What do the intellectuals who try to organise a boycott of Israel have in common with Dieudonné and Anelka with their Quenelle?

The connection between Dieudonné and his Quenelle, and the antizionist academics with their boycott is as clear as it is important.

Both begin in a good place, both begin with solidarity with the Palestinians, both begin with an anger and a dismay at how the Palestinians are being treated. Dieudonné begins as an antiracist anti-imperialist black radical in Paris, the boycott movement begins as a mainly Jewish movement in London for Palestinian solidarity.

So what happens? Two things. These two globalizing movements begin to focus not on human rights abuses in general, not on occupations in general, not on colonialism in general; but they find themselves especially outraged only by Israeli crimes, which for them become symbolic of the crimes of a whole global system. For the Jewish anti-Zionists in London the focus on Israel is understandable because it is a specifically Jewish anti-Zionism – it then gets exported into non-Jewish civil society and it gets adopted there with enthusiasm.

For Dieudonné in Paris, the focus is more and more on the war against terror, the injustices against the Muslims, the anti-imperialist rhetoric which he shares with parts of the French left and parts of the French Islamist movement. And then the next step, which is coming up against Jewish Power.

Focus shifts away from the bad Israelis and onto the Jews who support them here in London or here in Paris. The Jews are constructed as hugely powerful – in France they are powerful enough to dictate which jokes a radical comedian are allowed to tell, in England they are powerful enough to dictate that “criticism of Israel” should be forbidden. And so both movements end up as movements which position themselves as anti-establishment and courageous opponents of Jewish power.

Dieudonné is iconoclastic, he takes the piss out of the Shoah as a pineapple, the boycotters are iconoclastic, they say that there is no free pass for the Jews after the Holocaust, and they say that the” use” of the “holocaust” in discourse is a disgrace; they say that universities are particularly dear to Jews.

For both movements the Holocaust becomes a discourse and a signification of Jewish cunning rather than the thing itself. And it all ends up in Jew-baiting. How do academics bring the powerful Jews down? they boycott them, they campaign against their power to invoke antisemitism. How does Dieudonné bring the powerful Jews down? he makes the Jews look pompous and humourless. And then both Dieudonné and the boycotters have to show how this is really, fundamentally, a struggle for freedom and free-speech against the Jewish ability to dictate. Academics assert their right to boycott Jews; radical French people assert their right to make the hitler salute as a symbol of their rebellion against Jewish power.

What begins as a radical anti-imperialist impulse to side with the Palestinians ends up in a more and more open fight with “The Jews”. Dieudonné ends up in bed with Jean Marie Le Pen, the boycotters end up with a global campaign against the Jewish “lobby”.

David Hirsh

9 Responses to “What do the intellectuals who try to organise a boycott of Israel have in common with Dieudonné and Anelka with their Quenelle?”

  1. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Or, what David doesn’t say, they end becoming that which they should have resisted like the plague: antisemitic in practice if not (at least originally) in intent.

  2. Elliott A Green Says:

    yes, Dieudonne went so far with LePen as to appear at some meetings of the National Front. He also works with another “right wing” Judeophobe, Alain Soral.

  3. Jacob Arnon Says:

    “Dieudonné is iconoclastic, he takes the piss out of the Shoah as a pineapple, the boycotters are iconoclastic, they say that there is no free pass for the Jews after the Holocaust, and they say that the” use” of the “holocaust” in discourse is a disgrace; they say that universities are particularly dear to Jews.”

    Calling him iconoclastic already valorizes his racist antisemitic and anti-intellectual shtick

    It’s his anti-intellectualism that is important here because it challenges all the research that might be used against racists.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he had gotten his anti-intellectualism from the Holocaust denier historians.

  4. David Hirsh Says:

    Yes Jacob, I can see that and of course I don’t mean to validate his racist and antisemitic stuff.

    But I do think it is important to understand why he is attractive and why he appears cool and how he appears to be radical in his anti-establishment pose. I think it is important to understand that he is funny. I mean, I don’t think he’s funny, but clearly he knows how to make people laugh, how to strike a chord. He’s a good comedian.

    If we don”t undertand this then we underestimate the threat.

    Same with Atzmon I suspect. He isn’t one of these guys who knows how to do nothing except for denigrate Israel and Jews. He is well known in the Jazz world and, apparently, he’s good at playing sax. He appears cool too.

    The danger is that these open antisemites could sweep away the “antiracist” antiZionists, who are defenceless against them.

    • Jacob Arnon Says:

      I agree that it is important to understand people like these, but it’s equally important to show off someone like Dieudonne as a tool of the right wing racist establishment.

      The problem is that there isn’t just one establishment, and Dieudonne is also a member of an establishment which hopes to gain power in that other establishment.

      Here in the US people like him would be debunked fairly quickly.
      I know Europe is different; but still, a greater effort to debunk his anti-intellectualism which is another tool in the right wing arsenal would be as important as trying to understand him.

      It seems to me that the “establishment” which he says he hates, but wishes to join,, has many more resources at their disposal than the law in order to show up Dieudonne as the very small and confused man that he really is.

  5. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “Here in the US people like him would be debunked fairly quickly.” Jacob, I’m not sure that this is as true as you think (although I’m with you in wishing that it was so). The antisemitic Father Coughlin took a lot of debunking. The Ku Klux Klan took a lot of debunking (and were still wreaking havoc in the 1960s – not really that long ago). Mearsheimer and Walt, though far from being “conventional” and “simplistic” antisemites (and may not even believe themselves to be other than disinterested academic commentators) have and are taking a lot of debunking.

    So why should Europe be any better at it than the US, especially considering that Europe is the home of “serious” 20th Century antisemitism.

  6. David Hirsh Says:

    Yes. Sometimes small and confused men can be dangerous.

  7. sometimesantisocialalwaysantifascist Says:

    Im not necessarily sure that Dieudonne did “come from a good place” he’s mates with batskin and le pen is godfather to one of his kids.

  8. Neil Cohen Says:

    I believe the BDS and Dieudonne phenomenon has occurred as a direct result of the previous lack to refute many unsubstantiated media claims of Israeli atrocities during operations like Cast Lead. Vilification by the media of Israel allows this sort of back wash of continued falsehoods being perpetuated against Jews who are all seen to be supporting Israel…For me the worst part about it is that by being Jewish automatically I’m considered by these Boycotters as being wrong on the moral basis because Israel is perpetually being portrayed as Goliath in the struggle against the poor wronged Palastinians….


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