How to tell when criticism of Israel is actually anti-Semitism – The Washington Post

A narrower and more focussed definition than the one adopted by IHRA (Working Definition of Antisemitism) and a number of governments:

So how can you tell the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism? Here are five useful markers.

Seeing Jews as insidious influencers behind the scenes of world events

On the left and the right, anti-Semitism often manifests in a nefarious belief in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy that wields outsize power. On the right, it’s “globalists” and “elites” who manipulate events. On the left, it’s “Zionists.” The terms may differ, but the fundamental conspiracy theory is the same. For example, after news broke that a private investigative firm made up of former Mossad officers had been digging up dirt on Obama administration officials who helped broker the U.S. nuclear deal with Iran, Columbia University professor Hamid Dabashi tweeted, “Every dirty treacherous ugly and pernicious act happening in the world just wait for a few days and the ugly name of ‘Israel’ will [pop up].” This language parallels the last ad of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, which flashed pictures of George Soros, Lloyd Blankfein and Janet Yellen while warning of a “global power structure” that had damaged the U.S. economy. In another case, when professor Steven Salaita was denied a tenured position at the University of Illinois after a series of anti-Israel tweets, he wrote: “Support for Israel . . . exists in sites of authority, often an omnipresent but invisible accoutrement to swivel chairs, mineral water, and mahogany tables.”

Also in this category is the theory, popular on the left, that Israeli trainers are to blame for racism and violence against people of color by U.S. police. (Durham, N.C., for instance, recently barred its police department from partnering with the Israeli police or military for training, citing this notion.) This includes insinuationsthat American Jewish organizations that help send U.S. police officers to Israel for counterterrorism training should be held responsible for the shootings of unarmed people of color. American police have used violence against marginalized people since long before Israel existed. White people have never needed Jews to teach them how to brutalize people of color on American soil. There are reasonable questions to ask about the content of training programs in Israel, but the suggestion — absent supporting evidence — that Jews bear guilt for U.S. police killings merely updates the old anti-Semitic trope that falsely accused Jews of managing the global slave trade .

Using the word “Zionist” as code for “Jew” or “Israeli”

“Zionism” denotes a movement, forged in the late 19th century and evolving ever since, for the existence of a modern Jewish state in the land of Israel. A Zionist, as I define myself, supports one or more of the many variations on this vision, which differ wildly in their political, religious and cultural emphases.

Critics of Israel sometimes use “Zionist” to assert a global power structure without specifically calling out Jews as its masterminds. After Salaita, the Illinois professor, also lost a position at the American University of Beirut, he wrote, “I was shocked that Zionist pressure could succeed in the Arab World.” The Nation of Islam’s Final Call newspaper asserts that “Zionist pressure ” will not stop Louis Farrakhan from continuing his anti-Semitic pronouncements, which have included calling Jews the “synagogue of Satan.”

The “Zionist” label attempts to reduce a state full of living, breathing humans to a simplistic political notion. It’s common for Palestinians and their supporters to refer to “Zionist occupation forces” instead of the “Israeli army,” or to the “Zionist entity” instead of “Israel.” At a demonstration I walked by this past week, protesters held signs mourning 70 years of “Israel,” in quotes.

One may disagree with the decision of the United Nations to recognize Israel decades ago, wish that the state had never come to be or aspire to the establishment of a binational state in its place without necessarily stepping into anti-Semitism. But refusing to call Israel or Israelis by their internationally accepted names denies the very existence of the state and its people’s identities. These coy linguistic tricks are as unacceptable as the right-wing penchant for denying the existence of Palestinians and Palestinian identity.

Denying Jewish history

As a means of rejecting the legitimacy of Israel, some stoop to asserting that Jews have no national history there — that they are, in other words, nothing more than European colonizers. For instance, the website Middle East Monitor referred recently to the “alleged Temple” in ancient Jerusalem (the ruins are still there). Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, likewise, resurrected the old canard that today’s Jews descend from Khazar converts in arecent and much-criticized speech.

The Jewish connection to Israel goes back millennia. After their expulsion by the Romans in 70 A.D., Jews continued to pray for a return to the land and to observe four fast days each year to mourn the exile. Zionism’s revolution came not in creating a new connection between Jews and the land of Israel, but in suggesting that a return to the land could be achieved through modern political means, rather than by waiting for the messiah.

Some critics also reduce Judaism to religion, in the mold of Western Christianity, rather than acknowledging our more complex sense of ourselves as a people with a history and an ancestral land, as well as religious and cultural practices. This includes dismissing Zionism as “white supremacy,” as the Chicago Dyke March did last year when its organizers argued that Zionism had no place in an anti-racist movement and that it “represents an ideology that uses legacies of Jewish struggle to justify violence.” Statements like these ignore the fact that, unlike most white people here and elsewhere, Jews have been subject to racially based discrimination — and that more than half of Israeli Jews are not Ashkenazi, meaning their families did not come from Europe.

Finally, disregard for Jewish history may take the form of using Nazi imagery to depict Israel or its army. This tactic cynically manipulates the greatest modern trauma of Jewish history to attack us, while minimizing the genocide of 6 million Jews. Israel may be violating its human rights obligations, but is not carrying out a Nazi-style extermination operation.

Dismissing the humanity of Israelis

In a conversation about terrorist attacks by Palestinians, one young activist told me, “I can’t judge how other people carry out their liberation movements.” Such lack of concern for Israeli lives is evident in failures to condemn rocket attacks against civilians, in the rejection of the term “terrorist” for anyone who acts against Israelis and in statements blaming Israelis for their own deaths. A movement motivated by concern for human rights requires caring about the dignity, well-being, concerns and self-determination of all people.

This means opposing the military occupation of the Palestinians, with its attending violence, as well as rejecting terrorism or rocket fire against Israelis. Human Rights Watch, which right-leaning groups often accuse of being anti-Israel, has modeled such an approach by regularly condemning Hamas for launching rockets at Israeli civilians. This approach also means standing with Israeli human rights leaders, who increasingly find themselves the targets of dangerous incitement by the country’s political leaders.

Assuming that the Israeli government speaks for all Jews

Rabbis who speak at rallies on domestic issues (the Trump travel ban, police killings, etc.) regularly tell me that audience members shout at them, “What about Palestine?” An explicit disavowal of a connection to Israel shouldn’t be a prerequisite for Jewish involvement in broader social justice issues, as has become the norm on college campuses and in many progressive spaces.

Imagine assuming that all Americans support President Trump’s policies, or asking Americans to expressly disown their own country before engaging in any international human rights campaigns. Reasonable people may disagree about Israeli policy, about nationalism or about whether the solution to the conflict should involve one state or two. But Jews who care about Israel — many of whom revile Netanyahu and his politics — should not be excluded from progressive spaces based on their answers to such questions.

Jews, along with other groups, must fight for human rights, in the United States and abroad. This work means insisting that Israel, like other countries, live up to its human rights commitments. The case can be made without bigotry and hate speech.

via How to tell when criticism of Israel is actually anti-Semitism – The Washington Post

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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