Keywords: Politics, race, Israel, anti-Semitism

Title: The Politics of Anti-Semitism

Author: Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair

Publisher: AK Press

ISBN: 1902593774


"There's no more explosive topic in American public life today than the issue of Israel, its treatment of the Palestinians and its influence on American politics. Yet the topic is one that is so hedged with anxiety, fury and fear that honest discussion is often impossible.

Our aim in the Politics of Anti-Semitism is to lift this embargo."

In this controversial selection of essays, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, the thorny issue of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and Israeli policy are prised apart and discussed with an honesty that is refreshing, even for those on the Left. Predictably of course many of the authors, and the two editors, have already been attacked as being anti-Semites and the Jewish contributors classed as 'self-haters'. Indeed even reviewers who have failed to attack the book as anti-Semitic have been classed as suspect.

If there are two central themes which emerge from this collection it is that Zionism uses the charge of anti-Semitism to control discussion and stifle criticism of Israeli policy and that US policy is so closely aligned to Israeli policy that the two cannot be separated. These related issues arise again and again in these essays. Whether it's Cockburn describing how pro-Israeli political lobbies use money and political clout to silence critics, or Uri Avnery writing on 'Manufacturing Anti-Semites', the underlying truth remains. It is in Israel's benefit to equate Jews and Zionists and to make criticism of Israel equivalent to criticism of Jews. This is, as Avnery points out, a dangerous game to play.

Cockburn's essay on the sinking of the US Navy vessel the USS Liberty by Israel is especially instructive in this respect. Not only does it highlight the fact that Israel feels able to attack it's primary supporter, it also reveals how far the US establishment will go in covering things up. Contrast the attack on the USS Cole with the attack on the Liberty. It is this type of thing that forces one to ask, who's in charge? In perhaps the most controversial essay in the book Kathleen and Bill Christison argue that the US is effectively a client of Israel's. The argument put forward by Chomsky and others that the US uses Israel as a regional policeman is effectively demolished. Even if one disputes that Israel controls the US, it is clear that the relationship between the two is not as simple as master and client.

This is a wide-ranging and interesting set of writings that dares to tackle head-on some of the more contentious issues, (including the power wielded by Jewish media interests in the US), that most liberal commentators fail to mention. It is highly recommended.

Contents © London Book Review 2006. Published May 31 2006