Dr. Thomas Swan studied cognition and culture at Queen's University Belfast. He enjoys exploring the interplay between politics and culture.
Anti-Zionism vs. Antisemitism
Anti-Zionism is criticism of the state of Israel and of how Israelis treat their Palestinian and Lebanese neighbors. Antisemitism is hatred of Jewish people because of their religion or ethnicity.
An antisemite will dislike Jews regardless of their political views. An anti-Zionist will oppose supporters of Israel, whatever their religion or ethnicity.
An anti-Zionist can and probably will admire many Jewish people (e.g., Noam Chomsky, Gustav Mahler, Steven Spielberg). They may also criticize multitudes of non-Jewish people for their unequivocal support of Israel (e.g., Christian groups, American politicians, media personalities).
Anti-Zionism requires no religious or ethnic discriminatory beliefs against Jews. There is even a large Jewish anti-Zionist movement, some of whom can be seen protesting in the above picture.
Deliberate Confusion Helps Israel
Even though most anti-Zionists are not antisemitic, confusion may arise because most antisemites are anti-Zionist. It makes sense for an antisemite to hate Israel, although some may like the idea of putting all Jewish people in one place (and presumably out of the antisemite's neighborhood).
Unfortunately, confusion between the two terms can lead to accusations of racism against individuals who only intend to criticize the Israeli government.
Some political groups and media organizations appear to deliberately aid this confusion, with the apparent goal of making Israel immune to criticism. Some examples will be provided below.
However, to dispel any suggestion that this is a conspiracy theory, let's listen to Shulamit Aloni, a former Israeli Minister of Education, who explains how it works:
The video explains how anti-Zionist criticism of Israel is deliberately labeled antisemitic to silence and malign critics and discourage others from opening their mouths.
Without question, it is wrong for an entire country to be made immune to criticism. Such a nation would have a green light to engage in criminal and immoral behavior on a daily basis without fear of condemnation or repercussion.
Unfortunately, this is already happening. Israel should not be free to invade neighboring countries such as Lebanon, slaughter their enemies with disproportionate force, use chemical weapons such as white phosphorus, murder an American journalist, kill or injure dozens of other journalists, or ignore UN resolutions. Other countries have been dismantled for less.
The American and British governments refuse to condemn Israel and they block or vote against UN resolutions that attempt to do so. The Western press follows suit, leading to a misinformed public that does not sufficiently challenge the views and decisions of their leaders. Deliberate attempts to confuse anti-Zionism with antisemitism appear to be conducive to this strategy of misinformation.
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Anti-Zionists Being Maligned
It is common for criticism of Israel to be reported as antisemitic racism. The strategy is often successful because it preys on public sensitivities about race and the desire to appear politically correct. Such sensitivities are particularly prevalent in America, where racial division and civil rights are still a (necessary) preoccupation for many.
For example, as part of an ongoing war against free speech, the California State Assembly passed a resolution calling criticism of Israel antisemitic. The resolution showed how openly corrupt some public officials have become when it comes to making Israel immune to criticism.
A second example concerns the now-deceased American journalist, Helen Thomas, who had the temerity to criticize the Israeli occupation by saying they should get out of Palestine. When asked a leading question about where the Israelis should go, she said they should return to their homes in Poland, Germany, and America.
Despite Helen Thomas actually being Semitic, the media portrayed the incident as antisemitic and she was fired from her position as a member of the White House Press Corps. Thomas remarked that many people lose their jobs for similar anti-Zionist remarks.
A third example concerns the former leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who was relentlessly attacked in the British media for supposedly being antisemitic, despite no antisemitic quotes being attributable to him. His only "sin" appears to have been his opposition to the Israeli occupation.
Is Iran Antisemitic?
A fourth example concerns the entire county of Iran. The Iranian government repeatedly criticizes Israeli policy and makes other anti-Zionist remarks.
In 2005, the then Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reportedly said that "Israel must be wiped off the map." The words were widely condemned by politicians and journalists alike.
As can be seen in the video below, accusations of wanting a "genocide" soon followed. Iran had become an antisemitic state in the eyes of the world. However, what Ahmadinejad actually said was:
"Our dear Imam [Khomeini] said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the pages of time."
Thus, not only was he quoting someone else, but he was talking about the removal of the Israeli governmental regime. Ahmadinejad went on to say that the solution in Palestine is to respect the democratic will of the people. The Western media removed this context and continued to use their false translation until the story was no longer of interest.
There are several more reasons why Iran cannot be an antisemitic nation. For starters, Iran is home to the second largest population of Jews in the Middle East after Israel. About 25,000 Jews live in Iran, and they worship in synagogues across the country.
Furthermore, Jews in Iran are free from persecution because the leader of Iran's revolution, Imam Khomeini, declared that they should be protected. Khomeini also reserved a seat for at least one Jewish representative in the Iranian parliament.
Are these the actions of an antisemitic state? Unfortunately, many Westerners still believe the propaganda they were exposed to regarding the "wipe off the map" controversy.
Is Criticizing India Anti-Hindu?
In sum, if criticizing Israel is antisemitic, then criticizing India must reveal one's hatred for the Hindu majority in that country. Despite the absurdity of such statements, people who criticize Israel continue to be defamed in national and international politics. Complicit are a media who do not check facts when a headline serves the agenda of the political system they are entangled with.
Even though antisemites are also inclined to dislike Israel, the majority of people who share that sentiment are not racist. Indeed, there is no flavor of anti-Zionism that requires one to be antisemitic. Unfortunately, conflation of the two terms provides ammunition for conspiracy theorists.
To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.
Although such a conspiracy – in which we are "ruled over by Zionists" – would require a greater quantity of evidence, few would deny that Israel is able to exert considerable influence in Western politics. Until this situation changes, freedom of speech will continue to be eroded.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2013 Thomas Swan