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‘Antizionism’ is the Most Lethal Form of Antisemitism Out There

A placard equating Zionism with Nazism is displayed at an Oct. 23 pro-Hamas demonstration in the Place de la Republique in Paris. Photo: Reuters/ Valerie Dubois

JNS.orgNearly five years ago, I wrote a piece for this column in which I argued that the term “anti-Zionism” would be better rendered as “antizionism.”

My thinking on this subject was heavily influenced by a similar debate over whether to include a hyphen in the word “antisemitism.” At the time, I argued that “anti-Semites are not people who are opposed to ‘Semitism,’ a non-existent word, and nor are they opposed to a race of ‘Semites’ since there isn’t such a race in the first place, just a language group. If you include the hyphen, the argument goes, then you are boosting antisemitism’s self-image as a revelatory, liberating and compelling explanation of why the world is such a rotten place. Leave the hyphen out and you see ‘antisemitism’ for what it really is: a malicious conspiracy theory about Jews that carries genocidal intentions towards them.”

Much the same point can be made about anti-Zionism.

The people who define themselves as “anti-Zionists” these days—from the thugs tearing down posters advertising the plight of hostages seized by Hamas during its Oct. 7 pogrom to the Hamas rapists and murderers themselves—are not opposed to Zionism as most Jews understand it, nor are they representative of the currents opposing Zionism that existed within Jewish communities prior to World War II, which argued upon tragically mistaken grounds that a sovereign Jewish state would not provide Jews with the security they so desperately needed.

The anti-Zionists of the 21st century are not simply rejecting the idea of a Jewish state; they are depicting the Jewish state as the root of the world’s evil, dedicated to the murder of children and the carpet-bombing of civilian areas as it pursues its nefarious goal of colonizing Palestine and permanently displacing its indigenous Arab inhabitants. What we are dealing with here is not “criticism” of Israel’s policies, but outrage that Jews are even in a position where they can make policy! To illustrate this without any ambiguity requires the removal of the hyphen from the term “anti-Zionism,” so as to show that what is being pushed is not merely an objection to the program of the World Zionist Organization, but a full-blown conspiracy theory that transfers traditional antisemitic tropes about Jews to the Jewish state.

Like antisemitism, “antizionism” is genocidal in intent. And in the wake of the atrocities of Oct. 7, one can argue that it is the most lethal form of antisemitism in existence today.

The reason is that unlike other forms of antisemitism, antizionism is an open, generously proportioned tent. Anyone is welcome to stroll inside so long as they subscribe to a set of basic principles: that nowhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea should there be a place called Israel, that anyone complaining about antisemitism is engaged in a ruse to divert attention from the Palestinians, and that there isn’t a single place on earth—not Sudan, not Ukraine, not Kurdistan, not Burma, not China—where people have suffered as the Palestinians have simply for being who they are.

Sign up to those principles, and it doesn’t matter if you are black or white, Asian or Native American, a woman or a man or someone of fluid gender, young or old, gay or straight. You can even be Jewish, albeit within strictly defined parameters that will require you to hang your head in shame every time Israel is mentioned. No other form of antisemitism—the most obvious example being the Jew-hatred espoused by white supremacists and other far-right groups—is this accessible.

The fact that a rainbow coalition is promoting antizionism these days is also a smart move, creating a set of optics that make it much harder to discern genocidal intent. By contrast, a muscled white male skinhead wearing a swastika and a pair of street-fighting boots doesn’t present the same problem. But when uninitiated members of the public look at images of the pro-Hamas demonstrations that have mushroomed globally over the last six weeks, seeing women in hijabs marching alongside transgender activists, they can be forgiven for concluding that what is in the spotlight is an alliance of diverse constituencies coming together in the name of human rights—and not a movement for the elimination of all Jews, everywhere.

Yet as Jewish communities, we have to admit that we have not made the case that antizionism is an insidious form of hatred, rather than a legitimate political position within the framework of the Middle East conflict. Jewish organizations and the Israeli government have been delighted in recent years by the widespread endorsement of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which includes several examples of anti-Israel invective. However, the terms “Zionism,” “anti-Zionism” and “antizionism” are all absent from the definition, which means, much as I don’t like saying so, that it is very weak on this crucial point.

By adding a clarification that Zionism is a Jewish national movement with left-wing, right-wing and centrist varieties, as well as religious and secular adherents, the definition would act as a counterweight to the more ghoulish interpretations—for example, that Zionism is a form of racism or a conspiracy of the powerful. The sentence in the definition that identifies as antisemitic “[D]enying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” might be rewritten to say, “Depicting Zionism, the Jewish national movement, as inherently racist and the State of Israel as an illegitimate entity.”

This isn’t a matter of pedantry. If we have learned anything from the debates around antisemitism over the last two decades, it is that words matter and definitions matter, particularly when it comes to the application of the law. In countries where there are no First Amendment-style guarantees of free speech (and that’s most of them), it is already a crime to deny the Holocaust or to traffic in traditional antisemitic memes. Advocating Israel’s elimination and bullying Jews into accepting permanent minority status—second-class, at best—should be seen in a similar light. The protection of our increasingly vulnerable communities demands nothing less.

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Harvard Alumni File Lawsuit Claiming Campus Antisemitism ‘Devalues’ Their Diplomas

[Illustrative] Harvard University students displaying a pro-Palestinian sign at their May 2022 graduation ceremony. Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder

A group of ten Harvard University alumni filed a lawsuit against the institution on Wednesday, accusing it of “devaluing” their degrees through permitting and fostering an environment of antisemitism, support for terrorism, and anti-Israel sentiment. 

Filed in a Massachusetts federal court, the alumni claims that Harvard has breached an implicit contract with its graduates, promising to maintain the institution’s prestige, which they allege has been compromised due to a toxic campus environment. This, they argue, has led potential employers and prestigious law firms to distance themselves from Harvard alumni.

“Harvard has directly caused the value and prestige of plaintiffs’ Harvard degrees to be diminished and made a mockery out of Harvard graduates in the employment world and beyond,” the lawsuit said. 

The lawsuit argues that the university’s administration has failed to combat campus anti-semitism, and has consistently overlooked assaults on Jewish students and calls by students and faculty for the annihilation of Israel. It highlighted, among other things, an open letter signed by more than thirty student organizations blaming Israel for the October 7 Hamas-led attack, and campus protests which included chants like “Long live the intifada!” and “There is only one solution: intifada revolution!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine is Arab!”

The suit also points to then-Harvard president Claudine Gay’s testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, where she stated that calls for genocide against Jews would only violate bullying and harassment policies “depending on the context,” as indicative of the school’s tolerance of antisemitism.

The lawsuit is part of a growing dissatisfaction among graduates over what they perceive as rampant antisemitism on U.S. campuses, according to attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of legal aid group, Shurat HaDin, who is representing the alumni alongside New York-based lawyer, Robert Tolchin.

Darshan-Leitner criticized the colleges for becoming “hate centers” under the guise of academic freedom. 

The lawsuit, Darshan-Leitner said, reveals the “growing outrage and contempt that graduates all across the US are feeling over the wild antisemitism and hate speech being encouraged and explained away on the American campuses.” 

“This dangerous weaponization of higher education by radical faculty and students as well as the impotent administration response, all justified under the guise of academic freedom, has turned the colleges into hate centers which has greatly devalued their reputation and diplomas,” she said, adding that the suit could prompt similar actions from graduates of other institutions.

Tolchin accused the university of succumbing to “the flavor of the month, the lowest level of discourse.”

“Harvard’s seal proclaims “Light and Truth” in Latin and Hebrew–yes, Hebrew, the language spoken by the indigenous Israelites. Yet light and truth have been hard to find at Harvard. The darkness of antisemitism and the dishonesty, hate, and discrimination have cast a pall over Harvard so embarrassing that people do not wish to be associated with Harvard,” Tolchin said. 

Harvard has been accused of facilitating an educational environment that is unwelcoming to Israelis and Jews for years, with the lawsuit citing annual events such as “Israel Apartheid Week” and incidents targeting Jewish students and symbols on campus. 

Antisemitism expert Dara Horn, a Harvard alumnus who was asked to join Gay’s anti-Semitism advisory committee, authored a damning essay published this week in The Atlantic in which she detailed the Jew hatred on campus predating October 7. 

She noted that staff members “who grade Jewish students used university-issued class lists to share information about events organized by pro-Palestine groups;” In one instance, a professor continued teaching after rejecting the findings of an investigation by Harvard after he was found discriminating against several Israeli students. Last spring, a student was asked to leave because her identity as an Israeli was making her classmates “uncomfortable.”

She also pointed to courses themselves “premised on anti-Semitic lies”, pointing to one called “The Settler Colonial Determinants of Health”, and noted that lecturers invited to speak at the campus included some who peddled in blood libels that Israelis harvest Palestinians’ organs or that the IDF uses Palestinian children for weapons testing. 

“The mountain of proof at Harvard revealed a reality in which Jewish students’ access to their own university (classes, teachers, libraries, dining halls, public spaces, shared student experiences) was directly compromised,” Horn writes.  The alumni’s legal action comes alongside another lawsuit filed by six current Harvard students on January 10, claiming that the university has not done enough to combat antisemitism on campus which had become a “bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment.” It also comes a day after a professor at the university, Walter Johnson, resigned from two anti-Zionist campus groups after they posted antisemitic cartoons.

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Israel Not Budging After Eurovision Disapproval of Song Commemorating October 7

Eden Alene, winner of the reality show “The Next Star to Eurovision,” during finals in Neve Ilan studio near Jerusalem on Feb. 4, 2020. Photo: Shlomi Cohen/Flash90.

Israeli Culture Minister Miki Zohar sent the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) a letter on Thursday urging them to approve Israel’s submission to the Eurovision song competition, after the EBU called it “too political.”

“As you know, the State of Israel is experiencing one of the most difficult and complex periods since its establishment. We lost our loved ones, and there are women, men and children who are still held captive by a terrorist organization,” Zohar said.

Israeli media reported that the broadcasting union would not approve the song, called “October Rain,” after a number of countries even issued threats to boycott the event if Israel participates. The EBU issued a statement saying “We are currently in the process of carefully examining the lyrics of the song – a process that is confidential between the EBU and the Public Broadcasting Corporation until a final decision is made. To all broadcasters, they have until March 11th to officially submit their songs. If a song does not meet the criteria for any reason, the corporation will be given the opportunity to submit a new song or new lyrics, according to the contest rules.”

“The song that Israel sent to the Eurovision Song Contest was chosen by a professional committee made up of well-known names in the local music and entertainment industry,” Zohar added. “It is a moving song, discussing renewal and revival from a very fragile reality of loss and destruction, and describes the current public mood in Israel these days. We see now most clearly because our lives – as one, united society – manage to overcome even the greatest suffering. This is not a political song.”

Despite the news that the song by Israeli singer Eden Golan would not be approved, The CEO of KAN, Israel’s national broadcasting service, and the body that approves the song, Golan Yokhpaz, said “We will not change the words or the song, even at the cost of Israel not participating in Eurovision this year.” Adding “The Israel Broadcasting Corporation (KAN) is in dialogue with the EBU regarding the song that will represent Israel at Eurovision.”

Zohar said later in a television interview “The songwriters, KAN, and the singer will have to make the decisions at the end of the day… I do think that Israel should participate in Eurovision because it is important for us at this time to be represented there, and to express ourselves throughout Europe.”

Speaking to the EBU, he said, “We trust that you will continue in your important task of keeping the competition free from any attempt at political manipulation.”

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UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’

UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine Francesca Albanese, October 27, 2022 (Photo: Screenshot)

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories referred to Israelis as “colonialists” who have “fake identities” while quoting another Twitter/X account on Wednesday, raising questions about the impartiality of the international body.

Francesca Albanese responded to a long post by Alon Mizrahi, a far-left activist, arguing that the reason many Western nations support Israel is that they are colonial projects. 

She highlighted the following quote from Mizrahi: “free Palestine scares them [Westerners] bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities.”

” free Palestine scares them bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities..”

— Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur oPt (@FranceskAlbs) February 21, 2024

The original post claimed that “All colonial powers work together to guarantee the supremacy of made-up identities over genuine, native ones. Because if this model breaks anywhere, it will collapse everywhere.”

Mizrahi argued that “A Palestinian state would be a major, major moral blow to white, Western colonialism.”

The tweet was met with immediate condemnation.

David Friedman, who served as the US Ambassador to Israel from 2017 to 2021 under former President Donald Trump wrote that her tweet was “Exhibit A why the UN is a failure and why we no longer belong in that bastion of hypocrisy and corruption.”

An account documenting Hamas’ October 7 atrocities asked, “If Israel is indeed a ‘colonialist project’ Where should all the Israelis go if this project should be dismantled?”

The perception of UN bias against Israel has also been boosted by the fact that, in 2023, Israel was condemned twice as often as all other countries combined.

It is not the first time Albanese has made comments that raise eyebrows. Earlier this month, in response to French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron calling the October 7 attack “largest anti-Semitic massacre of the 21st century,” she said “No, Mr. Macron. The victims of October 7 were not killed because of their Judaism, but in response to Israel’s oppression.”

Following backlash, she wrote that she opposes “all racism, including anti-Semitism, a global threat. But explaining these crimes as anti-Semitism obscures their true cause.”

Hamas’ founding charter, in a section about the “universality” of its cause, reads: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

Albanese has also argued that Israel should make peace with Hamas, saying that “It needs to make peace with Hamas in order to not be threatened by Hamas.” 

When asked about what people do not understand about Hamas, she added, “If someone violates your right to self-determination, you are entitled to embrace resistance.”

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