On the Need for an Objective Definition of Anti-Semitism

Last week, Mid-Missourians for Justice in Palestine (MJP) hosted an anti-Israel film called, “1948: Creation and Catastrophe.” The event was co-sponsored by The University of Missouri Students for Justice in Palestine (MIZZOU SJP) and Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation (Mid-Mo FOR). This film was held at the public library, but these groups work together as a team to regularly host events at The University of Missouri. MJP has listed some of their principles: “We stand opposed to Islamophobia, anti-semitism, (and) all forms of racism.” Plus, “We also reject the charge of anti-semitism when it is used spuriously to silence legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies.” In other words, MJP claims that they oppose anti-semitism, and they also oppose being accused of anti-semitism. This apparent contradiction is repeated by all who oppose Israel’s existence, which is why there is a need for an objective definition of anti-semitism. Thankfully, that definition has been provided by the US State Department, which addresses three distinct attacks made against the Jewish people. These attacks are called the three D’s: Delegitimization, Double Standards, and Demonization. Despite their denial of promoting anti-semitism, all of the these groups – routinely meet all three criteria of anti-semitism.

First, Israel is self-defined as the Nation-State of the Jewish people. In this context, delegitimization means calling for the elimination of Israel as a Jewish State on the grounds that it is not a “legitimate” state. Israel has a law called The Law of Return, which states that anyone with Jewish ancestry can be granted citizenship in Israel, even if the Jewish person was born outside Israel. The most prominent spokesperson for MJP is Professor Emeritus George Smith, who recently won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2016, Smith openly stated on the news, “What I mean by ‘Israel doesn’t have a right to exist’ is that Israel doesn’t have the right to exist as a specifically Jewish state.” 

Last year, MJP hosted an event with a local group called Race Matters. At the event, Smith explicitly stated that the State Department definition of anti-semitism is wrong. When MJP declares that the purpose of their group is to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state, they defend themselves against the charge of anti-semitism by pointing to The Law of Return and arguing that nations which grant automatic citizenship to one ethnic group are creating racist laws. And since they are supposedly opposed to racism, then they want to eliminate Israel as a Jewish State.

Likewise, at the film showing, Smith explained that the creation of a Jewish State was a crime. But, he claimed, there are two choices: either we can ignore this injustice, or we can do something about it. Smith explained, “if the creation of the State of Israel was an historic injustice, how does one address the wrong?” He then asked the crowd, “can we do something to change that?” This was answered by one of their supporters, “the world should have moved past ethnic states. We should have moved past a Jewish State.” Thankfully, the State Department is fully aware of this common argument, and ruled against it. They explained that, “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” is a form of anti-semitism.

Second, these groups hold Israel to a double standard in multiple ways designed to deny Jewish people the same rights as Palestinians. MJP claims that it is racist for Israel to have a law that grants citizenship based on Jewish ancestry, but MJP simultaneously argues that Israel should create a law that grants citizenship based on Palestinian ancestry. One of the most active members of MJP is a Palestinian-American named, Jalal El-Jayyousi. Last year, he gave a presentation and explained the Israeli Law of Return. The law states that anyone with Jewish ancestry can be granted automatic citizenship in Israel, even if the Jewish person was born outside Israel. He argued that a law which grants citizenship based on Jewish ancestry is a racist law. Granting Jewish people who were not born in Israel the right to become citizens is the source of the conflict. All of the countries in the world should oppose granting automatic citizenship to Jews in Israel based on Jewish ancestry, and unite in opposition to this law by imposing a boycott on Israel, until Israel stops granting citizenship based on having Jewish ancestry.

Towards the end of the presentation, he explained the “Palestinian Right of Return.” The Palestinian Right of Return is the idea that anyone with Palestinian ancestry should be granted automatic citizenship in Israel, even if the Palestinian person was born outside Israel. The Palestinian Right of Return was intentionally designed to be the legal mirror image of Israel’s Law of Return – only for the Palestinians. And yet, El-Jayyousi flipped his position to the polar opposite: He argued that a law which grants citizenship based on Palestinian ancestry is not a racist law. Granting Palestinian people who were not born in Israel the right to become citizens is the solution to the conflict. All of the countries in the world should support granting automatic citizenship to Palestinians in Israel based on Palestinian ancestry, and unite in opposition to Israel’s refusal to implement the Right of Return by imposing a boycott on Israel, until Israel starts granting citizenship based on having Palestinian ancestry.

It should also be noted that The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is an international organization consisting of 57 Member states, which officially define themselves as Muslim states. There are 22 Arabs states which comprise the Arab League. Currently, Palestine has the status of a non-member observer state in the UN. Despite its lack of full membership in the UN, it has already been recognized and granted membership in both groups. In addition, the Palestinian Authority Constitution states, “Palestine is part of the larger Arab world.” And, “Islam is the official religion in Palestine.” The harsh reality is that Palestine is officially self-defined as a Muslim State and an ethnic Arab State.

There are 193 member countries in the UN. Fifty-seven of them are self-defined as Muslim states, 22 of them are self-defined as Arab states, but only one of them is defined as a Jewish state. These facts reveal a hypocritical conclusion: MJP supports Palestine being a member of a league comprised of 57 Muslim states, and a league of 22 Arab states, therefore MJP supports Palestine being defined as a Muslim state and an ethnic Arab State. In other words, MJP’s claim that they oppose ethnic nationalism is a complete lie. In fact, MJP advocates religious and ethnic nationalism for the Palestinians. But, MJP simultaneously calls for the eradication of the only Jewish State, based on the duplicitous claim that they oppose ethnic nationalism. 

Fellowship of Reconciliation defines its mission as, “predicated on a dream of living in a just world.” Currently, on the Mid-Mo FOR Facebook page, it shows a list of 27 events they have hosted going back in time to 2011. Out of 27 events they have listed, 11 of them have been about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is 40% of all of their events. All 11 of those events have accused Israel of being guilty of the worst crimes imaginable, including genocide. Also, Mid-MO FOR has never hosted a single other event to criticize any other country by name, except Israel. By hosting 40 percent of their events to condemn the Jewish State, without hosting a single other event to censure another country, Mid-Mo FOR has effectively declared the Jewish people to be the worst criminals in the world.

Third, demonization: The Mizzou chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine sometimes shares Facebook posts regarding Israel with the hashtag, “Israel Is A Terrorist State.” This semester, MJP hung flyers on campus proclaiming in giant letters, “ZIONISM IS TERRORISM.” Surprisingly, the flyers did not even advertise an event. MJP posted pictures of the flyers on their Facebook page, which were then shared by MIZZOU SJP on their Facebook page. Yet, the truth is that Zionism is the self-determination movement of the Jewish people. Zionism is the belief that Jews are equal to non-Jews, and therefore have the same rights as non-Jews, more specifically the right to independence. When MIZZOU SJP declares all Israelis to be to terrorists, or Zionism to be terrorism, they are saying that Jewish people do not have the right to freedom. 

In conclusion, MJP, Mid-Mo FOR, and MIZZOU SJP regularly meet all three criteria of anti-semitism as defined by the US State Department. MJP wants to destroy the Jewish State, just like Hamas wants to destroy the Jewish State – and no one can explain how their goals are different. MIZZOU SJP wants to deny Jewish people equal rights, just like white supremacists want to deny Jewish people equal rights – and no one can explain how their goals are different. Maybe, it is time that MU starts preventing groups from hosting events to promote the same exact message as Hamas and white supremacists. Maybe, it is time that MU finally adopts the State Department definition of anti-semitism.

About the Author
Daniel Swindell is a Zionist. He has a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Missouri, and has studied in Yeshiva.
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