This is an opinion piece by Thomas Fretwell, M.A.
A Growing Consensus
Speaking at a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the Vel D’Hiv, an event in which over 13,000 French Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps by their own government, Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, called anti-Zionism a new form of anti-Semitism. Specifically addressing current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Macron said, “We will never surrender to the messages of hate; we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism.” Following this declaration, senator Charles Schumer made similar remarks on the Senate floor in Washington D.C. He said:
"Anti-Semitism is a word that has been used throughout history when Jewish people are judged and measured by one standard and the rest by another. So it is with anti-Zionism; the idea that all other peoples can seek and defend their right to self-determination but Jews cannot; that other nations have a right to exist, but the Jewish state of Israel does not."
These statements add to the growing chorus of politicians and leaders who have come to recognise that much of what is being done under the banner of anti-Zionism is barely distinguishable from classical anti-Semitism, except that it has been rebranded, given new terminology, and ironically, as Phyllis Chesler points out, “is now being perpetrated in the name of anti-racism and anti-colonialism by supposed politically correct human rights activists.”
Is it a Noble Cause?
This new ideological facelift has provided a measure of respectability to the anti-Zionist cause. In their mind, if the State of Israel can be likened to an evil oppressor, then any attempt to “free the oppressed” cannot be racism, it is an issue of “human rights” - another politically motivated buzz word in today’s culture. With this skewed perception of reality, attacking the Jewish state collectively is not the same as attacking Jews individually, and pushing for the boycott of Israeli businesses and academics is not the same as the Third Reich boycotting Jewish-owned businesses, because this is now supposedly done with noble motivations - a desire to speak up for the oppressed. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious to many that anti-Zionism is nothing more than an ideological-political project which ultimately desires the destruction of the state of Israel, the “removal of the Zionist entity”. In this sense, anti-Zionism is really no different than its ideological forbearer and can rightly be called anti-Semitic.
The True face of anti-Zionism
It is not that difficult, for anyone acquainted with the manifestations of anti-Semitism throughout history, to see that anti-Semitism is like a virus that mutates with the ever-changing cultural zeitgeist, always there, bubbling under the surface, waiting for the right time to rear its ugly head. Britain’s ex-chief Rabbi Jonathon Sacks comments that:
“In the Middle Ages, Jews were hated because of their religion. In the 19th and 20th centuries they were hated because of their race. Today they are hated because of their nation state, Israel. Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism.”
It is no coincidence that with the increase of anti-Zionism we are also seeing an increase in anti-Semitic incidents, particularly on campuses, and especially during the “Israel Apartheid weeks” organised by pro-Palestinian students. The Community Security Trust (CST) has reported that anti-Semitic incidents in the UK hit a record high in the first six months of 2017, a 30% increase from 2016. Of course, this cannot be completely blamed on anti-Zionism, yet at the same time, the hard-left and pro-Palestinian ideology of the movement has provided a fertile breeding ground for this new form of anti-Semitism to take root. The connection is most noticeable whenever conflicts flare up in the Middle East, and anti-Semitic incidents around the world spike. For example, individual Jews, many of whom have never even lived in Israel, are being targeted because the actions of the State of Israel. Such incidents testify to the fact that the Israeli-Jewish conflation is the most popular form of anti-Semitism. Reporter Emma Barnett, writing for the Telegraph comments that:
"A new working definition of anti-Semitism, by the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), now includes “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”, and “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”. (It does, incidentally also state that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.’"
Crossing the Line
Of course, many will protest vigorously that they are in no way anti-Semitic, they are simply anti-Zionist, and only disagree with the policies of the Israeli government. They argue that it is wrong to equate the two. This much is true, the two are not the same, but often they do morph into one and the same and become virtually indistinguishable. It is very important to realise that as a democracy - and an imperfect democracy at that – criticism of Israel can be important to bring about positive change. A valid, albeit negative criticism of Israeli policy should not be considered anti-Semitic. In a government consisting of both religious and secular groups, having those on the left and the right, you will not find fiercer debate about Israeli policies than within Israel itself. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times wrote the following:
“Criticising Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction – out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East – is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest.”
In reality, I don’t think anyone is being labelled anti-Semitic for just criticising Israeli policy. However, questions are being raised when condemnations of Israel cross the line from valid criticisms into denigration that could be classed as anti-Semitic. The line between the two can often be very difficult to judge “since this new anti-Semitism can hide behind the veneer of legitimate criticism of Israel”. Dan Cohn-Sherbok in his volume Anti-Semitism (2009) explains that during the 1970s the left-wing media created new themes to manipulate public opinion – Zionism was equated with racism and even Nazism, and Israel was seen as a terror state seeking the genocide of the Palestinians. He concludes “here then is a new form of Judaeo-phobia, political in character yet rooted in inherited stereotypical images from the past”.
The “3D” Test for the New Anti-Semitism
Former Israeli Minister Nathan Sharansky, who, as a dissident in the former Soviet Union monitored anti-Semitism, laid out the criteria for distinguishing these boundaries in his article “Anti-Semitism in 3D”. The three “D”s of the new anti-Semitism are: demonization, double standards and delegitimisation.
It is possible to find examples of all three “D”s in the writings and actions of the anti-Zionist movements. The accusations of racism and apartheid, along with Nazi comparisons serve to both demonise and delegitimise the state of Israel. Perhaps the most obvious element of the new anti-Semitism within the anti-Zionist movement is the shocking double standards applied to Israel. To speak of supposed Israeli “apartheid” whilst simultaneously ignoring the well documented gender, sexual, and religious apartheid existing throughout the Middle East is to apply a double standard. To condemn Israel as one of the chief human rights violators in the world without condemning the rampant human rights violations by surrounding nations is a double standard. To claim that it is due to Israeli actions that we have no peace, without highlighting the many rejected peace offers made by Israel, without discussing the Khartoum Summit’s infamous “three No’s” (no Peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel), and without addressing the Charters of both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas that call for Israel’s destruction, is a double standard. To criticise the Security Wall and call for its removal, without addressing the ideology that makes it necessary, is a double standard.
The answer is YES
It is for these reasons that the world is slowly waking up to the fact that anti-Zionism, although claiming to be politically focused, still, in many ways, resembles classical anti-Semitism. There is nothing wrong with bringing forward legitimate criticism about the state of Israel, but where this criticism involves an attempt to demonise and delegitimise the state of Israel by applying double standards, then this may properly be called what it really is: The New Anti-Semitism.
Thomas Fretwell, M.A. tutors in Jewish-Christian Studies at King's Evangelical Divinity School and Recently commenced doctoral studies in the field at Manchester Metropolitan University.