The title of this article is taken from the book of the same name by Daniel Goldhagen, and this article is a distillation of the intellectual property from the work of the following authors:
Daniel Goldhagen, Andrew Bostom, Deborah Lipstadt, David Baddiel, Dara Horn, Steven Beller, Michael Curtis, Alvin Rosenfield and Rusi Jaspal.
All other authors are acknowledged through the relevant references in the text.
The State of Play
In the light of recent antisemitic, albeit excruciatingly poorly articulated, comments by a public figure who may, arguably, never know better, antisemitism (also called the “new antisemitism”) appears to have well and truly escaped from the shackles of a hitherto generally observed political correctness. At least in the public sphere.
This article will not be a record of who said what, if only because such accounts exist elsewhere.
What the article sets out to do is throw light on the nexus between antisemitism and it’s apparently more socially accepted terminology: anti-Zionism. In this context, Israel has not traditionally seemed to have given serious consideration to the propaganda transformation that has taken place around it, if only because it believed criticism and virulent animosity was confined to the communist and Arab camps.
Clearly, that animus has long ago morphed to infect a significant portion of the ‘liberal western-style’ democracies as well, and including current iterations worldwide of the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s. In this regard, the success of the radical left in inverting the role reversal between Jew and Arab as an Arab David and an Israeli Goliath, is in no small measure responsible for the association between hatred of Jews and hatred of the state of the Jews (Shapira, 2007:240-1, Israeli Perceptions of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism)
On a side note because the “Left” has always imagined itself as “fighting the good fight”, the modern Left perceives itself as the champions of minorities: black, white, LGBT, Muslim, Asian or any combination thereof, but not Jewish, “A sacred circle is drawn around those whom the progressive modern left are prepared to go into battle for, and it seems as if the Jews aren’t in it.” (Baddiel, 2021: “Jews Don’t Count”). As Baddiel elucidates, all the people in the circle are oppressed. Jews, as the modern Left sees them are “…moneyed, privileged, powerful and secretly in control of the world. Jews are somehow both sub-human and humanity’s secret masters.” Thus, in this atmosphere of “good fights” fought for by the left, the exclusion of Jews threatened by antisemitism is given a free pass.
Antisemitism as antisemitism
Antisemitism is variously described as a hatred of Jews that has stretched across millennia and across continents; a relatively modern political movement and ideology that arose in Central Europe in the late 19th century and achieved its evil apogee in the Holocaust; the irrational, psychologically pathological version of an ethnocentric and religio-centric anti-Judaism that originated in Christianity’s conflict with its Jewish roots and where the Christian concept of ‘original sin’ was co-opted by Muslims to refer to the creation of the State of Israel in the Middle East….
Antisemitism is a singular prejudice also often understood as a psychological category, ranging from mild pejorative prejudice against Jews as different, as other, to the full-blown pathology of an exterminationist, paranoid hatred of Jews as a race out to destroy Western civilization.
Just as the ‘anti-Judaism’ of the medieval Church and, later, Islam, became a self-fulfilling prophecy in denigrating and oppressing Jews to such an extent that they came to appear worthy of denigration and oppression, so, according to students of modern antisemitism, antisemites, in their discrimination against and rejection of modern Jews, attempt to create a self-fulfilling prophecy, driving Jews to an ‘inauthenticity’ and self-denial that confirm antisemitic preconceptions.
Antisemites, particularly those from the Left and the fringe far-right who came to their hostility to Jews from the ‘irrationalist’ (when is hostility to a people as a whole ever rational?), conservative, and traditionalist viewpoint, often unworriedly regard both capitalism and socialism as ‘Jewish’.
However, because modern sensibilities discourage people from manifesting overt prejudice such as classic antisemitism, individuals now channel their prejudice via a more socially acceptable route, namely anti-Zionism where anti-Zionism becomes an even more threatening form of the ‘new antisemitism’ in that it targets not only Jews as a people, but also challenges the legitimacy and viability of a sole, sovereign Jewish state through the lexical and political evolution and exchange of the term ‘anti-Zionism’ for exactly the same antisemitism the world has been familiar with for millennia.
What’s in a word: anti-Zionism as antisemitism
Use of the term ‘Anti-Zionism’ is now apparently the ‘woke’, more politically correct phrase of choice for those detractors of Jewish nationhood and sovereignty looking for a permission slip to continue incitement against Jews.
The lexical descriptors and the ideology of antisemitism have shifted. While good old fashioned European and Muslim antisemitism still maintains its old myths of Jewish world conspiracy, Jewish control of the media, and Jewish demonization, it has added a new and potent element: Jews, in and out of Israel, as a criminal population because of their support for a perceived mythical criminality of the Zionist Jewish state. In other words, Anti-Zionism has adopted this old antisemitism and made it its own.
Anti-Zionism is always and everywhere antisemitic along two strands.
Firstly, because just as Jews were represented as a villainous race throughout their history, the Jewish State is consistently constructed as a villainous state which overtly disregards international law and which is governed by “criminals”.
And secondly, the prevalence of the majority of those with antisemitic views significantly increased with the degree of anti-Zionist sentiments espoused.
Besides, while the relationship between anti-Zionism and antisemitism may be debated academically, there is little doubt that anti-Zionism has, at least in part, given rise to antisemitic, racist acts. Anti-Zionism is effectively coded racism. And, “Coded racism is as harmful as explicit racism. Explicit racism is overtly offensive. Coded racism is insidious and may be even more effective because it does not arouse immediate opposition.” (Matas, 2005, Aftershock)
Legitimate, balanced criticism of aspects of Israeli political policy does not necessarily reflect antisemitism.
Where it does spill over into antisemitism is when the Jewish State is singled out and delegitimized in order to deprive the Jews of their right to national self-determination while, in the context of the Arab Israeli conflict, those same delegitimizers see no issue with Arab (now Palestinian) national self-determination at the (stated) expense of the continued secure existence of a single sovereign Jewish state.
Anti-Zionism in the West and the Muslim world
Islamic countries in the Middle East have undoubtedly become the centre of anti-Zionist representation and activity, given the long-standing and protracted Israeli-Arab conflict. The anti-Zionism-not antisemitism of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, can be traced to both Palestinian nationalism and, more specifically, to the Grand Mufti’s collaboration with Nazi Germany.
Many of the Islamist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Iranian regime that openly espouse anti-Zionism (and, in some cases, antisemitism) as official policy, advocate the total destruction of the State of Israel.
Many western and prominent UK politicians have manifested support for anti-Zionism, which has served only to legitimize this form of prejudice and provide political legitimization to less liberal regimes a precedent for furthering their own hates.
Anti-Zionism provides a common platform for various groups opposed to Israel’s existence – principally, centre- left wing organizations, the fringe far-right, BLM activists, several British and many American campuses, BDS activism, and Islamists.
While many objective commentators staunchly oppose the boycott of Israel on principle, and regard this as a form of anti-Zionism, and while there are a variety of distinct forms of boycott – economic, political, cultural, academic – they all converge in their attempt to cause a severance of ties with the State of Israel, its people and its institutions.
The left-wing ‘anti-Zionism’ so prevalent in Western Europe today is partly based on the same rejection of the idea of Jewish national identity.
On the flip side, it may be argued that most Westerners, including those on the Left, accept and support Israel’s existence as a state. What they object to is what they see as unnecessarily harsh policies of Israeli governments against the Arab (now Palestinian) populace.
However, the west’s objection to those ‘harsh policies’ appear to use different criteria for judging documented Arab (now Palestinian) policies when Jewish civilian concentrations are targeted by rockets, or when Jews are mowed down in cars inside sovereign Israeli territory and where those responsible are given cash incentives to kill Jews.
In the context of Israel’s war with the Arabs, antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not a formula for equity through violence for the Palestinians. To reverse and paraphrase Jean Amery (At the Mind’s Limits, 1980:86), to be a Jew in today’s vortex of anti-Zionism/antisemitism is NOT to be a dead man on leave, someone marked out to be murdered, delegitimized or ‘cancelled’.
The Arab (now Palestinian) narrative which serves as the basis of an ideological campaign to condemn the State of Israel and to undermine its moral fabric, leaves, pursuant the expressed sentiments of its leaders, little to the imagination.
That narrative focuses on a number of issues: the original sin of the creation of Israel (Zionism); the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948; the Israeli responsibility for violence and the various wars in the Middle East; the “human right” of Arabs (now Palestinians) to “use all means necessary” on Jewish civilian concentrations in the name of “anti-Zionism”.
Ironically, one of the oddities in all this is the use by Muslims of the Christian concept of original sin to refer to the creation of the sovereign state of Israel.
But, it is important to realize in the face of this lexical sleight of hand of anti-Zionism-not antisemitism, that Israel is the political canary warning of the presence of poisonous political traits that intimate impending danger to the world, particularly to the United States and Western democracies.
The Spread of the acceptance of anti-Zionism-not antisemitism
There are two principal strands of contemporary anti- Zionism: firstly, it refers to the increasing hostility towards Israel and Jews (who are perceived to be supportive of Israel’s actions) in the aftermath of the Second Palestinian Intifada. Such hostility is attributed to left-wing organizations and Muslims, in particular. And secondly, it refers to the persistent anti-Israel bias that is said to exist in the western media, in left-wing intellectual circles and the United Nations.
This trend was noted in a 1976 essay by Jean Amery: “How does the new antisemite present himself? His contention is extremely straightforward and, prima facie, perfectly plausible: all claims to the contrary notwithstanding, he is no antisemite, he is in fact an anti-Zionist!” (in Jean Amery: 2021:51, Essays on Antisemitism, anti-Zionism, and the Left, ed. Marlene Gallner)
More recently, the UN-sponsored WCAR gathering at the 2001 Durban conference was, arguably, the “tipping point” for the emergence of a new wave of antisemitism masquerading as anti-racism in what was termed the ‘Zionist state’.
Anti-Zionism and the allegations by its supporters branding Israel a racist state, focuses primarily upon the Jewish State but commonly alludes to the Jewish people. There is often an inter-relation between the alleged focus upon the Jewish State and acts of antisemitism, and anti-Zionism, which delegitimizes the State of Israel, has been cited as a cause for acts of antisemitism committed against Jewish people in England, France, the US and in the many other countries in which Jews have been victimized.
Anti-Zionism is manifested in a multitude of ways, but they all converge in their aim to delegitimize the State of Israel. Some organizations and nation-states refuse to use the toponym “Israel”, preferring the term “Zionist Regime” or “Occupied Palestine” in order to call into question the legitimacy of Israel; or, in the words of the detractors, the “Zionist project.’ These are antisemitic attacks because, lexis notwithstanding, they are an attack on Jews.
As the German philologist and social philosopher Hans Mayer wrote “whoever attacks Zionism, but by no means wishes to say anything against the Jews, is fooling himself or others.” (Mayer, 1984:394, “Outsiders”)
In this context, anti-Zionism is not anchored in a merely territorial dispute between Arabs and Jews. It is essentially an existentialist struggle by Jews for the continuing viability of a secure and democratic nation state, and, especially, a bulwark against a resurgent antisemitism no matter the new terminology being used to mask the old hate.
What we are talking about here is not merely about the increasing number of anti-Israel rallies in European cities today, not merely that Israel is openly denounced as “a global plague”, not only that, as Satre noted, “What the antisemite wishes, what he prepares for, is the death of the Jew” (Rosenfeld, 2021:xi, Essays on Antisemitism, anti-Zionism, and the Left, ed. Marlene Gallner), but about the return of openly voiced antisemitic passions in European and American (“Jews will not replace us,” “Jews are the children of Satan”) social and political life.
Under the guise of anti-Zionism.