A FEW YEARS ago I sought to outline commonalities between anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist discourses in a scholarly journal. It is worth reproducing. Here are major motifs that inform classical anti-Semitism:
1) Insinuations: Jews do not and cannot fit properly into our society. There is something foreign, not to mention sinister about them.
2) Complaints: They are so particularistic, those Jews, so preoccupied with their "own." Why are they so clannish and anachronistic when we need a world of solidarity and love? Really, they make themselves into a "problem." If the so-called "Jewish problem" is singular in some way, it is their own doing and usually covered up by special pleading.
3) Remonstrations: Those Jews, they always carp that they are victims. In fact, they have vast power, especially financial power. Their power is everywhere, even if it is not very visible. They exercise it manipulatively, behind the scenes. (But look, there are even a few of them, guilty-hearted perhaps, who will admit it all this to you).
4) Recriminations: Look at their misdeeds, all done while they cry that they are victims. These ranged through the ages from the murder of God to the ritual slaughter of children to selling military secrets to the enemy to war-profiteering, to being capitalists or middlemen or landlords or moneylenders exploiting the poor. And they always, oh-so-cleverly, mislead you.
Alter a few phrases, a word here and there, and we find motifs of anti-Zionism that are popular these days in parts of the left and parts of the Muslim and Arab worlds:
1) Insinuations: The Zionists are alien implants in the Mideast. They can never fit there. Western imperialism created the Zionist state.
2) Complaints: A Jewish state can never be democratic. Zionism is exclusivist. The very idea of a Jewish state is an anachronism.
3) Remonstrations: The Zionists carp that they are victims but in reality they have enormous power, especially financial. Their power is everywhere, but they make sure not to let it be too visible. They exercise it manipulatively, behind people's backs, behind the scenes – why, just look at Zionist influence in Washington. Or rather, dominance of Washington. (And look, there are even a few Jews, guilty-hearted perhaps, who admit it).
4) Recriminations: Zionists are responsible for astonishing, endless dastardly deeds. And they cover them up with deceptions. These range from the imperialist aggression of 1967 to Ehud Barak's claim that he offered a compromise to Palestinians back in 2000 to the Jenin "massacre" during the second Intifidah. These sketches of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, with just some variation, were originally in Mitchell Cohen, "Auto-Emancipation and Anti-Semitism: Homage to Bernard-Lazare," Jewish Social Studies (Fall 2003).
No, anti-Zionism is not in principle anti-Semitism but it is time for thoughtful minds—especially on the left—to be disturbed by how much anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism share, how much the dominant species of anti-Zionism encourages anti-Semitism.
If you judge a Jewish state by standards that you apply to no one else; if your neck veins bulge when you denounce Zionists but you've done no more than cluck "well, yes, very bad about Darfur";
if there is nothing Hamas can do that you won't blame 'in the final analysis' on Israelis;
if your sneer at the Zionists doesn't sound a whole lot different from American neoconservative sneers at leftists;
then you should not be surprised if you are criticized, fiercely so, by people who are serious about a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians and who won't let you get away with a self-exonerating formula—"I am anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic"—to prevent scrutiny. If you are anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic, then don't use the categories, allusions, and smug hiss that are all too familiar to any student of prejudice.
It is time for the left that learns, that grows, that reflects, that has historical not rhetorical perspective, and that wants a future based on its own best values to say loudly to the left that never learns: You hijacked "left" in the last century, but you won't get away with it again whatever guise you don.
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