Among the many shocking aspects of the Chapel Hill shootings a couple of weeks ago, the comment by Craig Hicks’s defence attorney that the three young Muslim Americans who Hicks had shot dead execution-style were in ‘the wrong place at the wrong time’ was especially striking. As Rania Khalek dryly tweeted, the ‘wrong place’ was their own home, and I’d add that the ‘wrong time’ was presumably whenever Craig Hicks chose to hunt them down.

This absurdity, which relies on the curious reasoning by which Muslim victims are somehow always to blame for their own deaths, came to mind again the other day when UNRWA’s Chris Gunness reminded us that most of the 540 children killed by Israel in last summer’s Gaza siege also died in their own homes. I guess they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, too.

And conversely, I suppose that the 9/11 victims were in a place they were entitled to think was ‘right’, which is how the Al Qaeda attackers knew just where to find them. So we can deduce that being findable is either right or wrong, depending on which god you worship (or not, in the case of Craig Hicks). Or something like that, anyway.

This baffling shell game aimed at badgering the us/them narrative back into line is sadly familiar thanks to a mainstream media that has embraced its civilisational obligation to uphold it with solemn diligence. Indeed, there was a palpable sense of relief when the first reports emerged that the Chapel Hill murders had resulted from a ‘parking dispute,’ obviating the requirement that ‘ordinary Americans’ look into their hearts to discover what darkness lurked there. Instead they could return to their Facebook likes about the goat fuckers and rag heads who were gunned down by a heroic American Sniper, satisfied that they’d spared a moment’s thought for three poor souls who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As that relief washed over the wilfully credulous citizens of Chapel Hill and beyond, so too did the requirement to marginalise the voices challenging this improbable version of events. From the contention that this was a hate crime which was expressed in its immediate aftermath by Muslim Americans and others, by week’s end we were informed that it was ‘the victims’ families’, their minds presumably addled by grief and sorrow, who clung to a paranoid view the ‘experts’ had dismissed. Je suis Charlie but Je ne suis pas Deah Barakat. Heck, I don’t even own a car.

And then came Copenhagen, about which there was no sliver of doubt: the lone gunman well-known to police thanks to a history of gang violence and petty criminality was an Islamist terrorist, expressing the hatred of ‘our freedoms’ and of Jews in particular that lurks in the dark hearts of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.

Several other observers, including Russell Brand with his 9.18-million Twitter followers, have persuasively dissected the naked media bias on display in coverage of these two events, so I won’t continue here. What interests me instead is how a ‘rise in anti-Semitism’ has emerged as the dominant theme from incidents like these, and whose agendas are supported by this claim.

For instance, last week The Economist ran a leader under the title ‘The return of Jew hatred’ in which it (rightly) proclaimed that ‘Like all Europeans, Jews must be able to live free from the fear of violence.’ By contrast, the newspaper acknowledged that ‘Muslim minorities…feel themselves to be the victims of Islamophobia, often with good cause’ (my emphasis). You’ll note that the headline is an objective statement whereas the Muslim ‘feeling’ of ‘Islamophobia’ is a subjective impression of an amorphous phenomenon. As such, it exposes the leader writer’s unwillingness simply to grant that Muslims are victims of hatred and violence. For if they were, what about their safety and our obligation towards them beyond tight-lipped tolerance?

After all, while individual attacks on Muslims and mosques from Le Mans and Birmingham to Oxfordshire and Bethlehem have been documented in some media, there has been less than zero interest in connecting these dots in order to acknowledge the perfectly obvious: that Muslims as a group are increasingly (and rightly) fearful of such attacks.

Similarly, while other coverage of this rise in anti-Semitism has dated it back to last summer’s Gaza siege, the mainstream media have actively colluded in conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism in part by refusing to examine what constitutes ‘Jew hatred’ in the first place.

A case in point is the video posted by an Israeli journalist, Zvika Klein, purporting to document 10 hours walking through Paris during which he was subjected to a series of anti-Semitic attacks. The video went viral and was covered widely in Europe and North America under headlines decrying the ‘rampant’ anti-Semitism it exposed and warning of the dangers of wearing a kippeh in Europe.

After a French publication exposed the video’s factual inaccuracies and dubious claims, Richard Silverstein wrote up the analysis of this ‘Fraudulent Paris Walk’ on his blog Tikun Olam. Unsurprisingly, the media outlets that had run screaming headlines about Klein’s trauma and its implications were uninterested in such fact checking and critical thinking.

As for The Economist‘s leader, what’s especially telling is its implicit dismissal of the political conflict between Israel and Palestine as the source of some of this trouble, including the use the current Israeli regime and others have made of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism to justify their barbarism towards the Palestinians.

This cynical exercise is exemplified in the controversy over the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. For whilst the so-called ‘international community’ is united in its contention that Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land are illegal, we find ourselves in a perplexing situation in which any attempt to act on this consensus is met with ferocious resistance and the threat of reprisals.

In the past month alone, US legislators have declared their willingness to upend a trade deal with the EU should the EU sanction Israel over settlement activity, which increased by 40% in 2014 according to the NGO Peace Now. There is currently a smear campaign underway across college campuses in the US claiming BDS activists at Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are guilty of ‘hate speech.’ The University of Toledo have declared BDS ‘unconstitutional.’ In South Africa, a leaked document has revealed that ex-Israeli agents threatened the government with cyber attacks if it didn’t crack down on the BDS movement. Meantime, the Canadian government has pledged to support Israel unconditionally in countering BDS. With its usual circularity, all of this is supposedly aimed at challenging the anti-Semitism BDS must embody by definition.

I have commented here before about the racism implicit in the anti-Semitism smear when it is invoked over Israel-Palestine. For the accusation presumes that the only thing that could conceivably motivate a person to speak out over the Palestinian plight is Jew hatred rather than Palestinian humanity, or the horrors of blockade and occupation with its ritualised humiliations. Still, I’m certain that Jew hatred is a significant factor in the Israel-Palestine drama though not where you’re told you’ll find it. You see, I rarely hear anti-Semitic comments from pro Palestinian friends and contacts. Conversely, the Holocaust happened in Europe and while few countries actually participated in it, many turned a blind eye and that’s an immutable fact of history for which atonement is a moral requisite.

Here is where the Palestinians come in handy. Reading recently about the history of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, I learned about the tradition of burdening a goat with the sins of the people and then sending it off into the wilderness to disappear. I discovered that this rite was modified when one such intrepid ‘scapegoat’ made his way back to Jerusalem, which was perceived to be a bad omen. From then on, the goat was led to a steep mountain and pushed over a cliff ‘so high and rugged that before [it] had traversed half the distance to the plain below, its limbs were utterly shattered,’ according to the Jewish Encyclopedia.

It has often struck me that the Palestinians are scapegoats in precisely this sense: a people burdened with the sins of others in order to absolve them. For Israel was an invention of Europe and the United Nations, a payment for someone’s blood with someone else’s land. But like that tenacious goat who hadn’t understood he was meant to die so that others might rest easy, the Palestinians persist in living. And so the progressive escalation of attacks on Gaza, the erasure of their history on the land, the destruction of their schools and homes and olive trees coalesce to force the Palestinians further up the mountain from which they will surely tumble at last so that their limbs are utterly shattered, and the good news of their death can make its way back to Jerusalem.

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