Daily Sabah South African court blows Israel’s anti-Semitism cover
Once again, South Africa has emphasized its distinguished support for the Palestinian people and their struggle against the decadeslong Israeli occupation. Yet, Israel, which has committed the most heinous crimes in our modern history, has been able to curb any attempt to lash out at its violent practices against the Palestinians by accusing anyone who dares to criticize Israel of being anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish.
On Feb. 16, the Constitutional Court of South Africa made a historic ruling in a case brought forward by a pro-Israeli group that accused a pro-Palestine activist who voiced support for the Palestinian people of "anti-Semitism and hate speech." Nevertheless, as the famous proverb says, the wind goes against the wish of the ships, and the case opened the debate on Israelis’ ready accusations against anyone who criticizes its violations. The court ruled that criticizing Israel is not linked to anti-Semitism and that attacking Zionism is not the same as attacking the Jewish people.
The verdict made a clear distinction between the Jewish people and "those who support Israel," between Judaism and Zionism, and between Jews and Zionists, underlining that these terminologies are not interchangeable synonyms.
Over the decades of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Israel's narrative triumphed over the Palestinians' efforts, despite Israel's clear crimes and violations that were even witnessed and documented by international bodies, including the United Nations. However, Israel was able to blackmail and threaten countries, groups and individuals with allegations of being anti-Semitic if they chose to criticize Israel.
Just recently, following the Amnesty International report that called Israel an "apartheid state" as it subjects Palestinians to apartheid-based practices, for which it must therefore be held accountable, Israel promptly voiced its rejection of the report and went on to say, without hesitation, that Amnesty Internation is anti-Semitic.
Allegations of anti-Semitism or anti-Judaism have long served as a cheap deterrent that stopped many from criticizing Israel for its treatment of the Palestinian people, moreover, there are governments that have adopted Israel's anti-Semitism narrative and handcuff many of their pro-Palestine groups from launching their activities.
Since Israel was established in 1948 on the historic lands of Palestine, the anti-Semitism card helped it play the victim and evade punishment. Anti-Semitism refers to hatred and discrimination directed at the Jewish people who suffered in the Holocaust at the hands of the Nazi regime in Germany in WWII. Since then, the Western powers have been through a compensation process for the Jewish people and declared any hateful act or discrimination towards Jews, based on their religion, as being anti-Semitic.
Palestinian activists and intellectuals worldwide on several occasions tried to counter the Israeli anti-Semitism narrative and confirm that the Palestinian struggle is not against the Jewish people or Judaism, but rather the Zionist movement and the Israeli occupation authorities responsible for the daily violence and violations against the unarmed Palestinian people. Conversely, there are also several Jewish groups that stand with the Palestinians against the Israeli occupation including the anti-Zionist, Jewish group Neturei Karta.
The South African court’s verdict has opened the inquiry into Israel's accusations against pro-Palestine activists as it will encourage similar cases to be brought in front of other courts in different countries, taking away Israel's ready accusation against any critic of its violations.
The verdict has been long-awaited by the Palestinians as it sides with their cause for freedom and justice but could also help hold Israeli criminals, who have escaped accusations by raising the anti-Semitism card, accountable for their clear crimes.
The case also brings us back to the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) in 1975, when an international effort was made to condemn the Israeli practices against the Palestinian people. The member states voted in favor of a resolution that determined Zionism – not Judaism – is a form of racism and racial discrimination. The resolution was a historic document that helped the Palestinians raise their voice against the Israeli occupation practices. However, the resolution was revoked by another in 1991 under the pressure of the Israeli government and with the support of great powers, including the United States.
Israel has long violated international law, humanitarian law and U.N. human rights conventions. It has always had impunity and it always played the victim, while at the same time, with the help of the mainstream Western media, it has demonized the Palestinian people’s struggle against its occupation.
It is time for all pro-Palestine advocates and groups to raise their voices loudly against Israeli injustice and oppression. It is time to let the Israeli authorities pay the price for their crimes, violations and yearslong occupation that have prevented Palestinians from living peacefully on their lands. It is time to hold Israel accountable for the deliberate killings and aggression it carried out against the Palestinians – most notably the aggression on Gaza in 2008, 2012, 2014, and most recently, in May 2021.
It is time to once and for all eliminate Israel’s card, which was wrongly used to terrorize and intimidate the voices that criticize the Israeli occupation and Israeli criminals – not the Jewish people, not Judaism, but Zionism, with its ideology and practices.
The South African verdict adds great momentum to the efforts to change the injustices and the wrong perceptions surrounding these terminologies, which Israel sought to keep intertwined and tried to hide behind.