Provoked by BDS campaign, Trump administration says anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

The IHRA issue has jumped the Atlantic. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism that entails saying Israel is a racist endeavor and that has roiled the British Labour Party is now the Education Department’s standard.

On that basis Kenneth Marcus, the longtime Israel advocate who now heads the office of civil rights at Trump’s Education Department, is reopening a case that the Obama administration dismissed, of alleged anti-semitism on the part of Palestinian solidarity activists at Rutgers in 2011.

The BDS campaign, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, is at the heart of the case, as in so many claims of anti-Semitism under the IHRA standard. Pro-BDS activists were alleged to have discriminated against Jewish students by charging a fee to attend an event on the Nakba after scores of pro-Israel students showed up to protest the event. The Zionist Organization of America then filed a complaint under Title VI saying that the pro-Israel students experienced a “hostile environment” at the school on the basis of their ethnicity as Jews. The organizers of the event said they requested a fee from everyone attending the event to cover venue and security costs stemming from the controversy over it.

The supposed smoking gun in the case was an email from an organizer saying that “150 Zionists” had shown up at the event. Kenneth Marcus says that when the activist saw Zionists, the activist was actually seeing Jews. He wrote a letter to the ZOA reopening the case and said:

“[T]he visual perception of the presence of ‘150 Zionists’ referenced in the email could have been rooted in a perception of Jewish ancestry or ethnic characteristics common to the group…In cases such as this, it is important to determine whether terms such as ‘Zionist’ are actually code for ‘Jewish.’”

Anti-Zionism is at the core of the new definition. If you deny the right of Jews for self-determination in historical Palestine or apply a double standard to Israel’s actions and those of other nations or demonize Israel by comparing its policies to Nazi policies, you meet the definition of anti-Semitism.

The New York Times article on the case was decent enough to state the ideological stakes of the case — putting “the weight of the federal government behind a definition of anti-Semitism that targets opponents of Zionism” — and to quote someone saying that this standard defines the Palestinian side as anti-semitic.  Reporter Erica Green writes:
In effect, Arab-American activists say, the government is declaring the Palestinian cause anti-Semitic.

Then in the Times comment section, we noted a self-described liberal who agreed with Marcus and some other pro-Israel writer who said that anti-semites like the BDS movement should have free speech. This is the mealymouthed liberal anti-Trump position (evident in the Cynthia Nixon controversy too).

Don’t defend BDS, the campaign for Palestinian equal rights, and for goodness  sake don’t even think that Marcus and his allies might be expressing racism against Palestinians by supporting a Jim Crow system built upon an ethnically-cleansed territory. There is always only anti-semitism.  No other form of bigotry could exist and so the cowardly sort of liberal will only defend free speech, and may take a few potshots at BDS along the way.

The case demonstrates the sheer arrogance of the Trump-Netanyahu axis.  They are going for broke. And the liberals who obsess about Putin’s supposed control seem unable to spot which groups really have influence on Trump.

It is time defenders of Palestinian human rights stopped playing defense and pointed to the racism of these standards. People have to be shown that trying to shut down the BDS campaign is racist, a denial of Palestinian right to free expression. That last step is crucial.
Even Kenneth Stern, a pro-Israel advocate formerly at the American Jewish Committee, made this point to the House Judiciary Committee in opposing this anti-Semitism standard last year. If you are going to brand as bigots those who deny a Jewish right to self-determination, what about those who speak up for Palestinians, he said.

Imagine a definition designed for Palestinians. If “Denying the Jewish people their right to selfdetermination, and denying Israel the right to exist” is antisemitism, then shouldn’t “Denying the Palestinian people their right to self-determination, and denying Palestine the right to exist” be anti-Palestinianism? Would they then ask administrators to police and possibly punish campus events by pro-Israel groups who oppose the two state solution, or claim the Palestinian people are a myth?

Yes imagine a discrimination standard for anti-Palestinianism, one that would define hateful statements about Palestinians as civil rights violations.

The BDS movement has shown its importance because it has provoked Kenneth Marcus’s overreaction. This case has the potential to get people to start to realize the sheer ugliness of how false charges of antisemitism are used to support a racist cause.  But that’s not going to happen if people only play defense.


Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Perhaps a good idea to set up a definition of anti-Palestinian racism. But different from the IHRA-definition it should be based on what constitutes real racism and have examples that are unambiguasly racist. E.g.: Anti-Palestinian racism is hatred of or discrimination against Palestinians as Palestinians. Examples are: – denying the Palestinian right of self determinaties in historic Palestine, while at the same time supporting the Jewish right of self-determination in historic Palestine – denying the… Read more »

« The Zionist Organization of America then filed a complaint under Title VI saying that the pro-Israel students experienced a “hostile environment” at the school on the basis of their ethnicity as Jews. «  Zionism is political. Zionists are assholes because they support Israel, not because they are Jews. Zionist money is all over the UK Labour Party antisemitism nonsense and the latest Trump admin horseshit. Zionist money can buy any western politician but it can’t… Read more »

But such a definition should have maximum support, and maximum rigorousness as to describing real racism and not limiting free speech and free discussion.
I’m thinking of the Palestinian BDS organisation as leading, supported by international pro-Palestinian groups like JVP and similar groups in other countries, and rigorouss input from academic and legal experts

It never stops, does it? And the powerful never give up power without a fight, and that fight is always on their terms and on their (tilted) playing field.

So it goes.

“The Zionist Organization of America then filed a complaint under Title VI saying that the pro-Israel students experienced a “hostile environment” at the school on the basis of their ethnicity as Jews. ” Poor diddums.Made to feel uncomfortable in their support for war crimes and colonialist oppression and Apartheid. But hey we are talking about Jews here so we must not single them out. So let,s single them out and give them a pass because… Read more »