Would the real anti-Semites please stand up?
I define anti-Semitism as the belief that Jewish people are innately evil, inferior, corrupt or immoral in comparison to other people groups . Anti-Semitism is therefore one type of racist belief amongst many racist beliefs. This definition may not satisfy everyone, but is a good enough place to start.
Anti-Semitism is no lesser and no greater an evil than any other type of racism. To believe anything else would be racist in itself. To repudiate racism requires one to first accept that all forms of racism are equally abhorrent. Religious anti-Semitism is virtually always based in racial anti-Semitism. The whole question of whether or not being Jewish is a racial or religious identity has been dealt with elsewhere in this blog.There is absolutely no doubt that anti-Semitism has had a long history in the world and the fight against it must be continued and ever vigilant just as the fight against all forms of racism must be continued and ever vigilant.
Given this definition, I think the following questions are worth asking:
1) Can a Jewish person be anti-Semitic?
I guess it is possible for a Jewish person to be an anti-Semite, but such a person would be a very emotionally sick individual indeed! I would expect such a person to be generally quite disturbed and dysfunctional. Quite like the victims of childhood sexual abuse who are tormented by feelings of inadequacy and self loathing. Some gay friends of mine have been accused of being self hating homosexuals because of their strident criticism of the gay community. This is a very hurtful allegation and should not be thrown around arbitrarily.
The term, self hating Jew, is used very often by Zionists when describing Jewish people who advocate for the Palestinian people or who are overly critical of the Zionist state of Israel. Interestingly, I have never personally heard the term used by the Jewish opponents of Zionism when describing their critics. Zionists are described as oppressors, colonialists or racists, but seldom if ever referred to as self hating Jews or anti-Semites. While I think it quite possible that a Jewish person could be an anti-Semite, I feel that this tag has often been used as a convenient way to vilify Jewish people who do not accept the Zionist narrative of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It helps to perpetuates the myth of the virtual identical nature of Zionism and being Jewish.
2) Can a Zionist be anti-Semitic?
I think that most Zionists would tell you that it is virtually impossible for a Zionist to be an anti-Semite. This comes from what I see as their belief that they are the real Jews: the true spokespersons for the Jewish peoples true interests and survival. How else could they claim that Jews who do not subscribe to their ideology are anti-Semites and self hating Jews with such confidence?
I think that it is just as likely for a Zionist Jew to be a self hating Jew (if indeed such people exist) as it is for a non-Zionist or an anti-Zionist Jew. Sometimes I have heard extremely racist comments by Orthodox religious Jews (mostly by religious Zionists) regarding gentiles, but rarely have I heard them making comments that I would construe to be anti-Semitic. Zionist ideology is very much built upon the idea that Jewish integration or assimilation into the gentile world is impossible, hence the need for their own state. The reasons given for this inability to live amongst gentiles without persecution varies. Some may say it is because gentiles are by nature anti-Semitic. This belief seems to be racist in itself. It seems to imply that gentiles are basically inferior or less civilised than Jewish people. Some Jews may say that the inability of Jews to live safely with gentiles is a simple fact of history and read no more into it than that.
Zionisms rejection of Orthodox Torah Judaism, especially in its early years, is considered by many Orthodox religious Jews today to be fundamentally anti-Semitic.
3) Can a Christian Zionist be anti-Semitic?
Over the past few years I have definitely come to believe that Christian Zionists consider the state of Israel to be more important to them than it is for the Jewish people themselves. Having said that, you would think that their unconditional support of the Israeli state would put them on the least likely list of suspects for anti-Semitism. But you would be wrong. I have heard many Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews claim that Christian Zionist anti-Semitism is revealed in their theology, particularly their eschatology which is really the driving force for their understanding of the whole Israel-Palestine conflict.
Added to this is the whole notion of unconditional support for the Zionist state. I do not think that any one who would unconditionally support me in reality is acting as a true friend to me. Even my own parents never unconditionally supported me in life, and neither they should have. Unconditional love and unconditional support are clearly two different things. Would a parent be truly a good and loving parent if they were to support their child in their endeavors to rob, murder and steal if their son or daughter choice to go down those roads as many do? Of course not.
The so called unconditional support of Christian Zionists towards the state of Israel is loaded with self interest to say the least. Their support is entirely related to the convergence of their end goals with that of the Zionists i.e, for all Jews to live in Eretz Israel. If the Zionists had chosen to create a state any where else but Palestine, these Christians would probably revert back to the same type of religious anti-Semitism that has been common in Christian history for the past two thousand years. Even now many Christian Zionists believe that the Anti-Christ will be a Jew and that the vast majority of Jews will be hurled into the lake of fire upon Christ’s return to be tormented for all eternity.
Whereas Orthodox Judaism has understood the final return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel to be the ushering in of a great age of peace and Godly service of all humanity, Christian Zionists see it as bad news indeed for most of humanity and especially for the adherents of Torah Judaism.
4) Are Palestine solidarity activists anti-Semitic?
There is no doubt as well that there are Arabs, and non-Arabs, who oppose the state of Israel not so much because they are concerned for Palestinian rights to justice and self determination, but because they are anti-Semites. However, I must say that I personally have never met one Palestine solidarity activist that would fall into that category. Such people are quite easy to spot within the ranks of the solidarity movement when they do occur. This is simply because their criticism of the Israeli state is completely based on racial grounds and their contempt for Jewish people still remains even in the case of Jewish people who resist the Zionist narrative and stand up for Palestinian rights. They usually indulge in ridiculous conspiracy theories about Jewish world domination or even pseudo religious theories of demonic or satanic connections to the Talmud and Torah Judaism. The mere existence of the lunatic fringe in any movement (including Zionism) does not refute the basic validity of that movement.
I can say emphatically that the overwhelming majority of the Palestine solidarity movement abhors anti-Semitism and is motivated by the concern for the suffering and injustices that they see have been committed on the Palestinian people by the Zionist state of Israel. Anti-Zionists are no more anti-Semitic than anti-Communists are anti-Slavic or anti-apartheid activists are anti-Dutch. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine will not be stopped or justice be done by the ethnic cleansing of Israel. Justice in the Middle East will be justice for both people groups living together in equality and peace just as they did for centuries before the European colonialist ideology of Zionism took hold in the minds of many vulnerable Jewish people.
5) Does the Zionist understanding of how to fight against , or protect Jews from anti-Semitism cause and/or justify racism against those whom the Zionists perceive as being threats to Zionism?
A Jewish friend of mine, who grew up in Israel, once told me that she was taught as a child while she was in Israel that the Holocaust must never happen again…to us! (i.e. the Jewish people). It seems that the consensus was that the Jewish people must do whatever they must do to ensure their safety. Damage done to others in the process was of secondary importance at best. This destructive entitlement, is common in peoples who have been the victims of grave abuse and injustice (some Palestinians feel this way too) and is an attitude I have picked up in the language of many Zionists that I know. Being victims of the Holocaust simply does not give the Jewish people, or any people, a license to oppress and dispossess others. It may be argued that any security that is gained at the expense of others will indeed be temporary. It will not end anti-Semitism but probably only give more ammunition to the anti-Semites already in existence.
6) Do anti-Zionist Jews unwittingly help promote the cause of anti-Semitism?
Rather than promote anti-Semitism, I have found anti-Zionist Jews to be at the forefront of the fight against anti-Semitism. Many times have I heard of people who felt that they did not like Jewish people because of the oppression of the Israeli state towards the Palestinian people, change their minds about Jews when they discovered Jewish people who stood up for Palestinian rights in the face of a barrage of abuse by Zionist Jews. Zionism is a political ideology, not a racial or religious identity. To be anti-Zionist and Jewish takes immense courage and in my opinion reveals the real essence of being Jewish. To me, being Jewish is not really about ones lineage, but is about ones ethics and beliefs about human value.
ACTION FOR PALESTINE