Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, April 15, 2024

Antisemitism Broken Down: Weaponization of the label ‘antisemitism’ hurts Jews and Palestinians

The struggle against antisemitism and the struggle for Palestinian liberation are not mutually exclusive.

Jerusalem-1712855.jpg

Jerusalem is pictured.

On Sept. 2, 50 neo-Nazis marched through the suburbs of Orlando, Fla., waving flags adorned with swastikas. In recent months, dozens of synagogues have been targeted with bomb threats and “swatting” calls. Canada’s parliament recently gave a standing ovation to a veteran of Hitler’s Waffen-SS, a group tasked with exterminating European Jews. I have seen neo-Nazi flyers distributed in my hometown, and recently far-right extremists held a rally outside a Jewish center with signs reading “Jews did 9/11.” Other Jews have also noticed the rise in antisemitism; a recent study found that 82% of Jewish adults feel antisemitism has increased in the past five years.

Amid this horrifying rise in antisemitism, some organizations supposedly dedicated to stopping discrimination have repeatedly attacked Palestinian activism while neo-Nazis continue to march through the streets. These actions, which include conflating antisemitism with anti-Zionism, obscure the actual danger of far-right antisemitism and can help perpetuate antisemitic myths.

In May, Palestinian activist Fatima Mohammed was heavily criticized for her graduation speech at the City University of New York School of Law. Mohammed, an anti-Zionist (someone who opposes the idea of a Jewish ethnostate in the land of Palestine), condemned Israel as a settler-colonial state and correctly accused it of attacking worshippers. Even though CUNY’s Jewish Law Students Association released a letter in support of Mohammed, her speech was condemned by the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League and CUNY’s chancellor. Alexis Grenell, a columnist at The Nation, even compared Mohammed’s address to the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a notorious antisemitic forgery that encouraged genocidal anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia and became an important Nazi propaganda tool during the Holocaust.

The absurd attacks on Mohammed for simply voicing her legitimate opinion about Israel while literal Nazis march through the streets of Orlando are a microcosm of a larger issue, namely, conflating far-right antisemitism with left-wing pro-Palestine activism. Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the ADL, described “radical left” groups as the inverse of the far right. One of the groups Greenblatt described was Jewish Voice for Peace, a progressive Jewish activist group that opposes Zionism. While left-wing groups are not invulnerable to antisemitism, comparing pro-Palestinian activists to the far-right extremists committing terrorist attacks is clearly an attempt to stifle pro-Palestinian voices.

The association of antisemitism with anti-Zionism is harmful to Jews as well as Palestinians. A common antisemitic myth is that Jews hold secret loyalty to Israel, and associating antisemitism with anti-Zionism furthers that trope. This trope has been perpetuated by right-wing, pro-Israel figures such as Donald Trump, who suggested that “liberal Jews” who voted against him were destroying Israel in a post made on Truth Social on Rosh Hoshana. This dual loyalty myth follows directly from the idea that attacking the apartheid ethnostate of Israel is somehow antisemitic.

As a pressing issue that harms Jews every day, antisemitism should not be weaponized against Palestinians or their advocates. Instead, we must all fight for Palestinian liberation and against antisemitism. In addition to educating oneself about these issues, joining anti-fascist groups and supporting anti-Zionist political organizations are great ways to fight the oppression enforced by antisemitic bigotry and Israel.

Ben Choucroun is a writer for the opinion section at the Tufts Daily. He is a first-year who has not yet declared a major. Ben can be reached at benjamin.choucroun@tufts.edu.