More on the bogus distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism

The more I think about it, the more I see most “anti-Zionists” as anti-Semites, though they fervently assert that they are not Jew-haters. The fact that they hold Israel to standards that apply to no other countries—indeed, that they don’t even mention with respect to other countries—combined with their adherence to BDS’s “one-state” goal, which will eliminate Israel as the state established by the UN, bespeaks to me something more than just political dissent from the policies of the Israeli government.

To me, the touchstone of whether someone is anti-Semitic with respect to “the problem” can be summed up with one question: “Do you favor a two-state solution, or one state with the ‘right of return’?” I go for the two-state solution, though it looks increasingly untenable for two reasons: neither side now seems to want it nor is moving towards it (though Palestinians historically rejected an Israeli offer of this at least five times), and because the Palestinians largely favor the destruction of Israel, with many also wanting the extirpation of its Jewish citizens.

Yes, Bret Stephens is a conservative (and also a never-Trumper), but I prefer to judge opinions without respect to their source. And this piece from today’s New York Times makes a lot of sense to me, though the Israel-haters will denigrate it.

You may be aware that Hezbollah has been digging tunnels under the Israel/Lebanon border, with the clear aim of invading Israel and killing its inhabitants. Israel is engaged in destroying those tunnels, though a stupidly outraged Lebanon says that they can’t destroy them by going underneath the border into Lebanon. The Palestinians in Gaza, of course, are constantly digging such tunnels as well, often using child labor. Does the Left decry this clear intention to invade Israel and kill its civilians? No, of course not.

And the tunnels are the starting point for Stephens’s column.

While I see a clear distinction between critics of the Israelis government (hell, many of them are Israelis) and anti-Semites, I don’t see such a distinction between “anti-Zionists” and anti-Semites. In fact, I think “anti-Zionist” has become a euphemism for anti-Semite, a name that it’s respectable to bear even though it has darker meanings. Stephens explains why (my emphasis):

All this is to say that Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way than, say, readers of The New York Review of Books [JAC: See this absurd article from the Jew-hating NYRB]: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. It’s somewhat like the difference between discussing the effects of Marxism-Leninism in an undergraduate seminar at Reed College, circa 2018 — and experiencing them at closer range in West Berlin, circa 1961.

Actually, it’s worse than that, since the Soviets merely wanted to dominate or conquer their enemies and seize their property, not wipe them off the map and end their lives. Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state — details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it.

Note the distinction: Anti-Zionists are not advocating the reform of a state, as Japan was reformed after 1945. Nor are they calling for the adjustment of a state’s borders, as Canada’s border with the United States was periodically adjusted in the 19th century. They’re not talking about the birth of a separate state, either, as South Sudan was born out of Sudan in 2011. And they’re certainly not championing the partition of a multiethnic state into ethnically homogenous components, as Yugoslavia was partitioned after 1991.

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell. [JAC: I refuse to believe that Hill was ignorant of the meaning of his words.]

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: To be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

As an addendum: have a look at this totally misleading tweet by the Guardian:

Note the implicit moral equating of dead Palestinians and Israelis in the headline. But the reality is very different (quotes from the Guardian):

The killed Israelis:

A Palestinian has shot dead two Israelis and wounded at least two others at a bus stop in the West Bank, after Israeli forces killed two Palestinians suspected of involvement in earlier attacks.

“A Palestinian opened fire at a bus stop killing 2 Israelis, severely injuring 1 & injuring others at Asaf Junction, north of Jerusalem,” the Israeli military said on Twitter on Thursday. An army spokesperson was unable to confirm reports that the assailant had targeted Israeli soldiers.

The killed Palestinians: both were suspects in terrorist murders whom the IDF was trying to arrest; the Palestinians were both killed after they opened fire on the arresting officers.

Those killings by Israeli forces followed recent attacks that claimed the lives of three Israelis; after one of these attacks, a baby also died in hospital three days later: the infant had been delivered prematurely by caesarean section to a woman wounded in the shooting.

One of the Palestinians was Salah Barghouti, a 29-year-old accused of shooting at Israelis on Sunday at a bus stop near the Ofra settlement. That attack wounded seven people including a woman who was seven months pregnant. [JAC: Note that they don’t mention that he opened fire on those trying to arrest him.]

Doctors performed an emergency caesarean in an attempt to save the unborn child, but he died on Wednesday. His mother remains in hospital in a serious condition.

The other Palestinian killed by Israeli forces overnight had been suspected of shooting two Israelis dead two months ago. Ashraf Naalwa, 23, was killed when forces tried to arrest him near Nablus, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said.

You can read more about this phony moral equivalence here. Here’s Hamas gloating about the wounding of the pregnant woman and the death of her fetus. If you’re supporting the Palestinians, this is the kind of thing you must swallow. And remember, the concept of martyrdom is not a one-off among Palestinians: it’s the warp and weft that binds their attitude towards Israel. If you think a “one state” solution is viable in view of this pervasive attitude, you’re, well, I won’t use bad language.


  1. Roo
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I think that train of thought (if you’re anti X then you’re automatically anti Y) is a VERY slippery slope and one to be avoided. Imagine people applying that same general rule to atheists criticizing religion; political activists criticizing tyrannical governments; and so on. In particular, I’d say remember how much atheists have had to rely on invoking and reminding people *of this very idea* when criticizing religion. It is pretty analogous to say ‘If you criticize religion then you’re anti-Christian / Islamaphobic / anti-Semitic / etc.’ using this same general principle.

    • Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t say you were automatically anti-Semitic if you were anti-Zionist; I said it applied most of the time. Here:

      “I see most “anti-Zionists” as anti-Semitic”

      • Roo
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        I see what you’re saying, but given the way that PC culture has gone insane as of late, I am *very wary of any such lines of thinking.

    • mikeyc
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure if you’re agreeing to the idea that the distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism is bogus or not.

      Because if you aren’t, I suggest re-reading the post and the linked article. It’s true that slippery slopes abound when comparing “antis”, but anti-Zionists are not hiding their hatred of Jews very well – or are actively ignoring the hate that drives it.

      • Roo
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

        I think it certainly *could be bogus, and that is the important point. To use an example – if 100% of people who criticized religion were actually anti-Christian, Islamophobes, and / or anti-Semitic, we should still not say the two are automatically equated *in principle*, because it is entire *possible to criticize religion while having nothing against religious *people. If you open that door in one situation you open that line of thinking, potentially, in many others.

        • Roo
          Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

          Apologies for the typo, I meant the idea that they are automatically equated could be bogus in my above comment.

          • mikeyc
            Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

            Got it, and you’re correct, of course. One must be very careful in making these kinds of accusations as slopes can indeed be slippery. I submit, though, that the article cited (and our host) lays out the evidence for the hatred of Jews that anti-Zionists try to hide.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        I think there’s a “nice” distinction to be had between the two intellectually (and historically), but, nowadays, as a practical matter, the two sets almost completely overlap.

        • Roo
          Posted December 13, 2018 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

          I can’t claim to know one way or the other, but I think psychoanalyzing those with different opinions is notoriously difficult, and causes all sorts of problems (just look at the political climate in the US today). The Palestinians were displaced at one point in time… by way of analogy, if I met someone who was demanding that all non-Native Americans leave the US so that Native Americans could leave reservations and return to their historical homelands (which some people do), then yes, it would have to follow that such a person would be ‘anti-American’, in that they would explicitly be calling for America to no longer exist. But I wouldn’t assume they simply hated *Americans, as people. My knee jerk reaction would probably be to think they were self-aggrandizing and looking to feel important by taking up some Impossible Cause; followed by guilt over thinking that and a consideration that maybe they really did feel *that much empathy for Native Americans, followed by much hand wringing over how or if such historical traumas can ever be healed. But again, this is an argument that people make about the US, and I don’t assume they hate me as a person when they say such things.

          • Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:16 am | Permalink

            “I wouldn’t assume they simply hated *Americans, as people.” Of course they do. But anti-Zionism is a much more sinister hate, because Jews, unlike Americans, have already been victims of an extermination campaign and can become victims again at any moment, and if what anti-Zionists want happens, this will follow with certainty.

            • Roo
              Posted December 17, 2018 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

              Are you from the US? Our Lefties say weird ish like that all the time, and it genuinely doesn’t mean they hate anyone.

              Regarding doing away with free speech “when there’s a good reason to” – I mean, ok, but you have to apply that logic *equally. If you want to suppress free speech and tell the Bahia Amawi’s of the world that they better sign on the dotted line or else and so on, then you are entitled to the uber-conservative view – but that means you are also entitled to have it applied against you as well. It means that you too can be threatened with the loss of your job if you speak out against a group that claims victimhood. If that is the world you want, I applaud you for your consistency. If that is only the world you want *when it comes to you*, then I encourage you to go and get right with your God / philosophy / morals. Any value that is applied only when it benefits you personally is not a value at all.

              • Posted December 18, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

                No, I am not an American.
                You extrapolate from my words. Maybe I have been unclear and it is my fault that I look so authoritarian. I do not say that the anti-Semites should suffer any repressions; I just say that we should be free to label them for who they are.

                I didn’t know about Bahia Amawi. I think she should keep her job. On the other hand, I wouldn’t let her within a mile of my child.

    • Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      I fully agree that if one criticizes Christianity, then one is anti-Christian, and if one criticizes Islam, one is Islamophobic, as I am.
      Saying that a religion is obscurantist and hateful but its adherents are as awesome as everyone else, makes no sense to me and I regard it as a sacrifice to political correctness.

      • Chukar
        Posted December 15, 2018 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        You’re assuming that criticism is always negative. There’s “constructive criticism.” All editors engage in such criticism. Criticism is “analyzing and judging the quality of literary or artistic work, etc.” You can write a criticism of a book and end with “…and I liked the book very much.”

        Criticism doesn’t necessitate hatred or even being “anti” the criticized object.

  2. harrync
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    It seems the rule is IOKIYAAM: [It’s OK if you are a Muslim.] There are more than a dozen “Islamic” states; the regressive left is fine with this. But a Jewish state: no way! But, you say, the Jewish state was created by military conquest; bad. Really, how do you think most of the Islamic states became Muslim?

    • Roger Lambert
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      ” the Jewish state was created by military conquest”

      Um…. what? It was created by treaties and Mandates and the League of Nations. The same way, and by the same auspices, and at the same time as most of the Arab nations in the Middle East.

      • Posted December 14, 2018 at 2:12 am | Permalink

        Most of the local Arab nations were created simply by drawing lines around – or through – existing populations. Israel was created by hacking out a parcel of land as a “Jewish state”. The Jews in the area were not in the majority until after Israel’s formation.

        It’s very hard to look at the events leading to the formation of Israel and not concede that Britain and the UN gave in to the demands of terrorists.

        Anyway, that was then. Israel has existed for seventy years and calls for its destruction amount, in my view, to calls for genocide.

        • Roger Lambert
          Posted December 14, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

          “Israel was created by hacking out a parcel of land as a “Jewish state””

          Jordan was hacked out of a larger parcel that also contained tens of thousands of Jews. Jews were not allowed to live in Jordan according to the British Mandate for Palestine, the same exact entity that created Israel. All the Jews living there were expelled or worse, and lost everything. So, Jordan was specifically a Muslim state hacked out of a parcel of land, so your premise is false.

          Israel did not expel anyone. All faiths were allowed there. Many Arabs became Israeli citizens with full rights. They participate in government, have seats in the Knesset. So, Israel is not a “Jewish state” it ia state that is the Homeland for Jews. That is another premise of yours which does not hold water.

          The Jews have been in the Mideast continuously for 3000 years. Every state now in the Mideast once had Jews living there. Now virtually none of them do. Since 1948, there have been 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab Middle East countries. Most had all their property stolen legally.

          Should we challenge the right of these countries to exist? Should we demand restitution and a right to return?

          • Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:06 am | Permalink

            The Jews have been in the Mideast continuously for 3000 years.

            Judaism is probably not three thousand years old.

            Prior to 1948, there has been a Jewish state in Palestine for only fairly brief periods of time (relatively speaking). The area has generally been ruled by various empires.

            Mistakes were made when setting Israel up but it is now the most progressive and liberal state in the region and there’s no way I would want to see it dissolved or destroyed. 1948 is history.

          • Chukar
            Posted December 15, 2018 at 2:42 pm | Permalink


            On “…hacking out a parcel of land…”

            Also, I have read that large chunks of what is now Israel were owned outright by Jews prior to the onset of WW2. These tracks had been purchased legally (under whatever laws were in force in that area at that time) from the previous owners of the land, just as we in America can buy and sell property. I believe this was one of the ingredients of Zionism: we must buy our own land and control our own destiny, as the Christian nations have proved repeatedly their unwillingness to guarantee our safety.

            So the formation of Israel was at least in part a consolidation of land already owned by Jews.

            I can’t guarantee that this is true. It’s hard to tell these days when someone is making something up.

            • Malgorzata
              Posted December 15, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

              As a matter of fact, it’s not so hard. There are contemporary documents of sale, complete with the description of the bought area, the paid price and with all needed signatures. These documents are in Israel but copies are in many historical books.

        • Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:18 am | Permalink

          “Gave in to the demands of terrorists”??!

  3. Malgorzata
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink


  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Bret Stephens has always been a pretty good political commentator in the past. He is another of those moderate republicans without a home so who knows what in the future. Just another view but it seems the Palestinians have been doing a poor job for a long time. We that live on the side lines know the Palestinians hate Israel and the Jewish people. We also know that any peaceful settlement is but a dream. Why we know this is because there is no reasonable effort to get there. They seem to negotiate always from a position of power that does not exist. I can only guess that they believe this power comes from other supporters but if you do not appear to be attempting a practical peace, one that makes sense to us over here on the sideline, you are not likely to get it. One land that is not shared makes no sense.

  5. Chukar
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    This may be nitpicking, but the equivalence of anti-Zionist to anti-Semite is not really valid for anyone who is a Semite. Jews are Semites, so are Palestinians, Jordanians, Syrians, etc.

    It’s probably fair to say that most non-Jewish Semites are anti-Zionist, and for them, that equates to anti-Jewish. But it doesn’t equate to anti-Semite, as they themselves are Semites. They aren’t anti-themselves. This distinction is often of great importance to them. I know this because non-Jewish Semites have told me so.

    Outside of the non-Jewish Semites – i.e. most of the rest of the world – this detail is ignored. “Huh? All Semites are Jews, aren’t they?” No, they are not.

    So if someone who is of Semitic ancestry vehemently denies that he is anti-Semitic, if you don’t know where he’s coming from (that HE IS a Semite), then misunderstanding results.

    Terms often don’t mean the same thing to everyone and sometimes both sides are right.

    This comment has been made on WEIT by me before and always completely ignored. And so this mistake is perpetuated.

    • mikeyc
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      You stretch the point too far. “Antisemitism” has a meaning independent of the word roots; even though the Semitic people are not comprised solely of Jews, the term “antisemitism” means hatred of Jews. It does NOT mean hatred of all Semitic people because it isn’t used against non-Jews. Language is like that.

      Also, (not suggesting you’re doing it here!) dithering about literal meaning of words is often derailing.

      • Chukar
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        As I said, the distinction is important to Semites. If you’re not a Semite, it’s not important to you.

        I don’t know how many hundreds of millions of non-Jewish Semites there are, but if you found yourself talking to one of them about “anti-Semitism,” he may have a significantly different understanding of that term than you do. And if you insisted that anti-Semitic was the same as anti-Zionist or anti-Jewish, he’d probably consider you uninformed.

        Just as you would consider someone uninformed if he used the term “anti-American” in reference to the hatred of (only) New York City dwellers.

        Some people may have stretched the meaning, and you may feel comfortable doing so as well, but it’s useful to be aware that some have not and their understanding is not incorrect.

        • mikeyc
          Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

          I am not the one stretching the meaning here Chukar. Perhaps English is not your first language, but antisemitism means hatred of Jews. It does NOT mean hatred of all Semitic people. I am not making this up – it is common usage and I don’t think you’ll find any English speaker using it in any other way.

          If a non-Jewish Semite is confused about the term “antisemitism”, then only little wit, ignorance of English, or something darker and more evasive is at play.

      • max blancke
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        The literal definition of words is important when communicating specific ideas.
        Those of us who are not native English speakers tend to write in literalisms.
        The issue with antisemitism is that the origin of the word and the modern definition are different.
        The OED defines antisemitism as “The theory, action, or practice directed against the Jews”.

        We cannot begin to discuss whether something is antisemitism or not unless we both agree on how to define the term.

        I run into this when discussing socialism as well. They usually want to talk about what the term means to them personally, and usually do not know the actual definition of the term.

        • Diane G
          Posted December 14, 2018 at 12:04 am | Permalink

          Check any dictionary you want and you’ll find that antisemitism refers to Jews only. Just because some people want to claim otherwise doesn’t change reality. There are lots of terms in any language that seem like they should mean one thing but don’t, and any intelligent adult, native speaker or learner of a foreign language, realizes one just has to accept traditional conventions regardless of any etymological contradictions.

          • Posted December 14, 2018 at 4:23 am | Permalink

            Agree with Diane. EVERYONE knows that anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews. The discussion above is largely irrelevant and nitpicking, and I’m not sure why people are exercised about this. It’s Pecksniffery, and let’s not argue about it any more.

        • Bob
          Posted December 14, 2018 at 8:06 am | Permalink

          The definition for anti-Semitism has been so for over one hundred years.

    • Malgorzata
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      It may be that you ignored the answer. This is a very old canard of antisemites. The word “Antisemitismus” was coined in Germany at the end of 19th century to give a veneer of “science” to a very plebeian word Judenhasse (Jew-hatred). It was enthusiastically adopted by the whole Europe as a much better word describing the hostile attitudes to Jews. Hitler and his minions, when they courted Arabs in 1930s and 1940., very carefully explained to them that antisemitism doesn’t mean any Semite outside Jews. They conveniently forgot about it after WWII and such people as you help them disseminate this idea that Arabs can’t be antisemites because they are Semites themselves. They can and the majority of them are.

      • Chukar
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        I brought the point up primarily because I once listened to a very long oration at Speaker’s Corner at Hyde Park in London. A self-described “Pan-Arabist” went on at length about how he was an anti-Zionist and wanted to see Israel destroyed, but that he was not anti-Semitic because he was Semitic and didn’t hate himself or his own people. It was 50 years ago. I don’t recall if he said he hated Jews.

        I thought, and still think, the point was valid and it’s useful to know that this distinction exists in the minds of millions. If I hate Ohioans, I’m not thereby “anti-American,” I’m “anti-Ohioan.”

        Insisting that a Semite is anti-Semitic because he hates Jews and Jews only, seems silly to me.

        Just say anti-Jewish. That’s what you mean. I don’t think I’m somehow giving aid and comfort to Jew-haters by pointing this out, or am derailing any conversation. It’s just as dishonorable to hate only Jews than to hate all Semites.

        That’s all. Maybe this point will come back to you the next time you talk to a Jew-hater of Lebanese or Egyptian descent.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

          You are out of date Chuck

          End of.

        • mikeyc
          Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

          This is apropos for this side discussion, I think;

          “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

          “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

          “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

        • Taz
          Posted December 13, 2018 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

          anti-Semitism noun
          an·​ti-Sem·​i·​tism | \ˌan-tē-ˈse-mə-ˌti-zəm, ˌan-ˌtī-\
          Definition of anti-Semitism
          : hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group

          Oxford English Dictionary:
          (also antisemitism)
          Hostility to or prejudice against Jews.

          [an-tee-sem-i-tiz-uh m, an-tahy-]
          discrimination against or prejudice or hostility toward Jews.

          How about we stick with the overwhelmingly accepted usage.

        • Diane G
          Posted December 14, 2018 at 12:13 am | Permalink

          The speaker you heard was as wrong as you are; probably not innocently so, either. It wouldn’t surprise me if the BDS movement has decided to push this same false assertion in an attempt to fortify their disingenuous claim that they’re not antisemitic, oh no, how could that be possible when you consider the etymology, etc.

        • Posted December 14, 2018 at 4:26 am | Permalink

          I will ask that Chukar’s silly insistence that millions of people understand “anti-Semite” to refer to Arabas, too, be curtailed. ENOUGH!. It’s irrelevant and silly and based on hearing a single guy in Hyde Park. The word anti-Semitic appears in the media all over the place and there’s no problem with people understanding what it means

        • Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:23 am | Permalink

          Nobody is going to change the meaning of a word to suit the wishes of some pan-Arabist bigot – neither in English nor in any other language.

    • biz
      Posted December 14, 2018 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      Stupid comment. There is no such thing as a “Semite.”

      There is such a thing as Semitic Languages, a diverse group which includes Hebrew, Arabic, Maltese, and the highland Ethiopian languages. I don’t think you could look at those people and say with a straight face that they formed an ethnic or cultural cluster.

      Antisemitism has a well understood definition that has nothing to do with the Semitic language classification family, and everything to do with specific malice toward Jewish people.

      • Kevin
        Posted December 14, 2018 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        “Stupid comment. There is no such thing as a “Semite.””

        The likliehood is that Semitic languages evolved in the Fertile Crescent and then migrated from there. The Phoenicians expanded from there taking in Malta (and Sardinia, Southern Italy, Corsica, Iberia and Tunisia) on the way.

        I would say with a straight face that they formed an ethnic or cultural cluster.

        Semitic is as meaningful as Germanic in this sense.

        Languages imply an underlying culture and/or ethnicity and similar languages imply some common origin, cultural or ethnic.

        • Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:26 am | Permalink

          I think we can hardly talk about a cultural cluster anymore. The nations speaking Semitic languages have diverged very much.

        • Chukar
          Posted December 15, 2018 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

          It’s extremely likely that everyone in “the West” knows that when a “Westerner” says “antisemitism” they mean “anti-Jew.” Western dictionaries (OED, etc.) follow this usage. Most Semites are not members of this Western cultural group.

          According to there are 527 million speakers of Semitic languages, primarily Arabic. Wikipedia, tracking “native speakers,” claims 328 million, with the difference being (presumably) non-native Arabic speakers.

          Darwin wrote: “If we possessed a perfect pedigree of mankind, a genealogical arrangement of the races of man would afford the best classification of the various languages now spoken…” – Origin of Species, chap 13. Diversification of languages has closely tracked movements of peoples, less so in recent millennia, so there are likely to be genetic similarities among Semitic-speakers not shared with the wider spectrum of humanity.

          As long as we in the West talk only among ourselves, we can now safely assume the term “anti-Semitic” will not likely be misunderstood. This assumption breaks down when one speaks to any of the 327-528 million speakers of Semitic languages who quite likely might consider themselves to be Semites.

          That’s all I’m saying. Recognize the existence of those not privy to our rather parochial Western conversation. They might have a different take on our common (but technically inaccurate) phrase “anti-Semitic.” The world becomes more interconnected daily.

          I ran across this, which I’d like to share, from

          Mark Shainblum, Award-winning Canadian science fiction author (1984-present)
          Answered Apr 21, 2018 · Author has 6.3k answers and 2.6m answer views

          Note: This is now my standard answer to all variations of this question, which gets asked at least a couple of times a week.

          The words “antisemitism” and “antisemite” were coined by white, European Jew-haters in the 19th century who were looking for a slightly more politically correct way of saying “Jew-hater”. They also liked it because it had more “racial” overtones, rather than simply hatred of a particular religion. So any complaints should be taken up with them.

          Of course, they weren’t thinking about Arabs or other non-Jewish Semites because there were virtually none around in Europe in those days.

          The word stuck the way any number of inaccurate terms have stuck around in English (“comic books” aren’t usually funny, for example, and they’re magazines, not books) and there’s really nothing anyone can do about it.

          Jews didn’t coin and don’t control the use of the word “antisemite”. Please take your complaints about its inaccuracy to the 19th century racists who invented it.
          End of quote from Quora.

          • Diane G
            Posted December 15, 2018 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

            “Please take your complaints about its inaccuracy to the 19th century racists who invented it.”


            • Chukar
              Posted December 16, 2018 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

              Hi Diane:

              I can tell by your winking emoji that you picked up on the irony of my posting Mark Shainblum’s comment, seeing as his final comment was to tell people who ask the question I did to take a hike. I wondered if anyone would.

              Hey, I’m flexible.

              Shainblum’s comment was as succinct and accurate as any I’ve seen anywhere.
              1. Coined by 19th century European Jew-haters.
              2. Jews were the only Semites in Europe at that time.
              3. At that time, more politically correct than “Jew-hater.”
              4. Shifted complaint from religious bias to “racial” bias.
              5. The phrase is inaccurate but stuck, much the way “comic book” – neither funny nor a book – stuck.

              My conclusion is that “antisemitic” is a “Who’s on first?” word. Same word, two meanings, and neither speaker is understanding the other.

              • Posted December 16, 2018 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

                You’ve had your say (repeatedly), Chukar. Checking your comments, I see you’re posting from many different IP addresses. That’s a banning offense, so we’ll see you around.

  6. Posted December 13, 2018 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Frankly, anti-Zionism is worse than anti-semitism as an attitude. What can anti-Zionism mean other than the destruction of the state of Israel and the home of millions of Jews? On the other hand, anti-semitism might mean just keeping jews out of your country club.

    But I wouldn’t worry too much about that “from the river to the sea” crap. Israel has by far the most powerful military in the Middle East and nukes to boot, so it ain’t gonna happen.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    … the Jew-hating NYRB …

    Are you saying there’s some institutional anti-Semitism on the part of The New York Review of Books, Jerry (as opposed to in the particular piece you’ve linked to)? I’ve been an occasional reader of it for a long damn time, and I’ve not seen it. Hell, it was founded by a pair of Jews, Barbara Epstein and Robert Silvers, who ran it for nearly a half century. And it’s regularly published many of the most prominent Jewish-American literary figures — from Saul Bellow to Norman Mailer to Harold Bloom to pretty much the whole damn (mostly Jewish) so-called “New York Intellectuals” set.

  8. squidmaster
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I’d be interested in the history of the left’s embrace of muslims and demonization of Israeli’s. I remember when I was in grad school at the University of Wisconsin in the 70s, there was a campus anti-Israeli movement. Adherents espoused beliefs that ranged from objections to Israeli behavior during the Israeli war for independence and the belief that some accommodation needed to be reached with displaced Palestinians to those who believed that Israel must cease to exist and be replaced by ‘Palestine’; opinions about the makeup of the latter state varied.

    Clearly the ‘pro-Palestinian’ faction aligns more with the modern ‘anti-Zionists’ and I recall that people who identified with this group more often complained about ‘the Jews’ as opposed to ‘the Israelis’ or ‘the Israeli government’. I haven’t looked back to commentary around the establishement of the state of Israel. Perhaps a better informed reader knows whether there was conflation of anti-Semitism adn anti-Zionism at that time.

    My impression is that anti-Semitism, which has a long history, preceded anti-Zionism and that the latter has simply been grafted on to millennia old prejudices.

    I think this is essentially the conclusion of the original post.

  9. Posted December 13, 2018 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    I am for one state, Israel, the more I think about it. Palestinians are apparently not a distinct ethnic group, but Arabs, so they can go to any Arab neighbour if they want to be among Arabs, or they could become Israelis proper. They should get customary minority rights, if not yet installed, and hopefully it rises their standards of living. It’s not an entrenched view, I just don’t see another solution and it would be net better for everyone involved.

    Other than that, I agree that anti-zionism is probably just a form of anti-semitism. But it depends on one other thing: are people casually asked what they think and they just say their opinion, it’s probably not an attitude. But people who are greatly motivated by the subject, without having an actual cat in the fight, I’d say there is some anti-semtic attitude. It’s like with people who somehow have a problem with evolution; who of all possible theories mysteriously single out that one. That looks like something else is motivating them (e.g. faith) rather than “just the facts” they cite as reasons for their criticism (which is also bogus).

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      What are “customary minority rights”?

    • Posted December 14, 2018 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Are New Yorkers a distinct ethnic group from Mississippians?

      • Posted December 14, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        Not even apples and oranges. Palestinians are not like, say, Kurds or Tibetan people, who are unique ethnic groups.

    • Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      I agree. Israel and Jordan could divide the West Bank, and Egypt could take back Gaza if bribed nicely enough.

  10. Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    I do not understand the thinking of those who want a one state solution. The two groups are so far apart in their culture and their ethnicity that there could not be be a mutually agreeable governmental structure that would work out.
    The government would have to be completely secular. There would be no state Santana or preferences for any religious group. Neither side would ever agree to that.
    I see a future with a status quo. Continuing conflict until all parties agree to abandon the idea on one state and agree to three states. Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

    • Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Sanction. – not Santana

      • mikeyc
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

        Oye como va.

        • Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

          Very well. You?

          • mikeyc
            Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

            Sorry. Carlos and company are Olde Tyme favs of mine.

    • Posted December 14, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      Also, the Soviet Union is going to be around for decades more. That’s what recognized experts largely agreed on, up to a couple years before it fell apart.

      According to some young Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, in an interview I saw a few years ago, the youth largely see an integrated, non-preferential society as a goal. And not a wildly optimistic goal, but more just a matter of time. Of course, these were a self-selected group, so they and their friends are likely less fractious than average. But maybe they’re right, anyway.

      I hope to non-existent God they’re right.

      • Posted December 14, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        I have tried to find some polls to indicate the opinions of people in Gaza and the West Bank but cannot find anything up to date. I keep seeing the statement that polling is difficult in those s regions.
        There are a number of logical flaws in my arguments in both comments put there on purpose. I am surprised no one else has picked them up.

      • Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:33 am | Permalink

        I am more pessimistic. The vast majority of Israeli Arabs that I know identify themselves as “Palestinians”.

  11. Steve Pollard
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    ‘They could become Israelis proper’. I understand your optimism, but the practical outcome would be that Palestinians would become the majority in Israel in 20 years or less. And then what?

    I support Israel’s right to exist, and I don’t buy a lot of what’s peddled on the opposite side, especially when it’s peddled by countries in the ME who didn’t give a stuff about the Palestinians until it became politically convenient to do so. But the way things are going, I fear the outcome might be either complete Israeli occupation and control of the West Bank (and probably Gaza as well), or the eventual destruction of Israel as a state.

  12. Jesus Figueroa
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Don’t be bambuzzled, you can defend jews and be against the Isrealy state and it’s policies against the Palestinians. Because we defend jews against anti-sematism is that we defend the palestinians against anti-palestinism.

    Just like we would denounce the Nazi ghettos in Poland and defend the jews resistence, is that we defend palestinian resistence.

    We would expect that the Jewish State would have understood what it is to be oppressed that they wouldn’t do it to other people. But it looks like they believe: “the Nazis did it to us, we will do it to the Palestinians.”

    Once the World stops being whimps the Palestian issue can be resolved.

    • mikeyc
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      “the Nazis did it to us, we will do it to the Palestinians.”

      And here we have it under cover of a false equivalency.

    • Posted December 13, 2018 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      if Israel opened the borders between Israel and Gaza we would be back where we were before the border was closed. Buses would be bombed in Israel and Jews would be routinely murdered in their streets and homes. That is why the borders were closed. That is a sad fact but it us true. At some point the Arabs may change their mind and decide to live in peace. But that time is not now and will not come soon

    • Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      This post is specifically referring to people who think like you. Thank you for proving the author’s point!

      • Diane G
        Posted December 15, 2018 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

        + 1

  13. Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Titania casts her magic spell over the
    Social Justice Warriors and they all wake up looking like asses.

  14. Posted December 14, 2018 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Jerry, you are wrong about this.

    • Posted December 14, 2018 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      LOL! I don’t think so, nor do you bother to say why I’m wrong. This mindless comment adds nothing to the discussion. I have taken it under advisement, and I reject what you say.

  15. biz
    Posted December 14, 2018 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    This is a great post and I’m glad to see it.

    Many electrons have been spilled on the equivalency or lack thereof between anti-Zionism and Antisemitism. I generally highlight two ideas about this:

    1) On one level, the question can be addressed without claims of what is in the actual hearts of anti-Zionists. Regardless of -intent-, Anti-Zionism is certainly in -effect- Antisemitism, because, if realized, it would lead to the removal, if not complete genocide, of the 6 million strong Jewish minority currently living in the Middle East. So all of the debate of what is in the true heart of an Anti-Zionist is on one level moot.

    2) If one really desires explore the souls of Anti-Zionists for the presence of absence of Antisemitism in spite of their protestations, the answer is this: It is -theoretically- possible to be an anti-Zionist without being an Antisemite. However in -practice- in the real world the latter accompanies the former effectively 100% of the time. For comparison, as an example, it is also theoretically possible to be an academic postmodernist (an approach to epistemic relativism) without being a leftist (an approach to politics). However the latter almost always accompanies the former, so much so that if you show me a postmodernist I will bet $1000 that they are a leftist and win every time. Same for an Anti-Zionist and Antisemitism.

    In summary, Anti-Zionism is necessarily Antisemitism in effect, and Antisemitic in cause with a probability approaching 1.

    • Giancarlo
      Posted December 14, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts.”
      Rudy Giuliani “the truth isn’t the truth.”
      If these aren’t examples of epistemic relativism, I don’t know what is.
      Now fork over my $1000. Actually, fork over $2000.

      • biz
        Posted December 14, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        Don’t be dense. Not every liar, grifter, or deluded person is an academic postmodernist. The latter is a specific (wrong) philosophical perspective, not a general condition.

        • Kevin
          Posted December 14, 2018 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

          ” It is -theoretically- possible to be an anti-Zionist without being an Antisemite. However in -practice- in the real world the latter accompanies the former effectively 100% of the time.”

          That is a bald assertion: proof and evidence please.

          ” For comparison, as an example, it is also theoretically possible to be an academic postmodernist (an approach to epistemic relativism) without being a leftist (an approach to politics).”

          Might even be true, but irrelevant.

          “In summary, Anti-Zionism is necessarily Antisemitism in effect, and Antisemitic in cause with a probability approaching 1.”

          Again, an unproven assertion.

          • Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:39 am | Permalink

            Kevin, anti-Zionism means leaving Israeli Jews at the mercy of their sworn, mortal enemies. How on Earth can this not be anti-Semitic? We have already discussed this in another thread, and your argument generally boiled down to: “After the world let the British do this to my people, while should Jews be spared?”

        • Giancarlo
          Posted December 14, 2018 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

          Much more dangerous than the babblings of dusty academics is the fact that postmodernism has been coopted by those with actual power, but if you want academics, this article cites Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre, Michael Oakeshott as foundational characters of conservative postmodernism, and more recently Judge Robert Bork and Dennis Prager.

          Now you owe me even more, plus an extra $1000 fine for being rude to me.

  16. Posted December 14, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    There are of course antisemites who use “anti-Zionism” as a euphemism. But what word describes the cluster of opposition to Israeli colonialism, its support (in varying degrees) by various people elsewhere, etc.?

    As for BDS – there the same conflation applies. Yes, some want to use it to literally end the state. Yet, some do not. Should the movement fracture? It is hard to be effective if smaller.

    Is BDS *desirable* as a tactic? The carving up, brutalization, etc. continues regardless, and often nasty to outright murderous responses also continue. BDS (even if adopted by those who want to use it as a thin end of a wedge) is a *peaceful* tactic. (Or, if this is disputed, what would count this way?)

    As for hypocrites, yes, they exist. But so what? Are there criticiisms thereby inaccurate? No, they stand or fall on their own merits. (Special case of the so-called “nirvana fallacy” applies here too.)

    • Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      Maybe “anti-colonialism” is a suitable word. However, if you hear that someone is “anti-colonialist”, you may think that he is against Turkey’s encroachment in Cyprus, Russia’s land grab in Crimea etc. So one should specify “anti-Israeli colonialism”, and then will have to explain why of all examples of expansion today, just one specific case makes his blood boil, and this example, by a pure and totally innocent coincidence, happens to involve Jews.

  17. Giancarlo
    Posted December 14, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    I finally read Stephens’ piece and found it to be yet another example (I suspect disingenuous) of how the term “anti-Zionism,” which should mean not opposition to the existence of Israel but to the establishment of a Jewish state as a discriminatory ethnocracy, has come to be conflated with “anti-Israel” positions that want the state to be wiped out. Is this a smear campaign designed to suffocate any reasonable discussion about Israel’s policies, akin to playing the race card to shut down any meaningful debate about race?

    • Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      Every nation state is a “discriminatory ethnocracy”, so to single out Israel is telltale.

      • Giancarlo
        Posted December 15, 2018 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

        “Every nation state is a “discriminatory ethnocracy.”” False equivalency.
        Yes there is plenty of ethnic strife everywhere, but no, states are not founded as ethnocracies, and it’s not in their declaration of independence as it is in the Israeli one:
        “…hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the state of Israel.”
        Where Jewish can only be understood in the ethnic sense, not civic. This becomes all the more discriminatory when the entity so created is seen as the product of white imperialistic colonialism. Israel is singled out by many for these reasons, and not necessarily for the nefarious ones that you imply.

        • Malgorzata
          Posted December 16, 2018 at 1:45 am | Permalink

          “product of white imperialist colonialism” –

          Brownskinned Jews, refugees from persecution in Yemen (the first numerous group which almost two hundred years ago returned to Erec Israel) and mostly whiteskinned Jews, refugees from pogroms in Russia, who came just after Yemenites, plus diverse survivors of the German and European Holocaust together surely represented “white imperialist colonialism”. But only if one have the right kind of bias.

        • Posted December 16, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

          You are right that many nation states do not put it in their declarations of independence, if they have such. Yet they are all ethnocracies, Germany of the Germans, France of the French, Italy of the Italians, Poland of the Poles etc. Actually, Israel has a higher proportion of minorities and they enjoy more rights than those in many other nation states (including the Arab ones). So when Israel is berated but other nation states are not (and it is often members of the majority in nation states that berate Israel), I consider it double standard.
          As for whiteness, the average Israeli is not whiter than the average Palestinian. As for imperialism, Arabs are far more imperialistic than Jews. So yes, the reasons seem nefarious to me.

          • Diane G
            Posted December 17, 2018 at 3:02 am | Permalink


  18. Posted December 14, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    If you want to actually understand the motivations of leftist anti-Zionists, William Eichler at will explain it to you. It will also point out many flaws in those leftists’ thinking. But it won’t point to anti-Semitism as the main cause, because it’s not.

    • Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      I don’t find the explanation convincing. From the linked article:

      “If you doubt this then ask yourself the following: given the history of Israel/Palestine (see below), would attitudes on the left be any different if Israel was a Christian country of European origin? I suspect not.”

      To me, if you are so short of arguments that you resort to musing on not just hypothetical but totally fictional situations, it is time to abandon your thesis. In a similar tune, some my opponents on this site have called me racist for being indignant about immigrants from Pakistan enslaving native girls in Britain, because – my opponents claimed – I wouldn’t be indignant if the roles were reversed.

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