Anti-Zionism and Israel

All governments are legitimately the subject of criticism for their policies and actions, including the governments of Israel as much as those of any other country. However, some criticism of Israel crosses the line from political criticism into antisemitic hate speech. Often this is through demonisation, delegitimisation, and double standards used against Israel (as explained in Natan Sharansky’s article below). Other discourse, which is dressed up as ordinary political criticism, is framed within older anti-Jewish motifs, especially the Blood Libel, deicide claims, and conspiracy theories of Jews as a group supposedly controlling or aiming to control the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

Thus, antisemitism today, especially in the anti-Israel movement, is often expressed using classical anti-Jewish motifs and themes which have been given a modern cloak. For example, where once it was said that the Jews seek to control the world, now it is said that Israel seeks to control the world; where once it was said that Jews lusted after Christian/gentile blood, now it is said that Israel lusts after Arab/gentile blood; where once it was said that Jews/Judaism were Satanic, now it is said that Israelis/Zionists are Satanic.

It is this nexus which can infuse ostensibly ordinary political discourse about Israel or Zionism with an antisemitic subtext, as the negative qualities traditionally attributed by antisemites to the Jewish people collectively are transferred to Israel as the contemporary symbol of Jews as a group.

Read this report by 2 ICJW representatives about a Seminar at the Brussels Senate in May 2019 where experts discussed the question: Is Anti-Zionism a new form of antisemitism?

The following articles explain the distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitic criticism of Israel, and some articles illustrate the antisemitism within the anti-Israel campaign.

Antisemitism in 3-D

by Natan Sharansky

“Why is it so very difficult to combat the “new antisemitism”? To modern eyes, classical antisemitism is easy to recognize. Films showing Jews draining the blood of gentile children or plotting to take over the world are clearly antisemitic, and are not only vulgar and illegal, but socially unacceptable throughout the free world. … But while classical antisemitism was seen as being aimed at the Jewish religion or the Jewish people, the new antisemitism is far more subtle, directed as it is against the Jewish state. Hiding behind the veneer of “legitimate criticism of Israel,” this new antisemitism is much more difficult to expose.”

“I offer a simple “3-D” test for differentiating legitimate criticism of Israel from antisemitism. This “3-D” test applies the same criteria to the new antisemitism that for centuries identified different manifestations of classical antisemitism.”

Read the full article here.

When Legitimate Criticism Crosses the Anti-Semitism Line

by Alan Dershowitz

“As Thomas Friedman of The New York Times accurately put it, “Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction — out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East — is antisemitic, and not saying so is dishonest”. I have set out a list of criteria that distinguish antisemitism from legitimate criticism. Here are my criteria…”

Read the full article here.

Criticisms of Israel Become Antisemitic When…

by Manfred Gerstenfeld 

“One is that it denies the Jewish people the right to self-determination, delegitimizing Israel as a state and attributing the entire world’s misfortune to it. It ascribes a mix of evil qualities to the country; … As it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint the boundary between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, [Professor Irwin] Cotler proposed some guidelines. He said that critics of Israel become anti-Semites when…”

Read the full article here.

Anti-Defamation League: What Is… Anti-Israel, Anti-Semitic, Anti-Zionist?

“Anti-Zionism is a prejudice against the Jewish movement for self-determination and the right of the Jewish people to a homeland in the State of Israel. It may be motivated by or result in anti-Semitism, or it may create a climate in which anti-Semitism becomes more acceptable.” 

Read the full article here.

The Antisemitism of BDS

by Julie Nathan

“The antisemitism of the BDS campaign manifests itself in three main ways. Firstly, BDS denies the right of national self-determination to the Jewish people in their national homeland… Secondly, BDS campaigners portray Israel using the same demonising and hateful language and false accusations that were previously used against Jews and Judaism…

Thirdly, the rhetoric and actions of BDS campaigners in the West create a poisonous atmosphere for Jews in the diaspora…”

Read the full article here

BDS in a Nutshell

by Julie Nathan

 “The BDS campaign is, both in intent and effect, antisemitic – because amongst other things it seeks to deprive Jews alone of a homeland. Antisemitism from within the BDS campaign, both in its rhetoric and activities, is becoming increasingly open. There have been threats to kill Jews at an Israeli trade expo in South Africa, a planned protest outside a synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath in Australia, throwing of kosher food on the floor in European supermarkets, and intimidation of Jewish students on campuses in American universities. The level of anti-Jewish hatred in the rhetoric emanating from within the BDS campaign, and the number of antisemitic incidents to which it gives rise, continue to escalate.”

Read the full article here

Inside BDS

This 30-page document was written by Julie Nathan for the ICJW in 2016. It is a comprehensive document on the origins, history and development of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), its tactics, strategy, aims, and actions.

“The ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions’ (BDS) campaign poses threats to Israel’s legitimacy as a state and a member of the family of nations, and to diaspora Jews. … The BDS campaign is increasingly becoming openly antisemitic, both in its rhetoric and activities. The level of anti-Jewish hatred in the rhetoric emanating from within the BDS campaign, and the number of antisemitic incidents to which it gives rise, continue to escalate.

The BDS campaign is, both in intent and effect, antisemitic. It is therefore not surprising that antisemitism is becoming more openly expressed. The core aim of BDS is to oppose and deny to the Jewish people alone, the right to national self-determination in its historic homeland.

The most insidious aspect of the BDS campaign is that it creates a poisonous atmosphere for Jews in the diaspora. Long-standing anti-Jewish canards, tropes, stereotypes, and imagery are now being used against Israel, and against all Jews who support Israel’s right to exist. It has become acceptable within the BDS campaign not only to demonise Israel, but also to openly discriminate against, vilify and threaten Jews simply for supporting Israel’s existence.

Download the full document here (pdf format)