How easily anti-Zionism slid into antisemitism

This short piece by David Osler is interesting – I wish it was longer and I’d urge commenters not to demand too much of a piece this brief.

These days he aligns his support of secular democracy with being “on balance an anti-Zionist”, though he doesn’t believe that Zionism is necessarily racist. But in the ’80s, while he was in the IMG, he helped kicked the Jewish Society out of his university. This is how easily anti-Zionism slid into antisemitism:

“My attitude had very much been shaped by the war in Lebanon three years earlier, especially the Sabra and Shatila massacre. So I saw things in black and white.

Zionism, I then believed, was a form of racism. Self-evidently, no student union should permit a racist student group to function under its auspices. Ipso facto, City Poly JSoc had to go.”

He now regrets his part in this as a “gross mistake” while noting that higher up the food chain of his movement there may have been a coordinated hostility to Jewish Societies.

No less problematic an ideology than Zionism is held to be, almost everything about contemporary anti-Zionism needs examining along with the Zionism anti-Zionists confront us with. We should insist.

47 Responses to “How easily anti-Zionism slid into antisemitism”

  1. Mira Vogel Says:

    “supporters of Israel frequently conflate the terms [anti-Zionism and antisemitism] for base polemical advantage”

    I spend enough of my time trying to be rigorous – collecting evidence about antisemitism sliding into anti-Zionism (or rather the other way round) so I can substantiate my arguments – that I find these frequent claims about red herrings pretty galling. Who did the conflation, and why was it wrong?

  2. Max Says:

    It’s interesting to see again that academic boycotts and anti-JSoc campaigns are nothing new. I think anti-Zionist (or anti-Semitic) feeling tends to go in phases and shows a certain amount of influence from world events (or people’s interpretations of them); thus we see good decades and bad decades, eras of hate and eras of less hate.

    Osler’s piece also goes to show how the engagement of logical thought and serious consideration of an issue can help, which is something a lot of the far-left miss in preference of shouting and placard-waving.

  3. Fabian from Israel Says:

    I think it is fair enough if people don’t like Argentinians. We can be pretty arrogant and nasty. But I have to find just one person who tells me that they hate the Republic of Argentina and wishes it gone. Just one person. Compare that with the antisemites who tell me that Israel must go. Anti-Zionism is antisemitism because there is no hatred like this for Israel for any other country on Earth.
    There is no difference between the two. People are deluded if they think there is.

    Want me to recollect Argentina’s continuing genocide to this day of its natives for those who say that they hate Israel for their actions? Don’t you prefer to change the subject to the beauty of Tango or the evilness of Zionists?

  4. N. Friedman Says:

    Mira Vogel,

    You write: “I spend enough of my time trying to be rigorous – collecting evidence about antisemitism sliding into anti-Zionism (or rather the other way round) so I can substantiate my arguments …”

    First, your point suggests that, somehow, someway, someplace, a rarefied and not wholly indecent form of Anti-Zionism exists. Otherwise, why the concern to document the “sliding”?

    The reality is that, with the fact of an existing Israel, Anti-Zionism is itself a form of hate mongering – note the constant lying and exaggerating and phony concerns raised by them, often accepting the very same “flaws” in themselves and in their home countries (and all other countries except Israel).

    Second, what imaginable reason is there for thinking that a movement predicated on asserting the evil of Zionism – i.e. the supposed evil of Jewish liberation – would be something other than a form of Antisemitism? Now, I am not saying that one cannot somehow, somewhere, theoretically oppose Israel’s existence without being Antisemitic. Instead, I am asking, what are the odds that a movement mostly among Europeans – that land mass of people which has, of course, always, well actually rather seldomly, shown great love for Jews and their concerns and movements – that singles out the world’s only Jewish state for disparagement and/or elimination is other than Antisemitic? Maybe 1 in a million? And, given that all involved know that Antisemitism is rife among the Middle Eastern Arab allies of the European Anti-Zionists are neck deep, if not higher, in Antisemitism, from blood libel to the Protocols to love of Mein Kampf, etc., etc., the decision to elide that Middle Eastern Antisemitism tells you everything one needs to know about European Anti-Zionists. Which is to say, the odds here are closer to 1 in a thousand million.

    In any event, why even make this an issue when you might, instead, ask the Anti-Zionists to distinguish the current round of hatred from past rounds? They can’t possibly do so because there is no real distinction. And, their aim is political, not scholarship, so the truth of your scholarship – of which I have no doubt – is irrelevant to them and always will be.

    They hate Israel and Zionism because they hate them irrationally and you will not assuage them by pointing out facts. That means, frankly, that you need to undermine them, not debate them. And, in undermining them, it is not all that important to show them “sliding,” as if this were a subtle matter that could be avoided by using more fastidious arguments that avoid stigmatizing their intended victims. Even kinder, gentler arguments are hateful because the movement has hateful objectives.

    Jew haters over the centuries have mostly said they do not hate Jews; it is only this or that thing Jews have done or think that they hate. So, Jews were hated for refusing Christianity and then, in more recent times, for inventing it. Jews were hated for being capitalists and for reinvigorating socialism. They were hated for being both for and against nationalism, etc., etc.

    Jews were, in the 20th Century, hated for being of the wrong race (and also in Spain from the 15th Century on). This one can be described as hatred that transcends anything Jews have done. But, most episodes of Antisemitism have, when said to be hate movements, defended themselves by saying they do not hate Jews. Rather, they wanted to help Jews. In the case of Christian Antisemitism, the idea was that Jews would, by their suffering, eventually come to see the true light of Christianity.

    With that in mind, why not let the Jew haters of today – the Anti-Zionist bigots – explain how they are different from past groups who hated Jews while claiming otherwise?

    I say this, noting that all of the effort to refine and understand the relationship between Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism has done not a thing to abate either movement – or, perhaps, either manifestation of the same bigoted Jew hating movement.

    In any event, none of this is a close question. The Anti-Zionist movement is an Antisemitic movement but even if it were not, it is just as bigoted and hateful and disreputable as any other Antisemitic movement. Perhaps, given that Antisemitism today threatens Israel’s Jews directly while most other Jews are, comparatively, left alone, Anti-Zionism in today’s world may, as Judah Pearl asserts, actually be worse than Antisemitism, assuming it is really different from Antisemitism and not merely a particular expression of it.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      “what imaginable reason is there for thinking that a movement predicated on asserting the evil of Zionism – i.e. the supposed evil of Jewish liberation – would be something other than a form of Antisemitism?”

      Some people believe that Zionism is Jewish liberation. But some people have visions of a world without borders. Other people view Zionism more reluctantly as a necessary development post-Holocaust, post-Stalin. Zionism was a way of organising Jews in terms of international relations – and there’s the nation-building which can go along with that, and sometimes that involves pomp and mystification. I don’t see the most recent announcements about 1,600 housing units on land which is supposed to be a Palestinian state as Zionist, for example – although campaigners for the settlers might want me to. For me, Israel is very far away. I am as (un)comfortable with Zionism, as I understand it, as with any other national liberation movement. I don’t personally know any contemporary anti-Zionists sufficiently knowledgeable and caring to admire, let alone be convinced by. They seem to miss out considering such fundamental questions that their vision seems irresponsible. I think there may be more responsible anti-Zionists in Israel. In short Neil (cos I have to be) I do reject your conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

      Mod, thanks for pointing out the distinctly unrigorous association I made between DO and the SWP.

  5. modernity Says:

    In all fairness to Dave Osler, he was, as I understand, in the IMG, not the SWP, and he is highly critical of vulgar anti-imperialism.

    Many of his posters are however, SWPers or similarly inflicted with an inability to see anti-Jewish racism when it is staring them in the face.

  6. Thomas Venner Says:

    I wouldn’t say that anti-Semitic activity was influenced or provoked by world events – the anti-Semitic sentiments and the desire to act on them are always there, the so-called “trigger” events are just used as an excuse to legitimise it, such as in the case of the attacks on Jews and Jewish-owned businesses after the Gaza war last year, which were able to be presented as “reprisals” by the perpetrators due to the time at which they took place.

    • Gil Says:

      Thomas, haven’t you read Yasmin-Alibhai Brown in the Independent? She claims that the protesters from Gaza who are now being dealt with by the Iskleworth Crown Court are heroes who were engaged in ‘insignificant acts of bravado’ no less.

      Next time I sit in a Starbucks during an ‘anti-Zionist’ pogrom I’ll applaud my assailants for their bravado.

      • Thomas Venner Says:

        I think you’ve misunderstood me slightly. My point is that all of these anti-Semitic attacks are claimed by the perpetrators as being “reprisals” for something Israel has done, while in fact the act or supposed act that the attacks are being carried out “in response” to are simply being used as an excuse by people who want to carry out anti-Semitic acts anyway, but who want to act on their desires in a way that can be presented as something more acceptable and “understandable”. Rather than world events causing anti-Semitism, they are simply used to justify the expression of anti-Semitism which was already there. The only reason these people (for the moment at least) are not, to take the example you gave, trashing branches of Starbucks all the time is because at the moment they can only confer a sense of legitimacy on their actions if something has happened that they can claim they’re carrying out “reprisals” for. If they didn’t have an event to use as an excuse, then they would not be able to present themselves as anything other than what they are, i.e. Jew-hating thugs, which is why, at the present time, the majority of anti-Semitic incidents happen after particular “trigger” events in the Middle East.

        • Bill Says:

          I’ve think we’ve seen a lot of which you speak… a good example was the revolting example of Richard Silverstein buying into the attacks on the Chabad House in the Mumbai attacks. It was an justifiable attack on Israel even though there was genuinely Israeli target and a response to the occupation, the consulate, across town. Smack Susan because you’re mad at Mary (who’ll rearrange your face if you mess with her) and you’re undeniably a misogynist. Kill Jews, any Jews, at the Chabad house and not at the Consulate (who’ll send your bullet ridden body back from whence you came) and you’re just mad about the occupation.

          People who use that kind of argument have no business saying that defenders of Israel always play the antisemitism card. They’re usually the first to “globalize” antizionism. We’re just pointing it out, eh?

        • Gil Says:

          Thomas, sorry. I was attempting to be ironic…I actually fully agree with you. My words came out wrong.

  7. Harry Goldstein Says:


    ‘Some people believe that Zionism is Jewish liberation. But some people have visions of a world without borders.’

    The common thread in both these views, which we can all accept, is that Zionism is a form of Jewish nationalism. It is perfectly legitimate, if somewhat overoptimistic, to oppose all nationalism in the name of a future world without borders. However, the question we have to ask is, why start with Israel? Why are the Jews supposed to be humanity’s guinea-pigs in the brave experiment of abolishing national independence?

    The only principled position for any so-called internationalist who takes this view would be to start with their own country. Where is the campaign to abolish British independence and unite with France, say? Yet that should be simple compared to Israel/Palestine. After all, Britain and France haven’t fought each other in nearly 200 years, have been official allies for over 100 years, are both EU members, and so on. So establishing a bi-national, bi-lingual state should be easy.

    Of course, we all know that any such proposal would be regarded as insane by 99.9% of the population of both countries, and no-one in their right mind would propose it. Yet people are happy to demand that Israel follow a similar route in infinitely more dangerous circumstances.

    To demand that another people gives up its independence without oneself being prepared to do the same is racist – regardless of whether one is targetting Jews or ‘merely’ Israel.

    Of course, there is a riposte that a bi-national British-French state is unnecessary, because there isn’t a problem. But this is just the point. If there isn’t a problem it’s unnecessary, if there is it’s impossible (except with the destruction of one of the peoples involved).

    • Uri Golomb Says:

      It would be more to the point to suggest a one-British-Isles state consisting of Britain and Ireland — as the ideal solution for the Northern Ireland problem. (Not a restoration of British rule over Ireland, of course, but rather a genuine multi-national state consisting of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland).

      Such a union might be easier to manage than a French-British union; it would certainly easier to manage than an Israel/Palestine bi-national state (for one thing, the Irish Republicans don’t believe that the UK should cease to exist, and supporters of Scottish independence don’t believe that the English should leave London).

      As far as I’m aware, no-one has ever suggested this, and I don’t think the proposal would meet with anything other than dimissive ridicule. How, in light of this, the proposal for a single-state solution in Israel/Palestine is presented as peaceful and realistic is beyond me. (For the record: I’m an Israeli Jew, a left-wing Zionist and a suppporter of the two-state solution).

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      Yeah, I agree that you should start the anti-nationalism where you live. But then, if you are that way inclined, you may have broader horizons. If “the only principled position for any so-called internationalist who takes this view would be to start with their own country” it also follows that because many Jews have a sense of connection with Israel, being a British Jewish anti-Zionist could be principled (thing is there aren’t so many Steve Cohen universalists in the Jewish anti-Zionist movement, that I’ve noticed). Whereas being British, non-Jewish and campaigning anti-Zionist while failing to put any energy into reversing devolution in Britain, or shoring up our fellow EU member state Belgium, is a disturbing position for a group of people to hold. Basically though I agree with you. I don’t want to spend my energies defending anti-Zionists.

      • Fabian from Israel Says:

        I agree 100% with Harry Goldstein. His arguments are mine.

        Now, forget about Britain and Ireland. Why don’t British people campaign for a union with Argentina? In the final analysis, the Malvinas are theirs so you could deliver them without feeling guilty, and you will be a principled citizen of the world!

        Forget it, anti-Zionism IS antisemitism. It is the same hatred. Supposedly “principled” cosmopolitans are just pampered First-World intellectuals with a difficulty to understand and appreciate what Jews really want.

  8. modernityblog Says:

    I think what is depressing about that thread at Dave Osler’s is how people can’t see the connections between the offal libel, Baroness Tonge and the Stop the War Coalition.

    To this day, the StWC is still pushing this racism, and over at the Go petition web site, some 984 Signatures have been collected.

  9. Max Says:

    Fabian wrote:
    “Forget it, anti-Zionism IS antisemitism. It is the same hatred. Supposedly “principled” cosmopolitans are just pampered First-World intellectuals with a difficulty to understand and appreciate what Jews really want.”

    You make a good point there, Fabian. I’ve always wondered why antisemitism from white Brits makes me more annoyed than antisemitism from Arabs, and I think it’s this: it’s not possible to get a proper understanding of the complex world of Middle Eastern politics from a comfortable flat in Islington.

    Many anti-Zionists clearly haven’t done their research and they should aim to become better informed before getting on their high pedestal.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      “appreciate what Jews really want.”

      “antisemitism from white Brits makes me more annoyed than antisemitism from Arabs”

      Nice lumps of humanity you’ve got yourselves there. Makes things easier, I suppose.

      • Max Says:

        Well of course I didn’t mean to imply that all white Brits or all Arabs were antisemitic, sorry if it came across that way. I was talking about the likes of Hamas and their supporters, some of whom I have found to be white British and otherwise liberal.

        You could also throw Michele Renouf into the mix for an interesting example of the Right rubbing shoulders with the New Left and conservative Islam to produce a rather nasty antisemitic cocktail.

  10. Susan Says:

    “supporters of Israel frequently conflate the terms for base polemical advantage.”

    This is an anitsemitic statement. It assumes that Jews and supporters of Israel are usually liars. I commented on Dave Osler’s article and said that supporters of Israel only called something antisemitic if they really believed it was antisemitic.

    I amazes me that so many people on the left are willing to believe that “Jews lie for polemical advantage. I have to conclude that that antisemitism is to blame at some level.

    • Stephen Duke Says:


      This idea (that Jews lie when it suits them) will not go away very quickly. It originates in Christian theology and is used as a way of explaining the Jewish rejection of Jesus.

      The power of this allegation is the context in which it arose. If Jews are cpable of lying when it suits them, even to the extent of rejecting G-d then Jews will be able to lie in just about any circumstance where there is a discernable self-interest.

      We need to make people aware of the origins of this allegation and confront this form of antisemitism head on.

  11. Max Says:

    Susan wrote: “I amazes me that so many people on the left are willing to believe that “Jews lie for polemical advantage. I have to conclude that that antisemitism is to blame at some level.”

    It’s so ingrained an attitude I sometimes wonder if some are even aware they’re being antisemitic.

    • Bill Says:

      It’s so ingrained an attitude I sometimes wonder if some are even aware they’re being antisemitic.

      Oh heck… That’s definitely the case! It’s been internalized. For so long (we’re talking centuries), the “correct” view of Jews has been to hate them, hate them resent them, blame them for everything (starting with killing jesus, ending with whatever you fancy), and take everything out on them. If 2-300 years of slavery, Jim Crow, the Klan, and the rest is enough to rightfully imply that US whites have internalized racism against blacks, then why can’t it be the same, and even more so, when we’re talking about the Jews since it’s gone on for so much longer? (I recall an apologist for this rejecting the Internalization theory of race as soon as I applied it to the Jews back in the old pre-wodpress days of Engage.)

  12. 1985 JSoc ban: update : David Osler Says:

    […] The article has been reproduced by Jews for Justice for Palestinians here, while Mira Vogel gives her gloss on the topic on the Engage […]

  13. Dave Osler Says:

    Don’t distort what I said, Susan. Where do I say that Jews and supporters of Israel are ‘usually liars’? Nowhere.

  14. steveH Says:

    Good to see Modernity finding no problem with all the drivel written above. Should stand as evidence of this guys real agenda.

    You are a fraud Modernity.

  15. Max Says:

    “Don’t distort what I said, Susan. Where do I say that Jews and supporters of Israel are ‘usually liars’? Nowhere.”

    Dave, I don’t think Susan was distorting what you said. She made an accurate quote from your article and then commented with her interpretation of it, which others here may or may not agree with.

    SteveH: “Good to see Modernity finding no problem with all the drivel written above. ”

    What and where is this “drivel”, Steve?

  16. Susan Says:

    Dave, you did not say it exactly, but you have said that supporters of Israel conflate anti-Zionism and antisemitism for polemical advantage. I can only interpret this to mean that Jews are lying for polemical advantage. I don’t how else to interpret it. You certainly don’t believe that supporters of Israel believe what they say. If you had said that “supporters of Israel conflate ant-Zionism with antisemitism” without adding, “for polemical advantage” then you would be right, but you didn’t.

  17. Richard Gold Says:

    I’ve been reading Dave’s blog for several years and i haven’t seen any examples of antisemitism from Dave.

    But Dave does make some sweeping generalisations and doesn’t really back them up , usually just making passing comments (maybe because unlike some of his readers he doesn’t have an obsession with zionism and isn’t in the “anti-imperialism of fools” camp).

    Just a couple of points for Dave :

    1) “supporters of Israel frequently conflate the terms for base polemical advantage.”

    Who does this Dave ? Is it the CST ? Is it the Board of Deps ? Is it bicom ? WHo does it Dave ?

    And i’d ask dave to check out this post on the Livingstone Formulation.

    2) Dave says “Now, I am aware that the CST is held in some suspicion by many on the Jewish left, who dismiss it on grounds of its self-appointed nature.”

    Are you aware that many on the Jewish left support and respect the work carried out by the CST ? When you say “many on the Jewish left” i think you really mean the small number of anti-zionist Jews who are the critical ones, and not because of it’s “self-appointed nature” but because it doesn’t follow their anti-zionist stance_. Are you critical of what the CST writes Dave ? If so, why ? Their reports and other publications are available on their website btw.

    • modernityblog Says:

      I would like to say as an active reader of Dave’s blog, you won’t find him articulating any antisemitism, he does have a sense of humour and his posts should not be read too literally.

      Dave Olser has no obsession with Israel, chip on his shoulder about Jews, or other problems.

      IF he had I would gladly point them out, but he doesn’t

      Clearly, many of his readers have problems with Israel and Jews, many of them are still fooled by the euphemistic trick of saying “Zionists” when someone really means “Jews”, but not Dave.

      Quite frankly he’s unusual on the Left (or among politicos of all shades) as he will admit when he’s made a mistake, a rare commodity nowadays.

      So please let’s lay off Dave Osler, there are far bigger fish to fry!

      • Richard Gold Says:

        Agree with what you say about Dave (as i said in my comment). That doesn’t me i can’t challenge Dave re anti-semitism. I hope Dave reads the piece i linked to on The Livingstone Formulation. It’s a sad fact that many people (Jenny Tonge is a good example) use the Livinstone formulation. One only has to mention anti-semitism and people cry Israel.

    • Gil Says:

      This from Jerome’s website:

      ‘Of course, Israeli “democracy” has primarily meant democracy for the Jews…’

      Yeah, Gerald, that’s right. Ignore the reality on the ground. The Arab participation in Israeli democracy must be a figment of everyone’s imagination.

  18. Dave O Says:

    Well, take the Mearsheimer/Walt debate, he says (fully aware of what he is entering into).

    Now, I thought that work was anti-zionist but not anti-semitic. You may think the underlying thesis is right, or you may think the underlying thesis is mistaken. But it is a serious piece of research, and patently not motivated by racism.

    Yet commentators including the ADL and the Washington Post were quick to brand it anti-semitic. And yes, they did that for polemical advantage.

    For the avoidance of doubt, this should not be read as saying ‘Jews are usually liars’. It means no more or no less than Jews are as prone to polemical overstatement as everybody else.

    Got that, Susan? Good. Because I can’t engage in reasoned discussion with people that distort my position.

    Richard: When I said ‘many on the Jewish left’, I perhaps should have said ‘well-known figures on the Jewish left with whom I speak or conduct email exchanges’. I won’t name them, and probably don’t have to name them.

    Am I critical of the CST? I do not have an informed opinion about the CST. All I know about them is what I have heard my Jewish leftist friends say about them, which is not all good.

    But I should point out here that I willingly gave Dave Rich 90 minutes of my time to answer questions about what I did in 1985. So clearly my actions demonstrate that I regard them as a legitimate organisation and I am happy to render assistance to its projects. Fair enough, surely?

  19. Dave O Says:

    Oh, and I’ll just add that I have been as open as possible about what I did in 1985. I have tried my best to explain what I did and why, and instead of trying to keep things hushed up, I have given the matter publicity. What’s not to like?

  20. Susan Says:

    Dave, I refer you to an article by Walter Russell Mead about Walt & Mearsheimer that I posted on Engage elsewhere:

    Also I would like to point out an article on The American Interest also by Walter Russell Mead on the same topic,

  21. Absolutely Observer Says:

    “Now, I thought that work was anti-zionist but not anti-semitic. You may think the underlying thesis is right, or you may think the underlying thesis is mistaken. But it is a serious piece of research, and patently not motivated by racism.”

    It may well not have been motivated by racism, but it is a racist production.

    Indeed, it is antisemitic and not antizionist

    Jews/Zionists determining US foreign policy against the national interest is antisemitic (even if it is not antizionist – after all, W and M do not call for the destruction of Israel, only that US Jewish lobby groups are outed for acting against the national interest). Its thesis only “works” because of the tradition from which it connects and rejuvinates. It is strange that the educated left, schooled in a sensible Marxist education should somehow forget it all when it comes to Israel, Jews and “the Lobby”.

    We laugh out loud when the mad right talk about a “Gay lobby” running Washington, but take seriously a claim that a “Zionist Lobby” runs Washington. That is worrying.

    • Dave Says:

      And who gets to decide what is ‘racist’ in this context?

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        a la the EUMC definition (and all the rest), the victims. That is, the Jews. It is then up to the alleged perpetrators to prove otherwise, not the victims (eg, me) to prove antisemitism. There are, of course, the usual standards of proof to respect.

  22. modernityblog Says:


    I think the discussion on the thread below helps explain it better:

  23. Susan Says:

    OK Dave, you were not saying that supporters of Israel were lying for polemical advantage, I still don’t understand why you don’t think that they are genuinely expressing their opinion without any other motive. There might be a few who are not, but 99% of them are genuine.

    I use my father as an example. He believes that people have always hated Jews and they always will. He doesn’t believe in an afterlife, but he believes that antisemitism is eternal. German Jews were the most assimilated Jews in Europe and look what happened to them. Jews have learned that you have to be wary. Jews have thousands of years of a history of persecution behind them.

  24. Absolute Observer Says:

    “And who gets to decide what is ‘racist’ in this context?”

    Antisemitism is not a matter of opinion.

    Antisemitism is an ideology – in the sense of a distorted view of the world – that. like all aspects of social and political life have “objective features”. One such feature is the notion that Jews pursue their own interests at the expense of the state’s and nation’s in which they live. (I.e. the IL thesis).

    In the current climate, there is an attempt to deny the “objectivity” of antisemitism by subsuming it into a form of (subjective) idenitity politics and/or a “weapon” of such indentities. As a consequence, the claim of antisemitism is reduced to nothing but a subjective claim; i.e. a reduction that denies the obejctive nature of the phenomenon in question.


  25. Stephen Duke Says:

    Dave- I don’t think you or most people on the left are antisemitic. That said there does seem to be a great deal of unthinking going on when it comes to the idea that Jews/Zionists lie when there is a “polemical advantage” (which is a form of self-interest). I mean without evidence, its much more sensible to think that Jews/zionists are genuine but paranoid rather than dishonest when they speak of antisemitism.

    Think about how widely this idea is accepted in left-wing circles and then think about where the idea actually comes from.

    Have you ever witnessed even one conversation that proved beyond any doubt that Jews/zionists lie for “polemical advantage” i.e. did you overhear someone admit that they made a bad faith accusation of antisemitism? If this happened more than once, did it happen so often that you could imagine it reasonable for people to assume that when Jews/Zionists make an accusation of antisemitism it is likely to be made in bad-faith? Did you hear other people tell you about an experience where they claimed some evidence of bad faith, i.e. they heard someone admit to a bad-faith claim of anti-semitism?

    I have yet to experience even one example of this. No-one has ever told me that they have witnessed such an event. I am orthodox Jewish and I used to live in Israel so it could be expected that if this was so widespread amongst Jews and ZionistsI ought to have heard things like this at least once in my life. Plenty of times I’ve seen anti-zionsts accuse Jews/zionists of acting in bad faith but I’ve yet to hear or be told about someone admitting to making a bad faith allegation of antisemitism.

    The question I have is why do people so easily believe something about Jews/zionists when there is so far as I can tell no evidentiary basis for believing such things?

    It behoves those on the left, who claim to oppose racism and stereotyping, to think seriously about this. One can be opposed to zionism/Israel without having to think that Jews are inherrently dishonest so it is not as if accepting this claim undermines other arguments about the justice of Israel/Palestine, yet few people I have engaged with have accepted this idea. Indeed, when confronted, the knee-jerk reaction seems to be “me, antisemitic- how dare you!” even though the accusation is not of overt antisemitism but the very nuanced forms of racism that all on the left agree exist and creep into other discourse.

    The idea that Jews lie out of self-interest is one of the oldest antisemitic tropes. It originates in Christian theology and is used to explain the Jewish rejection of Jesus. Powerful Jews lied about Jesus being the messiah because it threatened their earthly status; if Jews can lie out of self-interest to the extent of rejecting G-d then they can lie in any situation. Just as the church cannot accept that many Jews rejected Jesus on rational, thoughtful grounds, so contemporary antizionists cannot accept that many Jews consider some criticism of Israel to be antisemitic on thoughtful and rational grounds. In both cases accepting Jewish objections means a rethink of ones own position and this is the origin of the accusation; a desire to avoid reflecting on one’s position for fearing that it may be incorrect.

    There is a problem in left-wing discourse today and that is that it fails to identify antisemitism and therefore fails to condemn or challenge it. This is a big problem which is totally separate of the rights and wrongs of Israel/Palestine.

  26. Dave Says:


    I don’t even accuse *anybody* of lying! My words were ‘conflate terms for base polemical advantage’. That, in my book, is simply the sort of thing that everybody does in an argument, especially when they are cornered, and really no big deal.

  27. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Re the Jerome Slater link above, read no further than (only 6 or so lines in): “And yes, I assign little or no responsibility to the Palestinians: they are the victims not the perpetrators; the Palestinian political leadership in the West Bank has never been more impressive and more anxious for a two-state peace settlement”. So the poor Palestinians are, yet again, the innocent victims here. They didn’t, ever, reject the 1947 Partition Plan, or fail to negotiate after 1967; they (in the person of Yasser Arafat) didn’t turn down the Clinton-brokered plan that offered everything in a two-state settlement they could have wanted; Arafat had never laid plans for the second Intifada, and only needed a provocation…

    What is this man on? and just what is he reading? It’s all the Jews fault – but don’t forget the bicycle riders.

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