Well, Roger Cohen of the New York Times thinks so, pointing out in a new op-ed the increased blurring of lines between dislike of Israel and dislike of Jews, as well as the increasing acceptability of slurs against Jews in both British and American academia. And Cohen, like me, always has to include in his articles a caveat about the bad things that, we agree, are done by the Israeli government, including the support of illegal settlements. But the malfeasance of the Israeli government does not justify demonizing Jews, just as the perfidies of ISIS or Saudi Arabia doesn’t warrant the demonization of Muslims. Yet Jews are regularly murdered by terrorists simply for being Jewish, regardless of their views on Israel.
One can argue about Israel’s right to exist, or whether we should have a refuge state based on Judaism. (Of course, much of the Middle East comprises states not only undergirded by Islam, but where Islam is confluent with the state). But it’s too late now: the UN resolutions of 1947 and 1948 established Israel, were passed by the UN, and are faits accompli. To call for Israel’s elimination is not on the table, but to me it’s a touchstone of rationality to also favor a two-state solution, with Israel giving back the illegal settlements on the West Bank and recognizing a Palestinian state. Note, though, that the Palestinians have twice rejected that solution.
But I digress. Here’s part of Cohen’s case for the rise of Leftist anti-Semitism, and I’ve put the last sentence in bold, as I found it striking. (See also Simon Shama’s related argument archived in The Financial Times).
Last month, a co-chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club, Alex Chalmers, quit in protest at what he described as rampant anti-Semitism among members. A “large proportion” of the club “and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews,” he said in a statement.
Chalmers referred to members of the executive committee “throwing around the term ‘Zio’” — an insult used by the Ku Klux Klan; high-level expressions of “solidarity with Hamas” and explicit defense of “their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians”; and the dismissal of any concern about anti-Semitism as “just the Zionists crying wolf.”
The zeitgeist on campuses these days, on both sides of the Atlantic, is one of identity and liberation politics. Jews, of course, are a minority, but through a fashionable cultural prism they are seen as the minority that isn’t — that is to say white, privileged and identified with an “imperialist-colonialist” state, Israel. They are the anti-victims in a prevalent culture of victimhood; Jews, it seems, are the sole historical victim whose claim is dubious.
Again, Cohen’s no cheerleader for Israel:
Today, it is Palestinians in the West Bank who are dehumanized through Israeli dominion, settlement expansion and violence. The West Bank is the tomb of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Palestinians, in turn, incite against Jews and resort to violence, including random stabbings.
The oppression of Palestinians should trouble every Jewish conscience. But nothing can justify the odious “anti-Semitic anti-Zionism” (Johnson’s term) that caused Chalmers to quit and is seeping into British and American campuses.
And I agree with all of that. But equation I see forming is Israel = Jews, and really, who can deny it? When a UCLA student’s ability to be on the university’s student council is questioned simply because she’s Jewish, and therefore might be “biased”, that’s not anti-Israel sentiment; it’s anti-Semitism.
Cohen points out three signs of this creeping bigotry:
The rise of the leftist Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of Britain’s opposition Labour Party appears to have empowered a far left for whom support of the Palestinians is uncritical and for whom, in the words of Alan Johnson, a British political theorist, “that which the demonological Jew once was, demonological Israel now is.”
. . . Johnson, writing in Fathom Journal, outlined three components to left-wing anti-Semitic anti-Zionism. First, “the abolition of the Jewish homeland; not Palestine alongside Israel, but Palestine instead of Israel.” Second, “a demonizing intellectual discourse” that holds that “Zionism is racism” and pursues the “systematic Nazification of Israel.” Third, a global social movement to “exclude one state — and only one state — from the economic, cultural and educational life of humanity.”
Criticism of Israel is one thing; it’s needed in vigorous form. Demonization of Israel is another, a familiar scourge refashioned by the very politics — of identity and liberation — that should comprehend the millennial Jewish struggle against persecution.
I’ve had leftist critics of Israel tell me that, frankly, they don’t care if Israel is pushed into the sea—which of course is the explicit goal of Hamas. I’ve seen the wrath arise when Muslims are targets of hate crimes. (It was widely believed that the three young Muslims in North Carolina were killed by atheist Craig Hicks because of their faith, but that seems not to be the case.) But plenty of Jews are murdered simply because they are Jews, in Israel, Paris, and elsewhere. Similar bigoted violence against Muslims, based solely on their faith, is insupportable, and is “Muslimophobia,” not “Islamophobia.” But regardless of what you call it, if you decry that kind of bigotry, you must equally decry the wanton and unjustifiable murder of Jews for their faith alone.
Maybe I’m simply overly sensitive because I have a Jewish background, or maybe that background makes it easier for both Cohen and me to sense the insidious strains of anti-Semitism growing within the Left. But I agree with Cohen that they’re there, and that one component of the Authoritarian Left is its growing disdain for not just Israel, but for Jews. Why is it growing? I am not sure, but may have something to do with a bigotry born of “higher expectations.”