General Antisemitism

Defining Anti-Zionism

This is the third in a series of articles by David Solway. David Solway is a Canadian poet and essayist. He is the author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity, and is currently working on a sequel, Living in the Valley of Shmoon. His new book on Jewish and Israeli themes, Hear, O Israel!, has just been released by Mantua Books. This article was originally published in Frontpage Magazine on January 23, 2009.

When Islamic terrorists incinerated 3000 people in the Twin Towers, we learned it was really a Mossad operation carrying out the orders of the Israeli government and that Jews were warned not to show up at the World Trade Center that morning. The fact that Jews were among the victims did not register.

When Bernard Madoff was recently indicted for perpetrating a $50 billion scam, antisemitic ravings flooded the Internet. The fact that individual Jewish investors and Jewish philanthropic organizations suffered crippling finanical losses in the scandal did not signify. Moreover, an exemplary post in the prestigious website fingered Israel as the beneficiary of the Madoff bonanza, as if Madoff were only an agent of Israeli depravity.

And when Israel belatedly responded to years of Hamas shelling of its civilian communities by sending its army into Gaza, it was immediately denounced by Western governments, media and NGOs, and Nazi comparisons flew about as indiscriminately as Hamas rockets. The fact that Israel is the world’s prime terrorist objective did not matter in the slightest. Very few protested when thousands of Israelis were killed and maimed by Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad and the rest of the terrorist consortium.

These are more than merely episodes. They are, of course, to be expected, the kind of old hat that is constantly being reblocked. The Jew has long been the repository of the world’s accusatory furor. But in today’s antisemitic climate a new dimension has clearly been added to the ancient canard: Israel. For Israel has now become the convenient and representative target of an ancestral hostility, allowing for the delegation of a shameful loathing under the serviceable code word of “anti-Zionism.”

The term has become a veritable gratuity for those who often profess to “love Jews” as the innocent victims of Israeli delinquency or to support an “authentic” Judaism which Zionism has supposedly profaned. They assert no brief against the Jewish people, disingenuously claiming to object to Israeli policies on neutral political grounds. But anti-Zionist posturing is not politically motivated, as it pretends to be; it is only the drapery which cloaks a far more insidious agenda. And despite our seemingly principled disclaimers, we know what it is.

The truth is that what goes by the name of “anti-Zionism” today is, by and large, nothing other than crypto-antisemitism, the contemporary mutation of the world’s oldest hatred deploying a new vocabulary. For Israel is the collective incarnation of the Jew qua Jew, enabling the deft and sinuous Jew-hater to escape moral censure under the sign of “impartial” criticism of a national state. The “anti-Zionist” argument is a far more sophisticated ploy than ostensible moral indignation or the apparent possession of secret incriminating knowledge.

The reasons for antisemitism are no doubt multifarious, but the major cause of antisemitism is that Jews happen to draw breath. In a speech given to the Domestic Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag in June 2008, journalist Henryk Broder distinguished between a prejudice and a resentment: “a prejudice concerns a person’s behavior; a resentment concerns that person’s very existence. Anti-semitism is a resentment. The anti-Semite does not begrudge the Jew how he is or what he does, but that he is at all. The anti-Semite takes offense as much at the Jew’s attempts to assimilate as at his self-marginalization. Rich Jews are exploiters; poor Jews are freeloaders….The anti-Semite blames Jews for everything and its opposite.”

No doubt, if the early Zionists with British agreement in principle had settled in a part of Uganda as a substitute homeland, or had improbably found a pied à terre in Angola or Cyrenaica (Libya), or had followed through on the Galveston scheme of 1907-1914, or if the 1928 Soviet proposal to create a Jewish socialist republic in Birobidzhan in eastern Siberia where Jews would function under their own institutions had not turned out to be a fraud, or if Israelis could be teleported to Alaska as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fantasized and novelist Michael Chabon imagined in The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, antisemites would still have found something to resent and execrate and antisemitism would have continued unabated.

Is it not revealing that antisemitism appears even in countries that are virtually empty of Jews? Soeren Kern, a senior analyst for the Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos in Madrid, considers Spain the most antisemitic country in Europe, nearly half of its people harboring negative opinions of Jews. Yet the Jewish community in Spain is infinitesmal, with only 12,000 Jews out of a population of 42 million, less than .05% (PajamasMedia, December 30, 2008). Similarly, there are only 1,300 Jews in Norway, approximately .0003% out of a population of 4,645,000, yet Norway is the major Scandinavian purveyor of anti-Zionist and antisemitic attitudes and beliefs, and indeed challenges Spain for the European honor (Behind the Humanitarian Mask, Manfred Gerstenfeld, ed.)

Then there is Japan, a world-leader in the propagation of antisemitic material though one would have to search far and wide to find a Jew in that country. According to the Stephen Roth Institute, many writers, publishers and organizations in Japan are preoccupied with Yudakaya, “the Jewish peril.” Books like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, The International Jew and Mein Kampf are regularly reprinted in new editions.

The Spanish, Norwegian and Japanese examples, bizarre as they may seem, are only illustrations of a universal reality. Antisemitism will undergo its recessions and its flarings in different parts of the world at different times, but all that really changes is the frequency of its rhythms and the locations of its emergence.

The Jewish community is now under prolonged attack from many different quarters and in many different ways, from suicide attacks and missile camisades in Israel to murderous strikes in other parts of the world to the mounting of conspiracy theories in the blogosphere to the numberless tractarian screeds flooding the marketplace to hostile newspaper editorials and op-eds to “learned” volumes condemning the malefic “Jewish lobby” to crusades of boycott and divestment emanating from important Western institutions to United Nations resolutions and NGO reports to Durban-type conferences to howls of “crime against humanity” whenever Israel moves to protect itself against its enemies.

Add to this the spate of Islamic sermons promising the eradication of the Jewish people from the face of the earth and the imminent nuclear threat of the Iranian mullocracy—and then let us try to convince ourselves that what we are witnessing under the euphemism “anti-Zionism” is really a virtuous campaign of nonpartisan solicitude.

But if we do not court a comfortable state of oblivion, we can sense the rising swell of predatory anticipation in a world preparing to cast out its chosen scapegoat from the body of nations. What we may be observing across the entire gamut of significance—from unknown New Zealand priest Gerard Burns smearing red paint mixed with his own blood on the Rabin monument in Wellington to an all-too-well known Iranian tyrant promising the nuclear destruction of Israel—are the preliminary stages of a world readying itself to launch the next Holocaust, or as close to it as it can get. Ever again.

One of Israel’s scarce Muslim friends, who has the interests of Jews and Israelis at heart, has stated this plainly. Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, Director of the Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community, despairs of Israel’s and the Jewish future. “The nations of the world,” he predicts, are “once again preparing bad days for the Jewish people” (, December 21, 2007).

He may well be right.

14 replies »

  1. Excellent article. Whatever word one uses, “Anti-Semitism” is mainstream today. Of course, anti-Semites think that it is a good thing.

  2. We know this all too well, but the author definitely has a way with words.
    Antisemitism didn’t die after the Shoah and has risen like a phoenix.
    It’s strange that countries like Japan have been infected with the deadly virus. It was usually in Christian or Muslim countries

    What boots it to repeat ‘Never Again’ when time is slipping beneath our feet. If they come for us again, we still have Israel – or is that too late by now? How would we reach Eretz Yisrael from Europe or the US if the airports were closed?

    Better to die fighting than like sheep to the slaughter. Choose to fight with your keyboards, I say. Fight the Guardianistas, fight the fascistas on the Net till you drop. And the rest is silence…

    ( Sorry, guys, I couldn’t resist a bit or irony ! )

  3. Beautifully and precisely put.
    The extent to which the world is fooling itself about the Iranian threat is exceedingly worrying.

  4. The core of the problem is that the concept of a minority’s human rights is one that the politically-correct world is unwilling to apply to the Jews.

    For example, at the individual level, much of Asia admires the Jews’ intellectual achievements. However, at the political and commercial level, Asia cedes to the far superior numbers and wealth of the Muslim world and to the Muslim intent to subjugate the Jewish minority.

  5. Fabulous article David. Sad but true. Though the ability to commit another holocaust is nill with the weapons at Israel’s dispense, some nasty wars will undoubtely follow suit, and the world will shutter in their wake. When anti-semitism is turned into acceptable public discourse like we see throughout the UK at public forums, universities, labor unions, hospitals, and publications like the Guardian, watch out.

  6. Excellent article.

    Which other prejudice is so regularly denied?
    Homphobia?Racism?Misogyny?Only anti-semitism seem to be de-legitimized on such a regular basis.

    Which other group of people have their existence as a definable entity so regularly called into question?
    The French?Pakistanis?Eskimos?Gypsies?Only Jews seem to be denied existence on such a regular basis.

    Which other country has its right to exist so frequently questioned?
    Pakistan?Austria?Any of the 33 new countries created since 1990?( Israel’s right to exist seems to be questioned on such a regular basis.

    Which other country defined wholly or partly by a religious faith is so regularly castigated for this?The Islamic Republic of Pakistan?The Islamic Republic of Iran?Only Israel’s existence as a Jewish State,(and a Parliamentary Democracy) seems to be called into question on such a regular basis.

    None of these can possibly be anti-semitism of course,(or racism as I now prefer to call it,as so many people inform me that anti-semitism actually means prejudice against the semite people(in the same way that gay means happy)).

    It must just all be a big coincidence.

  7. The best of this three part series by far.

    A few thoughts that occur to me following the article:

    * the serviceable code word of “anti-Zionism.” is nowhere more vilely used, IMO, than by those Jews who try to justify and buttress their views by inserting somewhere in their remarks that “as-a-Jew” … “I am shocked/opposed/horrified/ashamed/you name it” by Israel’s behavior.

    In fact, what really lies behind their words is actually a fear of increasing anti-Semitism that will target them because Israel and Israelis dare to act in their own best interests. And yet, these same “as-a-Jews”, fearful of being targeted because they are Jewish and the anti-Semites they fear do NOT distinguish between “Zionists” and the “good non-Zionist Jews” incessantly try to draw that “anti-Zionist” line.

    To curry favor with the non-Jewish community to which they wish to belong, but never are fully accepted, they protest that they are the good Jews, not like those bad Zionist Jews, and, to make the point, spend much time and effort vilify Zionism and Zionists. Comment is Free employs a veritable stable of these people.

    I can deal with the Gentile anti-Semite, but the spineless “as-a-Jews” are completely disgusting.

    * With respect to Michael Chabon’s book, “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union” (a difficult read, by the way, unlike his Pulitzer-winning “Kavalier and Clay” which is a remarkable commentary on the effects of one family member escaping the Nazis and making it to the US) one of the key aspects is that 60 years have passed since the Jews lost the 1948 war, and were offered asylum in a remote area of Alaska – for 60 years. Now the 60 years is up, the Eskimos want them gone – and where will they go? A profound question, very thought provoking for anyone who thinks Israel has no right to exist, and you’ll need to read the book to get the answer!!

    * With respect to Japan, while what Solway reports is correct, I believe, regarding the translations of these anti-Semitic texts (and I think that the same is happening in China) I have read that the Japanese read them in the hope of learning about and emulating Jewish success in the financial and intellectual spheres which strikes them as extraordinary given the small number of Jews in the world.- as if they believe, for whatever reason, that these books will explain to them how to have similar success.

    I wish they could find some better reading material! That being said, for decades a Japanese organization has been sending groups to one of the kibbutzim near Bet Shean – Hefziba or Bet Alfa – and are very supportive of Israel.

  8. BTW – speaking of bernie Madoff – this just in:

    Investment scandal damages Hezbollah
    Even backers question ‘Party of God’ over ties to indicted financier

    YAROUN, LEBANON — Suleiman’s brother was a Hezbollah fighter, killed in the 2006 war with Israel. His house was destroyed by an Israeli shell. And now, his life’s fortune is gone, too, lost along with the money of thousands of other Lebanese who put their faith in a billionaire financier with close ties to Hezbollah.

    The investment scheme, which is being called the Lebanese version of the Bernie Madoff scandal, threatens to tarnish the Shiite group’s carefully cultivated image as a pious defender of the masses that is above the corruption endemic in many of Lebanon’s political parties.

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer group of people.

  9. learning about and emulating Jewish success in the financial and intellectual spheres which strikes them as extraordinary given the small number of Jews in the world

    In Asia, that’s a surprisingly frequent view.

  10. There does indeed seem to be widespread anti-Semitic sentiment in Spain. Not in the Nazi/pogrom sense, but nevertheless expressed in lazy prejudices.

    But this article – yet again on this site – goes OTT.

    “When Islamic terrorists incinerated 3000 people in the Twin Towers, we learned it was really a Mossad operation”

    Really? From who? Crazy conspiracy theorists – and, it has to be said, within the Muslim community.

    But has any mainstream paper ever come up with such nonsense? No.

    Interesting btw to see your quote from the German journalist and his – talking about anti-Semites – reference to “Rich Jews are exploiters; poor Jews are freeloaders”

    I made this very point in an expanded version on CiF a while back.

    As your man says: anti-Semites will use absolutely any excuse to attack Jews.

    I think you and most other people on this site exaggerate the degree of anti-Semitism in Europe, but at the same time a load of other people (yes, incl. on CiF) massively underestimate it – whether through ignorance or deliberate denial.

  11. The article by Solway is an elegant exercise in auto-flaggelation. You see how bad the antisemites are? See how everybody hates us! – There is no smoke without fire, certainly, and even paranoid people have real enemies, but what can be done about it? CiF must be shamed and exposed – quite right, but what’s the point of all these scare stories? Let’s get down to tachles and do something practical – or else make aliya en masse.

    It’s a sad day when I start seeing more common sense from a ‘righteous gentile’ ( aka pretzelberg ) than from a bunch of alte kakkes who seem to get their kicks from torturing themselves over antisemitism and imagining that they can make a difference from their keyboards. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been doing a lot of kvetching about antisemitism ever since I discovered internet talk forums, but where has it got me? Depressed, that’s for sure.

    I know that saying this on here won’t make me too popular, but what the hell. I needed to get it off my chest and maybe now I can concentrate on other things. I know that Jews say goodbye and never leave, while the goyim just go without saying anything. Goodbye.

  12. Here’s an example of a “useful idiot” whose renegade views encourage and provide camouflage for the “anti-Zionist” Guardianistas in their loathing of Jewish aspirations.
    This article, in the Western Mail in January, has been given wide coverage among the lefty Israel-haters. I know that Liberal rabbis still seem to think like gentlemen-of-the-Mosaic persuasion “yekkes”, but at least, while shunning the Board of Deputies’ rally in Trafalgar Square, they had the decency to stay at home during the anti-Gaza hate-fest march on Israel’s embassy in January. The [intermarried] Rabbi Cohn-Sherbok (he has no congregation but is a professor of Judaic Studies) had no such inhibitions describes how he reacted to the anti-Israel marchers:
    “Over the Christmas vacation my wife and I were staying in Kensington in London near the Israeli Embassy.
    Every day I went out for a brisk walk in Kensington Gardens. All last week the embassy was surrounded by police and metal barriers. In the background were mounted riot police.
    In the late afternoons a crowd of Palestinians gathered behind the barricades and shouted slogans in support of the Palestinian cause. Interspersed among the crowd were placards denouncing Israeli policy as well as children waving Palestinian flags.
    This past Saturday tens of thousands of protesters against the war marched from Hyde Park down Kensington Church Street. We were having lunch in a cafe on their route and watched from our table near the window.
    The throng was composed of young Arabs as well as the elderly wearing badges and holding flags. Many of those in the crowd were ordinary British citizens sympathetic to the cause.
    After lunch we made our way across the street and were caught up in a flood of protesters. One took a multicoloured badge from his coat with the slogan Free Palestine and handed it to me. “Join us,” he said as he marched off into the distance.
    My wife pinned it on my lapel and we followed the crowd as they descended in the direction of the embassy.
    I must have been the only rabbi caught up in the march. Yet, despite my Jewish credentials, I had no hesitation joining the protesters even if this happened by accident.
    Every day as I watched television and read the newspapers, I was sickened by the horror of this onslaught. I could not help but be reminded of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Second World War who fought against the Germans.
    Few in number, these brave fighters engaged in a hopeless struggle against insuperable odds. Eventually they were killed and the Warsaw Ghetto set alight.
    Paradoxically, the Jewish community seems blind to the obvious parallels. . . .
    What is needed instead is for Israel to transform itself into a country for both Jews and the Palestinian population.”

    How come so many of these Pappe-minded types are in senior positions at British universities.