By Emily Schrader
It’s been a chaotic year for antisemitism. With hate crimes against Jews on a continuous rise in multiple countries, and violent incidents occurring even in the countries considered safest for Jews, like the United States, organizations seem to be popping up left right and sideways to “combat antisemitism.” But there is no combating antisemitism without necessarily combating the modern manifestation of it: anti-Zionism.
While there certainly has been pushback to rising antisemitism, we seem to be winning a few battles, and losing the war. Modern antisemitism has been normalized across cultures by the demonization of the Jewish state. In recent years, the dialogue demonizing “Zionism” laid the groundwork for today’s classic antisemitism that we see popping up from celebrities, world leaders and others.
Disagreeing with Israeli policy and actions as a state is and has always been legitimate, but that is not what anti-Zionism is. Anti-Zionism is 2020’s antisemitism. It is an explicit rejection of the Jewish right to self-determination, and only the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. It is bigotry couched in socially acceptable language, and it’s time we start speaking the truth about it.
This year in particular, Western activists seem increasingly motivated to speak out against bigotry toward LGBTQ, black and other minority communities. With the rise of “cancel culture” there has been particular attention paid to the targeting and “exposing” of those who, these activists argue, hold bigoted views.
Yet it seems one form of bigotry is not only not subject to cancel culture but it is often promoted by some of the leaders of so-called progressive movements (including Black Lives Matters, Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Louis Farrakhan). That form of bigotry is, of course, antisemitism.
Why can you be canceled for just about anything except antisemitism? Part of the answer to that question lies in the fact that as a culture, both the West and the Middle East (in Arabic), are desensitized to antisemitism. This is a byproduct of a combination of factors.
SECOND, REGARDLESS of one’s feelings about the State of Israel’s political actions, demonizing Israel has become a harbinger of classic antisemitism, and in many cases, a form of antisemitism in and of itself. Cultural refusal to acknowledge this has led to much social confusion that creates a fertile ground for deeply rooted antisemitism to thrive.
We should be appalled by the social acceptance of Louis Farrakhan or the comments of NFL player DeSean Jackson, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Societies are accepting of debate not only over Israel’s policies (again, completely legitimate), but over whether or not the only Jewish state in the world has a right to exist, which is fundamentally outrageous.
Individuals such as Farrakhan or Sarsour, who have repeatedly made blatantly antisemitic statements, were able to emerge unscathed by public outrage, in comparison to the smallest incidents of hate speech against other minority groups. This is because of one reason alone: anti-Zionism.
Third, fringe Jewish organizations with political agendas focused on obsessively criticizing Israel “as Jews” – such as Jewish Voice for Peace or IfNotNow – are actually contributing to antisemitism by conflating their political disputes over Israel with Judaism and the concept of self-determination for the Jewish people (Zionism).
Their “legitimacy” is used to give credence to clearly antisemitic worldviews that make combating antisemitism much more difficult. Not only that, but they are statistically not representative of the Jewish community, the vast majority of whom are Zionists.
For more than 10 years, I have seen example after example – on campuses, online and across cultures – of how anti-Zionism is synonymous with antisemitism. How many examples will it take for the public to understand the connection? How many Jewish students will be attacked as a result of so-called “anti-Zionist” beliefs? Just this month, a study was released by the AMCHA Initiative that showed that anti-Zionist events on campuses led directly to a significant increase in antisemitic activity.
When individuals or groups attack Zionists, they are engaging in antisemitism. To be anti-Zionist is not to be against annexation, or the Israeli government, or even to be pro-Palestinian. Zionism is not a mutually exclusive idea that necessitates the denial of the existence of the Palestinian people, nor their right to self-determination. However, to be anti-Zionist is to be against the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, and that is nothing but the modern manifestation of antisemitism. It’s time we call a spade a spade, and cancel anti-Zionism.