The Normalization of Antisemitism

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A tourist photographs a sign painted on a wall in the West Bank of Bethlehem on June 5, 2015.
A tourist photographs a sign painted on a wall in the West Bank of Bethlehem on June 5, 2015. Credit: AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX

The New Israel Fund, along with a series of other “progressive” organizations in the United States that make up the Progressive Israel Network – including J Street, Americans for Peace Now, Habonim Dror North America and Hashomer Hatzair World Movement – put together a petition ahead of Joe Biden’s entry to the White House. It calls on the U.S. government not to adopt the working definition of antisemitism formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and already adopted by more than 10 countries (including Muslim-majority countries like Bahrain and Albania, with Morocco also on the way). The signatories say the definition is overly broad and so will allow the fight against antisemitism to be exploited to “suppress legitimate free speech, criticism of Israeli government actions, and advocacy for Palestinian rights.”

What specifically bothers the authors of the petition? They object to the section that cites as an example of antisemitism the assertion that “the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.” The “existence” of Israel, mind you, is not this or that government policy. In other words, the petition’s authors wish to legitimize the ideas that stood behind the UN Security Council’s despicable 1975 resolution that “Zionism is racism.” So despicable that even the UN, not exactly the most Israel-friendly forum, decided to rescind it in 1991.

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Amos Oz used to say that whoever thinks that all peoples deserve the right to self-definition, except the Jews, is antisemitic. By this definition – from the most important intellectual the Israeli left has ever had, not the IHRA – the New Israel Fund and its partners are not seeking to distinguish legitimate criticism from anti-Jewish racism, but rather to advance the legitimation and normalization of antisemitism.

So as to remove any doubt, the petition they’ve signed clarifies not just what it aims to legitimize, but whom in particular: “Secretary of State Pompeo’s State Department’s unambiguous declarations that ‘anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism’ and that ‘the Global BDS Campaign [is] a manifestation of anti-Semitism’ represent a harmful overreach.” The radical left often tends to blur the line between those who oppose the occupation and support the two states for two peoples solution, and those who do not recognize the nation-state of the Jewish people’s right to exist and believe that Zionism is a regrettable historic aberration, an illegitimate colonialist enterprise that must be rolled back.

The boycott movement makes things easy for those who wish to blur the difference between the two positions because it explicitly describes itself as fighting against “the occupation.” This terminology could easily cause the innocent bystander to mistakenly think that this is a peace-loving movement that supports two states for two peoples.

But the opposite is true. This is a movement that seeks to thwart the possibility of dividing the land, because it opposes any solution that would also include a state that is not Palestinian. In BDS parlance, the word “occupation” does not refer to the military administration in the West Bank, but to the entire Land of Israel and thus, eliminating the occupation really means eliminating the State of Israel. They seek to advance this program by means of settling the Palestinian diaspora inside the Green Line, a policy misleadingly referred to by the Palestinians and their allies under the term “right of return.”

We are not talking here about critics of Israeli policy here, but of bitter enemies opposed to Israel’s very existence. And thus the definition of this movement as antisemitic ought to be self-evident. It was not just some whim of the Trump administration, but a common sense evaluation agreed upon by Germany, France and Canada, among other nations.

Taking this petition into account along with the rest of the New Israel Fund’s activities – its support for organizations that seek to abolish the state’s national character or to undermine the Law of Return – we clearly cannot go on treating it as a purely philanthropic organization, one that depicts itself as dedicated solely to promoting democracy, equality, social solidarity and human rights.

This is a foundation that, with impressive consistency, endeavors to undermine the pillars of the Zionist enterprise. Its explicit support for an attempt to alter the definition of antisemitism, so that Israel’s clear enemies can cleanse themselves of this stain, is overt evidence of the hidden meaning behind so much of its other activity. If there should ever be peace between us and our neighbors some day, if more solidarity blossoms among the different segments of Israeli society, if our democracy is to be rehabilitated – it will be in spite of the New Israel Fund, not because of it.

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