Since the vicious October 7 Hamas massacre against Israel and its citizens, where 1,200 were slaughtered and mutilated, rapings, lootings, entire kibbutzim burnt down, 240 hostages taken, and other crimes against humanity committed, anti-Jewish insidious actors across the globe are once again invoking damaging antisemitic rhetoric. One of the most jarring accusations is the claim Israel is committing genocide against the Gazans. This libelous assertion is both antisemitic and an inversion of the Holocaust.
Especially when Israel is in a time of war, people who thirst to see the demise of the Jewish nation call Israel’s right to self-defense and self-determination genocide. According to historians Norman J.W. Golda and Jeffery Herf, “drawing the comparison [of genocide] encourages Holocaust inversion.” Golda and Herf are both historians of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and they are appalled by their colleagues who are reinforcing this false claim against the Jewish state.
John Kirby, White House Security Spokesperson, made a speech condemning anti-Israel activists’ use of the word genocide, stating, “This word ‘genocide’ [is] getting thrown around in a pretty inappropriate way by lots of different folks.” Kirby, one of the most highly vested figures in the American government, makes it clear that Hamas wants the genocide of Israel, not Israel, to Gazans.
United States doctors planned a “Genocide in Gaza” protest outside the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. In 2014, American Leftist groups accused Israel of performing genocidal attacks against Palestinians as well. Spiking hand in hand, allegations of genocide against Israel do lead to an increase in antisemitic incidents. Untrue accusations of genocide against the Jewish state in their military campaign is an ahistorical lie, set out to delegitimize and stigmatize the only Jewish state as a blood-thirsty entity.
Any state or country can commit genocide against another. Israel would not be immune if this claim were valid. However, it would fail to check off boxes for genocide when it comes to its mission of security and self-defense.
After the systematic murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime, the United Nations (paradoxically one of the most anti-Israel organizations in modern history) adopted Polish lawyer Raphäel Lemkin’s definition of genocide in 1946. The A/RES/96-I states that genocide is “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole, or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” with acts including–but not limited to–killing members of a group, creating mental or bodily harm, and forcibly transferring children of one group to another group.“ What Hamas did on October 7 checks off every box.
As the global world adopted the definition of genocide based on the Jewish experience, the success of political Zionism accelerated. The ultimate meaning of Zionism “refers simply to the return of Jewish people to “Zion.” With the fading of European colonialism in the Middle East and the promise of a Jewish state in the Jewish indigenous homeland between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, Arab nationalism was on the rise. Nothing could be more damaging to total Arab hegemony and economic power than a representative Jewish state in the Middle East.
The Arab world was not historically open to Jews living in their lands, and many lived under the status of second-class citizens or dhimmis. In Germany, Adolf Hitler met with the Grand Mufti Haj al-Husseini to collaborate with the Nazis and Axis powers during World War II, figuring out ways to bring the Holocaust to the Middle East. The Grand Mufti even lived in Germany for some time, spreading anti-Jewish propaganda to the Arab world, lasting until today.
When the Soviet-Arab alliance solidified its relationship in the 1960s during the Cold War as Israel became a more Westernized country in the late 20th century, and the refuseniks of Communist Russia fought to immigrate to Israel, the anti-Jewish propaganda and Arab-Soviet delegitimization of Israel revved up. “The messaging emanating from today’s far-Left anti-Zionist camp is strikingly similar to the messaging of the Soviet anti-Zionism campaigns. From claims of Zionist collaboration with the Nazis in the Holocaust to the idea of Zionism as an inherently racist and oppressive ideology, to the concept of Israel as a settler-colonialist state that engages in genocidal behavior,” shares Izabella Tabarovksy in her Fathom article on Contemporary Antisemitism and its Soviet roots.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IHRA) non-legally binding definition, emphasis on non-legally, alerts the masses on how to spot antisemitism. As Jew-hatred is the oldest form of hatred, it may just be time for bystanders to understand how to identify this metamorphic bigotry against Jews. In times when Israel is at war, the double standard against Israel’s rightful counter-offense by accusations of genocide and condemnations for protecting itself has never failed to pop up. The opponents of the definition take issue with IHRA’s points regarding Israel.
In April 2023, 100 human and civil rights organizations signed a letter not to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism. They allege it “has often been used to wrongly label criticism of Israel as antisemitic…sometimes suppress non-violent protest, activism, and speech critical of Israel and/or Zionism.” Arguing that the inclusion of Israel in the definition is one-sided is misguided, as there is a difference in criticism vs delegitimization.
The claim that Israel is a “racist endeavor” by the standards of the IHRA definition of antisemitism is delegitimizing Israel, as it is a thriving multicultural society with people across the human color palette. It also erases the indigeneity of the Jewish people in the land of Israel.
Furthermore, in 1975, a UN resolution was adopted as part of the Soviet-Arab Cold War campaign against Israel, equating Zionism to racism. In 1991, most states repealed the slanderous resolution, but some Arab and Muslim states, and Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam did not want to retract the statement. Israel faced centuries of both Christian and Muslim imperialism and settler-colonialism.
The Cornell Legal Information Institute’s definition of settler-colonialism is “defined as a system of oppression based on genocide and colonialism… [it] finds its foundations on a system of power perpetuated by settlers that represses indigenous people’s rights and cultures by erasing it and replacing it by their own… Settler colonialism is based on the theft and exploitation of lands and resources that belong to the indigenous… it is mainly based on racism and white supremacy.” The sheer framing of Israel as a settler-colonialist endeavor is invoking Holocaust inversion. Soviet anti-Zionism upheld the false principle that Zionism is a racist endeavor.
The explicit use of charging Israel’s self-defense with genocide is ‘Holocaust inversion.’ According to Lesley Klaff, Holocaust inversion “involves an inversion of reality (the Israelis are cast as the ‘new’ Nazis and the Palestinians as the ‘new’ Jews), and an inversion of morality (the Holocaust is presented as a moral lesson for, or even a moral indictment of ‘the Jews’).” Holocaust inversion grossly hyperbolizes what the Palestinians are experiencing, consequences mainly coming from their government. Inversion also diminishes the evil committed by the Naizs and their collaborators by creating comparisons to Israeli policies. Policies of Israel can face critique but crosses the line with the use of Nazi imagery, principally due to its history with Jews.
IHRA covers all the antisemitic tropes and conspiracies from the Right to the Left.
Denying the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition and lobbying for a definition without the inclusion of the demonization of Israel is a hazardous and fine line the world is currently walking. Soviet anti-Zionism finds protection under the guise that including Israel in the definition stops the conversation about Palestinian rights. But failing to address the “new antisemitism” completely ignores Jewish existence and the human right to live in peace, especially when the constant existential threat against Israel is always lingering murkily in the air. October 7 is the worst manifestation of this to date.
The genocidal side of the war is Hamas; as it explicitly states in its charter, the terrorist organization vows to “obliterate [Israel]” and “regards itself the spearhead and the vanguard of the circle of struggle against World Zionism…” A Hamas official, Ghazi Hamad, stated in an interview, “We must teach Israel a lesson, and we will do it twice and three times.” It appears more than evident that the Iranian-backed terrorist organization is the one with the explicit intention of genocide against Israel. Israel has made its objectives in Gaza clear, in summation, to return the hostages and eradicate the existential threat of Hamas against Israelis and even the Western world.
Calling Israel’s military actions genocide is clear-cut antisemitism and an accusation to defame the Jewish state. It pulls away the focus of actual genocides and is a war of words. The Soviet stain on contemporary antisemitism is sticking with us, and it is imperative to understand the historical context in recognition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Definition of Antisemitism to protect Jewish lives.