Answers to a Burning Question
What does it take to distinguish Jew-hatred from mere ‘political speech’, ‘academic research’, or ‘social justice’? The dvar torah that your rabbi recently gave could tell you why the messiah hasn’t come yet after all of the mess in the world, but not answer this aching question. For too long, we’ve argued over the degree to which Anti-Zionism is or can possibly be antisemitic. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks’s popular animated lessons and Natan Sharansky’s “3 D’s” have found a special place in the content of Jewish organizations and their piles of advocacy literature. Yet, most scholars who have attempted to explain Anti-Zionism as “the new antisemitism” have only picked up certain concepts, failing to capture the full details that articulate the socio-cultural words and realities that Jewish youth currently experience.
Thus, a ‘machloket’ remains for Jews in reaching basic consensus on defining this recycled, intellectualized form of an age-old hatred for the non-Jewish world. Today, with years of compiled anti-Israel propaganda unleashed in common institutions and news outlets, it is much easier to identify and categorize the psychological weapons of Anti-Zionists, beyond just Rav Sacks’s visual explanations and Sharansky’s litmus test of “demonization, delegitimization, and double standards”. From my several years of engaging with a surplus of Anti-Zionist arguments and philosophical approaches, I’ve come to realize that the rhetorical devices currently used in various platforms to justify alienating Jews from their indigenous homeland can be confidently dismantled into eight general categories. I’m willing to argue that with the following eight “Anti-Zionist Principles of Disenfranchisement”, we can begin to put this dispute to rest:
- Firstly, the abrogation or ‘replacement’ of Jewish history and identity with that of other peoples is a foremost means to undermine Jewish claims to self-determination in Israel. Fallacious anachronisms such as “The site of Al-Haram Ash-Sharif (the Dome of the Rock) was always of Muslim heritage” are typical and meant to contradict long-standing evidence of Jewish presence, like the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.
- At other times, Anti-Zionists strangely employ appropriation of the Jewish legacy, in order to refute our legitimate autonomy, i.e. most famously, “Jesus was an Arab Palestinian” and other jingoistic fantasies.
- Similarly, deletion of core parts of Jewishness sabotage understandings of Jewish collectivity and thus our rights to sovereignty, such as “Jews are solely a religious group, not an ethnicity” or “Jews first came to Palestine in the nineteenth century”.
- Omission of historical facts shape biased misconceptions of events for political gain: “Palestinians remain stateless and impoverished, while Israelis are independent and relatively prosperous” — while conveniently failing to mention that Palestinian (leaders) are the number one recipients of foreign aid per capita worldwide, squandering funds, maintaining Palestinian poverty, and rejecting the legal terms of statehood — and peace — now over six times.
- The distortion of Jewish or Israeli identity, history, or endeavors alleges vicious mischaracterizations such as “The Jews are foreign, white, colonial usurpers” or “Zionism is racism”. Ring a bell yet?
- Just when you thought #5 couldn’t get juicier, the disparaging inversion of blame towards Jews for traditional and ongoing forms of Jewish suffering flaunts worse, i.e. “Israeli Zionists (Jews) were beneficiaries of the Holocaust and are now perpetrating a ‘Palestinian Holocaust’” or “Israel created Hamas” and “Zionists are white supremacists”.
- Not to mention, imposition is a tool for Anti-Zionists who fancy homogenizing Jewishness and Jewish nationhood out of existence while ignoring the difficult 2,000 year-old Jewish experience in diaspora under host nation-states, ex: “Israel can’t be a ‘Jewish state’”.
- Finally, with some crossover to acknowledge between many of these methods, we can’t forget about good old discrimination. Yep, just plain singling out Israel for condemnation, destruction, or boycott, etc., like we regularly see at the UN.
One might say that — in theory alone — Anti-Zionism is obsessive hostility disproportionately targeting simple notions of Jewish refuge and reclaimed freedom, which is de facto anti-Jewish (excluding leveled criticism of Israeli policies). However, I argue even setting that aside, the strength of these eight points lies in the empirical proof that it’s essentially impossible to find an Anti-Zionist argument that does not purport any of these inherently antisemitic aberrations, since the only way to package returning Jews to disenfranchisement, as a moral enterprise, is through misinformation.
Propaganda campaigns that have emerged from the Soviet-era playbook to our phones today — these eight manipulative approaches — are tools that have been expressed in Arabist documents dating, at least, to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) 1964 Charter. Its rhetoric is suprisingly, but practically identical across decades in Palestinian Authority and Hamas broadcasts and can be read all the way from a New York Times news piece or cartoon or a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) post or tweet.
Many of us are already familiar with these approaches, we just hadn’t connected all the dots. Now, let’s not leave any more wiggle room for people who haven’t yet decided if they’re comfortable or not being transparent about their bigotry (or keen to admit their implicit bias). Young graduates espousing these trendy pseudo-intellectual alibis for hate, without education today, are bound to produce leaders who harm our future societies, without accountability tomorrow. Let’s bring us all a brighter future and educate today. Sitting back as Jew-hatred becomes mainstream was never kosher.