‘Anti-Zionism = anti-semitism’ is a formal logical fallacy

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There is a canard going around that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. For example, the title of a recent article by Jonathan Sacks, the ex-chief rabbi of Great Britain, makes this into a formal equation: Anti-Zionism is the New anti-Semitism.

Sacks, of course, may not have chosen this title, but the title which makes the formal equation (anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism) is consistent with the tenor of the article. Sacks is saying anti-Zionists are anti-Semites. At the very least, he’s saying if you’re an anti-Zionist you’re automatically suspect for being an anti-Semite.

Peter Beinart takes issue with this. Beinart is very admiring and complimentary of Sacks but suggests that to make a formal equation between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism dehumanizes Palestinians.
Sacks says this:

“Anti-Semitism is a classic example of what anthropologist René Girard sees as the primal form of human violence: scapegoating. When bad things happen to a group, its members can ask two different questions: “What did we do wrong?” or “Who did this to us?” The entire fate of the group will depend on which it chooses.”

And that makes Beinart’s point. Anti-Semitism is scapegoating the Jews for (God knows what?) The point is the scapegoat bears the sin of others: the scapegoat is either innocent, or not the main problem. And that’s very obviously not true about Zionism. It is Zionism that drove 700,000+ from the land and won’t let them come back; it is Zionism that engages in military occupation and oppression of millions for 50 years now. Opposition to that is not scapegoating the Jews. And by Sacks’ own definition that makes anti-Zionism not anti-Semitism.

Now can anti-Zionists also be anti-Semites. Sure. But that’s an entirely different question….it has NOTHING to do with anti-Zionism. The strong claim that anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism is a formal logical fallacy. It is entirely lacking in merit.

What about the weaker, factual claim that many anti-Zionists also happen to be anti-Semites. That weaker claim, of course, is in the prejudiced eye of the beholder….  In order to back it up, you’d have to do studies; and designing objective studies about such a thing would be very tricky. Sacks cites a 2013 European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights study which surveyed the subjective feelings of 5,847 European Jews in an on-line survey. 66% of respondents reported anti-Semitism to be a problem. This included 35% of respondents who perceived any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. Gathering data like this is important and necessary, but this study provides no information that would permit a conclusion that anti-Zionists are anti-Semites.

Sacks also cites a Brandeis University study of Jewish students who reported having been exposed to “anti-Semitic rhetoric” on college campuses. “Much of the intimidation on campus,” he said “is stirred by ‘Israel Apartheid’ weeks and the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign against Israel.” This rather begs the question and assumes that BDS activism is anti-Semitism.
Once the formal claim (anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism) is rejected—which it must be because it’s a logical fallacy—then when you identify someone as an anti-Zionist, you’ve told me NOTHING about whether the anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite, or not.
Sacks is trying to move anti-Zionism into the definition of anti-Semitism, which is invalid.
This post first appeared on Roland Nikles’s blog.
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Prof. Beinart nailed it.

To be true to oneself the moral person must always side with the slave, never with the slave owner, even (better, especially) when the slave owner not only happens to be of the same religious persuasion as oneself, but insists, as is the case in Israel today, that s/he speaks for everyone of said persuasion. Except Israel has been built by way of the colonization by Jewish settlers of an indigenous people’s (the Palestinians’) homeland,… Read more »

The equation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism has two possible interpretations. One is that they are intrinsically equivalent, which is of course a logical fallacy. The other is more sophisticated: it is admitted that they are not intrinsically equivalent, in principle anti-Zionism need not be anti-Semitic, but in practice most anti-Zionists are concealed anti-Semites and are using anti-Zionism as a cover for their anti-Semitism. As this claim concerns the hidden motives of others, it can never… Read more »

anti-zionism = antisemitism = the Cheyne-Stokes respirations of a dying canard. Pull the plug!

The moral of the story is, !!!. We so called anti semites are encouraged vociferously by zionists to condemn Syria/Iraq / Iran/North Korea etc etc but to condemn Israel is anti semitic. They are telling us , that we must “Leave Israel alone” becuse they are the Jewish State. Wouldn,t it be anti Semitic to ignore Israel,s war crimes , because some Jews are involved.Should we avoid condemning an African American who committed a crime… Read more »