Saturday, February 24

Have we finally reached peak Jew-derangement syndrome?

As if the current storm of mistruths and distortions wasn’t enough, the New Zealand Jewish community is having to fight off the mangling of the “chosen people” concept, yet another front that’s opened up against us on social media since the atrocity of Oct 7th.

Sadly, yet unsurprisingly, an effort of self-defense to eradicate the fascist death cult that carried out these unspeakable horrors has been spun into an example of unbridled privilege. 

Of course, “chosen” has absolutely nothing to do with supremacy for 99.9% of Jews. For most of us, being “chosen” means being chosen for a greater, global purpose. To be a light unto the nations. To lead by example. The revolutionary concept of a nation committed to laws that soberly settled disputes honoured individual rights, and accounted for the less privileged in society was a major step forward in the history of human rights and did indeed (along with the wisdom of Greece) guide Europe towards the enlightenment and beyond.    

But the Jewish people illuminate the world in another way too: our presence can shine a light into the darkest corners to reveal attitudes and dangerous trends we may not always want to acknowledge. As the great writer Christopher Hitchens put it, an epoch’s treatment of its Jews tells you much about the moral health of a society. 

When it currently comes to Israel (the latest mask for antisemitism) and Jews supportive of Israel’s safety and survival, no accusation, no crazed analogy is off limits. And it is the dustiest tropes, once thought dead and buried, that have been reanimated, reinvigorated, and reintegrated into mainstream political life. 

And much of the antisemitic animus is coming from – indeed is being driven by – academics, just as it did during Nazi Germany and under Stalinism. 

Last week, Professor Emeritus Peter Davis, the sociologist and husband of former PM Helen Clark, and board chair of The Helen Clark Foundation, wrote the response below to a post on X by Juliet Moses – spokesperson for the New Zealand Jewish Council. 

It is important to note that Moses was sharing a Newsweek article written by a Gazan dissident who, having escaped the strip, was describing the horrors of living under Hamas occupation. It was not an article singing the praises of Israel, Zionism, or Israel’s military response to October 7. But it appears that for the same reason that people tear down hostage posters or deny the atrocities of October 7 (see Sonny Bill Williams’ “proven to be untrue” post), Davis seemed afflicted by the cognitive dissonance that occurs when facts and perspectives inconvenience and disrupt the narrative that only Israelis can be evil the oppressors, and internationally recognised terror groups, victims. 

So much is wrong in Davis’ reply, that it demands analysis line by line.

“This is a straw man. I don’t know any pro-Palestinians who are “pro-Hamas”, or critics of Israeli policy who are antisemitic.” 

What has been so alarming and unsettling for Jewish communities in the West post-Oct 7, is how open support for Hamas has been, from their flags visible at protests to the use of their genocidal chant ‘from the river to the sea’, and even politicians like NZ Greens Chloe Swarbrick and Marama Davidson refusing to call the perpetrators of the worst Jewish atrocity post WW2 a terrorist organisation (surely a sign of tacit support). Labour Phil Twyford required a police escort to escape an Auckland protest for daring to condemn the Oct 7 attacks. We have had academics at some of our major universities – for example, Professor Mohan Dutta – celebrate Oct 7 as (quote) an “exemplar of decolonising resistance”. 

These are just a few of the seemingly endless examples unleashed by the pogrom. This support is open and proudly acknowledged, and indeed now the “Hamas are freedom fighters” brigade is cheerleading for the Houthis’ acts of war on the Red Sea (while also calling for a ceasefire, curiously). 

There is a delicious irony in how Davis phrased this portion of his unfortunate post too; Davis doesn’t know any of these people (he tells a spokesperson from the Jewish community of all people) so they can’t exist, which follows that anyone suggesting they do, is dishonest. Would Davis expect to get away with this casual dismissal of racism – in a direct reply to a community leader – with any other group? 

The assertion that no critics of Israeli policy are antisemitic is a truly Olympian effort of gaslighting. Sure, criticism of Israeli policy is not in itself antisemitic, but is it really so hard to believe that antisemites might have a problem with the one Jewish state, where almost half the world’s 16 million Jews live? If there is no antisemitism on the anti-Israel side, what accounts for the recorded spike in antisemitism during this war and whenever there is conflict with Israel? The vandalism of multiple New Zealand synagogues recently was clearly linked to anti-Israel sentiment. The threats and harassment of individual Jews have been also. We know because the perpetrators told us so, in their threats, in their torrent of vulgar posts, and literally in spray paint on a place of worship. 

And if there is no antisemitism among any anti-Israel critics, why is Zionism, a belief shared by upwards of 80 percent of Jews, now commonly considered a synonym for a rare evil? Why has the term been loaded up with every ancient antisemitic trope, from a thirst for non-Jewish blood to a cabal of nefarious schemers? Davis’ flippant denialism is callous and amounts to the shielding of racists. Why would he choose to express himself in this way? 

“The Hamas insurgency is a slave revolt fostered by the wretchedness of Gaza.”

No doubt well-versed in the woke parlance of the day, and – quite frankly – with few loathsome terms remaining to throw at Jews, calling the atrocity of Oct 7 a ‘slave revolt’ could rank as the most deranged comment we’ve had to suffer since Oct 7. 

After Israel withdrew completely from Gaza in 2005, Hamas quickly murdered its opposition and turned the area into a war state, firing rockets into Israel and creating an entire city dedicated to terror underground. They murdered (and continue to murder) dissenters and funneled aid, supplied by New Zealand and other nations for the people they governed, to themselves (This is all reported in the Newsweek article Moses shared.)  

In a recent interview, senior Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad (the same man who promised a repeat of Oct 7 until Israel is annihilated) responded to Hamas’ failure to create bomb shelters for Gazans by saying that it was the UN and not the terror group’s responsibility. So, the wretchedness of Gaza was objectively created by Hamas. And if the term slave must be used, the people of Gaza are slaves to the demented genocidal mission of Hamas. Equating the terror group to slaves throwing off their chains clearly both justifies the atrocity of Oct 7 and positions them as the good guys in his story. This is despicable stuff from anyone, let alone the board chair of a think tank determined to influence social and foreign policy. Could the pro-Hamas support Davis told us never existed be right under his nose? 

We have all been waiting 30 years for 2-state promise of Oslo to be fulfilled.

Davis’ inference here is that it is Israel, and Israel alone that has stood in the way of a final peace settlement and the formation of a Palestinian state. Arab intransigence, resulting in the refusal of peace offers by Arafat and Abbas has long been erased from the record by anti-Israel activists, despite information on the history of negotiations being readily available. And, of course, as mentioned, Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005. 

Jew-derangement syndrome is very real on both the right and left, and Professor Peter Davis clearly has a spot of it, with his dressed-up antisemitic tropes, though he would no doubt claim to be merely a critic of Israeli policy. But his comments are in fact the product of decades of disinformation, including the normalisation of falsely applied terms such as apartheid and the use of outlandish analogies no one would tolerate being used for any other conflict. 

The question now is whether the Helen Clark Foundation is happy to stand by their board chair and in doing so, further contribute to this normalisation.