Monday, August 27, 2007

Protesting "Israel's policy"

One day I hope to be able to pronounce names like "Guusje ter Horst" correctly, but until then I can just read articles, in not-Dutch, about the Netherlands. The AP reports that "The Dutch government will spend $38 million over the next four years to prevent both the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and right-wing nationalism." As if fighting 'Islamist terrorism' weren't vague and amorphous enough, fighting "extremism" of all stripes is the most bizarre political project ever.

Meanwhile, Cnaan Liphshiz of Haaretz focuses on the "right-wing violence." The difference between right-wing and other attacks is that the former are committed by white Christians (or non-Muslims/non-Jews) and target both Jews and Muslims, while the latter involved Muslims attacking Jews. This is an area where the left-right spectrum seems all but irrelevant, and "extremism" really is the best way of putting it. But that's not what confuses me most in the Haaretz story:

I understand how ideologically one can draw a difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. It's often a lot of bunk, but it is possible to hate the state of Israel and believe the world, Jews included, would be better off without it. Idiotic but conceivable. In a less extreme scenario an 'anti-Zionist' is merely against settlements, Netanyahu, and agressive aliyah recruitment; 'anti-Zionism' can mean a number of things depending on context. But what does not make sense is how violence against Jews, outside of Israel, on the basis of their being Jews, could possibly be divided into categories of "anti-Semitic" and "anti-Zionist," as is done in the Netherlands. Should there also be a different legal response to attacks on Jews motivated by economic anti-Semitism versus those motivated by a belief that the Jews killed Christ? Isn't the point of hate crime legislation to punish more harshly attacks on people because of which group they are (perceived to be) a part of, regardless of the reasons for the attacker's bigotry? It's the same as the Ilan Halimi murder, where the gang who killed Halimi were apparently innocent of anti-Semitism because they killed a Jew not because they hated Jews but because they believed Jews had money.

This quote, from a Dutch researcher who found a surge in extremist violence, is baffling on so many levels. "'[O]ne group of extreme-right youths, who were found guilty of torching both a synagogue and an Muslim school, claimed they had set the synagogue on fire to protest Israel's policy.'" Asking which policy would not begin to address the problem with that sentence.

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