Anti-Semitism vs Anti-Palestinian

Table of Contents

Difference between Anti-Semitism and Criticism of Israel

Anti-Palestinian Dog Whistles

Israel/American Lobby

Legitimate Threats to Israel

Difference between Anti-Semitism and Criticism of Israel

  • When is a statement anti-Semitic
    • Directed at a Jewish person or organization specially for their Jewish heritage
    • Pushes a stereotype for all Jewish people
  • When is it not anti-Semitic
    • When a statement accurately points out something that is true, regardless of Jewish heritage
    • When a statement focuses on a policies and actions, not ethnicity, or an org or person
  • Why is false anti-Semitic accusations harmful?
    • Supports real anti-Semitism
      • By giving a free pass to real anti-Semitics who support Israel while demonizing Jewish advocates who criticize Israel
      • Assuming all Jewish people are monolithic and support all Israel’s policies
    • Strawman arguments
      • Prevents legitimate discussion about Israel’s and US policies
    • Internalized racism by omissions
      • When white people deny people of color humanity, or omit their story when discussing oppressor’s story, its racism
        • Uses white supremacy internalizations to devalue the lives of people of color
        • Fit them into the bottom of a racial hierarchy of who gets to “exist” and whose lives or stories “matter”
      • For example
        • Every time some one mentions Israel’s right to exist, without mentioning Israel’s theft of Palestinians right to exist, its racism
        • Every time someone makes an accusation of anti-Semitism, regardless of its truth, against criticism of Israeli violence, while not acknowledging the violence, its racism
        • Every time someone victim blame Palestinians, by critiquing some of their forms of resistance, while not acknowledging their need to resist, its racism
      • Doesn’t matter what your intent is the outcome is racism
    • Islamophobic
      • Muslim women, like Rep Ilhan Omar, get attacked more than white people, like Bernie Sanders, criticizing Israel
    • Racial Dog Whistle for Palestinian Lives dont Matter

Rep Ilhan Omar on Straw man Argument




Jewish Voices For Peace: Our Approach to Zionism

“Solidarity is the political version of love.”

– Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz,
Jewish American lesbian feminist, author and activist (1945-2018)

Jewish Voice for Peace is guided by a vision of justice, equality and freedom for all people. We unequivocally oppose Zionism because it is counter to those ideals.

We know that opposing Zionism, or even discussing it, can be painful, can strike at the deepest trauma and greatest fears of many of us. Zionism is a nineteenth-century political ideology that emerged in a moment where Jews were defined as irrevocably outside of a Christian Europe. European antisemitism threatened and ended millions of Jewish lives — in pogroms, in exile, and in the Holocaust.

Through study and action, through deep relationship with Palestinians fighting for their own liberation, and through our own understanding of Jewish safety and self determination, we have come to see that Zionism was a false and failed answer to the desperately real question many of our ancestors faced of how to protect Jewish lives from murderous antisemitism in Europe.

While it had many strains historically, the Zionism that took hold and stands today is a settler-colonial movement, establishing an apartheid state where Jews have more rights than others. Our own history teaches us how dangerous this can be.

Palestinian dispossession and occupation are by design. Zionism has meant profound trauma for generations, systematically separating Palestinians from their homes, land, and each other. Zionism, in practice, has resulted in massacres of Palestinian people, ancient villages and olive groves destroyed, families who live just a mile away from each other separated by checkpoints and walls, and children holding onto the keys of the homes from which their grandparents were forcibly exiled.

Because the founding of the state of Israel was based on the idea of a “land without people,” Palestinian existence itself is resistance. We are all the more humbled by the vibrance, resilience, and steadfastness of Palestinian life, culture, and organizing, as it is a deep refusal of a political ideology founded on erasure.

In sharing our stories with one another, we see the ways Zionism has also harmed Jewish people. Many of us have learned from Zionism to treat our neighbors with suspicion, to forget the ways Jews built home and community wherever we found ourselves to be. Jewish people have had long and integrated histories in the Arab world and North Africa, living among and sharing community, language and custom with Muslims and Christians for thousands of years.

By creating a racist hierarchy with European Jews at the top, Zionism erased those histories and destroyed those communities and relationships. In Israel, Jewish people of color – from the Arab world, North Africa, and East Africa – have long been subjected to systemic discrimination and violence by the Israeli government. That hierarchy also creates Jewish spaces where Jews of color are marginalized, our identities and commitments questioned & interrogated, and our experiences invalidated. It prevents us from seeing each other — fellow Jews and other fellow human beings — in our full humanity.

Zionist interpretations of history taught us that Jewish people are alone, that to remedy the harms of antisemitism we must think of ourselves as always under attack and that we cannot trust others. It teaches us fear, and that the best response to fear is a bigger gun, a taller wall, a more humiliating checkpoint.

Rather than accept the inevitability of occupation and dispossession, we choose a different path. We learn from the anti-Zionist Jews who came before us, and know that as long as Zionism has existed, so has Jewish dissent to it. Especially as we face the violent antisemitism fueled by white nationalism in the United States today, we choose solidarity. We choose collective liberation. We choose a future where everyone, including Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, can live their lives freely in vibrant, safe, equitable communities, with basic human needs fulfilled. Join us.

Josh Singer: Let’s Discuss Anti-Semitism—in Context

Here’s a deeper look into the accusations against Representative Ilhan Omar.

When Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) accurately, but somewhat tactlessly, called out the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for its efforts to influence the U.S. government through political donations, she did not imply in any way that Jews are corrupt nor did she imply AIPAC is corrupt because they are Jewish. Although some people heard an anti-Semitic dog whistle in her tweet, no one needed a coded racist message to understand the point she was making about AIPAC’s lobbying influence.

At the same time, this historic and dangerous trope she stumbled unto—invoking conspiracies of Jewish puppet masters controlling governments through bribery and sowing chaos—is used often in our society today to fuel the flames of anti-Semitism. As we speak, pundits and politicians are pushing these tropes through George Soros and anti-globalist false narratives, often to win Republican votes. Rep. Omar was right to hear people’s feedback, apologize for the unintended consequences of her words, and learn how to course-correct her language, while still not downplaying the dangers of AIPAC and other political lobbies. There is a lot of value in people who can recognize that “impact” trumps “intent” and to have a politician as a role model is a rare feat. We’re lucky to have Ilhan Omar.

I hope at the same time many of the people confronting Rep. Omar on anti-Semitism will also understand the internalized racism involved when Trump, a white, male politician who intentionally and frequently espouses clear anti-Semitism rhetoric—while defunding federal anti-hate programs designed to prevent atrocities like the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting—gets little to no outrage from pro-Israel communities. This is presumably because Trump champions pro-Israel policies with the subtext that Palestinian lives don’t matter.

Meanwhile, a black, hijab-wearing Muslim woman, who has been falsely and unfairly attacked since the day she was elected for publicly believing Palestinian lives do matter, made an accurate statement about AIPAC’s political influence. Although it wasn’t the most tactful tweet, it was still light-years ahead on the civility meter of any of Trump’s explicit and intentional anti-Semitic tweets. And pro-Israel communities, who tolerate anti-Semites from Trump to Viktor Orban, blew up over this comment, writing a non-stop plethora of op-eds calling for her resignation. This context is not only evidence that many Israel supporters have internalized racism that treats a black Muslim woman, who unintentionally triggers an anti-Semitic trope, completely different from an openly anti-Semitic white man. It also shows these people will, consciously or unconsciously, trade anti-Semitism for Zionism.

Just to be clear this article is not a request to stop confronting anti-Semitism (please don’t!) but a request to understand the larger context of anti-Semitism. If there is a lesson pro-Israel folks could learn from Omar, it would be to try to hear people’s feedback, recognize when the impact of their actions—despite their intent—is racist, and, when appropriate, apologize. And those confronting anti-Semitism in the future could try to be more aware of the broader context and how their own internalizations play a role, while still finding ways to oppose the rising tide of anti-Semitism. They could save those articles, comments, and op-eds that were written in response to Omar and post them the next time a person like Trump says something (or implements a policy) that is explicitly anti-Semitic.


Newsbroke: Love Israel, Hate Jews

The Nation: The Myth of the New Anti-Semitism

“What puts the “new” into “new anti-Semitism”?

The answer, in a word, is anti-Zionism. The “vilification of Israel,” Iganski and Kosmin argue, is “the core characteristic” of Judeophobia (their term for “new anti-Semitism”). In his contribution to their book, Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth, explains: “What we are witnessing today is the second great mutation of antisemitism in modern times, from racial antisemitism to religious anti-Zionism (with the added premise that all Jews are Zionists).” Sometimes the point is made by equating the State of Israel in the “new” anti-Semitism with the individual Jew in the “old” variety. Rabbi Sacks himself draws this parallel in an article in the Guardian: “At times [anti-Semitism] has been directed against Jews as individuals. Today it is directed against Jews as a sovereign people.” In the same vein, Dershowitz argues that Israel has become “the Jew among Nations.”

Foxman defines Zionism thus: “Zionism simply refers to support for the existence of a Jewish state–specifically, the state of Israel.” In a narrow sense, anti-Zionism is simply the antithesis: rejection of the very idea of a Jewish state, specifically Israel. Foxman’s verdict on this position is uncompromising: “The harsh but un- deniable truth is this: what some like to call anti-Zionism is, in reality, anti-Semitism–always, everywhere, and for all time.” He adds for good measure: “Therefore, anti-Zionism is not a politically legitimate point of view but rather an expression of bigotry and hatred.”

Foxman insists that he is not opposed to criticism of Israel. “In every public forum,” he says, “I’m always careful to say that criticism of the state of Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitic.” But “is not necessarily” implies “is possibly,” and what this really means is “it’s usually so.” In his view, “most of the current attacks on Israel and Zionism are not, at bottom, about the policies and conduct of a particular nation-state. They are about Jews.” This is conventional wisdom in the “new anti-Semitism” literature. The main basis for this opinion is that such attacks single out Israel unfairly or apply a double standard. As Dershowitz writes:

So long as criticism is comparative, contextual, and fair, it should be encouraged, not disparaged. But when the Jewish nation is the only one criticized for faults that are far worse among other nations, such criticism crosses the line from fair to foul, from acceptable to anti-Semitic.

Just where this line in the sand is drawn varies from author to author. But it tends to be drawn in such a way as to rule out criticism that goes much beyond a gentle rap across the government’s knuckles or finger-wagging at the laws of the land.

When I say that “anti-Zionism” puts the “new” into “new anti-Semitism,” I am referring not only to anti-Zionism in the narrow sense; I am using the word broadly to include any position that lies on the far side of the line separating “fair” from “foul.” Now, if crossing the line is anti-Semitic, and if “most of the current attacks on Israel and Zionism” cross the line, it follows that most current attacks on Israel and Zionism are anti-Semitic. By extension, any attack aimed at a Jewish target is anti-Semitic if it is inspired by a position that crosses that line. Given that both Israel and Zionism are at the center of so much controversy around the world, the effect of this logic is to produce, at a stroke, a quantum leap in the amount of anti-Semitism worldwide, if not a veritable “war against the Jews.”

It is, of course, understandable that many Jews find this logic compelling. There is a long and ignoble history of “Zionist” being used as a code word for “Jew,” as when Communist Poland carried out “anti-Zionist” purges in 1968, expelling thousands of Jews from the country, or when the extreme right today uses the acronym ZOG (Zionist Occupied Government) to refer to the US government. Moreover, the Zionist movement arose as a reaction to the persecution of Jews. Since anti-Zionism is the opposite of Zionism, and since Zionism is a form of opposition to anti-Semitism, it seems to follow that an anti-Zionist must be an anti-Semite.

Nonetheless, the inference is invalid. To argue that hostility to Israel and hostility to Jews are one and the same thing is to conflate the Jewish state with the Jewish people. In fact, Israel is one thing, Jewry another. Accordingly, anti-Zionism is one thing, anti-Semitism another. They are separate. To say they are separate is not to say that they are never connected. But they are independent variables that can be connected in different ways.

The history of the Zionist movement itself illustrates the point. Consider the background to the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, by which the British government committed itself to the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This was a major coup for the Zionist movement. But it would be wrong to think that it was the product of pro-Jewish sentiment within the British establishment. On the contrary, British support for Zionism was spearheaded by anti-Semites within the civil and foreign service. These people believed that Jews, acting collectively, were manipulating world events from behind the scenes. Consequently, they vastly exaggerated the power and influence of the tiny Zionist movement. Balfour himself took a similar view. Moreover, some years earlier, as Prime Minister, he introduced the Aliens Bill (which became law in 1905), aimed specifically at restricting admission of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. He warned Parliament at the time that the Jews “remained a people apart.”

The Balfour Declaration was delayed by opposition. The opposition was not led by a rival anti-Semitic faction, as it were, but by Jews. Some of the most prominent members of the British Jewish community were opposed to the Zionist cause. Among them was Edwin Montagu, a member of the Cabinet. Montagu rejected what he saw as the basic premise of Zionism: that Jews constitute a separate nation. In an official memorandum in August 1917, he wrote: “I wish to place on record my view that the policy of His Majesty’s Government is anti-Semitic in result and will prove a rallying ground for anti-Semites in every country in the world.” A similar view was held by the Conjoint Committee, which joined the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association, and represented British Jewry in foreign affairs. In a long letter that ran in the May 24, 1917, edition of the London Times, the committee gave what was, in effect, a critique of mainstream Zionist ideology. Commenting on the claim that “the Jewish settlement in Palestine shall be recognized as possessing a national character in a political sense,” the committee wrote:

It is part and parcel of a wider Zionist theory, which regards all the Jewish communities of the world as constituting one homeless nationality, incapable of complete social and political identification, with the nations among whom they dwelt, and it is argued that for this homeless nationality, a political center and an always available homeland in Palestine are necessary. Against this theory the Conjoint Committee strongly and earnestly protests.

So in 1917 anti-Semites were promoting the Balfour Declaration while a significant number of Jews opposed it. Does it follow that Zionism, in and of itself, is anti-Semitic? Of course not. But this episode does undercut the converse claim: that anti-Zionism is necessarily so.

Why–on what grounds–do the authors under review or people of a similar cast of mind maintain this claim? Zuckerman argues, “Just as historic anti-Semitism has denied individual Jews the right to live as equal members of society, anti-Zionism would deny the collective expression of the Jewish people, the State of Israel, the right to live as an equal member of the family of nations.” This is a variation on an argument that is a staple in the “new anti-Semitism” literature. It goes like this: “Given the principle of self-determination for nations, the Jewish people have a right to their own state, like everyone else. To deny that right, especially if this means singling Jews out, is anti-Semitic.”

This argument assumes that Jews, or the Jewish people, constitute a nation in the relevant sense, the sense in which the principle of self-determination applies. But this question is no less a burning issue today–not least for Jews themselves–than it was in 1917, when the Conjoint Committee disputed it. (It has been disputed from the beginning of political Zionism in the late nineteenth century down to the present day.) Certainly, mainstream Zionism, insofar as it had an ideology, saw itself as a national movement. But it was unlike other national movements in one crucial respect: There was no pre-existing nation, not in the modern sense of the word, where both territory and language are already in place. Traditionally, the idea of the Jewish people was centered not on a state but on a book, the Torah, and the culture (or cultures) that developed around that book.

Within this book, it is true, there is a narrative about a people, Am Yisrael (the people of Israel) in a land, Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel) or Tzion (Zion), from which they are exiled and to which they will eventually return. But traditionally, this was regarded as a sacred story, not as a political blueprint. Mainstream Zionism set out to modernize Judaism by politicizing it, nationalizing it, turning the Jewish people into the Jewish nation, in the nineteenth-century sense of that word. The idea was to put Israel, a political entity in the here and now, at the center of Jewish identity. This was a radical departure from the “old” Jewish idea of a Jew. The concept of “new anti-Semitism,” to the extent that it is based on mainstream Zionist ideology, is just the other side of the coin, the obverse of this new idea of a Jew, the national Jew. Zuckerman and others of this cast of mind are arguing in a circle; for it is only anti-Semitic to reject his argument if you have already accepted it.

However, political Zionism is larger than its mainstream ideology. In the first place, there are other ideologies that have motivated people in the movement. In the second place, people in the movement have been motivated by considerations that have nothing to do with ideology. Many Jews, as well as non-Jewish sympathizers, were drawn to the Zionist goal of creating a Jewish state in Palestine for reasons that were purely humanitarian or practical. This motive was reinforced by the catastrophic consequences of the Second World War: the extermination of one-third of the world’s Jewish population, the wholesale destruction of Jewish communities in much of Europe and the plight of masses of Jewish refugees with nowhere to go. In these circumstances, the State of Israel was seen by many Jews as a lifeline. Such people did not necessarily see the state in romantic ethnic terms as “the collective expression of the Jewish people.” They saw it simply as a safe haven for Jews, a refuge, a place in the sun.

On this basis, the following argument can be made: “It is one thing to argue about the existence of Israel in 1917, another to do so after 1948, when the state was founded. History has overtaken the question. Israel is no longer an idea in someone’s head. It exists. And for millions of Jews, Israel is their home. They have nowhere else to go. To oppose the existence of the Jewish state at this point means nothing less than wanting to deprive these Jews of their homeland and perhaps their very lives. It also means depriving millions of other Jews, Jews around the world, of their protector and their safeguard. For who will come to the defense of Jews, and who will offer persecuted Jews a place of refuge, if not Israel, the Jewish state? Only an antiSemite would want to destroy this state.”

The argument, understandable though it is, makes several questionable assumptions. For one thing, the alternatives are not black and white: either preserving the status quo or annihilation. There are a variety of constitutional arrangements in between. For example, Israel could continue to exist as a sovereign state but cease to define itself, in its basic laws and state institutions, as specifically Jewish. Or there is the so-called one-state solution: a binational homeland for Palestinians and Jews. The tragic impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has renewed interest in this proposal among some Arab and Jewish intellectuals. And although this view lacks a significant constituency in either community at present, attitudes may well change. At any rate, while Jews might have embraced Israel as a safe place to be Jewish, Israel today is hardly a place of safety for Jews. And you don’t have to be an anti-Semite to envisage a future for Israel, or for Israel’s Jewish population, that is not based on the principle of a Jewish state. As for Jews around the world, whether they are safer because of the existence of Israel, or whether Israel is putting them at greater risk than they would otherwise be, is debatable.

I turn now to anti-Zionism in the broader sense: criticism of Israel that is unbalanced or intemperate. It is true that some critics judge Israel by harsher criteria than they use to judge other countries, that they misrepresent the facts so as to put Israel in a bad light, that they even vilify the Jewish state, none of which is fair. But is it necessarily anti-Semitic? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a bitter struggle. The issues are complex, passions are inflamed and the suffering in both communities is immense. In such circumstances, partisans on both sides are liable to “cross the line from fair to foul.” Moreover, just as there are those on the outside who support the Palestinians, so there are those whose sympathies lie with Israel. When the latter cross the line, they are not ipso facto racist or Islamophobic. By the same token, when others cross the line on behalf of the Palestinian cause, this does not make them anti-Semites. It cuts both ways.

A simple thought experiment reinforces this argument. Imagine if Israel were the same in every essential respect as the state that exists today, including its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, except in its religious identity. Suppose it were Catholic, like the Crusader states that Europeans created in the Middle East in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Let us call this imaginary state “Christiania” instead of “Israel.” Would Christiania be accepted into the bosom of the region more readily than Israel has been? I doubt it. Would the animosity felt toward Christiania be qualitatively different from, or significantly less than, the hostility now directed at Israel? Again, I think not. Any differences would be a matter of nuance. In fact, Israel is often called a “crusader state” in Arab and Muslim circles. In a way, this says everything about the Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. Crusader states, like the imaginary Christiania, were Christian; the State of Israel is Jewish. But the underlying hostility toward it in the region is not hostility toward the state as Jewish but as a European interloper or as an American client or as a non-Arab and non-Muslim entity; moreover, as an oppressive occupying force. Some people see this disposition toward Israel as anti-imperialist or anticolonialist, others as chauvinist or xenophobic. But in and of itself, it is not anti-Semitic.

Which is not to deny that anti-Semitism enters the mix. But it is one ingredient in a complex situation, not the engine that drives anti-Zionism. When Chesler speaks of “the war against the Jews,” and Foxman refers to “the resurgence of worldwide anti-Semitism,” they give the impression that the monsters of the deep are stirring once again and that the 1930s are returning with a vengeance. Foxman says as much: “I am convinced we currently face as great a threat to the safety and security of the Jewish people as the one we faced in the 1930s–if not a greater one.” But there is a world of difference between then and now, as there is between anti-Semitism in Europe and the Middle East.

In Europe, its original home, antiSemitism is an old and deeply rooted cultural trait that from time to time (as in the League of Anti-Semites) has found political expression. In the Arab and Muslim world today it is, roughly speaking, the other way around: The political conflict is what comes first and goes deep, while anti-Semitism is a secondary formation, a byproduct of aspirations and grievances that have nothing to do with a priori prejudice against Jews (although such prejudice was hardly absent from the Muslim world before the creation of Israel). Foxman says that anti-Semitism is “rampant in the world of Islam” and warns against its “spread” in Europe due to the burgeoning Muslim population. But without a doubt, it would not be spreading within Muslim communities in Europe were it not for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially the current crisis that began in 2000 with the breakdown of the Oslo peace initiative and the outbreak of the second intifada.

In the scenario painted by Chesler, Foxman and others, no distinction is made between, say, the young Muslim immigrants who carried out the vast majority of physical attacks against Jews in France in 2002, and someone like the former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Mahathir’s speech to the tenth session of the Islamic Summit Conference this past October was an example of classical anti-Semitic discourse, with its peculiar combination of animus and admiration. Describing Jews as “the enemy,” he warned, “We are up against a people who think.” He went on to credit Jews with having “invented,” among other things, human rights and democracy. “With these,” he explained, “they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power.” Mahathir was singing from the same anti-Semitic hymn book as Wilhelm Marr. But the evidence suggests that the perpetrators of the anti-Jewish attacks in France were animated by political outrage, not bigotry. According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry itself, most of the incidents were a protest against inequities in the occupied territories.

“Nonetheless,” someone might object, “the young Muslim immigrants who carried out these attacks are anti-Semites. For it’s not the Jews of France who are occupying the territories, it’s the State of Israel. If the motive for these incidents was purely political, why didn’t the protesters attack the Israeli embassy? Why attack individual Jews and Jewish institutions? This is a clear case of lumping all Jews together and holding them collectively responsible. This is what makes these incidents anti-Semitic.”

The objection, however, is misconceived, and the misconception goes to the heart of the complex situation in which Jews find themselves today. Israel does not regard itself as a state that just happens to be Jewish (like the medieval kingdom of the Khazars). It sees itself as (in Prime Minister Sharon’s phrase) “the Jewish collective,” the sovereign state of the Jewish people as a whole. In his speech at the Herzliya Conference in December, Sharon called the state “a national and spiritual center for all Jews of the world,” and added, “Aliyah [Jewish immigration] is the central goal of the State of Israel.” To what extent this view is reciprocated by Jews worldwide is hard to say. Many feel no particular connection to the state or strongly oppose its actions. On the other hand, in spring 2002, at the height of Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield, Jews gathered in large numbers in numerous cities to demonstrate their solidarity, as Jews, with Israel. Many Jewish community leaders, religious and secular, publicly reinforce this identification with the state. All of which is liable to give the unreflective onlooker the impression that Jews are, as it were, lumping themselves together; that Israel is indeed “the Jewish collective.”

Not that this justifies, not for one moment, a single incident where Jews are attacked for being Jewish; such attacks are repugnant. But it does provide a context within which to make sense of them without seeing a global “war against the Jews.” There is no such war. It is, in fact, as much a figment of the imagination as its mirror image: a Jewish conspiracy against the world. Jews have good reason to be concerned about growing hostility toward them. But while this includes the revival of hard-core antiSemitism, it is closer to the truth to say that anti-Zionism today takes the form of anti-Semitism rather than the other way round. As Akiva Eldar observed recently in Ha’aretz, “It is much easier to claim the entire world is against us than to admit that the State of Israel, which rose as a refuge and a source of pride for Jews…has become a genuine source of danger and a source of shameful embarrassment to Jews who choose to live outside its borders.”

In defense of her assertion that there is a global “war against the Jews,” Chesler wields the ultimate weapon. “In my opinion,” she says, “anyone who denies that this is so or who blames the Jews for provoking the attacks is an anti-Semite.” Since I deny that there is such a war, this makes me an anti-Semite. But since her argument empties the word of all meaning, I do not feel maligned. In his contribution to A New Antisemitism?, historian Peter Pulzer, faulting the way “the liberal press” sometimes reports the activities of the Israel Defense Forces in the occupied territories, makes a telling point about the misuse of words. He says: “When every civilian death is a war crime, that concept loses its significance. When every expulsion from a village is genocide, we no longer know how to recognize genocide. When Auschwitz is everywhere, it is nowhere.” Point taken. But equally, when anti-Semitism is everywhere, it is nowhere. And when every anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite, we no longer know how to recognize the real thing–the concept of anti-Semitism loses its significance.

Wikipedia: Criticism of Israel and antisemitism

Criticism of Israel and antisemitism

Some criticisms of Israel or Israeli policies have been characterized as anti-Semitic. Proponents of the concept of New Antisemitism, such as Phyllis Chesler, Gabriel Schoenfeld and Mortimer Zuckerman, argue that, since the 1967 Six-Day War, many criticisms of Israel are veiled attacks on Jews and hence are essentially antisemitic. Abba Eban, Robert S. Wistrich, and Joschka Fischer focus on criticism of Zionism, and contend that some forms of anti-Zionism, particularly attacks on Israel’s right to exist, are anti-Semitic in nature.

Critics of this view often portray this view as an “equation” of criticism with anti-Semitism. Some critics of Israel or Israeli policies, including Ralph Nader, Jenny Tonge, Noam Chomsky, and Desmond Tutu suggest that equating criticism of Israel with antisemitism is inappropriate or inaccurate. Other critics, such as John Mearsheimer, Alexander Cockburn, Norman Finkelstein, and William I. Robinson, claim that supporters of Israel sometimes equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism in a deliberate attempt to prevent legitimate criticism of Israel and discredit critics…

Objections to characterizing criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism

..Some commentators have objected to the characterization of criticisms of Israel as anti-Semitic, and have often asserted that supporters of Israel equate criticism with anti-Semitism or excessively blur the distinction between the two. Examples include Michael P. Prior, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Michael Lerner, Antony Lerman, Ralph Nader, Jenny Tonge, Ken Livingstone, and Desmond Tutu. They provide a variety of reasons for their objections, including stifling free expression, promoting anti-Semitism, diluting genuine anti-Semitism, and alienating Jews from Judaism or Israel.

Vague and indiscriminate

Michael Lerner claims that the American Jewish community regularly tries to blur the distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, and says it is a “slippery slope” to expand the definition of anti-Semitism to include legitimate criticism of Israel.

Philosophy professor Irfan Khawaja asserts that it is a “false equation” to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, writing “The point is not that the charge of ‘anti-Semitism’ should never be made: some people deserve it…. But the equation of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism is a farce that has gone on long enough, and it’s time that those who saw through the farce said so…”

Palestine Monitor, a Palestinian advocacy group, is critical of what it characterizes as a modern trend to expand the definition of the term “antisemitic”, and states that the new definitions are overly vague and allow for “indiscriminate accusations”

Brian Klug argues that anti-Zionism sometimes is a manifestation of antisemitism, but that “[t]hey are separate” and that to equate them is to incorrectly “conflate the Jewish state with the Jewish people.”

Earl Raab, founding director of the Nathan Perlmutter Institute for Jewish Advocacy at Brandeis University writes that “[t]here is a new surge of antisemitism in the world, and much prejudice against Israel is driven by such antisemitism,” but argues that charges of antisemitism based on anti-Israel opinions generally lack credibility. He writes that “a grave educational misdirection is imbedded in formulations suggesting that if we somehow get rid of antisemitism, we will get rid of anti-Israelism. This reduces the problems of prejudice against Israel to cartoon proportions.” Raab describes prejudice against Israel as a “serious breach of morality and good sense,” and argues that it is often a bridge to antisemitism, but distinguishes it from antisemitism as such.

Irfan Khawaja suggests that some legitimate criticisms of Israel are improperly attacked by deliberately conflating them with criticisms that are anti-Semitic in nature.

Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, in the book The Politics of Anti-Semitism, write “Apologists for Israel’s repression of Palestinians toss the word ‘anti-Semite’ at any critic of what Zionism has meant in practice for Palestinians on the receiving end. So some of the essays in this book address the issue of what constitutes genuine anti-Semitism – Jew-hatred – as opposed to disingenuous, specious charges of ‘anti-Semitism’ hurled at rational appraisals of the state of Israel’s political, military, and social conduct.”

Represents Jews as victims

Norman Finkelstein and Steven Zipperstein (professor of Jewish Culture and History at Stanford University) suggest that criticism of Israel is sometimes inappropriately considered to be anti-Semitism due to an inclination to perceive Jews as victims. Zipperstein suggests that the common attitude of seeing Jews as victims is sometimes implicitly transferred to the perception of Israel as a victim; while Finkelstein suggests that the depiction of Israel as a victim (as a “Jew among nations”) is a deliberate ploy to stifle criticism of Israel.

“Self-hating” Jews

Sander Gilman has written, “One of the most recent forms of Jewish self-hatred is the virulent opposition to the existence of the State of Israel.” He uses the term not against those who criticize Israel’s policy, but against Jews who oppose Israel’s existence. Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, asserts that the equation of Criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism has resulted in conflict within the Jewish community, in particular, proponents of the equation sometimes attack Jewish critics of Israeli policies as “self-hating Jews“. Lerner also claims that the equation of Criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and the resulting charges of “self hating Jew” has resulted in the alienation of young Jews from their faith 

Antony Lerman believes that many attacks on Jewish critics of Israel are “vitriolic, ad hominem and indiscriminate” and claims that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism have been defined too broadly and without reason. Lerman also states that the “redefinition” of anti-Semitism to include anti-Zionism has caused Jews to attack other Jews, because many Jews are leaders in several anti-Zionist organizations.

Nicholas Saphir, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the New Israel Fund in the UK published an open letter defending non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that operate within Israel to promote civil rights. He said that several organisations such as NGO Monitor, Israel Resource News Agency, WorldNetDaily and the Near and Middle East Policy Review “associate moral and ethical criticism of any activity by Israel or the policies of its Government as being anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and when conducted by Jews, as evidence of self-hatred.”[

Scare tactics

The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network is also opposed to the use of the antisemitic label to suppress criticism, and objected to the “fear tactics” employed when the anti-Semitic label was applied to supporters of Israel Apartheid Week, claiming that it was reminiscent of the anti-Communist scare tactics of the 1950s.

Michael Lerner suggests that some United States politicians are reluctant to criticise Israel because they are afraid of being labelled anti-Semitic.  Lerner also states that groups that promote peace in the mid-East are afraid to form coalitions, lest they be discredited by what Lerner terms the “Jewish Establishment”.

Draws attention away from genuine antisemitism

Brian Klug asserts that proponents of New Antisemitism define antisemitism so broadly that they deprive the term “antisemitism” of all meaning. Klug writes: “… when anti-Semitism is everywhere, it is nowhere. And when every anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite, we no longer know how to recognize the real thing–the concept of anti-Semitism loses its significance.”

In the book The Politics of Anti-Semitism Scott Handleman writes: “Partisans of Israel often make false accusations of anti-Semitism to silence Israel’s critics. The ‘antisemite’ libel is harmful not only because it censors debate about Israel’s racism and human rights abuses but because it trivializes the ugly history of Jew-hatred.”

Excessive accusations of antisemitism may result in backlash

Brian Klug argues that excessive claims of anti-Semitism (leveled at critics of Israel) may backfire and contribute to anti-Semitism, and he writes “a McCarthyite tendency to see anti-Semites under every bed, arguably contributes to the climate of hostility toward Jews”

Tony Judt also suggests that Israel’s “insistent identification” of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is now the leading source of anti-Jewish sentiment in the world

Michael Lerner echos those thoughts and suggests that the continued “repression” of criticism of Israel may eventually “explode” in an outburst of genuine anti-Semitism.

Attacking the messenger rather than the message

Michael Lerner claims that some supporters of Israel refuse to discuss legitimate criticisms of Israel (such as comparisons with apartheid) and instead attack the people who raise such criticisms, thus deliberately “shifting the discourse to the legitimacy of the messenger and thus avoiding the substance of the criticisms”.

Exaggerating the equation in order to draw sympathy

Alan Dershowitz distinguishes between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, but he claims that some “enemies of Israel” encourage the equation of the two, because it makes the enemies appear to be victims of false accusations of anti-Semitism, which the enemies use in an attempt to gain sympathy for their cause.

Suppression of Criticism

A number of commentators have debated whether public criticism of Israel is suppressed outside of Israel, particularly within the United States. Stephen Zunes writes that “assaults on critics of Israeli policies have been more successful in limiting open debate, but this gagging censorship effect stems more from ignorance and liberal guilt than from any all-powerful Israel lobby.” He goes on to explain that while “some criticism of Israel really is rooted in anti-Semitism,” it is his opinion that some members of the Israel lobby cross the line by labeling intellectually honest critics of Israel as anti-Semitic. Zunes argues that the mainstream and conservative Jewish organizations have “created a climate of intimidation against many who speak out for peace and human rights or who support the Palestinians‘ right of self-determination.” Zunes has been on the receiving end of this criticism himself: “As a result of my opposition to US support for the Israeli government’s policies of occupation, colonization and repression, I have been deliberately misquoted, subjected to slander and libel, and falsely accused of being “anti-Semitic” and “supporting terrorism”; my children have been harassed and my university’s administration has been bombarded with calls for my dismissal.”  In an opinion piece for The Guardian, Jimmy Carter wrote that mainstream American politics does not give equal time to the Palestinian side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that this is due at least in part to AIPAC…

Criticism stifled by accusations of antisemitism

..Several commentators have asserted that supporters of Israel attempt to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel by unfairly labeling critics as antisemitic.

One of the major themes of Norman Finkelstein‘s book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History is that some supporters of Israel employ accusations of anti-Semitism to attack critics of Israel, with the goal of discrediting the critics and silencing the criticism. Professors Judy Rebick and Alan Sears, in response to Israel Apartheid Week activities at Carleton University, wrote an open letter to the University president which claimed that accusations of anti-Semitism are sometimes made with the goal of “silencing” criticism of Israel.

Journalist Peter Beaumont also claims that some proponents of the concept of New Antisemitism conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Tariq Ali, a British-Pakistani historian and political activist, argues that the concept of new antisemitism amounts to an attempt to subvert the language in the interests of the State of Israel. He writes that the campaign against “the supposed new ‘anti-semitism’” in modern Europe is a “cynical ploy on the part of the Israeli Government to seal off the Zionist state from any criticism of its regular and consistent brutality against the Palestinians…. Criticism of Israel can not and should not be equated with anti-semitism.” He argues that most pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist groups that emerged after the Six-Day War were careful to observe the distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

Jewish Voice for Peace has spoken against what they see as the abuse of the antisemitic label. For example, in an opinion piece, they wrote “For decades, some leaders of the Jewish community have made the preposterous claim that there is complete unity of belief and interest between all Jews and the Israeli government, no matter what its policies. They must believe their own propaganda, because they see no difference between criticism of the Israeli government and anti-Semitism, and they do everything they can to silence critical voices. If the brand of anti-Semitism is not sufficiently intimidating, the silencing has been enforced by organized phone and letter-writing campaigns, boycotts, threats of, and actual withdrawal of funding support from ‘offending’ institutions and individuals.”

Accusations are public relations efforts

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt claim that the accusations of anti-Semitism leveled at critics of Israel are deliberately timed to defuse the impact of the criticisms. They suggest a pattern where accusations of antisemitism rise immediately following aggressive actions by Israel: following the Six-Day War, following the 1982 Lebanon War, and following exposure of “brutal behavior in the Occupied Territories” in 2002.

Norman Finkelstein says that to further a public relations campaign, apologists for Israel make accusations of what they call a “new anti-Semitism” against those they oppose, and that they do so deliberately in order to undermine critics and bolster the nation’s image. Finkelstein also asserts that “American Jewish organizations” purposefully increase vocal accusations of anti-Semitism during episodes when Israel is coming under increased criticism (such as the during the Intifada), with the goal of discrediting critics of Israel.

Critics of Israel who have been accused of antisemitism

Critics of Israel who have been accused of antisemitism and have denied the allegation include Ralph Nader, John Mearsheimer, Cindy Sheehan, Jenny Tonge, Ken Livingstone, Desmond Tutu, and Helen Thomas.

Professor J. Lorand Matory is a vocal critic of Israel who supports disinvestment from Israel. Larry Summers, president of Harvard, called efforts by Matory and others to divest from Israel “anti-Semitic in effect, if not intent.” According to Matory, “the knee jerk accusation that targeted criticism of Israel singles out Israel is as absurd as stating that the anti-apartheid movement was singling out South Africa.”

Professor Noam Chomsky argues that Israel’s foreign minister Abba Eban equated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in an effort to “exploit anti-racist sentiment for political ends”, citing statement Eban made in 1973: “One of the chief tasks of any dialogue with the Gentile world is to prove that the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is not a distinction at all.” Commenting on Eban’s statement, Chomsky replied: “That is a convenient stand. It cuts off a mere 100 percent of critical comment!” In 2002, Chomsky wrote that this equation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism was being extended to criticism of Israeli policies, not just criticism of Zionism. Chomsky also wrote that, when the critics of Israel are Jewish, the accusations of anti-Semitism involve descriptions of self-hatred. In 2004, Chomsky said “If you identify the country, the people, the culture with the rulers, accept the totalitarian doctrine, then yeah, it’s anti-Semitic to criticize the Israeli policy, and anti-American to criticize the American policy, and it was anti-Soviet when the dissidents criticized Russian policy. You have to accept deeply totalitarian assumptions not to laugh at this.” However, Oliver Kamm contends that Chomsky inaccurately interpreted Eban’s comments.

Musician Roger Waters is a critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and was accused by the ADL of using anti-Semitic imagery in one of his recent musical productions. Waters responded by stating that the ADL regularly portrays critics of Israel as anti-Semitic, and that “it is a screen they [the ADL] hide behind”.

n 2002 Desmond Tutu is a critic of Israel who has compared Israel’s policies to apartheid South Africa. Tutu wrote that criticism of Israel is suppressed in the United States, and that criticisms of Israel are “immediately dubbed anti-Semitic”.

Michael Prior was a vocal critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and who was frequently accused of anti-Semitism, yet he was careful to distinguish between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

Ken Livingstone, former mayor of the City of London, was accused of antisemitism for a variety of comments, including remarks criticizing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. In response, Livingstone wrote “For 20 years Israeli governments have attempted to portray anyone who forcefully criticizes the policies of Israel as anti-semitic. The truth is the opposite: the same universal human values that recognize the Holocaust as the greatest racist crime of the 20th century require condemnation of the policies of successive Israeli governments – not on the absurd grounds that they are Nazi or equivalent to the Holocaust, but because ethnic cleansing, discrimination and terror are immoral.”

Peace activist Cindy Sheehan claims she has been improperly accused of being anti-Semitic because of her anti-war position, particularly her criticism of the Israel lobby and Israel’s actions towards Palestinians. Sheehan emphasized that her criticism of Israel is “not to be construed as hatred of all Jews”.

Critics that suggest censorship or suppression

Political scientists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt wrote an article critical of the Israel lobby in the United States, in which they asserted that the Israel lobby uses accusations of anti-Semitism as a part of a deliberate strategy to suppress criticism of Israel. Mearsheimer and Walt themselves were accused of anti-Semitism as a result of that article and the book they wrote based on the article.

Jenny Tonge, member of the UK House of Lords, has frequently criticized Israel’s policies, and has been labelled antisemitic.  In response, she said during a speech in Parliament: “I’m beginning to understand … the vindictive actions the Israel lobby [and] AIPAC … take against people who oppose and criticize the lobby…. [I understand] … the constant accusations of antisemitism – when no such sentiment exists – to silence Israel’s critics.”

Ralph Nader, United States politician and consumer advocate, has criticized Israel’s policies, expressed support for Palestinian causes, and criticized the excessive influence of the Israel lobby on the U. S. government. In response, Nader wrote a letter to the director of the Anti-Defamation League entitled “Criticizing Israel is Not Anti-Semitism” in which he said “Your mode of operation for years has been to make charges of racism or insinuation of racism designed to slander and evade. Because your pattern of making such charges, carefully calibrated for the occasion but of the same stigmatizing intent, has served to deter critical freedom of speech…. The ADL should be working toward this objective [peace] and not trying to suppress realistic discourse on the subject with epithets and innuendos.”

William I. Robinson, a professor at UCSB, was accused of being antisemitic due to a class assignment that revolved around Israel’s attack on the Gaza strip, and he replied by stating that the Israel lobby labels “any criticism” of Israel as anti-Semitic In response, Robinson said: “The fact that I did include my interpretation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is totally within what is normal and expected…. One of the most pressing affairs of January was the Israeli assault on Gaza – there was nothing that could be more relevant to this course at that time. When you bring up delicate, sensitive, inflammatory, controversial material in the classroom, we as professors are carrying out our mission to jar students in order to challenge them to think critically about world issues…. The Israel lobby is possibly the most powerful lobby in the United States, and what they do is label any criticism of anti-Israeli conduct and practices as anti-Semitic” Robinson said. “This campaign is not just an attempt to punish me. The Israel lobby is stepping up its vicious attacks on anyone who would speak out against Israeli policies.”

Dr. Steven Salaita, an American expert on comparative literature and post-colonialism, became embroiled in a controversy regarding freedom of speech for faculty at American universities when his offer of employment was withdrawn from UIUC by Chancellor Dr. Phyllis Wise, a move some regard as an infringement on Salaita’s freedom of speech. During the 2014 conflict between Israel and Gaza, he had published tweets that were seen as criticism of the Israeli government, and Salaita claims that as a result, pro-Israel advocates associated with the university accused him of anti-Semitism and pressured the university to rescind its offer of employment to him. As a result of his outspoken critique of the university’s handling of his situation, Haaretz notes that Salaita has established “celebrity status on the lecture circuit.”

Fars New Agency: Ben Norton: Israel Is the Master of Racism and Dehumanization

QFor a long time, the Israeli politicians have been using the cover of “anti-Semitism” to obstruct any criticism of their actions and discriminatory policies against the Palestinians. They automatically brand as anti-Semite and Jew-hater anyone who condemns their brutalities, regardless of the essence and content of the criticism that has been leveled. Is the excuse of anti-Semitism going to work for a long time and help the Israeli leaders evade accountability and facing justice?

A: Zionists use many obscene and vile tactics to defend their racist, settler colonialist ideology, yet the ubiquitous anti-Semitic slur may very well be the most repugnant of them all.

The unfortunate reality is that many people do not know the difference between Judaism or Jewishness and Zionism. Zionism is an explicitly racist and explicitly settler colonialist ideology. The “Father” of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, openly spoke of “the idea of Zionism, which is a colonial idea,” calling it “something colonial.” Zionists exploit this ignorance of the definition of Zionism in order to whitewash Israeli crimes.

In many ways, it can in fact be argued that Zionism is itself an anti-Semitic movement. Many Zionists have gotten to the point where they are so extreme in their jingoist hyper-nationalism that they try to argue that anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic, because it opposes a movement that fights for “Jewish self-determination,” they claim. This position is grotesquely anti-Semitic, as it suggests that all Jews have the same conception of “Jewish self-determination,” let alone that all Jews believe a homogenous, apartheid, ethnocratic Jewish state is the expression of “Jewish self-determination.” In short, when Zionists claim anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, what they are actually saying is that all Jews have the same political ideas and believe the same things. Now that is anti-Semitism.

What is worst of all about this abominable practice is that it is often directed at Jews themselves. According to many Zionists, Jews who oppose Zionism – read: a racist, colonialist movement – are “self-hating,” or even “not” Jewish. This is anti-Semitism in its most blatant form. Zionists construct an essentialist view of Jewishness that says that “this is what it means to be a Jew.” This is already a racist act. Then, Zionists call Jews who do not conform to their essentialist conception of Jewishness “self-hating” or “not Jewish.” Sometimes, the Zionists who are calling anti-Zionist Jews “self-hating” or “not Jewish” are not even Jewish themselves! This is racism in its rawest form.

This problem is not limited exclusively to Zionism. This is a problem with nationalism itself. A quick caveat here: Nationalism is not necessarily always a reactionary ideology. There are certainly historical examples in which nationalism was an important way of united members of oppressed groups in order to resist oppressor groups. Most of the time, however—and all of the time when it is nationalism practiced by an oppressor group, as in the case of Israel—nationalism is a fundamentally reactionary ideology.

Leading anti-imperialist scholar Eqbal Ahmad constantly warned of its dangers, explaining “Nationalism is an ideology which always has the Other. And therefore, it’s a double distortion. You distort by glorifying your own, and you distort by darkening the other’s history.” Zionism, like any form of nationalism, constructs a false binary of the world, seeing the Palestinian as the “Other.” This binary is predicated on racism.

In a discussion about nationalism with Mubashir Hasan, Ahmad’s colleague and comrade, the former cautioned nationalism “unites the exploiters and exploited to fight united exploiters and exploited of other nations. And thus it prevents social change.”

Accordingly, Zionists often use anti-Semitism as an excuse to disguise the real reasons why Palestinians engage in resistance against the state that is ethnically cleansing and colonizing them. Zionists reiterate ad nauseam the preposterous notion that “all Palestinians are anti-Semitic.” For starters, this ignores the fact that Palestinians are Semitic themselves. The term “anti-Semitic” was created by racist 19th-century German pseudo-scientists. Like most racists, they were asinine, and used “Semite” as synonymous with “Jews,” without realizing that both Jews and Arabs are Semites.

Beyond that, this cheap tactic also explicitly silences what the Palestinian resistance itself has to say. In her autobiography, Palestinian revolutionary Leila Khaled writes “The supreme objective of the Palestinian liberation movement is the total liberation of Palestine, the dismantlement of the Zionist state apparatus, and the construction of a socialist society in which both Arabs and Jews can live in peace and harmony.” Creating a state “in which both Arabs and Jews can live in peace and harmony” is the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it is one that many Palestinians have been calling for for decades.

It is rarely mentioned, but it must be said. The fact of the matter is that Zionism is one of the primary instigators of anti-Semitism in the world. Zionism, by constantly claiming that Israel represents the Jewish people, and by constantly silencing and persecuting Jewish voices who oppose this racist narrative and challenge Israel’s crimes against humanity, is one of the principal reasons anti-Semitism continues to be a problem. This is just one of the many ways in which the Palestinian solidarity movement is a fundamentally anti­-racist movement.


Further Research

Ny Times: Time to Break the Silence on Palestine

Truthout: Michelle Alexander Is Right About Israel-Palestine

Vox: The Ilhan Omar anti-Semitism controversy, explained

BBC: What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?

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Anti Palestinian Dog Whistles

  1. Israel has a right to exist
    • Possible to say without being anti-Palestinian
      • But only if Palestinian right to exist is included
        • Not zero sum gain based on racial hierarchy with Jews on top and Palestinian lives devalued
  2. Israel has a right to defend itself
    • Often stated after Israeli war crime against Palestinians
    • Victim blames Palestinians
      • by critiquing some of their forms of resistance
        • while not acknowledging their need to resist
      • “If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression.” Jesse Williams – BET Awards
  3. Okay to criticize Israel but avoid anti-Semitic tropes
    • Important if there are real anti-Semitism present but usually done to deny the ability to accurately discuss Israeli lobbying efforts in US
      • Especially if you’re Muslim
    • When done falsely, used as strawman argument to avoid talking about real issue
      • Any anti-Semitic accusation immediately takes center stage
        • Removing any conservation Palestinian rights
  4. Victim Blaming and Minimalization
    • “Human shields”, “Palestinians are violent by nature” “Rain of Rockets”
      • while ignoring Israel’s actions causing the need to resist and its disproportionate response
    • Denying or minimizing current and past oppression
      • including the Nakba
    • Belief Palestinians don’t want peace
      • They do but not on Israel’s conditions which ends Paletstinian right of return and land claims after 1967

Josh Singer: Four Common Anti-Palestinian Dog Whistles

A deeper look into pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian rhetoric.

We never really allow space for the stories of Palestinians seeking safety and sanctuary to be uplifted. And to me, it is the dehumanization and the silencing of a particular pain and suffering of people, should not be ok and normal. And you can’t be in the practice of humanizing and uplifting the suffering of one, if you’re not willing to do that for everyone.

—Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, during a 2019 progressive town hall.

Over the last few months, Ilhan Omar, a hijab-wearing black female Muslim House Representative, has kick-started numerous national debates over topics avoided in most households, such as Israel/AIPAC’s lobbying influence over the U.S. government, the 26 anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement) state laws that require public contractors and companies to pledge not to boycott Israel on penalty of losing their jobs/contracts and being blacklisted, and the difference between anti-Semitism and criticizing Israel. These debates have touched on numerous issues this country is grappling with: sexism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism. Last month’s House resolution condemning hate led to the calling-out of a wide range of discrimination in the U.S. including the first resolution condemning anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation’s history. But one issue keeps getting left out of these debates and condemnations: anti-Palestinian rhetoric.

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If you follow national debates on Israeli policies, you’ll hear certain oft-repeated phrases. These phrases sound like legitimate concerns that no moral person could argue against, such as “Israel has a right to exist.” Who would be so horrible to argue against the very existence of a country with over eight million citizens? Although there are legitimate threats to Israel, this phrase is often evoked, not as a counter to these threats, but as a straw man argument, distorting and blocking urgent and life-threatening questions like “who doesn’t have the right to exist due to Israeli policies?” and “can more than one group of people have the right to exist together, with full human rights and dignity for everyone, in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank?”

Many of these pro-Israel phrases seem race neutral and coming from a place of compassion, but in reality they can hide, often unconsciously, anti-Palestinian beliefs by omitting Palestinian stories and struggles for human rights and dignity from debates on Israeli policies. These omissions often imply that either Palestinian lives don’t matter or that they have less value in a racial hierarchy of who gets to exist in the region.

This type of racism by omission is often promoted through racial dog whistles, or coded racism that politicians and pundits use when they want to demonize, attack, or devalue a specific race of people while appearing race neutral. To better understand national debates on Israeli policies affecting Palestinians, it’s imperative to be able to recognize common anti-Palestinian racial dog whistles.

1. Israel’s “right to exist”

Israel’s right to exist IS possible to support without being anti-Palestinian—but only if the Palestinian right to exist is equally supported. Israel and Palestine’s history and fate are so entwined that to support one’s existence would come at the expense of the other. To say Israel has a right to exist (without mentioning Palestine) is often implying Palestinians don’t have a right to exist and their lives don’t matter.

And this dog whistle also ignores the history of 750,000 Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homes in 1948 by Israel, known as the Nakba or “catastrophe.” Israel’s version of this history claims Palestinians left on their own accord as war refugees. Regardless of which version you accept, it’s still illegal under international law to deny refugees the right of return after war. Because of Israel’s continual denial of Palestinian refugees’ right of return, one of every three refugees in the world today is a Palestinian.

2. Israel’s “right to defend itself”

This dog whistle is often pushed after Israel has done something horrific against Palestinians, such as shooting over 6000 Palestinian protesters and intentionally killing children, medics, and reporters during Gaza’s Great March of Return. This idea is used to victim-blame the Palestinians by falsely claiming the Palestinian fight for freedom against Israel oppression and occupation is a threat to Israel itself, which justifies and removes responsibility for Israel killing civilians, torturing youth, and denying millions of people basic needs (water, food, medicine, etc.). To believe that only Israel has the “right to defend itself” is to imply that when Palestinians are defending their homes and fighting for their freedom, they’re actually the aggressors who deserve what they get.

3. The “Human Shields” of Hamas

Hamas, the elected government in Gaza, was formed during the First Intifada, a brutally repressed Palestinian popular uprising against Israel occupation. Hamas is no stranger to human rights violations and is arguably doing more harm than good for Palestinians in Gaza. But to criticize Hamas, without criticizing the oppressive occupation and brutality that created Hamas and drives their current policies, is again the same as criticizing Nat Turner’s violence without criticizing slavery. Jesse Williams explained it eloquently during the 2016 BET Awards: “If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression.” To critique Palestinian resistance without acknowledging their need to resist is racism by omission.

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The “human shields” dog whistle is one of many victim-blaming tropes that stereotypes Palestinians as violent people who deserve Israeli violence and who need to be controlled by Israeli occupation. It implies that Palestinians are the ones responsible when Israel kills civilians.

4. It’s possible to criticize Israel without invoking anti-Semitism

To be clear its 100 percent possible to separate criticism of Israel from criticism of Jews in general, especially when the criticism is focused on the policies—and not the ethnic makeup—of institutions. But for many Israel supporters, no criticism of Israel will ever be free of anti-Semitism because their goal is not to get to the truth but to create strawman arguments to avoid ever getting there.

Omar summarized this dog whistle at a 2019 progressive townhall: “It’s almost as if every single time we say something, regardless of what it is we say, that it’s supposed to be about foreign policy or engagement, that our advocacy about ending oppression, or the freeing of every human life and wanting dignity, we get to be labeled in something, and that’s the end of the discussion, because we end up defending that, and nobody gets to have the broader debate of ‘what is happening with Palestine?’”

Mondoweiss: Anti-Palestinian Tropes

I googled the phrase “anti-Palestinian tropes.” Nearly all the articles I saw were about Omar’s alleged antisemitism.

I then used the advanced search feature and found a thread on “anti-Palestinian tropes” from Yousef Munayyer.

It is safe to say that concern over anti-Palestinian racism and concern about anti-Palestinian tropes is virtually nonexistent in mainstream American politics or the media. People in those venues seem unaware that such concepts could exist, let alone wonder whether they themselves might be influenced by them. Most people who write for or read papers such as the NYT are probably upper middle class or above and see themselves as liberal and sophisticated. They judge others by the standards they hold and it doesn’t occur to them that they might have their own moral blindspots and their own taboos, some justifiable and some not.

Ilhan Omar is not part of their bubble. She said things which upset them, so for them the issue is whether she did this out of deliberate malice or did she just stumble into it out of ignorance? The fact that she upset them twice in one month has caused an upheaval of sorts.

One finds liberals defending Omar by treating her as an unsophisticated immigrant who doesn’t know the minefields of this topic. This comes from people who see themselves as her nuanced frustrated critical defenders, like Michelle Goldberg.

Nancy Pelosi has also adopted this stance.

It might be useful to think of what to say to pundits and American liberals in general who live inside this bubble, complacently assuming that they have the understanding and moral authority to determine how the Israel-Palestine issue should be discussed. I exist in this bubble myself and might still be under its influence. Still, here are my suggestions for Americans on anti-Palestinian tropes to avoid when writing about antisemitic tropes to avoid. If you fall into such tropes, you run the risk of encouraging anti-Palestinian racism. A sincere liberal wouldn’t want to do this. They might fall into using anti-Palestinian tropes in the way they think people less sophisticated might blunder into saying something antisemitic, but they should want to avoid doing this. Of course some or many of Omar’s critics are anti-Palestinian bigots who do not wish to change, but this piece is written for liberals who would not want to spread racism if they were made aware of how they might be doing so.

You should read the list in Munayyer’s thread above. Then here is mine. In no particular order—

Trope 1. “Israel has a right to exist.”

Boom. You just stepped on a mine. It is possible to say this without intending anything anti-Palestinian. You might be arguing, as some have, that Israel has the legal right (like any other nation no matter how bad its human rights record) to exist inside well-defined borders without being invaded, though we could then move on to that topic of the human rights violations. One could argue about all this. It sounds funny talking about the sacred nature of borders coming from any American given how often we invade or bomb or support terrorist attacks on others and also given the ill defined location of Israel’s borders. But there is no need to argue about it, because few people mean it that way.

What the phrase actually means in most cases is that Palestinians have no right to exist in their own homeland so don’t bring it up or you are an antisemite. The sentence is meant to shut down any moral judgement about the Nakba, or preferably any mention of it at all. One can employ the concept without using the actual sentence. See, for instance, Roger Cohen’s recent attack on Jeremy Corbyn, where Cohen says he is a proud Zionist and gives a one line history of 1948, complete with parenthetical invading Arab armies.

(Arab armies went to war against [the U.N.’s] Palestinian-Jewish territorial compromise and lost)

One could say something about that invasion, which came weeks after the April 9 massacre at Deir Yassin and the generation of 300,000 Palestinian refugees and which in the case of Transjordan was an invasion of the land to be granted the Palestinian State– but never mind.

The big point here is that Roger Cohen leaves out the Nakba. Cohen wants to make a case for Zionism based on the threat of antisemitism. If he asked me what Jews in the 1930’s should have done facing the Nazi threat, I have no good answer. The threat was real and became genocidal. Even the countries opposed to Nazism were permeated with antisemitism to varying degrees. There was clearly an extremely urgent need for a refuge for Jews in that era.

But I know the Nakba was an enormous crime, two wrongs don’t make a right, and it is impossible to have a serious discussion about Zionism without even mentioning the Nakba. Some would try to justify it. Mr. Cohen, I imagine, realizes he can’t bring himself to do this, so he solves the problem by not mentioning it.

To some degree Zionist arguments prevail with Western Christians because of Christian guilt. Christians know that Jews were persecuted over the centuries because of Christian antisemitism. Supporting Zionism and ignoring the crimes committed by Israel amounts to a cheap way to atone. The Palestinians become the scapegoats for the crimes of others. Of course, as they are not willing scapegoats, they have to be demonized to justify their treatment.

Trope 2. “Israel has a right to defend itself”.

This is always stated after Israel has committed some war crime. American politicians cite it like some sort of mantra. It is immoral to use this trope to excuse war crimes. But invariably, whenever Israel kills civilians you will find America politicians saying that Israel has a right to defend itself. Obama said this during the Gaza War of 2014, in which Israel defended itself by killing around 1500 civilians including 500 children. Several dozen Israelis died, including six civilians. Mainstream US politicians seem comfortable with calling all this self defense.

Israel continues to shoot unarmed Palestinian protesters. Last year, the New York Times carried four columns defending this practice and putting all the blame for the deaths on Hamas.

Two of these columnists, Bret Stephens and Tom Friedman, now condemn Omar.

Can anyone imagine the New York Times publishing a piece defending a Palestinian terror attack on civilians as justified because Palestinians have the right to defend themselves, one which said that the blame should fall entirely on Israel? What would the reaction be if they did?

There would be a nationwide uproar, because a defense of the murder of Israeli Jewish civilians would be rightly seen as a moral outrage , but the murder of Palestinians is just a PR problem for Israel and not in any sense a moral outrage. If people defend it, they get space in the New York Times to do so and there is no fuss about this at all.

Cohen and Goldberg work there. I gather that there is apparently a policy in place forbidding New York Times columnists from criticizing each other by name, or criticizing the editors.

But they could write columns criticizing the callous contempt of some of Israel’s American supporters without naming their colleagues. Will they? I don’t know.

Trope 3– “One can criticize Israel as harshly as one wants, but one should avoid antisemitic tropes in doing so.”

I agree. But for most of those who say this, it is empty rhetoric. How many of the people saying this about Omar actually write articles condemning Israeli apartheid or war crimes or the indecency of those who defend them? And what exactly did Omar say that was inaccurate regarding the Lobby? It is almost certainly true that part of Omar’s crime was criticizing the Lobby while being a Muslim. But even Bret Stephens condemns Islamophobia.

Bret Stephens, the honest critic of Israel and foe of Islamophobia, actually gets to strike that pose in the same paper that prints his defense of killing protesters.

Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Warren have weighed in with statements that painted Omar as a victim of Islamophobia — which she is — without mentioning that she’s also a purveyor of anti-Semitic bigotry — which she surely is as well.

And notice that the instant an accusation of antisemitism is made, it immediately takes center stage, while Palestinian rights, never very important to begin with, fade away to the level of a meta- topic if they are mentioned at all. Yes, theoretically we are told, you could say some mean things about settlements and Netanyahu. It won’t make any difference to our support for Israel if Israel just brushes it off, of course. It never has. People have been criticizing Israel for decades and we continue to support them. It is Kabuki theater.

Let’s move on. Goldberg is angry that Republicans who are far more bigoted than Omar (in her view, Omar is a bit of a bigot) get away with so much.

This is the safe way to defend Omar. To Goldberg, the other Democrats are the heroes of the story, trying to figure out how to punish Omar for her “mild antisemitism” (Goldberg’s words, not my view) while not letting the bigoted Republicans get away with anything.

Could there be anti Palestinian bigotry in the Congresspeople of both parties who give billions every year to Israel no matter how badly Israel treats Palestinians? Should these people be criticized for their cowardice or apathy or bigotry? It doesn’t seem to be a question that any of Omar’s critics wish to ask. Omar is not part of the club, so she can be called a bigot.

As it turns out, she has supporters in Congress, so Congress decided to condemn all forms of bigotry except the one they nearly all practice, which is anti-Palestinianism. I sound sarcastic here, yet believe it or not I am trying to avoid any cheap sarcasm. Much of our political discussion in America makes sense if you think of it as the behavior of high school cliques. That extends well beyond this topic, but I digress.

Trope 4– “What about X? How can you be motivated by anything except bigotry if you focus only on Israel and ignore X?”

I don’t object to “whataboutism” in general. I use it myself. “Whataboutism” when honest is pointing out hypocrisy. One of the earliest known examples is from the Bible when the prophet Nathan confronts King David for his plot to have Uriah murdered to cover up David’s adultery with Bathsheba.

(It is fascinating and touching to reach across millennia and see that David feels genuine outrage on behalf of the poor man whose beloved pet was slaughtered by the rich man. Whataboutism works best on people with a conscience.)

But whataboutism when used should be accurate.

Whataboutism has been used several times against Omar. In a deleted tweet for which she apologized, Julia Ioffe said Omar should criticize the Saudis. Of course, Omar has been a very harsh critic of the Saudis. People who employ this move are making an unconscious bigoted assumption that because Omar is a Muslim she must be a bigoted antisemitic hypocrite who doesn’t criticize any Muslim state.

Tom Friedman used this argument, though he used Syria instead.

[W]hen I see [the dual loyalty charge] coming from a congresswoman who seems to be obsessed with Israel’s misdeeds as the biggest problem in the Middle East — not Iran’s effective occupation of four Arab capitals, its support for ethnic cleansing and the use of poison gas in Syria and its crushing of Lebanese democracy — it makes me suspicious of her motives.

He couldn’t use the Saudis, because Friedman has been one of the biggest bin Salman boosters around and after the murder of his friend Khashoggi he said that this murder was worse in principle if not in number than the war in Yemen, a war he had largely ignored.

Whataboutism is also used in a unique way with Palestinians. There is no other group where, if you advocate for their rights, you can guarantee that some liberals will say you should be looking at fifty other groups first. The unspoken assumption, probably below the level of conscious thought in most cases, is that Palestinians don’t matter and so the only reason one could possibly care must be antisemitism.

Trope 5. “Rain of rockets”.

No one with any sense of fairness would compare Hamas rocket fire with what Israel does to Gaza. But there is no more widely-used mainstream cliche that describes the vastly more destructive Israeli actions except “Israel has the right to defend itself.”

It also doesn’t matter who shoots first or whether the Gaza blockade itself is a war on the population. By definition Hamas rocket fire is the justification for Israeli brutality, no matter what the order of events.

Trope 6– Apologetics for pint-sized Hitlers.

This is actually off the topic of Palestinians, but a couple of weeks ago Ilhan Omar clashed with Elliott Abrams, a noted defender of murderous and even genocidal Central American allies in the 1980’s. Several members of the foreign policy “community” rushed to Abrams’s defense. This included some liberals. It is interesting to see how little interest this created among most of those who now criticize Omar. If you are part of the Blob, you can actually have a history of apologetics for pint-sized Hitler types, and it doesn’t matter.

One could go on. The point is that we do have dehumanizing anti-Palestinian tropes that are used all the time and so far as I know, it never occurred to any of the mainstream liberal Omar critics to write about them.

They need to come outside their bubble, turn around, and see what it looks like from the outside. As best I can tell, it looks like a high school clique, but one with a hugely magnified power to ostracize and bully and namecall, as well as bomb and invade and blockade and occupy. If you are part of the American Empire, maybe you could learn something from Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia, about how it appears from someone born outside.

Do I mean that as some sort of melodramatic cheap shot? No. Members of the educated professional American class (of all religions or none) need to stop thinking of themselves as the final moral arbiters of right and wrong.

Look at what America has done in the Middle East over the past few decades under both parties. Do we look like people in a position to give lectures to anyone?

Mondoweiss: The trope of an ‘Arab-Israeli conflict’ is an anti-Palestinian fallacy

The so-called “Deal of the Century,” i.e. the Trump administration’s latest approach towards Palestinians, appears as yet another colonial endeavor. In line with traditional U.S. concepts of the Middle East, the Trump administration is continuously trying to silence Palestinians, and is increasingly receiving support from its Gulf Arab allies. United in their shared aversion to Iran, Saudi Arabia and its allies are stepping up their gradual normalization with Israel. In the current intertwining of U.S., Arab, and Israeli geo-political, ideological, and capitalist interests, Palestinians find themselves even more isolated. Still, more often than not, their fate is being further dismissed under the guise of an alleged “Arab-Israeli conflict.”

The “Deal of the Century”

The Trump administration intends to soon announce the details of its “Deal of the Century” that is supposed to trigger a solution to the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Under the title “Peace to Prosperity,” a workshop introducing the economic component of this plan is scheduled to take place in Manama on June 25 and 26. According to a joint statement issued by the United States and Bahrain, the event will “facilitate discussions on an ambitious, achievable vision and framework for a prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region[.]” It aims to strengthen economic governance, develop human capital and facilitate the growth of the private sector. “If implemented,” the United States and Bahrain claim, “this vision has the potential to radically transform lives and put the region on a path toward a brighter future.“

There is hardly anything radical about these intentions. The “Deal of the Century” was designed by proud Zionists close to Donald Trump, i.e. his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Middle East advisor Jason Greenblatt, and U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who supports settlement expansion and annexation. Palestinians were not consulted.

Effectively, the United States is offering an economic sugarcoating of the brutal U.S.-enabled Israeli occupation of Palestine in order to deflect attention from the Palestinian struggle.

Palestinian representatives protested. The PLO announced that it would not attend:

“We reiterate that we did not mandate anyone to negotiate on our behalf. Those concerned and want to serve the interest of the Palestinian people should respect this collective position. Palestine’s full economic potential can only be achieved by ending the Israeli occupation, respecting international law and UN resolutions.”

Palestinian political representatives and influential economists have furthermore accused the United States of trying to bribe and buy off Palestinians through the exchange of large sums of money for a halt to resistance effort.

U.S.-Arab-Israeli Engagement

The circumstances around these current diplomatic efforts underscore the subjugation of Palestinians under a joint U.S.-Arab approach.

Despite being Israel’s staunchest protector at the international stage, the United States has for decades presented itself as a so-called “honest broker” between the colonizer and the colonized. U.S. policies implemented a peace for the Israeli project only, enabling the expanding colonization of Palestine.

While previous U.S. governments at times pretended to be balanced, the Trump administration’s honesty about its staunch endorsement of the Israeli far-right has made more obvious than ever that U.S. support for Israel is not necessarily depending on individual political action, but that it is a pre-political, structural affinity instead.

Arab-Israeli Harmony and Anti-Iranian Incitement

A normalization between Saudi Arabia, its allies, and Israel has been ongoing for a while. While the term “conflict” is still used as a reference for the relation between Israel and Arab governments, the reality of an Arab-Israeli harmony is by now difficult to ignore. Currently, the interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia intersect most visible in a common anti-Iranian ideology that is shared and backed by the United States.

As Emirati businessperson Khalaf Al Habtoor wrote for Israeli newspaper Haaretz: “Reducing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians will end 70 years of misery – and enable the Gulf states and Israel to halt our common enemy: Iran” His argument is emblematic of the broader approach: Palestinian suffering should be less visible, while Israel’s oppressive policies continue.

A hyperbolic construction of Iran as an existential threat in Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia has been accompanied by a celebration of Saudi Arabia in U.S. media and an increasing embrace of Israel by Saudi Arabia and its allies.

In order to broaden consent for anti-Iranian engagement, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) has at times been glorified as a revolutionary in mainstream U.S. media, which has commanded his alleged modernization efforts and progress with women’s rights, despite Saudi Arabia’s ongoing disastrous human rights record. Israel has increasingly promoted its alliance with the Saudi regime, aware that it necessitates a strong U.S.-aligned Saudi Arabia with a positive image in order to better market their common approach against Iran.

During the anti-Iranian conference in Warsaw in February 2019, Netanyahu bragged about his new friendship with Arab leaders as a “historic change” while aggressively promoting war with Iran.

“This conference in which you have brought together some sixty foreign ministers and Arab foreign ministers with an Israeli prime minister for the first time to stand together against Iran in such clarity, such unity. I think that this is something that we deeply appreciate.”

The presentation of Iran as a religiously extremist, destructive and expansionist force oftentimes entails projections of a second Holocaust. In Warsaw, Mike Pence claimed that “the Iranian regime openly advocates another Holocaust and it seeks the means to achieve it.”  MBS used his privileged access to mainstream U.S. media to engage in anti-Iranian rants. In an interview with TIME, he claimed: “If you see any problem in the Middle East, you will find Iran.” Aware of popular Zionist rhetoric, on multiple occasions said that Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was worse than Hitler.

Israel’s anti-Iranian propaganda has at times included sectarian hate speech, inciting Sunni Muslims to fight against an alleged Iranian and Shia threat. Israel has invested efforts in simplifying and rebranding any resistance against its policies as an Iranian conspiracy, implying that Palestinians would not protest against their own subjugation and fight for their survival if Iran did not incite them to.

These dynamics and ambitions leave Palestinians as an obstacle to full relations between Saudi Arabia, its allies, and Israel. The Deal of the Century can thus be comprehended as a measure to appease Palestinians.

The Fallacy of a “Conflict”

This framing of the Palestinian struggle within diplomatic language as a “conflict” that could be resolved through economic measures and political negotiations bears manifold fallacies.

The argument employs the liberal Zionist trope of a “conflict” between two parties. An “Arab-Israeli” or “Palestinian-Israeli” conflict has been a common reference in English-language media coverage on the “Deal of the Century.” For decades, such an assumption has formed the standard discourse in U.S. and European politics and has effectively helped to extend Israeli colonialism by obscuring it.

Israel is the colonizer, occupier, and hegemon. No matter what Palestinians do, if they resist peacefully, defend themselves, engage in armed struggle, collaborate with Israel, or embrace their own death, they remain colonial victims within a transnational network of violent policies. “Conflict,” however, serves to convert settler-colonial violence and genocidal erasure of the indigenous people into a diplomatic dispute.

The term also serves to impose a binary between a collective Arab world and Israel, in portraying the two as monolithic and mutually exclusive political concepts. The idea that there is an Arab-Israeli conflict is a dangerous simplification that enforces an anti-Palestinian reading of the reality in the Middle East, which is effectively one of considerably broad and more or less visible Arab-Israeli harmony and an ongoing Palestinian Nakba.

The category of a collective “Arab” as the Oriental “Other” has been a desired construct in Zionism, as the presentation of civilizational binaries has been crucial to Israel’s still ongoing nation-building process. In presenting Palestinians as mere members of a broader Arab political, national and/or ethnic unity, Israel has officially upheld a denial of a distinct Palestinian national identity and history. The notion of an “Arab-Israeli” conflict can further obscure the colonial and imperial dimensions and structures of Palestinian subjugation and erase the specificity of the Palestinian struggle.

The Manama Conference’s insistence on economic factors also bears the danger of wrongfully historicizing the so-called “conflict.” Even if one viewed the struggle over Palestine within a diplomatic framework, that very “conflict” is still ongoing. While the United States and some Gulf Arab governments are engaging in talks about economy, Israel is continuing its structural oppression of Palestinians, while the political discourse in Israel currently entails discussions over annexation.

Doomed to Fail

Like previous U.S. approaches to Palestine, the latest measures do not address Palestinian suffering. They ignore the struggle for self-determination and put Palestinian goals, such as an end to occupation, the dismantling of apartheid, decolonization, or, merely freedom, into further distance. Instead, they perpetuate the status quo, and are likely to further normalize an acceptability of the subjugation of Palestinians in parts of the Arab World. The latest developments could, however, further a process in which “Palestinian” and “Arab” become political antonyms and indeed end the so-called “Arab-Israeli” conflict. And as long as settler-colonial erasure remains the underlying structure, no economic relief or political measure could effectively benefit Palestinians.

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Israel/American Lobby

  • AIPAC/Israel lobbying in US
    • Financial and political contributions
      • Campaign finances, rallies, and political support for votes
    • Political influence
      • Israel arms deals
        • US provides more military aid to Israel
          • Than to any other state
        • Around 3 billion a year
      • UN vetoes
        • Since 1971, vetoed 43 UN resolutions protecting Israel
      • Anti-BDS
        • 26 state laws and a passed Senate bill
        • Condemns, blacklists, prohibits gov contracts
          • To anyone that doesn’t sign a pledge to not boycott Israel
  • Evangelical Christian backing
    • Increasing influence in Israel lobbying and policies
    • Belief that Jews, and only Jews, must rule over Jerusalem for return of Jesus

Vox: Why the US has the most pro-Israel foreign policy in the world

“Everyone knows the United States is Israel’s best friend. The US gives Israel billions of dollars in aid annually, consistently blocks UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel, and backs its military offensives publicly. But why? What’s the thinking behind America going above-and-beyond for Israel?

The short version: it’s complicated. The long version is that It’s a tight interplay of America’s long-running Middle East strategy, US public opinion/electoral politics, and a pro-Israel lobbying campaign that is effective, but maybe not as effective as you’ve heard. Here’s a guide to the different factors shaping America’s Israel policy — and how they relate to each other.

Since the Cold War, Israel has been the linchpin of American Middle East strategy

The US wasn’t always so close with Israel. For instance, when Israel (along with France and Britain) invaded Egypt in 1956, the United States sided against Israel, pushing the invaders to leave. And the US for years opposed, and worked actively against, Israel’s clandestine nuclear program. “Stated commitments to [Israel from American policymakers] cannot erase a legacy of US policies that often represented more of a threat than a support to Israeli security,” Michael Barnett, George Washington University political scientist, writes.

Even when the US did come to support Israel, it was more about cold strategic calculation than the domestic political support you see today. The US-Israel relationship grew “by leaps and bounds” after 1967, according to Barnett, owing largely to “a changing US containment and strategic posture.” American presidents and strategists came to see Israel as a useful tool for containing Soviet influence in the Middle East, which was significant among Arab states, and used diplomatic and military support to weave Israel firmly into the anti-Soviet bloc.

This strategic justification came down with the Berlin Wall. Yet the US aid to Israel kept flowing after the Cold War, as did diplomatic support. What kept it going?

or one thing, the US approach to the Middle East didn’t change that much after the Cold War. The US became increasingly involved in managing disputes and problems inside the Middle East during the Cold War, and it maintained that role as the world’s sole super-power in the 90s. Stability in the Middle East continued to be a major American interest, for a number of reasons that included the global oil market, and the US took on the role as guarantor of regional stability.

That meant the US saw it as strategically worthwhile to support states like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, which saw themselves as benefitting from an essentially conservative US approach to Middle Eastern regional politics. Unlike, say, Iran, Syria, and Saddam’s Iraq, these countries were basically OK with the status quo in the Middle East. The US also supported the status quo, so it supported them accordingly.

This view of Israel as a “force for stability” helps maintain US support, according to Brent Sasley, a political scientist at the University of Texas, “in the sense that Israel can stabilize what’s going on in the Middle East. If there’s fear of Jordan being undermined by an internal or external enemy, the United States sometimes turns to Israel to pose a threat to that threat.”

America’s self-appointed role as manager of the Middle East also landed it the job of Israeli-Palestinian peace broker.

“The parties need a third party,” Hussein Ibish, a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, says. “I think there is no other candidate than the United States. There’s no other party that’s capable, and no other party that’s interested.”

American policymakers have seen US support for Israel as a way of showing Israel that the US is still taking its interests into account during negotiations, and thus convincing Israel that they can safely engage in peace talks. It’s meant to draw the Israelis to the negotiating table, and keep them there.

Together, these strategic factors explain why America’s approach to Israel has been broadly consistent for at least the past three administrations. Despite the vast disagreements between the George W. Bush administration versus the Clinton and Obama administrations on foreign policy, they’ve both supported military and political aid to Israel. And they’ve both crossed Israel when it wasn’t in the US’ strategic interests: Bush refused to support an Israeli strike on Iran, and Obama repeatedly clashed with Israeli leaders on West Bank settlements.

All of this isn’t to say that American presidents and foreign policy principals are necessarily right to believe these things. It’s within the realm of possibility, as some argue, that US support for Israel undermines regional stability and compromises America’s status as neutral broker during peace negotiations. The point here isn’t to endorse the official US view, but describe the line of thinking that’s been so influential in driving the American foreign policy establishment’s approach to Israel.

Supporting Israel is good politics in the US

US support for Israel isn’t just about strategic calculation and foreign policy interests, or at least not anymore. For a long time, at the very least since the 1980s, it’s also been about domestic politics and the way American politicians read American voters.

Congressional votes on issues relating to Israel are famously lopsided. The Senate resolution supporting Israel’s recent offensives in Gaza passed unanimously, as many “pro-Israel” bills and resolutions do.

The simplest explanation for these lopsided votes is that supporting Israel is really, really popular among voters. “The single factor most driving the U.S.-Israel relationship appears to be the broad and deep support for Israel among the American public,” Israel Institute program director Michael Koplow writes. “The average gap between those holding favorable and unfavorable views of Israel over [the past four administrations] is 31 points.”

Indeed, Gallup data since 1988 consistently shows a much higher percentage of Americans sympathizing with Israelis than with Palestinians in the conflict:

So it makes sense that Congresspeople would take pretty hard-core pro-Israel stances: it’s reasonably popular.

But why is Israel so popular among Americans in the first place? One big reason is a perceived sense of “shared values.” According to Barnett, the American moral image of Israel — “the only democracy in the Middle East,” for example — is the “foundation of US-Israeli relations.” Of course, as Barnett hastens to add, this leaves Israel vulnerable if Americans comes to believe that Israel has strayed from those shared values (more on that in the last section).

Religious groups are two other critically important factors. American Jews and evangelical Christians are two of the most politically engaged groups in the United States. They’re major constituencies, respectively, in the Democratic and Republican parties. And both are overwhelmingly pro-Israel.

There are nuances here: evangelical support for Israel tends to be more uncritical than Jewish support. For instance, a majority of reform and secular Jews — 65 percent of the American Jewish population — disapprove of Israel’s expansion of West Bank settlements. And Jews under the age of 35 are the least likely to identify as Zionist (though a majority still do). On the other hand, the older and more conservative Jews who aren’t entirely representative of the more liberal body of Jewish-American public opinion toward Israel, have a lot of clout with national politicians. They express strong desire to vote based on the Israel issue and are clustered in Florida and Pennsylvania, large swing states in presidential elections.

All that said, Pew data shows overall consistency in American Jewish views on the US-Israel relationship. 54 percent of American Jews think the US supports Israel the right amount — and 31 percent say it doesn’t go far enough. By contrast, 31 percent of white evangelicals think the US has reached the right level of support, while 46 percent want the US to support Israel more.

Add evangelicals, Jews, and broad public support together, and you get consistent, bipartisan support for Israel.

There’s also a huge pro-Israel lobby — but how effective are they really?

No account of US-Israel relations can ignore the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — AIPAC for short. AIPAC is America’s largest pro-Israel lobby. Surveys of Capitol Hill insiders conducted by Fortune (1997) and National Journal (2005) ranked it the second-most powerful lobbying shop in Washington, after (respectively) the AARP and National Federation of Independent Business. Neither survey is particularly statistically rigorous, so don’t take the specific rankings too seriously. And AIPAC loses on plenty of issues. However, the surveys do suggest that AIPAC is perceived as hugely powerful within Washington.

Saying that AIPAC pushes US foreign policy in a more pro-Israel direction isn’t controversial. The big, and extremely contentious, question is just how much AIPAC actually matters. Is the group actually steering US politics and foreign policy in a direction it wouldn’t go on its own?

The major flashpoint here is John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy, which began as an 2006 essay and evolved into a book. The two eminent international relations scholars argued that there’s no way to explain the US-Israel relationship, from an IR perspective, other than as AIPAC and its allies pushing the US to act counter to its own interests. They reject that either strategy or shared values fully explain the US support for Israel, so lobbying must. “The unmatched power of the Israel Lobby,” Walt and Mearsheimer write, is “the” explanation for America’s continued strong support for Israel.

This argument is hugely controversial, including among international relations theorists. Some argued that The Israel Lobby creepily invoked classic anti-Semitic tropes of Jews secretly controlling the government. Others dismissed it as, in one particularly memorable phrase, “piss-poor, monocausal social science.”

One of the main criticisms of Walt and Mearsheimer’s thesis is that they don’t present very much direct evidence that AIPAC lobbying influenced specific votes. Another criticism is that Walt and Mearsheimer premise their thesis on the argument that Israel is neither strategically nor morally worthy of American support, and so policymakers must be supporting Israel because they’ve been coerced into it by AIPAC, whereas a number of policymakers will tell you they earnestly believe the alliance is worthwhile absent lobbying. Critics also argue that the definition of “Israel Lobby” beyond AIPAC used in the book is so large as to encompass basically the entire American foreign policy establishment.

Whatever you think of this debate, it can be easy to get lost in a binary between “the Israel lobby is all that matters” and “the Israel lobby is irrelevant.” What’s clearly true is that AIPAC is highly influential, but also that its power is linked to the other sources of US support for Israel; it does well on whipping up support for bills that are already in line with public opinion.

AIPAC doesn’t always win. For instance, it lost a major fight in Congress when it pushed for more sanctions on Iran in February 2014; the sanctions were likely designed to kill the ongoing US-Iran nuclear negotiations. AIPAC’s influence is a product of financial resources and power, sure, but also of choosing to push for policies that have public support and are consonant with American grand strategy in the Middle East.

Could US support for Israel change?

It’s hard to know where one driver of America’s Israel policy ends and another begins. For instance: early in his administration, President Obama pushed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt settlement growth in the West Bank; Netanyahu resisted this in part by rallying his allies in Congress. Netanyahu’s allies in both parties, who are always eager to appear pro-Israel, pressured Obama to drop his anti-settlements push, which he did.

The question here is whether, in this case and others, US foreign policy interests or US domestic politics was ultimately more consequential to driving the US-Israel relationship. For example, would Obama have pushed harder against settlements had Netanyahu not been able to call up so many allies in Congress? Were those members of Congress primarily driven by pure domestic politics, which do favor pro-Israel policies, by an earnest concern that Obama’s approach was bad for Israelis, or by a belief that Obama was hurting US foreign policy interests?

In thinking about the future of US-Israel relations, it’s much more helpful to examine what might cause these broad-bush factors to change. In simpler terms: is there a scenario under which the US and Israel drift apart?

It’s hard to know where one driver of America’s Israel policy ends and another begins. For instance: early in his administration, President Obama pushed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt settlement growth in the West Bank; Netanyahu resisted this in part by rallying his allies in Congress. Netanyahu’s allies in both parties, who are always eager to appear pro-Israel, pressured Obama to drop his anti-settlements push, which he did.

The question here is whether, in this case and others, US foreign policy interests or US domestic politics was ultimately more consequential to driving the US-Israel relationship. For example, would Obama have pushed harder against settlements had Netanyahu not been able to call up so many allies in Congress? Were those members of Congress primarily driven by pure domestic politics, which do favor pro-Israel policies, by an earnest concern that Obama’s approach was bad for Israelis, or by a belief that Obama was hurting US foreign policy interests?

In thinking about the future of US-Israel relations, it’s much more helpful to examine what might cause these broad-bush factors to change. In simpler terms: is there a scenario under which the US and Israel drift apart?”

Independent: So, just how powerful is the Israel lobby in the US?

“”Jewish lobby”. It’s always a mistake to use that expression, and not primarily because it sounds anti-Semitic…”Jewish lobby” is wrong on two counts. First, the lobby includes many non-Jews, most notably Christian conservatives. Second, many American Jews do not support the group’s hardline policies over Israel. The correct term, as Hagel quickly acknowledged last week, is “Israel lobby”…

…Power lies in the perception of power, and the Israel lobby, led by Aipac, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is perceived to have a heck of a lot of it. Fall foul of the Israel lobby, with its financial muscle and ability to put the word out, and, it is said, your political career may be doomed…

…Congress is overwhelmingly supportive of Israel. Probably no more than a dozen of the 435 Representatives can remotely be described as “pro-Palestinian”, while the mood in the Senate may be divined from a 2000 resolution expressing support for Israel, signed by 96 of its members.

Not for nothing did Pat Buchanan once describe Congress as “Israeli-occupied territory” – so much so that an Israeli prime minister at odds with the White House can bypass the President, making his case directly to an Aipac conference or on Capitol Hill. Take Benjamin Netanyahu when he delivered an address to Congress in May 2011. I remember the assembled lawmakers jumping up and down like jack-in-the-boxes to give him 29 standing ovations. Whatever else, Bibi would never have received an acclamation like that in the Knesset.”

Forward: That ‘Israel Lobby’ Controversy? History Has Proved Us Right

“Ten years ago, John Mearsheimer and I published a controversial article and subsequent book examining the impact of the “Israel lobby” — that is, a loose coalition of pro-Israel individuals and organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Christians United for Israel, just to name a few. We argued that decades of unconditional U.S. support for Israel — the so-called “special relationship” — is not explained by U.S. strategic interests or by shared values, as is often claimed, but is due primarily to the political efforts and activities of the lobby.

The result, we also argued, does more harm than good to both the United States and Israel. For the United States, the “special relationship” undermines America’s standing in the Arab and Islamic worlds, has encouraged a more confrontational approach with Iran and Syria, and contributes significantly both to America’s terrorism problem and to needless and costly debacles like the 2003 invasion of Iraq. For Israel, unquestioning U.S. support for almost all its actions has allowed the decades-long subjugation of the Palestinians to continue unchecked, undermining the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and threatening Israel’s future as a democratic and/or Jewish state.

We made it clear that the lobby was not a monolith controlling every aspect of U.S. Middle East policy, but rather a collection of disparate groups and individuals united by the aim of defending Israel’s actions and deepening the special relationship. We explicitly rejected the idea that anything nefarious was going on, explaining that AIPAC and related organizations were simply part of a powerful interest group like the farm lobby or the National Rifle Association. Their efforts to influence U.S. policy are “as American as apple pie.” And we used the term “Israel lobby” to highlight that not all American Jews support these policies and that some key members of the lobby (such as Christian Zionists) aren’t Jewish. The book also emphasizes that none of these groups or individuals is solely responsible for the choices U.S. leaders make.

As the article and book predicted, a firestorm of criticism followed their publication, including more than a few accusations that we are anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our aim was to elicit a debate that would help move America’s foreign policy in a wiser direction and increase Israel’s chances of achieving a durable, peaceful two-state solution with the Palestinians. By successfully squelching any criticism of Israel in almost any form, and by encouraging military action against Israel’s foes, the lobby — in our view — had led us away from both.

Unfortunately for Israel as well as the United States, the past 10 years provide ample evidence that our core argument is still correct. Nevertheless, shifts inside the pro-Israel community and in Israel itself may yet lead to positive shifts in U.S. Middle East policy and to a healthier relationship between the two countries.

There is little question the lobby remains a potent political force today. The “special relationship” is firmly intact: An increasingly prosperous Israel continues to receive billions of dollars in U.S. assistance, and it is still largely immune from criticism by top U.S. officials, members of Congress or contenders for public office. Being perceived as insufficiently “pro-Israel” can disqualify nominees for important government positions; one need look no further than Chuck Hagel’s contentious confirmation hearings — and the 178 times Israel came up — to see how crucial a role being pro-Israel plays in achieving political success in this country. People who criticize Israel too pointedly can still lose their jobs. Wealthy defenders of Israel such as Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban play outsize roles in American politics, especially on Israel-related issues. A number of hard-line individuals and groups in the lobby remain staunch opponents of the sensible 2016 nuclear deal with Iran and may eventually help convince President Trump or the Congress to overturn it.

The clearest illustration of the lobby’s enduring power, however, is the Obama administration’s failure to make any progress on settling the Israel-Palestinian conflict. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were strong supporters of Israel, and both believe a two-state solution is, as Obama put it, “in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest and the world’s interest.” But even with backing from pro-peace, pro-Israel organizations such as J Street, their efforts to achieve “two states for two peoples” were rebuffed by Israel, working hand in hand with AIPAC and other hard-line groups. So instead of seriously pursuing peace, Israel expanded its settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories, making it more difficult than ever to create a viable Palestinian state.

Given AIPAC’s enduring influence in Congress and its unyielding opposition to any meaningful compromise with the Palestinians, Obama and Kerry ultimately could offer Israel only additional carrots (such as increased military aid) to try to win their cooperation. Like their predecessors, they could not put pressure on Israel to compromise by threatening to reduce U.S. support significantly. As a result, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had little incentive to make a deal. So, the two-state solution, which the United States has long sought and Netanyahu has long opposed, is now further away than ever. This outcome is bad for the United States and for Israel…

…There is also a growing divide within the American Jewish community over what is best for Israel itself. Scholars like Dov Waxman, Steven Simon and Dana Allin have documented that American Jews today are less reluctant to criticize Israel’s policies or the actions of the Israeli government. The creation of the pro-peace lobby J Street, the rapid growth of progressive groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, and the success of controversial online journals critical of Zionism, such as Mondoweiss, show that attitudes about Israel are more complicated than in the past. Reflexive support for whatever Israel does is no longer the default condition for many American Jews.

These developments are especially evident among young people, and as Waxman emphasizes in his 2016 book “Trouble in the Tribe,” they have amplified divisions between the Orthodox and more liberal branches of Judaism. One sees this trend in a recent poll conducted by the American Jewish Committee, which found that nearly 80% of American Jews disapprove of the job President Trump is doing but 71% of Orthodox Jews support Trump. The main reason? Orthodox Jews tend to see Trump as more supportive of Israel. Yet even among the Orthodox, a recent survey by Nishma Research found that only 43% of those between 18 and 34 “actively support” the Jewish state, compared with 71% of those over 55.

These trends stem from a core tension: The vast majority of American Jews remain deeply committed to liberal values, while Israel has been moving away from them for many years now. There is a certain tension between liberalism and Zionism, because liberalism assumes that all humans possess the same set of basic rights and it emphasizes mutual tolerance, while Zionism is a nationalist movement that in its current iteration privileges one people at the expense of another. Until 1967, however, that tension between liberal and Zionist values was muted because most Israelis were Jewish and the second-class status of Israel’s Arab minority did not receive much attention.

When Israel gained control of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, the resulting subjugation of millions of Palestinians brought that tension to the fore. The occupation of the Palestinian territories has endured for half a century, and today, certain sections of Israel’s government are openly committed to retaining the West Bank in perpetuity and creating a “Greater Israel.” This policy not only involves denying the Palestinian subjects meaningful political rights, but also leads Israel to react harshly whenever the Palestinians respond with violence and terrorism (as happened in response to the two intifadas and in Israel’s repeated assaults on Gaza), further tarnishing its image in the United States and elsewhere.

But as former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert each warned, in the long run, denying the Palestinians a viable state of their own will turn Israel into a state akin to apartheid South Africa. Such a state will be increasingly difficult for Israel’s supporters — and especially liberal American Jews — to embrace and defend against the inevitable criticism that will be directed at it. Furthermore, the steady rightward drift of Israeli politics — exemplified by the 2016 “transparency law” marginalizing Israeli human rights organizations, as well as by Netanyahu’s decision to renege on a plan to allow non-Orthodox Jewish men and women to pray together at the Western Wall — also clashes with the political values of most American Jews…

…efforts to silence criticism of Israel have reached new heights. How else can one explain the AIPAC-sponsored Senate bill that would make it a crime in the United States to participate in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, legislation that the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights have rightly denounced as a direct threat to free speech?”

Further Research

The Nation: What Ilhan Omar Said About AIPAC Was Right

Vox: The controversy over Ilhan Omar and AIPAC money, explained

Aljazeera: The uneven alliance: How America became pro-Israel

Huffington Post: AIPAC Is the Only Explanation for America’s Morally Bankrupt Israel Policy

Washington Post: For the first time, Democrats are about as pro-Palestinian as pro-Israel

Noam Chomsky 2014: Why Does the US Support Israel


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Legitimate Threats to Israel

  • Hostile neighbors
    • Hamas in Gaza Strip
      • 1988: charter wanted to liberate Palestine through destruction of Israel
        • Long history of attacking Israel (rockets, suicide bombers, human shields, etc.)
      • 2006: after winning a majority in election now supports
        • 2 state solution along 1967 borders w/ right of return
        • Charter no longer calls for Israel’s destruction
      • Not a monolithic group or representation of Gaza
    • Iran
      • After 1979 Revolution, Iran severed all diplomatic ties with Israel
      • Does not recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a state
      • Openly anti-Semitic and hostile towards Israel
      • Funds anti-Israel groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic extremist groups


  • Historic and current international anti-Semitism
    • Believe Jewish people are only safe in a majority Jewish nation
  • Believe they must hold majority in Israel to avoid destruction
    • Refusing right of return and citizenship for Palestinians
    • Treating Palestinian Israelis as second class citizens
    • Settler colonialism
  • Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)
    • Leading international movement against Israel state violence against Palestinians



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