The Most Thinly Disguised Anti-Semitism

When Zionist means Jew, and Israel means the Jewish people

Facebook screenshot

A few days ago, to promote "Israel Apartheid Week," Columbia University's chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, along with two other like-minded groups, disseminated a flyer around campus showing an Israeli soldier with what appear to be horns on his head.

Students Supporting Israel at Columbia put the shameful depiction into context. "This kind of repugnant caricature of Jews is a sore reminder of blatant anti-Semitism from the dark ages of medieval Europe when anti-Semitic propaganda depicted Jews as satanic consorts and an incarnation of absolute evil," the group wrote on Facebook. "Physically, Jews were portrayed as menacing, hirsute, with boils, warts, and other deformities, sometimes with horns, cloven hoofs, and tails. It is extremely painful to see that the same rhetoric is being used on the campus of an Ivy League university in the United States."

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But do not worry: the horns are on an Israeli, not a Jew, so no anti-Semitism to see here.

Last weekend, Hamid Dabashi, a professor of Iranian studies and comparative literature at Columbia, compared Israel to the Islamic State in a Facebook post. "What's the difference between ISIS and ISRAEL? … ISIS murderous thugs conquered parts of Syria and declared a ‘caliphate,' no decent human being on planet earth recognized their armed robbery or their ‘caliphate' – their ISRAELI counterparts meanwhile conquered parts of Syria and declared it part of their Zionist settler colony – no decent human being on planet earth recognizes their armed robbery …" Dabashi wrote in a post he later deleted, before answering his own question. "ISIS does not have a platoon of clean shaven and well coiffured columnists at the New York Times propagating the cause of the terrorist outfit as the Zionists columnists do on a regular basis."

Again, do not worry: he is talking about Zionists, not Jews, so no anti-Semitism to see here.

A good rule of thumb is that, if you can take a statement and replace the words "Israel," "Israeli," and "Zionist" with "Jew," "Jewish," and "Jewish people," and that statement then sounds like it came straight out of the Dark Ages or Nazi Germany, it is probably anti-Semitic. The same goes for replacing "Zionism" with "Judaism."

Look at what happened to Alain Finkielkraut, the French Jewish intellectual, last month in central Paris. Finkielkraut was walking in the street when a group of protesters in the Yellow Vest movement cornered him. "Dirty Zionist, you're going to die!" they yelled at the philosopher, along with "Go back to Tel Aviv!," "Get lost, dirty Zionist shit!," and "France is ours!" Now, it is possible that the protesters just hate and want to expel from France those who believe in Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and not Jews themselves. After all, they did call Finkielkraut a Zionist. But, just to entertain me, try applying our rule, and come to your own conclusion.

All of the aforementioned incidents are, of course, anti-Semitic. Those who say otherwise have a very dark sense of humor, are hopelessly ignorant, or are probably the ones making such anti-Semitic comments in the first place. And that third group is no longer comprised only of fringe elements on the political left and right—the radical tenured professor and the former KKK leader, both of whom almost always share the same views on the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

Just look at Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the United Kingdom's Labour Party, who in 2013 accused British "Zionists" of having two problems. "One is they don't want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don't understand English irony either," Corbyn said at a conference promoted by Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian terror group. "They needed two lessons, which we could perhaps help them with."

And then there is Rep. Ilhan Omar, who in 2012 tweeted, "Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel." Omar has also accused American politicians of supporting Israel because of the influence of Jewish money, and has insinuated that American Jews are guilty of "allegiance to a foreign country," meaning Israel.

Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, such as David Duke, use the words Zionist and Jew interchangeably. So do Omar, Corbyn, the Students for Justice in Palestine, and other like-minded progressives who despise Israel and do not believe in its right to exist as a Jewish state. In each case, one can see the bizarre, illogical obsession with, and the visceral, ingrained hatred of, Israel and Zionism. One can also see the conspiracy theories concerning the Jewish state. Israel secretly controls the media, the banks, and American foreign policy, according to these voices. It is a devilish state, somehow committing genocide against a Palestinian population that has actually grown since Israel's founding. Israel is the Jew among nations, singularly worthy of scorn for its very existence.

But, remember, we are supposed to buy that none of this is anti-Semitism, because, supposedly, none of this is about Jews, just Israel and Zionists. Indeed, Western progressives will say their hostility toward Israel is actually about legitimate criticism of the Israeli government, despite all of its overlaps with traditional anti-Semitism. Do they not realize that judging Israel by a standard different from that applied to all other countries and accusing the Jewish state of cosmic evil are the two key features of anti-Semitism, at least now that hatred and persecution of Jews are based primarily on their nation-state, not their race or religion? And do they not realize that supporting efforts that seek Israel's destruction as a Jewish state, like the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, is inherently anti-Semitic? Apparently not.

The worst part of this thinly disguised anti-Semitism is that Western society has accepted, even normalized, it. One can get tenure at an elite university, or enter Congress or Parliament, or even become a prominent pundit, by using blatantly anti-Semitic language. Just replace Jewish with Zionist and the Jewish people with Israel, and you are probably set. In some circles, you are an intellectual giant, an inspiration. And people wonder why most Jews think Israel is so important.