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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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Here’s every Jewish athlete competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics

And who has the best chance of medalling in Paris.

The post Here’s every Jewish athlete competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Kamala Harris’s Record on Israel Raises Questions About Support for Jewish State if Elected US President

US Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo: Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS

Following US President Joe Biden’s stunning exit from the 2024 presidential race, allies of Israel are looking for clues as to how Vice President Kamala Harris, the new presumptive Democratic nominee, could approach issues affecting the Jewish state if she were to win the White House in November.

Harris’s previous statements reveal a mixed record on Israel, offering signs of both optimism and pessimism to pro-Israel advocates.

Though Harris has voiced support for the Jewish state’s right to existence and self defense, she has also expressed sympathy for far-left narratives that brand Israel as “genocidal.” The vice president has additionally often criticized Israel’s war effort against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

In 2017, while giving a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), then-Senator Harris delivered a 19-minute speech in which she showered praise on Israel, stating that she supports “the United States’ commitment to provide Israel with $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade.” Harris stated that America has “shared values” with Israel and that the bond between the two nations is “unbreakable.”

In 2020, while giving another speech to AIPAC, Harris emphasized that US support for Israel must remain “rock solid” and noted that Hamas “maintains its control of Gaza and fires rockets.”

Despite such statements of support, however, Harris has previously exhibited a degree of patience for those who make baseless smears against Israel. 

In October 2021, when confronted by a George Mason University student who angrily accused Israel of committing “ethnic genocide” against Palestinians, Harris quietly nodded along and then praised the student. 

“And again, this is about the fact that your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard,” Harris told the student. 

Following Hamas’ slaughter of 1,200 people and kidnapping of 250 others across southern Israel on Oct. 7, Harris has shown inconsistent support for the Jewish state. Although she initially backed Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas’ terrorism, she has also levied sharp criticism against the Jewish state’s ensuing war effort in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

During a call with then-Israeli war cabinet leader Benny Gantz earlier this year, Harris suggested that the Jewish state has recklessly imperiled the lives of Palestinian civilians while targeting Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

“Far too many Palestinian civilians, innocent civilians have been killed,” Harris said. 

The same month, while delivering a speech commemorating the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, Harris called the conditions in Gaza “devastating.”

“And given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks,” Harris said.

While speaking with Israeli President Isaac Herzog to mark the Jewish holiday of Passover in April, Harris shared “deep concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and discussed steps to increase the flow of life-saving humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians and ensure its safe distribution.”

Harris also pushed the unsubstantiated narrative that Israel has intentionally withheld aid from the people of Gaza, triggering a famine. 

“People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane. And our common humanity compels us to act,” Harris said. “The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid.”

The United Nations Famine Review Committee (FRC), a panel of experts in international food security and nutrition, released a report in June arguing that there is not enough “supporting evidence” to suggest that a famine has occurred in Gaza.

Harris has also expressed sympathy for anti-Israel protesters on US university campuses. In an interview published earlier this month, Harris said that college students protesting Israel’s defensive military efforts against Hamas are “showing exactly what the human emotion should be.”

“There are things some of the protesters are saying that I absolutely reject, so I don’t mean to wholesale endorse their points,” she added. “But we have to navigate it. I understand the emotion behind it.”

Some indicators suggest that Harris could adopt a more antagonistic approach to the Jewish state than Biden. For example, Harris urged the White House to be more “sympathetic” toward Palestinians and take a “tougher” stance against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a Politico report in December. In March, White House aides forced Harris to tone down a speech that was too tough on Israel, according to NBC News.

Later, she did not rule out “consequences” for Israel if it launched a large-scale military offensive to root out Hamas battalions in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, citing humanitarian concerns for the civilian population.

Harris initially called for an “immediate ceasefire” before Biden and has often used more pointed language when discussing the war, Israel, and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. However, her advisers have sought to downplay the notion that she may be tougher on the Jewish state.

“The difference is not in substance but probably in tone,” one of Harris’s advisers told The Nation.

Meanwhile, Halie Soifer, who served as national security adviser to Harris during the then-senator’s first two years in Congress, said the current vice president’s support for Israel has been just as strong as Biden’s. “There really has been no daylight to be found” between the two, she told Reuters.

Still, Biden, 81, has a decades-long history of maintaining relationships with Israeli leaders and recently called himself a “Zionist.” Harris, 59, does not have such a connection to the Jewish state and maintains closer ties to Democratic progressives, many of whom have increasingly called for the US to turn away — or at least adopt a tougher approach toward — Israel

Former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman suggested that Harris would be a far less reliable ally than Biden, pointing to her ideological alignment with the most progressive lawmakers in Congress. 

“Biden made many mistakes regarding Israel, but he is miles ahead of Harris in terms of support for Israel,” Friedman told The Jerusalem Post. “She is on the fringe of the progressive wing of the party, which sympathizes more with the Palestinian cause.”

“This will move Jewish voters to the Republican side,” the former ambassador argued. “Harris lacks any affinity for Israel, and the Democratic Convention will highlight this contrast. This could lead to a historic shift of Jewish voters to the Republican side.”

Meanwhile, J Street, a progressive Zionist organization, eagerly endorsed Harris the day after Biden dropped out of the presidential race, citing her “nuanced, balanced approach” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflictt.

“Kamala Harris has been a powerful advocate for J Street’s values in the White House, from the fight against antisemitism to the need for a nuanced, balanced approach on Israel-Palestine,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement. “She’s been a steadfast supporter of hostage families and Israel’s security, while also being a leading voice for the protection of Palestinian civilians and the need to secure an urgent ceasefire.”

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US House Speaker Mike Johnson Blasts Kamala Harris for Skipping Netanyahu Address

US House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks to members of the media at the Capitol building, April 20, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Ken Cedeno

US House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) on Tuesday slammed Vice President Kamala Harris over her decision not to attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming address to a joint session of the US Congress.

“It has never been more important than it is right now for us to stand with our closest ally in the Middle East,” Johnson told reporters at the US Capitol, arguing it is “inexcusable” and “outrageous” that Harris is “boycotting” Netanyahu’s speech.

“This is a historic moment,” Johnson continued. “It is an important moment for the country, for all the reasons we’ve said. The gravity of this situation cannot be overstated, and yet Kamala Harris will abandon her seat. As you all know, as the vice president and serving as the president of the Senate, she is supposed to be seated next to me in the rostrum. She will not be there, because she refuses to attend.”

Johnson stated Harris needs to be “held accountable” for skipping Netanyahu’s address and that “she needs to be asked very searing questions” about her absence. 

The top-ranking House Republican lamented that several high-profile Democrats have declined the opportunity to preside over Netanyahu’s upcoming address, accusing the party of making “political calculations when our ally [Israel] is in such dire straits, fighting for its very survival and fighting back against the horrific attack in October.”

The White House announced that Harris would not attend Netanyahu’s speech, citing a prior commitment. Instead of presiding over the address, the vice president will attend a convention honoring the Zeta Phi Beta sorority in Indianapolis.

However, Harris will reportedly meet with Netanyahu at the White House this week. The vice president is expected to have a “frank” conversation with Netanyahu in which she will demand that Israel finish its ongoing war against the Islamist terrorist group Hamas in Gaza and improve conditions for Palestinians, according to Politico

The Jewish state has insisted that it will not stop its military operations until Hamas, which launched the war in Gaza with its Oct. 7 invasion of and massacre across southern Israel,  has been dismantled and the hostages kidnapped by the terrorist group during its onslaught are freed. Israeli officials have insisted that they have allowed a significant amount of humanitarian aid into Gaza during its military campaign. Last month, a UN panel of experts cast doubt on the notion that Hamas-ruled Gaza is suffering through a famine, despite many critics of Israel arguing the opposite.

US Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will preside over Netanyahu’s address in place of Harris. Notably, Cardin is retiring from the Senate, suggesting that the senator faces little political consequence from attending Netanyahu’s address at a time when progressives within the Democratic Party have become increasingly outspoken against the Jewish state.

US President Joe Biden will meet with Netanyahu on Thursday separate from the Israeli premier’s meeting with Harris. The two leaders were initially scheduled to meet on Tuesday, but Biden was still recovering from COVID-19. In a statement, Netanyahu said that he plans on thanking Biden for his assistance to Israel during his term in office. 

Netanyahu will reportedly also meet with former US President Donald Trump on Friday. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, is the current favorite to win the White House in November. 

“Looking forward to welcoming Bibi Netanyahu at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “During my first term, we had Peace and Stability in the Region, even signing the historic Abraham Accords — And we will have it again.”

Republicans featured the issues of the Israel-Hamas war and surging antisemitism on college campuses during last week’s Republican National Convention. During his speech, Trump promised that he would resolve the war in Gaza upon his return to the Oval Office. The Republican nominee and former president chided Biden during their most recent debate for supposedly being too sympathetic to Palestinians. 

During Trump’s single term in office, he and Netanyahu enjoyed a productive working relationship. Trump moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; cut aid to UNRWA, the controversial United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees; and helped facilitate the signing of the Abraham Accords, which normalized Israel’s relations with several Arab countries. He also recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a strategic region on Israel’s northern border previously controlled by Syria.

However, Trump and Netanyahu’s relationship soured after the Israeli prime minister congratulated Biden and Harris for winning the US 2020 presidential race, refusing to indulge the former president’s unsubstantiated assertions that the election was “stolen” from him. Trump also criticized Netanyahu and Israel’s intelligence agencies for not preventing the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on the Jewish state.

This week’s meeting could allow Netanyahu a chance to give his relationship with Trump a fresh reboot.

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