When does anti-Zionism become antisemitism? – Asia Times

When does anti-Zionism become antisemitism? - Asia Times

In his most recent book, Israeli Life in Medieval Spain, Jonathan Ray concentrates on the turmoil of the 14th century in Spain, a period of the disease, civil unrest, and war between the two largest realms, Aragon and Castile, with repeated assaults against Jews. This culminated in protests in 1391, which resulted in deaths, destruction of property, murders and forced conversion.

Ray relates an charm the Jewish society made to the Spanish king in 1354 in which they were hounded by the contempt they had:

[ …] the people trembled with their cries of” all this is happening because of Jacob’s sins, later renamed Israel ] ]. Let us eliminate this state! Let us eliminate them”!

A constant characteristic of Hebrew history is treating Jews as scapegoats in times of hardship. Some 100, 000 Jews were murdered in Eastern Europe as part of the problems following the 1917 Russian Revolution. The drama of the Holocaust followed these atrocities.

During the Second World War, protests in the Middle East and North Africa even intended Immigrants. During the Farhud of 1941, for instance, a violent mob attacked the Jews of Baghdad, killing up to 180 individuals, raping women and stealing components.

Understanding the stress of the Hamas assault on October 7 in southern Israel, during which 1, 200 people were killed ( and some were sexually assaulted ), and 240 were abducted, is crucial. It was a watershed moment for Israelis, as well as the Jewish community.

It also helps to understand the Jewish perception behind some of the language used at international demonstrations since October 7 to protest Israel’s following occupation of Gaza and, more broadly, Zionism. To some, this equates to hatred.

When pro- Zionism leads to hatred

Many ink has been spilt on the issue of whether demonstrations against Zionism, or pro- Zionism, are essentially racist.

Truly, within the educational realm, anti- Zionism does no automatically conflate with antisemitism. According to Michelle Goldberg, anti-Zionism can come from those who, among other things, believe in the possibility of Israeli and Palestinian cohabitation in the same state or from well-intentioned concerns for Arab suffering.

But, when the real- life effect of anti- Zionism results in cries advocating for the killing of Jews, then it can only get understood as antisemitism. As with any criticism of Zionism or Israel that crosses the line into overt racism or prejudice, demands to de-platform or remove Israel, the emerging of myths and crime theories about Jews, or the probing of Israel’s right to exist as a condition.

A pro-Palestine march took place in Sydney on October 9 only two weeks after Israel’s declaration of war against Hamas, drawing direct parallels to 1354. While the authorities may dispute as to whether the protesters ‘ boos were “gas the Jews” or “where’s the Jews”, for Israeli citizens, the goal was the same.

Authorities had instructed the Jewish area not to enter the opposition in Sydney. &nbsp, Photo: Dean Lewins / AAP via The Talk

The group at another march at the Victoria congress chanted” Khaybar, Khaybar, the forces of Muhammed are coming”. This refers to problems by the Arab army against the Jewish community in Arabia in 628, when Zionists were subjugated, expelled or slaughtered.

According to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, there has been an unprecedented rise in hatred in Australia since October 7 due to these nasty information. These acts included vile graffiti messages, the boycotting of Jewish businesses deemed” Zionist”, verbal abuse ( including death threats ), physical abuse and attacks on social media.

The rise in hatred is what led to the creation of the Jewish artists and scientists WhatsApp group, as well as the lack of empathy and assist many Jewish individuals felt in Australia following the October 7 harm.

Later, it’s members were shocked to learn that their chat was being hacked along with personal information and photos as well as the abuse and threats some users had experienced. As Jewish historian David Slucki stressed, such doxxing has no justification.

Some claim that the group was attempting to silence pro-Palestine voices by publishing the chat messages as whistleblowing. To Jewish members, however, this argument evokes ancient tropes of secret Jewish cabals. Additionally, it suggests that one’s Zionist status automatically indicates that they are anti-Palestine. Such assumptions foster antisemitism, the clear outcome of the leak.

For example, the ongoing idea of Jews having “tentacles” that reach far and wide to control people was recently resurrected by Jenny Leong, a Greens MP for Newtown ( who later apologized ).

Zionism’s origin and evolution

One must first understand what anti-Zionism is in order to understand what it means.

The word” Zion” stems from the bible. It refers to a mountain in Jerusalem where is said to be buried King David, one of the most revered figures in Jewish history who conquered Jerusalem in the tenth century.

Over millennia,” Zion” has come to refer to Jerusalem itself, as well as the Land of Israel. The Jewish national self-determination movement, which emerged in the 19th century to establish a Jewish state in Israel, the Jews ‘ ancestral home. 1948 saw the achievement of this objective.

Before 1948, there were Jews who fought against the Zionist movement for a variety of reasons. Jews had to wait for the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of a theocratic state, according to the ultra-Orthodox. Secular socialists, meanwhile, believed Jews needed to fight for full equality and self- determination in their own countries.

As he discusses in his autobiography, Jewish journalist Michael Gawenda grew up with such an anti- Zionist viewpoint, but gradually shifted his views on Israel. Then, he says, the world changed on October 7. Some of the left-leaning critics of Israel today see the state as” the bastard child of an evil ideology,” as he suggests in a recent article. He writes:

The Hamas pogrom and its aftermath — the explosion of antisemitism and Jew hatred ]around the world ] — reminded Jews like me that in Jewish history, what may have seemed to be a golden age for Jews can end suddenly, violently, inexplicably and with devastating and sometimes murderous consequences.

In a recent survey, 86 % of Australian Jews declared themselves Zionists, and 87 % thought Israel’s existence was crucial for the Jewish people’s future.

Many anti- Zionists today, particularly among the progressive left, however, believe Israel was “born in sin” as a racist, settler- colonial state. In their view, Zionists are pursuing ethnic cleansing, expulsions, theft, apartheid and genocide against the Palestinians.

These ideas were also spread by the Soviets in their efforts to conquer the Arab world starting in the early 1960s.

It is crucial to point out that criticizing the Israeli government’s actions toward Palestinians is not inherently anti-Zionist. This includes legitimate criticism of Israel’s handling of the conflict in Gaza and the government’s failure to provide for the war’s aftermath.

For example, US Senator Chuck Schumer, who is Jewish, recently strongly criticized the actions of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. One of the most vocal pro-Israel senators in US history is Schumer. He cannot be considered an anti- Zionist.

YouTube video

Excerpt from Schumer’s speech in Congress on March 14.

Conflicting definitions of antisemitism

In recent years, efforts have been made to define antisemitism in order to illustrate how it interacts with attitudes toward Israel and to draw clearer definitions of when anti-Zionism changes into antisemitism.

This led to the adoption of a working definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2016. Seven of its 11 instances of antisemitism relate to Israel, despite the fact that it is clear that legitimate criticism of Israel is not antisemitism. These include:

  • denying the Jewish people their right to self- determination, for example, by claiming the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavor
  • drawing comparisons between contemporary Israeli policy and Nazi policy
  • holding Jews individually accountable for the actions of the state of Israel.

To date, 38 nations have accepted this definition of antisemitism, including Australia in 2021.

Some scholars, including those who would consider themselves anti- Zionists, however, have rejected the definition and developed and signed another, known as the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism.

This definition is adopted by a small minority of Jews who oppose the existence of Israel as a Zionist state. It is less prescriptive than the IHRA definition and aims to” clarify when criticism of ( or hostility toward ) Israel or Zionism crosses the line into antisemitism and when it does not” for other Jews.

For instance, it says criticizing or opposing Zionism” as a form of nationalism” is not antisemitic, while “denying the right of Jews in the state of Israel to exist and flourish” would be.

According to Jewish historian Derek Penslar, who explains why he signed it,:

Many people around the world do n’t criticize Jews but are troubled by how Israel treats Palestinians and wants things to change. Jews who are firmly resent Zionism as a concept and Israel as a means of achieving that ideal are among those who criticize Israel.

Without a historical perspective, it is impossible to fully comprehend the intricate ties between anti-Zionism and antisemitism today.

Our goal should be to learn to listen to each other with respect and to understand the conflict between the pro- and anti-Zionist narratives we are currently seeing, even if we choose to disagree. There seems to be a long way to go before we can accomplish this objective.

Suzanne Rutland, Professor Emerita, University of Sydney

The Conversation has republished this article under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.