A version of this article appeared in The Australian – May 10, 2012
The death last week of 102 year-old Benzion Netanyahu, father of Benjamin, the Israeli Prime Minister, has returned his life’s work to the limelight.
While recent discussion of Netanyahu has mostly concerned how much influence his notoriously hawkish views may have had on his son’s policies, it was not through his stance on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that he had the most impact. Rather, the renowned historian made his mark through entirely overhauling the traditional interpretation of the Spanish Inquisition.
Historians of the Inquisition had previously accepted the Spaniards’ claim that they had been seeking-out Jews who ostensibly converted to Catholicism while continuing to practise Judaism in secret. Through decades of persistence, Netanyahu uncovered the truth: the accusations of hidden worship were nothing more than slander to justify the brutal murder and torture of Jews in Spain. The Inquisitors were hunting anyone with one or more Jewish grandparent, irrespective of their religious practise – the same rule contained in Adolf Hitler’s “Nuremberg laws” centuries later.
Netanyahu’s legacy demonstrates how, even in times when racial persecution was commonplace and widely accepted, violent Jew-hatred (Netanyahu refused to use the word “antisemitism” as it was coined by antisemites) was cloaked in more “acceptable” pretences. This important lesson is as pertinent today as it was in 15th Century Spain.
Coinciding with Netanyahu’s death, Norwegian professor Johan Galtung, an “off-site lecturer” at the University of Sydney’s “Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies” (CPACS), has recently emerged from the chorus of those who irrationally criticise Israel and exposed himself as one who irrationally criticises Jews. Galtung’s previous commentary on Israel was indistinguishable from the general line followed by CPACS and other academics in the dubious “peace and conflict studies” discipline that he is credited with founding.
He saw no double-standards whatsoever in rattling-off a litany of alleged “crimes” of the Israelis — throwing-around baseless epithets like “apartheid” to compare Israel with whatever regime is considered the most evil of its day — while dismissing all Palestinian wrongs as “colossal mistakes” of people who are “pressed against a wall”. He gave no credence to the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, calling for a binational Israeli-Palestinian state.
These views arguably cross the “red lines” often cited when attempting to distinguish between criticism of Israel that is legitimate and criticism that amounts to racial prejudice.
For example, the working definition of “antisemitism” from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights provides that the ways “antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel” could include inter alia: “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”; “applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”; and “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”.
Galtung’s views were in some ways less extreme than his Australian colleagues. Jake Lynch, the CPACS Director with whom Galtung co-authored a book, has been working for years to prevent any of his fellow Australian academics from speaking to or interacting with any Israelis in any capacity whatsoever.
Galtung at least paid lip service to “dialogue”.
Nevertheless, he has now been exposed by Norwegian journal The Humanist and Israeli newspaper Haaretz for making remarks clearly reflecting a more “classic” variety of antisemitism that was prevalent long before the State of Israel came into being.
For example, Galtung made the claim that “six Jewish companies control 96 per cent of the media” in America, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. While Murdoch is himself not Jewish, Galtung justified this with the claim that “many of the people under him are”.
The “96 per cent” figure is, according to Galtung, lifted straight from an article written by William Luther Pierce, founder of neo-Nazi group the ‘National Alliance’ and one of the inspirations behind Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh.
Galtung claimed that Israeli intelligence might have been behind Anders Breivik’s murderous rampage last year and said it was “not a coincidence” that Jews held “influential positions” over German society when Germany was defeated in World War I and this led to “understandable” sentiment towards Jews in Nazi Germany.
He also held a seminar on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
He cited Erik Rudstrom, a Norwegian white supremacist cum conspiracy theorist, as his source to reject the established fact that the Protocols were no more than a forgery, created by Russian secret police to support 19th-century pogroms. He claimed they could be used to explain the world today.
It is incredible that Galtung could have an illustrious and distinguished academic career and be awarded dozens of accolades and prizes for his work in “promoting peace”, while apparently harbouring views taken directly from neo-Nazi crackpots.
It speaks volumes that he could be embraced by the so-called “academic Left” for promoting anti-Zionist views inspired by Jew-hating White-Supremacists on the extreme Right.
Benzion Netanyahu was driven to expose the true nature of the Spanish Inquisition because of his incredulity at the world’s historians taking the Spanish claims at face value. This kind of scepticism is necessary when confronted with an academy that is content to reiterate previous work without delving any deeper
Galtung is not the only person calling for an end to Israel’s existence in the language of “peace” and “human rights” in a world where more explicit denial of Jewish self-determination would not be acceptable to a mainstream audience.
This is not to say that Associate Professor Lynch and the rest of CPACS necessarily shared Galtung’s hatred of Jews – they may have naively takenGaltung at his word and been unaware of his true views.
Hopefully, these recent revelations will cause them to reflect on what exactly they have been teaching to Australian students.
Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz is a policy analyst and social media co-ordinator for the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.