October 20, 2018

Why Anti-Zionism Is Anti-Semitism

Is it possible to be anti-Zionist and not be anti-Semitic?

That’s what the virulent anti-Israel crowd has been claiming of late. A group of students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo — my alma matter — calling itself The Drylongso Collective wrote a list of demands to the university administration in response to a racial incident. One demand called for an increase in student government “funding for ALL cultural clubs, with the exception of organizations that are aligned with Zionist ideology.”

In response to backlash from its demands, The Drylongso Collective issued a statement clarifying that it was standing in solidarity with the Palestinian “struggle” and that criticisms of anti-Semitism were a red herring from its goal of fighting “anti-black and anti-brown racism at Cal Poly.”

Similarly, San Francisco State University Professor Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi lashed out on Facebook at SFSU President Leslie Wong for her statement that Zionists were welcome on campus, calling it “a declaration of war against Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians and all those who are committed to an indivisible sense of justice on and off campus.”

The post also featured a photo that stated, “I am anti-Zionist. I’m NOT anti-Jew. So DON’T call me anti-Semitic.”

So, is their “anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic” defense valid? I would argue it isn’t.

Zionism is the belief that the establishment of a Jewish state was the only way to create “a viable Jewish communal existence” in light of rabid anti-Semitism in Europe, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.

Anti-Semitic attacks against Zionism are best described by former Israeli Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky’s “3D” formula: demonization, delegitimization and double standards.

Israel delegitimizers, the Jewish Virtual Library explains, use tactics that involve belittling Israel, demonizing and blacklisting Israelis, and imposing their will on Israel even if opposed by the Israeli population at large, all with the goal of destroying the country.

When Abdulhadi singles out Zionists and The Drylongso Collective calls for excluding Zionist clubs from funding, that isn’t just delegitimizing Israel, it’s delegitimizing Jews on college campuses. How is that not anti-Semitism?

Comparing the actions of Israel to the Nazis is the demonization of the Jewish state. How is that not anti-Semitism?

The “double standards” aspect of the formula was best articulated by neoconservative pundit Norman Podhoretz in his 1982 essay “J’Accuse,”  in response to vitriol against Israel for invading Lebanon:

“Historically, anti-Semitism has taken the form of labeling certain vices and failings as specifically Jewish when they are in fact common to all of humanity: Jews are greedy, Jews are tricky, Jews are ambitious, Jews are clannish — as though Jews were uniquely or disproportionately guilty of all those sins. Correlatively, Jews are condemned when they claim or exercise the right to do things that all other people are accorded an unchallengeable right to do.”

Podhoretz continued by stating that double standards when applied to Israel are therefore anti-Semitic, citing a UN resolution at that condemned “Zionism as a form of racism.”

“According to the thinking of this resolution, all other people are entitled to national self-determination, but when the Jews exercise this right, they are committing the crimes of racism and imperialism,” Podhoretz wrote. “Similarly, all other nations have a right to insure the security of their borders; when Israel exercises this right, it is committing the crime of aggression.”

Today, similar double standards are evident in the fact that 86 percent of U.N. resolutions single out Israel while ignoring human rights abuses in countries such as Syria, North Korea and Iran.

None of this is to say that any criticism against Israel is unwarranted, but it is simply dishonest and disingenuous of The Drylongso Collective and Abdulhadi to hide behind the “anti-Zionist, not anti-Jew” defense.