Prof. Waxman and racism

Prof. Dov Waxman has posted a featured blog headlined “Who gets to define anti-Semitism?”  It deals with the current controversy involving allegations that the Labor Party in the U.K. has failed to respond properly to anti-Semitism among members of the party.  For example, many Jews in Britain deplore the Labour Party’s refusal to adopt the “working definition of anti-Semitism” of the International Holocaust Rememberance Alliance (I.H.R.A.), together with all of the examples of anti-Semitism the I.H.R.A. cites.  One of the key examples omitted by the Labour Party is: “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

Prof. Waxman sees nothing wrong with this omission.  He states: “In the case of British Jewry, there are certainly many on the left who are highly critical of Israel and would not be offended if it was characterized as a “racist endeavor” (especially since the passage of Israel’s new nation-state law).”  Apparently relying on the premise that anything that does not offend left-wing British Jews cannot be anti-Semitic, it would seem to follow that claiming that Israel is a racist endeavor cannot be anti-Semitic.

Let’s examine this issue a little more carefully.  Assume that Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, is in fact a racist endeavor.  If this is true, then one might well inquire what particular race is benefited by that racist endeavor?  It clearly must be the race to which both the late Sammy Davis, Jr. and the late Menachim Begin–and all the other Jews around the world, of whatever skin color–belong.  But what race is it that included both Sammy Davis, Jr. and Menachim Begin?  Does the fact that both were Jews mean they belonged to the same race?

Only a person immersed in the teachings of the Nazis and other unapologetic anti-Semites believes that Jews constitute a single “race”.  A group that includes both Sammy Davis, Jr. and Menachim Begin might be correctly characterized in many different ways, but it could not be characterized as constituting one race.  This is (Nazi doctrine notwithstanding) a matter of fact and not of opinion: Jews do not constitute a race.

If, as a matter of fact, Jews do not constitute a race, then what are to make of the assertion that a State of Israel is a racist endeavor?  We must conclude, firstly and most importantly, that that assertion is false.  No matter how many British left-wing Jews–including, I presume, Prof. Waxman himself–are not offended by that assertion, the assertion continues to be false.  Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, is not a racist endeavor.

What is true is that Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, has what is known in Anglo-American law as an established religion.  That is, Israel favors one religion–Judaism–over all other religions.  This favoritism is most clearly expressed in the Law of Return, which allows any Jew, as such, to become a citizen of Israel.  No other religion is similarly favored in Israel.

But Israel is not exactly the only country with an established religion.  Prof. Waxman’s U.K. is another.  In the U.K., the head of state, the British monarch, must be a member in good standing of the Church of England.  No other church, synagogue, mosque, or temple will suffice–it must be the Church of England.

Other countries–including Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Liechtenstein, Malta, and Monaco–designate Catholicism as their official religion.  Are they, for that reason, racist endeavors?  Numerous Muslim-majority countries make Islam the only official religion; in Saudi Arabia, every citizen is required to be a Muslim, and any citizen who becomes an apostate is subject to the death penalty.  I suppose that makes all those Muslim-majority countries racist endeavors.

I could provide many other examples of nation-states with established religions.

The left, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and in Britain and elsewhere, seems to be quite casual in accusing Israel of “racism” and “apartheid”, but not nearly so casual with regard to all the other countries of the world that, like Israel, have established religions.  The skin colors of Jews around the world include every known shade and hue, and Israel is ready to welcome each one as a citizen.  That does not imply that Israel is a racist endeavor.  For a person who makes the effort to think carefully about such matters, it implies exactly the opposite.

Arriving at a satisfactory definition of anti-Semitism is a difficult and perhaps impossible task.  Different people will always have different opinions.  Nevertheless, it is false to say that Israel is a racist endeavor.  That falsity is a matter of fact and not of opinion.  Anyone who persists in asserting that Israel is a racist endeavor ought to be challenged to explain what possible reason he or she could have for uttering such a falsehood.  One possible reason is muddle-headed confusion, but there are others.

About the Author
David E. Weisberg is a semi-retired attorney and a member of the N.Y. Bar; he also has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of Michigan (1971). He now lives in Cary, NC. His scholarly papers on U.S. constitutional law can be read on the Social Science Research Network at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=2523973
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