The Israeli embrace of Christian evangelicals — whose plans for Jews are conversion or a fiery death — mirrors the warm relationship that Zionists had with antisemitic leaders in Germany and Italy.
By Alice Rothchild | Mondoweiss | Nov 19, 2019
[Herzl] would declare in his foundational pamphlet that ‘the Governments of all countries scourged by Anti-Semitism will be keenly interested in assisting us to obtain [the] sovereignty we want’; and indeed that not ‘only poor Jews’ would contribute to an immigration fund for European Jews, ‘but also Christians who wanted to get rid of them.’ — Columbia University professor Joseph Massad
I grew up with a deep love for Israel, the redemptive, out-of the-ashes, kibbutz-loving, feisty little country that could do no wrong, fighting for its life in a sea of hateful Arabs and Jew-haters. I learned that Jews were a people dedicated to worship and the study of Torah and this identity kept us alive during the centuries of antisemitism in Europe. If I was not able to dedicate myself to the religiosity of my davening grandfather, tfillin and all, I understood that as a people, we were deeply committed to healing the world and working for social justice, an equally virtuous and inherently Jewish task. After all, we were naturally good, or as my mother explained, Jews bore the responsibility of being chosen for a uniquely positive role in this world.
As the decades passed, this mythology shattered against the hard rocks of reality. One of the most difficult contradictions I now face is understanding the perverse relationship between Zionism and antisemitism. I was sold the story that political Zionism developed as a response to antisemitism and as a modern, liberating movement in the backward Middle East. But in 1897 as modern Zionism was born, it adopted the trope of the diaspora Jew as a pale, flaccid, yeshiva bocher, a parasite, an eternal alien, a nebbish. That Zionism embraced the idea that this pathetic weakling (who was often to be blamed for antisemitism) needed to be Aryanized into the bronzed, muscular Hebrew farmer/warrior tilling the soil in the Galilee is a chilling realization. The evolution of Jews as a people who lived by Torah and its commandments into a biological race with distinct characteristics, (the money Jew, the ghetto Jew, the swarthy, hook-nosed Jew) mirrors the worst canards of anti-Semites, European fascists, and white supremacists.
If one wants to eradicate anti-Semitism, one should fight to end all forms of racism; claiming that opposition to Zionism is anti-Semitic is a false, shameless claim.
By Miko Peled | Mint Press News | Sep 13, 2018
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, anti-Semitism is defined as ‘hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.’ This is also how anti-Semitism is understood by people in general. However, the state of Israel and Zionist organizations around the world do not want the term to be defined as only racism against Jewish people but also to include criticism and rejection of Zionism.
. . . From early on, the Zionist movement and then the State of Israel have had a tense relationship with the Ultra-Orthodox community because of its clear anti-Zionist stance. Having grown up in Jerusalem I can recall how each year on particular days, including the Israeli Day of Independence, there would be processions at the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods where the Israeli flag would be burned.
The Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, which claims to be a civil-rights organization but is in reality a Zionist watchdog, maintains that “Anti-Zionism is a prejudice against the Jewish movement for self-determination and the right of the Jewish people to a homeland in the State of Israel.” This is an interesting twist on Zionism and what it means to oppose it.
To begin with it is not prejudice to oppose Zionism. The Zionist movement has been around for over a century and has a clear track record of racism and extreme violence. Nor is it prejudice against the right of Jewish people to live in Palestine. The creation of the state of Israel came at an enormous cost and included genocide, ethnic cleansing, and the establishment of an apartheid regime. That is enough reason to oppose any movement.
The ADL also claim that BDS — the Palestinian call for a boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign against Israel — is anti-Semitic. On its website, it says that “ADL believes that the founding goals of the BDS movement and many of the strategies used by BDS campaigns are anti-Semitic.” It goes on to say that “the [BDS] campaign is founded on a rejection of Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state. It denies the Jewish people the right to self-determination.”
Is it necessarily anti-Semitic to harshly criticize the Jewish state or to do so without, in the same breath, criticizing Saudi repression?
Freedom of speech on college campuses is under enough pressure without the federal government adding to the problem by threatening to withdraw funding to punish people for expressing their political opinions. That would be a real possibility if Congress enacted and President Trump signed a bill called the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018.
The legislation, which has recently been reintroduced in both chambers, purports to target harassment of Jewish students on college campuses, which has occurred in California and elsewhere.
But this proposal would blur the distinction between unacceptable, intimidating expressions of intolerance directed against Jews with criticism of the state of Israel. The latter, even when expressed in intemperate terms, is protected by the 1st Amendment. . . .
Neither racism nor the violence that results from it can be justified. However, the acceptance of anti-Semitic prejudices among Muslims should be attributed to political and social rather than religious factors. Without the colonial subjugation of the Arab world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the spread of anti-Semitic thought, both there and in other Islamic countries, is almost unthinkable.
Holy books are what people make of them: after all, even the word of God needs to be understood and interpreted. The same applies to anti-Jewish statements in the Koran. Today, it isn’t just so-called critics of Islam who describe them as anti-Semitic; Muslim hate-preachers too like to quote them. In the field of traditional Koranic exegesis, this is a new kind of misuse.
For over a thousand years, Muslims have worked hard to make their word of God applicable as a moral and legal doctrine. Scholars claimed the exclusive right to interpret it. While this process wasn’t democratic, it guaranteed that extreme, isolated interpretations stood little chance.
Verses calling for violence against Jews, for example, are embedded in reports about historical events. When the Prophet emigrated from Mecca to Medina in 622, he formed an alliance with the local population, which included some Jewish tribes. It is said that when these tribes broke the contract, Mohammed and his followers took revenge. Hatred of Jews in the early Islamic tradition sprang from the precarious position of the Muslim community, which was in competition with social adversaries. When seen this way, it was clearly associated with a specific situation.
The Israeli government needs the “new anti-Semitism” to justify its actions and to protect it from international and domestic condemnation. Anti-Semitism is effectively weaponized, not only to stifle speech — “It does not matter if the accusation is true.” . . . [Its] purpose is “to cause pain, to produce shame, and to reduce the accused to silence” — but also to suppress a politics of liberation.
Not long after the eruption of the Second Intifada in September 2000, I became active in a Jewish-Palestinian political movement called Ta’ayush, which conducts non-violent direct action against Israel’s military siege of the West Bank and Gaza. Its objective isn’t merely to protest against Israel’s violation of human rights but to join the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination. For a number of years, I spent most weekends with Ta’ayush in the West Bank; during the week I would write about our activities for the local and international press.
My pieces caught the eye of a professor from Haifa University, who wrote a series of articles accusing me first of being a traitor and a supporter of terrorism, then later a “Judenrat wannabe” and an anti-Semite. The charges began to circulate on right-wing websites; I received death threats and scores of hate messages by email; administrators at my university received letters, some from big donors, demanding that I be fired.
I mention this personal experience because although people within Israel and abroad have expressed concern for my wellbeing and offered their support, my feeling is that in their genuine alarm about my safety, they have missed something very important about the charge of the ‘new anti-Semitism’ and whom, ultimately, its target is.
The crimes against the Palestinians should not have to match the Holocaust before we can express our horror or outrage.
Dear Professor Schama,
I’ve just read your letter to The Times this week about Zionism and antisemitism in the Labour Party, co-signed by your fellow historian Simon Sebag Montefiore and novelist Howard Jacobson. As you’re the senior academic, I’m addressing my concerns to you, although I’m slightly embarrassed at having to offer someone of your reputation a history lesson.
While I’m sympathetic to some of your points over the language and tone of the Israel/Palestine debate in some parts of the British left, overall your letter only adds to the lock down of freedom of speech on Israel by attempting to make criticism of Zionism toxic by association. That doesn’t feel like a good position for you to take as a public intellectual.
Your letter makes questioning either the theory or outcomes of Zionism politically, socially and morally unacceptable. In my view, that does little to help our understanding of Zionism, modern Jewish history, or traditional rabbinic Judaism. And, like others before you, you are muddying the meaning of antisemitism.
We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict . . . to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years. — Steve Bannon, White House Chief Strategist
In my previous post, I explored how Zionism historically fed off the existence of anti-Semites and anti-Semitic regimes to justify the need for a Jewish state. In this post, I’d like to discuss a phenomenon that has even more ominous resonance for the current political moment: the willingness of political Zionists, Israeli politicians and right wing Israel advocates to court the support of Christian millenarians and apocalyptic extremists.
Some history: In the century after the Protestant reformation, the religious ideology of millenarianism began to spread throughout Europe. Millenarianism took many forms, most of which were rooted in the belief that the physical restoration of the Jews to the land would be a necessary precursor to the apocalypse and the eventual second coming of the Messiah. This religious dogma was eventually brought by English Puritan colonists to North America, where it evolved into present-day Christian Zionism.
It is safe to say that Jewish political Zionism could not have succeeded without the support of Christian millenarians. Reverend William Hechler, a prominent English clergyman who ascribed to eschatological theology and the restoration of the Jews to the land of Israel, was a close friend and colleague of Theodor Herzl, the founder of the political Zionist movement. Lord Arthur Balfour, who issued the historic Balfour Declaration in 1917 was likewise a Christian Zionist, motivated as much by his religious convictions as by British imperial designs in the Middle East.
I wish to place on record my view that the policy of His Majesty’s Government is anti-Semitic and in result will prove a rallying ground for Anti-Semites in every country in the world . . . . When the Jews are told that Palestine is their national home, every country will immediately desire to get rid of its Jewish citizens, and you will find a population in Palestine driving out its present inhabitants. — Edwin Montagu, August 1917
I’m sure many have been scratching their heads trying to figure out why on earth the government of Israel and so many staunch Zionists are just fine with the election of Donald Trump — the darling of the anti-Semitic alt-right. The answer however, is really pretty straightforward: this is nothing new. Zionism has had a cozy, if somewhat Faustian relationship with anti-Semitism since its very origins.
The founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl never made a secret of his belief that his new movement would have to depend upon anti-Semitism and anti-Semites in order to create a Jewish state. In his pamphlet, “The Jewish State,” he suggested raising money for the effort by means of a “direct subscription,” adding that “not only poor Jews but also Christians who wanted to get rid of them would subscribe a small amount to this fund.”
In his diary, he was even blunter: “The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies.”
The State Department standard . . . conflates criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Jewish hatred, shutting down debate by suggesting that anyone who looks critically at Israeli policy is somehow beyond the pale. It has no place on college campuses in particular, where we need students to engage in a vigorous exchange of ideas.
Since Donald Trump’s election, a wave of hate attacks have targeted Jews, Muslims and other vulnerable groups.
What’s the government doing about it? Nothing.
But the U.S. Senate did pass a bill last week called the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which cracks down on the constitutional rights of college students and faculty to criticize Israel. The House will vote on it any day now.
The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act endorses the State Department definition of anti-Semitism, which includes “delegitimizing” Israel, “demonizing” Israel or holding Israel to a “double standard.” The bill directs the Department of Education to consider this definition when investigating complaints of anti-Semitism on campus. But the bill does not add any new protections for Jewish students; the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Department of Education’s interpretation of the statute, already protects Jewish students against discrimination.
“Before Congress imposed its discredited redefinition of anti-Semitism on the DOE [Department of Education], civil rights investigators consistently found that actions critical of Israel — like mock military checkpoints, or teach-ins on Gaza — are the kind of free-speech expression to be expected on a college campus and are not anti-Jewish harassment. After this legislation, it could go the other way.”
After pro-Palestinian student activists set up mock West Bank checkpoints on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, in 2012, Jewish groups filed a civil rights complaint with the federal government.
Jewish organizations charged that the mock checkpoints, meant as a protest against the Israeli government, combined with other incidents to create a hostile environment for Jewish students.
The federal Department of Education dismissed the complaint, saying that the protest was an instance of free expression.
Now, a new bill speeding through Congress could change the way the Department of Education reviews such complaints. If it succeeds, critics say, the federal government could determine that protests like the mock checkpoint constitutes civil rights violations.
The bill “opens the door to considering anti-Israel political statements and activities as possible grounds for civil rights investigations,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, chief of staff of the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative office in Washington. “Whether you agree with the BDS movement or not, aligning oneself with it and even participating in the effort should not subject someone to a civil rights investigation.”