New antisemitism

New antisemitism is the concept that a new form of antisemitism has developed in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, tending to manifest itself as opposition to Zionism and criticism of the Israeli government. The concept is included in some definitions of antisemitism, such as the Working Definition of Antisemitism and the 3D test of antisemitism.

The concept generally posits that in the late 20th and early 21st centuries much of what is purported to be criticism of Israel by various individuals and world bodies is in fact tantamount to demonization, and that together with an alleged international resurgence of attacks on Jews and Jewish symbols, and an increased acceptance of antisemitic beliefs in public discourse, such demonization represents an evolution in the appearance of antisemitic beliefs.[1]

Proponents of the concept argue that anti-Zionism and demonization of Israel, or double standards applied to its conduct (some proponents also include anti-Americanism, anti-globalization and Third-Worldism) may be linked to antisemitism, or constitute disguised antisemitism, particularly when emanating simultaneously from the far-left, Islamism, and the far-right.[2][3]

Critics of the concept argue that it conflates political anti-Zionism and criticism of the Israeli government with racism, Jew-hatred and the Holocaust, defines legitimate criticism of Israel too narrowly and demonization too broadly, and trivializes the meaning of antisemitism, and that the concept is used in practice to silence political debate and freedom of speech regarding the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict.[4]

Mortimer Zuckerman and Bernard Harrison cited the New Statesman's January 14, 2002 cover as an example of new antisemitism[5]

History of the concept

1960s: origins

French philosopher Pierre-André Taguieff has argued that the first wave of what he describes as "la nouvelle judéophobie" emerged in the Arab-Muslim world and the Soviet sphere following the 1967 Six-Day War, citing papers by Jacques Givet (1968) and historian Léon Poliakov (1969) in which the idea of a new antisemitism rooted in anti-Zionism was discussed.[6] He argues that anti-Jewish themes centered on the demonical figures of Israel and what he calls "fantasy-world Zionism": that Jews plot together, seek to conquer the world, and are imperialistic and bloodthirsty, which gave rise to the reactivation of stories about ritual murder and the poisoning of food and water supplies.[7]

1970s: early debates

Writing in the American Jewish Congress' Congress Bi-Weekly in 1973, the Foreign Minister of Israel, Abba Eban, identified anti-Zionism as ‘the new anti-Semitism’, saying:

[R]ecently we have witnessed the rise of the new left which identifies Israel with the establishment, with acquisition, with smug satisfaction, with, in fact, all the basic enemies [...] Let there be no mistake: the new left is the author and the progenitor of the new anti-Semitism. One of the chief tasks of any dialogue with the Gentile world is to prove that the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is not a distinction at all. Anti-Zionism is merely the new anti-Semitism. The old classic anti-Semitism declared that equal rights belong to all individuals within the society, except the Jews. The new anti-Semitism says that the right to establish and maintain an independent national sovereign state is the prerogative of all nations, so long as they happen not to be Jewish. And when this right is exercised not by the Maldive Islands, not by the state of Gabon, not by Barbados… but by the oldest and most authentic of all nationhoods, then this is said to be exclusivism, particularism, and a flight of the Jewish people from its universal mission.[8]

In 1974, Arnold Forster and Benjamin Epstein of the Anti-Defamation League published a book entitled The New anti-Semitism, expressing additional concern about what they described as new manifestations of antisemitism coming from radical left, radical right, and "pro-Arab" figures in the U.S.[9] Forster and Epstein argued that it took the form of indifference to the fears of the Jewish people, apathy in dealing with anti-Jewish bias, and an inability to understand the importance of Israel to Jewish survival.[10]

A sign held at a protest in Edinburgh, Scotland on January 10, 2009

Reviewing Forster and Epstein's work in Commentary, Earl Raab, founding director of the Nathan Perlmutter Institute for Jewish Advocacy at Brandeis University, argued that a "new anti-Semitism" was indeed emerging in America, in the form of opposition to the collective rights of the Jewish people, but he criticized Forster and Epstein for conflating it with anti-Israel bias.[11] Allan Brownfeld writes that Forster and Epstein's new definition of antisemitism trivialized the concept by turning it into "a form of political blackmail" and "a weapon with which to silence any criticism of either Israel or U.S. policy in the Middle East,"[12] while Edward S. Shapiro, in A Time for Healing: American Jewry Since World War II, has written that "Forster and Epstein implied that the new anti-Semitism was the inability of Gentiles to love Jews and Israel enough."[13]

1980s–present day: continued debate

Antisemitic graffiti equating Judaism with Nazism and money in Madrid

Historian Robert Wistrich addressed the issue in a 1984 lecture delivered in the home of Israeli President Chaim Herzog, in which he argued that a "new anti-Semitic anti-Zionism" was emerging, distinguishing features of which were the equation of Zionism with Nazism and the belief that Zionists had actively collaborated with Nazis during World War II. He argued that such claims were prevalent in the Soviet Union, but added that similar rhetoric had been taken up by a part of the radical Left, particularly Trotskyist groups in Western Europe and America.[14]

When asked in 2014 if "anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism", Noam Chomsky stated:

Actually, the locus classicus, the best formulation of this, was by an ambassador to the United Nations, Abba Eban, [...] He advised the American Jewish community that they had two tasks to perform. One task was to show that criticism of the policy, what he called anti-Zionism — that means actually criticisms of the policy of the state of Israel — were anti-Semitism. That’s the first task. Second task, if the criticism was made by Jews, their task was to show that it’s neurotic self-hatred, needs psychiatric treatment. Then he gave two examples of the latter category. One was I.F. Stone. The other was me. So, we have to be treated for our psychiatric disorders, and non-Jews have to be condemned for anti-Semitism, if they’re critical of the state of Israel. That’s understandable why Israeli propaganda would take this position. I don’t particularly blame Abba Eban for doing what ambassadors are sometimes supposed to do. But we ought to understand that there is no sensible charge. No sensible charge. There’s nothing to respond to. It’s not a form of anti-Semitism. It’s simply criticism of the criminal actions of a state, period.[15]