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After the last attacks on Israel by Hamas, the canards began to escalate against Israelis once more: they stole the land, they abuse the Palestinians—well, the list goes on. In recent months there has also been discussion on this site about whether anti-Semitic attacks in this country are increasing or not, whether the concern was being exaggerated or should be seriously addressed.
I’ve decided to take a different approach to the “Jewish question.” From my perspective, there are three types of attacks on Jews that have a great deal to teach us and serve as a warning: (1) the relevance of the merging of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist thought in these times; (2) the subtlety of criticisms of Jews, and how Jews are adding credence to these statements, (3) the lessons that need to be learned from the current situation by Jews and non-Jews alike.
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So many of the arguments denying that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are the same are misleading, are lies, or are trying to use current politics to attack both mindsets. I would prefer to use long-standing tropes that try to justify attacking Israel with lies and deceptions as a means to separate out the two ideas.
First, those who deny the connection say that Jews invaded Israel and essentially kicked out the Palestinians. Anyone who has studied Jewish history knows these statements are not true. The Jews have lived in that part of the world for thousands of years, and although their population decreased, they were continuously resident. The Jews repeatedly made efforts to engage the Arabs in the region, but they refused.
Second, People think that Israelis believe that criticism about them is anti-Semitic. The problem arises when the media either ignores the actions of non-Israelis in the country or distorts the information about Israel.
Third, Israel is an apartheid state. This is an illegitimate claim. The term “apartheid” was used to describe South Africa: apartheid dictated where South Africans, on the basis of their race, could live and work, the type of education they could receive, and whether they could vote. None of these restrictions apply to Arabs in Israel. Arabs can live in Israel, have full access to schools (although more needs to be done to improve education for Arabs), live in mixed Israeli and Arab communities, and the Arabs can vote.
Israel has been condemned by the United Nations more than any other nation in the world. When one considers the atrocities and repression committed all over the globe just in recent years, one only needs to look at Syria, Rwanda, Cuba, Myanmar, South Sudan, Congo and Darfur. Let’s not forget China.
There are many other claims about the legitimacy of Israel, and as long as arguments of legitimacy are used as a cudgel, the legitimacy of the anti-Zionist argument becomes moot. It is part and parcel of the anti-Semitic rhetoric
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The reason I became convinced of the merging of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism was that a definition of the former is precisely the same for the latter. Bret Stephens (whether you like him as a Conservative or not), in a panel discussion with Bari Weiss (see below), defined anti-Semitism not just as racist (technically, Judaism is not a race), but in this way:
It is a conspiracy theory which holds that Jews are imposters and swindlers. If you look at the 19th century, they were considered to be imposters: they were ‘trying to be’ Germans and French, and they were ‘stealing the wealth’ of those countries”; anti-Zionism is the same.
Contemplate that definition for a moment. The definition held true in Europe, and it holds true today in Israel—and might be emerging in our own country.
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It’s helpful to remember that many bigotries against Jews were encoded in law in European countries; gradually some restrictions were removed, and Jews appeared to assimilate successfully in almost every country where they lived. But the assimilation was misleading. Jews were repeatedly expelled from countries. Just under the surface, and sometimes even blatantly, Jewish hatred reared its ugly head. Some opportunities were considered unwise to pursue by both Jews and non-Jews, whether in commerce or government; Jews were concerned about being perceived as seeking to live above their station and to rekindle the hatred toward the Jewish community. And then we endeavored to survive the wreckage and destruction of World War II.
Today, only a few people unashamedly publicly attack the Jew. We see these attacks by our own government representatives. Some people are wise enough to do it in the absence of Jewish company. There may be enough people in this country who would speak out against anti-Semitic remarks. The people who are the most tolerant of anti-Semitic rhetoric: the Jews themselves. They have lulled themselves into a sense of safety and wellbeing; after all, it’s not like they wear strange clothes or mumble in Yiddish around their friends. Anti-Semitic jokes can be brushed off or ignored. Jews take off time for the same holidays as everyone else; they eat the same foods as their secular friends. In effect, they are barely Jewish. So when they find themselves in the position of having to defend Jews, or worse yet, Israel, they put on their Progressive hats so they can blend into the crowd. They take pride in the fact that they are no different than anyone else, and as Jews have done through the centuries, they fight for the underdog—the other. One has to ask in all seriousness, who is the underdog in Israel, and how is that defined?
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So, where do I find myself in this discussion? If it’s possible, I’m more zealous than ever in my support for Jews all over the world, and especially for the state of Israel. I’m not going to make apologies for my stance. I am critical of Israel when it does foolish things, but I will attack the lies, too, like these:
Palestinian land (despite the fact that Israel vacated the territory from which it was subsequently attacked) and wanton violence against Palestinian civilians, particularly children (despite the fact that Israel regularly warned its targets to vacate buildings before targeting them) — can’t help but make me think of ancient libels about Jewish greed and bloodlust.
For example, when you hear that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, which it of course manifestly is not, you are abusing that word and trafficking in a classic anti-Semitic trope, suggesting that the Jewish people have a particular kind of bloodlust. Or if you say that Israel or Israeli leaders have hypnotized the world to get them to do their bidding, that again, goes back to an old anti-Semitic trope.
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If you’re not Jewish, why should you be concerned? Because in this country, it isn’t the Jews who have a bloodlust; it is the Progressive party. And it is against anyone who doesn’t adopt their program and its propaganda. I’m suggesting that the Jews are not the only ones in the sights of Jew-haters; they are just the canary in the coal mine. If you’re Christian, a gun owner, a Conservative, a cop or former military, get ready.
You could be next.
The one-hour panel on The Mainstreaming of Anti-Semitism: How Should We Respond, particularly the first nine minutes