Club Z, a Jewish education organization for teens, hosted a webinar on December 10 arguing that anti-Zionism is the “most potent form of anti-Semitism today.”
The webinar featured Dr. Naya Lekht, Club Z’s director of education, as well as Los Angeles Israeli Counsul for Public Diplomacy Jonathan Bar-El and Club Z Regional Director Odin Ozdil. Lekht gave a presentation during the webinar explaining the history of anti-Semitism and its various iterations. She explained that the term “anti-Semitism” was first coined by German publicist Wilhelm Marr in 1878 and that Marr had used that term because he was arguing that he didn’t hate Jews for their religion, he hated Jews for their race.
“In each iteration of Jew hatred, the Jew was seen as a violator of the tenets that the society at that time held into esteem,” Lekht said. “In Medieval Europe, the esteem was Christianity guided by Christian principles. Post-Enlightenment Europe, guided by science, reason, age of Darwinism, and today, our society is guided by social justice, human rights. And in each one of these cases, we are violators, according to the anti-Semite.”
She then explained that anti-Semitism tends to take the form of blood libels, world domination, demonization, dual loyalty, dehumanization and avarice. In the case of blood libels, Jews were accused during Medieval Europe of killing “Christian babies in order to make matzah from their blood” which was a “pernicious lie so powerful it spread like wildfire,” according to Lekht. As an example of a modern-day blood libel, Lekht pointed to a cartoon of a Jewish man drinking a Palestinian child’s blood. Lekht said that when she taught at UCLA, she showed such cartoons to students and they initially thought that they were just criticism of Israel until she pointed out that such blood libels only apply to Jews.
anti-Semitism tends to take the form of blood libels, world domination, demonization, dual loyalty, dehumanization and avarice.
“Once again, we’re seeing old tropes, old accusations being applied to the Jewish state,” Lekht said.
For world domination, she pointed to a cartoon from a German newspaper depicting Israel as a spider ensnaring various Arab nations in a web. Lekht said that this trope of demonization stemmed from Jews being accused in the third and fourth centuries of acting as demons. Modern-day examples of this trope include a cartoon of the devil bowing before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Representative Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) 2012 tweet that Israel is hypnotizing the world, according to Lekht.
The dual loyalty trope stems from the emancipation of the Jews during the French Revolution, Lekht said, when it was said that “the Jews should be denied everything as a nation but granted everything as individuals.”
“It shows us that the non-Jews, the outsider, always understood that Jews a constitute a people, a nation, and inserted in the minds of their neighbors, ‘Can you really trust the Jew? Where does the Jew’s loyalty lie?’” Lekht said.
A more recent iteration of the dual loyalty trope could be seen in 2014, when UCLA student Rachel Beyda was asking during a hearing for a student council position if she could be unbiased on Israel-related matters because she’s Jewish, according to Lekht.
“As Jews, we historically have to prove our loyalty,” Lekht said, arguing that it would be the equivalent of asking Black students if they can be unbiased on race relations matters.
Examples of the dehumanization trope include a cartoon from the infamous Nazi publication Der Sturmer depicting a Jewish man as a spider ensnaring an Aryan woman. And for avarice, Omar’s “It’s all about the Benjamins” tweet is an example, Lekht said.
“It’s so interesting to me that Jews are accused at the same time of being subhuman and superhuman,” Lekht said, arguing that the same contradiction can be seen in accusations of Jews being both communists and capitalists.
No matter the form of anti-Semitism, it all shares the same goal of annihilation of the Jewish people, Lekht argued.
“If you can indeed prove that a people is an evil people, an illegitimate people and an untrustworthy people, you can deny their right to exist,” Lekht said, pointing out that today it manifests in calling for the destruction of Israel.
To show how anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, she pointed to various quotes, like Omar’s “Israel has hypnotized the world” tweet, and replacing the word or “Zionist” or “Israel” with “Jew.”
She believes that anti-Zionism is the most potent form of anti-Semitism today because “it is weaponized by Jew haters as a cause for human rights” and it is institutional, arguing that it permeates throughout the media, academia and the United Nations.
Lekht encouraged Jewish students to report instances of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism to campus administrators.
“If you are experiencing an attack on your history on your identity and you’re not saying anything, there’s not anything anybody could do,” Lekht said, adding: “it is your duty as Jews to do this.”
The full webinar can be seen below: