase. Certainly, some of the incidents described in the study — attacks on synagogues and bullying of Jewish children — are despicable.
Yet the study does a grave disservice to the fight against anti-Semitism by smearing activists who have nothing against Jews and abhor genuine anti-Semitism. Once again, the Zionist lobby is so eager to propagandize for Israel that it tells lies about its opponents.