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Sam Hamad

'Zio-centrism' plagues pro-Palestine leftists

Some leftists are guilty of fetishising Palestinian suffering above Syrian suffering, writes Hamad [Andalou]

Date of publication: 24 January, 2017

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Comment: Why do some leftists support the Palestinian cause, but remain silent on Syrian suffering? They are tacitly justifying Assad, Iran and Russia's genocidal war, says Sam Hamad.

The recent expose by Al-Jazeera on the activities of the Israel lobby in UK politics merely demonstrates what everyone, or at least anyone with even a remote interest in how modern politics works, already knows. 

It ought to come as no shock that officials and supporters of the Israeli state are willing to cynically exploit anti-Semitism and conflate it with criticism of Israel's criminal activities against Palestinians. 

All states and their agents would, and indeed do engage in such activities, with the immediate difference being that Israel is a state engaged in active and, since 1967 if not 1948, constant conflict, oppression and criminality. 

It has an active reason to propagandise and lobby in such a manner, but, as we've seen, at the most extreme end of the spectrum, with Russia's intervention in last year's US presidential elections, never mind its alleged sordid relationship with President Donald Trump, this kind of activity is hardly unique to Israel. 

Yet Israel's activities will capture the imagination and nourish the outrage of a certain milieu more than Russia's unprecedented interference in US politics ever will.

It's not that a certain amount of outrage and intrigue in Israel's activities are not warranted. The expose focuses on the activities of the Israel lobby and its links to the Conservative government, as well as the activities of the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) and its connections to the Israeli Embassy. 

Such has been the fallout of the expose that Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for an inquiry into the activities of the lobby.

For much of the political Left, 'anti-Zionism' or support for the Palestinian cause has become a fetish

The lobbying activities of the Israeli government, whether in an official, unofficial and semi-official capacity, come as no surprise to me. However, what I find most interesting is the issues it raises regarding questions relating to the Left, such as Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, and their commitment to what they call "anti-Zionism" in the era of the Arab Spring. 

One of the issues raised by the expose is that of alleged antisemitism within the Labour Party, which have dogged the party ever since the avowed 'anti-Zionist' Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the party. The expose allegedly demonstrates how incidents of antisemitism are being stoked by members of the Labour Friends of Israel deliberately.

While there's no doubt that proponents of Israel, especially the demagogic government of Binyamin Netanyahu, cynically uses and exploits antisemitism to discredit legitimate criticism of Israel (the Israeli Defence Minister recently compared France's hosting of an Israel-Palestine peace summit as being akin to the Dreyfus Affair), one must in turn look at the way the political Left cynically uses criticism of Israel. 

The main phenomenon in question here, which has been noted by others, is the proximity of the allegedly pro-Palestinian Left to active or tacit support for the genocidal, counter-revolutionary war effort of Bashar al-Assad, along with his patrons Iran and Russia. 

If the Arab Spring was about anything, it was about challenging the logics of tyranny and oppression that have reigned supreme in the Middle East for decades

One of the great tropes of supporters of Israel's criminality is to use what is known as 'whataboutery' - deflecting attention away from Israel's crimes by focussing attention on the perceived crimes of the Palestinians or even other countries. Alternatively, they claim that critics of Israel unduly focus on Israel's crimes, despite there being worse crimes occurring in the world. 

In usual circumstances, this tactic can be easily identified and dismissed, but when the proponents of the Palestinian cause find themselves using the same arguments in support of Bashar al-Assad as those used by proponents of Israel, they actively legitimise these questions posed by defenders of Israel. 

When, for example, Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly stands in parliament and likens the Syrian rebels to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, why is he any better than a propagandist for Israel who makes the same claims about Hamas? When he writes for the notoriously pro-Assad Stop the War Coalition and accuses 'western-backed' Syrian rebels of 'attacking' the Assad regime, why is he any better than a pro-Israel mouthpiece who would accuse the 'Iranian-backed' Hamas of 'attacking' Israel?

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev, known to many news watchers as the monotone defender of every Israeli atrocity going, recently said that the political Left in the West were 'more Palestinian than the Palestinians'.

Cultivating the idea of Israel as a unique evil has been used by regional tyrants from Nasser to Assad to the Iranian regime - to deflect from their own barbaric practices for decades

While Regev's motivations for this observation are entirely ignoble, it doesn't mean that he isn't on to something. For much of the political Left, 'anti-Zionism' or support for the Palestinian cause has become a fetish, one born of the idea that Israel's crimes are uniquely outrageous because western governments tend to support them, but which has given rise to what I call a 'Zio-centric' view of not just the Middle East, but often the world in general. 

According to the Zio-centric worldview, every event, cause or struggle is subordinated to the real or imagined machinations and issues regarding 'Zionism', which is why people like Jeremy Corbyn see no conflict in simultaneously criticising Israel's crimes against the Palestinians while reproducing its narratives to attack the Syrian rebels. 

It's the Zio-centric worldview that saw 'anti-Zionist' activists on social media, during the time when Israel's barbaric attacks on Gaza coincided with Assad's genocidal war in Syria, having to check whether a dead Arab child has been murdered by Assad or Israelis before they could pornographically exploit it for the purposes of their outrage. 

  Read More: Smears and astroturfing: UK Israeli embassy's techniques revealed

In fact, even for those who buy into fetishising Palestinian suffering above Syrian suffering, you had a situation where pro-Palestinian activists were largely silent as the Assad regime besieged and murdered Palestinian refugees in Syria.

It's the Zio-centric worldview that sees Asa Winstanley, a writer with the pro-Palestinian media outlet Electronic Intifada, write an article in the 'anti-Zionist' Jacobin magazine claiming that Israel is allied with 'al-Qaeda' in Syria in order to 'prolong the civil war', and weaken the anti-Zionist 'resistance' of Hizballah, Iran and Assad.  

It's the Zio-centric worldview that allows the notorious 'anti-Zionist' and paid propagandist for both Russia and Iran, George Galloway to claim not just that it was this infernal alliance of Israel and al-Qaeda that was behind the sarin gas attacks that killed over a thousand Syrians at Ghouta, but that Israel engineered the Euromaidan uprising in Ukraine in order to undermine Assad's patron, Russia. 

And this is a key point - this Zio-centric worldview often taps into and directly appeals to old anti-Semitic tropes regarding the sinister omnipresence of Jews and 'Zionist conspiracies'. This is what is being conjured when people perpetuate notions of Israel funding al-Qaeda in Syria to keep the conflict going, or that Israel is behind the Ghouta attack. 

Israel is related to with hysteria and considered as a supreme evil - its actions are seen as being uniquely sinister.

'Anti-Zionism', as it exists today, often mimics these tyrant-justifying logics of 'Zio-centrism'

It ought to go without saying that there should be outrage and activism against Israel's criminality against Palestinians, or indeed its underhand lobbying activities, but if the Arab Spring was about anything, it was about challenging the logics of tyranny and oppression that have reigned supreme in the Middle East for decades. 

Israel's occupation is part of this general regional logic, but so is the exploitation and fetishisation of Palestinian suffering and the cultivation of the idea of Israel as a unique evil - this has been used by regional tyrants - from Nasser to Assad to the Iranian regime - to deflect from their own barbaric practices in government for decades.

In the era where Assad and his patrons are carrying out genocide, this logic has attained an even more immediately brutal application.

It's for this reason that one must understand that 'anti-Zionism', as it exists today, often mimics these tyrant-justifying logics of 'Zio-centrism', while reproducing anti-Semitic tropes. 

In this sense, those who identify with the Palestinian cause but who are silent on Syrian suffering or supportive of the forces causing Syrian suffering must answer the question of why Syrian life is worth less than Palestinian life and why Israel's crimes are somehow worse than the crimes of Assad, Iran and Russia.

The most ironic thing is that both sides exist in a bizarre symbiosis - Israel's propagandists underhandly exploit the 'Zio-centrism' of its critics to deflect and justify criminality against Palestinians, while Assad, Iran and their supporters exploit and amplify such underhandedness to justify their Zio-centrism and deflect from their own barbaric crimes. 

Netanyahu and Assad must laugh heartily, while Syrians and Palestinians continue to suffer.


Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff. 

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