Andrea Zanardo
The Zionist Rabbi your friends warned you about

The Jerusalem Declaration and its motivations

I am personally grateful to the 200 plus signatories of the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism. The publication of their idiosyncratic (non) definition of antisemitism has offered opportunities for so many good jokes. What else can you expect from a definition of antisemitism where the expression “hate crime” is nowhere to be found, but — as Dave Ruch pointed out — it mentions “Palestine” almost 10 times. 

At the moment, my favourite jokes are Hen Mazzig’s about Jews who spend more time bashing other Jews rather than fighting antisemites (a good definition of the signatories’ top priority). David Hirsch also had a good one, wondering on Facebook when will we read the “Africa Declaration on racism” with a list of things which ‘in and of themselves are not racist. 

Just the thought of such a declaration is laughable, but when you deal with antisemitism, there’s never a shortage of will to dismiss and to excuse. 

I expect other jokes to come. Meanwhile, I think it’s interesting to explore the motivations of the signatories. They have put time and effort in producing and -especially- publicising a definition of antisemitism. You can read that it is not always antisemitic planning to destroy Israel, provided that Jews are allowed “to exist and flourish, collectively and individually, as Jews”. Which is a piece of legislation that can be found in Iran. And what’s the problem with that; don’t you like the plan to turn Israel into another Iran? 

On this very website, Yair Wallach, one of the signatories, explains that “the JDA enables us fight antisemitism in alliance with struggles against […] Islamophobia and other forms of racism”. See the point? For Wallach, the struggle against antisemitism must be part of a broader agenda. Jews must stand up against several issues. Antisemitism is somewhere on the list, but the most important part is for the Jews to join the coalition and not stand by themselves.  

Omer Bartov, another signatory, is even clearer. He lyrically writes about “partnership with Palestinians” (Haaretz , 31 March) in combating antisemitism as a necessary requirement.

Palestinian embracing the struggle against antisemitism would be a welcome development. At the moment, precisely the opposite happens. Those Palestinian academics who dare to visit Auschwitz with their students lose their job and receive threats of various kind

The truth is that not many Palestinians (nor their supporters) are willing to get rid of anti-Semitic rhetoric. Certainly, they will not stop calling for the end of Israel via the so-called “return of the refugees“.  And it is delusional, or worse, to think that such a situation could change because a bunch of academics have decided “to protect a space for an open debate about the vexed question of the future of Israel/Palestine.”

Skimming the list of signatories, it did not escape my attention the name of Sergio Luzzatto. In 2007 Luzzatto praised a book claiming Jews might have killed Christian children to use their blood for baking matza. Personally, I don’t think that Luzzatto is qualified for a debate about antisemitism. Still, the fact that he’s among the signatories tells one or two things about the kind of “open debate” that the signatories want to be free to have. 

I am truly concerned by the assumption that Jews must not stand up against antisemitism by themselves, but instead, they have to join a coalition. Because one of the conditions to join such a coalition of goodwill is to renounce Zionism. 

In British Universities, anti-Zionist teachers freely incite hatred against Jewish students.  The atmosphere is toxic for Jewish students. Antisemitic bullying is always carried out in the name of antiZionism. It is depressing to see academics who demand the Jewish students to renounce an important part of their identity in such a sad state of affairs.

Countering antisemitism must be unconditional.

About the Author
Italian by birth, Israeli by choice, Rabbi of the largest synagogue in Sussex (UK). Uncompromising Zionist.
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