Anti-Semitism is one of the oldest and deadliest forms of hatred. It is still particularly versatile and can appear from unexpected sides.
Over the centuries, Jews have been hated alternately as too rich and too poor, too strong and too weak, too religious and secular, too conservative and too liberal, too equal and too different.
Since Roman conquerors forced most Jews into exile nearly two millennia ago, they were also hated for being scattered. And since 1948, they have been hated for reviving their small ancestral homeland: their small homeland Israel.
In Europe, my grandparents, who survived the Holocaust, heard cries of “Jews, back to Palestine” only to raise grandchildren who could bear the cry “Jews, out of Palestine”.
In addition, Israel and its friends have been tarred by some as inherently racist themselves.
In the United Nations – where Arab and allied countries automatically have the majority – Israel is routinely condemned more than all 192 member states combined. The UN’s bias reached its peak 45 years ago with Resolution 3379, and on November 10, 1975, the UN General Assembly called only the Zionist Jewish independence movement “racist.
Chaim Herzog, Israel’s ambassador to the UN and later president, tore up the resolution and lamented the “ignorance” that made it possible. At the time he said:
You dare to speak of racism when I can proudly point to the Arab ministers who have served in my government; to the Arab deputy speaker of my parliament; to Arab officers and men who serve of their own free will in our defense, border and police forces, often commanding Jewish troops; to the hundreds of thousands of Arabs from all over the Middle East who populate the cities of Israel every year; to the thousands of Arabs from all over the Middle East who come to Israel for medical treatment; to the peaceful coexistence that has developed; to the fact that Arabic is an official language in Israel on an equal footing with Hebrew; to the fact that it is as natural for an Arab to serve in public office in Israel as it is incompatible to imagine a Jew serving in any public office in any Arab country and actually being allowed to serve in many of them. Is this racism? It is not. This is Zionism.
Rarely in 1991 did the UN repeal the resolution “Zionism is racism”, leading to new breakthroughs in Arab-Israeli relations. But its despicable legacy has continued. Ten years later, a UN anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa, implied that only one country – Israel – was racist, and the assembly produced scenes of downright anti-Semitism that shocked even UN officials. More recently, some political activists have tried to exploit the Black Lives Matter movement by stigmatizing it as the only Jewish state in the world – the only democracy in the Middle East – comparable to South Africa during apartheid.
Nevertheless, Jews have been at the forefront of the struggle for black civil rights. Israelis come in all colors. And it is no coincidence that anti-Semitism and racism are always interwoven.
Palestinians and Israelis are divided over security and land, not over racial ideology or racial differences.
In a time of alarming polarization, facts are as important as ever. Accuracy counts. While simplistic narratives can lead to more powerful slogans than complex realities, claims based on fiction do not contribute to making our world better or fairer. Slander tactics can be tempting, but we must resist such temptations if they distort rather than illuminate.
False accusations of “Zionist” racism – together with attempts to prevent pushback by claiming that Jews dismiss all accusations as anti-Semitic – undermine the very cause of the fight against bigotry. And there are few causes that are more pressing.
Anti-Jewish gaslight is wrong. Demonizing or delegitimizing Israelis is as unjustifiable as demonizing a diverse population of any other nationality.
Zionists are women and men, left and right wing radicals, Jews and Christians, people of Middle Eastern background and of all other backgrounds. What they have in common is simply the belief that Israel has a right to exist, security and equality. The overwhelming majority of the world community is – in a word – Zionist.
There is nothing