The single most used excuse when debating Israel. “I’m not an anti-Semite, I’m just an anti-Zionist”. I personally have had it used against me in arguments, I’ve read it on Facebook and Twitter. Lately I saw a Facebook post about the 16 countries who ban Israel passports or Israel passport stamps from entering their country and, a supporter used that very line. That line, that excuse, is just that. An excuse.
To understand the fundamental reason why anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism in disguise, first we must ask what anti-Zionism really is. If you are an anti-Zionist, that means you believe the state of Israel should not exist full stop. That means that you believe nowhere in this world should there be a country which the Jews can call home. You believe should the atrocities of the 1940s ever happen again, I and my community should have nowhere where we can flee to safety and refuge. In a world where there are countless Muslim and Christian countries we should not have a single country for Jews. Not to mention Israel is officially a secular country.
The next question you have to ask yourself, is who are you supporting? When people say they want Israel to be wiped off the map, or as many so-called anti-Zionists will chant “Israel burn in hell”, who do you want to give that land to? The answer is a mix of Hamas, Hezbollah and the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation). Terrorists.
Now people will often stand by Hamas and such groups and say they just want their country back from Israel and to protect their people. I have even heard one person compare Hamas to the ANC and their fight to reclaim South African land during the apartheid. Hamas has in its constitution a mission to reclaim the land of Israel. It also has in the same document a mission to eradicate the Jews from the planet. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that is terrorism, and it certainly shouldn’t be debatable that it is clear antisemitism.
Another issue is the most prominent self-proclaimed anti-Zionist movement in the world. The BDS movement (The Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement which seeks to end international support for Israel). This is a group which approaches anti-Zionism in a very strange way. Instead of standing up and debating Netanyahu supporters, or Netanyahu himself, they incite hatred and promote terror.
About a mile from where I live in Altrincham there is a golf club with predominantly Jewish members. Recently they have had to endure supporters of the BDS movement vandalising the area with “BDS” sprayed around. On the street corner at the top of my road, I came home from holidaying in Barcelona to “BDS” spray painted on the fence facing the A56. To me, that is clear intimidation of local Jews and blatant anti-Semitism. Ask yourself why they chose a Jewish area and a Jewish golf club, and they didn’t find a church or a shop which has proclaimed its support to Israel?
On top of that is what BDS encourages its members to do. I recently saw a video filmed in Ireland where BDS supporters went through a supermarket and aggressively swept the shelves of anything that came from Israel or had any links to Israel. There is even an app where you can scan a barcode of an item and it can tell you if it has had any links to Israel. This to me is not debating the actions of what Israel does, but inciting hatred and spreading fear and intimidation to the Jewish community. Blatant anti-Semitism.
So what do we do about it? If this is the case are we even allowed to criticise Israel for fear of being branded an anti-Semite? The answer is yes.
There is a difference between being an anti-Zionist and not supporting the acts of Israel. You can believe that some of what Israel does is wrong but still believe that a Jewish state should exist. It is once people start believing the latter that the anti-Semitism comes in as I have explained. I will happily stand up and criticise Netanyahu and the Likud party which he represents as being too right winged and not making proper efforts to find a two-state solution. But I still acknowledge the need for the state of Israel to exist. Maybe not in its current form, but in some form.
The best way to think about it, is to compare the acts of Netanyahu to the acts of Blair in Iraq. Millions of people criticised Blair and the war in Iraq and the acts that were committed. Many politicians have stood up and call Blair a terrorist, similar to what people say about Netanyahu. But I have not seen a single person in British politics stand up and say the United Kingdom should therefore not exist. The difference is people are using anti-Zionism to mask anti-Semitism, and are deliberately not separating the acts of Netanyahu to the idea of the existence of a Jewish state – a somewhat obvious difference.
So next time you have a debate about Israel, ask yourself a few questions. Firstly, are you criticising the acts of Netanyahu and saying Netanyahu should be voted out of office, or are you saying that the state of Israel should not exist? If you are saying the latter, ask yourself why that should be the case, and ask yourself the consequences of that. Finally, when you come across an anti-Israel campaigner ask them these questions and see if you can spot the difference between an anti-Semite and a genuine critique of Israel’s actions. The quantity of the former will shock you.
Criticising the acts of Israel is not anti-Semitism. Supporting the removal of the only Jewish state and supporting terrorists, is.