Is Anti-Zionism Anti-Semitism?

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Source: The New York Times

When the University of California regents condemned “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism,” supporters of Palestinian rights said the university was suppressing criticism of Israel. In New York, supporters of Israel say critics of Zionism at the City University of New York are thinly disguised anti-Semitics and their actions, like calls for a boycott of Israel, should be stopped.

When does criticism of Israel become bigotry? Is rejection of the Jewish state a rejection of Jews?

Rejecting Zionist Principles Is a Rejection of Jews

Daniel Gordis

Daniel Gordis, Koret distinguished fellow and chairman of the core curriculum atShalem College, is the author of the forthcoming Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn.

UPDATED APRIL 4, 2016, 10:18 AM

The chief mistake that many Jewish-American organizations make is to respond angrily to criticism of Israel, without acknowledging that there is any legitimate criticism. This inadvertently leaves the impression that they believe that no critique of Israel is legitimate. But that is absurd. Israel, like all countries, makes grievous mistakes, and can fairly be critiqued by Israelis and by non-Israelis, by Jews and by non-Jews.

Israel was created to ensure the safety and flourishing of the Jewish people. Rejecting it constitutes an assault on Jews.

Yet much of the criticism of Israel to which we are witness today goes far beyond the pale of legitimate critique. The United Nations is ground zero in this phenomenon. Last month, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women condemned only one country for violating women’s rights. It was Israel, which it accused of violating the rights of Palestinian women. Coincidentally, on the very same day, as the U.N. Human Rights Council closed its session in Geneva, it condemned Israel five times more than any of the U.N.’s member states. Is Israel a greater violator of human rights than Syria? Than North Korea? Than Yemen? Any such suggestion is so patently laughable that one cannot escape asking what lies behind this cascade of opprobrium.

Why is it, as Larry Summers noted this week, that despite the hyper-sensitivity on American college campuses to micro-aggressions, venomous, hate-filled denunciation of Israel remains fair game? Clearly, something more basic than Israel’s policies is at play here.

What is at play is the fact that Israel represents the Jewish future. Jews are once again fleeing Europe. The Islamic State is at war with the entire West, but in Turkey, its latest plans are apparently attacks on Jewish institutions and Jewish children.

In 2016, about 70 years after the end of the Holocaust, the world is much less changed than we had hoped. And Israel is the only country in the world that as a matter of law guarantees Jews on the run both refuge and citizenship.

The lopsidedness and relentlessness of critique to which Israel is subjected (and from which Palestinian leadership and policy are largely exempted) is fueled by a fundamental rejection of the idea of a Jewish State. Given that the State of Israel was created first and foremost to ensure the safety and flourishing of the Jewish people, that rejection constitutes an assault on the safety of the Jewish people. It is thus by definition the newest form of the centuries-old virus called anti-Semitism. It is illegitimate. It is immoral. And it needs to be stopped.

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