Anti-Zionism: The Modern Antisemitism
“There’s going to be an anti-Israel protest downtown,” my friend said. “I think we need to do something.”
The next day, we met in front of the courthouse in Las Vegas. Sure enough, there was a group of protesters calling for an end to Israel’s “occupation of Palestine.”
After watching the protest for a few minutes, we walked to our cars. One protester recognized my friend, an Ethiopian Israeli, and confronted us. He followed us for several city blocks, hurling vile slurs at us, accusing us of supporting racism and genocide.
That day I experienced what many of my Jewish friends have: the never-ending scourge of antisemitism.
From spray-painted swastikas on Jewish frat houses to toppled tombstones in Jewish cemeteries, traditional antisemitism is easy to identify. More difficult to pin down is the modern, politically motivated version my friend and I experienced.
As Natan Sharansky, a victim of Soviet-era antisemitism, writes,
Whereas classical anti-Semitism is aimed at the Jewish people or the Jewish religion, “new anti-Semitism” is aimed at the Jewish state. . . . This hatred is advanced in the name of values most of us would consider unimpeachable, such as human rights.1
This modern, slickly rebranded incarnation is called anti-Zionism. Zionism is the liberation movement of the Jewish people, which originally called for a return to their homeland after centuries of global dispersion and persecution. Its goal realized in the 1948 establishment of the Jewish state, Zionism continues today, calling for the Jewish people’s continued right to live in their land sovereignly and securely.
But anti-Zionists believe Zionism is a form of Western colonization that dispossessed the Arabs living in the region (identified as Palestinians after the Six-Day War) and robbed them of their land. In their view, since the Nakba—the term they use to describe Israel’s rebirth, meaning “disaster”—the Jewish state has engaged in the brutal oppression and systematic disenfranchisement of these “Palestinian refugees.” Not only, they claim, is Israel an illegitimate nation, but it participates in apartheid, à la pre-1994 South Africa. This twisted interpretation of events motivates anti-Zionism’s calls for the destruction of Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state in its place.
It might seem that anti-Zionism is merely impassioned criticism of a nation that happens to be Jewish, not an antisemitic credo. In theory, this dichotomy works. One can criticize Israeli policy without hating Jewish people. Just ask Israelis, who are known for being their own biggest critics. But there is a vast disparity between anti-Zionism in theory and practice.
To determine when this line is crossed, Sharansky developed the “3D Test”: If anti-Israel rhetoric demonizes Israel, holds Israel to double standards, or delegitimizes the existence of the Jewish state, it is not legitimate criticism but, rather, antisemitism.
With few exceptions, anti-Zionists check all of these boxes. They demonize Israel by comparing its security barrier to the wall around the Warsaw Ghetto or by carrying Israeli flags with swastikas in place of the Star of David.
They accuse the Jewish state of human rights violations while ignoring true human rights abusers. Where is their concern for the victims of violent regimes in South Sudan, North Korea, and Syria? Where are the campus protests against security barriers in India, Saudi Arabia, and Slovenia? Where are the boycotts against products made in communist China?
By definition, anti-Zionism delegitimizes Israel. Just consider that the movement’s proposed solution to their complaints is not the end of Israeli policies they dislike but the destruction of Israel itself. For proof, look no further than their well-worn protest chant, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free!” Free from whom? Free from the Jews.
Traditional antisemitism rightly draws the ire and condemnation of many. But don’t be fooled: Anti-Zionism is simply the latest iteration of that ancient hatred, and it deserves the denunciation of the whole world.
- Natan Sharansky, “3D Test of Anti-Semitism: Demonization, Double Standards, Delegitimization,” Jewish Political Studies Review 16, (Fall 2004): 1, (jcpa.org/phas/phas-sharansky-f04.htm).