Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 6, 2007

Is Nasrallah an anti-Semite?

Filed under: Islam,Jewish question,middle east — louisproyect @ 8:19 pm

Eugene Goodheart: does not like Hizbollah

As many people know, the London Review of Books has become an outlet for scholarly, reputable but often controversial opposition to Zionism–not the least of which was its publication of the Walt-Mearsheimer article on the Israeli lobby in March of 2006.

More recently, there has been controversy over Charles Glass’s relatively favorable coverage of Hizbollah in Lebanon courtesy of Eugene Goodheart, a professor emeritus of literature at Brandeis University, who complained:

I do not support the terrible excesses of Israel’s bombing of Lebanon, nor do I regard all criticism of Israel as an expression of anti-semitism, but Charles Glass’s defence of Hizbullah is beyond the pale. Is Glass familiar with these statements, made by Hizbullah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah? ‘If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide’ and ‘They [Jews] are a cancer which is liable to spread at any moment.’ The leader of the Party of God (a grotesque conception of a political party, although that doesn’t seem to bother Glass) is not simply a resistance fighter. He is an anti-semite with fantasies of genocide. Glass makes Hizbullah sound like a rational movement that does little harm, but on the contrary does a great deal of good and learns from its mistakes. What lessons had it learned from the debacle of the 1980s when it provoked a war that has brought so much havoc to its own country, without even consulting the government in which it serves? Glass tells us that he was kidnapped by Hizbullah. Has he succumbed to Stockholm syndrome?

Glass responded in a subsequent issue:

Eugene Goodheart asks whether I am familiar with two statements he attributes to Hizbullah’s secretary-general, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah (Letters, 7 September). Goodheart uses the inflammatory quotations to accuse Nasrallah of being ‘an anti-semite with fantasies of genocide’. If I am unfamiliar with the statements, it is because they are in all likelihood fabrications. The first (‘If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide’) was circulated widely on neo-con websites, which give as its original source an article by Badih Chayban in Beirut’s English-language Daily Star on 23 October 2002. It seems that Chayban left the Star three years ago and moved to Washington. The Star’s managing editor writes of Chayban’s article on Nasrallah, that ‘I have faith in neither the accuracy of the translation [from Arabic to English] nor the agenda of the translator [Chayban].’ The editor-in-chief and publisher of the Star, Jamil Mrowe, adds that Chayban was ‘a reporter and briefly local desk sub and certainly did not interview Nasrallah or anyone else.’ The account of Nasrallah’s speech in the Lebanese daily As Safir for the same day makes no reference to any anti-semitic comments. Goodheart’s second quotation – ‘They [the Jews] are a cancer which is liable to spread at any moment’ – comes from the Israeli government’s website at http://tinyurl.com/99hyz. For the record, a Hizbullah spokeswoman, Wafa Hoteit, denies that Nasrallah made either statement.

Goodheart wonders whether, as a former captive of Hizbullah, I may have succumbed to Stockholm syndrome; may I ask in return whether he is succumbing to the disinformation that passes for scholarship and journalism in certain quarters in the United States?

Charles Glass Paris

Goodheart was so stung by Glass’s rebuttal that he has written another salvo for Dissent Magazine, a key outlet for Eustonian politics in the USA that he titles “The London Review of Hezbollah”. In the second paragraph, Goodheart alleges:

The London Review of Books is an egregious instance of this one-sidedness. Almost every issue contains several articles devoted to attacks on Israel, and the target is not simply the governing party, but the whole spectrum of Israeli political life. Absent from the columns of the Review are the injustices and cruelties of political Islam.

His article has drawn the interest of Crooked Timber, an academic blog that enjoys such food fights. They question the frequency of such alleged attacks based on a fairly rigorous search of the LRB archives:

Goodheart’s case is not strong. A perusal of the LRB’s back issues reveals a total of 17 articles critical of Israel in 2006, but ten of these come from two issues published during the invasion of Lebanon (and the LRB is published 24 times a year).

Goodheart, who seems to have been some kind of Marxist in his youth (according to an article that appeared in the Columbia University alumnus magazine), appears to have retained the polemical edge of those days even if his politics are yawningly predictable. Going in for the kill, he informs Glass that the Daily Star is not the only source that confirms Hizbollah anti-Semitism. His ace in the hole is Amal Saad-Ghorayeb’s “Hizbu’llah: Politics and Religion”, a scholarly work supposedly sympathetic to the Shi’ite party. Goodheart calls attention to damning citations found within its covers, including this from Hizbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah:

If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, we do not say the Israeli.

This led Brendan to astutely comment on the Crooked Timber blog entry devoted to Goodheart’s article:

The source of the quotation is cited in footnote 20 of Chapter 8 of Saad-Ghorayeb’s book: an interview, not with Nasrallah, but with a Hizbullah member of the Lebanese Parliament, Mohammed Fnaysh, conducted by the author on 15 August 1997.

Saad-Ghorayeb informs me that the footnote is a mistake, although she is certain there is a valid source for the statement. However, when at my request she examined her PhD dissertation, from which the book originated, she discovered the same mistaken citation. Footnotes in a long work can easily go astray, but it is unfortunate that neither her dissertation adviser nor her publishers spotted the error. Therefore, until someone discovers where and when Nasrallah uttered the words above, the case is unproved.

Condemned for words he did not utter

So we are dealing with multiple errors in the scholarship department. The LRB is not publishing attacks on Israel in “almost nearly every issue” and Saad-Ghorayeb’s quote is about as solid at the one that appeared in Goodheart’s original complaint. One can only wonder if becoming a professor emeritus dulls the edge you are forced to maintain when part of the academic rat-race. My only recommendation to Eugene is to adhere to more rigorous standards if he wants to be taken seriously in Mideast politics.

I have quite a bit of interest in this topic because I have been openly critical of the Holocaust conference in Iran that brought KKK’er David Duke and David Irving in as “experts”. Since Hizbollah is linked (somewhat unfairly, some would argue) to Iran, is there guilt by association?

Using Lexis-Nexis, I did a full-text search for “Hezbollah” (Lexis-Nexis converts this to the various spellings), “Nasrallah” and “anti-Semitism” for all available dates, which means going back to the mid-1980s, before the group was formed. I assumed that the Western media would be keeping a close eye on his utterances, just as they do with anybody on Washington’s enemies list, ranging from Hugo Chavez to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As it turns out, only 30 articles turned up.

I went through them assiduously (excluding editorials, which have much looser standards) and could find not a single incriminating quote from Nasrallah. In the precious few articles that did make such an allegation, there was nothing to back it up. A July 23, 2006 Atlanta Constitution article is typical:

Hezbollah is heralded on the so-called Arab Street as a leader of “resistance” to what many see as Israel’s bullying and the West’s political and legal double standards in dealing with the region’s 1.3 billion Arabs.

Its message, bathed in the language of “martyrdom,” anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, is broadcast on radio, regionwide television and over the Internet.

Too bad the reporter could not provide evidence of such language. Considering the hatred that exists toward political Islam in the USA, the fact that he didn’t speaks volumes.

Meanwhile, Israel has had no problems forging alliances with the Phalangists in Lebanon, whose sister party in Spain was a staunch ally of Adolph Hitler. When Roger Garaudy, the ex-Communist, went on trial in France in 1998 for holocaust denial, Karim Pakradouni, deputy leader of the Kataeb (Phalange), was quoted in the local press: “France will not give up its tradition of free speech . . . to the Jews.” Along the same lines, John Rose, a member of the British SWP, wrote:

Finally Israel’s backing for the Christian Phalange in Lebanon must be mentioned. The Phalange were founded by Pierre Gemayel in the 1930s. It was a fanatically right-wing armed militia, self-consciously modelled on the fascists. (Phalange means fascist. Gemayel visited Berlin in 1936 and met Hitler.) Gemayel’s son Bashir rose to prominence in the Phalange in the 1970s and then in the wider Christian movement in Lebanon. Bashir Gemayel, also a fascist, came to dominate Christian forces in Lebanon by the simple expedient of murdering all his opponents.

Gemayel’s faction was enthusiastically, if secretly at first, welcomed in Haifa in 1976 by the then Israeli Labour government. [27] The contacts were cultivated and Israel began arming Gemayel. In August 1982, the month when hundreds of Palestinian refugees were massacred in the Lebanese camps at Sabra and Shatila, Bashir Gemayel was “elected” Lebanon’s president as Israeli guns and tanks stood by.

One supposes that Israel overlooks the Phalangist history in the same manner that it allies itself with the Christian right in the USA, whose anti-Semitic utterances are far easier to document than Nasrallah’s. Zev Chafets, an IDF veteran and rightwing columnist now residing in the USA, has written something called “A Match Made in Heaven” that looks fondly on the growing alliance between the Christian right and Israel. Like the Phalangists, the Christian right believes that the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim.

Jerry Falwell is one of the Christian rightists whose support he deems critical for Israel’s survival. A July 23, 2006 LA Times piece by Chafets titled “I want Falwell in my foxhole; At the end of the day — or at the End of Days — Israel has plenty of time for anybody who wants to help the Jews” says it all. This is the same Falwell who told the world in 1999 that the Antichrist would have to be a Jew, based on his understanding of Scripture. Not surprisingly, Jewish officialdom sprang to his defense. According to the January 17, 1999 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Rabbi James Rudin of the American Jewish Committee in New York said “the comment surprised him because he knows Falwell is a strong supporter of Israel and is not anti-Jewish.”

Excused for words he did utter

I guess if one is a “strong supporter of Israel,” then just about anything goes. It is the equivalent of getting a “Get out of Jail Free” card in Monopoly.


  1. The persistent pro-Zionist reliance on quotes and intentions as proofs of danger has been insufficiently noted. When challenged as to Israeli deeds, the rebuttal may reference deeds done against Israel, but invariably cites hostile quotations and malign intentions. This is the paranoid style in its essence. It is also practical; quotes and intentions are easily imagined, fabricated, interpreted, mistranslated and are by definition difficult to disprove in that disproving any non-fact is difficult other than by demanding proof. This quickly devolves the argument to the level of pissing contest, which is where the party with weaker case typically wants to see it. J.

    Comment by J. Marlin — February 6, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

  2. It’s The Jews Stupid

    Comment by Chris — February 8, 2007 @ 2:48 am

  3. President Ahmadinejad’s real views are summarized on this website: ahmadinejadquotes.blogspot.com

    Comment by Al — February 8, 2007 @ 2:38 pm

  4. i did a ‘search’ to see if, scientifically, it could be replicated to arrive at ‘law’ or ‘fact’ or ‘data point’.

    the federation of american scientists has a paper on their site which quotes either the leader or fadlallah (not the leader, but supposedly their religious authority) saying what could be called ‘anti-semitic’ things. on their official web site jews are always specified as zionist jews which is a behavior, and not a trait, and hence not antisemitic (to me).
    daily kos cites a book by a shi’ite which is favorable to hizbollah, where jews as a group are denigrated by the leader. of course, i don’t know where the quote comes from.
    i’d say the issue is undecided; also, alot of this stuff is actually ‘political racism’, and has to do with creating useful devils, not with any belief in them.

    Comment by media — February 18, 2007 @ 6:38 pm

  5. Mr. Proyect, I wonder how an unrepentant Marxist would explain the rank-and-file American Christian’s general support of Israel without an appalling level of condescension. It would seem that the only explanation is our blissful ignorance, dancing to the tune of a piper named Falwell, Pope Benedict XVI, Franklin Graham, fill-in-the-blank. If so, that’s OK. We probably agree that a stranger’s opinion of us is worth less than a monkey’s fart as long as we hold true to our convictions.

    I will continue to browse your archive in search of an answer. While we probably wouldn’t agree on the color of the sky, your views are interesting. I have had little exposure to your particular brand of leftist thought. I apologize for not commenting on the real meat of your article–to be honest it’s quite over my head in most parts. Ah, but you are obviously very intelligent, much more so than myself if coherence in writing are any indication (and I think they are very much).

    It’s unfortunate that Jerry Falwell chooses to engage in politics instead of evangelism, but I can’t help but (somewhat) admire a man who, while harmless, is so thoroughly reviled. As to his “anti-Semitic” remark about the antichrist being a Jew, is it necessary to remind you that his professed Lord and God was himself a Jew, as well as Paul, Peter, Moses, blah, blah, blah? Perhaps we define “anti-Semitic” differently. Well, have a good day. Jesus loves you, Mr. Proyect.

    Comment by Justin V — February 23, 2007 @ 6:57 pm

  6. I was hoping someone would debunk Goodheart’s slurs!

    Well done on an excellent job, Louis.

    As a UK Jew, I applaud your anti-Zionism.

    This pernicious doctrine has for too long been an ugly stain on our (collective) name.

    Comment by Rosa Lichtenstein — February 26, 2007 @ 9:52 pm

  7. IN THE PARTY OF GOD.(Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah)

    Source: The New Yorker

    Publication Date: 10/14/2002

    Author: Goldberg, Jeffrey


    Saad-Ghorayeb is hesitant to label Hezbollah’s outlook anti-Semitism, however. She prefers the term “antiJudaism,” since in her terms anti-Semitism is a race-based hatred, while anti-Judaism is religion-based. Hezbollah, she says, tries to mask its antiJudaism for “public-relations reasons,” but she argues that a study of its language, spoken and written, reveals an underlying truth. She quoted from a speech delivered by Hassan Nasrallah, in which he said, “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli.” To Saad-Ghorayeb, this statement “provides moral justification and ideological justification for dehumanizing the Jews.” In this view, she went on, “the Israeli Jew becomes a legitimate target for extermination. And it also legitimatizes attacks on non-Israeli Jews.”

    So in this article it was not Nasrallah himself but someone translating to a reporter of what they thought Nasrallah said. The article also has many of the other anti hezbolah and anti Nasrallah quotes.

    Is this the Ultimate source?

    Comment by Ashley Kennedy — July 18, 2007 @ 8:41 pm

  8. Farwell is a far right wing facist who is an extrem anti-semite. He may say he supports Isreal, but he surely hates Jewish people, expecially working class Jew that can`t and won`t give him money, because geting money without working hard is all he is about. When someone says that support Isreal, I really don`t know what that means. Do they mean vote for me or give me money so I can say I support Isreal, when they really hate Jews? Is it that these people who say they support Isreal use this as a trump card in order not to give us a universaly health care or a desent education and job core programs, and only give us wars? This is complete bullshit to me, and I an very uncomfortable around these people that say they are for Isreal.

    Comment by Al Kovnat — October 22, 2007 @ 10:17 am

  9. Hezbollah and Hassan Nasrallah are not anti semite they only defend the lebanese nation from the agressor Israel

    but the zionist propagande what to give the name of anti semit too every people who resist too them

    if the greek attacked lebanon like israel did the reaction of hezbollah would have been the same

    Comment by fromlebanon — November 16, 2007 @ 9:36 pm

  10. I am constantly reading how the thousands of quotes I hear by Muslims that say such things as, “All of the Jews should be killed and thrown back into the sea.” Or some such thing, can all be simply explained away by simple translation mistakes. Similarly, when I read in the Quran and its countless verses that say “kill the infidels,” “fool them into befriending you, then kill them,” “make false treaties with them, then kill them all”, etc. Again all of this is explained away as bad translations. And finally, I have visited the near east and I see the unbelievable devistation created by suicide-bombers, I see Muslim text-books and television shows that depict Jews as monsters who eat children, and I hear clerics daily calling for death to the West, the Jews, to America, and all infidels (those who are not Muslims), even death to moderate Muslims who want change toward peace and acknowledge Israels right to exist. Yet even though I speak Arabic fairly well, whenever I try to discuss the morality of “whipping up young children to kill themselves for a cause they really don’t understand,” or why 100,000 European Muslims would protest a silly cartoon about Muhammed, threatening violence and death if it is ever publiched again.” I am again told over and over I don’t really undderstand; the problem is with me, not Islam. I am litterally taking my life in my hands to ask those questions because infidels have no rigth to question Allah! Funny, nobody reported any trnslation problems whn my life was threatened for things I freely discuss in public daily in America, Israel, of other Democratic stated. Even when I duscuss them with many of my Islamic friends who are citizens of Israel; they are part of ove 1 million Arab Israeli citizens who did run asway in teh wars to join the other Arab nations against Israel. I ws skocked to learn that of all displaced Palestinians sine teh birth of Israel 60 years ago, ISRAEL has taken back more Arab refugees than all the Arab nations combined in the region, including the Arab/Muslim nations with a population of 138 million people and 100’s of Billions of dollars. It sort of begs the question, who is opressing teh Palestinians MOST?

    All in all, though, I thik I am gaining a grip on The Islamist spinning of an ultra-violent religion founded on Muhammed’s sword, who’s people are desperately depending on that same sword someday to ovecome the blow of losing a powerful Empire and a place of honor among world governments right up to the fall of the Ottomans afer WWI. And while I am opposed to their methods–I support responding to their declaration of War against non-Muslims with firm military offensive/defensive actions when necessary. Trying to regain a place of honor and dignity on the world stage is a noble honor, but NOT if it takes deceit, false treaties, and blinding, relentless violence to do it. Still, I find an understandable motive deep down in the desperation of people in their position. Thomas Friedman once said of the culture of global Islamist terrorism afer a trip to the near east, “Never underestimate the power of humiliation!”

    But, what I will never understand are the western pseudo-intellectual acedemics and pie-in-the-sky politicians who buy into their lies, deceit, and false treaties? They so quickly grasp on and hold tightly to the belief that ONLY through bloody terrorism, the intentional murder of innocent people, and violent extortion of legitimate governments can we reach the negotiation table. This is especially despicable when any person who can read, comprehend, and figure it out for him/herself that their unlimate most Holy Book, and handbook for religious, civil, and military strategy, the Quran, tells us what they are going to do, how they are going to do it, and who they are going to do it to. And I don’t buy that crapola about “bad translations.” Infidels are non-believers, kill means murder, making flse treaties means going to Paris, Oslo, Camp David, Etc. and making a FALSE treatiesnever meant to be kept, sword means chopping off heads, and spreading Islam to the world, means to all of planet earth and its +or- 5 1/2 billion infidels!

    Comment by Mark Ellis — December 24, 2007 @ 7:55 am

  11. I suppose people did not realize there was this comment. That was an interesting post.

    Mark Ellis is an idiot who thinks what’s written in the Quran happens in daily life. The Quran was the same 300 years ago, yet at that time Muslism and Jews coexisted peacefully in Palestine. The Bible tells parents to stone their unruly kids to death. Do they do it ? I guess not.

    So your whole point about what’s written in the Quran is useless. People are as good as the system lets them be. Treat them like dirt and they’ll react accordingly.

    Comment by littlehorn — January 19, 2009 @ 4:03 pm

  12. […] most definitive discrediting of the false quote is in this post by Louis Proyect (who is a widely-published Marxist thinker): "Is Nasrallah an anti-Semite?" February 6, 2007. Here is […]

    Pingback by 'NYT' op-ed equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism relied on Nasrallah quote that is in all likelihood a fabrication — October 29, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

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