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Anti-Zionism Is Anti-Semitism By Emanuele Ottolenghi Reprinted from The Guardian (November 29, 2003) s there a link between the way Israel’s case is others, not by the standards of utopia. Singling out there were no Palestinians? You should be equally I presented and anti-semitism? Israel’s advocates protest that behind criticisms of Israel there sometimes lurks a more sinister Israel for an impossibly high standard not applied to any other country begs the question: why such different treatment? outraged at the insinuation that Jews are not a nation. Those who denounce Zionism sometimes explain Israel’s policies as a product of its Jewish agenda, dangerously bordering on anti-semitism. Despite piqued disclaimers, some of Israel’s essence. In their view, not only should Israel act Critics vehemently disagree. In their view, public critics use anti-semitic stereotypes. In fact, their differently, it should cease being a Jewish state. attacks on Israel are neither misplaced nor the disclaimers frequently offer a mask of Anti-Zionists are prepared to treat Jews equally source of anti-Jewish sentiment: Israel’s respectability to otherwise socially unacceptable and fight anti-semitic prejudice only if Jews give behaviour is reprehensible and so are those Jews anti-semitism. Many equate Israel to Nazism, up their distinctiveness as a nation: Jews as a who defend it. claiming that “yesterday’s victims are today’s nation deserve no sympathy and no rights, Jews as Jewish defenders of Israel are then depicted by perpetrators”: last year, Louis de Bernières wrote individuals are worthy of both. Supporters of this their critics as seeking an excuse to justify Israel, in the Independent that “Israel has been adopting view love Jews, but not when Jews assert their projecting Jewish paranoia and displaying a tactics which are reminiscent of the Nazis.” This national rights. Jews condemning Israel and “typical” Jewish trait of “sticking together”, even equation between victims and murderers denies rejecting Zionism earn their praise. Denouncing in defending the morally indefensible. Israel’s the Holocaust. Worse still, it provides its Israel becomes a passport to full integration. advocates deserve the hostility they get, the retroactive justification: if Jews turned out to be Noam Chomsky and his imitators are the new argument goes; it is they who should engage in so evil, perhaps they deserved what they got. heroes, their Jewish pride and identity expressed soul-searching. Others speak of Zionist conspiracies to dominate solely through their shame for Israel’s existence. There is no doubt that recent anti-semitism is the media, manipulate American foreign policy, Zionist Jews earn no respect, sympathy or linked to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And it is rule the world and oppress the Arabs. By protection. It is their expression of Jewish identity equally without doubt that Israeli policies describing Israel as the root of all evil, they through identification with Israel that is under sometimes deserve criticism. There is nothing provide the linguistic mandate and the moral attack. wrong, or even remotely anti-semitic, in justification to destroy it. And by using anti- The argument that it is Israel’s behaviour, and disapproving of Israeli policies. Nevertheless, this semitic instruments to achieve this goal, they give Jewish support for it, that invite prejudice sounds debate - with its insistence that there is a away their true anti-semitic face. hollow at best and sinister at worst. That argument distinction between anti-semitism and anti- There is of course the open question of whether means that sympathy for Jews is conditional on Zionism - misses the crucial point of contention. this applies to anti-Zionism. It is one thing to the political views they espouse. This is hardly an Israel’s advocates do not want to gag critics by object to the consequences of Zionism, to suggest expression of tolerance. It singles Jews out. It is brandishing the bogeyman of anti-semitism: that the historical cost of its realisation was too anti-semitism. rather, they are concerned about the form the high, or to claim that Jews are better off as a Zionism reversed Jewish historical passivity to criticism takes. scattered, stateless minority. This is a serious persecution and asserted the Jewish right to self- If Israel’s critics are truly opposed to anti- argument, based on interests, moral claims, and an determination and independent survival. This is semitism, they should not repeat traditional anti- interpretation of history. But this is not anti- why anti-Zionists see it as a perversion of Jewish semitic themes under the anti-Israel banner. When Zionism. To oppose Zionism in its essence and to humanism. Zionism entails the difficulty of such themes - the Jewish conspiracy to rule the refuse to accept its political offspring, Israel, as a dealing with sometimes impossible moral world, linking Jews with money and media, the legitimate entity, entails more. Zionism comprises dilemmas, which traditional Jewish passivity in hooked-nose stingy Jew, the blood libel, a belief that Jews are a nation, and as such are the wake of historical persecution had never disparaging use of Jewish symbols, or traditional entitled to self-determination as all other nations faced. By negating Zionism, the anti-semite is Christian anti-Jewish imagery - are used to are. arguing that the Jew must always be the victim, describe Israel’s actions, concern should be It could be suggested that nationalism is a for victims do no wrong and deserve our voiced. Labour MP Tam Dalyell decried the pernicious force. In which case one should oppose sympathy and support. influence of “a Jewish cabal” on British foreign Palestinian nationalism as well. It could even be Israel errs like all other nations: it is normal. policy-making; an Italian cartoonist last year argued that though both claims are true and noble, What anti-Zionists find so obscene is that Israel is depicted the Israeli siege of the Church of the it would have been better to pursue Jewish neither martyr nor saint. Their outrage refuses Nativity in Bethlehem as an attempt to kill Jesus national rights elsewhere. But negating Zionism, legitimacy to a people’s national liberation “again”. Is it necessary to evoke the Jewish by claiming that Zionism equals racism, goes movement. Israel’s stubborn refusal to comply conspiracy or depict Israelis as Christ-killers to further and denies the Jews the right to identify, with the invitation to commit national suicide and denounce Israeli policies? understand and imagine themselves - and thereby regain a supposedly lost moral ground The fact that accusations of anti-semitism are consequently behave as - a nation. Anti-Zionists draws condemnation. Jews now have the right to dismissed as paranoia, even when anti-semitic deny Jews a right that they all too readily bestow self-determination, and that is what the anti- imagery is at work, is a subterfuge. Israel deserves on others, first of all Palestinians. semite dislikes so much. v to be judged by the same standards adopted for Were you outraged when Golda Meir claimed Emanuele Ottolenghi is the Leone Ginzburg Fellow in Israel Studies at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College, Oxford.
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