The continued internal collapse of the morale and purpose of the right is creating some wild times across the world. Nowhere is this more visible than in the schizoid relationship between the right, Israel and anti-Semitism.
The Israel embassy move is symptomatic of this, and leads us in deeper. For decades, it was commonly accepted, inside Israel and out, that Tel Aviv should be the functional capital of Israel, and Jerusalem should have a special status.
There’s a reason for that: the 1947 UN partition plan for Palestine accepted that Jerusalem should have a special status as a key city for all three Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism). Zionists, even the revisionists from which the Zionist right springs, accepted this, with the initial idea that Jerusalem should be an international city, separately administered. Since the legitimisation of Israel — and the delegitimisation of the Palestinians — has always relied on constructing the 1947 partition plan as the ground of its legitimacy, Jerusalem’s special status was maintained.
But then came the new identity politics of right-wing Zionism. As global anti-Semitism faded, the urgent sense of meaning attached to Zionism lapsed. As social democratic Israel became a neoliberal and highly unequal society, social solidarity frayed. As Israeli politics became fantastically corrupt, cynicism set in. For the last decade or so, the country’s right has been plugging that gap with political kitsch: loyalist oaths to a Jewish state, emotional blackmail of the diaspora to emigrate, increasing Europeanist racism, etc.
This domestic Israeli politics has coincided with a collapse of right-wing legitimacy in the West, after the failure of Iraq, the 2008 crash, the rise of China and the squalor of right-wing populist politics. Israel is tarnished enough, even on its own terms, but its new identity politics offered the jaded Western right a shot of political Viagra. Of course they would be willing to abandon the Western-imposed multilateral solution, and go with the religious-political fusion that an undivided Jerusalem represented.
But the cosying-up to increasingly ethno-nationalist right-wing Western figures creates, erm, unusual alliances, as the other fallout from the right’s decomposition became manifest: an increasing tolerance for outright anti-Semitism.
The right was always going to return to anti-Semitism. Anti-Islam is just the methadone, for which anti-Semitism is the smack. The notion of Judaism as a global force, lacking national bonds, identified with floating finance capital, rather than fixed capital, living off the magic of compound interest rather than work, and pushing a universalist, anti-national agenda, was too good to resist for long. In quick succession, the right has tumbled into it. The idolisation of Viktor Orban’s “illiberal” and openly anti-Semitic Hungarian government started it, but it really hit a new level when the conspiratorial and obsessive focus on George Soros, from the neo-Nazi right, was rolled over into the mainstream.
Thus, in the Oz’s puff launch of new, useless, tinpot, right-wing GetUp 6.0, Maurice Newman, a columnist of theirs, simply says they are resisting a world of GetUp and George Soros and this is accepted as a casual statement.
The anti-Semitism is not in the mention of Soros — whose sponsored organisations have often paid questionable roles, such as in the Ukraine — but in the tying-in with GetUp. Their sole link to Soros is that some Australian GetUp members trained in MoveOn, the US group GetUp used as a model and which had some Soros funding. Its that construction of the “Jewish octopus”, which comes from the lower depths of the last century.
How does a movement simultaneously laud Israel and spruik, or give comfort to, an archaic anti-Semitism? Curiously, the answer lies in Zionism itself, which, from Herzl’s first writings onwards, deployed a self-critical, often self-flagellating, assessment of the effects that forced urbanisation and landlessness had allegedly had on Jewish character, making them cosmopolitan, rootless, etc, etc.
Revisionist Zionism turned this from self-flagellation to factional war within Zionism, culminating in a strand of Zionist fascism, as represented by the Lehi/Stern gang, which argued that Zionism was an inherently totalitarian movement. During the ’30s and ’40s, such Zionist-fascist disdain reached its height, with a scorning of the diaspora for being victims, and at times, a barely disguised admiration for the iron will of Nazism.
For decades, such attitudes were a curiosity of history. Now they dominate the right — Europe’s hard right parties all admire Israel — but also Israeli politics, with Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent, sickening tweet prating that the weak go down in history and the strong survive, an identification of power with morality, and more or less identical to various soundbites from Goebbels and others.
Thus in this new “right-wing GetUp”, Advance Australia (as my colleague Keane noted, there’s already a group of that name, run by what remains of the ur-conspiratorialist LaRouchites), David Adler of the Australian Jewish Association, a religious right, ultra-Zionist lobby group, is happy to share a podium with Newman, the scourge of Soros. The Oz, spruiking the thing, is happy to run, beside its puff pieces, half-a-dozen articles memorialising dead cartoonist Larry Pickering without once mentioning that the man had become an obsessive anti-Semite. Pickering in turn, was a supporter of failed Wentworth candidate Dave Sharma, ex-ambassador to Israel.
So it goes on. It has to. Israel, and its diaspora lobby groups needs the right, and the right needs Israel to give some meaning to its exhausted politics. The occasional article on right-wing Zionism in the Jewish community press are swamped by obsessive coverage of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. Such dalliance with anti-Semitism is playing with fire. A right-wing “anti-elite” media is only too happy, as last time, to supply the platform — or the pyre.