When politicians like Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar so casually throw around antisemitic tropes reminiscent of much darker times in Jewish history, it is no wonder that American and Israeli Jews alike are calling it as they see it.
Between the rise of white supremacy on the right, and the new form of antisemitism on the left, which requires of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other free and democratic state, Jews are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place. Just as Islamophobia has no place in political discourse, we should be able to criticize Israeli policy free from antisemitism.
In its extreme form, this new antisemitism, also known as “Israel bashing” is a deliberate strategy for policide – the destruction of the Jewish polity and people hood via propaganda, the incitement of hate and violence against Jews everywhere. Other schemes are designed to undermine Israel’s sovereignty, withdraw recognition or ostracize the Jewish state, and defame Israeli society in the eyes of the world community, all under the guise of “concern” for human rights. Part of this includes believing that Israel alone is responsible for the plight of the Palestinian Arabs.
Classic antisemitism assigns Jews, Jewish communities and world Jewry contrived traits and sinister objectives. They range from negative to demonic in character. Since Israel’s birth, however, and particularly in the past few decades, the focus of antisemitism has shifted from defaming the Jewish faith – its character and social organizations, to attacking Jewish peoplehood itself.
Since the early 1950s, Jews have become increasingly secular and integrated into non-Jewish society. Especially in North America, two abiding themes have emerged as dominant binding forces for Jews, parallel to nominal religious affiliation: Jewishness had focused on the Holocaust – its memory and its meaning, and Zionism – identification with and support for the Jewish state.
Antisemites have recognized this “political orientation” in what holds Jews together. Therefore, attacks on the traditional theological-cultural orientation of Judaism have been replaced by a form of political antisemitism that centers on Israel bashing. These attacks are led by international organizations who vilify and delegitimize the State of Israel, while remaining apathetic and even empathetic to a vicious brand of terrorism that targets Jews around the world, particularly Israeli Jews.