Carole Nuriel
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Disentangling solidarity with Palestinians from antisemitism

In the guise of advocating equality, some of the rhetoric is in fact a call for the elimination of Jews and the Jewish state
File: Demonstrators rally at an “All out for Gaza” protest at Columbia University in New York on November 15, 2023. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP)
File: Demonstrators rally at an “All out for Gaza” protest at Columbia University in New York on November 15, 2023. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP)

It is no secret that there has been an alarming surge in antisemitism in the wake of Hamas’s October 7 massacre and the subsequent Israeli response. This surge can be observed in public spaces in the United States, among students and facultyonline, in the Middle East and around the globe.

Indeed, it is not the first time that antisemitism has surged in times of military conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, as evident in past experience and as documented during the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas. This type of antisemitism we are currently experiencing is specifically characterized by anti-Zionism and is predicated on tropes that have been utilized by some Palestinians and their supporters to further the Palestinian national narrative.

Recognizing these tropes and when they manifest is important on multiple levels: First, they fuel broader antisemitism worldwide and provide impetus to efforts to romanticize and glorify terrorism against Jews. Secondly, they are useful in distinguishing between legitimate solidarity with the plight of Palestinians and endorsement of underlying prejudices against Jews, Zionism and Israel.

But equally important, these manifestations provide a glimpse into the kinds of antisemitism that Israelis encounter in their own country. Some believe that because Israel has a Jewish majority and is a strong, sovereign state, it means that antisemitism is irrelevant for Israelis. But iterations of the Palestinian narrative negating Jewish self-determination are something Israelis constantly deal with and lie at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

First, central to this type of antisemitism is the invocation of tropes about Zionism, mainly that Zionism is a form of settler colonialism. This trope classifies the Jewish quest for self-determination as nothing more than an imperialist aspiration by a European movement, and Israel as an outpost of Western Imperialism; thus, denying Jewish roots and indigeneity in the Land of Israel.

Second, there has been a romanticization of genocidal and antisemitic slogans that have historically been associated with Palestinian armed struggle against Israel, notably “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free,” “Globalize the Intifada” and “From the Water to the Water, Palestine is Arab.” These slogans, sometimes endorsed by US anti-Israel circles and presented as a call for equality, are in fact calls for the elimination of Jews and the Jewish state, and the creation of a Palestinian state free of Jews.

Third, Holocaust distortion is central to this type of antisemitism in its framing of Israel. There have been repeated allegations that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, using false Nazi and Holocaust analogies. This resonates with the historical Palestinian view of themselves as victims of the victims of the Holocaust, subjected to the same kind of persecution as the Jews.

Meanwhile, the culture of denialism developed around the October 7 massacre has followed similar denialist tropes about the Holocaust: minimizing the scope of the massacre the same way the Holocaust was minimized; blaming Israel for the attack the same way European Jews have been blamed by Palestinian leadership for their fate; and an insistence by the Palestinian leadership to not acknowledge or condemn the October 7 massacre, the same way that acknowledgment of the Holocaust has been perceived in the Palestinian national narrative as a taboo which comes at the expense of the legitimacy of the Palestinian plight.

As the current war is in its third month, Palestinians and their supporters should do the moral thing by disentangling solidarity with Palestinians from anti-Jewish animus, as well as by being mindful of the ways in which such animus fosters a broader antisemitic climate. While it is hard in this moment to imagine a future of peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, building a foundation for such a possibility will require seeking opportunities to create understanding and mutual respect, and the avoidance of hateful, antisemitic tropes.

About the Author
Carole Nuriel is the director of the Anti-Defamation League's Israel office in Jerusalem.