Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Jews and the Charge of ‘Dual Loyalty': Rachel Shabi Defends Classic Antisemitic Canard

February 19, 2012 7:02 pm 0 comments
Cover of International Jew

Cover of International Jew. Image: Wikipedia.

Rachel Shabi is a journalist who writes for ‘Comment is Free’ and Al Jazeera whose contempt for the Jewish state, and seeming indifference to antisemitism, is consistently demonstrated.

Shabi has blamed Zionism for the ethnic cleansing of 900,000 Jews from Arab lands; characterizing their plight as being caused “either by agitating Zionist emissaries, or by the shockwaves that Zionism sent through the Middle East.” [emphasis added]

She has accused those who raise the issue of the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab lands of engaging in cynical “political point-scoring”, and has even mocked the notion of historic Arab antisemitism.

Shabi also dismissed Israeli concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) – writing that the MB was merely “perceived as…anti-Semitic” characterizing the Jewish state’s fear of the Islamist group’s rise (a movement whose spiritual leader literally called for Allah to murder every last Jew on earth) as evidence of Israeli racism!

In addition, while Shabi has carved out a successful journalistic niche as a Jewish critic of Israel I have found nothing Shabi has written on the subject of antisemitism, and absolutely no indication that she is at all burdened by the malign Jewish obsession which is normative in the Arab world – all of which provides relevant context to her latest essay at ‘Comment is Free’, “False accusations of antisemitism desensitize us to the real thing“, Feb. 17.

Shabi, in arguing that “rightwing pro-Israelis [have] sucked the oxygen out of any conversation about the country”, argues:

a broader rash of pouncing-upon from rightwing pro-Israelis that has sucked the oxygen out of any conversation about the country – especially in the US. Witness the recent storm over the phrase “Israel firsters”: used to accuse people of putting policy on Israel above US interests, it sparked a row among liberal commentators on whether it carries connotations of dual loyalty that feed into antisemitic tropes. This was just another attempt to smear liberal American critics of Israel, Yet the real danger in all this is that the rush to throw charges of antisemitism…and silence…people who criticise Israel will desensitise vigilance over the real thing. Such tactics are meant to intimidate and paralyse, choke and divert the discussion over Israel’s occupation and policies in the Middle East.

Briefly, the controversy Shabi is referring to arose when it was discovered that Zaid Jilani, who blogged for a Center for American Progress (CAP) website, ThinkProgress, used Twitter to call US supporters of the Jewish state “Israel Firsters” –  evoking the antisemitic narrative that American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country.

As several progressive commentators observed following the row, “liberal” voices who defend this dual loyalty canard are evidently unaware of or unburdened by the fact that the idea that diaspora Jews are insufficiently loyal to the country where they reside has a decidedly reactionary pedigree.

The charge of dual loyalty was central in the Dreyfus Affair through the Nazi’s rise to power – and, indeed, this notion in large measure underlay the failure of European emancipation. In the 1920s American industrialist Henry Ford published The International JewThe World’s Problem where it was asserted that disloyal American Jews were pushing the U.S. into WWII, though the war was not in the national interest.

While after WWII manifestations of this charge often remained on the fringes of American society, Paul Findley, a former Republican U.S. Congressman, wrote a book in 1985, They Dare to Speak Out, which became a best-seller. In it, Findley maintained that American Jews utilized “tactics which stifle dissent in their own communities and throughout America” to benefit not their own country but, rather, Israel.

Paleoconservative commentators, not surprisingly, have similarly championed this narrative. Pat Buchanan wrote in 2008 that “Israel and its Fifth Column in [Washington , DC] seek to stampede us into war with Iran”, and has previously written that Jews “harbor a ‘passionate attachment’ to a nation not our own that causes them to subordinate the interests of their own country and to act on an assumption that, somehow, what’s good for Israel is good for America.”

As liberal columnist Spencer Ackerman noted on the term “Israel-firster”:

It turns out white supremacist Willis Carto was reportedly the first to use it, and (former KKK Grand Wizard) David Duke popularized it through his propaganda network…It is a term that Charles Lindbergh would [have been] comfortable using.

As David Bernstein observed upon researching the term:

The “Israel-firster” slur was not used in “mainstream” discourse until the last few years. Before that, you can find it occasionally in the early 1980s and 1990s in sources such as Wilmot Robertson’s anti-Semitic Instauration journal, a 1988 anti-Semitic book called “The F.O.J. [Fear of Jews] Syndrome, and a 1998 anti-Semitic book “Rise of AntiChrist.”

I also found a couple of references to “Israel-firsters” in the extremist anti-Israel publication, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs… By the early 2000s, one can find “Israel-firster” being used by a variety of anti-Semitic “right-wing” sources like DavidDuke.com and the Vanguard News Network. As the decade wore on, the phrase occasionally pops up in far left anti-Israel sites that have ties to the anti-Semitic far-right or are known for playing footsie with anti-Semitism.

Finally, over the last few years the term has become increasingly used on the anti-Israel far left So the question is, does your average Progressive recoil at the use of terminology that migrated recent from the far-right racist kook fringe to refer to members of minority groups? They sure do. Should they recoil less if the terminology is aimed at Jews, as opposed to other minority groups? They sure shouldn’t-unless they are themselves prejudiced against Jews.

Rachel Shabi, a “progressive” commentator writing for a publication which fancies itself the “worlds leading liberal voice”, not only doesn’t recoil from such a malign narrative, questioning the loyalty of Jews but, rather, is outraged that those who engage in such Judeophobic tropes (popularized on the far-right) are being “smeared” as antisemites.

As A. Jay Adler concluded in a recent CiF Watch cross post about those, like Shabi, who would defend or excuse such a slur on Jewish Americans”.

They defend their use of the term because they believe that this time it is true. They believe that this time there really are divided loyalties, there really is a cadre of Jews exercising excessive, secretive power while aggressively attempting to suppress any exposure of it. And like all their reactionary forebears…they forget that the belief they cling to is the belief to which purveyors of anti-Semitic tropes of Jewish power always hold fast – it’s the essential marker of the tradition – that what they believe is true.

To this I’d add one more caveat. Activists like Shabi, like so many others at ‘Comments is Free’, seem to believe that self-proclaimed “progressives” are ipso facto free of prejudice, and so should be granted a kind of impunity from accusations of racism even when trading in the most classic Judeophobic stereotypes.

Such supreme moral hubris continues to inform so much of the the commentary about Israel and Jews by Guardian reporters, contributors and their “progressive” fellow travelers.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    A June 2015 art exhibit, “The Transformative Power of Art,” at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, harnessed the universal language of art to convey an important message: “Our fragile Mother Earth faces the devastating consequences of climate change, a defining challenge of our time.” The exhibit also included sixteen portraits of people from all over the world who have “contributed to the common good of humanity in one way or another and have transformed the way we […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    A 32-year-old Circassian Israeli Muslim Mixed Martial Arts fighter from Abu Ghosh says he takes pride in fighting under the Israeli flag, Israel’s Walla reported on Sunday. Like most Circassian Israelis, Jackie “the Punishment” Gosh was born Sunni Muslim. He became observant about eight years ago, and is now scrupulous in following his religion’s tenets, praying five times a day and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Gosh is also very proud of his Israeli nationality, and sees no contradiction between […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    A new documentary explores the lives and work of Jewish and Arab rappers in Israel and how the ongoing conflict in the region has impacted their lyrics, the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday. Hip Hop in the Holy Land is a six-part series co-directed by Mike Skinner, the British frontman of hip-hop group The Streets, and produced by Noisey, a music channel published by Vice news. The first episode, published last week, shows Skinner meeting with Tamer Nafar, the founder of one of […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    New 49ers running back and Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne apologized on Wednesday for a tweet in which he raised the age-old myth that Jews were historically responsible for Jesus Christ’s death. Reaching out to his Jewish fans, and the chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Hayne tweeted: “To the Jewish community @DvirAbramovich #WeAreAllOne.” Underneath, he keenly included a screenshot of a text message to elaborate on his apology: “I sincerely apologize for my tweets on July 1. I […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot reminisced about her childhood in Israel during an interview published in this month’s edition of Vanity Fair. “I don’t remember this, but my mom told me that when I was three they threw a party on the rooftop of the house. They put me to bed, and I heard people coming into the house and no one came to me. I went to the rooftop and took a hose and I started to spray water on everyone, just […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    An Israeli organization is helping wounded U.S. veterans move past their physical and psychological challenges by connecting them with injured Israeli soldiers who understand what they’ve been through. “What we discovered very early is that there’s no ‘professional, psychiatrist, social worker’ or anything like that [or] pills that can come even close to helping a soldier who fought in combat, who was wounded, who lost his friends. No one can help him like another person who’s been through exactly what he has,” Rabbi Chaim Levine, […]

    Read more →
  • Relationships World Researchers Say Women Less Likely Than Men to Kill Hitler, if They Could Travel Back in Time

    Researchers Say Women Less Likely Than Men to Kill Hitler, if They Could Travel Back in Time

    Women are less likely than men to want to kill Nazi leader Adolph Hitler if given the ability to travel back in time, a recently published research paper revealed. The paper analyzed 40 studies involving 6,100 respondents in a time-travel thought experiment, the New York Post reported on Friday. While 60 percent of men said they would theoretically be willing to kill Hitler, only 55 percent of women said they would be comfortable doing the same. The paper was published in the Personality and […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish Groups Enraged After New 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Claims That Jews Killed Jesus

    Jewish Groups Enraged After New 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Claims That Jews Killed Jesus

    Former Australian rugby player and 2014 NFL grab Jarryd Hayne grabbed headlines and angered Jewish groups over a tweet last week accusing Jews of killing Jesus Christ. “Jesus wanted to help people but was killed by his own people,” Hayne wrote through his Twitter handle, followed by over 120,000 Twitter users, on July 1. Unperturbed by the potential for backlash among some of his fans, Hayne went on to tweet the next day: “The Jews were the people who took him to the Romans n forced them to give the order because they […]

    Read more →