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Defending Israel and Zionism - WorId Union of Jewish Students

Antisemitism, Anti-Zionism, and Israel -II


Not everybody who attacks Israel is antisemitic. It is legitimate for those who oppose Israeli policies to express this opposition in public, just as it is legitimate for Israel activists to defend Israel. It is important to defend the right of those who disagree with Israeli policies to express their opinions, and to be clear that this is a legitimate part of public debate.


Unfortunately, many who attack Israel are motivated by, or express, Antisemitism. No form of racism, Antisemitism included, has a part in public life. Expressions that, on the surface, appear to be attacking Israel often actually attack Jews. With Antisemitism so ingrained into Western society, it is possible to inadvertently express antisemitic views.

 Mixing Terms

Israel is a state with some Jewish character, and Jews around the world have the right to live there. However, not every Israeli is Jewish, not every supporter of Israel is Jewish, and not every Jew supports Israel. Conflating the terms ‘Israeli’ and ‘Jew’ is often done to express an antisemitic position, as in “the Jews are brutal occupiers”, or “we must fight the Jewish oppressors”. For this reason, it is important that Israel activists keep the terms separate, and don’t forget that many Israelis are not Jewish.

 Attacking Jews for Supporting Israel

It is questionable whether it is legitimate to single out Jews in the Diaspora for active support of Israel. This charge is often built upon fear of Jewish influence, and upon a conception of loyalty that assumes that a hyphenated national (Jewish-American, Jewish-Belgian) cannot be truly loyal if they express an attachment to some other country – no worry that this same charge is never levelled against those who are not from ethnic minorities.

 What is beyond doubt is that treating all Jews as if they are supporters of Israel when many are not is antisemitic (anti-semitic). Furthermore, attempts to criticise those in public life for support of Israel ought not to focus only on Jews – if this is the case, a charge of Antisemitism needs to be answered.

 Attacking Jews for Israel’s Actions

There is a level at which it is obvious that attacks on Jews as a result of opposition to Israel are unacceptable – violent or abusive attacks as part of political exchanges are always wrong. More subtle processes also serve to attack Jews – a lack of support for Jewish social services or Holocaust memorial days might be motivated by an opposition to Israeli policies. This is, however subtly, an example of Antisemitism. After all, Jews in the Diaspora aren’t responsible for Israeli government policy, and punishing them for the actions of a country that (a) they aren’t a citizen of (b) they might not support (c) is ethnically mixed, is deeply problematic.

 Holding Double Standards for Israel

Like other countries, Israel does some things that are well received in the international community, and others that aren’t. It is legitimate to criticise Israel, but when this is done using significantly different standards from those applied to other countries in similar situations, this can be a cause for concern. It is hard to demonstrate that the application of unusually critical standards to evaluate Israeli policy is motivated by Antisemitism – very often it will stem from support for the ‘underdog’, or from Arabist sentiment – but when it does seem to be racially motivated, this needs to be pointed out and opposed.


Constantly accusing opponents of Israel of antisemitism can be counter-productive if this charge is brought lightly. The charge of antisemitism is a serious one, and should not be used unless there is good cause.

 Clear Antisemitism

When faced with clear charges of antisemitism, act quickly, strongly, and decisively. Document the charge, and argue clearly to support the case. Never tolerate Antisemitism – demand action appropriate to the circumstances – an apology in the media, a reprimand on campus, and so forth. Where Antisemitism becomes endemic, and it becomes impossible to fight each case individually, enlist all available resources to campaign against Antisemitism and to promote tolerance.

 Possible Antisemitism (Anti-Semitism)

Where an act might have been motivated by antisemitism, but this is unclear, it is often worth expressing some form of disapproval, but refraining from leveling public charges of Antisemitism. Depending upon the local situation, it is often worth expressing personal upset, saying that one was “hurt, as a Jew” by the controversial act. Wrongly accusing people of Antisemitism can cheapen the charge, as well as being quite unfair. Expressing public disapproval helps to let people know that Jews care about what is said in pubic, and serves to maintain a red line of clear Antisemitism that respectable public figures know not to cross.


WUJS Handbook - Defending Zionism and Israel - Introduction and Main Page

Antisemitism (Anti-Semitism), Anti-Zionism, and Israel

Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, and Israel -II

Media Bias Toward Israel

Seven Characteristics of Propaganda

Personal Politics in Israel Advocacy

Accusations and Rebuttals:

The Collapse of the Peace Process And the Road Back to Peace

Camp David 2000 - And After


The Palestinian Refugees

The Jewish Right to Israel

Israel in the Middle East


Handbook text is copyright by The World Union of Jewish Students ( http://www.wujs.org.il ). Excerpts have been adapted and are reproduced here by permission.

 Israeli personality Mehereta Baruch and American-Israeli basketball star LaVon Mercer tell us Zionism is not racism.

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More About Zionism:

Zionism and the Creation of Israel

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Zionism and its Impact

Zionist Quotes

Not in My Name - Don't Let Extremists Hijack Zionism

Was Israel Founded Because of the Holocaust??

The Two State Solution is the only solution for peace

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