Contemporary anti-Zionism is the inevitable outgrowth of two thousand years of very deep-seated Judeophobia. The injustices suffered by the State of Israel is a continuation of the theology of contempt, which spans nearly two millennia. Twenty-first century anti-Zionism may not always driven by Christian Jew-hatred, yet centuries of Christian vilification, plus the importation of Islamic anti-Semitism, have provided the foundation for attacks on Israel.
By Richard Mather
I have just finished re-reading Dan Cohn-Sherbok’s The Crucified Jew, which documents in horrific detail twenty centuries of Christian anti-Semitism from the era of the Gospels to the Holocaust. Although he doesn’t progress much beyond the Shoah, it takes no leap of the imagination to conclude that contemporary Israelophobia is the inevitable outgrowth of two thousand years of very deep-seated Judeophobia.
Israelophobes might say there’s a difference between pre-Holocaust anti-Semitism and post-Holocaust anti-Zionism, but there isn’t. Anti-Zionism is a continuation of Jew-hatred by other means. The assertion that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are qualitatively different is a ruse designed to legitimise Jew-hatred and delegitimise the State of Israel. In truth, European anti-Zionism preceded the creation of Israel by several decades. In 1911-1912, British journalists began a campaign accusing “Zionists” of fomenting the Turkish Revolution. Back then, anti-Zionism wasn’t about Israel but a paranoid reaction to a rumours of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. It had nothing to with settlements or the Palestinians. After World War One, anti-Semitic French Catholics were lamenting the possibility of the Holy Land falling “under the domination of the Jews.” Again, no mention of the Palestinians.
In other words, anti-Zionism existed long before the Palestinian problem, which didn’t become an issue until after the 1967 Six-Day War. Anti-Zionism and Israelophobia are variants on an ancient theme. It is the prolongation of a prejudice that inspired the blood libel, the Inquisition, the pogroms, the Dreyfus Affair and the Holocaust. Given Europe’s history, it would be more surprising if Israelophobia wasn’t a regular occurrence in the twenty-first century.
Throughout the ages, Jew-hatred has taken on different forms at different times. At times Jew-hatred has been religious in nature; other times it has been motivated by race or economics. All of these variants have one thing in common: demonisation, which in colloquial usage refers to propaganda or moral panic directed against any individual or group; more literally it is the imputing of diabolical influences. As A. Jay Adler has stated, the demonised are “made malevolent beyond the pale: outsider, foreigner, witch, blasphemer, even literally an alien – somehow dehumanised.”
Most sane people in the West no longer believe Jews are guilty of deicide (killing God). Nor do they believe that Jews perform ritual murders of Christian children to make unleavened bread, or that they spread plague or poison wells, although these beliefs are still common in the Muslim world. Nobody believes that Jewish men menstruate. But once upon a time Europeans subscribed to some, or all, of these absurd beliefs. In fact, the blood libel was still widely believed in Poland after the Second World War and was the cause of a massacre of Jews in 1946.
Now, instead of deicide, Jews are charged with the genocide of a fictional country called Palestine. Instead of ritual murder, Jews are charged with killing Palestinian babies and harvesting organs. Instead of the plague, Jews are accused of spreading AIDS among Arabs in Judea and Samaria. I don’t think there is a modern equivalent of male menstruation, although cartoon images of Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon gorging themselves on blood comes close. In the twenty-first century, Europeans subscribe to some, or all, of these absurd beliefs. The long tradition in the West of Adversus Judaeos (“Against the Jews/Judeans”) continues in the guise of anti-Zionism.
It’s true that Europeans no longer expel Jews or put them in ghettos or issue decrees forbidding Jews to do X or Y. But it is the case that Europeans boycott Israeli products, scapegoat hundreds of thousands of so-called settlers in Judea-Samaria, and call for Israel to be expelled from the family of nations. Likewise, Europeans have largely rejected Christian anti-Semitism, only to embrace Islamic anti-Semitism, which is just as virulent and nasty. Thanks to the internet, we have a cross-pollination of European and Muslim Jew-hatred, with anti-Semitic memes, ideas, images and conspiracy theories criss-crossing the globe at breakneck speed. As a consequence, there is little difference in the nature of Jew-hatred in Syria and Sweden, Iraq and Ireland, Jordan and Germany. Call it Euro-Islamic anti-Semitism.
Anti-Zionism is the superstition par excellence of the post-Holocaust era; the latest neurosis to afflict the planet. Perhaps in the year 2150, historians will look back on these times and wonder how it was possible that people actually believed the State of Israel was a bloodthirsty, genocidal, colonial power, when all the facts and evidence clearly show the opposite to be true. After all, historians look back on medieval anti-Semitism and ascribe Judeophobia to superstition, religious intolerance and economic jealousy. Historians never say that medieval Jews or the victims of the Shoah were to blame for the persecution they suffered, so maybe one day the State of Israel will also be exonerated.
The trouble is that like the anti-Semites of old, the contemporary anti-Zionist is immune to facts and statistics. As George Orwell said, “If you dislike somebody, you dislike him and there is an end of it: your feelings are not made any better by a recital of his virtues.”
Orwell makes an interesting point. Anti-Semitism has always been an emotional or neurotic condition in which the individual or group in question loses contact with reality and is impervious to logic. The emotional attachment to hating Israel must be maintained by the anti-Zionist at all costs, otherwise their worldview is at serious risk of collapse. People who comfort themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life usually end up acting out their problems in the guise of irrational fixations.
Of course, anti-Zionists never tire of telling us that some Jews are also opposed to Zionism. Ergo (they argue) this is proof that anti-Zionism does not equal anti-Semitism. But this overlooks the long history of Jewish apostasy. It used to be the case that some Jews would convert to Christianity and write long diatribes against the rabbis or petition the Pope to ban the Talmud. But this does not prove that Christian Jew-haters were right just because a handful of Jewish renegades fanatically denounced their former religion. All it means is that Jews are just as capable as anyone else of betrayal and opportunism. The modern-day phenomenon of the self-hating Israeli/anti-Zionist Jew is part of a long tradition of cosying up to the gentile majority and it does not exonerate anti-Zionist gentiles from the charge of anti-Semitism.
Jewish apostates aside, the non-Jewish world can’t be trusted to slay its own anti-Semitic demon (despite the horrors of the pogroms and the Holocaust). Islamic anti-Semitism and the West’s capitulation to Muslim Jew-hatred is proof enough. Who can we trust? Our friends today may be our enemies tomorrow. Shifting political allegiances may shift again. That is why the State of Israel’s military strength is essential because it is the one thing that stands in the way of the anti-Zionists whose ultimate intention is the utter destruction of the Jewish state and the genocide or expulsion of millions of Israeli Jews. Thanks to the men and women of the IDF, the security and intelligence services, as well defensive systems such as the Iron Dome and the Samson Option, the world is no longer in an easy position where it can eradicate Judaism or the Jewish people – not without paying a very high price, anyway.
So even though Europe in particular, and the world in general, have reverted to anti-Semitic type, the bulk of the Jewish people have taken it upon themselves to ensure that “Never Again” really does mean “Never Again.” For the first time in history the Jews are not helpless. We may be alone. But we’re not helpless. That is something that the nations will have to accept. The Jews, and the Jewish state of Israel, are enduring features on the world’s landscape. There is no going back.