Anti-Zionism is the “new anti-Semitism,” “BDS is anti-Semitic,” “yo mama is so anti-Semitic that when the waiter asked if she wanted any juice, she said “I hate the juice!” This is stuff you hear quite often(and also the reason it was so hard to have a juice bar in Nazi Germany). Is there any truth to any of this and what is anti-Semitism?
So anti-Semitism. It is a word that’s thrown around more often than a gay hooker at a convention of religious fundamentalists. Basically, it means bigotry/racism towards Jews. Yes, Jews are not the only semitic people, and some Jews who were converts aren’t Semitic at all, but word roots don’t always accurately reflect the meaning of a word. Just try calling a fabulously frolicking fundamentalist(say that 3 times fast and Jerry Falwell’s ghost will appear in a heterosexual blue tutu and dance the Nutcracker), “gay” and you’ll immediately see them lose their gayness. Homophobes and Islamophobes don’t respectively fear gays and Muslims, they are just bigots. Therefore, anti-Semitism, generally means bigotry towards Jews.
..And then came Israel and anti-Semitism became increasingly used to mean “criticism of Israel” to a point where you are all but guaranteed to be called an anti-Semite when you bring up something like, “I think Palestinians are human beings who deserve the same human rights as anyone else.” The hasbara brigade has done this so much that it is arguable whether the word anti-Semitism still means bigotry against Jews or is currently best defined as any criticism of Israel. I think in many people’s minds, the word still has the former meaning, which is the only reason it is worth discussing because criticism of Israel and any state or political entity is always legitimate. ALWAYS.
And this is why we need to keep pushing back on the redefinition of anti-Semitism, because there are people out there that want to make it illegitimate to criticise a state and its policies and that is not OK.
So here are some points for consideration:
Anti-Semitism(bigotry/racism towards Jewish people) exists. Just like any other form of racism and bigotry it is out there and given its historic popularity, it’s no surprise that exists. Most of it exists in the form of “racial anti-Semitism,” or the view that Jews are a race(ironically a view that some Zionists adopt). As with other forms of racism, there are certain “immutable” characteristics associated with the “Jewish race,” which are either super-negative or super-positive depending on which side of the bigot spectrum you’re on. It is kind of silly given that you can convert into or from Judaism and also that no matter how closed a community is, people will still intermarry and/or have kids outside the group(unless your group has castration as a requirement but ouch).
Anti-Semitism is not unique. A lot of times you hear things like “anti-Semitism is a disease,” or “Europeans have anti-Semitism in their genes,” or “deep down, the world just hates Jews.” BULLSHIT. Anti-Semitism is just another form of bigotry and racism. Just another form. Is bigotry a mental disorder? I think there’s an argument that can be made for it, but bigotry against Jews a unique mental disorder? Genetic? Give me a break. Look at what bigots say against Jews, and look at what they say about blacks/Muslims/Roma/LGBT/Asians/Latinos/etc. It is the same thing with slightly different stereotypes. We humans have a history of treating people that don’t look like us in horrible ways. We humans need to get past it. We aren’t going to get past it by playing the “my oppression is more oppressive than your oppression therefore the oppression I inflict on others is legitimate” game.
In addition to being 100% pure, grade A manure, this argument is…anti-Semitic. It is basically saying that there is something broken inside Jewish people that makes other people hate them. That’s horrible and false. It also dovetails with the Christian Zionist idea of there being “hunters” that will force the Jews to return to Israel in order to commence The Tribulation: Return of teh Jebus.
In fact, if you find an anti-Semite, you’ll most likely find that they don’t limit their bigotry to just Jews.
A lot of anti-Semitism comes from ignorance. How much does the average American high-school kid learn about the Armenian genocide? The massacre of Iranians by the Mongols? The war crimes committed by the American government around the world? I’m guessing not much. How then do you expect people who don’t live in the West to be experts on the Holocaust and the European history of anti-Semitism? Why do people in the West who confidently throw around terms like “taqiyya” and “secular jihad” get outraged that someone who’s had little to no education on European history and a lot of propaganda and disinformation believes Holocaust deniers?
Ignorance is one of the most abundant resources on our planet and we have an infinite and inexhaustible supply. Luckily it is easily cured by education and while we’re educating Indians on the realities of Jewish suffering in Britain, maybe the British could read up on how the “heroic” Winston Churchill starved millions of Indians to death.
Israel stokes anti-Semitism. It isn’t coincidence that anti-Semitic incidents rise after Israel inflicts atrocities against the Palestinians. After all, Israel brands itself as the “Jewish state,” Netanyahu came to the United States last year to “speak on behalf of the world’s Jews(without their consent of course),” Israel demands to be recognised as a “Jewish state” and has policies that privilege Jews above non-Jews even within the Super-Democratic-Ultra-Shiny-100%-Gluten-Free borders. Is it so surprising that given all the rhetoric there are people who will believe this?
Some of the oldest anti-Semitic tropes have to do with Jews only being loyal to their tribe and not the state they live in, that Jews run governments and that Jews are untrustworthy and evil. So what does the Israeli government do? It tries to make these racist tropes a reality. Netanyahu pushes for the US to go to war, he demands American tax money, Zionists keep bleating that Jews don’t belong in the countries they live in, Israeli settlers and soldiers commit crime after crime against Palestinians, and the Israeli government has one of the most annoying and immense propaganda brigades anywhere.
No, Jews don’t run the world and most are happy and loyal to the country where they live in. Jews aren’t different than any other human apart from culture and religion, but the Israeli government is doing its best to make people think otherwise.
I don’t blame Palestinians who hate Jews and if that bothers you, you should be fighting Israel’s war crimes. The average Palestinian living in the West Bank or Gaza has never met a Jew who isn’t a settler or a soldier. The average Palestinian living in the whole of Israel/Palestine has likely never met a Jew who isn’t part of the racist hierarchy that is set up under Zionism. Just like in the previous point, the average Palestinian is told over and over and over that Israel is the “Jewish state,” that it “represents Jews” and its government is a government not for all people living in the Israeli territories but for the world’s Jews. Given that, is it surprising that the average Palestinian doesn’t like Jews? I don’t blame them, and were you or I in that situation, I doubt we’d feel differently.
Malcolm X did not abandon his anti-white feelings until he went on Hajj and met people from another perspective. Israel restricts freedom of movement, freedom of speech, silences voices of Jews in Israel, and outside of it, who fight oppression and occupation. The only opportunities for getting to know Jews exists often in normalisation programmes that work to legitimise occupation and do nothing to rectify the power imbalances in a Zionist system.
Expulsion, oppression and occupation are the reasons that Palestinians are angry and that anger is legitimate. The demand by the occupier and the oppressor that those under occupation and oppression like them is not a legitimate demand.
Some racists/bigots just substitute “Jews” for “Zionism” and we must be vigilant in fighting against them. It happens and it is not acceptable. These are people who don’t care about Palestinians, in fact, many of them harbour some pretty strong racism towards Arabs. Even those that don’t are undermining the fight for Palestinian rights, which at its core is very much an anti-racist movement.
Racism and bigotry against any group is horrendous but the only way to fight it is to oppose all forms of bigotry and racism. Zionists ‘fight’ anti-Semitism in the most counter-productive way possible – by setting it apart from other forms of bigotry/racism and by engaging in bigotry/racism on their own. I don’t know whether that is because of ignorance or a deliberate strategy but it will only ensure that anti-Semitism remains. If we want to eliminate it, and we should, we must fight it and all forms of bigotry together.
As to not end this on a too depressing note: What did Hitler say right before he shot himself? “Lose the war? I did Nazi that coming!”