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Dummies for Antisemitism

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 29, 2007

“Criticism of Israel is not antisemitism. Even denial of Israel’s right to exist – obscene though that is – is anti-Zionism, not antisemitism, despite the fact that the route from the one to the other is slippery and steep. We do not serve the fight against prejudice by blurring these distinctions.” Quote by Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs

“Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic. Of course it isn’t. Millions of people have been saying that time after time after time, but some antisemites just won’t get it. But if you criticize Israel because it’s Jewish, then it’s antisemitic. (My emphasis)

Denial of Israel’s right to exist is not antisemitic. Not even denying the existence of Israel is antisemitic. It’s just stupid.” Ketutar on In Reply

The core of the problem with distinguishing antisemitism from antizionism is exactly this: What is the motivation?

I would say that a great many people who claim to be antizionists do not make the distinction between Jews and Zionists or Israel and the Jewish People. They really do live by the this creed:

“I never separated the Zionists and the Jews in this thread or anywhere.” (this is an actual quote from a man who vehemently claims that he is not an antisemite.) “Agreed, I did interchange Israel and Jews incorrectly sometimes, but you have to admit that Jews and Israel are most often interchangeable.” (this another actual quote from the same man.)

Antizionism becomes antisemitism the moment it mixes things like this, either in open speech like above or in thought.

These people – most often on the Radical Far Left – are so accustomed to this kind of thinking that they simply do not see their own thought patterns clearly. I have through my many discussions with the Pro-Palestinian Cadre on line only met TWO people whom I consider intelligent and astute enough to make this distinction, and one of them is a border-line case :-). The majority regurgitate the above mishmash in various forms, consciously or subconsciously.

They wish to criticize Israel or question its right to exist, but they invariably end up spouting antisemitic sentiments, and really don’t understand why they are met by opposition.

They also seem incapable of understanding that not all Israelis support the human rights violations committed by the Israeli Authorities, or that all zionism is not racist.

They like to make comparisons to South Africa and the Apartheid Regime. I was part of the movement against Apartheid – and let me tell you, not once did I hear anyone call for the obliteration of the white population of South Africa or a call to eradicate South Africa as a State – not once. But I do hear those cries from the Radical Far Left in regards to Jews and Israel.

This is what tells me that while a few do know how make the distinction, the majority does not, and that is the core problem.

4 Responses to “Dummies for Antisemitism”

  1. Really good balanced post.

    I’m a non-Zionist and internationalist Jew. I’ve come across anti-Zionism that is anti-Semitic, in comments on my blog. I wouldn’t stand for someone saying that because you are anti-Zionist you are anti-Semitic.

    My blog team member Marxist from Lebanon gets heat from Arab nationalists, for not hating Jews for being Jews.

    Most anti-Semitism I found are from people on the edges of social movements (loners).

    At my blog I have a Kahane follower. That is another story.


  2. Mark Yemma said

    Read a great short story on this subject. It’s entitled “Jewish LIghtening” by Sam Moffie. You can read it on his web site I wonder if anyone else caught the title’s meaning?


  3. I don’t agree that the deciding test is motivation.

    Antiracists are well used to the idea that racism is not always conscious and neither is it always maliciously motivated. We are well used to the concept of institutional racism, for example, and discursive racism.

    If only racism was so simple – just a matter of maliciously motivated individuals.

    So hostility to israel does not have to be consciously antisemitic to encourage antisemitism or to make use of antisemitic tropes.


  4. David,

    Thank you for your comment, much appreciated:)

    “racism is not always conscious and neither is it always maliciously motivated. We are well used to the concept of institutional racism, for example, and discursive racism. “

    I honestly think that we are in agreement – and maybe I should have said: ‘Motivation is what distinguishes the ANTISEMITE from the person spouting antisemitic tropes without thought’. And maybe I could have added to the post “when the motivation behind the criticism is based in an anti-Jewish sentiment, conscious or unconscious, it is antisemitism.”?

    I am very often critical of Israel – this blog and others I own have several very harsh entries on the subject. And some would claim that because of this I am a self-hating Jew, when in fact I am the very opposite 😀

    “to encourage antisemitism or to make use of antisemitic tropes.”

    Yes. That is the way any propaganda works – if repeated often enough it will become a truth. This is one reason why it is so vital that a distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitic (i.e anti-Jewish) sentiments is made. It is also one reason why legitimate criticism of Israel must be accepted as legitimate (i.e when there are actual violations of human rights and international laws taking place under the auspices of the Israeli government or those who are under the jurisdiction of the Israeli Government) and discussed. Unfortunately, many in the Jewish community, both in Israel and in the international arena do respond also to legitimate criticism with a knee-jerk reaction, and start hollering ‘Antisemitism!’.

    It seems to me that also within the Jewish Community, we need to LEARN to distinguish between legitimate Criticism of Israel, anti-zionism and antisemitism.


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