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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, February 26, 2024

Antisemitism Unpacked: The myth of the Jewish hive mind

Jews are not a monolith and do not deserve to be treated as such.

Replacement graphic for Ben Choucroun's column "Antisemitism Unpacked by Ben Choucroun"

Graphic by Shea Tomac

The saying “two Jews, three opinions” can be frequently heard in Jewish circles, and it’s true. As a Jewish person, the stereotype that Jews argue and disagree with each other a lot is pretty true. My grandfather even likes to joke that Sephardic Jews were kicked out of Spain for arguing too much. However, a defining feature of antisemitic conspiracy theory is that Jews are a monolithic entity and bear collective responsibility for the actions of some Jews. To make matters worse, Zionist groups have portrayed Jews monolithically and have continued to devalue the word “antisemitism.”

Zionists, including those at Tufts, have caused harm by attempting to speak for all Jews. In recent weeks, flyers have been posted on campus asserting that the “Tufts Jewish Student Body” stands with Israel. Tufts Friends of Israel has also written articles for the Daily denouncing antisemitism supposedly coming from pro-Palestine groups and asserting that this rhetoric makes Jewish students feel unsafe. Characterizing all Tufts Jews, including myself, as monolithically pro-Israel and threatened by anti-genocide protests is deeply hurtful. To see my identity and Jewish collective trauma wielded to defend an apartheid state committing the very same crimes that have been inflicted on my ancestors is sickening. And while, unlike Tufts FOI, I don’t presume to speak for all Tufts Jews, I know many feel similarly.

Of course, Israel and Zionists are not responsible for antisemitism. The state of Israel is not responsible for the rise of the Nazi-like far-right political parties in Germany, state-sponsored Holocaust denial in Iran or antisemitic riots in Russia. Antisemitism is the sole fault of antisemites, not Israel. To insist that antisemitism is an inevitable response to Israeli war crimes implies that Palestinian liberation and Jewish liberation are juxtaposed — an assertion I refuse to accept.

Unfortunately, the idea that Israel is responsible for antisemitism has even been spread by left-wing groups. After the sickening Israeli invasion of Lebanon, in which the Israeli Occupation Forces murdered tens of thousands of civilians, the socialist feminist magazine Big Flame argued that Zionism is "the monster that is doing most to fuel antisemitism in the modern world.” The issue is that there is no logical reasoning behind antisemitism, merely bigotry stemming from deep-rooted societal and cultural sources. When I have experienced left-wing antisemitism, it has come from white leftists unfamiliar with Jewish issues, not Palestinian activists. The aforementioned antisemitic rhetoric is not characteristic of the larger anti-Zionist movement, and it can be prevented by listening to and taking cues from Palestinian organizers, as I discussed in my last column. Jewish and Palestinian liberation are intertwined, and allowing antisemitic rhetoric to creep into progressive movements threatens global liberation.

Zionists have also downplayed the seriousness of antisemitism by labeling anti-racist pro-Palestinian activism as antisemitism. Terms such as from the river to sea” and glory to our martyrs have been described as antisemitic, and recently the House of Representatives passed a resolution labeling anti-Zionism as antisemitism. Of course, Palestinians are primarily victimized by these disgusting conflations by labeling their legal and moral right to return to their homes across all of Occupied Palestine, and their mourning of the over 15,000 people martyred during Israel’s genocide, as a form of racism. The fear that the Palestinians, if in power, would do to Israelis what Israel did to Palestinians in 1948 — and is doing now — is rooted in deep-seated settler anxieties similar to those felt by European-American settlers about Native American attacks.

But the labeling of “from the river to the sea” and similar phrases as antisemitic also attempts to deprive Jews of the ability to describe our very real oppression by disparaging the very word “antisemitism.” And to this day, many a progressive Jew will be interrogated about their position on Zionism by well-intentioned white activists while marching about another unrelated issue — an indication of the anti-racist work yet to be done.