“I’m not anti-Semitic. I’m just anti-Zionist” is an excuse often repeated by politicians, intellectuals and students when they justify their hatred for Israel. This justification, however, has become so convoluted that it is unclear what the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is anymore.
For the sake of clarity, let’s start out by defining these confusing and perhaps overlapping terms.
Although a misnomer as it refers to all Semites including Arabs, anti-Semitism has come to specifically mean the hatred of Jews. This prejudice dates back for thousands of years with incessant abuse, expulsions, and massacres, culminating with the extermination of European Jewry in the 1940’s; the largest systematic genocide in human history.
Given this dark experience as a minority, many advocated that the only way to ensure Jewish safety and survival was through the establishment of a Jewish state. The belief that Jews should pursue a country of their own is called “Zionism.”
As nationalist movements have swept the world in the 20th century, the U.N. granted sovereignty to the Jewish population in British Palestine and Israel declared its independence in 1948.
But as Zionism is the pursuit of a Jewish state, one would assume this ideology would become irrelevant once its goal was achieved. However, as Israel is constantly forced to justify its right to exist, a modern Zionist is someone who believes that the Jewish state should continue to be an autonomous country.
This conviction has been challenged since Israel’s creation with an existential war of independence against five Arab armies. More recently, terrorist groups such as Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon have vowed to destroy Israel with rocket attacks and suicide bombings. Moreover, Iran (which does not share a border or have any real disputes with Israel) is currently developing nuclear weapons to “wipe Israel off the map.”
These positions are indeed anti-Zionist as they actively strive to annihilate Israel through total war.
But not all anti-Zionists advocate violence. In fact, many condemn Israel’s existence only through words. Canadian anti-Zionists who raise money for Hamas-ruled Gaza and protest Israel in events such as Israel Apartheid Week are actually self-proclaimed “peace activists.”
However, it is unclear how these peaceful anti-Zionists intend on dismantling Israel without physical conflict.
Israelis are deeply rooted in their land where they have a unique sense of identity and culture. They are proud of their country and continually defend its right to exist even in the face of intense hostility. Whether we like it or not, we have to accept that Israel is not going anywhere… At least not without a fight.
In essence, therefore, anti-Zionism is the belief that Israel should cease to exist; a belief that can only be realistically achieved through total war.
But does this equate anti-Zionists with anti-Semites?
In theory, no.
Anti-Zionists such as Ahmadinejad parade around ultra-orthodox Jews who do not believe a Jewish state should exist before the coming of the Messiah. There are also certain leftist Jews who understand the world through pseudo-Marxist theories of Western imperialism and see Israel as an illegitimate bourgeois outpost.
But by and large, every mainstream Jewish institution, such as day schools, synagogues and student clubs, continually defend Israel’s right to exist.
In this light, therefore, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism ultimately go hand in hand. As anti-Zionism can only be achieved through violence and as Jewish communities are the foremost supporters of Israel, anti-Semitic aggression is the inevitable result.
Here are some examples of this phenomenon in Montreal:
- In 2006, federal Liberal and Bloc Quebecois representatives joined an anti-Israel rally in which Hezbollah flags were hoisted and jihadist slogans against Jews were chanted. Hezbollah is an outlawed terrorist group in Canada which supports the indiscriminate killing of Jews around the world.
- In 2004, United Talmud Torah, a Jewish elementary school, was firebombed; burning its children’s library. The perpetrators left a note claiming this was an act of revenge against Israel for the assassination of a Hamas terrorist leader.
- In 2002, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was invited to give a speech at Concordia by the local Hillel Club. However, a riot broke out among anti-Zionist protesters who began attacking Jewish students and spectators. The protesters successfully made it too dangerous for the speech to be delivered.
Thomas Hecht, a former member of the Board of Governors at Concordia and a Holocaust survivor, was one of the victims assaulted by Concordia’s anti-Zionist mob. He had this to say:
“This was anti-Semitism. I was the object of their hatred … which expressed itself with placards; with a kind of venom which I have not seen on the streets of a city since the horrible days of occupied, Nazi-occupied Europe…. The perception of Concordia will not be that of an institution where freedom of speech can be freely expressed. Because the way these thugs behaved was not any better than the people who were condemned for such behaviour in 1939 in Europe.
When I tried to enter, somebody approached me with a masked person. They had a hood or something, or a burka, or a shador on, I don’t know if it was man or a woman and they kicked me in the groin. They spat on me. I felt as though I was in Bratislava in 1939 again, where they also spat on me because I was a Jew. But that was Czechoslovakia under German occupation and I was experiencing something which I thought would never happen again: that I was guilty of something because I was Jewish. I was guilty of wanting to hear a speech.”
Samir Elatrash, the leader of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights at Concordia, was arrested for orchestrating the violence. When the supposed “human rights” activist was asked about the remarks made by Thomas Hecht, he responded that he is “not anti-Semitic, only anti-Zionist.”
Elatrash was suspended for three years from Concordia but has been allowed to attend classes while his case is being appealed.
In another incident at McGill last week, student Haaris Khan posted anti-Semitic death threats on Twitter during a film screening hosted by Conservative and Libertarian McGill. The movie entitled, Indoctrinate U, is a documentary which highlights how conservative opinions are met with resistance on university campuses.
Ironically, Khan went on to prove this message. In a typical anti-Semitic fashion, he imagined that a “Zionist conspiracy” was the source all his ferocious rage. For the record, the film has nothing to do with Israel or Jews.
Typing on his Blackberry, Khan called the event a “secret Zionist convention” which was “satanic” and “evil.” He wished he brought an M-16 “to shoot everyone in this room” and “destroy this Jew/Wasp consortium” as a “soldier of freedom.” The next day he posted “the Jihad begins today.”
Terrified students quickly notified McGill authorities who are now investigating the case with Montreal Police. But it appears that no charges will be brought up or any serious reprimands will be enforced by McGill. Khan has since apologized for offending anyone and hopes he will have the opportunity to bridge gaps between Muslims and Jews.
After all, he’s not anti-Semitic, just anti-Zionist.
But as we know, to differentiate the two requires a severe detachment from reality.
When someone sees a country as the source of all evil, calls for its destruction and justifies attacks against its supporters, this person cannot claim his hatred for the country has nothing to do with its people.
One cannot call for the destruction of France without ultimately coming into conflict with the French and their allies around the world.
In the same way, it is impossible to denounce Israel’s right to exist without objecting to the entire Jewish nation.
Just as students at Queens University voted for Nick Day to be removed from his position of rector for his vile remarks about Israel, we need to condemn those who mask their hatred for Jews as acceptable discourse in an intellectual community.
If we are to defend the dignity of all nationalities, we must stand against anti-Zionism for what it really is: anti-Semitism.
This article may not reflect the views of the Prince Arthur Herald.