When to be pro-Israeli is to overcompensate for anti-Semitism

My old psychology dictionary of terms informs me that overcompensation can be ‘a Freudian defence mechanism, whereby an individual attempts to offset weakness in an area of their lives by focusing on another aspect of it.’ I had thought to look this up after thinking about the recent spell of disavowed anti-Semite, Israel supporters.

First I thought back to those English Defence League marches, where 2 things are promised every time; that an Israeli flag will appear to show solidarity with Israelis over Muslims (like it was a simple choice between the two), and a couple of beered up scummies will produce the fascist salute (for examples see here and here).

Second I remembered Michal Kaminski, the Polish MEP who leads the Conservatives new EU grouping, and his of pro-Israeli rhetoric to confront his anti-Semitic past (for examples see here and here).

And lastly I remembered Nick Griffin as he stumbled over his words on Question Time tell the audience that his party was the only one to give full support to Israel and their right to exist during its clashes with Gaza, or more precisely:

“[National Socialists in UK] loathe me because I have brought the British National Party from being, frankly, an anti-Semitic and racist organisation into being the only political party which, in the clashes between Israel and Gaza, stood full square behind Israel’s right to deal with Hamas terrorists.”

Interestingly with the last example, Griffin was one of those anti-Semitic members of the British National Party. He was the author of a pamphlet entitled Who are the Mindbenders (have a guess, go on) in which Jewish names are listed to testify that Jews control the media. Grffin’s argument is to suggest that Jews are responsible for indoctrinating people to think that criticising Jewish people is automatically anti-Semitic, appreciation for multiculturalism is fine, homosexuality is not “creepy” and Britishness is racist.

This of course is not “saleable” (to use Griffin’s own words) so Griffin appeals to using language like left-liberal controlled, meaning, of course, much the same (the words he uses ratifies more with people who also think the BBC runs on a bias, but use of the word Jews may run contrary to many “patriots” negative view of the Nazis).

Interesting it is that these people, especially the latter two, choose pro-Israeli, or Zionist, sentiment to undercut their otherwise anti-Semitic image. Not unique however.

Adolf Eichmann, the man known as ‘the architect of the Holocaust’, a Nazi who managed to juggle two seemingly inharmonious positions as anti-Semite and Zionist, whose aim was to channel as many European Jews as possible to Palestine. Eichmann was encouraged by one Baron Van Mildenstein – a man who wanted to forge a collaboration between Nazis and Zionists – to study Jewish society and history so as better to understand the Jewish enemy. Eichmann did so, earning him a special place in the Reich. Before long Eichmann changed his mind on promoting a strong Jewish state, but nonetheless his Zionism was situated on the idea that the Jews belonged elsewhere, and that a small section of the Middle East, mandated by the British, would be where that place was sited.

The Final Solution was an act that aimed to destroy the Jewish race from the root, an act most favoured by Nazis then and now, but Eichmann’s Zionism – before his part in the Holocaust – was to separate Jews from other Europeans, something Eichmann himself felt was borne, not out of anti-Semitism, but, on the basis that races can not mix, particularly the Jewish race. He also denied turning from a Saul to a Paul on the matter, wanting to secure Jewish racial particularism, or, simply, one place for Jews and a European place for aryans.

The charge that an individuals pro-Israeli words should write off an anti-Semitic history is a most naive way of disavowal, but nonetheless, rather typical behaviour of someone who is either in, or wants to be in, the political mainstream.

As Mehdi Hasan, New Statesman senior political editor, recently replied to Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, are we ‘really so naive [to think that] supporters of Israel can’t be anti-Semitic at the same time?’ The pro-Israeli overcompensation by the above should provide real answers to this question.

26 Responses to When to be pro-Israeli is to overcompensate for anti-Semitism

  1. Paul says:

    Racism begins with our families, parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents, people we admire, respect and love.

    However, as we grow and mature we come to the realization that what we were told by of family when we were children were slanted lies base on their prejudices. We realize that most people are more alike than different and want the same things, like a home, steady work, a Medicare plan and schools for our children (if you travel you will see this).

    We realize that most people are of good hearts and goodwill.

    This current climate of blaming others for our woes is not new. We have had this before and we have conquered it .

    Remember “Evil flourishes when good men (and women) do nothing”. Raise your voices with those of us who believe we are equal and we can again win this battle.

  2. Thomas Byrne says:

    I think you’re off the mark when it comes to the EDL, who don’t really know anything about Israel. It’s more to ‘wind the mussys’ up.

    On Kaminski, as well. I don’t think the accusations of anti semitism stand up to scrutiny. Support for the section 28 type laws do but considering that Poland is a hugely catholic country it’s not a surprise they’re too hot on homosexuality.

    • I almost detected cultural relativity there on the question of section 28 (a foible usually reserved for us on the left). I think you may well be right on EDL, but then I was implying in my entry that there is a tactical element to the presence of the flag, the overcompensation bit for the EDL is a less a disavowed anti-Semitism, more a measure to ‘wind up the mussy’ as you so eloquently put it.

      However, as for Kaminski, now there is the behaviour of someone who has a dirty past, typical of someone who is deeply ashamed I’d be willing to concede, though I won’t be won round to believing anything other than the fact that he had some ‘orrible ideas towards Jewish people in his early days (who knows, Thomas, this also could have something to do with Poland being a catholic country, ask the priest members of the NOP for example). As I’ve said in articles/entries of mine before (which I’ve provided links to in the above entry) there is some very dubious omissions of his membership with NOP, and the Telegraph of all newspapers (not some bearded, sandled lefty organ of the press) found out the Kaminski was not quite telling the truth about the years in which he was a member of NOP (which made the difference as to whether he was in the party when it was avowedly anti-Semitic, and when it hid the fact).

      Dubious stuff indeed, the pro-Israeli turn, on the eve of his very high position in Europe, with people such as the Tories who really do not like the NOP, and actively sought to weed out former members, is typical behaviour of someone trying to cover up minging history.

  3. Malcom Peters says:

    We know you Labour party supporters have to slander Israel at every opportunity, you’d loose your core Muslim vote if you didn’t. There’s no point you trying to take some sort or moral high ground, we can see through you.

    • you’re sounding like a conspiracy theorist Mr Peters, I wonder if what you say would stand up with the Labour friends of Israel. If you want my opinion on the matter, the 48 and 67 wars forged by Israel were crimes, the attacks on Lebanon a while back was a crime, the cuts in electricity in Gaza is a crime. However, be it my realism or my philo-semitism, I would sooner see a peaceful two-state solution than a one state solution with a war.

      Incidentally, I hope you’re not conflating my article with anti-Israeli sentiment. I’m sure it is within you Mr Peters.

  4. Thomas Byrne says:

    I wouldn’t say it’s cultural relativism, as it’s something I have to condemn quite frequently at college, it’s just how frustrating it is when they get called far right by the media, and by Labour supporters.

  5. would you prefer us to forget that they’re far-right because in Poland homophobia is typical? Or can we measure what is far-right universally? Incidentally, the constant changing and denial of Kaminski’s views and history means it is very hard to pinpoint where on the political spectrum he is. I’d like to point out at this stage that I have not used the words far-right on this entry to describe Kaminski.

  6. Thomas Byrne says:

    It’s rather odd – Polish people I meet in Britain end to be pleasant, mild-mannered and rather cheerful sorts. Yet in Poland, it appears, they all go barmy for rather strange politics, like the chemical castration going on, in reality the Thingy and Justice Party in Poland is a fairly standard European Catholic political party, not remotely extraordinary; it commits itself to equal rights and personal liberty too.

    • I’ve had much the same experience as you, but the reason there has been much hoo-haa regarding the ‘Thingy and Justice Party’ is because we are judging them by our own measures of acceptibility, which I feel is totally justified.

  7. leftoutside says:

    Hey Carl, you seen that one of the pre-eminent political columnists in the country is ripping you off?

    Bagehot at The Economist no less. Good work.

  8. Bob says:

    Joining in late!

    1) In what way was the 67 war a crime?

    2) I agree on “far right”. I have noticed for some time that the term “centre right” seems to be stretching ever right-wards. I’ve been fighting on wikipedia page
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centre-right to keep parties I consider far right (like Law & Justice) off it, but have given up the battle at the page of Berlusconi’s PdL
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_People_of_Freedom to have it defined as “right-wing” rather than “centre-right”

    • better late than never, Bob.

      1) Israel’s sustained and unwarranted attacks on its neighbours came to boiling point by 67, the outcome being the 5-day war, and forced removal of Palestinians from their territory – never to be reestablished.

      2) I think even for the sake of the BNP-are-they-left-are-they-right argument, we should club together and properly define and differentiate right-wing from the centre to the hard end.

  9. Bob says:

    Not sure I agree with your 67 analysis. I think there were sustained and unwarranted attacks both ways, and then an invasion of Israel by lots of countries and once, and then a big push the other way, with the tragic consequences that are being played out now. I don’t think it is right to call it a “crime”, even if the subsequent occupations have been illegal. I think it is also wrong to call the 1948 war of independence a crime, although there were certainly instances of ethnic cleansing.

    But anyway, I liked the post, and let’s work on that right wing differentiation project!

    • aggression from either side should not be excused, nor should it be forgotten what is often meant by “Jewish state” when uttered by certain Arab groups with unpalatable ideas, but the notion that there was calm between the years 1948 and 1967 is wrong. In trying to work out who has the moral ground, one must look closer than explicit violence alone, be it Israeli ethnic cleansing, or Egypt’s declaration, circa 67, that Israel must be destroyed. The implicit violence should be taken into account, which took the form of denying Arab peoples a homeland. Anyone should be able to see that the worthy pro-Palestinian voices are agitated by the historical theft and occupation by the state of Israel, and not attempt to classify that state as a Jewish state in order to suggest that the wars were between Arabs and Jews. Pro-Palestinian voices should maintain two things: a) a disapproval of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and b) a disapproval of anti-Semitism – anyone who fits this bill is on the right side.

      Having said that, I feel that progress can be made alongside a two-state solution, but history can not just be judged on explicit violence alone. We wouldn’t be able to contextualise the Iraq war if we just looked at violence alone, and actually Palestine-Israel is much the same.

      If you’re serious about that right wing project I’ll write something up in the next few days and send it to you, yes/no?

  10. Pingback: Overcompensation: friends of Israel who are not friends of the Jews « Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism

  11. Bob says:

    There clearly wasn’t calm after 1948. There were border skirmishes, there were totally justifiable attempts from dispossessed Arabs to cultivate the lands they had lost, there was fighting talk and acts of aggression from Israel, Egypt and Syria. And, further away, there were pogroms in many Arab lands. 1948 included ethnic cleansing, and was indeed a catastrophe, but that is not the same as “denying Arab peoples a homeland”, as it was only a tiny portion of the homelands of Arab “peoples” that was captured in 1948. An analogy would be the Partition of India, which include horrific acts of ethnic cleansing, but not the denial of a homeland to anyone.

    Anyway, please do send me something on rightism. My e-mail, which I don’t check often, is bobfrombrockley at googlemail.com

    • Does this analogy hold only because the ends (of India, huge democracy etc etc) justified the means? If so, the obvious question would be to ask whether the ends of Israeli did justify the means. The mandated patch of Palestine sectioned off for European Jews was justified, but was it permittable for Israel to pursue ethnic cleansing as a policy to found a Jewish state? Something akin to Medina – where the city was brimming with Jews and Pagans – where the second message of Islam was drawn up (I know you know who Mahmoud Taha is, because when you search taha raincoatoptimism in google you appear) seems much preferable. Pockets of Islamic anti-semitism are bound to exist, but surely all can agree it has been exasperated by the pursuits of Israel – and whether agitation towards Israel this is right or wrong, it cannot have helped matters much the real crimes of the state of Israel – ethnic cleansing included, but also the surge’s into the strip, Lebanon. Sure, these are all governmental, and should not put in question the rights of Israel’s existence, but by the nature of the crimes, it is hard not to separate/conflate the two.

      Will have something drawn up soon – though am bit busy of late, would love to give my input into your chosen task of defining the right – and will give you a heads up on your blog when I’ve sent that email.

  12. Lynne T says:


    I suggest you read “Foxbats over Demona” and read up on the Khartoum conference before you write anything further about the ’67 war and subsequent occupation.



    • would you like to tell me why?

      • Lynne T says:

        because you wrote: “If you want my opinion on the matter, the 48 and 67 wars forged by Israel were crimes”

        “Foxbats” deals with the ’67 war. Closing the Straits of Tiran was an act of war on Egypt’s part and Egypt was pushed into this act by the USSR.

        The “kartoum conference” because you clearly don’t understand why the occupation took place in the first place and some lands outside of the Armistice remain under Israeli occupation.

        You might also want to look for Benny Morris’s newest books, which are based on access to archival material he didn’t have when the New Historians began writing history’s second draft, but if you can dismiss Islamic anti-Semetism as merely existing in pockets, and, justified by Israel’s “pursuits”, I suspect you aren’t nearly the knowledgable or objective critic you think you are. Islamic anti-Semetism began 14 centuries ago in the Hejaz and continues to this day. There were periods of relative tolerance, but that was about it. You think the establishment of Israel “for European Jews” was somewhat justifiable, but you appear to know nothing about the decimation of Jewish communities from Asia Minor and North Africa nor where most of those decimated communities have since settled.

      • I think what you mean Lynne is that I haven’t mentioned communities from Asia Minor and North Africa.

        I implied of Islamic anti-Semitism that it is not the whole reason as to why there is anti-Israeli sentiments among Arab/Palestinians and Muslims further afield. I maintain that it is important, in the pursuit of justice, not to share a platform with anyone who’s anti-Israeli sentiments is informed by anti-Semitism. I was not at any time under the illusion that Islamic anti-Semitism didn’t exist at all, and that it has a long history. On the scheme of things I think it has as much political punch as Catholic anti-Semitism does, we know it exists, we know who they are, but they are looked down upon on an international level, and are seen as counterproductive in the fight for justice etc etc (there is one particular ME leader I’m thinking of here).

        My earlier mention of implicit violence directly relates to Egypt’s acts in the fifties and sixties. Tactics of implicit violence are often measures used by the Israeli government because they know how explicit retaliation is on their borders. This goes very much for Lebanon recently, but certainly with Syria. In something only published in 1997, the defence minister of Israel at the time admitted to taking bits of land – justifying it by saying de-militarized zones in the north were part of Israel’s sovereign territory – and awaiting border countries to act with aggression, thus appearing to have the moral high ground. This was even clarified in an interview with Michael Oren, a former US ambassador to Israel. A clear act of implicit violence if ever there was one, Egypt on taking issue with Israel’s model of land grabbing to agitate its enemies came to the fore when Egypt signed a deal with Syria to protect if either one were attacked. These kind of measures are too often overlooked, fr the covert measures put in place to conceal the level of violent conduct they incur.

        I’m happy to read anything you suggest, but I’m disappointed that you’d be so ad hominem as to say I know nothing of this, that and the other.

  13. Bob says:

    Mahmoud Taha – I’m afraid it was a comment from the considerably more learned than me Entdinglichung http://entdinglichung.wordpress.com/ in a very interesting comment. I too dream of a cosmopolitan Jerusalem, of Jerusalem as the capital of stateless world even, as Agamben does, and as I think Martin Buber did. I’m not sure how this could be achieved, though….

    My analogy was not about ends justifying means. Neither the Partition nor the creation of the state of Israel justified the Nakbas of 1947 and 1948. I don’t like political philosophies that justify means by way of ends; I always tend to the side of the eggs that get broken to make the omelets.

    My analogy was to show that “ethnic cleansing” and “denying a homeland” are in two separate categories. 1948 did involve ethnic cleansing, and there may have been crimes committed – but 1948 was also, on Israel’s side, a struggle for survival in a very hostile world. But the Palestinian “nation” emerged as a result of this, and did not exist before. That is, the “homeland” of no “people” was denied in 1948.

    1967 was different, and it is important to be clear about how each war Israel fought has been different, rather than assuming a singular narrative of Israeli “crimes” (or of plucky Israeli self-defence). And Lynne’s links show some of the complexity of 1967.

    • Theoretically, do you feel it erroneous to conflate “ethnic cleansing” and “denying a homeland” in this sense? I’m not sure I would hold the view that the Palestinian state emerged as a consequence to the 48 ethnic cleansing, I’d agree that the mandate in 37 and the war in 48 reconfigured the state, but what do you mean exactly by this, it seems at first that you’re challenging established views on the existence of Palestine.

  14. Bob says:

    I’m specifically responding to this sentence of yours: “The implicit violence should be taken into account, which took the form of denying Arab peoples a homeland.” I understood you to mean denying the Arab/Palestinian people (peoples?) the right to national self-determination. And, yes, I think that ethnic cleansing and denying an other’s national self-determination are two different things. First, I am skeptical of the right to national self-determination in general, not least because it tends to mean someone else’s national rights are endangered, as there are no pure nations. A better analogy to express what I mean might be the former Yugoslavia, where non-Serbs were ethnically cleansed out of Kosovo, but there was no attempt to conquer Albania itself, so it wasn’t a question of denying Albanians a homeland. Does that make sense?

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