vrijdag 21 mei 2010


The Dutch sociologist Abram de Swaan once coined the term 'anti-Israelian enthusiasm'. This term aptly reflects the phenomenon that activism for the Palestinian cause in some cases is accompanied by lashing out at Israel in a hardly disguised lascivious way.

This phenomenon recently appeared in a number of news items. There was for instance the report about the Kairos document, a cry for help from Palestinian church leaders. This originally Arabic document was recently translated into Dutch and one of the translators made the text sharper than the original was, especially when it comes to punishing Israel. In his reflection on this, he says explicitly that he might have been too enthusiastic, too involved.

Further two Dutch politicians are allowed, in the newspaper Trouw, without any objection to assent fully to the experience of freedom of a suicide bomber at the moment he blows up himself along with a number of Jews. Because "in a situation of total absence of freedom suicide attacks can be an expression of freedom". It was not clear, incidentally, whether this experience of freedom had to do specifically with blowing up Jews or whether an Iraqi in Baghdad who takes ten compatriots with him to death reaches the same level of self-realization.

And Gretta Duisenberg, the widow of Europe’s former central banker, said in a recent interview she thinks ‘anti-Semite’ is becoming almost an honorary title. In the same interview she also tells when she started to focus on Israel. "I was occupied with all kinds of conflicts: Bangladesh, Nicaragua, South Africa, Argentina. But when the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) against Israel started in 2000, I said to my husband, Wim Duisenberg: Now it's over, now I go work for the Palestinians".

Such a sentence is interesting. For how is this kind of choices being made? I don’t mind anybody calling Israel a rogue state, but it should be coupled with the annotation that there exist in the world fifty or hundred of such states. With casualties, both internally and externally, that are a factor of ten or more higher. What then makes someone to wholly, and with a kind of obvious pleasure, sink one’s teeth into precisely the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

Of course, I understand that, if you care about the fate of all those people who are less fortunate than you are, you still cannot get involved in everything. One needs to focus, so apart from people who will focus on Sudan or Nicaragua or the Western Sahara, there will be people who focus on Israel. But that does not make the question less interesting how such a choice comes about. And especially why it is often accompanied by a furtive kind of pleasure. Where does that special passion come from?

Perhaps it has to do with the feeling of breaking a taboo.

See also Irritating