We live in trying times. The good honest anti-Semite who openly proclaimed that Hitler was right and that the Jews run the world is slowly falling out of fashion. Sure, there is the case of Irem Aktas, the activist from Tayip Erdogan’s AK Party, who tweeted her hopes that the Israelis wounded by the ISIS suicide bomber in Istanbul would die. And one should not forget Aysegul Gurbuz, a former rising star of the British Labour Party, who argued that Hitler was the greatest man in history and who expressed her desire to see Iran wipe Israel off the map. Finally, and perhaps most comical of them was Nizar Ahmed, coincidentally another politician from the Labour Party. He claimed that his conviction for dangerous driving, which resulted in the death of another man, was because his Jewish media-owning friends were angry at him for visiting the Gaza Strip.
Dealing with individuals like the ones above is relatively easy. Their views range from the disgusting to the satirical and few people in the Western World, barring racist skinheads and members of the KKK, would want to be their bedfellows. Nevertheless, anti-Semitism has evolved from being a crude caricature where Jews are portrayed as the big-nosed greedy bankers moving the cogs of the global financial system to something far more sinister and now completely legitimate in most social circles. Anti-Zionism, the idea that the Jewish people should not have a state of their own in their ancestral homeland of over 3000 years, has become a perfectly acceptable stick with which to hit Jews on the head, regardless of where in the world they live.
A person can now heap as much abuse on Israelis and Jews who support Israel without worrying too much about being called anti-Semitic. Saying that one is simply anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic has turned into the perfect defense. No one has expressed this sentiment better than former London Mayor Ken Livingstone who recently stated that “A real anti-Semite doesn’t just hate the Jews in Israel”. If the Jews in Israel are somehow fair game for hate, then one can readily extrapolate what fate awaits those living in the Diaspora who care about the Jewish State.
Anti-Zionism rests on three separate pillars which together make it not just a vicious and potent form of anti-Semitism, but also one which rallies thousands of well-meaning people around its hateful banner. It defames the Jewish people in such a way that they are not merely portrayed as Goliath, the biblical antagonist, but as the second coming of the Nazi Regime which mercilessly slaughtered them less than a century ago.
First, the so-called anti-Zionists argue, the Jewish State was born in sin. It was created because of the Holocaust, out of the guilt of the European colonial powers who settled a foreign Jewish element in the land of the indigenous Palestinians. The historical and spiritual connection of the Jews to the Land of Israel is completely obliterated. Gone is any mention of the ancient Kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon, a sovereign Jewish State dating back to 1000 BCE. Out of the window goes the simple fact that the Arab conquest and Islamization of the Land of Israel started after 600 CE. And no one bothers to check that the movement to establish a Palestinian State began only in 1964. That’s 1964 CE.
Second, the anti-Zionists proclaim, Israel is a state that continuously commits grave sins. Ken Livingstone again conveniently serves as the model to exemplify this. According to him, the establishment of the Jewish State is “a great catastrophe” and its very presence in the Middle East is the source of the region’s instability. Thus Israel, which constitutes less than 1/10 of one percent of the entire region, is somehow responsible for the complete institutional failure and wide-scale violence that are currently engulfing the Arab and the wider Muslim world. The head cutting jihadists of the Islamic State or the Christian-killing Taliban in Pakistan are not moral agents capable of making decisions, including the one not to commit massacres. They are merely the result of 6 million Jews living on a tiny sliver of land in the Levant.
However, no accusation leveled against Israel and the Jews is more damaging, more horrific, and more dehumanizing than the resurrection of the Blood Libel, the old anti-Semitic idea that Jews kill children and use their blood for various nefarious rituals. Those who denounce the Jewish State accuse it of using the memory of the Holocaust to justify the murder of innocent Palestinian babies. During Operation Protective Edge, the last war in Gaza, thousands of pictures and videos surfaced on social media of dead Palestinian children, supposedly killed by the IDF. It later turned out that many of the victims were actually Syrians, killed by Bashar Assad’s barrel bombs. The fact that Israel exercised maximum restraint in its attacks against Hamas, by warning civilians to evacuate in advance and thus losing the crucial element of surprise, has largely been forgotten.
This charge is so damning because it implies that the Jews have failed to learn the lessons of the Holocaust. Even worse, they are doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to them and they are using their status as victims of a genocide to excuse an equivalent behavior. In a way, the anti-Zionists argue, the Israelis are worse than the Nazis. And if opposing the Nazis, the epitome of the banality of evil, is a moral duty, then one should certainly oppose those who are worse than them.
The only acceptable response to aggression leveled against Israel seems to be its complete and utter annihilation at the hands of its enemies. If Israel resists, the country and its people are stripped of their humanity. The yellow stars of the Holocaust are gone and the Israelis are branded with a swastika. The Jewish State is the only state in the world whose right to self-defence is regularly questioned and the only one which is constantly compared to the Nazis. It is no coincidence that Ken Livingstone wanted to defame Israel by claiming that Hitler, the mass murderer of Jews, was in fact a Zionist.
Finally, this diabolical equivalence of Israel to Nazism is extended to Jews in the Diaspora. The Land of Israel is one of the core tenets of the Jewish faith. Therefore, Zionism is not some cruel 20th Century colonial invention. 93% of British Jews claim that Israel plays a part in their Jewish identity. For many, the words of Yehuda Halevi that “My heart is in the east (in the Land of Israel), and I in the uttermost west, How can I find savour in food? How shall it be sweet to me?” ring as true today as they did for him in the 12th century. To ask a Jew to forget Jerusalem is like asking a Muslim to forget Mecca. However, for the anti-Zionists, to be a Jew is to be a sinner of the gravest kind.
While few would dare to call someone a “dirty Jew”, the phrase “dirty Zion” is thrown around as if it had a Kosher certification stamped on it. Jews who care about a key aspect of their identity and about Jews in Israel are branded as racists, and as supporters of an entity that is claimed to be worse than the Nazis. Those who hurl such abuse simply use the defense of George Galloway, that “Jews don’t have to be on the side of Apartheid, they don’t have to be on the side of racism.” The anti-Zionist camp finds the chutzpah to say that their agenda is not to destroy the world’s only Jewish State, but rather to actually save Jews from Zionism, which is the one aspect of Judaism that is open to all forms of anti-Semitic debasement.
Not all criticism of Israel is illegitimate or anti-Semitic. Some of it is well deserved, beneficial, and necessary. However, no other sovereign nation has had to justify its very existence the way the Jewish State is forced to on a daily basis. The highly political UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel on more than 60 occasions, more than the rest of the world combined, more than North Korea, Russia, China or Sudan.
Those who seek to delegitimize the Jewish State argue that it is a violent entity worthy of condemnation. It is important to put the casualties experienced by Israel’s enemies in perspective. From the 1920s until the present day, less than 100,000 Arabs have been killed by the Israeli Army, the majority of whom being the soldiers of invading armies trying to destroy Israel and to make good on their promise to throw the Jews in the sea. One does not need a wild imagination to think of what would have happened to the Jews had they lost those wars. In comparison, over 300,000 people have been killed in the Syrian Civil War which began in 2011. Finally, since 1948 more than 12 million Muslims have been killed at the hands of other Muslims.
Today, the world’s only Jewish state is the only country that faces a widespread and widely accepted boycott movement. Little is ever mentioned of the modern Turkish Republic, which is still wildly unrepentant over its role in the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians and which treats its Kurdish minority as second class citizens. Nor were there any calls to boycott the Iranian regime as it mercilessly crushed the opposition Green Movement, or against Saudi Arabia where Shias face systemic persecution for demanding equal rights and democratic representation.
Those who march against and defame Israel should remember a few things. The Jewish state was not created because of the Holocaust. The Holocaust happened because there was no Jewish state. In the heart of every Jew there is a piece of Israel. Every Passover Seder ends with the wish “Next Year in Jerusalem”, the hope that the slaves in Egypt or anywhere else in the world will once again come back home. And while there is a Jewish state with an army, the Jew will never again be that perfect victim that is savagely humiliated, expelled from his or her home, suffocated inside a gas chamber. Never Again!