What Is the Relation Between Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism?
The terms antisemitism, anti-Zionism, and criticism can be described as three different phenomena - Dr. Shany Mor explains
The terms antisemitism, anti-Zionism, and criticism of Israel describe three different things, much like the terms irony, sarcasm, and cynicism. Something can be ironic and cynical, or all three, or none, or any other conceivable combination. We possess the analytical capacity to recognize the overlaps while still insisting on each term’s uniqueness.
What unites all forms of anti-Zionism is the belief that a Jewish state should not exist.
Here is the hypothesis I wish to advance in this discussion: The relationship of antisemitism and anti-Zionism is genealogical and not evaluative.
What would it mean for it to be evaluative? It would imply that we could assess any presentation of anti-Zionism by its measurable antisemitism. If you could just prove that someone’s self-professed anti-Zionism is antisemitic, then you’ve won the argument and don’t need to engage any further. Conversely, if you can prove that someone’s anti-Zionism is not antisemitic, then it must be legitimate.
We waste enormous energy hunting down tropes or pious expressions of solidarity rather than meeting anti-Zionism head on. But anti-Zionism should be evaluated as a standalone phenomenon, and its passionate intensity and intellectual sloppiness need explanations and assessments that are separate from anything Israel is or does.
What do I mean by genealogical? That while you don’t need to know anything about antisemitism in order to make a value assessment of anti-Zionism, you can’t make sense of it without grappling with its intellectual pedigree. I don’t need to be versed in Marx to decide whether contemporary socialist policy proposals are worthwhile. But I do need Marx if I want to understand the ideas themselves, their roots and quirks and evolution. I don’t need to know the Bible by heart to appreciate the beauty of early Renaissance art. But a serious study is hopeless without some biblical familiarity.
Contemporary anti-Zionism tends to incorporate three antisemitic motifs into any discussion of Israel: (1) blood, (2) conspiracy, and (3) money. It holds Israel to be a unique evil in the world, recapitulating all the antisemitic fantasies of Jewish ritual murder (especially of children). It posits a global conspiracy to cover up these crimes and intimidate those who dare speak out. And it attributes the effectiveness of this effort to financial power and interests.
These ideas aren’t bad because they are antisemitic; they are bad because they are verifiably false and indicative of a pathological mindset. But the anti-Zionist’s response to this concern about antisemitism, rather than abjuring the three motifs, nearly always relies on them: You don’t actually care about racism. You’re just part of a well-coordinated effort (2) to silence criticism of Israel’s essential murderousness (1), backed by a wad of shady “benjamins” (3).
It is the rhetorical equivalent of a child trying to lift herself up in the air by climbing into a basket and pulling up the handles. It’s hard to have a discussion about antisemitism when the defense against charges of antisemitism is always framed in such a depressingly antisemitic way.
The article was published in Pairagraph.