Gas Israel? Not an option.

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We need an Anti-Racist coalition in Europe. And in the Middle East. 

At a recent demonstration against the Gazan war in Berlin people were overheard chanting: “Gas Israel!” Really? Who thought of that disgusting slogan? What we need in response to this recent rise in anti-Semitic hooliganism is an Anti-Racist coalition in Europe. Apparently a few people forgot or never learned that it is not ok to connect criticism against Israel with anti-Semitic rants.

It is not without irony that the incident happened in Germany. The German government is probably the most Israel friendly leadership in Europe, for obvious reasons; its historic responsibility for the Shoah forced Germany to confront its awful past. It not only makes it impossible for Germany to criticize Israel openly. It profoundly changed the society and turned Germans away from anti-Semitism.

Not everyone seems to have understood that. The hooligans of Turkish and Middle Eastern origin in German cities – and also recently on an Austrian football field – have become a problem. It will not be easy to get them and their aggressive slogans off the streets. In France and Belgium the anti-Semitic riots are even worse. Already during the Second Intifada fourteen years ago it became clear that integration of Muslim immigrants from the Maghreb had run into serious problems. It is of great importance that European governments work harder to integrate these young people. Not only to ensure the protection of the Jewish population, but to make society understand: Racism of whatever nature does not belong here.

Is it imaginable that Muslims, Jews and the rest of Europeans would demonstrate together for the right of everyone to live in peace and security? It’s difficult to even dream about it in this current climate of accusation and counter-accusation.

More than 80 percent of the Israeli population supports its government in the war against Gaza to avoid more rockets being fired on Israel. Every country has the right to defend itself when attacked. But a politically responsible government should at least look further than the logic of war, before and after such an operation. Israel must negotiate with the Palestinians about a Two-State-solution. To facilitate this Hamas and Fatah came together in a unity government at the beginning of June, allowing President Mahmoud Abbas to speak for all Palestinians.

Is it possible to speak to Hamas while the Israel-hating organization fires rockets at Israeli civilians? Yes, it is. At least indirectly via the unity government. It might not be a pleasant thought, but there is no other way. Gaza and the Westbank need open borders to have a chance to develop institutions, a society and a state with which Israel will be able to cooperate. If the siege of Gaza - which Israel put in place after Hamas took power in 2007 – continues, the Palestinians will not get more moderate; they will get poorer, more radical and more militant. They will continue to dig tunnels and shoot rockets.

Israel on the other hand seems to be disappearing more and more behind the wall and under the Iron Dome system – it draws back from the world around itself not only physically but mentally. Israelis keep electing ever more right wing governments whose policies become more and more racist and violent.

It would really help, if Israel stopped building settlements and started uprooting them. It would also further the cause of peace if Palestinians turned away from radical political forces like Hamas. In Europe we could meanwhile make it clear to anyone who did not understand it that no one is allowed to make the Jews in this world responsible for the policy of the Israeli government. At the same time it should also be clear to everyone that nobody can demonize all Muslims because some extremists support Hamas or an Islamist Caliphate IS.

That’s why we need an “Anti-racist International” in Europe and in the Middle East. Criticism of governments and of extremist movements must always be possible. But racist generalizations? No way. We should demonstrate together for the right to live in peace and security. Those who want to “Gas Israel” are guilty of not having understood the past and present of our common history. Not to mention a future solution for the Middle Eastern conflict.

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© 2018 Tessa Szyszkowitz