Ben Yeroushalmi
Ben Yeroushalmi

Say it loud and clear: Anti-Zionism is antisemitism

In August 2020, in response to anti-Semitism on a local college campus, I posted a blog titled “Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism.”  The biggest issue I took then with the way a local university dealt with a severe case of anti-Semitism on campus was the deliberate failure to identify anti-Zionism as a specific form of anti-Semitism.

In response to the recent rise in anti-Semitism in America, many public leaders issued generic statements condemning anti-Semitism.  With few exceptions, these statements miss the mark, as they again fail to unequivocally condemn anti-Zionism as a specific form of anti-Semitism.  Much has been said and written in pro-Israel circles about the unfair criticism of Israel, the double standards Israel is subjected to, the weaponization of Human Rights as a tool to bash Israel- with mostly serial violators of Human Rights doing the bashing- the “what would you do if your neighbors shot 4,000 rockets into your territory” argument, etc… We all owe a great deal of gratitude to those defending Israel- and the truth- by pointing all this out.

On the specific issue of stemming the recent ugly tide of anti-Semitism in America, however, a more specific and fundamental truth must be clearly said, written, emphasized and repeated:  The identity of the Jewish people is inextricably tied to the land of Israel.  Regardless of their level of observance or affiliation with the broader Jewish community, every person born to a Jewish parent is part of an ancient and everlasting covenant with G-d.  That covenant is codified in the Torah, which other than just telling stories, states a series of rules and commandments, more than half of which can only be performed in the land of Israel.  Our enemies know this, even if some of us don’t.

So when you slander Israel by accusing it of apartheid and genocide, you are slandering the Jewish people.

When you falsely accuse Israel of committing war crimes for defending itself against a terrorist organization funded by Iran, the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism, what you are in fact doing is denying Israel the right to defend itself.

When you deny Israel the right to defend itself, you are denying Israel the right to exist.

When you deny Israel’s right to exist- as many on the left now find it popular to do- you are in essence denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination and sovereignty, despite the 2,000 year recorded history of exile, murder, pogroms, persecution, inquisitions, forced conversions, disposition of property, humiliation, and of course Holocaust, when the Jewish people were landless and defenseless.

It is admirable that politicians like President Biden and Donna Brazile recently issued tweets and opinion pieces condemning anti-Semitism.  Unfortunately, these statements do not go far enough, because they repeat the mistakes of the past, at a time when it is so critical to rectify these failures.

When any leader or organization condemns anti-Semitism without condemning anti-Zionism as a specific form of anti-Semitism, they allow space for anti-Semites to continue inciting violence against Jews while claiming to stand against hate.  It is unthinkable that educated people who claim to be champions of human rights and equality repeatedly bash and slander Israel on social media while claiming to stand against racism and hatred.  But that is exactly the alternate reality we are living in.

We face a fundamental societal failure when someone subjects Israel to double standards, falsely accuses Israel of war crimes and calls Israel an apartheid state, then turns around and claims to be a champion of equality. One reason this problem is now so profound is those  who issue statements against anti-Semitism do so in ways that leave room for anti-Semites to slander Israel while claiming to stand with Jews.  This may not be deliberate, but neglecting to address the root cause of the hatred is far from courageous.  The charade of plausible deniability must first be called out before it can be rooted out.

Jews are under attack in a ploy to indirectly dehumanize us by brutally condemning Israel for daring to exist without directly attacking us for being Jewish.  But you cannot separate the two.  Beyond a doubt, spreading hatred and vitriol against Israel incites violence against Jews.  We’ve all been witness to that violence in the last few weeks.  To address this danger head on, we must demand of our leaders, and ourselves, that generic and generalized condemnations of anti-Semitism and hate be disposed of.  Instead, we must publicly state, and we must demand that our leaders publicly state, that anti-Zionism is a specific form of anti- Semitism.

Those who seek truth and base their views of the conflict on facts and history rather than tweets and Instagram posts must take the lead on this issue, because our public leaders may never catch up.  Although we live in a time when it feels like facts no longer matter, that doesn’t mean we should stop speaking the truth.

So let’s shout it from the roof-tops: anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.

About the Author
Ben is a trial lawyer representing victims of abuse and neglect in nursing homes and care facilities. He is married with 4 children and lives in Los Angeles.
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