The debate about whether or not anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism is still with us. It won't go away because the underlying issues do not go away: Israel still exists as a Jewish state, anti-Semitism still exists, criticism of Israel still exists and will continue to exist and anti-Zionism still exists. The debate is renewed every time there is a fresh critique of Israeli policy, such as the infamous Walt and Mearsheimer "study" of "The Israel Lobby."
Critiques of Israel can be divided into several categories. The most important are:
1. Legitimate Criticism
- Critiques of Israeli policy that do not question Israel's right to exist, and do not attribute the existence of Israel or its success to a Jewish cabal. These are not anti-Zionist, and are not anti-Semitic. For example, it should possible to debate whether or not Israel should leave the West Bank and Gaza without being called an anti-Semite or a traitor or a "Fascist," as long as the debate does not involve extraneous issues. Similarly it should be possible to debate the wisdom of IDF policy at check points or the need for the security fence.
2. Non-legitimate Criticism
- Critiques of Israeli policy that hold Israel to higher standards than others may or may not be legitimate. In the same way, there are many who criticize US policies but ignore violations of human rights by European countries or African and Asian countries. That may be illogical and wrong, but it is not anti-Semitic if Israel is not singled out, alone among all nations.
Not along ago, Phylis Chesler published a book on "The New Anti-Semitism."
Part of her thesis seems to be that the double standard is intrinsically anti-Semitic:
What's new is that this hatred has, incredibly, been embraced and romanticized by Western liberals, public intellectuals, Nobel Prize winners, all manner of so-called progressives and activists and, to a great extent, by the presumably objective media. The educated elites claim that they do not in fact hate Jews. How can they — the noblest among the "politically correct" — be racists? They loathe racism — except, of course, where Jews are concerned.
What's new is that Jew-hatred (disguised as anti-Zionism) has itself become "politically correct" among these so-called intellectuals. They have one standard for Israel: an impossibly high one. Meanwhile, they set a much lower standard for every other country, even for nations in which tyranny, torture, honor killings, genocide, and every other human rights abuse go unchallenged.
We would have to agree with this idea if indeed these intellectuals singled out Israel, but in fact, they usually make the same sort of discriminatory criticisms of the United States and Britain.
3. Critique of policy that lapses into anti-Zionism - If someone says that the settlements in the West Bank are immoral and then says that the West Bank settlements are the same as Zionist settlement of Palestine and land purchases in the 1920s then the criticism has lapsed into anti-Zionism because, obviously, one has to allow the legitimacy of at least some Jewish settlement at some time if you allow the legitimacy of Zionism. Anti-Zionism is not necessarily anti-Semitic in intent, especially since there are anti-Zionist Jews, but it is anti-Semitic in principle, because it insists that Jews do not have the same rights as other peoples. This is more or less the logic behind John L Strawson's conclusion that anti-Zionism generally amounts to anti-Semitism even if they are not identical:
While there are honorable Anti-Zionist positions they are few. On the whole Ant-Zionism is close to, or a mask for, Anti-Semitism.
4 Critique of policy that is motivated by anti-Zionism - For example, the motive of people who instigate the boycott Israel initiative is clearly not to change Israeli policies, but to eliminate the state of Israel. Thus, leaders of a boycott Israel meeting had this to say:
"We must understand that occupation will end only after, or simultaneously with, de-Zionization...We must turn the one-state solution into a relevant political agenda, in Israel, the 1967 OPT, in the camps in Lebanon, among Palestinian exile communities in Detroit, everywhere."
Unless people with this goal want to end all nation-states everywhere, this goal is anti-Semitic. In any case, we don't have to take their critique of Israeli policy seriously, because they aren't interested in Israeli policy. They would find fault with Israeli policy if Israel withdrew to the area of Tel-Aviv, as long as Israel remained the national home of the Jewish people.
5. Critique of policy that is thinly veiled anti-Semtiism - Recently Walt and Mearsheimer published a "study" that concluded that US policy in the Middle East is governed by the Israel Lobby, which supposedly forces the United States to take stands that are detrimetnal to its own foreign policy in order to support Israel. The "Israel Lobby" could only attain such power if Jews are all solidly pro-Zionist, and if the Jews in the United States, who constitute about 2% of the population, have somehow obtained some mythical and diabolical powers over the United States government, such as those attributed to Jews by anti-Semitic libels.
Walt and Mearsheimer's attack was aggravated by the claim that anti-Israel policy statements cannot get a hearing in the press and are stifled. This claim of stifling was made in the New York Times and half a dozen ofther journals, until all the press was full of anti-Zionist articles claiming that it is not possible to get an anti-Zionist article printed anywhere. As such people are humorless, they probably did not see the irony.
6. Open anti-Semitism that is vaguely connected with Israeli policy - Representative James Moran clearly crossed the line into anti-Semitism when he made this statement:
If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this...
This was not an accusation against Israel, but against American Jews.
7. Open anti-Semitism that hasn't got anything to do with specific Israeli policies, but is probably the motive for anti-"Zionism" - In this class we can put all the utterances of President Ahmadinejad of Iran. He said for example:
"Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces..."
"Although we don't accept this claim..."
This clarified the motivation for some of Ahmadinejad's previous statements about Israel, such as:
... They [ask]: 'Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism?' But you had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved.
Also clearly in the same category is the discourse by an Iranian professor that insisted that the Tom and Jerry cartoons were part of a Jewish Zionist plot hatched by the "Jewish" Disney corporation (in reality the cartoons were made by Hanna and Barbera for Warner Brothers. Disney was not Jewish of course).
8. Apologetics for the above - According to Juan Cole, Ahmadinejad never threatened to wipe Israel off the map:
He went to an anti-Zionist conference and quoted Ayatollah Khomeini, saying that the “Occupation regime” must “vanish.” This statement about Israel does not necessarily imply violence.
(see http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20060313_fishing_for_a_pretext_in_iran/ )
In fact as we saw, Ahmadinejad clearly called for a world without America and without Zionism, not quoting anyone at that point, and his meaning was unmistakable. It is also true that it may not imply violence. Perhaps Zionism can be wished away. True, Ahmadinejad later quoted Khomeini about changing the "regime" in Israel, but he had added his own preamble about a world without Zionism. Judge for yourself what Ahmadinejad meant, what Cole's statement is, and what motivates it.
A few years ago, in 2003, Emanuele Ottolenghi wrote an article, Anti-Zionism is anti-semitism which lays out many of the basic issues, clearly and without indefensible digressions, and from which I will quote at length in closing:
There is no doubt that recent anti-semitism is linked to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And it is equally without doubt that Israeli policies sometimes deserve criticism. There is nothing wrong, or even remotely anti-semitic, in disapproving of Israeli policies. Nevertheless, this debate - with its insistence that there is a distinction between anti-semitism and anti-Zionism - misses the crucial point of contention. Israel's advocates do not want to gag critics by brandishing the bogeyman of anti-semitism: rather, they are concerned about the form the criticism takes.
If Israel's critics are truly opposed to anti-semitism, they should not repeat traditional anti-semitic themes under the anti-Israel banner. When such themes - the Jewish conspiracy to rule the world, linking Jews with money and media, the hooked-nose stingy Jew, the blood libel, disparaging use of Jewish symbols, or traditional Christian anti-Jewish imagery - are used to describe Israel's actions, concern should be voiced. Labour MP Tam Dalyell decried the influence of "a Jewish cabal" on British foreign policy-making; an Italian cartoonist last year [2002 - a.i.] depicted the Israeli siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as an attempt to kill Jesus "again". Is it necessary to evoke the Jewish conspiracy or depict Israelis as Christ-killers to denounce Israeli policies?
The fact that accusations of anti-semitism are dismissed as paranoia, even when anti-semitic imagery is at work, is a subterfuge. Israel deserves to be judged by the same standards adopted for others, not by the standards of utopia. Singling out Israel for an impossibly high standard not applied to any other country begs the question: why such different treatment?
Despite piqued disclaimers, some of Israel's critics use anti-semitic stereotypes. In fact, their disclaimers frequently offer a mask of respectability to otherwise socially unacceptable anti-semitism. Many equate Israel to Nazism, claiming that "yesterday's victims are today's perpetrators": last year, Louis de Bernieres wrote in the Independent that "Israel has been adopting tactics which are reminiscent of the Nazis". This equation between victims and murderers denies the Holocaust. Worse still, it provides its retroactive justification: if Jews turned out to be so evil, perhaps they deserved what they got. Others speak of Zionist conspiracies to dominate the media, manipulate American foreign policy, rule the world and oppress the Arabs. By describing Israel as the root of all evil, they provide the linguistic mandate and the moral justification to destroy it. And by using anti-semitic instruments to achieve this goal, they give away their true anti-semitic face.
There is of course the open question of whether this applies to anti-Zionism. It is one thing to object to the consequences of Zionism, to suggest that the historical cost of its realisation was too high, or to claim that Jews are better off as a scattered, stateless minority. This is a serious argument, based on interests, moral claims, and an interpretation of history. But this is not anti-Zionism. To oppose Zionism in its essence and to refuse to accept its political offspring, Israel, as a legitimate entity, entails more. Zionism comprises a belief that Jews are a nation, and as such are entitled to self-determination as all other nations are.
It could be suggested that nationalism is a pernicious force. In which case one should oppose Palestinian nationalism as well. It could even be argued that though both claims are true and noble, it would have been better to pursue Jewish national rights elsewhere. But negating Zionism, by claiming that Zionism equals racism, goes further and denies the Jews the right to identify, understand and imagine themselves - and consequently behave as - a nation. Anti-Zionists deny Jews a right that they all too readily bestow on others, first of all Palestinians.
Were you outraged when Golda Meir claimed there were no Palestinians? You should be equally outraged at the insinuation that Jews are not a nation. Those who denounce Zionism sometimes explain Israel's policies as a product of its Jewish essence. In their view, not only should Israel act differently, it should cease being a Jewish state. Anti-Zionists are prepared to treat Jews equally and fight anti-semitic prejudice only if Jews give up their distinctiveness as a nation: Jews as a nation deserve no sympathy and no rights, Jews as individuals are worthy of both. Supporters of this view love Jews, but not when Jews assert their national rights. Jews condemning Israel and rejecting Zionism earn their praise. Denouncing Israel becomes a passport to full integration. Noam Chomsky and his imitators are the new heroes, their Jewish pride and identity expressed solely through their shame for Israel's existence. Zionist Jews earn no respect, sympathy or protection. It is their expression of Jewish identity through identification with Israel that is under attack.
The argument that it is Israel's behaviour, and Jewish support for it, that invite prejudice sounds hollow at best and sinister at worst. That argument means that sympathy for Jews is conditional on the political views they espouse. This is hardly an expression of tolerance. It singles Jews out. It is anti-semitism.
Zionism reversed Jewish historical passivity to persecution and asserted the Jewish right to self-determination and independent survival. This is why anti-Zionists see it as a perversion of Jewish humanism. Zionism entails the difficulty of dealing with sometimes impossible moral dilemmas, which traditional Jewish passivity in the wake of historical persecution had never faced. By negating Zionism, the anti-semite is arguing that the Jew must always be the victim, for victims do no wrong and deserve our sympathy and support.
Israel errs like all other nations: it is normal. What anti-Zionists find so obscene is that Israel is neither martyr nor saint. Their outrage refuses legitimacy to a people's national liberation movement. Israel's stubborn refusal to comply with the invitation to commit national suicide and thereby regain a supposedly lost moral ground draws condemnation. Jews now have the right to self-determination, and that is what the anti-semite dislikes so much.
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Replies: 6 Comments
Zionism is essentially Jewish nationalism. One can be opposed to nationalism in all of its forms, including Jewish nationalism, without being anti-Semitic. If one is supportive of all other forms of nationalism and opposed only to Zionism, that would be anti-Semitism.
This, I believe, is the fundamental confusion. Most progressive-thinking people in the world today are opposed to nationalism in all its forms. Just look at Europe. They're doing everything they can to exorcise the demons of nationalism from their societies. The E.U. and the U.N. on the one hand, and subnational ethnic groups and city/regions are rapidly eclipsing the nation-state as the fundamental units of social organization.
The concept of an ethnically defined nation-state is an anachronism that has no place in the 21st Century. South Africa and Israel were the last ones, and South Africa gots its act together more than ten years ago.
The sooner we as Jews realize this, the sooner we can get let go of militarism and ethnic pride/hate and move on to the more important task of contributing to the moral and ethical advancement of our people and of the entire world.
Hee-bro, Wednesday, May 24th
Are you saying that if I don`t agree with your bullshit that I`m anti-semitic? Hüh?
Ralph Sweeney, Tuesday, May 2nd
Hello. Excellent website. Best definition of the difference between legitimate complaints re: Israeli political policies and anti-semitism I have read or heard. Dan Rice
dan rice, Tuesday, May 2nd
No Colin. Ariel Sharon was vilified by his enemies due entirely to his success at routing them. Ariel Sharon, until he decided to pull back from Gaza, was indeed a hero. As we are discovering in the west, the seething of the jihadi masses, and the arab nationalism is not something one can offer olive branches to. One must completely and absolutely crush these subhuman slime. Only by completely destroying their morale can one force peace. Yes, this is a problem, as the arab and islamist or jihadi can never let go of their shame. That is their problem.
IDF protects civilians, of all political and religious bents.
Jihadis attack civilians of all political and religious bents, though preferring to kill the hated jews.
The arab nations have demonstrated time and again how they spend money on arms rather than helping their people, and eventually attacking Israel. Has happened many times over the last 58 years, and it would be naive to assume that it will never happen again. To suggest that the IDF should carry water pistols into combat is either recklessly naive, or holding the IDF to a different standard than others fighting for their lives.
What I don't see here Colin, is any proportionality in your response. You make lots of claims, and yet you don't compare what Israel and Ariel Sharon have done as compared to his contemporaries. Or other figures in history about which you might hold a similar amount of contempt. I am not sure that this is possible, as you don't demonstrate that you have contempt for other figures or nations or armies in the world. Just the nation of jews, their leader, and their army.
You claim your comment is not anti-semitic. I see it quite differently.
Arguing that the world mourns Rachel Corrie and the others (from both sides) is disingenuous and untrue. The world mourns Mohammed al-Dura. Too bad that was demonstrated to be a hoax. The world mourns Rachel Corrie, who together with her parents deny Israel's right to exist. The world mourns the palistinian murderers who kill innocents in Israel when the security council is asked to pass resolutions against the Israeli response to the murderers.
Ever think about that Colin? Didn't think so.
Debating whether or not settlements cause terrorism is valid critique. It is fairly obvious now, to the rest of the world that they do not, that jihadism and islamism cause terror. What this says about the ideology that promolguates such views could get one labeled an islamophobe, but it doesn't impact the core truths.
Israel has returned the vast majority of land area she has ever captured to the nations she has captured it from. The captures Colin, were not due to "illegal wars to extend borders", but to defensive wars to prevent annihilation. Denying this as you do, is tantamount to anti-semitism. You can deny objective reality, but you are going to be called to the mat for it, and labeled as you are.
The current situation with "occupied" west bank is quite a bit more complex than most of the anti-semitic anti-zionists would like to admit. If they dig far enough, they would see that the nation of Jordan, and its predecessor, Transjordan, are built on Israeli land. The west bank was not part of any nation when Israel evicted the Jordanian army in 1967. This land was used to launch attacks against Israeli civilians in an attempt to kill them for no other reason than they were jews. Israel evicted the hostile forces, and by all rights and international laws, may annex it without further ado. That they have chosen not to, and kept it as a card to negotiate a peace with, as well as provide defensible borders with is to Israel's credit. I didn't see that in your criticism Colin.
To summarize this long screed, Colin, you are indeed a judeaphobe, an anti-semite. Your comments expose you. Your points expose you. Your repetition of tired and well debunked screeds against Ariel Sharon, Israel and the IDF expose you. Now please stop writing about things that you have little knowledge apart what you read from the palisitian propaganda.
Abu boo, Monday, May 1st
Many pro-Israel supporters complain that Israel is falsely depicted as a ruthless oppressor but make no attempt to determine the reason for such opprobrium.
The primary reason, in fact, now lies in a hospital bed in Jerusalem. Ariel Sharon, seen in Israel as a hero, was perceived by most of the rest of the world as an arrogant, brutalizing, political misfit, who treated non-Jews as non-persons during his premiership.
More than any other reason, Sharon epitomized the perception of a self-serving nation, nuclear-armed and funded by the US, that will stop at nothing to illegally extend her borders.
The IDF were and are seen as an occupying army who deliberately kill civilians, including reporters from overseas and then ensure that the Israeli soldiers responsible are never held responsible. The world mourns Rachel Corrie and
so many others murdered in this conflict and that includes those innocent lives lost on both sides to suicide bombers, tank shells and air-delivered
Israel and her supporters have consistently failed to understand that international opinion, of which Sharon was so contemptuous, is important and that he, more than any other, is responsible for the fact that the Israeli state is now
perceived as a pariah country on so many campuses throughout the US, the UK and the international community.
This comment is NOT anti-Semitic!
Colin Dale, Monday, May 1st
Zionism is a belief or motivation, not a government or political policy. One can support the former and oppose the latter.
Larry, Monday, May 1st
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