Is the West Comparatively Racism Free?

I have not read Max Blumenthal’s book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, but I am in solidarity with his opposition to racism in “Israel.” I was, however, very disappointed by his and Paul Jay’s interview segment were Blumenthal smeared Gilad Atzmon on air. Jay acquiesced to this smear and refused Atzmon a chance to defend himself. It was gutter journalism.1 It is deplorable because The Real News is among the best video information sources out there. The fact that such news appears in independent media reinforces the stringent need for informed skepticism among media viewers/readers to appraise not just a source but also the content of each article/episode.

I like the fearless style of Jay Knott’s writing, and I am in solidarity with his opposition to supremacism. However, in his review of Blumenthal’s book, I could not accept some of the points he posits.2

Knott writes, “He [Blumenthal] is a left-wing Jewish American journalist. The book assumes that the left/right political dichotomy is meaningful, not only in America, but in the Jewish state.”

The distinction between the political Left and Right is often garbled and of lesser importance that a more meaningful construct such as the distinction between capitalists and progressives. Progressivism is not primarily based in a political orientation but in the principles that undergird it. Thus, to be critical of the Left, as Atzmon is, comes across as a strawman. Significant is not where one aligns oneself on the political continuum but where one aligns oneself on a moral spectrum, as well as the validation of the principle of Natural Right inherent to all human societies.

Knott continues, “He [Blumenthal] writes as if Israel can be reformed.”

Implicit in that sentence is that Knott believes that Israel cannot be reformed. Reforms can go in any direction, for instance, toward a regressivist or a progressivist government and society. A reform is not a revolution, but from a Gestaltist perspective, the overall reformation could be greater than the sum of the reforms. Prior to the presidency of F.W. de Klerk the prospects of an end to apartheid in South Africa were also bleak. But times and circumstances do change. Under a Binyamin Netanyahu administration, though, one is not optimistic of meaningful, progressivist reform, and the same goes for the other parties on the Israeli political scene.

JK: A national priority is something which can be changed. But a Jewish majority is what Israel is.

Analysis: The national priority changed in South Africa. A country ruled by a White minority is what South Africa was. This holds for the current illegitimate situation where the entity Israel exists as an ethnically cleansed state delimited to the 1948 or 1967 borders (though Israel recognizes no borders to its state);3 it is a Jewish majority, but if the Right of Return is adhered to, then that all changes. If South Africa could change its priority and raison d’être, then why not Israel? Whites continue to live in South Africa, why would Jews, so desiring, not continue to reside in historical Palestine after Israel would dissolve itself as a racist state?

JK: … normal Western countries can be, and are continually being, reformed. They are critical of their own histories, particularly in regard to racial oppression.

Analysis: “Normal”? I will confine myself to the western country of “Canada.” I place the name in quotation marks because it, like Israel, is an illegitimate entity. Unless one concedes that erecting a state through the dispossession and genocide of an Indigenous people is legitimate, then Canada, like Israel, is illegitimate. Canada, like Israel, has pushed its Indigenous people off the bulk of the profitable portion of the land, and has enacted and upheld racist laws against the Indigenous people,4 and barred Original Peoples access to legal redress.5

In what universe can a person – seriously and meaningfully – argue that the West is critical of its racist history when it still carries out the racist policies? In the case of Canada, this would include the maintenance of postage-stamp sized reserves, the mass incarceration rates of Indigenous people compared to the non-Indigenous people in Canada,6 the continuation of the Indian [sic] Act, the refusal to recognize Indigenous title with rights spelled out to that title, and the continued attempt to abolish Indigenous title and extinguish “Indian status” in Canada.7 Does this not adduce a state based in racism? It is a hidden history in Canada and the USA, much as it is kept under the cover in Israel.

A further comparison will reveal the preposterousness of trumpeting western non-racism and an exclusive Israeli racism. In Canada there are two official national languages: French and English. The Indigenous languages are not recognized nationally; in fact, the Indigenous languages are — by design — endangered.8 Israel, on the other hand does accord official status to Arabic, and the language is extant. Israel also recognizes five state religions, among them Arabic and Christianity. Canada is nominally secular, but historically it has sought to Christianize Original Peoples and deprive them of their spirituality, traditions, and economies.9 On these two criteria, how does Israel stack up vis-à-vis Canada on respect for its ethnicities?

JK: Israel stands alone in its self-righteousness.

Analysis: As already discussed, Israel does not stand alone in self-righteousness. The major difference between Israel and western hemispheric states, along with Australia and Aotearoa, is that the dispossession and genocide have proceeded much further down the annexation-enabling road. A difference would be the use of assimilation in the western states to disappear the Indigenous peoples. Assimilation as a tactic is unavailable to Jews, even if supremacist beliefs were suspended, because their population numbers vis-à-vis the Palestinians do not allow for a timely success without even more gargantuan blood-spilling.

JK: But, unlike equality for minorities in Western countries like the USA, equality for Israel’s Arab minority would make no difference to the basic fact that Israel, the Jewish state, is an implementation of imagined racial supremacy. They’re a minority because most of them were driven out.

Analysis: What is Manifest Destiny if not an imagined supremacy? When the US ignores a ruling of the World Court or refuses to recognize the International Court of Justice, it is arguably setting itself up as an entity above international law. When the White Europeans engaged in Machiavellian treaty making or merely evoked Eminent Domain to dispossess peoples, derided as “savages,” already living on the land, these very practices point to a supremacist belief.

In the current context, it is important to distinguish between equality according to law and how this equality plays out, for example, in economic and educational opportunities, and before the courts. It matters little to be granted equality as a right and then continue to live under unequal circumstances.

JK: … the war in Vietnam really was a US policy, and that is why it could be changed. Ditto, US aggression in the Middle East. The imposition of Jewish supremacy is not an Israeli policy. It is what Israel is.

Analysis: This is non-argument, and it is semantics. The policy that you abide by, of course, in some way defines you. The United States pursues aggressive imperialism, and hence it is an aggressive imperialistic state, and it continues with its militaristic violence to the present day. Why would one argue that the US is only imperialistic by policy and yet somehow not be an imperialistic country? The policy in South Africa was apartheid, and, of course, South Africa under White administrations was a racist apartheid country. What South Africa demonstrates is that if such a policy could change there, then why not Israel? The distinction between policy and what one is, in this sense, makes little sense.

JK: … since the Western countries (the USA, Britain, France, etc.) have repudiated racial supremacy, and enforced compliance with that repudiation, and Israel is, by its very definition, based on racial supremacy, the Western countries should, if they follow their own standards, boycott Israel until it grants citizenship only to those born in Palestine, and those whose recent ancestors were born in Palestine, in other words, ceases to exist.

Analysis: This is, with all due respect, either uniformed or hypocritical. I allude back to the aforementioned that the western states are founded in and based in racism to the present day. It is an Achilles heel of many anti-Zionists who turn a blind eye to the crimes of their own state while castigating Jewish Zionist racism. Even if Canada were not a racist state in its treatment of minorities, particularly the Original Peoples, then it would still be racist by virtue of its belligerent support of Zionist Jews in their occupation and oppression of Palestinians, a pro-Israel support across the political spectrum.

Knott’s argument is born dead. The US and European wars since 1991 demonstrate that, besides geo-strategic gains and control of natural resources, racial motivation is that basic locomotive that drives US aggressions and expansions in the world. When the US calls all those it kills in its wars “collateral damage,” the implication is eloquent: the lives of “ragheads,” “hadjis,” “towelheads,” “sandniggers,” etc. (more respectfully referred to as Iraqis, Afghanis, Libyans, Syrians, etc.) are expendable. This exemplifies racial supremacist attitudes, pure and simple.

JK: There are three major differences between South African apartheid and Israel. One is that, unlike apartheid, Israel exists. The second, is that Israel is Jewish. Finally, South Africa merely had to change its laws, but if Israel abandoned racial supremacy, it would no longer be the Jewish state. The complete contrast between the treatments of these two implementations of racial supremacy means that Jews have special rights in the Western world, and that white gentiles do not. It follows that opposing racial supremacy today therefore means, first and foremost, dismantling Jewish privilege, and that the “anti-racist” industry’s continuing emphasis on the critique of “white privilege” is, to put it charitably, a diversion.

Analysis: All racism is supremacist. Implicit in racism is that one’s own race is superior to another race.

Yes, abandoning Jewish supremacy would entail that Israel would no longer be the Jewish state. It would be as today: a state of Jews, Palestinians, Druze, and others.

If, however, Israel were nominally a state of all its people and still practiced economic apartheid, it would be no better than most western states in the world today which nominally renounce racism. Nonetheless, when one holds a magnifying to the practices within the states, one sees all too often a segregation between haves and have-nots where the have-nots are preponderantly people of color.

The paradox is that by proffering that the West is more enlightened, has repudiated, or even practices a lesser form of racism, one might argue that the West believes itself superior in its morality … pointing to a cultural/moral supremacism.

A principled position would be to acknowledge and rebuke all racism, in whatever degree, in policy and practice and to hold one’s own state to the same or higher morality than one demands of foreign states.

  1. Kim Petersen, “Independent News as Vehicle for Character Assassination,” Dissident Voice, 23 August 2013. []
  2. Working as an editor with the writer, we agreed that I’d write my objections in another article. See “Probing Max Blumenthal’s Goliath,” Dissident Voice, December 2013. []
  3. Haaretz and Reuters, “Report: Palestinians to demand Israel recognize general border as precondition for talks,” Haaretz, 19 July 2013. []
  4. See The Colonial Present: The Rule of Ignorance and the Role of Law in British Columbia (Clarity Press and International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, 2013). []
  5. See inter alia, Bruce Clark, Native Liberty, Crown Sovereignty: The Elusive Aboriginal Right of Self-Government in Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990). Dacajeweiah (Splitting the Sky) aka John Boncore Hill with She Keeps the Door (Sandra Bruderer), The Autobiography of Dacajeweiah [Splitting the Sky] John Boncore Hill, From Attica to Gustafsen Lake — Unmasking the Secrets of the Psycho-sexual Energy and the Struggle for Original People’s Title (John Pasquale Boncore, 2001) (see review); Kim Petersen “Canadian Settler Injustice against First Nations, Media Monitors, 23 November 2004. []
  6. See my Land & Jail series at The Dominion: “Land & Jail: Ipperwash, official racism and the future of Ontario, 23 September 2008. “Part II: Canada’s incarceration strategy,” 5 January 2009. Part III: Challenging the disproportionate incarceration of First Nations in Canada, 29 March 2009. []
  7. Kerry Coast, The Colonial Present: The Rule of Ignorance and the Role of Law in British Columbia (Clarity Press and International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, 2013). See review. []
  8. Andrea Bear Nicholas, “Linguicide: Submersion education and the killing of languages in Canada,” Briarpatch, 1 March 2011. []
  9. “The missionaries … did everything they could to undo the traditions of centuries– and in most cases were successful.” (p. 74) from “The Vision of Chief Neewk’klah’kanoosh” in E.C. Meyers (Ed.), Totem Tales: Legends from the Rainforest, (Surrey, BC: Hancock House, 2005). []

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.