Azmi Bishara: We must expose those using antisemitism allegations to protect Israel as neo-McCarthyists

Azmi Bishara: We must expose those using antisemitism allegations to protect Israel as neo-McCarthyists
Dr Azmi Bishara said those using allegations of antisemitism in order to protect Israel from genocide accusations needed to be exposed and shamed.
10 min read
05 March, 2024
Dr Azmi Bishara said that no one should expect anything from the Arab regimes [Getty]

Those standing in solidarity with the Palestinians, and Arab residents in the West, must go on the offensive not just the defensive vis-a-vis malicious accusations of antisemitism against them, saidDirector of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, Dr Azmi Bishara in a new interview, describing what is happening as a form of McCarthyism.

Bishara urged those standing in Palestine solidarity to expose and shame those using the accusation to protect Israel and its allies in the wake of allegations that they are committing genocide in Gaza.

"We should shift from a defensive position to the attack", legally, in the media and politically, against Israel's narrative and those peddling it in the US and Europe, he appealed.

Bishara believes "our situation would've been much worse" if not for solidarity activists in the West.

Likewise, he advised that people should stop expecting any real stance from the Arab regimes, many of whom must be held accountable for complicity in the genocide.

He also described the airdrop of aid in Gaza as an insult, reflecting a refusal to pressure Israel and a desire to put pressure on Hamas.

Bishara warned that it would be difficult to form a united Palestinian leadership which would resist [Israel's occupation] if the normalisation project continued with new Arab states entering relations with Tel Aviv.

He stressed that the Palestinian Authority (PA)'s return to Gaza would be impossible without the consent of Hamas even after the war.

He said that the West and Israel's selective facilitation of certain parties' ability to get aid and funds into Gaza more so than others was being done to whitewash their image. He also pointed out that temporarily halting the war under a truce would ease the embarrassment of Israel's allies.

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Antisemitism and McCarthyism

In his latest interview with Alaraby TV on Sunday night, Bishara spoke about the roots of antisemitism in Europe, and how antisemitism had no historical connection with the Arab world, where hatred of Jews qua Jews was unknown.

He said that after World War II, antisemitism was no longer the threat it used to be in Europe after the evolution of the laws, culture and political scene there, yet Israel weaponises antisemitism in the West to assume the role of the victim when it is perpetrating crimes, according to his analysis.

Bishara sees this situation as comfortable for Europe, because it allows it to transfer its guilt into another region, while adopting bigotry towards the immigrant 'other', Muslims for the most part.

Bishara views such weaponised accusations of antisemitism as having become a tool for ideological repression in the West. However, he considers there to be a silver lining to this, which is that "Israel's need to suppress its opponents in Europe using a trumped-up pretext... instead of its old propaganda devices, such as being "the only democracy in the Middle East", is evidence that the Israeli narrative is no longer convincing," he said.

He described the struggle today in the West as crucial "because the alliance [with the West] is important to Israel, with the scale of the alliance becoming clear after 7 October, as well as the fact that Israel could not keep going without this alliance".

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Bishara said that "in our struggle, we need to formulate our cause according to the humanitarian principles and values which the West claims to espouse. Further, we need to be able to influence world public opinion and decision-makers because we need to stop expecting anything from the Arab regimes".

Bishara brought up the case Nicaragua raised against Germany recently at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing it of complicity in the genocide in Gaza, adding that this accusation must also be directed towards the Arab states.

Regarding Palestine solidarity activists and those disgusted at how Israel was conducting the war, Bishara noted that these circles are widening, and "our situation would've been a lot worse if these movements hadn't been present in the West".

Bishara brought up what he stated in a lecture at the Conference for Arab Graduate Students in Western Universities held a few days ago in Doha; that it was necessary to carry the struggle (with peaceful means) in the West "with rational discussion and without exaggerations, to prove that our stance is correct and [we aren't just trying to] uphold freedom of expression, i.e. proving what is happening in Gaza is actually genocide, and that Israel is actually an apartheid regime".

To do this, it is necessary to "flip the antisemitism accusation into exposing and shaming [those using it for their agenda]" – shifting from defence to attack to confront the new McCarthyism prevailing in Europe and the US.

Bishara acknowledged that these efforts would be primarily legal, and would likely be expensive. He added that the Zionists had long experience in amassing small donations and funds from communities, networking and setting up funds, "and this is something lacking with regards to the Arabs and Muslims".

However, he pointed out that there had been successful legal precedents of this kind in the US, and anticipated that Arab and Muslim communities would follow in the footsteps of their US counterparts, in order to defend themselves and their interests.

Remarking on what he called insufficient solidarity in the Arab world with the Palestinian issue, Bishara stressed the fact that though Arab citizens are powerless and oppressed, it does not justify the current [low] level of solidarity and said what was expected was much more.

Ceasefire in Gaza?

Responding to a question about his view on the possibility a truce and prisoner exchange deal would be reached between Hamas and Israel, Bishara believes there has been strong international pressure following the major embarrassments Israel is causing its allies with its horrific crimes, the last of which was the Al-Rashid Street massacre, which would have stirred the global conscience - "if there was a global conscience" as he put it.

He pointed out that even truce which only temporarily halted the war would ease the embarrassment felt by Israel's allies.

"However (Israeli PM Benjamin) Netanyahu is unconcerned with that, and is trying to keep going, and fears that a long ceasefire could hinder resuming the war later, and that the army won't be able to keep up the energy to re-enter battle once more".

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He thinks Netanyahu is probably still maneuvering to sabotage the agreement, and if he isn't able to obstruct it he will try to improve its conditions (in a way that suits him).

Bishara reiterated his opinion that the current US Administration was completely incapable of restraining Netanyahu, however US President Biden had embarrassed himself by setting Monday (today) as the date for the ceasefire.

The issue of Ramadan and the need for a ceasefire before it begins (around March 11) is also important for all parties, Bishara added.

Continuing on the same topic, he reiterated that the US wasn't moving in the direction of stopping the war, rather just changing the way it was being fought - in a way which would allow the elimination of Hamas' power and ability to govern Gaza later.

Meanwhile, Israel wants to continue without any restrictions against it continuing its brutal methods.

Bishara disclosed that the US was trying to convince Hamas through mediators to agree to the current agreement, based on the consideration that a ceasefire in accordance with stage one (lasting 35-45 days) would make it hard to resume the war, but without any guarantees.

Bishara pointed out how keen Tel Aviv is to prevent any reorganisation of normal life in Gaza being able to emerge. The evidence for this was that during every simple military truce, elements from Gaza's former government would attempt to reestablish some order to life and curb the chaos. Whenever Israel realised this, it would resume its bombardment to frustrate any organisational efforts of this kind.

He explained that Israel wants to control the movement of people between the north and south, and it might facilitate movement from the Rafah area to other regions soon to lessen the number of inhabitants there, which would make its war on the southern governorate easier.

Meanwhile, he described dropping aid from the air as "an insult and complicity with Israel's methods of starvation and siege". He believed that parties were dropping aid from the air "as a result of their reluctance to put pressure on Israel, and [desire] instead to put pressure on Hamas, and simultaneously appear in the media as though they are doing something about the humanitarian catastrophe."

Gantz isn't rebelling against Netanyahu

Bishara explained that war cabinet minister Benny Gantz's current trip to Washington wasn't a rebellion against Netanyahu, because he wasn't under Netanyahu's umbrella nor part of the government coalition.

Instead, he had entered the war cabinet to preserve his popular status during the war and was responding to his social base which hates Netanyahu.

Therefore, he wanted to distinguish himself from him and the best way of doing that is to ensure he has a solid relationship with the US.

Bishara added that Netanyahu considered American advice dangerous to him, and believed it could cause Israel to lose. He asserted that while the US wasn't pleased at Netanyahu's behaviour, it was "a timid displeasure".

On the subject of Gantz, Bishara added that the US is interested in promoting and supporting Gantz in any coming elections which could happen this year due to the escalating political crisis in Israel.

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This relates to the exemption of ultra-orthodox Jews from military service, with arguments over that issue mixing with arguments over the legal reforms, all of which have taken on the form of a secular-religious conflict. And he explained that the present period of war presented a suitable moment for the secularists to incite against the representatives of the ultra-religious.

Palestinian unity talks in Moscow

On the meeting of Palestinian factions held in Moscow last week, Bishara was not hopeful that anything positive would come out of it. In his view it was a meeting like others in the past, and while the political statement from it was good, the factions had also shown keenness to unify in the past.

However, when the issue came to the PA, it would falter, especially with regards to Fatah. It was as though there were [an inability to merge] the duality of being a faction on the one hand, and being the backbone of the PA on the other, according to his assessment.

Bishara reiterated his view that for a government to gain international acceptance, it would need to exist within the framework of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) – in order for the chance to be exploited to impose a just solution, or at least, to frustrate any possibility that "a new Oslo" be imposed on Gaza.

Moreover, he warned that overcoming the division was not only needed when it came to Fatah and Hamas, but also between Gaza and the West Bank.

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He asserted that the disaster could be transformed into an opportunity if a united leadership were formed which stuck to [its demand for] a just solution and confronted what was being planned for it by Israel, the US and Arab states.

This is because the Palestinian cause "has never in its history witnessed anything like this global amassing [of support] and mobilisation in its interest".

He warned that "we will miss [this chance] if there is a leadership with clipped wings prepared to be an agent for the occupation in Gaza, and it won't be possible for the PA to return to Gaza without agreement from Hamas, even after the war".

He continued: "If a Palestinian leadership is created which speaks in the name of resistance against the occupation, it will be difficult for additional Arab countries to carry on their normalisation project with Israel".

But only a united leadership of this sort would be able to prevent Israel and its allies from transforming the victim into the guilty, and stop Israel partnering with Arab states to govern Gaza, he said.

On a topic that could be linked to what is being planned for Gaza in particular, and Palestine in general, Bishara spoke about the fact that "certain parties are currently allowed more than others to bring aid and money into Gaza, the goal of which is to whitewash their image".