Richard Landes, Chair, Council of Scholars SPME
Many have commented on the systematic effort of Amnesty International’s Apartheid Report to stigmatize Israel, to stretch beyond recognition the definition of “Apartheid” and “race” in order to accuse Israel of “crimes against humanity.” It is worth noting that this effort is unparalleled in Amnesty’s research on other countries, where the documentation most often speaks for itself, and terms like “intention” and “deliberation” are sprinkled liberally without the need to justify their use. In the case of Israel, the need to prove intent is primary: The Report proves Apartheid “by first establishing Israel’s intent to oppress and dominate all Palestinians.”
This language, unfortunately, offers disturbing similarities with other patterns of “racialized” Jew-hatred, namely the long and pervasive practice among antisemites of projecting onto the Jews (in this case, the Israelis), a defining and abiding malice towards gentiles. The Jews, so this widespread tendency runs, consider their chosenness as a warrant to exploit, enslave and rule over gentiles. It is at once a profound misreading of chosenness (a responsibility to bring blessings to all the families of the earth), and most often a projection of what the accuser believes chosenness means. This pattern characterized the Nazis, who even as they aimed in the most brutal fashion to conquer the world and enslave inferior races, projected that malevolent intention to the Jews. Their warrant for genocide? The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a text written by an antisemitic gentile in the voice of the Jew, projecting the merciless mentality that had characterized much of gentile politics for millennia. Today it is a central element in the
apocalyptic ideologies of Global Jihad.
This projection of malevolence shapes and frames AI’s document from the very opening assertions: “Intent to Oppress and Dominate Palestinians” (14-15). This intent to commit a crime, mens rea (57), is key to the application of the label “Apartheid” and the legal implications such a label carries: “a crime against humanity.” Admitting that they cannot find any explicit evidence of deliberate intent (as opposed to the case of South Africa), they nonetheless insist that it may be “inferred from the facts” (58). And so, every time Israel places restrictions on Palestinian lives, it is, a priori, with malevolent intent. Then the term “oppress and dominate” appears sixteen times in the report, as if repetition were proof.
Having looked exclusively at the “facts” about Israel’s effort to restrict the Palestinians, with no consideration of the group being so restricted, by insisting on a racial definition (pure identity, behavior irrelevant), and not on the political culture that operates within Palestinian society, the AI report literally erases the very part of the picture that can explain Israeli behavior from their point of view, that understands Israelis as a people struggling with problems, rather than as malevolent, racist oppressors. However strategically or tactically mistaken one might consider it, Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians makes most sense as a series of defensive moves against the cultivated hatred of its sworn enemies. Morally, however, this is far-removed from the embedded malice Amnesty finds everywhere, an attribution of malevolence that slots effortlessly into the Protocols projection: Jews want to dominate gentiles.
The irony, predictably, of this accusation is that one need not “infer from facts” (although one easily could) that Israel’s most implacable enemy among its implacable enemies, Hamas, is just as explicit in its intentions vis-à-vis the “Israeli race” as the South Afrikans were in their legislating “Apartheid” against black Africans. Indeed, by comparison with the South African White Supremacists, the explicit, intentional goals that Hamas (and the religious appointees of the Palestinian Authority), preach repeatedly from mosques and on television, is not the subjection, but the extermination of the Jewish race, “sons of pigs and monkeys,” the world over. Not even Nazi priests and ministers so openly preached genocide. And yet our own media do not inform us about it.
Nor is this malice confined to the Palestinians. Today, the delirious apocalyptic projection of Jewish evil that drove the Nazis, is to be found most often among Muslims, where the Protocols have become a part of the culture, and are considered a sacred Jewish text. Ramadan specials “re-enact” the Jewish Elders using the blood of Muslim children, to seal their pact; and harrowing children’s cartoons depict Jews conspiring with Satan to betray the Prophet. And among global Jihadis, these genocidal apocalyptic hatreds burn brightest.
Thus, whether it intends to or not (mens rea – intent to commit the crime), the Amnesty Report accusing Israel of Apartheid and crimes against humanity, participates in a millennia-long, episodically convulsive, history of Jew-hatred. The Report offers legal and “factual” analysis that permits making Israel a pariah nation (a primary Amnesty and Palestinian goal). In so doing, without explicitly making the link, it offers an “empirical” version of the Holocaust Inversion narrative in which the (innocent) Palestinians are the new Jews, and the (guilty) Israelis the new Nazis.
In so doing, the Report feeds the paranoid, genocidal drives of groups like Hamas, the PA, the Global Jihadis, even as it draws a curtain over their activity. At once they take the side of those who explicitly wish to finish Hitler’s job, the inheritors of the Nazis, and at the same time, accuse Israel of being more cruel, racist, and oppressive than the Nazis. The report shows neither understanding nor compassion towards the Israelis; and shows no awareness of the mens rea of Palestinian leadership whose people’s lives the Israelis unfortunately restrict. It is a paragon of lack of empathy and moral integrity on the one hand, and a recipe for violence and humanitarian catastrophe for both Israelis and Palestinians were it taken seriously.
Amnesty International proclaims its admirable goal. They wish to:
“mobilize the humanity in everyone and campaign for change so we can all enjoy our human rights… We believe that acting in solidarity and compassion with people everywhere can change our societies for the better.”
In the history of a “human rights” organization with such aspirations, this remorselessly uncompassionate report marks a dark day indeed.