There are reasons why some might be opposed to Israel and Zionism. For Palestinian Arabs, the conflict with Israel is at its core a land dispute with a rival group. The area of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories were once part of ‘Greater Syria’ and the Arab cultures between these countries are similar, which would logically lead these Levantine Arabs to side with the Palestinian Arabs. Arab countries are swayed by ethnic ties and Muslim countries by religious ties. Western secularists may ignore the religious aspects but in principle oppose the concept of any ethnocentric state, and thus oppose Zionism.
But much of the opposition to and criticism of Israel extends beyond these reasons. Instead, it crosses into territory spelled out in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, in the examples cited that relate to Israel.
One of the examples of antisemitism cited in the IHRA definition is “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.“ While groups such as Hamas oppose Israel’s existence, in its place it seeks to create an Arab Muslim ethno-religious state, denying only the Jewish people the right to self-determination. Arab and Muslim nations may consider Zionism to be racism, but in doing so turn a blind eye to the very basis of their own countries. Lebanon’s political structure is organized around an outdated ethnic formula, Syria is emerging from a twelve year long civil war that was fought along sectarian lines and nearly every country stretching across a band from North Africa to Pakistan is either an Islamic state or has established Islam as the state religion.
For some western countries, the lesson of World War II was that nations should not be formed along ethnic lines. This belief was a driving force behind the European Union and monetary union, where all countries’ fates would be tied together, and has been behind the logic for some of these western countries accepting vast numbers of non-western immigrants. But for every European country in this select group there are European countries which are ordered based on ethnicity, including Northern Ireland, Belgium, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Albania and Turkey.
Some have argued that there is no need for an Israel, that not every ethnic group has its own country. But for Jews, a group that suffered a millennium of violence in Europe and a 20th century attempt at their elimination, leaving their security to others is not reassuring. There is little to suggest from the recent history of Israel’s neighbors, or of the current experience of the Uyghurs of China or of the Kurds to suggest that the Jews of Israel would be better served without a state. This point has become increasingly clear today, when western countries cannot ensure the safety of their own Jewish citizens.
Another example highlighted by the IHRA is “Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” In this matter, especially in regards to military actions that are necessary to ensure Israel and the Jews’ very survival, where the relationship between anti-Zionism and antisemitism converge.
Nearly every element of Hamas’ strategy is a war crime, from its attackers not wearing identifiable markers, to targeting civilians, to committing atrocities, to hiding behind civilians, to not allowing the Red Cross to visit its hostages, yet its leaders are not held to account. At the same time, the threat of war crimes prosecution is dangled over Israel. Conflicts in the Arab and Muslim world over the last half century have led to millions killed and tens of millions displaced. The Soviet Union and China killed an innumerable amount of people, the US wars since 1990 are estimated to have resulted in 5 million excess deaths, yet Israel is accused of genocide of the Palestinians while alerting civilians to evacuate war zones and the Gaza population has risen nearly sixfold since falling to Israel in 1967.
The IHRA definition adds the example of “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.” In the 2019 BBC Documentary film ‘One Day in Gaza,’ the BBC deliberately mistranslated the word “Jews” as “Israelis,” to obscure comments by interviewees, such as one who stated that “the revolutionary songs, they excite you, they encourage you to rip a Jew’s head off.” The Arab countries ethnically cleansed their Jews, not their Israelis. In Iran, the Jewish community marched in support of the Palestinians, an act that was almost certainly held under duress. Jews and Israelis, have been hounded and attacked by protesters in places like France, England, Germany and the United States.
By word and by deed, according to the IHRA definition, the pro-Palestine and anti-Zionist protesters in the United States, Europe and in the Muslim world can by deemed to be engaging in antisemitic activity.
Third in a series
First article: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-practical-implication-of-anti-zionism-is-antisemitism-first-in-a-series/
Second article: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-building-blocks-of-antisemitism/