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State Dept updates antisemitism definition to include comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany

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The State Department has updated the working definition of anti-Semitism detailed on its website to include comparisons between current Israeli policies and those of the Nazis. The move comes just two weeks after the House passed a resolution denouncing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and amidst consistent attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for introducing a bill that affirms the right to boycott foreign countries in the name of human rights.

The revised definition was first spotted by Israeli-American Council chairman Adam Milstein. On August 6 he tweeted, “The State [Department] just updated the definition of #Antisemitism to include “Drawing Comparison of Contemporary #Israeli policy to the of “. Kudos to [Secretary of State Mike Pompeo] and Special Envoy Elan Carr. It’s more clear now, the BDS Movement is disgustingly Antisemitic.”

Although the department’s site only recently added this information, it has endorsed an interpretation of anti-Semitism since at least 2010. However, the site’s archive shows that this definition wasn’t publicly cited on the website till this month.

Rep. Omar introduced H.Res.496 on July 16. Although the legislation doesn’t mention Israel (or Palestine) at all, it was perceived as a response to H.Res.246, a resolution that condemned BDS, effectively tagged the movement as antisemitic, and identified it as a major impediment to a two-state solution. Omar’s bill declares that “Americans of conscience have a proud history of participating in boycotts to advocate for human rights abroad” and cites a number of such situations. One example mentioned is the “boycotting Nazi Germany from March 1933 to October 1941 in response to the dehumanization of the Jewish people in the lead-up to the Holocaust.”

Upon its introduction, Omar’s bill was immediately criticized by pro-Israel groups and GOP lawmakers for allegedly being anti-Semitic as a result of the Nazi reference.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Director of Global Social Action Agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) that the bill served as “proof that Omar is not an accidental or incidental anti-Semite. [She] serves the founders and goals of BDS by slandering Jewish Democratic state and Zionism. She should be condemned, not coddled, by her colleagues Democratic and Republican.”

Masha Merkulova, founder of the “Zionist Youth Movement” group Club Z, told JNS: “The resolution that Rep. Ilhan Omar has introduced defies American values and seeks to degrade the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel. The anti-Semitic BDS movement is rooted in bigotry and hatred of Jews. It seeks to delegitimize the only Jewish State. While Rep. Omar is attempting to equate her actions to justified boycotts of Nazi Germany, in reality this resolution is reminiscent of the hateful Nazi boycotts of Jewish communities.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) tweeted, “This new pro BDS reso by Omar has the nerve to claim moral equivalency between boycotting Nazi Germany & boycotting Israel. Disgraceful! I’m a hard NO on this reso, her past anti-Semitism, hate towards Israel & blame America 1st agenda! Again=>she should NOT be on [the House Foreign Affairs Committee]!”

National Republican Senatorial Committee senior adviser Matt Whitlock tweeted, “So this is real — Ilhan Omar’s BDS bill actually does compare Israel to Nazi Germany. And just this morning she said she didn’t regret any of the anti-Semitic comments she had previously apologized for. Yikes.”


A full reading of the resolution’s text makes it clear that Omar isn’t actually comparing Israel with Nazi Germany– again, the legislation doesn’t even mention Israel– but rather demonstrating how boycotts have a long tradition in the United States and should be consistently protected by the First Amendment. However, this selective interpretation of the bill is obviously motivated by a wider effort to paint Omar and the BDS movement as anti-Semitic.

These accusations also come amidst similar attacks from President Trump against Omar and other three congresswomen who make up “The Squad.” At a press conference last month Trump said, “And in one case you have [Omar] that comes from Somalia, which is a failed government, a failed state, who left Somalia, who ultimately came here and now is a congresswoman who’s never happy. Says horrible things about Israel. Hates Israel. Hates Jews. Hates Jews. It’s very simple.”

The State Department move also comes at a time when some House Members are pushing legislation that would allow the Department of Education (DOE) to investigate charges of anti-Semitism at schools with a broader definition of that term. That new interpretation would include some criticisms of Israel and many believe that the DOE would be allowed to crack down on pro-Palestine students as a result. Last year, the DOE adopted the new definition of antisemitism and the proposed legislation would formally codify that definition on a federal level. This is the third time that lawmakers have attempted to pass such a bill in the House, it has previously passed in the Senate.

Yair Golan, now a leading candidate for the Israeli Knesset and a former Israeli army official, himself made the Nazi Germany-Israel comparison in 2016:

If there’s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance, it’s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then — 70, 80 and 90 years ago — and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016.

Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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15 Responses

  1. ckg on August 8, 2019, 11:18 am

    We’ll always have South Africa.

    • Kay24 on August 8, 2019, 11:51 am

      That too will become taboo words in the good ole USA.

      Israel’s enablers trying hard to earn those shekels. Land of free speech…what a damn joke.

      • Misterioso on August 9, 2019, 9:57 am


        Needless to say, the comparison of “Israel” to Nazi Germany is entirely apt. In the long run, the State Department’s attempt to suppress this fact will only propel it.

        Here’s some examples of “Israel’s” Nazi like statements by “Israel’s” leaders:

        David Ben-Gurion, the first Israeli prime minister, 1948-1953:
        “We must expel Arabs and take their places.” 1947
        “We must do everything to ensure they [the Palestinians] never do return.” 1938 letter
        Assuring his fellow Zionists that Palestinians will never come back to their homes: “The old will die and the young will forget.” 1948.
        “What matters is not what the goyim say, but what the Jews do.” Recorded in the Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2009

        Golda Meir, Israeli prime minister, 1969-1974:
        “How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to. We can’t send it to Nasser by parcel post.” March 8, 1969
        “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people…It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist.” A statement to The Sunday Times, June 15, 1969.

        Bibi Netanyahu, prime minister, 1996-1999, 2009 to present: 
        “[The way to deal with Palestinians is to] beat them up, not once but repeatedly, beat them up so it hurts so badly, until it’s unbearable.” Caught on video speaking to Israeli settlers, 2001
        “Israel should have exploited the repression of the demonstrations in China, when world attention focused on that country, to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the territories.” Speech to students at Bar Ilan University in 1989.

        Ariel Sharon, prime minister 2001-2006:
        “Every time we do something you tell me America will do this and will do that…I want to tell you something very clear: Don’t worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it.” Oct. 3, 2001, to Shimon Peres, as reported on Kol Yisrael radio.
        “Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours…Everything we don’t grab will go to them.” Agence France Press, Nov. 15, 1998.
        “No one will touch Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank]! Or Gaza either! They belong to us. They have been ours for thousands of years, eternally.” The Guardian, 1982
        “I am for the expulsion of anyone who throws a stone in the occupied territories.” March 16, 1988.
        “Israel may have the right to put others on trial, but certainly no one has the right to put the Jewish people and the State of Israel on trial.” BBC News Online, March 25, 2001

        Rafael Eitan, Israeli general, former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, and later a Knesset member: “We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel…Force is all they do or ever will understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.” April 13, 1983.

        MK Moshe Feiglin, 2013-2015:
        “Our soldiers are the only innocents in Gaza. Under no circumstances should they be killed because of false morality that prefers to protect enemy civilians. One hair on the head of an Israeli soldier is more precious than the entire Gazan populace…”, Feiglin’s Facebook page, July 2014.

        MK Tzipi Hotovely, deputy minister of foreign affairs since 2015.
        “[There are] 92,000 families in Israel in which one of the partners is not Jewish—we have a real problem that we have to deal with.” The Jerusalem Post, Feb. 11, 2011.

        Yisrael Koenig, author of the April 1976 “The Koenig Memorandum,” a confidential internal Israeli government document. Koenig served as the Northern District Commissioner of the Ministry of the Interior for 26 years: “We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.”

  2. Stephen Shenfield on August 8, 2019, 11:30 am

    If the bond between Israel and the US is unbreakable there is no need to worry about those who try to break it — only about those who try to degrade it. Presumably, therefore, the bond is degradable. But is it biodegradable??

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius on August 8, 2019, 11:58 am

      Also, what does it even mean for two nation states, on different continents, speaking different languages and with very different cultures, to have a ‘bond’? Normally, nation states are allied by treaties, international groupings like the EU, or mutual interests. That’s pretty much it. Nations don’t have ‘bonds’. And if they did, what exactly is in it for the American side of the bargain?

      • Keith on August 8, 2019, 7:02 pm

        MAXIMUS- “Also, what does it even mean for two nation states, on different continents, speaking different languages and with very different cultures, to have a ‘bond’?”

        It means that American Jewish Zionists feel a (manufactured) bond with Israel and, as a group, have achieved sufficient power to influence US foreign and domestic policy in ways which reflect their felt bond. It further suggests that Israel is a central component of Zionist ideology and perceived Jewish peoplehood.

      • RoHa on August 9, 2019, 12:41 am

        ‘Also, what does it even mean for two nation states, on different continents, speaking different languages and with very different cultures, to have a ‘bond’? ‘

        It means the special relationship that Britain and Australia are supposed to have with the USA.

  3. eljay on August 8, 2019, 5:42 pm

    Every day and in every way (pro-)Zionists do their “disgustingly Antisemitic [sic]” best to conflate Zionism and Israel with all Jews and all Jews with Zionism and Israel.

    Why do Zionists insist on hating Jews so much?!

  4. Mooser on August 8, 2019, 7:00 pm

    Gee, it’s been twice now that an article and a radio broadcast mentioned Israel’s actions in the occupied territories in Palestine as model for what India wants to do in Kashmir.
    Is that anti-semitic?

  5. John Douglas on August 8, 2019, 9:04 pm

    The policies of the Nazi party and the Likud party were both implemented
    before the proof of Fermat’s last theorem. Antisemitism!!

  6. Sulphurdunn on August 10, 2019, 7:16 pm

    Suppressing dissent drives it underground where it festers and grows. Intelligent elites try to charm, coopt and dilute it. Foolish ones prefer force and select for competent, blind loyalty rather than problem-solving, critical intelligence in their leadership positions. In the end, they fail.

  7. Jasonius Maximus on August 11, 2019, 11:49 am

    “The State Dep. just updated the definition of #Antisemitism to include “Drawing Comparison of Contemporary #Israeli policy to the of #Nazis”… It’s more clear now, the BDS Movement is disgustingly Antisemitic”

    This tweet proves just how dystopian and Orwellian US policies and actions regarding Israel have become.

    “Why don’t you like the color red? You MUST like the color red. We’re now officially changing the name of all colors to red! See! It’s more clear now, you and everyone else love the color red!”

    You seriously couldn’t make this shit up if you tried, but you can’t fault the bought and paid for Congress for trying…

  8. Stogumber on August 28, 2019, 11:36 am

    There are of course much differences between Nazi Germany and Israel. But one of the most stupendous similarities – in my eyes – is how the changes in property ownership (Aryanization/Judaization) were handled in the courts and by the legal professions. Has anyone ever tried to study this?

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