Emma Watson post shows Israel’s anti-Semitism smears are beginning to break down

The British actress Emma Watson (Justin Tallis - AFP)

Asa Winstanley

Middle East Monitor  /  January 8, 2022

Harry Potter actress Emma Watson was smeared on Monday by a racist Israeli official. More on this later.

But first, it’s important to note that the Israeli government has always fabricated anti-Semitism smears against its enemies.

This goes right back to the foundation of the State of Israel itself in 1948, upon the mass graves of Palestinians.

The first to be smeared in this way were the Palestinian people themselves. False allegations of anti-Semitism concocted by Israel and the Israel lobby against the Palestine solidarity movement are thus in fact an extension of the Zionist settler-colonial project’s disinformation campaign against the Palestinians themselves.

Israeli diplomats and propagandists have long maintained that the Palestinian people’s opposition to their dispossession from their own land was not motivated by any sense of injustice, but merely by anti-Jewish racism. This is deemed, in the standard European-imperialist Orientalist framework, to be mysteriously endemic in Muslim and Arab societies.

This is, of course, a nonsense. More than a nonsense, it is a poisonous and racist lie.

Palestinians oppose the Zionist movement – and its creation, Israel – because it has meant and continues to mean expulsion, massacres, apartheid, military dictatorship and dispossession for them and their children and their children’s children.

The fact that Israel classes itself as a “Jewish state” is irrelevant. Palestinians would oppose any political and/or religious project that expelled them from their own lands in the same or similar manner.

It is precisely because Israel’s injustices have become more and more clear for more and more people that the Zionist movement and the Israel lobby have come to increasingly rely on fabrications of anti-Semitism.

Israel’s propagandists know that they cannot win the arguments in open debate. So instead of trying to beat the activists by defeating their arguments, they instead try to shut them down, cancel them, ban them and – in Palestine especially – jail them.

But the maliciously false allegations of anti-Semitism against Israel’s enemies have become so egregious that most people no longer believe them.

Weaponized anti-Semitism – a tool in the Israeli arsenal almost as powerful, in its own way, as the undeclared nuclear weapons it has – is beginning to lose its potency.

All of which brings us back to Emma Watson.

On Monday, she posted a very bland statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people on Instagram. Against a background photo of solidarity protesters holding Palestinian flags, Watson posted the caption: “Solidarity is a verb.”

It was hardly a controversial statement. But the very acknowledgement of the existence of Palestinians and their supporters raised the anger and hatred of Israel and its lobby.

Danny Danon, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and current chairman of the international wing of the official Israeli opposition party Likud, attacked Watson’s post on Twitter, claiming it showed she was an “anti-Semite”.

Of course, as usual, there was absolutely no evidence presented of this supposed “anti-Semitism”.

But Danon’s response was a particularly egregious one. There was no pretence to “nuance” – it was an open, unambiguous claim that making even the most anodyne statement of solidarity with the Palestinians means you are ipso facto an anti-Semite.

What many commenters missed were two important facts: it is Danny Danon himself that is the real racist, and Danon’s post also showed that he, like all Zionists, is the true anti-Semite.

Missed in all of the mainstream coverage about Watson’s post and its reception (The Guardian’s headline writers misleadingly claimed it had led to an “anti-Semitism row”) is exactly who Danon is.

He is a notorious anti-Palestinian bigot.

This should have been reported, but it was mostly not. As my colleague at The Electronic Intifada Nora Barrows-Friedman wrote: “Danon is a far-right politician who has called for Palestinian ‘national suicide’ and has a lengthy history of racist incitement against Arabs and Africans.”

And as Twitter user Jonathan Kennedy put it well, Danon: “Equating support for Palestinians to anti-Semitism presumes that repression of the Palestinian people is an inherently Jewish quality, which is the real anti-Semitic sentiment here.”

Some liberal Zionists fretted that Danon’s smear against Watson was too “crass” and thus wouldn’t be believed.

They were right to be afraid. The backlash against Danon was immense and massive, and he was ridiculed and denounced for his appalling smears.

But contrary to the worries of the liberal Zionists regarding the declining potency of their weaponized anti-Semitism, this downfall is much to be welcomed, and is long overdue.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East