“Is Anti-Zionism Antisemitism?”

Asking the difficult question.

19 August 2014

On Sunday night 200 people braved Melbourne’s winter to attend a panel discussion of a timely and important topic –

“Is Anti-Zionism Antisemitism?”

From left Dr David Bernstein, Dr David Breakstone and Sarah Mali

The panel hosted by the Zionist Council of Victoria and the Zionist Federation of Australia was made up of international experts, Dr David Bernstein (Dean of Pardes Institute, Jerusalem), Dr David Breakstone (Deputy Chairman, World Zionist Organisation) and Sarah Mali (Director of Machon and Leadership Project at Jewish Agency for Israel). Moderated by Zionist Council of Victoria Hon. Secretary member, Liora Miller, the evening attempted to put context and understanding around the age old question.

In her introduction to the panel, Liora said:

“In Australia we’ve always counted ourselves lucky that multiculturalism has been a success story and the sort of violence we see elsewhere doesn’t touch us here. Not so anymore. Assaults in Perth and Melbourne on Jews and the vile, verbal attack on the school bus in Sydney let alone the reprehensible nature of some of the material posted on social media and in newspapers should send up warning bells. These are not attacks on Israelis or Israeli installations. Israel and Jews it appears have become one and the same.”

 Dr Breakstone, in his opening comments said that the rise of antisemitism and anti-Zionism is perhaps our own fault, as we call Israel the nation of Jews, therefore we as Jews are seen as responsible for everything Israel does and are held accountable as such.

Dr Bernstein said that anti- Zionism is politically correct way of describing the world’s oldest hatred and that it was very difficult to differentiate between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

Sarah Mali’s expanded on the concept of anti -Zionism as the new vehicle for antisemitism, likening anti-Zionism to a mutation of a larger virus called antisemitism. She stressed the importance of distinguishing between legitimate criticism of Israel and blatant antisemitism, citing the the 3D test as a useful resource. She explained how demonisation, double standards and delegitimisation are all factors used in arguments about Israel that are in fact not simply anti-Zionist, but antisemitic.

From left Liora Miller, Dr David Bernstein, Dr David Breakstone and Sarah Mali

“The first D is double standards – when criticism of Israel is applied selectively; when Israel is singled out by the UN for human rights abuses while the behaviour of known and major abusers such as Syria is ignored – this is antisemitism.”

“Demonisation – this is when the Jewish state is being demonized – when Israel’s actions are blown out of all sensible proportional when comparisons are made between Israelis and Nazis, and between Palestinian refugee camps and Auschwitz – this is antisemitism, not legitimate criticism of Israel.”

“The third D is the test of deligitimisation – when Israel’s fundamental right to exist is denied – alone among all the people in the world – this too is antisemitism.”

Dr Bernstein reminded the audience that anti-Zionism in itself is not necessarily antisemitic, and that there were key differences between being actively anti-Zionist and being a passive non-Zionist. He also felt it was appropriate to discuss the context of the younger generation of Jews living in the globalised Diaspora and trying to understand what the importance and significance of the land of Israel is to the Jewish people.

He also focused on the complex and unique nature of Judaism as both a religion and a nation.

“One of the reasons we have difficulties is the Jewish problem – we are a religion and a nation and we don’t fit into other categories in the world. If we are a religious group, why does a religion need a country?”

The discussion was open to the floor and community engagement was encouraged.

Sarah Mali discussed some of the challenges the Jewish community faces in not only engaging those youth with Israel, but also in reinventing the ties between Judaism the religion and Israel the spiritual home of that religion to make Zionism an integral and central aspect of the Jewish identity.

Mr Philip Chester, Liora Miller and Dr David Bernstein



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  1. How any could possibly consider anti-Zionism to be anything else other than anti-Semitism makes absolutely no sense.

    What anti-Zionism says is that despite the rocking good times that Jews had in the middle of the twentieth century in Europe, and despite two thousand years of expulsions and riots and persecutions and pogroms and humilitions and burnings at the stake, the Jews are the only people on the planet absolutely NOT deserving of self-determination and self-defense.

    Of course, this is anti-Semitism.

    I would even go so far to say that it is genocidal anti-Semitism because if the anti-Zionists had their way, 6 million Jews would be helpless before 400 million Arabs who, for the most part, do not want them there.

  2. Otto Waldmann

    One of the most difficult tasks within this debate is the DE-complication of the terms and philosophical categories.
    One of the issues which needs clarifying is the current – accent on current – emphasis on RELIGION, Judaic of course , in the already complex dual determinism of Zionism-antisemitism.

    Religious arguments, central to Christian objections to semitic manifestations are all but absent from the current debates concerning the pernicious presence of the Jew/Israel on the political scene.
    I am going to suggest that, if any reaction from the Jewish quarters is at all necessary, the religious angle is one of the most necessary tool. This pertains strongly to the other implicit necessity that being the exposure of the strong ISLAMIC religious character of the main protagonists in the current antiJewish/antsemitic/antiIsrael universal campaign.

    Otherwise, as me mate Michael so succintly said, it is a given that antisemitism is organically contained in the antizionist concept. All public manifestations of antizionism contain strong and incredibly visible/audible antisemitic elements. The random murder of Jews or just people carrying Jewish symbols is testimony to the strong resentment of Jewish characteristics and that is the essence of antisemitism.

  3. Otto Waldmann

    For G-d’s sake, someone must say something about those deviant Szatmar and Neturei Carta otherwise I’ll say something meself and someone will be hurt……..

  4. Leon Poddebsky

    Antisemites are not deterred or deflected from their agenda by the valid accusation that their anti-Zionism amounts to antisemitism.
    Therefore confronting anti-Zionists with their antisemitism is ineffectual.
    Islamophobia, real and fabricated, on the other hand, does have consequences.

    • Graham Coffey

      Leon, sometimes I am not the sharpest knife in the kitchen drawer…followed your illustrations as to anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist effects on each other….but got (totally) lost at the introductionof Islamophobia. (I constantly have trouble with that word….figuring out what context it is being used in)

      • Leon Poddebsky

        Graham, as I understand it, the people who complain about “Islamophobia” belong to two groups:
        1. The people who justifiably object to stereotyping.
        2. The people who use the accusation to deflect objections of other people to certain activities.

        My point is this: antisemites do not tread on eggshells when they relate to Jews, but most of the vocal ones DO tread on eggshells when they relate to Muslims.

        Why the difference?

        • Graham Coffey

          Thanks Leon for your take on this word. I wasn’t asking for any differing purpose…just to get an other understanding of it…i.e. it bamboozles me for the number of times I have seen it used in different situations.

          As Otto says below…it is a fairly new word…as such. Take care.

  5. Otto Waldmann

    Sorry Leon, I beg to differ on islamophobia.

    The term is relatively new and it does belong to the categories dealing with general aversion to an ideology, religion and even ethnic profiles.
    The current frequent use addresses the Western ethics which h are supposed to be predicated on unqualified respect for all “cultures”, of course the same raft mentioned above. It is used by Islam in order to imply that the same society which abhors antisemitism and racism in general, treats muslims the way they don’t want to be treated themselves. A “gentle” reminder of the “Golden Rule” by which a civilised society must function. In one word, the muslim is telling us that we are persecuting him while we profess that any type of persecution is not acceptable in our society.
    The terms has gained greater currency since 9/11 when the world has “acquired” a certain type of civil vigilance about the very presence of islam and its followers among us. It does imply stereotype, but the most vocal of critics are precisely those easily identifiable as the more radical of the muslim lot. The use of the term is within the known tactics of perverse rational Islam teaches its people when dealing with the dhimi .

    • Graham Coffey

      Otto…thank you also. I have also taken on board your comments in respect of this word. Regards..

  6. Otto Waldmann

    One more thing.
    Active participation to islamic practices is being pursued very strongly by mulsim leaders everywhere in the Western World. “Islamophobia” is part and parcel of the necessary call to arms so frequently seen right here in Australia. By fighting islamophobia one is involved in the greater struggle for the prevalence of islam. That SBS “Insight” of last week showed us how current and serious the problem is and also how deceit is part and parcel of the “narrative”, how being a victim of islamophobia seems to JUSTIFY the necessary deffence of Islam etc.

  7. “Islamophobia” is an appropriation of “anti-Semitism.”

    Just al-Nakba is an appropriation of the Holocaust.

    Just as Jesus, the “First Palestinian Shaheed,” is an appropriation of the world’s most historically famous Jew.

    Just as, in concrete terms, the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock were placed where the Second Temple resided.

    None of this is a coincidence.

    It is all part and parcel of the same modus operandi.

    The simple truth is, they are trying to replace us.

    The “Palestinian” national movement is Zionism’s insidious doppleganger.

  8. Otto Waldmann

    Michael, you are absolutely right and I would add that “islamophobia” does all that “antisemitic” juxtaposing and then goes well beyond it in its quest of the entire civilised world,Jewish or not.
    One element characteristic of classic antisemitism not yet observed at the islamophobic rhetoric is the notion that the Jew has conquered the Western World and controls it whereby islam would render some kind of “justice”. But I am not holding my breath….