MCNULTY | Disguising Anti-Zionism as Antisemitism Harms Students and the Community

We find deeply troubling the arguments that underlie Gideon Saar, Barry Strauss and David Zax’s recent column, “Why Anti-Zionism Is Antisemitism in Disguise.” Zionism is an ideology, not a people. Israel is a nation-state, not a people. The government of Israel is no more exempt from criticism than is the government of the United States, which is funding, supplying and otherwise enabling Israel’s scorched-earth war on Gaza.

Conflating Israel with the Jewish people erases the significant percentage of Jews, both in Israel and elsewhere, who oppose Israel’s colonialist policies of occupation, apartheid, annexation, ethnic cleansing and violence; as a matter of fact, Pew Research found that about one-in-ten American Jews support an Israel boycott. It also falsely labels any criticism of and resistance to such policies as antisemitic. As Jewish Voice for Peace notes, “Antisemitism is discrimination, targeting, violence, and dehumanizing stereotypes directed at Jews because they are Jewish.” The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism acknowledges that neither “supporting the Palestinian demand for justice and the full grant of their political, national, civil and human rights as encapsulated in international law,” nor “evidence-based criticism of Israel as a state,” constitute antisemitism. 

Suggesting that anti-Zionism amounts to a call for the elimination of Israelis is false and misleading. The notion that Palestinian equality, human rights and the right to return mean Israeli annihilation reflects a fundamentalist, ethnonationalist outlook that denies the possibility of Jewish and Palestinian coexistence in an egalitarian, democratic society not based on occupation. Many Jewish organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow and Breaking the Silence have made this point, as have some of our colleagues at Cornell and elsewhere (Boyarin 2023; Cheyfitz 2014; Magid 2023).

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