For an event titled “Dismantling Anti-Semitism, Winning Justice,” an interested observer might reasonably assume that this virtual panel discussion, scheduled for December 15th, would discuss ways to minimize instances of widespread antisemitism with the goal of reducing—or eliminating—its occurrence. That is what one would think, but in this case it would be wrong since the panel includes four unrelenting, virulent anti-Israel activists, individuals whose loathing of the Jewish state is so extreme that they are key architects in the cognitive war against Israel—warfare that regularly engages in antisemitic behavior and expression.
Sponsored by such toxic anti-Israel organizations as Jewish Voice for Peace, United Against Hate, Jewish Currents, Arab American Institute, and Foundation for Middle East Peace, the panel promises to be yet another hate-fest against Israel. The intention of the event is not to reveal documented trends of antisemitism, which have seen an alarming spike in frequency in recent years, but to directly accuse those who point to antisemitism where and when it occurs of using the charge for underhanded and immoral reasons. These panelists believe that the antisemitism accusation is leveled not as a reaction to authentic bigotry experienced by Jews, but as a mendacious, disingenuous way of suppressing the expression of progressives who seek, as they always put it, only to “criticize Israel.”
All of the panelists (unsurprisingly but troublingly) are pro-Palestinian, and apparently their greatest concern is that when they and their fellow travelers in the hate-Israel universe spew their antisemitic bile as they often do, and are criticized for doing so, it hinders their ability to effectively slander, libel, and demonize Israel without restraint and consequences. So, in the panel discussion the participants “… will explore ways to fight back against those that seek to wield charges of antisemitism to undermine progressive movements for justice,” suggesting, of course, that the only possible motivation for those who denounce their antisemitism is to obstruct pro-Palestinian activism, that the accusations of antisemitism when Israel is involved is merely an immoral tactic to derail Palestinian self-determination.
One of the panelists is journalist Peter Beinart, a “dream Jew of antisemites,” who has been a consistent critic of Israel and Zionism, and whose latest assault on the Jewish state was a 2020 New York Times op-ed in which Beinart envisioned the total dissolution of Israel to accommodate Palestinian self-determination. “It’s time to abandon the traditional two-state solution and embrace the goal of equal rights for Jews and Palestinians,” he wrote. And how would that be achieved? By facilitating the extirpation of Israel and the creation of a bi-national state in its place. “It’s time to imagine a Jewish home that is not a Jewish state.” In another article Beinart anticipated the theme of this panel, asserting conclusively that “Anti-Zionism is not inherently antisemitic – and claiming it uses Jewish suffering to erase the Palestinian experience.”
Appearing with Beinart is the unctuous Congresswoman from Michigan, Rashida Tlaib, a fervent supporter of the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, and someone who comfortably exposed her venomous antipathy for Jews when she claimed that she was overwhelmed with “a calming feeling” when she thought about the Holocaust.
Also speaking on the panel is Marc Lamont Hill, a Temple University professor who also supports the BDS movement and has been cozy with the notorious antisemite, Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan. In 2018, Hill was fired from his position as a commentator at CNN after he called for a “free Palestine from the River to the Sea,” that is, a state comprising the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean—an Arab state in the place of Israel.
Rounding off the panel is Barbara Ransby, professor of History, African American Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). An active supporter of the BDS campaign, she has written of Israel’s alleged racism that it represents a “project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing” and that “defending Israel’s right to exist is to acknowledge the racism toward the Palestinians, which is… incorporated into Israeli policy so intricately. So, it’s an anti-racist issue, it’s an anti-colonial issue.”
Given the panelists antisemitic bona fides, they certainly have a motive for seeing accusations of antisemitism as a disingenuous tactic for tarring the enemies of Israel. They relentlessly reject any suggestion that they may harbor antisemitic views, that their campaign on behalf of the Palestinians often involves antisemitic tropes, and that their obsessive targeting of the Jewish state and their often crude, malevolent, and grotesque characterizations of Israelis, Zionism, and of Judaism itself promotes hatred not just for Israel but for Jews themselves. These panelists, and campus groups such as the virulent Students for Justice in Palestine like them, insist that anti-Zionism is never antisemitism, that Zionism has nothing to do with Judaism or being Jewish, and that targeting the only Jewish state in the world with singular and unrelenting enmity is only a critique of Israeli policies, not, at base, antisemitic expression. But, like many other antisemites who have no skills of introspection, they are mistaken.
The 2016 International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, for instance, has been adopted by universities and organizations as a way to gauge occurrences of antisemitism, and some of those guidelines would categorize anti-Israel ideology and expression as also being antisemitic. Therefore, the common practice of Israel-haters to question Israel’s very right to exist, “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination,” is, according to the IHRA definition, antisemitic, as is “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” a frequent accusation made against the Jewish state along with the collateral charge of apartheid.
The obsession with Israel itself, together with the endless cataloguing of its many perceived evils, while staggering conflicts and human rights abuses occur in other countries and are ignored, is another symptom of antisemitism since it applies “double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” When the Jewish state is accused of becoming a reincarnation of the Third Reich, in other words, “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” or when Israel or Israelis are characterized as brutal, militaristic, and murderous in their ongoing “occupation of Palestine,” these activists regularly employ “the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism, which ultimately hold “Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.” So, at least by the standard of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, these panelists are not innocently criticizing Israel and there are toxic and dangerous consequences of their campaign to demonize the Jewish state.
Clearly, in the view of these speakers, the central theme of this panel discussion is that accusations of antisemitism against pro-Palestinian activists are false and, in fact, disingenuous, since the accusations are meant to silence critics of Israel, not to expose actual antisemitism. “It is an understandable impulse:” Beinart wrote, “let the people threatened by antisemitism define antisemitism. The problem is that, in many countries, Jewish leaders serve both as defenders of local Jewish interests and defenders of the Israeli government,” he continued, his cynical suggestion being that such Jewish leaders cannot then be trusted to identify antisemitism without having the ulterior motive of wanting to suppress Palestinian solidarity. (Can you imagine suggesting that blacks should not be allowed to define racism?)
Not only do these activists wish to escape being called antisemitic, they also simultaneously accuse those making the accusations of doing so with malicious intent, consistent with a pattern that antisemitism scholar David Hirsh in Britain has termed the Livingstone Formulation. “The Livingstone Formulation,” he wrote, “does not simply accuse people who raise the issue of antisemitism of being wrong, it accuses them of being wrong on purpose… Not an honest mistake, but a secret, common plan to try to delegitimize criticism by means of the instrumental use of a charge of antisemitism; crying wolf; playing the antisemitism card.” This way of thinking, of course, completely turns the table on the victims of antisemitism and instead of addressing their concerns and the harm being done to them by antisemites, they themselves are accused of being malicious and unscrupulous by using accusations of antisemitism against pro-Palestinians in an attempt to insulate Israel from criticism and condemnation.
Of course, what critics of Israel and actual antisemites want is to be able to utter any calumny they wish without repercussions, without having to defend the viability of their ideology or needing to contend with accusations that their obsessive anti-Israel activism is actually antisemitic. Far from it, they see themselves merely as activists organizing for justice, whose advocacy is, in their estimation, morally pure and beyond reproach.