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The New McCarthyism
by Sadu Nanjundiah
October 26, 2004

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There has not been a more hateful and ludicrous article in defense of Israel than "The new anti-Semitism" by Clifford May (syndicated by the Scripps-Howard News Service on October 7, 2004). Mr. May reveals his vitriolic biases in blaming the violence in the Middle East on the victims, the Palestinians. Mr. May is President of a Washington group called the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), "a policy institute focusing on terrorism". What people need to also know is that this foundation was co-founded by the godfather of the neocons, Richard Perle, who is not only a diehard supporter of Ariel Sharon but also an author of the disastrous and devastating invasion of Iraq. A Vice-President of the FDD was Nir Boms, a former officer of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC Clifford May is Vice Chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition with the stated goal of "continuing foreign aid to Israel". Evangelical Christians who believe that there will be a second coming of Christ in an Israel ruled by Zionists are also supporters of this foundation. Extreme Republican Party ideologues like Steve Forbes, Newt Gingrich, James Woolsey, Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, are board members or advisers to the Foundation. May also writes regularly for the extreme right-wing National Review Online.

May labels the historic and legitimate Palestinian opposition to European Jewish settlers occupying/colonizing their land and expelling thousands of them from their own homes in 1948, and the continuing Palestinian struggle against Israeli oppression in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank, as "anti-Semitic". The reality is that Israel has been cleansing all of Palestine of its indigenous population, which is the real genocide in this region. But for die-hard Zionists, Israel can never do any wrong and any criticism or negative characterization of its belligerence or oppression is immediately called "anti-Semitic". Thus forever banishing further discussion of Israel's inhuman acts against impoverished and beleaguered Palestinians. For nothing can beat the stigma of being labeled "anti-Semitic", or the ostracism that might follow for following the jackboot of the Nazis!

This tactic is being used increasingly by desperate Zionist, pro-Israeli lobbies in the US because polls indicate that an increasing number of Americans are seeing through the Israeli smokescreen that turns reality upside down and claims all its state terrorism against beleaguered and impoverished Palestinians to be part of America's war against "global terrorism". The pictures and stories, not in the US mainstream media but in plenty of sources in the rest of the world including, ironically, in a courageous and free Israeli press (such as Ha'aretz), tell a different story - of a Palestinian population targeted daily with "precision bombs", of destruction of essential utilities and services. Palestinians have been denied their fundamental human rights for half a century. May states that "about 1000 Israelis have been slaughtered" since the Palestinian intifada started four years ago, and that "Israelis are demonstrating that terrorism can be defeated." He forgets to mention that four times as many Palestinians have been massacred in illegally occupied Palestinian land. And his tactic, one and the same as the Sharon government's and its Zionist American supporters, that of conflating opponents of occupation with "terrorists", will not fool sensible, thinking and honest people. Just as the Bush administration's labeling of the critics of its war on Iraq as "unpatriotic" is wearing thin.

In the most recent Israeli attack in densely populated Northern Gaza, Israeli tanks, helicopter gunships and bulldozers left a trail of death and destruction that was exceptionally savage in its intensity and duration. At least 110 Palestinians were killed, over half of who were civilians including children and women. The injured Palestinians numbered in the several hundreds, and dozens of homes, farms, work places and schools, roads were severely damaged or uprooted. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia vowed that the bloodiest Israeli attack in years were "part of a series, planned to bring our people to their knees, but this will never happen." Increasingly, Israel's brutal oppression of them draws comparisons to the repressive and odious apartheid of racist South Africa against the native Black people.

An in-depth survey of American public opinion on US foreign policy issued by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations in early October 2004 shows a huge gap between public opinion and current US policy in the Middle East. On the question, "Should the US not take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?", 77% of the American public surveyed agreed that the US should be evenhanded in its approach to the issues relating to the conflict. Clearly, the Bush administration's policy of total and unqualified support for Ariel Sharon's relentless war in the illegally occupied territories of Palestine is not what the majority of Americans think is right. Even as worrisome to Israel and its diehard supporters is a secret report from the Israeli foreign ministry that warned that "Israel's world image could fall as low as South Africa's during the apartheid era." The main finding was that Israel could end up being regarded as a pariah state.  The report clearly shows Israel's "sensitivity" to its international image and how it feels the world - aside from the US - has increasingly "turned against it." (BBC News, October 14, 2004). In August 2004, South African law professor John Dugard, the special rapporteur for the United Nations on human rights in Palestine, wrote to the UN General Assembly that there is "an apartheid regime" in the territories "worse than the one that existed in South Africa" (Ha'aretz, August 24, 2004). Dugard called for a general arms embargo against Israel similar to the arms embargo imposed on South Africa in 1977 that helped in the dismantling of apartheid. There have been numerous calls by Palestinian support groups for a general boycott of Israel including Israeli goods and cultural/academic ties. Their justification is Israel's brutal colonization of Palestinian land, expropriation of its resources for exclusive use by Jews, and the deliberate impoverishment, confiscation and destruction of Palestinian people, property and farms.

The report clearly demonstrates that the Sharon government is finding it even harder to justify its widespread acts of devastation and humiliation in occupied Palestine as part of its contribution to the US "war on terrorism". This also explains the indiscriminate charges of "anti-Semitism" (that, of course, are narrowly constructed to be just against Jews, because Arabs are also Semitic and routinely harassed, pilloried and caricatured in the American media and culture) leveled against Palestinians and their supporters by pro-Israeli groups in the West. The "anti-Semitism charge is meant to silence any attempt to even question Israel's oppressive occupation of Palestinian land and its brutal treatment of the long-suffering native people. Many Israeli rabbis, leaders, settlers and even academics have openly called for the removal of all Palestinians from their own homes and land (called ethnic cleansing when it pertains to other people, like the Albanians persecuted in Kosovo) and the killing of Palestinians not to be a crime. They state without any sense of irony, shame or guilt that the wanton killing of Palestinians- even innocent women and children- is an act of "self-defense" to protect Israeli and Jewish lives and interests which are, of course, paramount. Such acts are justified and morally sanctioned by the government and the rabbis notwithstanding their clear violation of the Geneva Conventions, international law and universally acknowledged human rights.

There is little public and no official outrage in the US at such openly expressed racist opinions and relentless violence directed at Palestinians, certainly nothing comparably close to what one hears, sees and reads in the media when Israelis are killed in Palestinian attacks against Israeli occupation and oppression. Palestinian lives are demonized and therefore do not matter. They are regarded as "sub-human" and thus "expendable". The US supplies Israel with billions of dollars in arms and aid annually and connives at and colludes with the latter's daily assault against desperately poor Palestinians. The only self-proclaimed "democracy" in the region behaves like a bandit and a thug and President Bush describes its leader as "a man of peace". The most recent, deadliest yet, Israeli attack against the residents of Gaza was claimed to be against Palestinian "militants" firing makeshift rockets into Israel. It was called Operation "Days of Penitence", in grotesque reference to the Jewish holy days. The collective punishment and indiscriminate carnage inflicted on a crowded Palestinian refugee camp which had no organized defense was exceptional for its sheer ferocity and terror. Here are the mind-numbing statistics of Israel's reprisals against Palestinians fighting for freedom over the past four years. Nearly 4000 Palestinians killed, 50,000 injured, 30,000 arrested, 60,000 homes/buildings demolished, a million olive trees uprooted, not to mention thousands of acres of land and 90% of water resources taken away. In three weeks of Israel's latest attack, its forces killed 32 Palestinian children, including one 13-year-old schoolgirl, Iman al-Hams, by an Israeli commander who fired twenty bullets into her dead body. Israel deliberately destroyed the lives of nearly 4000 Palestinian families in this short duration.

Israeli helicopters routinely fire US supplied "Hellfire" missiles into Palestinian homes, cars and apartments.  It's "valiant" military drops US provided 1-ton bombs from F-16 fighters lurking in the safety of the skies onto crowded Palestinian buildings and market places. These lethal gifts from American taxpayers are supposed to be under the condition that they are not used against civilians. This requirement has never troubled Israel, nor restrained it in its savage belligerence. Neither has it been enforced by the US government. The former Republican National Security Adviser to President Bush Sr., Brent Scowcroft, gave an interview to the London paper, Financial Times, on October 17, saying that the current President Bush was "mesmerized" by Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He continued, "Sharon just has him wrapped around his little finger" even though the Israeli Prime Minister (notorious for his war crimes against Palestinians over several decades) "has been nothing but trouble". 

One could characterize the pusillanimous, collaborative attitude of the US Congress to Israel's monstrous behavior similarly. Other than some members of the Black Congressional Caucus and Ron Paul (R) and Denis Kucinich (D), there is no criticism of Israel's unending oppression of Palestinians in the illegally occupied territories. And those who dare are attacked by pro-Israeli groups with a viciousness that would do a pit-bull proud (as Representatives Ike Hilliard and Cynthia McKinney discovered in the 2002 elections). The media is equally silent at Israel's atrocities committed daily against a helpless people that the world seems to have shamelessly and disgracefully abandoned at the altar of expediency. The less said about the leaders of the other "great" and "lesser" powers, eve those that claim the mantle of being at the forefront of the "anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist struggle", the better.  Most recently, the last remaining worldwide beacon for freedom with justice, the African National Congress of South Africa, caved in. Shamelessly, the government of Thabo Mbeki received the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and chief cohort of Ariel Sharon,  Ehud Olmert, on a state visit on October 19. It was to enhance the trade ties between the two countries. Olmert and South Africa's Trade Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa praised the agreement as a sign of closer relations between the two countries. Several protesters representing pro-Palestinian groups, unions and the Movement for Landless People denounced the agreement as a sell-out by the African National Congress (ANC) to Israel saying that Mbeki's government was engaging in hypocrisy by criticizing Israel politically but encouraging trade for financial gains. It was particularly disgraceful given the fact of Israel's apartheid policies against the Palestinian people and the ANC's leadership in the successful struggle to overthrow it. Other governments and leaders, like from India and China, seem to be turning a blind eye to their own historic experiences for the sake of Israeli "trinkets", like advanced defense  technology. Or beholden to Israel for gaining favorable treatment in the corridors of the emperor's court through its control of the powerful Israeli lobbies in Washington.  They are afraid to challenge Israel's claim to be a "democratic" state that abides by international law and civilized practices in its dealings with the Palestinian people for fear of antagonizing the US and losing its favors if not facing its wrath.

But there are slow changes in the offing.  Thanks to skeptical and daring students, conscientious people of religion, and brave and honest American human rights activists (Rachel Corrie comes immediately to mind) and academics, willing to face not only Israeli bullets and bulldozers (supplied by the Caterpillar company of Peoria, Illinois) but also scurrilous and potentially devastating charges of "anti-Semitism" leveled at them by the powerful Israeli lobby (AIPAC, Anti-Defamation League, Campus Watch, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and many more Zionist groups, disproportionate in number to the people they claim to represent), Americans are realizing what people in the rest of the world already know - that the myth of Israel as "David" fighting the "Goliath" of Arabs (leaders of which countries have all but abandoned  the Palestinian people), is just that. The reality is an apartheid Israel with the fourth most powerful military in the world, equipped with over 200 nuclear weapons, a secret cache of chemical and biological weapons and missiles to deliver this deadly cocktail beyond the Middle East. The reality is an Israeli society that is racist and militarized and considers itself immune from the purview of international law or conventions and that disdains any respect for the human rights of Palestinians. It is not the romantic Israel of books and movies, battling valiantly against "terrorists" and conquering harsh nature thus setting a "heroic" example for all humanity.

The tide is turning in America, where it counts most, against Israel's horrific, unjustifiable and unconscionable violence against the people of Palestine. Not only from academia that has started exposing the harshness and cruelty of Palestinian existence under the Israeli gun, but also from religious Christian groups that cannot reconcile the monstrous Israeli violence against Palestinian society with the Judeo-Christian faith. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is pursuing withdrawal of its investments from some US companies with ties to the occupied Palestinian territories and the Socially Responsible Investment panel of the Episcopal Church is also considering the idea.

No wonder the Clifford May's have become doubly energized in their "anti-Semitic" crusade, to do battle against, and silence, those who are attempting to set the record straight on this asymmetric, half-century conflict in the Middle East and prevent, thereby, the annihilation (or expulsion) of the Palestinians on (from) their own land.  But like the legend of the shepherd boy calling "wolf" once to often, such dishonest efforts by the shrill Israeli lobby will be rejected as increasing   numbers of Americans examine the historical record and scrutinize the immutable facts of the Palestinian struggle for freedom with justice.

Sadu Nanjundiah teaches physics at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut, and works with the Coalition for Social Justice, a group of faculty and students at CCSU that discusses and acts on issues of peace and justice, locally and internationally. Email:

Other Articles by Sadu Nanjundiah

* India's Duplicity in the Middle East
* Hulagu Bush
* Life During Wartime
* Endgame
* Israel/Palestine: An Open Letter to the Corporate Media
Manufactured Incidents: Lessons from History