It is easy to see that many critics of Israel are unquestionably anti-Semitic in outlook and feeling and are merely using a political argument to camouflage a religious, racist, or ethnophobic sentiment.Under cover of “legitimate criticism of Israel” and the condemnation of Zionism as an invasive colonial movement, anti-Semitism has now become safe. Plainly, the distinction these new anti-Semites like to draw between anti-Semitism as such and anti-Zionism is intended only to cloak the fundamental issue and to provide camouflage for vulgar ideas and beliefs.
This is a very shrewd tactic and is most disconcerting not only in its vindictiveness but in its frequency. Jewish philosopher and theologian Emil Fackenheim has outlined three stages of anti-Semitism: “You cannot live among us as Jews,” leading to forced conversions; “You cannot live among us,” leading to mass deportations; and “You cannot live,” leading to genocide. Amnon Rubinstein, patron of the Israeli Shinui party and author of From Herzl to Rabin: The Changing Image of Zionism, has added a fourth stage: “You cannot live in a state of your own,” which leads to boycott, divestment, sanctions, biased reporting, pro forma support of the Palestinians, and calls for the delegitimation, territorial reduction, and in some cases even the disappearance of Israel as we know it.
If this is not unqualified anti-Semitism, then nothing is. As Martin Luther King Jr. observed at a Harvard book fair during which Zionism came under assault: “It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the Globe. It is discrimination against Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it is anti-Semitism. … Let my words echo in the depths of your soul: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews — make no mistake about it.” King understood, as so many have not, that there is really no daylight between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. To deprive Jews of their national haven or to submerge them in a so-called “binational state” with an Arab majority is to render them vulnerable to prejudicial fury, scapegoating, pogroms, and, ultimately, even to Holocaust.
King’s homespun analysis has been confirmed in a report released in the August 2006 issue of the Journal of Conflict Resolution by the Yale School of Management in collaboration with its Institute for Social and Policy Studies. The report concludes that the statistical link between anti-Zionism and antisemitism can no longer be denied — a correlation that should have been obvious years ago despite the disclaimers regularly circulated by covert Jew-haters and Jewish revisionists.
In Why The Jews? Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin similarly point out that:
The contention that anti-Zionists are not enemies of Jews, despite the advocacy of policies that would lead to the mass murder of Jews, is, to put it as generously as possible, disingenuous. … Given, then, that if anti-Zionism realized its goal, another Jewish holocaust would take place, attempts to draw distinctions between anti-Zionism and antisemitism are simply meant to fool the naïve.
All that has happened, according to these authors, is “only a change in rhetoric.” Anti-Zionism, they claim, “is unique in only one way: it is the first form of Jew-hatred to deny that it hates the Jews.”
When we turn to the Jewish community itself, we find an analogous dynamic at work among many of its more fractious and insensible members. The issue is only exacerbated by the large number of generally left-wing Jews who have spoken out against Israel, levelling an endless barrage of cavils, reproofs, and aspersions against social and political conditions in the Jewish state or its negotiation tactics vis à vis the Palestinians. The verbal Kassams and textual Katyushas they continually launch are as damaging to Israel’s international standing as Hamas rockets and Hezbollah missiles are to its physical security. Some go so far as to deplore its very existence, regarding the country as a burden on their assimilationist lifestyle, as an unwelcome reminder of their indelible and resented Jewishness, or as a particularist violation of their utopian notions of universal justice.
Many Jews tend to see Israel as a threat to their convenience, a nuisance at best, a peril at worst. They have failed to comprehend the justice of George Steiner’s lambent remark in Language and Silence: “If Israel were to be destroyed, no Jew would escape unscathed. The shock of failure, the need and harrying of those seeking refuge, would reach out to implicate even the most indifferent, the most anti-Zionist.” According to Saul Bellow in To Jerusalem and Back, the great Israeli historian Jacob Leib Talmon was of the same mind. In a conversation with the author, Talmon feared that the destruction of Israel would bring with it the end of “corporate Jewish existence all over the world, and a catastrophe that might overtake U.S. Jewry.”
These Jews who are vexed by the existence of their fallback country are living in a fantasy of personal immunity to the bubonics of Jew-hatred, something that has never ceased to infect the world. In reviling the one nation on earth that serves as a last asylum should they ever find themselves in extremis, they have not only risked their — or their children’s — possible future survival. They have also effectively expunged their own historical identity, aligning themselves with the foul theories and convictions of their persecutors. Victim and victimizer are in agreement. This is nothing less than a form of self-loathing, a rejection of essence, that paradoxically corresponds to the contempt and hatred of the non-Jewish anti-Semite. It is, in short, nothing less than reflexive anti-Semitism.
As Daniel Greenfield asks in an article exposing the campus betrayals of the Berkeley Hillel chapter that endorses patently anti-Zionist organizations, “why shouldn’t there be a consensus that Jewish identity is incompatible with the rejection of the Jewish state?” Following the same line of thought, Phil Orenstein, a member of the National Conference on Jewish Affairs, writes:
For two millennium [sic], the Jewish people have been rejected from countries throughout the world. Now at long last we have the Jewish State, a safe haven that can welcome our people home. We need to teach our youth what the blessing of Israel means to the Jewish people.
In fact, it is not only Jewish youth who have strayed from the recognition of who they are and who the world regards them as being, as if they could find sanctuary in ostensibly exalted ideals or in collaboration with their diehard adversaries. It is every Jew who has embraced the anti-Zionist canard and by so doing negated his own integrity and selfhood. In denouncing or repudiating Israel, the state founded to ensure his perseverance and preserve his identity in the world, he has renounced that same identity. He has disavowed and thus erased himself — precisely as the typical anti-Zionist, laboring to obliterate Israel from the map, has sought to render the Jew defenseless and susceptible to repression or, even worse, extermination.
Updating the Hannukah story, Steven Plaut accurately describes these anti-Zionist Jews as modern Hellenists “ashamed of their Jewishness,” siding with the Seleucid empire against the Hasmoneans who fought for the restoration and survival of the Jewish people. But the upshot is that anyone who objects to the existence of the state of Israel, who would like to have it vanish from the international stage, who wishes it had never been established, who considers it a geopolitical blunder, or who insists on treating it as an embarrassment or a nettle to one’s equanimity, is an antisemite, for he would despoil the Jewish people of its last line of defense in an always problematic world. In What Is Judaism?, Fackenheim laments that “all anti-Zionism, Jewish and Gentile, should have come to a total end with the gas chambers and smoke-stacks of Auschwitz.” Regrettably, this was not to be.
Certainly, one can be critical of Israel, but given its beleaguered condition, surrounded by enemies and constantly under attack, such criticism must be tempered by respect and circumspection. Nor should criticism function as a stalking horse behind which an inimical or incendiary project moves forward. It is when legitimate criticism morphs into anti-Zionism that we know a malign agenda is at work.
King was right. “When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews — make no mistake about it.” It amounts to the same thing. Whoever — Jew or non-Jew — advances a campaign against the wellbeing or the existence of the Jewish state is, quite simply, an anti-Semite. It makes no difference if the hater is a Muslim like Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Christian like Jostein Gaarder, an American Jew like Thomas Friedman, or an Israeli Jew like Neve Gordon, he is an enemy of the so-called “Zionist entity” and therefore an anti-Semite. Make no mistake about it.