Supporters of justice for Palestine must not be deterred by Zionist attacks on them as antisemitic. Many Jews are critical of Israel. Many are not Zionists. Increasingly, Jews around the world, like Jews against the Occupation Sydney, are protesting publicly against Israel’s current path. Labelling criticism of Israel as antisemitic often works successfully to silence it. 

Zionist attacks are typically framed in the following terms: 

1. Anti-Zionists and those who criticize Israel (or the Israeli government) are just antisemites who want to attack Jews. ‘Anti-Zionist’, or ‘anti-Israel,’ is simply code for hatred of Jews. 

This attack has worn thin with Israel’s repeated attacks on Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, and the increasing number of Israelis and Jews who are openly criticising Israel’s actions and policies. It is a matter of justice and universal human rights and Israel should be as accountable as any other nation for its actions in relation to these universal values and international law. 

Attacking such criticism as ‘antisemitic’ is fundamentally dishonest and makes it impossible to challenge real antisemitism which is unfortunately on the rise. In fact, the boot is on the other foot. The actions of Israel are now fuelling antisemitism world-wide. Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians provokes their rage and despair, and this rage can be shared by their supporters. When so many Jews either actively support Israel right or wrong or are silent about its actions, should we be surprised that the rage and despair rightfully belonging to Israel, is generalised to all Jews in the form of antisemitism? 

However, this is an unthinking, objectionable response and progressives must oppose antisemitism as they must all racism wherever and whenever it appears. 

2. The campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel is fundamentally antisemitic. It is an example of the ‘New Antisemitism’. 

This is just another spurious argument against any challenge to Israel. The BDS campaign is aimed at the institutions of the State of Israel and those who support them. It is not against Israelis or Jews as such. It is no more antisemitic to boycott Israel to end the occupation of Palestine, than it was anti-white to boycott South Africa to end apartheid. 

3. Why don’t these anti-Zionist/Israel activists protest about Darfur or China’s actions in Tibet, or the Congo, Chechnya, West Irian, etc? These activists just want to pick on Israel and Jews. 

Many progressives do take up a range of human rights causes, including Palestine. They recognise that these are linked. However, activists can be involved in only a limited number of issues. Moreover, Israel defines itself as a democratic state. It should be held to the standards it proclaims for itself and its actions protested when it falls short of those standards. 

4. Jews who criticise Israel and/or Zionism are self- hating Jews and ‘not real Jews’ 

Progressive Jews who speak out are liable to be attacked by the organised Jewish community as ‘self-hating Jews’ or ‘not real Jews’. This is just a way of discounting Jews who criticise Israel. They don’t hate themselves or their Jewishness. They hate what Israel is doing in their name. 

Must Jews support or be silent about the massacre of more than 1400 Palestinians in Gaza to be ‘real Jews’? 

Jews who criticise Israel in the name of justice and human rights are much more in line with traditional Jewish ethics which have been sidelined in Zionist propaganda. 

More and more Jews are now speaking out against Israel’s violations of international and humanitarian law and they have a duty to do so. 

5. Comparisons of Israel with Germany and the Nazis are outrageous and intolerable. How cruel to compare the victims of such heinous crimes with their murderers. 

The horrific experiences of the Jews in the past naturally make us very sensitive to comparisons of Israel with Nazism. However, to find similarities between some of the actions of the Nazis and those of the State of Israel is not to say the regimes are equivalent. There is no Israeli Auschwitz and Zionism should not be equated with Published by Jews against the Occupation Sydney www.jao.org.au; contact@jao.org.au; ph 0411 366 295 2 

Nazism. But should it match this extremity for us to speak out against it? Horrifyingly, there are too many similarities and it is valid to identify them. 

But this history gives Israel no right to impunity for atrocities they commit in the present. ‘Never Again’ means ‘Never Again’ for all people, not just the Jews. With the State of Israel, the persecuted have become the persecutors and Jews and people of conscience everywhere have a duty to oppose them. 

6. Jews were victims of the Holocaust and suffered hundreds of years of brutal persecution. We will not give up the right to survive and keep our own state in our historic homeland where we can enjoy justice and equality. No country willingly gives up its right to exist. 

Many nations, Australia included, were founded on takeover and defeat of the indigenous people. In this sense, few have a ‘right to exist’. However, this does not prevent co-existence and deals based on the political reality. No one challenges the right of Israel to defend itself. But its actions are more about subjugating the Palestinians than self defence. The interests of Israelis and Jews would be much better served by reaching an understanding with the Palestinians to share the land of Israel/Palestine on the basis of equality and mutual respect. 

7. The Jews have the right to rule the Land of Israel. It is their historic homeland. It was the Arab countries that started this conflict by refusing to recognise this right and attacking Israel at independence. 

While the Jewish people emerged and lived for many centuries in that part of the world, according to the Biblical account, they ruled it for just over 60 years. And this is highly questionable in the light of modern archaeology. Moslems, Christians and Jews all have a spiritual connection to the land traditionally called the Holy Land. The land of Palestine/Israel has been inhabited by a succession of peoples, including the Jews, and Jews have no special right to the land. The foundation of Israel dispossessed the Palestinians who had been there for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. 

A lot of the support internationally for the establishment of Israel by the United Nations arose out of a combination of the interests of the Western powers and European guilt for the Nazi Holocaust. Palestinians living there did not consent to a settler discriminatory state in their midst and they had no involvement in the Holocaust whatsoever. The right to return of the Palestinian refugees is an inalienable right recognised by the United Nations. 

8. Mistakes have been made on both sides and both sides have suffered enormously. No one (or both sides) is/are to blame and nothing can be done about the past. 

There can be no equality between the dispossessor and the dispossessed, the occupier and the occupied. Israel’s discriminatory legislation, implementation of apartheid policies on the West Bank and its mass killing in Lebanon and Gaza bring into question its right to exist on the current basis. The injustice is not in the past but very much in the present. There can be no peace without justice and a negotiated settlement according to law is the only democratic solution. 

9. Arabs and the rest of the world must accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. The Palestinians’ claim to a right to return is unreasonable as they would outnumber the Jews thus destroying the homeland for the Jews. 

While the full right of return for Palestinian refugees is incompatible with a two state solution based on ethnic majorities of the two peoples, it is not antisemitic. The idea of a Jewish State is problematic since it depends on a Jewish majority and gives Jews priority at the expense of all the other citizens of Israel. Jews, along with the Palestinians, are entitled to democratic self-determination. With mutual respect and a commitment to peace, justice and equality on both sides, a political solution can be found to meet the legitimate aspirations of both peoples. 

In the end, accusing critics of Israel of antisemitism avoids the real issues. On the contrary, the silence or support of the majority of Jews for Israel’s actions ensures that Jews everywhere attract the hatred aroused by those actions. We call on Zionist Jews to engage with the criticisms instead of attacking the critics. And we call on others to speak their minds without fear that just criticism of Israel is antisemitic. 

Published by Jews against the Occupation Sydney www.jao.org.au; contact@jao.org.au; ph 0411 366 295 .