Antisemitism in America

Antisemitism in America

by

Howard Adelman

Has there been a significant increase in acts of antisemitism in America? If so, were they Type A, B or C? As a separate question, what has been the corresponding reaction to those incidents by the politicians in Washington, especially by Donald Trump? Whatever the pattern, what is its significance?

To recall, Type A antisemitism is divisible into subtypes. It stands for various forms of anti-Jewish antisemitic speeches and actions that took place before the nineteenth century, including the antisemitism of the Enlightenment itself that declared Judaism anti-reason. Enlightenment antisemitism was not based on Jewish dual loyalty charges, as in the antisemitism of Haman (Type A1). It was not based on Christian theological antisemitism (Type A2) that defined Jews as Christ-killers, condemned to be eternal sojourners with no loyalty to place or polity, purveyors of usury as partners of the devil and guilty of blood libel. In this version, Jews allegedly murdered Christian children to use the blood of innocents in grotesque rituals. Jews were not allowed to own land or to engage directly in commerce. Jews were “unnatural.”

Enlightenment antisemitism was a visceral hatred of Jews purportedly founded on the antisemitism of rationality (Type A3) as taught by Voltaire or Diderot. In an age of Enlightenment, in an age of tolerance, in an age where Jews could gain citizenship and theoretically pursue any profession, Voltaire condemned both Christianity and its predecessor, Judaism, for spreading intolerance, for failing to follow the laws of reason, and for failing to derive the laws of man from the laws of nature.

Though Gotthold Lessing and Christian Wilhelm von Dohm advocated equal rights for Jews, Voltaire, in contrast to Montesquieu as well, in the name of reason, accused Judaism of being the root source of Christian anti-reason and of general intolerance. Jews were purveyors of superstition born of a slavish mentalité that could be traced back to being nurtured in the bosom of Egypt. Jews, in fact, were the most irrational of all backward peoples.

Like Martin Luther, Voltaire viewed Jews as “unnatural,” but not because they rejected Jesus and allegedly had him killed, but because the Jewish belief system in its very foundation was irrational. The ritual laws Jews followed had to be banned or, at the very least, exorcised from the public sphere. Jews were a vile people and Diderot said of them that they confused reason and revelation, gave preference to obscurity and based their beliefs on an irrational foundation that led to zealotry and fanaticism. The charges are very similar to those brought against Muslims in Europe in the present.

Type B antisemitism emerged in the nineteenth century and defined Jews as a race that itself was rooted in the virulent undercurrent of antisemitism pervasive in Christendom. Unlike the plague of theological antisemitism of the mediaeval world and the Inquisition, or the Enlightenment antisemitism described above, racial antisemitism insisted that the behaviour of Jews was written in their genes. Jews could not escape the charges through conversion to either the religion of Christianity or the religion of rationality, but was rooted in their biological make-up, itself traced to charges of unnaturalism among Jews made by both Martin Luther and Voltaire.

Following the end of WWII, a new form of antisemitism began to emerge. Instead of arguing that Jews were not worthy of full participation as members of a state for “rational” or theological reasons, it argued that Jews, among all peoples, were not entitled to exercise self-determination or to have a state of their own. When Zionists insisted on having one, the charges motivating Type B antisemitism were directed against the Jews. They were the racists. They were the ones that practiced apartheid. They were the ones guilty of discrimination. Currently, it is the fundamental driving force behind the BDS movement, though I hasten to add, most supporters of BDS seem to be fellow travellers rather than ardent believers in Type C antisemitism.

Hasia Diner, to whom I referred to in an earlier blog, is a Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and History and a specialist in American Jewish history. In the special Moment issue on antisemitism, she railed against labelling the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as antisemitic since it is perfectly acceptable to criticize the Israeli government and its policies. As she correctly argued, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a political and ethical stance that criticizes policies of the Israeli government and concludes that they are reprehensible. Further, these BDS supporters insist, again correctly, that economic boycotts are a legitimate way of expressing dissent. There is no question that some have tried to paint all or any criticism of Israel with the broad strokes of antisemitism or insisted that dissent is disloyal when Israel and Jews in North America are secure and strong enough to listen to and hear many voices about the policies and the status of democracy in Israel.

Criticism of Israel does not constitute antisemitism. But running such a campaign under the label of the BDS movement means associating with antisemites who would deny Jews the right to self-determination in their homeland, would deny Jews the right to have their own state. This a movement with a huge disproportionate focus on Israel, on its faults and, ultimately, its right to exist.  What makes it difficult to have a critical conversation about Israel under the BDS banner is not simply that one is immediately, and in most cases, falsely accused of antisemitism, but that one has chosen to forge one’s critique under a label rooted in the denial of the right to self-determination of the Jewish people.

There is another dimension to this anti-Zionist battle. Jewish students on campuses across the U.S. have been demonized and viciously, though almost always only verbally, attacked because they are supporters of Israel. Type C anti-Zionist antisemitism is particularly potent on some campuses while absent from most. Students who defend Israel, who have strong religious and cultural connections with Israel, are accused of being racists and are identified as supporting an illegitimate racist, and sometimes even Nazi apartheid regime. These deeply politicized attacks go well beyond simply debates and criticisms of Israeli government policies. It is not as if these parties attacking Israel also attack the human rights records of Iran, of Hezbollah or even of the Palestinian Authority. The attacks are both single-minded and go well beyond critique.

The absence of historic racist or Christian theological antisemitism does not mean an absence of antisemitism per se. Nor does the enormous success and achievements of Jews in North America. According to the Pew Foundation study on 9-13 January 2017, non-Jewish Americans feel “more warmly” toward Jews than toward any other religious group in our society, outside of their own. However, within the last few months, there has been a noticeable increase in antisemitic incidents with tombstones toppled in Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Rochester. There have been well over 100 bombing threats against Jewish community centers. They have become almost a daily occurrence.

Is there any sense that these virulent strains of antisemitism are prevalent in the U.S.? Certainly, since the American election in November of 2016 and even before, there has been a significant increase in hate crimes in the U.S. targeting Jews and Jewish institutions. They have run the gamut from toppling tombstones in Jewish cemeteries to bomb threats mentioned above, largely against Jewish community centres rather than synagogues, forcing their evacuation. Part of the difficulty of analysis is a situation where many strains of antisemitism may be active at the same time.

In the U.S., there is currently a remarkable decrease of Christian theological antisemitism and even its almost total disappearance from public view. However, theological antisemitism has shifted to Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. It is difficult to separate this current strain of theological antisemitism from anti-Zionist antisemitism since Louis Farrakhan has said, “I want to disabuse the Jews today of the false claim that you are the chosen of God — that Israel or Palestine belongs to you.” A critique of chosenness is equated with the Zionist claim of the right to establish a Jewish state in the Middle East. In the National Conference of The Nation of Islam held last month in Detroit, Farrakhan’s critique adopted some of the most prominent elements of racial antisemitism, such as the charge of seeking world domination. “You that think you have power to frighten and dominate the peoples of the world. I’m here to announce the end of your time.” After all, as Farrakhan has claimed many times, Jewish “bloodsuckers” already dominate both the U.S. government and its banking system.

The United States also has a small movement of racist antisemites, such as those in the resurrected KKK and White Power movements once led by David Duke. Much more significant are the Enlightenment antisemites often linked with the BDS movement and anti-Zionism. When do, usually Jewish Enlightenment academics, cross the line between a critique of the irrationality of the Jewish religion and/or a critique of Zionism to become guilty of antisemitism? Alan Dershowitz in a 2011 article in the New Republic (“Why are John Mearsheimer and Richard Falk Endorsing a Blatantly Anti-Semitic Book?” – 4 November), claimed that they clearly crossed the line when they endorsed a blatantly antisemitic book by that proud self-hating Jew (his own words), Gilad Atzmon, called The Wandering Who?

Like Voltaire and Diderot, Atzmon is a strong critic of “Jewish-ness.” Atzmon, like the Nazi racial antisemites, tries to convey the message that Jews are out to control the world. Not some Jews. Not a Jewish elite, but the Jewish people. “American Jews do try to control the world by proxy.” The American media controlled by Jews failed to warn the rest of America in 2007 and 2008 about the impending economic disaster which Jews played such a leading role in bringing about. In thoughts going back to Haman, Jews were the enemy within.

Jews are accused to leading the trade in body parts, echoing the charges of barbarism leveled at Jews in the Middle Ages. But Atzmon’s critique, however much it overlaps with anti-Zionist expressions of antisemitism, however much it picks up themes from racist antisemitism, focuses on Jews as “an obscure, dangerous and unethical fellowship.” For Atzmon, “The history of [Jewish] persecution is a myth, and, if there was any persecution, the Jews brought in on themselves.” Jews are the goy-haters and purveyors of a racist ideology. The Jewish God is an evil deity.  Atzmon even reaches back to the antisemitism of Haman and insists, “The moral of the Book of Esther is that Jews ‘had better infiltrate the corridors of power.’”

The significant increase in antisemitic incidents has come about at the same time Donald Trump assumed the presidency of the United States. What type of antisemitism did these acts of vandalism represent? Is there a correlation with the ascension of Donald Trump? Is there a connection?

Tomorrow: Donald Trump and Antisemitism in America

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

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An Introduction to Antisemitism

An Introduction to Antisemitism

by

Howard Adelman

Antisemitism or antisemitism? Years ago, Rabbi Gunther Plaut convinced me to spell this attitude and activity as an unhyphenated word in lower case letters because there was no doctrine of “Semitism” to which the modern hatred of Jews as a race (?), culture or ethnic group could be attached. Further, when the term was coined in 1879 to distinguish this hatred from anti-Jewish hatred, which referred to Jews as a religious group, Wilhelm Marr spelled the word without a hyphen. Another reason subsequently arose for writing the term as a single word. Semitic in linguistic studies referred to the Semitic group of languages, and antisemite would then be interpreted as prejudice against all who spoke any one of the languages in that group, including Arabs, which the term was not used to connote. Nor could the prejudice be against the Semitic race when there really was no such race and, in any case, Jews came from many racial strains.

Although modern antisemitism rose in conjunction with the new racism and antisemites defined Jews as a race, spelling the term anti-Semite buys into the possible validity of their claim, while antisemitism is a singular attitude and type of behaviour toward a specific people, Jews, whether religious or secular. Yet I sometimes spell the term anti-Semite, especially when it is not the central subject about which I am writing. The reason is simple. Antisemitic is accepted by Google spell check while antisemite is not. When I want to write the latter as one word, my automatic spell check program converts the word to anti-Semite. Using both words, antisemitic to refer to the attitude and anti-Semite to the people who hold that attitude, would be too bothersome. However, when writing about the subject, I choose to go against the general grain and spell the term “antisemitism” and call people who hold that attitude antisemites even though I must reverse the automatic correction in every instance that I type the word.

There are three very distinctive types of antisemitism: ancient anti-Judaism or theological antisemitism which I dub Type A; the classical version that arose in the nineteenth century and reached its apogee in the Holocaust, which I label antisemitism Type B; and antisemitism Type C which arose after WWII and has been its main expression in the last forty years. Type A antisemitism is rooted deep in history and it is the central theme of the Book of Esther which is read this week when Purim is celebrated. Type A antisemitism focuses on the Jews as chosen, on the Jews as the embodiment of the divine, with the Jews as trespassers and with the Jews as traitors, a fifth column in any polity.

One explanation for Type A antisemitism is jealousy. Jews historically claimed they were the chosen people by God. On Mt. Sinai, God commanded Moses to inform the Israelites that they would receive the Torah and, thereby, become to Him “a chosen people.” They may have been chosen to carry an extra burden of responsibility or to be a light unto the nations, but, as this explanation continues, others resented this claim for exceptionalism, even if it meant carrying an additional burden. In other words, in this explanation, the primary responsibility for antisemitism Type A must rest with Jews themselves and their beliefs.

But the claim goes further. In Jewish theology, Jews are the embodiment of the soul of God, the Shechinah, the feminine part of God that dwells on earth in the bodies of Jewish men and women and in the spirit of the people as a whole. This claim goes further than being chosen, for it suggests that Jews were chosen to embody God, to be the embodiment of God. Jews are the manifestation of God’s presence on earth. If you think chosenness was a grandiose claim, what do you make of embodiment of the divine?

The other two explanations for Type A antisemitism is that Jews are trespassers. In their own words, they are always sojourners. No land is naturally their land, even Israel. All lands belong to the indigenous people who lived there. But Abraham left his native land in Mesopotamia and came to a new land already occupied, but one promised by God to the Israelites. It could have been a positive sum game, but many if not most of the other tribes they encountered resisted this depiction of the Jewish mission. Further, if the sojourner is a stranger, if the sojourner is the Other, then when things go wrong, instead of embracing the stranger and treating him or her with respect and dignity, turn on them as scapegoats and insist they are illegal aliens and need to be expelled. Such a demand is enhanced when the goal is greater power as well as an opportunity to seize the property (or jobs) of the killed or expelled Jews.

This antisemitism goes back well before the refusal of Jews under Alexander the Great to accept and integrate Greek religious standards and norms, back at least to the Babylonian era when, according to the Book of Esther, leading Jews refused to bow down to the demand for unquestioning and total obedience to the king. Such action was treachery and worthy of being put to death, not because treachery had been charged and proven, but because the person was a Jew. A Jew was inherently treacherous. A Jew was inherently an alien in a nationalistic land because he or she had not become complete and total members of the polity.

Type B antisemitism arose with the Enlightenment, arose with the belief in the cosmopolitan assimilation of all into the religion of reason. In the pseudo-science of the time, there is an acceptance of Jewish chosenness, but Jews are chosen as prime targets for persecution and eventual destruction. Jews do not embody a divine spirit but an evil one which they inherit with their mother’s milk. Out of that alleged Jewish malevolence, Jews are engaged in a global conspiracy to a) control the economy of the world; b) instigate wars; c) exercise control over governments; d) control all media; or focus on e) alleged despicable patterns of Jewish personal behaviour. Jews are trespassers on the soul of the nation. This type of antisemitism is rooted in views of economics, military affairs, politics, sociology and psychology. Jews are an internal threat, a Fifth Column, that can eat away and destroy the national spirit.

In antisemitism Type C, Israel becomes the surrogate for Jews. Criticism of Israel is not antisemitism if, for only the simplest of reasons, that would make every single Jewish Israeli an antisemite. Antisemitism Type C is a grossly disproportionate focus on Israel as a target for criticism to provide grounds for the elimination of Israel as a state. For Zionism was an ideology chosen by a small percentage of Jews, but expanded to become a central tenet of belief for virtually all religious Jews and for the vast majority of secular Jews to unite the various strains of Jewry. The central goal of Zionism was “return,” return to once again become rooted in an ancient homeland promised to Jews by God. Therefore, by definition, Zionists were sojourners displacing the nationalism of the local population and eventually displacing a large portion of that population as well.

In A, B and C types, it is necessary to distinguish between expressions of antisemitism, between policies and actions versus antisemitic attitudes. In Type B antisemitism, many people are antisemitic. Only a very small proportion B-type antisemites express their antisemitism through violence, threats of violence or vandalism. As many as 10% of Americans and perhaps, a higher proportion of Canadians, may carry the B-type antisemitic virus. In the Anti-Defamation League 2014 poll, countries with populations of over 50% who hold B-type antisemitic attitudes include Turkey (71%) and Greece (67%), two otherwise erstwhile enemies. In Iran, following decades of anti-Israeli propaganda, antisemitic attitudes are, surprisingly, found in only 60% of the population. In Eastern Europe, the figures for Romania, Hungary and Poland are, respectively, 47%, 40% and 37%, and the latter has a large and very vibrant philosemitic movement as well. In the Ukraine, in spite of, or perhaps, in part because of the prominent role Jews played in its most recent revolution, the figure is 32%.

Countries like Italy, Spain and Latvia, where fascists and ex-Nazis played such a prominent part in their respective histories, the figure is almost 30%. In Argentina, for similar reasons, it is 24% with similar percentages for Central American countries with histories of right-wing dictatorships. And in the current Putin authoritarian Russia with its long and glorious history of both antisemitism and extraordinary Jewish achievements, the figure, even following the great Jewish exodus, is 23%. In Western Europe, one may be surprised to find Belgium with a figure of 21%, but not so surprised that it is 17% in France and 16% in Germany while only 12% in the UK and 11% in the Netherlands.

However, there is a huge difference between the percentage of a population that carries the virus and the number in whom that attitude expresses itself in vandalism and violence. In America, that expression manifests itself in only .01% of the population, 1 for every 3,500 who carries such an attitude. But the current situation suggests that it takes very little to shift the condition for many more to become activists. When exacerbated by international events or by a permissive political leadership, especially a leadership that expresses distrust of the Other, the opportunities and incentives to exhibit itself increases even more.

Further, there are six times as many Americans with antisemitic attitudes than there are Jews in America. In the world, there are an estimated one billion plus individuals who carry the anti-Semitic Type B virus, and in countries with a much less pronounced official government and societal antipathy to antisemitism Type B, the percentage of those who express their antisemitism may be much higher than in America. But even if the low American percentage is used, even if the widespread strain of Type C anti-Semitic virus in the Arab world who are also infected with the Type B virus is ignored, there are at the very least 300,000 activist Type B antisemites worldwide and, in reality, many more.

Nevertheless, there is a difference when antisemitism manifests itself in words and images and when it manifests itself in arson, bullet holes and beatings. However, while the latter gets the most attention and the former does when it is manifested in threats of violence, the most virulent strain of antisemitism is the C strain that is seen in a political activity, such as the BDS campaign, particularly the BDS campaign on campus that is rife with members who deny that they have the B strain. And most do not. However, many of them have the C strain, particularly among the founders and leaders, because their ultimate goal is not to force Israel to give up the West Bank, but to characterize Israel as an apartheid illegitimate state that should be eliminated from the map.

The most often asked question concerning antisemitism is not what it is but why it is. Since Purim is approaching, and since Haman as depicted in the Book of Esther was clearly an antisemite millennia before the term was invented, any explanation would have to transcend the particularities of a geographical region or a specific historical period. Jews have not been well liked by significant portions of populations. It is the persistence of antisemitism, it is its seeming immunity to education and prosperity, enlightenment and exposure, that makes antisemitism so puzzling.

After we examine antisemitism is specific regions, we will return to this question and see if we can come up with some answer to explain the existence and persistence of antisemitism.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

X: Combating BDS: International Diplomacy

X: Combating BDS: International Diplomacy

by

Howard Adelman

Let’s begin by recognizing that while BDS advocates boycotts, sanctions and divestments, Israel actually appears to enforce boycotts and implement sanctions against both the PA and the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip. The latter is well known, the former less so. As a case in point, Israel refused in the first four months of last year to transfer tax revenues collected as customs duties on goods transiting Israeli ports destined for territory controlled by the PA. These are legally Palestinian funds. As a result of the 1994 agreement between the PA and Israel, Israel generally transfers tens of millions per month for these custom duties levied on goods transiting the Israeli port destined for the Palestinian market. On several occasions in the past, the transfers were stopped for a month or two. Last year, the boycott lasted four months and the PA had to reduce the pay of civil servants (200,000) to 60% of normal salaries.

There were two reasons offered to rationalize the sanction. The first was political, punishing the PA for using the international legal and diplomatic system against Israel. The cessation in the transfer of funds was allegedly because the Palestinians sought to join the International Court to pursue war crimes charges against Israel. A second reason was economic – a claim for non-payment of long-outstanding electrical and gas bills owed to those respective Israeli utility authorities. The PA sued the Israeli government in an Israeli court. Justice Menahem Mazuz ruled that the Israel government had breached the terms of a contract between the two parties. The duties collected could not be used to pay other debts owing. The ruling also undermined the legality of withholding the funds for political reasons.

After the court ruling, Israel made a large first installment payment towards the past debt by transferring the duties withheld in March and April 2015. Monies withheld from duties collected from December to February were transferred as soon as both parties agreed on the debt owed to the utilities and deducted those monies from the monies owed to the PA. In addition, a joint committee was set up to resolve other claims between the PA and Israel. The above and other issues must be understood within the terms of the Oslo Accords, more specifically, the 1994 Paris Protocol on Economic Relations. It established an effective customs union between Israel and the PA. In contrast, municipal, income and corporate taxes from Israelis and Israeli entities in the settlements were, in accordance with the agreement, collected by Israel and not transferred to the PA, but used to benefit those settlements.

Whereas Israel periodically for short periods sanctions the PA, it boycotts the Hamas government that is not a party to the agreement. Because of the Paris Protocol, most BDF information and efforts have focused on Gaza where the effects of the Israeli boycott are so harsh in reprisal for Hamas rocketing Israel and to prevent Hamas with being resupplied with materials that could be used in its offensive attacks against Israel. Hamas has an ideological determination not simply to tear up the Paris Protocol, but to eliminate Israel as a state.
From the other direction, the PA boycotts the import of settler-made goods primarily through an educational and witness campaign by government leaders. There is no legally sanctioned economic penalty on Palestinians importing, selling and using such goods. Nor are Palestinians who work in Israeli settlements (36,000) penalized. They earn three time what they would earn working in the West Bank but receive no health or pension benefits or unemployment insurance. Many of the 1,000 businesses established in the West Bank are partnerships between Palestinians and Israelis.

BDS has been mostly silent about the work force, but strongly critical of the “educational” and witness campaign of the PA, characterizing it as a meaningless publicity stunt – such as the Karama or Dignity Pledge to boycott settler goods. BDS objects to any normalization of arrangements with Israel and implementation of the Paris Protocol. As a result, the PA denounces the much broader BDS campaign. Abbas has said, “We are not boycotting Israel, because we have agreements and imports from it” and openly endorses the principle of “adherence to signed agreements.”

At the instigation of the PA, in March the United Nations Human Rights Council approved the creation of a database of companies that do business in areas under Israeli occupation by a vote of 32 in favor with 15 countries abstaining. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, slammed the initiative claiming that, “The Human Rights Council has turned into an accomplice of the BDS movement, and its conduct is both anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic.” BDS joined in the criticism, but for very different reasons. Such an action was not extensive and was not a boycott, just an information offering procedure. In November of last year, the EU itself passed a regulation that required an indication of origin label on goods from the occupied territories with enforcement left to the individual states. That regulation required labeling merchandise or food products originating in West Bank or Golan Heights settlements as: “product from the West Bank (Israeli settlement)” or “product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement).”

BDS, on the other hand, pushes its boycott, sanctions and divestment strategy “on companies to cease doing business within Israel, to stop selling Israeli products, for international performers not to perform in Israel, for academics to refuse cooperation with Israeli institutions and for cultural institutions to boycott Israeli government-sponsored events aimed at prettifying Israel’s apartheid practices.” The BDS movement insists that it will continue its campaign until Israel ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab land [not just land in the West Bank], recognizes the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, and respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. This would mean the effective dismantling of Israel as a Jewish state. The return of refugees has never been imposed on any government in the world. The BDS campaign is clearly not just about settlements in the West Bank, but about the very nature and even existence of Israel.

This is not widely recognized as Palestinian sympathizers pick from the smorgasbord of moderate to extreme methods of confronting Israel through sanctions, boycotts and divestments. Israel, in turn, tries to brand BDS as an anti-Zionist movement and not just a critic of Israeli policies. Further, efforts are made to equate that anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and, most recently, with anti-Judaism. I will turn to this topic in my next blog.

I want to finish this blog by documenting the efforts of each side to either confront BDS (Israel) or to bypass BDS (PA) through diplomacy in the global arena, primarily in the United Nations. Like Russia and the U.S. engaged in a renewed lukewarm non-military war, Israel and the PA, whatever their differences on the international stage – and they are at loggerheads on many issues – are both opponents of BDS.

Recently, at the end of May, Israel’s Mission to the United Nations and the World Jewish Congress joined together with a plethora of Jewish organizations in the diaspora in hosting a one day anti-BDS “summit” at the United Nations entitled, “Building Bridges, Not Boycotts.” A strong motivation for organizing the meeting was not just the efforts of BDS. Danny Danon, Israel’s UN ambassador, placed the UN Human Rights Commission in bed with BDS because the former, he declared, decided to blacklist anyone who does business in Judea and Samaria. And that is the Achilles heel of the anti-BDS camp. Instead of dividing those who criticize the settlements from those who would boycott Israeli goods, academic institutions and institute a cultural boycott against Israel, unsurprisingly he put relative moderates, including, in part, the PA, in bed with its enemy, the BDS movement. And he called them both anti-Semitic.

Yesterday evening, I watched the opening of the Republican Convention in Cleveland. The speech of Melania Trump, Donald’s wife, though lacking a few needed intimate anecdotes, and, as revealed quickly afterwards, in part plagiarized Michele Obama’s 2008 Democratic Convention speech, was otherwise superbly crafted and extremely well delivered. Other speeches simply demonized Hillary in a world aflame with mostly extremist Islamicist violence. Speaker after speaker reiterated the theme of making America great and safe again. In contrast, Hillary was portrayed as the devil incarnate, pilloried for her alleged failures and reiterating Donald’s claims that she is a crook. “Lock her up,” they shouted.

“Building Bridges, not Boycotts” (BBnB) was like a Trump rally, a gathering of the converted, of anti-BDS forces of which the vast majority were Jews, 1,500 students, but without the advantage of a single star performer. Jewish reggae singer, Matisyahu, did perform in the morning in the General Assembly Hall. Matisyahu had been targeted himself by BDS and, for a short period in 2015, a Spanish organization cancelled his scheduled appearance before the cancellation was reversed under pressure from the Spanish government. What made BBnB most akin to the first night of the Republican Convention was the effort to totally demonize BDS and all boycotts against Israel as anti-Semitic. The principle of these exercises in a collective harangue seemed to be, keep it simple, paint only in black and white colours and, through repetition after repetition, drive home a single atrocious association with whatever and whoever is being targeted. Of course, it is ironic to compare BBnB to a Trump rally since Trump is bent on building walls not bridges.

Several months earlier, when Danny Danon denounced the UN effort at labelling goods originating in West Bank settlements, he did not differentiate between such efforts and the BDS much wider goals. Further, even these UN efforts were labelled as anti-Semitic. In his speech at the end of May at the BBnB, conference, the Israeli Ambassador to the UN and the main force behind the rally, gave the opening speech and characterized BDS as anti-Semitic. He recalled the passage of the Zionism is Racism motion at the UN forty years earlier and the victory in getting the UN to revoke that motion in 1991. He depicted BDS as a new threat to Israel and the Jewish people based on lies and distortions and hiding behind the mask of human rights and peace activism when it was just a global effort to delegitimize Israel. BDS’s campaign of hatred was the face of modern anti-Semitism, he declared.
Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, elaborated on the reasoning for this. He made the following points:

1. The United Nations was created 70 years ago out of the carnage of World War II. It was created on the broken bones of the Jewish people, with the pledge that the world would never see again the kind of human destruction that the Nazis forced on our people.
2. Today, the UN has singled out the only Jewish State in the world – Israel – with lie, after lie, after lie.
3. We chose to look at an equally dishonest campaign against the Jews – the BDS movement – right here at the United Nations.
4. Those who chose are no longer victims and no longer have to rely on others to protect us; we are no longer ghetto Jews, no longer willing to be quiescent, no longer timid, but new Jews. “And we are absolutely done being quiet! Enough is enough!!!”
5. Enticed by the seduction of fighting for rights, of fighting for justice, those who support BDS do not listen to the BDS chant: “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free!”
6. Expanding on the theme of BDS as not only anti-Zionist but anti-Semitic, he insisted that the current boycott against the State of Israel is no different from Henry Ford’s anti-Semitism of the 1920s or the Soviet bloc’s anti-Zionism of the 1950s and 60s.
7. BDS is not concerned about the rights of Palestinians, but denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination in the exclusive focus on Israel as distinct from all the other vicious states that abuse of human rights.

It was a rallying speech, not an analytic one. It is not simply a distortion; it is a falsification to say that the UN was created on the broken bones of the Jewish people when the issue for the UN in the aftermath of WWII was not the Holocaust at all but what to do with 250,000 Jewish refugees in Europe that no one wanted. It may be true that the UN has disproportionately, and enormously so, singled out Israel for condemnation, but it is a distortion to suggest – though not actually assert – that Israel is the only state condemned for human rights abuses. Iran and North Korea have both been chastised, and Iran is the only state for Iranians just as Israel is the only Jewish state. Whether true or not – and no documentation was offered to support the thesis – there is the question whether equating UN activities with BDS was diplomatically astute? It would not likely win over strong UN supporters who are not particularly antithetical to Israel and who do not support the wider goals of BDS. The problem was multiplied when Lauder used the old canard that the old Jew was quiet and passive in the face of oppression. BDS may indeed be anti-Zionist as I contend, and possibly anti-Semitic, which I question, but assertion is not the same as argument.

Elyakim Rubinstein, Vice-President of the Israeli Supreme Court Justice and formerly the Attorney General of Israel, took a different path and provided a detailed account of the lawfare fight with BDS in the international legal arena. (See my previous blog.) Further, calling for a boycott of Israel was not protected as a right in the U.S. under the First Amendment. He also characterized BDS as “political terrorism under the guise of freedom of speech.” He came to the same conclusion, that BDS was out to destroy Israel, but did not confuse the labelling issue of goods from the West Bank with the BDS program.

The conference also evidently heard from Mosab Hassan Yousef, now living in the U.S., “The Green Prince” who worked undercover for ten years for Israel’s internal security service, Shin Bet, from 1997 to 2007. He was the son of Hamas leader, Sheik Hassan, and is credited with hunting down many militants. I could not find his speech on the internet, but in other settings he has excoriated Hamas and claimed BDS was a front for Hamas. On the other hand, a second Palestinian in attendance, Bassam Eid, founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, joined the chorus of Jewish speakers who criticized BDS and the Palestinian leadership without distinction.

This theme was echoed in the 30-page guidebook handed out to attendees, but was focused on BDS as a movement of hate accused of being anti-Semitic while characterizing BDS as “all-powerful” with tentacles everywhere in language usually characteristic of anti-Semitic rants against Jews. The booklet stressed the use of state legislatures to boycott entities that boycotted Israel. So if BDS works to delegitimize Israel, this movement headlined in the 31 May 2016 meeting at the UN was focused on delegitimizing BDS. Students were encouraged to contact legislators to make efforts at boycotting academics illegal. And, in contrast to the main thrust of the conference, students were advised to drive a wedge between critics of Israel and BDS delegitimizers of Israel. Label BDS as anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic.

With the help of Alex Zisman

The Canadian Zionist Counter-Attack – BDS Redux II

BDS II: The Zionist Counter-Attack

by

Howard Adelman

In yesterday’s blog, I referred to the disproportionately large numbers of emails that I received in the last week concerning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), my own past writing on BDS, the call by the Kadima MK, Dr. Nachman Shai, to fight BDS with an idea, and the usual defensive stance one usually reads in Jewish and public media sources. I could also have described many of the counter-positions taken against BDS as offensive in both senses of that word. For an offensive action or verbal response is one that is aggressive and combative, but may also be one that is repugnant, more upsetting than informative, insulting and derogatory more than enlightening, abusive rather than respectful of the truth.
One of my readers responded to yesterday’s blog as follows:

I read with interest your communications on BDS and IJV. It is refreshing to see someone write about this without spewing vitriol against those of us who are critical of Israel, but are anything but antisemitic.
There is one point that I think merits more discussion, and that is the contention that BDS (and IJVers) are out to destroy Israel as the home of the Jews, among other things, because when we denounce Israeli discrimination against Palestinians as being as bad as apartheid (I believe this is so in the Occupied territories), we are delegitimizing the state of Israel and thus paving the way for its end, and thus the end of a safe Jewish homeland.

This assumes that a democratic state, where Jews and Palestinians are equal, ergo not a Jewish state, cannot be a safe home for Jews. I don’t think that follows. I think that even if there were a Palestinian majority, Israel/Palestine could be (my italics) a safe home for both ethnicities; in fact, I think that is the only safe outcome for both Jews and Palestinians. I think that in order to arrive at this, Israel and the Occupied territories would probably go through a confederation before becoming a plurinational state. South Africa got rid of Apartheid and did not descend into chaos and the whites have not been kicked into the sea, despite the big problems of that nation.

The policies of the present Jabotinski Zionist government of Israel are in, my opinion, suicidal, because the Arab states that are inimical to Israel will eventually acquire the means to destroy Israel and be able to insist on an outcome that is not safe for Jews and this will be unsafe for Palestinians as well.

With best regards.

I think that the idea that, given the current Middle East, where Christian religious cleansing has been at full tilt for at least the last three decades, should be trusted to tolerate a Jewish minority, where Arab pogroms against Jews were not uncommon prior to the creation of Israel, where Arab countries aggressively attacked the nascent Jewish state when the United Nations endorsed the creation of three states in Mandatory Palestine – a Jewish state that became Israel, a Palestinian Arab state that was mostly annexed by Jordan, and Jerusalem as a city state under international auspices – is naïve in the extreme. But asking Jews to take that risk given that environment of extreme hostility is more than naïve. It is suicidal. Or, at the very least, there is a significant risk of suicide. And Jewish Israelis are neither suicidal nor willing to take that risk.

Further, since the United Nations in 1947 and 1948 decided that combining the two groups in one state was unworkable – and, as I documented, this included supporters of the Arabs in Palestine – why do not supporters of a one-state solution with a majority of Arabs accept that international determination? Why do they not embrace the two-state solution? Further, in advocating a majoritarian Palestinian solution, why do they not try to engage is a civil dialogue and instead expend much effort in branding Israel as an apartheid and racist state? Whatever its faults and whatever the criticisms of the right in Israel, Israel is not by any reasonable measure an apartheid or racist state as much as I personally am repelled by some policies. Further, my reader who sent this response I know is not anti-Semitic. But he is clearly an anti-Zionist. He clearly supports BDS, IJV and the dismantling of the Israeli state. He is at least honest about that.

Why can Norwegians, Scots and Quebeckers vote to have their own state but Jews cannot? Why can other Jews, who have now shrunken to a very small minority, accept the fact that the overwhelming proportion of Jews have become supporters of Jews having their own state, even if they themselves have not become Zionists? Why cannot Jews have a state that can defend itself, especially given past behaviour of their neighbours? It is not totally unsurprising and even understandable that in such a context such advocates are branded – quite aside from what they actually are – as not only anti-Zionists, but advocates who often try to disguise that anti-Zionism.

Further, the almost obsessive focus on Israel and almost total disregard of the much grosser abuse of rights by states that surround Israel, more specifically the abuse of rights by the Khomeini regime (how many Baha’is have been murdered by that regime?) can, again, understandably lead those who support Israel to regard the position of BDSers and IJVers as at least bordering on anti-Semitism, even if those advocates may not actually be guilty of such beliefs? If they deny Jews, and usually only Jews, the right to self-determination, is it not at least a possibility that this constitutes anti-Semitism even if they contend they are not motivated in the least by anti-Semitism?

History has spoken. Why do they not listen?

Except as revealed in the last sentence – the supporters of BDS and IJV want to reverse history, view that history as reversible and expect as well as support the destruction of Israel as a state for the Jewish people, a state in which non-Jews can live as citizens with equal rights.

But that criticism is not the object of this blog. Rather, I want to examine the attacks against BDS and the small segment of Jews represented by IJV that supports such policies.

Tyler Levitan, a vociferous supporter of both BDS and IJV, penned a piece called, “Israel Lobby’s War On Boycott Movement Distracts From Reality.” Setting aside for the moment whether this description is more applicable to the position of IJV, what is the contention? After all, the charge is made not only against Zionists and the Jewish establishment, but against Canada’s political establishment, including both Liberals and Conservatives and even New Democrats. It is why the BDS movement and its IJV supporters have targeted The Green Party given its weak defenses against such assaults from a determined minority and why they have linked their attack to environmentalism in trying to delegitimize the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

Levitan is correct in countering the charge that BDS is an “absolute” failure, if only because it has attracted great attention and the deployment of significant resources by the Jewish community. Further, BDS claims some concrete successes. After all, was not BDS cited (my italics) as a prime cause in a 50% drop in foreign direct investments in Israel in 2015? But citation is not proof either that BDS was a prime cause of this claimed drop or, more significantly, that, Israel suffered a decline in foreign investment at all. A simple survey of economic assessments in this respect, either by the IMF or internal Israeli bank information, suggests that Israel did not suffer a 50% drop but managed a significant gain (19%) over 2014, and only a modest 3% drop relative to the record gain in 2013. No self-respecting economist would suggest that these fluctuations had anything to do with BDS. BDSers are reliable at blowing their own horn, but not on the justifications for doing so. There were a record 90 private investment deals in Israel in 2015 totaling in value $3.4 billion. All this merely suggests that BDS is better at propaganda than at truth.

That, however, is an aside. For the main battleground, as both BDSers and IJVers acknowledge, is over control of the dominant narrative. And, whatever the serious weaknesses of this anti-Zionist lobby and their efforts to portray themselves as representatives of Canadian public opinion, they repeatedly try to characterize the issue of return of Palestinian refugees as a universal rights issue, but do not insist on such so-called “universal rights” for the myriad of other refugee groups, including the Jewish refugees forcefully displaced from the West Bank. Further, refugee return has not become a universal right, as much as many of us would choose to make it one. It unequivocally was not a universal right when the Palestinians fled and were forcefully displaced in 1948. Nor is UN Resolution 194 calling for a return or compensation based on such a presumption. (Again, I refer readers to Howard Adelman and Elazar Barkan (2011) No Return, No Refuge. New York: Columbia University Press.)

BDS claims that Israel was founded on racial ethnic cleansing, ignoring who attacked whom, other neighbours who have engaged in ethnic and religious cleansing and the fact that although the number of those forced out of their homes and villages was indeed large, a majority of those refugees simply fled war. More credibility might be given to the BDSers and IJVers if their approach was the least bit balanced and they were not driven by the goal of delegitimizing Israel and Zionism that led to Israel’s creation, if they advocated that all Jews who were or whose ancestors were driven out of Europe should retroactively be given European citizenship, if they insisted with equal strength that Bosniacs who fled predominantly Serbian areas in former Yugoslavia and Serbs forced to flee from Croatia should be given the right to return in security, then their position might be respected for its dispassion and impartiality rather than simply as a front for an anti-Zionist stance.

To say that, “Israel is already an Arab-majority state; 52% of Israelis are Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews, most coming from Arab states,” is disingenuous at the very least since those Israelis identify themselves as Jews from Arab lands not as Arabs. Further, I have also not read anywhere BDSers and IJVers taking up the issue of compensation for Jews from Arab lands. The majority of Jews in Israel are now sabras (72%) even if a majority of their ancestors are Mizrahi. As a population, they are the group most opposed to the possibility of living in a state where the Jews will not be a majority. Citing racist epithets of some Israelis – and there are too many of them – is not a reason to reject Zionism or the legitimacy of the Israeli state.

It is in that context that the attacks on BDS and on IJV must be understood, even if the efforts to blacken BDS and IJV by suggesting they are anti-Semitic and Holocaust deniers, may be counter-productive in the long run even if possibly yielding short term success. For then groups like B’nai Brith join BDS and IJV in a pattern of distortion and mudslinging. “Zionists are racists.” “BDS is an anti-Semitic movement.” “Zionists practice apartheid.” “BDS associates with Holocaust deniers.” Though there is a grain of truth in the epithets aimed at the “enemy,” the overall portrayal disfigures much more than it configures. In ignoring that it was the UN that recommended that a Jewish state be recognized in Palestine, BDS perpetuate a calumny against the state that does border on anti-Semitism, even if that is not the motive of those anti-Zionist advocates. If B’nai Brith accuses all supporters of the BDS position as supporting anti-Semitism and even Holocaust denial, one calumny may balance another, but at the expense of balance and truth.

Not all supporters of BDS or of IJV are anti-Zionists. They may only be critical of Israeli government policies in the West Bank. But the main thrust of BDS and IJV is anti-Zionist. Becoming a fellow traveler risks being drawn into the same maelstrom.

The focus of one of the recent stories I read was on the last of a three-part series by B’nai Brith (BB), which advertises itself as Canada’s League for Human Rights. The series set out to expose IJV as, at core, anti-Jewish, even though it is made up of so-called Jews. After all, if IJV aligns itself with the Khomeini regime of Iran, as Ken Stone, the founder of IJV did in expressing his appreciation of the legacy of Ayatollah Khomeini in 2016 at a celebration of the his 27th anniversary in Toronto. Even if many of Ken Stone’s relatives may have died in the Holocaust, a fact cited to prove that Stone is free of any association with Holocaust denial, and as much as he might insist that Khomeini wass not a Holocaust denier, the overwhelming evidence is that both he and many of his religious and political heirs were and are.

Though it is totally understandable why B’nai Brith might ask how any self-respecting Jew could support Khomeini, since Stone has explicitly praised him. Further, IJV had posted on its website (subsequently taken down) praise of Alan Hart, an author associated with Veterans Today, who was called by IJV a “widely-respected journalist and mid-East expert” when he was an explicit Holocaust denier. IJV subsequently disassociated itself from Veterans Day and dubbed its site as “extremely disreputable” engaging in “wild conspiracy theory.”

It is one thing for Iran to adopt such a horrific stance as Holocaust denial and adopt as a military objective eliminating the State of Israel. But for an ostensibly Jewish group to do so was particularly appalling. How could IJV identify with Khomeini, an explicit Holocaust denier, and then condemn another group for its Holocaust denial? Another IJV spokesman, Tyler Levitan, played a leading role in opposing the effort to make BDF illegal in Ontario in concert with successful attempts to do so in 21 of the states in the U.S. (California may be next.)

The campaign in Ontario, unlike many in the U.S., was a failure. One has a sense that Jewish organizations try to offset part of the failure by attacking the press for offering an inordinate proportion of space to an organization that represents very few Jews, that the Jews it represents are associated with nutty causes and associate with radical anti-Zionism and support for the elimination of Israel, and have even been linked to Holocaust denial defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) formed by 31 democracies, including Canada, as the negation of historical reality, denying its extent and relieving the Nazi responsibility by suggesting that Jews and/or Jewish organizations shared responsibility.

B’nai Brith did all of this and then went into overdrive, “calling upon Elizabeth May to once and for all, clarify if she is one of those members who wish to change the anti-BDS policy of the Green Party. If she does not support what BB labels as the anti-Semitic motions up for debate in its annual convention in August, she must immediately withdraw herself as co-sponsor and join her parliamentary colleagues in vociferously opposing BDF. In the BB statement, she must:
a) Immediately withdraw the antisemitic anti-Israel motions scheduled for discussion at the Green Party convention in August;
b) Issue a formal apology to all Canadians for her disingenuous email reply;
c) State, once and for all, her position on the antisemitic Boycott & Sanctions movement;
d) Disavow all Green Party affiliations to Independent Jewish Voices.

Elizabeth May lacks the power to do a) above. B’nai Brith is the party that is disingenuous in asking for a formal apology, for May’s letter, as weak and full of questions as it was, needs no apology from her. It may be unsound. It may be inadequately stated. It may be confused and run contrary to the usual clarity of her positions. But it is not something requiring an apology. Elizabeth May could state her personal policy on BDS and disavow IJV. I would not hold my breath.
So efforts are made to attack organizations that support BDS by linking them with Holocaust denial and with the goal of eliminating Israel. Efforts are made to bring a full body press against political parties that flirt with endorsing BDS. But positive efforts are also made. In celebrity politics, Helen Mirren, the Oscar Award-winning British actress, was the latest (others include Dionne Warwick, Alan Parsons and Kevin Costner) to be used to blast BDS. Further, Mirren went on to praise Israeli artists and even denounced artists (Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, Lauren Hill) that shunned Israel.

One must distinguish between those who believe boycotts, divestment and sanctions to be legally and morally justified from those who oppose the BDS movement itself as an illegitimate and/or erroneously aimed use of this protest technique. Thus, in the U.S., 62% find boycotts, divestment and sanctions to be legitimate, but only half of those support BDS. In Britain, the support for BDS increases from one-third to 40%. Whether support is 33% or 40%, it is clear why this is a major policy concern for Israel and why the red flag is being raised. It is also why Israel uses not only celebrities to take opposite stands, but has enlisted a number of allies in the diaspora as research and attack dogs.

Dr. Nachman Shai argued that we need an idea to go against BDS, not throwing mud at everyone who stands near a supporter of BDS or of IJV. I, however, may be wrong. It is I who may be naïve. Perhaps the only approach to BDS and IJV is to use a sledgehammer rather than a sharp pen.

With the help of Alex Zisman

The New Anti-Semitism: An Introduction

The New Anti-Semitism? An Introduction

by

Howard Adelman

Last night at the Israel Studies Association, Irwin Cotler gave the keynote speech. The title was, “Israel, Human Rights, Global Anti-Semitism.” At dinner afterwards, I asked Irwin whether he thought characterizing the global anti-Zionism that has been raging at least for the last decade as anti-Semitism was the most appropriate way to categorize what has been taking place. To my surprise, one of the foremost proponents of that categorization said that he had raised that question for himself often, but continued to believe it was, but not without the inquiry and the question being a worthy one.

We could only probe the surface over a dinner in which there were many distractions – other people at the table I wanted to talk to: Dr. Richard Deckelbaum of Columbia University, an old friend, who was scheduled to give a talk today on the llnk between health services and advancing the dialogue between peoples and the peace process; Itzhak Galnoor who was awarded the lifetime achievement award by the Israel Studies Association for his phenomenal scholarship on both governance and government in Israel as well as on laughter; Howard Liebman who for twelve years was Irwin’s administrator-in-chief in Ottawa and had just started a new job working on international affairs for the Mayor of Montreal; and Ariella, Irwin’s wife, with whom I had to catch up on so much of the personal affairs of the Cotlers. And this was just at our table. There were so many friends and colleagues at other tables. You can see why we did not get very far into our probe. I promised Irwin that I would write my next blog on the topic to see if we could advance the inquiry.

One does not have to be a scholar to grasp the issue. It permeates the atmosphere and ordinary table talk when Jews gather and discuss the news stories in the media. I grew up in Canada in the golden age of Jewry in North America. I was born in the year when None Is Too Many was a dominant policy of my government and a ship loaded with Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi regime was not allowed to land on Canadian shores. I grew up on stories of anti-Semitism that inflicted itself upon the lives of my parents.

My mother worked at the Toronto Club, but could only do so because her maiden name was Duviner and she did not look or sound like a Jew and had to hide that she was a Jew to keep her job. Anti-Semitism was an integral part of the casual conversation at the club and she listened to it very day. I went to university to study medicine because Jews could feel freer as an independent professional than as an employee of a large corporation. I was in the Class of ’61 in Medical School and the major teaching hospital in Toronto only appointed its first Jewish physician on staff in 1960. Fraternities, legal and accounting firms were all strictly divided between Jewish and non-Jewish ones, and the Jewish ones included blacks and Chinese.

It does not sound like a golden age, but it was one. For it was the period during which all those inherited anti-Semitic tropes were breaking down. Jews after WWII constituted the highest percentage of the Canadian population they had ever achieved before and would for the foreseeable future. Though Jews constituted at most 3% of the Jewish population of Canada, they were perceived in many surveys as making up 25% of the city of Toronto’s population because of their emerging prominence in Canadian cultural, business and professional life. Wayne and Schuster were Canada’s foremost comedians. Nathan Philips would become the first Jewish mayor of Toronto. Jews were in parliament and in the cabinet of government. The signature of Louis Rasminsky, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, was on all our one, two (yes, there once was a two dollar bill in Canada), five, ten and twenty dollar bills.

Not one of my teachers at high school was Jewish, though the population of the school consisted of 95% Jews. So the anti-Semitism was still present and permeated the society, but its tide was clearly receding. Further, as we told ourselves, the prejudice only made us work harder to prove we were worthy of respect. This has been and continues to be a common experience of new immigrant cohorts. The receded anti-Semitism allowed us to sharpen our wry humorous appreciation of the world and our love of its culture.

We were, of course, immensely assisted by what was taking place south of the border. I grew up loving Al Jolson as did most of America. America was being remade in the utopian dreams of Jews as Jewish songwriters dominated Tin Pan Alley and gave America so many of its most patriotic songs – “God Bless America” (Irving Berlin) for one. As in the U.S., Jews were the lead wave in the transformation of our society into a multicultural one. And Jews went into law and Bora Laskin rose to become Chief Justice as the rule of law rather than of men emerged as the predominate mode of governance in our country. I grew up when Orthodox Jewry was the norm rather than the exception, at least in our neighbourhood, but where we wore that orthodoxy like our T-shirts and learned in our teenage years that it could be taken off and thrown into the washing machine for a good cleansing.

Zionists were a distinct minority – only Ricky Rappaport, the second best student in our class, planned to make Aliyah. The best student was Judy Ochs, Rabbi Ochs’ definitively orthodox daughter. I sat in the front seat of my row given my name, and was the only one who was passionately and ideologically dedicated to being a non-ideologue. Behind me sat a communist, then a Bundist, then a Liberal and then a Conservative – all of whom went on to become physicians. Debating politics provided our life blood, next to reading Mad Magazine. Only slowly did the domination of Israel become the pervading force in Jewish life. I was perhaps the last convert, holding out until the Six Day War for my rebirth. As much as we gradually began to accept Israel as a predominant part of our identity, anti-Semitism as a fearful trope receded at the same time as the Eichmann trial at the beginning of the sixties brought the Holocaust into our intellectual lives and even more into our deepest fears.

So we became part of the avant-garde of the sixties generation, campaigning against nuclear testing and then for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam. Just as Canadian nationalism was beginning to grow, we were at the same time being acculturated into a world dominated by America. We, however, were the new Jews, born in a world destined to be free of anti-Semitism, a generation not to be determined by others that we were Jewish, but a generation that could choose whether or not to be Jewish. So we read Phillip Roth, Saul Bellow and Mordechai Richler, Commentary and soon the new New York Review of Books.

Israel became integral parts of our lives and our experience. Even if were anti-Zionists, we trembled at the possible extinction of Israel prior to the Six Day War and exulted at the Israeli military triumph. Many of us quietly or more actively became born-again lovers of Zion. None of us had ever been subjected to the venomous and splenetic anti-Semitic treatment of two students at UCLA and Stanford about who we had read but whose stories became integrated into academic discourse at my session yesterday on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Those to Jewish women had been questioned about whether, as Jews, they were capable of being free of the Zionist virus when they applied for positions in student government.

In a recent study in the U.S., 54% of students reported experiencing anti-Semitism on campus. That anti-Semitism was integrally linked with anti-Zionism. But was that anti-Zionism, agreed in characterizing the ideology of the Iranian regime as both virulently anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic, best characterized as a new form of anti-Semitism? I greeted the negotiations of the Obama regime to deprive Iran of its potential nuclear arsenal as a beneficial course of action. Others, even more passionately, argued that President Obama had a deep visceral hatred for Benjamin Netanyahu and that the Obama regime was selling Israel down the river for an eventual future of extinction at the hands of a nuclear armed Iran determined to wipe the state of Israel off the map. That was a sign of a deep-seated but unacknowledged new form of anti-Semitism.

Jews as Jews, whether in California or a Jewish supermarket in Paris, were being targeted, sometimes even being murdered, and Israel as a state was clearly being targeted by a large number of states for discriminatory treatment. The anti-Semitism and the anti-Zionism were clearly linked. But was or should the new virulent anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism be conflated so that anti-Zionism is dubbed the new anti-Semitism? There is a suggestion that President Obama who refuses to call the new terrorists Muslim, has, perhaps unintentionally without malice aforethought, engaged in characterizing organized Jewish opposition and that of the Prime Minister of Israel to his new Iranian opening as raising the question of Jewish dual loyalty. Has the old hatred mutated into a new form that it even permeates the views of the President who may not recognize that he has been infected and is a carrier of this equivalent of an Ebola virus? When I chastise Netanyahu and his approach, who has a legitimate existential fear driving him in his approach, as hysterical and misrepresenting the case, have I fallen back into my pre-1967 mindset and lost my love for Zion? Am I on the edge of being infected with this new anti-Semitic virus?

Ironically, even Barack Obama in his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg very recently explicitly and clearly articulated the view that the new anti-Zionism was a mutated form of the old anti-Semitism. Pope Francis agreed. In his interview with Portugese-Israeli journalist Henrique Cynerman, he opined that the refusal to recognize and support Israel as a state among the states of the world and as the expression of the Jewish right of self-determination was an expression of anti-Semitism. Is the view that Israel does not have the right to exist best characterized as a new form of anti-Semitism? Irwin thinks it does. Barack Obama and Pope Francis agree.

In my next blog in this series I will question both the utility and the cogency of such an equation, not to provide a counter-claim, but to raise some central issues about the equation. The core of the justification is that if countries and movements want to eliminate Israel as a polity in the Middle East, and many of these target Jews elsewhere at the very least as fifth columnists and as worthy targets as well, this is anti-Semitism and a form of racism that is doubly guilty because it is blind to the fact that Jews come in all sorts of stripes and colours, from Ethiopian to Indian and Chinese Jews, and still want to identify in a way equivalent to racism.

Obama accused the new virulence as “implicitly equating anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism,” Some have attacked Obama for saying that the convergence of the two categories itself bordered on the new form of anti-Semitism because he said the connection was only implicit when it has been explicitly explicit. I will describe Irwin’s argument that he presented last evening in tomorrow’s blog – it will force me to keep my memory intact for another 24 hours – and I will begin with a closer examination of both Obama’s and Pope Francis’ views.