June 28, 2022

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The hypocrisy of Amer Zahr’s antisemitic anti-Zionism (part 2) (Petra Marquardt-Bigman)


By Petra Marquardt-Bigman



If you read part 1 of this documentation, you know already that Bernie Sanders surrogate Amer Zahr hates Israel, but got an Israeli passport for himself and regularly visits to perform his “comedic routines” – which presumably include an act on the topic “BDS for thee but not for me.”

Unsurprisingly, it turned out that Zahr is also not particularly honest when he claims that he comes from a family of Palestinian refugees. His maternal grandparents apparently decided to emigrate from Israel to the US; but what about his paternal grandparents – and how come Zahr was born in Jordan?

The relevant story is recounted in a post on Zahr’s website, which – all too predictably – includes some creative re-writing of history. The two sentences that deal with the birth of Zahr’s father are a good example: “In March 1948, George [i.e. Zahr’s father], their first child, was born. […] One month later, Zionist forces (with the support of the British government) took Yafa by military force, forcing tens of thousands of Arabs from the city, including Elias, Salma, and their infant child” [i.e. Zahr’s grandparents, who were Christians, and his father].

Zahr could probably learn a lot about what really happened in Jaffa from the book of his maternal great-grandfather (see Part 1) – though he might not like what his great-grandfather wrote. In any case, Zahr is wrong: “Zionist forces” – which did NOT have “the support of the British government” – didn’t take Jaffa in April 1948, but only on May 13, 1948. Most importantly, however, the “Zionist forces” did NOT force “tens of thousands of Arabs from the city.”

The supposed ethnic cleansing of Jaffa by evil Zionists is a fairly popular myth, but it is well documented that the more affluent Arab residents of Jaffa set an example for the rest of the population by starting to leave the city soon after the United Nations Partition Resolution of November 29, 1947. Jaffa’s poor neighborhoods had been swelled by tens of thousands of migrants since the early 1920s, and many of the local migrants soon decided to return to the villages they had come from, while migrants who were from further away may have tried to get back to wherever they had come from.

More recent research has also shown that tensions between the politically moderate Arab upper- and middle classes in Jaffa and supporters of the militant mufti and Nazi collaborator Amin al-Husseini (whom the French had allowed to escape to Egypt) created chaos in Jaffa – indeed, as Amer Zahr surely knows full well, his own maternal great-grandfather “fled from Jaffa to Ramallah in December 1947” because he feared being assassinated by Husseini’s people. In addition, “violent clashes erupted and tensions ran high between the local population and the Arab Army of Salvation recruited by the Arab League, which consisted of Syrian, Iraqi and other volunteers, if not mercenaries […] Many Arab testimonies […] describe cases in which the foreigners engaged in looting and arbitrary confiscation of merchandise from local Arab shopkeepers.”

The vast majority of Jaffa residents who left the city well before “Zionist forces” took over in mid-May 1948 fled preparations for a war instigated and pursued by an Arab leadership and Arab governments resolved to prevent Israel’s re-establishment with “a war of extermination and momentous massacre.” Already in October 1947, Arab League secretary-general Azzam anticipated that this war would “be an opportunity for vast plunder,” but while he insisted it would be seen “as dignifying every Arab and every Muslim throughout the world,” he also expected “horrible battles.”

In order to avoid getting caught up in these “horrible battles,” Amer Zahr’s grandparents left Jaffa with their newborn son and, as Zahr puts it, “refuged to Amman.” According to Zahr, the family had a “hard life in Amman,” because although “Palestinians were granted citizenship in Jordan, they were and remain second-class citizens. King Hussein constantly cracked down on them, most notably during the fighting of the fall of 1970, dubbed ‘Black September.’ During that time, the Jordanian army killed at least 10,000 Palestinians.”

Zahr apparently hopes that those who have no clue about the “Black September” fighting won’t suspect that it was a result of the reckless conduct of Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which used Jordan as a base for a terrorist war against Israel in total disregard for the interests of Jordan’s government and King Hussein.

But it seems that Amer Zahr’s grandparents managed to get through “Black September” unscathed, and after his father George Zahr “graduated from college in Jordan,” he went “to study further in Beirut, and eventually earned a PhD from the University of California-Berkeley, where he married a fellow Palestinian refugee.”

However, Zahr’s mother was not a “refugee,” and it also doesn’t make much sense to describe his father as a “refugee.” It’s true that Zahr’s paternal grandparents had left Jaffa with their newborn son to escape the bloody war that Arab League secretary-general Azzam had anticipated so eagerly, and they may not have intended to settle permanently in Amman. But as Amer Zahr acknowledges, “Palestinians were granted citizenship in Jordan,” i.e. both his grandparents and his father, who grew up in Jordan, presumably had Jordanian citizenship.

Moreover, by the time George Zahr met his future wife during his studies at Berkeley, she was already living in the US for about a decade, and it’s reasonable to assume that she had acquired American citizenship (in addition to her Israeli citizenship). Since George Zahr participated in research “sponsored by the United States Government” at Berkeley, he also might have applied for, or acquired, American citizenship.

After finishing his studies (in chemistry) in 1976, George Zahr was apparently hoping to pursue an academic career, and in 1977, “he returned to Amman and became a professor at the University of Jordan.” Soon afterwards, Amer Zahr was born, but he didn’t get to grow up in Amman, because in 1979, “as a result of an ugly and unjust political episode, George, wildly popular with his students, was fired from his post.  He was exiled from Jordan and found a new life in America.”

Needless to say, Amer Zahr thinks that this made him a “refugee”. As he wrote in a 2001 article entitled “On visiting the place of my birth”:

“While I am Palestinian, my roots in Jordan are deep. After being expelled as a refugee at the age of one month in 1948 as a result of the creation of the state of Israel, my father was raised and attended university in Amman. Amman was his home in exile, and it was also the place of my birth. At the age of three, amid my father’s political “disagreements” with the government of Jordan, I became a refugee and was subsequently raised just outside of Philadelphia, PA (Incidentally, the ancient Roman name for the city of Amman was ‘Philadelphia’). When it comes down to it, my father and his families were expelled from Palestine in 1948 for being Palestinian and expelled from Jordan in 1980 for acting Palestinian.”

But it seems Zahr doesn’t really bear a grudge against Jordan. After all, it’s an Arab country where hatred of the world’s only Jewish state runs deep – which is something that makes Amer Zahr very happy. As he posted in December 2018: “Jumana Ghunaimat, Jordan’s minister of media affairs and communications, stepped on the Israeli flag at a building in Amman. Jumana, that leaves with me with one question: Are you single? #FreePalestine #Palestine #Jordan.”

It’s worthwhile to look at one more version Amer Zahr offers for the “refugee” story of his father. In a post written in May of last year under the title “DON’T MESS WITH PALESTINIANS!”, Zahr pondered the Palestinian “nakba”, i.e. catastrophe, and presented his father as an example for his claim that “this whole Nakba-Naksa-Youm El Ard stuff has actually made us [i.e. Palestinians] stronger.” According to Zahr, Palestinians are now “the hardest working people in the world” and “the smartest people in the world”:

“To illustrate all these points, I’d like to tell you of the case of a particular refugee I know quite well. His name is George Zahr. He was born in Yafa, Palestine in March 1948. At one month old, he became a refugee. He grew up in Jordan, starting his education in UNRWA schools. Then, he finished high school with honors, college with honors, master’s degree with honors, and a doctorate degree in chemistry with honors. As you can see, there’s a theme.

His education got him a professorship, then a well-paying research position in America for thirty-five years. A big house. Nice cars. College-educated kids. That’s the Palestinian story. From nothing to everything.

Education catapulted my dad from a shoeless Palestinian refugee to a spoiled American who owns a triple-control, seven-jet, multi-functional, Bluetooth-enabled, state-of-the-art, voice-activated shower. I love this country.

And it all happened because Israel tried to get rid of him.”

It’s nice to hear that Amer Zahr loves America – which you wouldn’t always know from his social media posts. And it’s of course very nice to hear that his father was so successful in pursuing the American dream. But it didn’t “all happened because Israel tried to get rid of him”: Zahr’s father was born before Israel was established, and his parents fled the preparations for “a war of extermination” that Arab leaders and governments threatened and incited in order to prevent Israel’s re-establishment.

Reading Zahr’s “nakba” post from last year illustrates not only his usual disregard for facts and his seething hatred for Israel, but it also reveals his almost pathological Palestinian nationalism. This is how he concludes his post:

“Remember how I said Israel created 800,000 Palestinian refugees in 1948? Well, that was true. But they didn’t get everyone. About 150,000 Palestinians remained in what is today Israel. Now, if those 150,000 people had increased at the average global population growth rate, today they should number about 350,000-400,000 people. But they’re not 350,000-400,000 people. Nope. They’re 1.8 million people. That’s right, they drop bombs, we drop babies. They have tanks and helicopters, but we have the strongest weapon in the world.

And that population spike is not our fault. When you shut down the roads, deprive us jobs, and confine us to ghettos, there’s a lot of free time to fill. And don’t forget, two thousand years ago, we got a woman pregnant without touching her. What did you think was gonna happen when we started touching each other?

So, I guess my message is this. Don’t push us. Don’t challenge us. We end up as multilingual, super-educated, hyper-reproductive, overachieving marvels.

That’s right. Don’t mess with us Palestinians. If you do, we will outwork you, we will outsmart you, and we will, if necessary, outfuck you too.”

Perhaps Zahr feels he can write like this because people will keep in mind that he’s a comedian and be inclined not to take him too seriously. But when he boasts that “two thousand years ago, we [Palestinians] got a woman pregnant without touching her,” he picks up a recurring theme of his activism that should be taken seriously, because it echoes the long and bloody history of Christian antisemitism.

It’s unclear if Zahr identifies as a Christian because his father was born to Christian parents. Zahr’s mother is Muslim, and it seems that Zahr sometimes performs at events where organizers probably assume that he is Muslim. Most likely, Zahr views religion like he views facts: as something that can be twisted, or ignored altogether, depending on what’s more convenient.

But Zahr’s efforts to use Christianity in order to promote an antisemitic message are quite serious and sustained. At the time of this writing, Zahr’s pinned tweet is from December 2018 and announces: “Merry PALESTINIAN Christmas! Jesus was one of us! Palestine is full of history. Could you be named after a Palestinian? #MerryChristmas #Palestine #FreePalestine #Jesus #JesusIsPalestinian”

The clip featured in the tweet is downright idiotic and leaves you wondering if Amer Zahr is perhaps not particularly bright, or if he just thinks his followers are hopelessly dim.

Zahr starts out claiming that celebrating Christmas means “celebrating the birth of a Palestinian.” He goes on to list figures from the New Testament, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and tells his viewers that anyone sharing any of the names of these New Testament figures is named after a Palestinian.

It gets even more ridiculous when Zahr asserts: “Jesus fought against occupation and tyranny” – but if that’s what you believe, it’s obvious that Jesus would have fought against the Roman occupation of his ancestral Jewish homeland. When the Romans executed Jesus, they mocked him as “King of the Jews”; and it was of course the Romans who eventually “exiled the majority of the Jewish people and renamed Judea ‘Palestina’. To be clear, ‘Syria Palestine’ officially became a Roman province about a century after Jesus’ crucifixion. The idea was to erase the Jewish presence from Judea and to designate their homeland with reference to their Biblical enemies”,  i.e. the Aegean people (from what is now Greece) called “Philistines”/ “Plishtim.” The “Philistines” had disappeared centuries earlier, but the Roman renaming of the Jewish homeland was obviously intended as “a last humiliation.”

The Jew-haters of today may enjoy it when people like Zahr try to re-enact the Roman humiliation of the Jews, and Zahr is only too happy to promote antisemitic Palestinian propaganda by abusing Christian holidays for his “Jesus was a Palestinian” nonsense.  

But while the kind of Palestinian propaganda promoted by Zahr might seem ridiculous, it shouldn’t be ignored that it reflects the roots of Christian antisemitism. As the eminent scholar Walter Russell Mead has emphasized, some of the writings in the Christian New Testament illustrate that it was considered “extremely important that Jesus was a Jew and that the story of Jesus is part of the story of God’s encounter with the Jewish people.” However, “Christians going back to the first century AD have often wished this wasn’t so. In ancient times, various Greek and Roman cults grew up that detached the figure of Jesus from this Jewish context […] More recently, the Nazis in particular hated the idea of Jesus being a Jew, and some of them went so far as to invent an “Aryan Christianity” with an Aryan Christ. The Nazis were picking up on a kind of anti-Semitism that flourished in the first and second centuries after Christ as theological writers like Marcion argued that the Jewish God of the Old Testament had nothing to do with the much higher, more noble, and philosophically acceptable deity proclaimed by Jesus.”

One of the links Mead provides leads to a book on “The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany,” which seems sadly relevant for Palestinian efforts to “dejudaize” Jesus. Here is the introductory paragraph: 

The Palestinian need to deny that Jesus was a Jew is of course rooted in the refusal to acknowledge that the Jews are indigenous to today’s Israel and the historic areas of Judea and Samaria; needless to say, this also includes the denial of the fact that Jerusalem became a holy city for Christians and Muslims because the Temple Mount had first been – and remains – Judaism’s holiest site.

Putative “progressives” like Bernie Sanders surrogate Amer Zahr would never even dream of denying the history of indigenous people anywhere – except for the Jews. Zahr may be a comedian, but there’s nothing funny about the endless lies and fabrications he comes up with in order to demonize the world’s only Jewish state.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

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