Anti-Zionism Isn’t Anti-Semitism? Who would have guessed? After the Holocaust. Even after the Six-Day War. As it turns out, there is still a lot of Jew-hatred out there in the world. In the Christian world. In the Muslim world. From the political right. And from the political left.
Someone Didn’t Get the Memo.
In recent years it has become an article of faith on the progressive left that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism and that it’s slander to assume that someone who hates Israel also hates Jews.
Not everyone got the memo.
Not the people who, waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Death to Jews,” according to a witness, assaulted Jewish diners at a Los Angeles sushi restaurant. Not the people who threw fireworks in New York’s diamond district. Not the people who brutally beat up a man wearing a yarmulke in Times Square. Not the people who drove through London slurring Jews and yelling, “Rape their daughters.” Not the people who gathered outside a synagogue in Germany shouting slurs. Not the people who, at a protest in Brussels, chanted, “Jews, remember Khaybar. The army of Muhammad is returning.”
Also not getting the memo are the people who have tweeted the hashtag #HitlerWasRight (including someone who now works for the BBC), along with the hashtag #Covid1948, a suggestion that Israel is a virus that needs the cure of Hamas’s rockets as a “vaccine.” Apparently, these hashtags count as legitimate political speech at Twitter, a company whose objections to bigotry are otherwise so strong that it once banned a Canadian feminist for the sin of tweeting remarks about transgender women like “men aren’t women.”
In this storm of hate, political leaders such as Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, President Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain have issued appropriate statements of condemnation. On CNN, correspondent Bianna Golodryga called out the anti-Semitism of Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, when he cited “deep pockets” and “control [of] media” in terms of Israel’s influence on public opinion. Good for her.
But if there’s been a massive online campaign of progressive allyship with Jews, I’ve missed it. If corporate executives have sent out workplace memos expressing concern for the safety of Jewish employees, I’ve missed it. If academic associations have issued public letters denouncing the use of anti-Semitic tropes by pro-Palestinian activists, I’ve missed them.
It’s a curious silence.
In the land of inclusiveness, Jews are denied inclusion.
One response to the attacks that I have seen coming from the left is that attacks on Jews are wrong because an American or British or German Jew should not be held responsible for the actions of the state of Israel. That’s true, and fine as far as it goes.
But it doesn’t go far enough. Would the assaults in Los Angeles and New York have been more justifiable if the victims had been Israeli citizens — even, say, Israeli diplomats? Is hatred of an entire country and threats or violence to its people acceptable as long as the hate is untainted by some older prejudice?
It is especially despicable when Israel is singled out in ways that apply to no other country. To take just one example, when was the last time you heard of a campus demonstration or a call for boycotts and divestment in response to Turkey’s 47-year occupation of northern Cyprus or its routine bombardment, using American-made jets, of Kurdish militants in Iraq?
But, again, this doesn’t go far enough. The accusations made against Israel — stealing Palestinian land (despite the fact that Israel vacated the territory from which it was subsequently attacked) and wanton violence against Palestinian civilians, particularly children (despite the fact that Israel regularly warned its targets to vacate buildings before targeting them) — can’t help but make me think of ancient libels about Jewish greed and bloodlust.
Also echoing ancient libels is the idea that 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas somehow constitute a unique global horror, even as the world barely takes notice of the Taliban’s murder this month of 85 people at a school in Kabul. The anti-Semitic worldview is always Judeocentric, in the sense that it is obsessed with Jewish behavior as the supreme factor in domestic and international political life. The left has lately been awfully Judeocentric.
This ought to be whistling loudly in the ears of progressives
who claim to be horrified by every form of prejudice.
Instead, they have indulged an anti-Israel movement that keeps descending into the crudest forms of anti-Semitism. They remind me of a certain kind of Trump voter who would occasionally voice disgust at his most outrageous behavior, only to come back into alignment with him a few days later. After a while, it becomes clear that the outrage is cheap, if it isn’t simply fake.
Progressives will have to come to their own reckoning about what to do about the burgeoning anti-Semitism in their midst.
As for Jews, they should take the events of
the last few days less as an outrage than as an omen.
Bret L. Stephens joined The New York Times as an Op-Ed columnist in April 2017. His column appears Thursday and Saturday.
Mr. Stephens came to The Times after a long career with The Wall Street Journal, where he was most recently deputy editorial page editor and, for 11 years, a foreign affairs columnist. Before that, he was editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post. At The Post he oversaw the paper's news, editorial and digital operations and its international editions, and also wrote a weekly column. He has reported from around the world and interviewed scores of world leaders.
Mr. Stephens is the author of "America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder," released in November 2014. He is is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, including two honorary doctorates and the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. He was raised in Mexico City and holds a B.A. from the University of Chicago and an MSc. from the London School of Economics. He and his wife, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, a music critic for The Times, live with their three children in New York and Hamburg, Germany.