This article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post on February 18th, 2024, written by Adam Milstein
Since the Soviet Union, the Arab League boycott, and the Iranian Revolution, antisemites have tried to hide their anti-Jewish bigotry behind politically acceptable “anti-Zionism.”
Get two Jews in a room, get three opinions. True of most things, but one thing most Jews agree on is that Israel is the indigenous homeland of the Jewish people and that their connection to it is a core tenet of their Jewish identity. Despite this majoritarian view, there is a loud minority of radical anti-Israel Jewish voices. Although unrepresentative of the broad Jewish community, our detractors and the media weaponize them, turning them into “token Jews” used to attack Israel and sow division within the Jewish community. It’s time we ridicule them.
From the Soviet Union to the Arab League Boycott, from the Iranian Revolution to October 7th and anti-Israel protests today, antisemites attempt to hide their anti-Jewish bigotry behind politically acceptable “anti-Zionism”. Jews who support this charade willingly provide political cover for this generation’s loudest and proudest antisemites.
The normalization of anti-Zionist Jews in public life has three glaring issues:
1. Israel-hatred doesn’t exempt you from the Jewish collective future
Jewish life in the diaspora is directly dependent on the continued survival and flourishing of the Jewish state. Groups like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and If Not Now (INN), deploy and weaponize their Jewish identity in their anti-Israel activism. The effect? The re-assurance of non-Jewish groups that anyone can target Israel without fear of alienating the “Jewish community”. JVP and INN are a collection of radical left, mostly Jewish ideologues who use their ancestry to leverage attacks against Israel. They cite Jewish ritual, reference texts, and use our people’s language to validate their radical attacks against the homeland of the Jewish people, the state of Israel.
What they fail to realize is that their misplaced activism allows virulent antisemites to turn them into useful idiots. They’re ephemeral political fronts weaponized by antisemites until they no longer serve their purpose. Antisemites hate all Jews – “good Jews” or “bad Jews”, those from the right and from the left alike. So, if Israel ceases to exist, as JVP and INN desire, where will these Jews turn when antisemites inevitably turn on them? By normalizing and validating the progressive movement’s exclusion of Zionist Jews (most Jews) they are essentially digging their own graves.
JVP and INN should forever be contextualized properly and referred to for what they are – useful jesters for Jew haters around the globe. And once contextualized, they should be ridculed.
2. Institutions empowering “token” Jews endanger all Jews
Radical leftist orthodoxy continues to permeate American institutional life. This ideological capture is perhaps most obvious throughout American universities. Since October 7th, university leadership keen to balance the appearance of caring about antisemitism while maintaining their progressive bona fides, use token Jews as proof that their progressive agendas are not antisemitic. For example, recently, Stanford named Ari Kelman, a Jewish professor aligned with anti-Israel groups, and who concluded antisemitism wasn’t a problem on campuses in 2017 paper, as the Co-Chair of their Committee on Antisemitism.
In an effort to redefine what constitutes antisemitism, Kelman alongside Jewish Voice for Peace, argued that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism is “flawed and overly expansive” and “silences Palestinian voices.” Deborah Lipstadt, the US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism called IHRA “one of the most fundamental tools we have to combat [antisemitism].” Stanford selected someone to combat antisemitism whose views are directly at odds with the State Department’s pre-eminent defender of the Jewish people. And after Kelman essentially offered his Judaism as political cover to defend San Francisco State University’s (SFSU) antisemitism, the school admitted to allowing antisemitism on its campus.
More recently, Harvard selected Jewish professor Derek Penslar, a known anti-Israel proponent, to lead an antisemitism task force on campus. In August, Penslar signed an open letter accusing Israel of running “a regime of apartheid” and employing “Jewish supremacism”. And following Claudina Gay’s resignation, Penslar downplayed the antisemitism on campus, telling JTA that outsiders had “exaggerated” the issue. As Larry Summers wrote, “Could one imagine Harvard appointing as head of anti-racism task force someone who had minimized the racism problem,” as Mr. Penslar has done with antisemitism at Harvard.” The double standard glaring.
When selecting leadership and given the centrality of Israel for most Jews, institutions would be wise to listen to the fears and concerns of Zionist Jews. Committees, task forces, and organizations are constantly formed to combat “Muslim, Palestinian, and Arab hate” – lumping in ethnicity, religion and state-based hatred. But Jews aren’t afforded this same protection. Institutions who solely elevate Jews with anti-Israel views perpetuate this double standard.
3. Anti-Israel views are not pro-peace. They’re anti-Jewish future.
Since 10/7 it’s hard to find a “pro-Palestinian” rally that isn’t drenched in antisemitic rhetoric, anti-Jewish venom, or stereotypical tropes. Anti-Israel Jews, aligned with radical leftist ideology, have taken part in many of these rallies. They have joined the growing numbers who view the world through over-simplified binaries and hypothetical pyramids of power and oppression. These activists enthusiastically point to Israel as a unique perpetuator of oppression.
But JVP and INN activists have no interest in peace. One of their allies, Omar Barghouti, the co-founder and co-leader of the BDS movement, explains: “You cannot reconcile the right of return for refugees with a two-state solution. . . A return for refugees would end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.” And he makes clear that this is precisely his goal. “Most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.” And he hails JVP as a “key partner in the BDS network.”
Sunlight is the greatest disinfectant, thus JVP and INN should be exposed as radical, fringe, and anti-peace. They harbor views that not only fail to represent the broad Jewish consensus, but they also directly endanger the Jewish people.
Since 10/7, what many Jews have feared for a long time has been made crystal clear–our place in the world is tenuous, our footing is fragile, and there aren’t many of us. Jews who openly call for the destruction of Israel threaten our future as a people, and we must see them as who they really are –tools that are used by the hands of our enemies.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Roi Yanovsky