Saturday, May 17, 2008

Reflections from Australia: Are Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism One and The Same?

From Covenant Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 1 (May 2008 / Nissan 5768), Article 2/9, by Philip Mendes, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy & Community Development, Monash University, Australia, and the author or co-author of six books:

(very brief excerpt only, with my emphasis added - follow this link to the full article online or this one for the Adobe Version):

..historically anti-Zionism and antisemitism were divergent ideas... recent decades anti-Zionism and antisemitism have increasingly converged. Left anti-Zionism today, defined as a rejection of the legitimacy of the State of Israel and a desire to negate the reality of its existence, involves a discriminatory denial of Jewish national claims and nationhood.

In place of the centrality of the State of Israel to contemporary Jewish identity, Left anti-Zionists portray Israel as a mere political construct, and utilize ethnic stereotyping of all Israelis and all Jewish supporters of Israel in order to justify their claims....

Criticisms of Israel per se are not antisemitic, particularly when they involve judgments about real Israeli actions and policies. The worst that can reasonably said about most such judgments is that they may be unbalanced, and reflect a partisan pro-Palestinian view of the conflict.

This does not mean that Jewish concerns about the possible motives of some persistent critics of Israel are completely unfounded. It is also understandable that a historically oppressed group may interpret (from their experiences of persecution) such attacks as reflecting anti-Jewish prejudices, rather than more dispassionate political or ideological agendas....

...Nevertheless, anti-Zionism does become antisemitism when critics of Israel shift the analysis from one of objective reality to subjective fantasy. Instead of depicting Israel as a real state with real people – most of whom are either refugees themselves or the descendants of refugees fleeing oppression – anti-Zionist fundamentalists collectively label all Israeli Jews and their supporters as guilty of colonialism and racism.

And traditional antisemitic prejudices around disproportionate Jewish power, influence and wealth are utilized to justify these stereotypes.

The complex debate about the relative merits of Israeli and Palestinian claims is removed from its real national, cultural and historical context, and instead reduced to a mere political conspiracy in which Jews are constructed as inherently evil and immoral oppressors trampling over the rights of innocent Palestinians.

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