Originally used to describe a practice on social-media platforms with the purpose of encouraging the liking/sharing of negative posts, “cancel culture” has taken a more ominous turn.
A person or brand does something considered offensive or problematic … posts are written and shared about it. The incident snowballs. The firestorm puts pressure on that person or organization until that entity is effectively “canceled.” That’s “cancel culture” ….
Aja Romano writes that the desired result is that the target be “culturally blocked from having a prominent public platform or career.” There is, however, a more insidious goal, which is to end someone’s career, or to quash a political, social or cultural outlook through the power of public backlash—a backlash that lacks full understanding, is ignorant of facts and is whipped up in an irrational attack mode.
A recent example from the frontlines of the Arabs’ conflict with Israel and Zionism is Dr. Hanan Ashrawi having this to say: Israel has taken other illegal steps targeting Palestinian heritage sites, including sealing off the entrance of Jabal Al-Fureidis (or so-called Herodium).
Besides the counterclaim that the font had been retrieved as it originated at the Tel Tekoa archaeological site, from where it was pilfered by antiquities thieves, and the rather cavalier use of “so-called,” Ashrawi’s use of “Palestinian heritage site” is canceling Jewish culture and history. Herod—King of Judea and a Jew—began building the site around 28 BCE. A few years ago, I called this “national identity theft.” UNESCO co-partners this effort of the Arabs of Palestine.
Arabs-termed-Palestinians are compunctionless as regards deprecating, fabricating and denying Jewish nationalism and political Zionism. History is made up. Distortions are published, especially as regards the Holocaust. The Temples in Jerusalem did not exist. There is no such entity as a “Jewish state.”
Wondering if this should be an instrument to adopt, I thought to myself that it is not proper for a nice Jewish boy to contemplate “canceling” the Palestinian cause. But then I came across the new novel, The Book of Disappearance. The author, Ibtisam Azem, suggests a possibility whereby the Palestinians disappear overnight. No bloodshed at all. They just vanish, and Israelis wake up to find the Palestinians in their midst are all gone. As for the subject of anti-Semitism, that has been addressed by Zoe Strimpel, who asked why cancel culture never applies to anti-Semitism.
One could presume that the trauma the Arabs have undergone—having the League of Nations in 1922 recognize the legitimacy of only “civil and religious rights” in Palestine within a Jewish homeland but no political or national rights (in fact, Arabs are not even mentioned in the document and “Arabic” therein refers but to a language); the Jewish pre-state community ever expanding throughout the British Mandate years, despite Arab terror campaigns; the nakba (“disastrous”) result they brought on themselves in refusing to accept the U.N.’s recommendation of the establishment of an Arab state in 1947; the failure of fedayeen infiltrations, the Fatah raids, the first and second intifada—could justify the denial of their own claims as a people.
Why can“t certain themes, equal to what they put forth, be raised in debates and forums relating to Arabs-called-Palestinians? Is not Jordan part of historic Palestine? Did not the local Arabs refer to themselves as “Southern Syrians” and demand to be part of Syria? Are not claims of a 5,000-year-old history in the territory as Natufians and Jebusites simply ludicrous?
But one can certainly employ a cancel culture to Israel.
Witness how Peter Beinart has adopted “cancel culture” in a big way. How big? Beinart essentially cancels Zionism, and does away with a “Jewish state.” He did so at a New York Times podcast with a rather outrageous claim:
“My argument is that you could have a Jewish home … even in a confederation or one equal state, that many Jews have kind of moved to the position that without statehood, Jews would be at risk of extermination. And given our history with the Holocaust, it’s understandable that that language comes very naturally to us … a lot of Jewish privilege would probably remain, given that Jews are a much more economically privileged population. I think a fair reading of Palestinian history over the last 100 years suggests that the Palestinian national movement has not been defined by a kind of genocidal intent towards Jews, this is really the language of our trauma. But if we can get outside of that language of trauma and see Palestinians as normal human beings.”
Essentially, Beinart wields a double-edged cancellation sword. He cancels a Jewish state, and he cancels the genocidal experience Jews have had with the Arabs of the Palestine Mandate. I would presuppose to think that if I suggested that the Arabs did not deserve or require a state—or that the Haganah, Palmach and Irgun did not engage in genocidal behavior then during the Mandate or today (as Ali Abunimah pushes), as expressed in this (below) that I would be canceled, too:
“there is a long history of human rights scholarship and legal analysis that supports the assertion. Prominent scholars of the international law crime of genocide and human rights authorities take the position that Israel’s policies toward the Palestinian people could constitute a form of genocide.”
Jews really have no privilege. Those who truly do are the anti-Zionists that Beinart has spawned—from IfNotNow, to JVP, Na’amod and other groups engaged in chipping away at Israel and Jewish national identity.
Yisrael Medad is an American-Israel political and cultural columnist.