Antisemitism needs to be defined in order to effectively combat this irrational hatred

By Rolene Marks

I was promoted recently. Not content to just call me “Zio racist”, “beneficiary of Apartheid in South Africa because you are white and beneficiary of Apartheid in Israel because you are Jewish”, social media keyboard haters, the Media Review Network (MRN) conferred a promotion on my Zionist self. According to them, I am now “Chief Hasbara Agent”. It is a great pity that my new title doesn’t come with a salary commensurate with such an illustrious promotion but c’est la vie.

You may be asking yourself while reading this, what I am trying to say.

It is no great secret that antisemitism is at alarming levels and that social media platforms are fomenting this ugly, ancient hatred. Social media has given keyboard warriors ample opportunity to spew their venom. As it has in generations before, antisemitism has taken on a new iteration – this time in the guise of anti-Zionism.

Let’s be frank – deciding that out of all the nations in the world, only the Jewish people have no right to a national liberation movement called Zionism that speaks of our return to our ancient and ancestral homeland, IS racist. As demonstrated in the tweet above, denying Jews the centrality of Zion and Israel to our Jewish identity is also antisemitic.

Flaming Hatred. Anti-Israel animus transitions into antisemitism that includes drawing analogies to the Nazis, declaring Israel a racist – and thus illegitimate – endeavor, holding it to standards expected of no other democratic state, and holding Jews collectively responsible for its actions. 

I was once called “Occupier Barbie” as an attempt to diminish my gender and my Zionist identity. While I do have to recognise the originality in coming up with nickname like this, it also speaks to the kind of abuse and insult doled out to Jews on a daily basis. And this is just the tip of the iceberg – and not nearly as vile as some of the more bilious comments we receive. In recent weeks, it appears as if a tsunami of hatred has been unleashed on Jews around the world in every possible iteration.

Why Did Nobody Tell Me That Barbie Is Jewish?!

We thought that we had raised the alarm effectively enough in previous decades to warrant a definition of antisemitism. It was soon recognized that in order to effectively combat this ancient and irrational hatred, it would have to be defined within clear parameters.

The result was – The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. This is the accepted, international gold standard by which antisemitism is defined and has been adopted by nearly 40 countries and countless cities, civil society organisations, NGO’s, universities, institutions, business and more – including English Premier League Football/soccer.

IHRA makes it clear exactly what is – and isn’t antisemitic.

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

The above definition does not state that criticism of Israeli policy is antisemitic. Criticising policy is democratic – it is also the national sport of Israelis – but it does clearly define anti-Zionism as antisemitism.

It would appear that there are many who are triggered by IHRA. In recent days, Hollywood actor, Mark Ruffalo and others including the UN Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories, Francesca Albanese, have railed against the IHRA definition of antisemitism. Is it because it holds a mirror to their anti-Zionism and their attempts to sneak in their antisemitism in through more nefarious ways?

Would they have the temerity to try to redefine any other form of racism or discrimination or is this honour reserved only for Jews?

No Laughing Matter. Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo who previously declared that Israel was an apartheid state guilty of genocide, urged the UN in a tweet not to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

For those triggered by the internationally accepted gold standard definition of antisemitism – IHRA – there is the alternative “Jerusalem Declaration” which very clearly states what some believe antisemitism is while greenlighting their anti-Zionism.

Below are excerpts taken verbatim from the Jerusalem Declaration:

Criticizing or opposing Zionism as a form of nationalism, or arguing for a variety of constitutional arrangements for Jews and Palestinians in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. It is not antisemitic to support arrangements that accord full equality to all inhabitants “between the river and the sea,” whether in two states, a binational state, unitary democratic state, federal state, or in whatever form.

Evidence-based criticism of Israel as a state. This includes its institutions and founding principles. It also includes its policies and practices, domestic and abroad, such as the conduct of Israel in the West Bank and Gaza, the role Israel plays in the region, or any other way in which, as a state, it influences events in the world. It is not antisemitic to point out systematic racial discrimination. In general, the same norms of debate that apply to other states and to other conflicts over national self-determination apply in the case of Israel and Palestine. Thus, even if contentious, it is not antisemitic, in and of itself, to compare Israel with other historical cases, including settler-colonialism or apartheid.

Boycott, divestment and sanctions are commonplace, non-violent forms of political protest against states. In the Israeli case they are not, in and of themselves, antisemitic.

Political speech does not have to be measured, proportional, tempered, or reasonable to be protected under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and other human rights instruments. Criticism that some may see as excessive or contentious, or as reflecting a “double standard,” is not, in and of itself, antisemitic. In general, the line between antisemitic and non-antisemitic speech is different from the line between unreasonable and reasonable speech.

No attempts to rewrite our history and call into question our ancient ties to our homeland which is now our thriving nation state is going to dilute their antisemitism.

I only need refer to the opening tweet in this article and the slur, “Occupier Barbie”.  They say sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me. In this case it is the twisting of words and definitions that do cause irreparable harm. We see it every single day, on multiple platforms and across cities around the world.

Antisemitism in America. Seen here at this anti-Israel rally in Washington, DC, March 2010, the common practice of substituting a swastika for a blood-stained Star of David on the Israeli flag.

If there are going to be attempts to deny us peoplehood and a state wrapped up in clever language to try and bypass accepted, working definitions of antisemitism, then Occupier Barbie is a name I will wear like armour.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


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