Published in The Jerusalem Report on July 12, 2021.
In 1975, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 3379, which “determine[d] that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” US ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned that “The United Nations is about to make antisemitism international law.” He said the United States “does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act… A great evil has been loosed upon the world.”
Yet the accusation of “Zionism is racism” is alive and well in America in 2021. The infamous 1975 UN Resolution that was rescinded in name only in the 1990s made its official return in 2001 at the Durban World Conference of Racism. As the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs stated, the conference “became a forum for racism. Human rights were used… as a weapon of political interests… A large group of states sought to… exclude references to the Holocaust, redefine or ignore antisemitism, and isolate the state of Israel from the global community as a racist practitioner of apartheid and crimes against humanity.”
Today its message animates much of American academia and the progressive world in all its antisemitic permutations. In the anti-Zionist Middle East, from Iran to Turkey to Hamas, with the notable new exceptions of nations who have signed the Abraham Accords, Zionism is Racism is a fact, just as the sky is blue. Just visit Jordan and Egypt, where the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are prominently displayed, despite both having formal peace treaties with Israel.
Calling someone a Zionist is an epithet for a Jew. In the Middle East, a Jew is ashorthand for Israeli. Israelis and supporters of Israel are Zionists. Zionism is Apartheid, and to be a Zionist means you are racist. Just visit any American college campus during the annual Jew-hating apartheid week in the spring semester. As American historian Gil Troy explained, “The Zionist settler in Palestine was transformed… into an analogue of white settlers in Africa… Palestinian propagandists were resurrecting parts of Nazi ideology… negating Jewish nationalism and peoplehood.” In other words, Zionism is racism – which means antisemitism.
Connecting Zionism to apartheid to racism was clearly articulated by Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib saying, Israel is “promoting racism and dehumanization” under an “apartheid system.”
Her fellow anti-Zionist Rep. Ilhan Omar not only calls Israel an “apartheid government” but accuses it of “terrorism” while ignoring the targeting of Jewish civilians by a US government-designated terrorist organization. The “Squad” leader, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, accused Israel not only of apartheid but of indiscriminately targeting Palestinian civilians. Even UNRWA’s Gaza director Matthias Schmale said the Israeli military struck targets with “sophistication” and “precision.” That was until Palestinians and their international supporters demanded that he retract the facts. The first casualty of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been the truth.
This is not legitimate criticism of Israel. This is antisemitism, according to the IHRA definition, used by the US State Department and scores of nations. In America, you may have the right to be an antisemite, but let’s call it what it is. It is Jew hatred that incites violence, and equating Zionism with racism is unvarnished antisemitism.
The dramatic increase in antisemitic hate crimes in the wake of the last Gaza war has been met with a deafening silence by progressive academics and organizations in defending Jews against hate crimes. Academics’ propensity for a morally flawed cultural relativism that excuses the antisemitism of Israel’s enemies while advancing a perverted rationale that Zionism is a racistideology must be exposed for what it is and then rejected. It is the witch’s brew that has brainwashed two generations of naïve American college students who are now in positions of authority.
The litmus test to know if this is antisemitic oversensitivity or a double standard against Jews and Israel is to replace the Jewish victim with a person of color and the nation of Israel with the American use of force against ISIS and other asymmetric enemies that hide behind their civilian population. The answer is both frightening as well as illuminating. From CNN to the New York Times to NPR, there would be an outrage against similar attacks against minority groups that would be headline-grabbing for days on end. Yet, according to FBI statistics, Jewish hate crimes have continued to increase over the last 25 years (last reported for the year 2019), while those against African-Americans have decreased. Some victims are more favored than others. As for Israel, no nation has been more meticulous in avoiding civilian casualties. The amount of negative coverage Israel receives rightly or wrongly dramatically exceeds that of other democratic countries fighting terrorists.
The rise of antisemitism in the guise of politically correct anti-Zionism would not happen if a growing segment of progressives and the mainstream media did not believe Zionism is racism, akin to American white racist discrimination. The Israeli is a white Jewish supremacist. The Palestinian is an afflicted victim of color. Zionism is therefore racist. Yet, the majority of Israeli Jews fit the criteria of people of color. This is an inconvenient fact ignored by the progressive Left. It must be pointed out that there is hope. There is an outstanding progressive representative who is a strong defender of Jews and Israel, Richie Torres. He needs to be a model for others and be supported when the AOC gang eventually intimidates him.
Unfortunately, many Gen Z members and millennials have bought into a dogma that Israel is a pariah state, and to be a Zionist is to be a racist. Mainstream media have given fringe groups like Jewish Voice for Peace legitimization to propagate a hate-filled message about Israel under supposed Jewish values. Zionism is incompatible with decency in the church of “social justice wokeism.” Fellow progressive travelers may not realize they are abetting antisemitism because their leaders have reformulated antisemitism to align with the contemporary social justice movement.
Jewish progressives see Israel and Palestinians as they see the plight of African Americans. The parallel is inappropriate, but ideological movements never let this get in the way of manipulating people. The emotional temperature in the wake of the BLM movement first allowed them to claim that American police brutality is a consequence of Israeli training of American police. Even before the women’s march of January 2017, liberal Zionists were told that no matter how “woke” you are, if you support Israel, you are persona non grata. You, too, are an oppressor and racist, and you are not welcome.
Once the riots of the summer of 2020 began, more false claims were easier to make. The years of apartheid walls, screaming down pro-Israel speakers on college campuses without any consequence, the intimidation of pro-Israel professors, and the fear Jewish students have of speaking up for Israel without being intimidated have brought us to where we are today. A few years ago, I was invited by a student to speak at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. A short time later, she called to apologize, telling me that she had to disinvite me or she would lose at least half of her friends because my viewpoint would not be welcome. Welcome to cancel culture.
I watched the return of Zionism is racism when I visited Vassar College with a young liberal Israeli speaker. Students for Justice in Palestine disrupted his talk, and when he asked them just to sit down and have a candid discussion, they refused and continued their disruption. Afterward, the students from J Street on campus told me that they were stigmatized as Zionists because they believed Israel had a right to exist, even though they were highly critical of Israeli policies. They said they were considered the most right-wing group on campus. Today that is closer to the norm than an aberration on too many campuses. Two years ago, I was disinvited from giving a speech at a majority black university after the dean read my address praising MLK and his support of Zionism.
Even though the original UNGA Resolution on Zionism was rescinded, the world never stopped equating Zionism with racism. The best proof is the infamous Durban conference, which was a hate fest of Jews and Zionism. Let’s look at what the original resolution said.
The determination that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination was based on:
• The unholy alliance between South African racism and Zionism
• The racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regimes in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin… organically linked in their policy aimed at the repression of the dignity and integrity of the human being,”
• Most severely condemned Zionism as a threat to world peace and security and called upon all countries to oppose this racist and imperialist ideology.
• The principle that “international co-operation and peace require… the elimination of colonialism and neo-colonialism, foreign occupation, Zionism, Apartheid.”
Does anyone think this resolution would not garner a significant majority of votes in the UN today, or a substantial number of the progressive caucus and the rest of the anti-Israel gallery of activists? Their words and hate resonate with young idealistic progressives who know little of history. What makes this intolerance so galling is that progressives claim to be open-minded but, in reality, are the most illiberal members of Congress, disrespecting differing points of view.
This May, I spoke to a Democratic Senate office that told me the Human Rights Watch’s designation of Israel as an apartheid state had caused real damage with Democrats. I was told defending Israel in the wake of the Gaza war was too politically dangerous, especially with the rise of the progressives who would work to defeat moderates in the next election.
A letter signed by hundreds of faculty, students, and alumni at Princeton University said, “We stand by HRW… in calling Israel’s systemic discrimination and violence by its proper name: Apartheid. The brutal system that controls Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories is ideologically founded upon Jewish supremacy.”
SPME, a network of university scholars whose mission is to fight the falsehoods of pro-Palestinian advocates, pointed out the Daily Princetonian article was “filled with empirically false or grotesquely exaggerated assertions, a profound lack of empathy for Israelis and Jewish lives and safety… Israel is a colonial, illegal occupier of Arab land. (This) an occupation that includes land grabs, state-sponsored terror, militarism, and random and sadistic violence against an indigenous population.”
A driving force to legitimize the narrative that Zionism is Racism is to view the world through the prism of Intersectionality. All victimized people need to stand together because all our causes are intertwined. Black Lives Matter, Palestinian Lives Matter. Even liberal Jews are suspect because, in this Orwellian nightmare, American Jews are white, privileged, and racist even if they don’t know it.
What could slow it down, but is unlikely to happen, would be a vociferous counterattack by pro-Israel liberal Democrats. Instead, we are getting the usual bromides about Israel having a right to defend itself, but silence in supporting and defending Zionism and Israel’s vital role in supporting US interests in that part of the world.
What makes this a tipping point is the silence of pro-Israel Democrats in Congress and the mainstreaming of new anti-Zionists such as Peter Beinart, who is still described as a liberal Zionist. How can you be a Zionist if you want a binational state to end a Jewish state because it offends your progressive sensibilities?
An excellent place to begin is to continue to lobby every organization, university, and nation to understand why adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism is essential to combat antisemitism. If you cannot define it, you cannot fight it. If you challenge the Jewish people’s right to a national homeland and Israel’s right to exist, you are in effect practicing antisemitism. The Zionism is Racism crowd is fighting this definition tooth and nail, in the name of free speech. If you wanted to gauge American society, ask yourself, how many members of Congress would vote against using this definition for antisemitism?
Zionism was never racism, and forcefully defending and implementing the IHRA definition is a good place to begin.