BYLINE: Milton Shain
The recent alleged comments by South Africa's Deputy Foreign Minister, Fatima Hajaig, about Jewish money controlling America and most Western European countries throws into sharp relief the complicated nexus between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
After all, it was at an anti-Zionist rally in Lenasia that Hajaig allegedly launched into a diatribe that would have befitted the toxic views of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad or former Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahatir Mohamad.
Ahmedinejad shares the delusional views attributed to Hajaig, while Mahatir Mohamad some years ago similarly informed 57 heads of state at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference held in Malaysia that the Jews have "control of the most powerful countries". "This tiny community," he told his gullible audience, has "become a world power." Hajaig is in good company; the conspiratorial cast of mind is widespread and has a long pedigree.
Dating back to the late middle ages, anti-Jewish conspiracies took on their most virulent and sinister form over 100 years ago in the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery referred to by the historian Norman Cohn as a "Warrant for Genocide". The Protocols was hugely popular in inter-war Germany and was widely employed by the Nazis in their propaganda as they prepared for the destruction of European Jewry. Put simply, Hajaig's alleged comments are old hat. But we do have to take heed. Ideas have consequences, especially when uttered by a government minister, albeit a junior one.
Hajaig's thinking and that of others of her ilk share common delusions. Simplistic conspiracies provide a convenient explanation for complex problems. So-called Jewish money power accounts for everything, and intractable problems are reduced to imaginary financial machinations. Hajaig's legitimate concern for the plight of the Gazans is conflated with a palpable and crude Jew-hatred.
Such slippage on her part - and indeed many others - has led some commentators to describe anti-Zionism as a hygienic form of antiSemitism. This is problematic. Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism cannot axiomatically be equated. It is possible - albeit arguably naive in the wake of our past century and the realities of Israel's 60 years of existence - to object to the idea of Jewish peoplehood and a Jewish State. But the inordinate attention devoted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does raise questions of motivation.
Why did the war in Chechnya receive so little coverage? Why did the masses not regularly march in the world's capitals during the Russian siege and almost complete destruction of Grozny, the Chechen capital? Why did they not march when Nato planes bombarded Kosovo? What about the estimated five million deaths over the past 10 years in Central Africa? Only last week, we saw hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced by the conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan army without a peep from our foreign ministry or from the Congress of South African Trade Unions.
Fewer than 10 000 people have been killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since World War 2 - a mere fraction of the 25 million people killed in other internal conflicts during this time. Yet Israel has been condemned by the United Nations and other international organisations more often than all the other nations combined. Can this excessive and skewed attention be explained by the region's geopolitical importance? Is it because three Abrahamic faiths converge in the region? Or is it simply a case that Jews are news? Perhaps the explanation is more sinister.
For some observers, it is simple anti-Semitism; the "longest hatred" has mutated into a new form. Much anti-Zionist rhetoric, the argument goes, is riddled with anti-Jewish motifs that go beyond the bounds of normal political conflict. …