Intensive hasbara aimed at obscuring Palestine’s history and stifling criticism of Israel also obscures Zionist fascism in Germany
Caption| Image: Mohammed Alkhatib for InfoMigrants: “The situation of Palestinian refugees in Germany is complicated …”
I am new at using Chatbot, the computer program that deploys artificial intelligence and natural language processing to understand questions and simulate human conversation. When I queried Chatbot about fascism in Germany, the response I got began with the statement: “That’s a complex and sensitive question.” I was impressed by this statement that implied human evaluation, but my sense of wonder did not last for long. When I asked about Israeli fascism, the Chatbot opined that “there is no definitive or objective answer to this question.”
My purpose in researching this question was my interest in learning how Germany was combating fascism in its education and legal systems, especially in the light of recent reports about the German-Israeli Society’s fascist attack on Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Deutchland. The former had filed a complaint with the Berlin police against Samidoun to classify it as a terrorist organization in Germany and to ban its advocacy of Palestinian prisoners on the basis of law 129b, which criminalizes organizations and individuals that establish or support so-called “foreign terrorist organizations.”
The Chatbot summarized for me a New York Times report that described measures such as “denazification, anti-fascist education, surveillance by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, and prosecution of hate crimes.” There was nothing about Israeli fascism. When I asked specifically about dezionification, the Bot referred me to a wiki that categorizes dezionification efforts in every country by alphabet as “anti-Zionism.” In Germany, the antifa movement, which has its roots in the Antifaschistische Aktion set up by the Communist Party of Germany in the late Weimar Republic, “has splintered into different groups and factions, including one anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist faction and one anti-German faction who strongly oppose each other, mainly over their views on Israel.”
That Zionism is a fascist political philosophy is a fact as explicit and simple to me as are the words of one of the architects of the Zionist movement and a future Prime Minister of the settler-colonial Zionist Jewish state, Moshe Sharett. He saw the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as “a lasting and radical solution” to achieving Jewish supremacy in Palestine:
“On this day (June 15) in 1948, future Prime Minister Sharett exulted to WZO [World Zionist Organization] head Goldman on Israel’s successful ethnic cleansing: “the most spectacular event in the contemporary history of Palestine…is the wholesale evacuation of its Arab population…The opportunities opened up by the present reality for a lasting and radical solution of the most vexing problem of the Jewish state, are so far-reaching, as to take one’s breath away. The reversion to the status quo ante is unthinkable”, i.e., the refugees would not be allowed to return.”
The Bot not only failed to see that the facts about Palestine’s ethnic cleansing were indisputable, it also felt programmed confidence in giving me the following robotic advice: “In this context, a human might say that it is important to be critical and respectful when discussing such sensitive and complex issues.”
In this context, I chatted back to the Bot, you are bamboozled by Israel’s hasbara (Hebrew for propaganda), which has spread the false alternate historical narrative that justifies the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and rationalizes the fascist, supremacist crimes of the settler-colonial Zionist Jewish state.
The robot’s summary of the googalized information about the issue of Zionist fascism is as follows: Yes, Zionism has been found by some critics to be a form of fascism or racism, and some have compared it to Nazism and some have also claimed that some of the founding fathers of Zionism were influenced by or were sympathetic to fascism and Mussolini and others have argued that Zionism shares some ideological features with fascism, such as nationalism, militarism, expansionism, and exclusivism. However, this is in “dispute” by other critics “who have strongly rejected and denounced” the accusations and challenged the validity and motives of the sources and arguments that make such accusations and accused them of being biased, antisemitic, or politically motivated.
Many in academia and outside are painfully aware of the well-funded hasbara that has infiltrated the media as well as educational institutions and controlled the outcome of research through lawfare as well as the threat of lawfare. Here are two examples of the latter currently playing out in the US.
The Deborah Project, a Zionist public interest law firm that claims to protect “Jewish Civil rights” launched a campaign against Critical Race Theory and Liberated Ethnic Studies for including Palestine in their curriculum:
“We have brought a legal challenge in federal court in California challenging ‘Liberated Ethnic Studies’ — which adopts the full complement of Critical Race Theory’s attack on Zionism, the goal of which is to teach all American public school children the canard that such attacks are not antisemitic because ‘Zionism and Judaism are two separate things.’ Those attacks have crept into the mainstream of the US conversation on race, through Critical Race Theory, which denounces the creation of the State of Israel as an exercise in land theft by white colonialists… Now these libelous attacks on the Jewish commitment to Zion [“the land of Israel”] are being injected into public school curricula in the guise of ‘anti-racism,’ through the vehicles of Liberated or Critical Ethnic Studies.”
What does “libelous attacks on the Jewish commitment to Zion” even mean? The Zionist hasbara of “they’re out to get us Jews” and the attachment to it of Western governments are very much like the story of Trump and his followers. Facts are irrelevant and there are two sides to every story, no matter how outrageous and blatantly untrue one of them is.
In the second example, this same Project is threatening to sue the American Anthropological Association just as its members are preparing to vote on a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
On social media, Israel’s ongoing crimes are being documented by many organizations such as Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and Institute for Middle East Understanding. They are amplified by Jewish Voice for Peace, which does not mince words when it comes to dezionification:
“The Israeli military’s mandate is enforcing Jewish supremacy and Palestinian subjugation, along with the ideology that upholds it: Zionism. Zionism targets all Palestinians, regardless of age, gender, or ability. These coordinated and terrifying attacks are strategic, and they share the goals perpetuated by the Israeli state since its inception: the complete and total ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land and the elimination of any resistance to it. The Israeli military’s nightly raids against Palestinians is yet another manifestation of the ongoing Nakba. This is why we unite against state-sponsored killing, ethnic cleansing and settler colonialism. We stand firmly in our anti-Zionism so every Palestinian can live a life free of daily violence, a life with freedom and dignity.”
The inability of the Chatbot to muster from the crystal ball of Google a clear and objective answer to my question about Zionist fascism is the result of intensive and successful hasbara aimed at obscuring Palestine’s history and stifling criticism of Israel. Its efforts to glean “objective truth” about Israel are about to get harder as Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dedicated millions in a hasbara scheme enlisting high school students as trolls.
Caption: Samidoun poster: “The Zionist embassy and the German state: Repression and targeting of the Palestinian community
As for Germany, it makes no sense to denazify and not dezionize its culture and society. My title, “Israel teaches fascism to Germans, but my Chatbot doesn’t believe it,” is not just a provocative headline enticing you to read; it is meant to invite you to reflect on the appalling cognitive dissonance in Germany when it comes to the government’s unconditional support of Israel. The phrase “never again” was meant to express anti-fascist sentiment and to demand justice and accountability for the perpetrators and collaborators of Nazi crimes. But its scope is now much wider; it applies not only to Jewish suffering, but also to all forms of genocide and oppression. It applies to Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
Note: First published on Medium
Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem and whose mother’s side of the family is from Ijzim, south of Haifa. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.