Criticism of Israel – like the criticism of any other country – is part and parcel of sensible public discourse. Indeed, Israel’s media is not afraid of critiquing its own society. But there are times when such criticism, usually stemming from the Left, Far Right and Muslim media, is motivated by anti-Semitism. The list below does not cover ‘classic’ anti-Semitic tropes such as the blood libel, global conspiracy theories or Holocaust denial, but deconstructs the elision between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
Natan Sharansky, writing in the Jewish Political Studies Review, states: “Whereas classical anti-Semitism is aimed at the Jewish people or the Jewish religion, ‘new anti-Semitism’ is aimed at the Jewish state. Since this anti-Semitism can hide behind the veneer of legitimate criticism of Israel, it is more difficult to expose. Making the task even harder is that this hatred is advanced in the name of values most of us would consider unimpeachable, such as human rights.”
Sharansky formulated the 3D Test of Anti-Semitism: Demonization, Double Standards, Delegitimization, which has been used as a guide to determine whether a piece of public discourse does or does not conform to anti-Semitism. I have taken the liberty of adding three more D’s, because the nature of this new form of anti-Semitism is becoming more widespread, more innovative and more virulent.
1. Demonization – comparing Israel to the Nazis.
· This includes terms of abuse such as "Zio-Nazi" and "Israeli fascists"
· Defacing the Star of David with a swastika
· Comparing Gaza or the "West Bank’"to a concentration camp
· Accusing the Israelis of ethnic cleansing and/or behaving as bad as – or worse than – the Nazis
2. Double Standards – singling out the Jewish state for discriminatory treatment in the international arena by requiring Israel to conform to a standard not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation. (Conversely, Palestinians – and Muslims in general – are not held up to any standard at all.) Double standards are at play when:
· Israel is singled out by the United Nations for (supposed) human rights abuses while the behaviour of genuinely oppressive regimes like Saudi Arabia, China and Iran are ignored
· When companies or organisations agree to boycott Israel but continue to do business in genuinely oppressive regimes like Cuba, Russia, China, etc
· When the West is silent about terror attacks on Israeli civilians but creates a fuss when Israel retaliates
· When the onus is firmly on the Jewish state to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and absolving the Palestinians of both blame and responsibility
3. Delegitimization – denying Israel’s right to exist and/or calling for the State of Israel to be dismantled or destroyed.
4. Defamation – Condemning Israel for human rights abuses which are untrue or turn out to have been falsely reported. Examples include:
· When the UN or the media condemn Israel for an incident that turns out to be untrue but then fail to retract the accusation (e.g. Jenin "massacre’" and Gaza flotilla incident)
· Accusing Israel of being an apartheid state even though Israeli Arabs have full voting rights
· The ‘can’t do right for doing wrong’ principle. This is when Israel’s motives are doubted. For example, when Israel sent a rescue team to Haiti, Baroness Tonge accused the Israelis of harvesting organs.
5. Decontextualization – deliberately ignoring the geo-political reality of the Middle East; when no attempt is made to understand Israel’s security concerns; and when facts are rejected in favour of an emotional and irrational narrative of Palestinian victimhood. This includes:
· Downplaying the very real existential threat posed by nations and organisation which have repeatedly sought to destroy the Jewish state
· Deliberately misrepresenting Israel’s defensive actions against terrorism as acts of aggression or colonialism
· Deliberately ignoring the fact that Palestinian Arabs have repeatedly rejected ‘land for peace’ solutions
· Blaming Israel for the refugee crisis
· Misusing legal language in order to portray the Israelis as colonialists e.g. saying the West Bank is 'occupied' territory instead of ‘disputed’ territory
· Black and white reporting e.g. portraying the Palestinians as victims par excellence and the Israelis as war criminals
6. Dehistoricization – (a) the deliberate attempt to deny or sever the historical connection between the Jews and the land of Israel; (b) rewriting or ignoring the historical context/narrative surrounding the creation of Israel.
Examples of (a) include:
· Refusing to acknowledge the fact that the Land of Israel is the birthplace of Jewish identity
· Denying that there was ever a Jewish temple in Jerusalem
Examples of (b) include:
· Glossing over the fact that the Balfour Declaration called for Jewish settlement on both sides of the river Jordan.
· Downplaying the fact that the Arabs refused the 1948 partition plan, despite already having been given the land on the east side of the river (i.e. modern-day Jordan)
· Failing to acknowledge that Jews lived on the West Bank before Jordan invaded in 1948
· Inventing the notion of Palestinian peoplehood in order to undermine Israel’s legitimacy. Before the 1960s, the idea of a Palestinian people or Palestinian country was unheard of.
Coda: The EU’s definition of the "new anti-Semitism"
The European Union Monitoring Committee on Racism and Xenophobia has published a working definition of the new anti-Semitism.
The paper included examples (listed below) of the ways in which anti-Semitism “manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel."
· Denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour
· Applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation
· Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis
· Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
· Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel
The EU states that criticism of Israel cannot be regarded as anti-Semitism as long as it is "similar to that levelled against any other country."
Amalekism and Israelophobia
“In every generation they stand ready to annihilate us.”
- Passover saying
Above: Battling the Amalekites
There is a lot of talk these days regarding the contemporary identity of the biblical Amalekites and whether or not the Palestinians fit the description.
The Amalekites were descendants of Amalek, the son of Esau's first-born son Eliphaz. The Amalekites are notorious for attacking the Hebrews at Rephidim in the Sinai desert and again at Hormah.
According to tradition, the Amalekites are the antithesis of the Jewish people and are present in every generation. Anti-Semitism is also the antithesis of Jewish identity and has been stubbornly present in every age.
Anti-Semitism is perhaps the best example of a meme, an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. A meme self-replicates, mutates and responds to environmental factors.
Anti-Semitism is what I would call a grand meme. That is to say, it is an overarching idea that encompasses several sub-memes. One of these sub-memes is Israelophobia, the most up-to-date manifestation of amalekism.
Israelophobia is a neurosis and can be defined as the hysterical and irrational fear or hatred of Israel. This unhealthy fixation is an aspect of the “new anti-Semitism,” which is the demonization and delegitimization of Israel.
As with all irrational prejudices, Israelophobia is reactionary and obsessional.
Although there are numerous instances where malicious intent is involved, Israelophobia is quite often a consequence of groupthink or intellectual laziness.
Nonetheless, Israelophobia is a disease of the mind and should be challenged at an intellectual level. Unfortunately, because the media is in such a state of moral decline, rational arguments are often displaced by hysterical stories about Palestinian hunger strikes or the latest Jewish settlements.
The internet is also problematic. The web is the modern-day arena of public discourse, but it is awash with amalekist gibberish. But there are also many websites and blogs that do a fantastic job of defending Israel.
Rather than get disheartened by the amalekist onslaught, defenders of Israel must continue to shield the Jewish state and slay a few of Amalek’s descendants in the process.