Anti-Semitism flares up with Gaza crisis

There are many takeaways from the Gaza war, including the diversion of cement and other supplies to the Hamas tunnel and rocket effort, and the use of civilian populations as a military shield.

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The civilian casualties, though almost certainly overstated to include Hamas fighters in civilian clothes, are tragic.  The death of so many children is heartbreaking.

But there is another important phenomenon on which we should reflect now, even before the conflict is over: The widespread global eruption of openly anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence in the name of anti-Zionism.

Anti-Semitism has reared its head almost everywhere there are pro-Palestinian street protests.

A heavily Jewish section of Paris was looted and attacked as crowds shouted “Gas the Jews,” in what correctly has been called a pogrom.  Multiple synagogues and Jewish centers in Paris and elsewhere in France were firebombed, and neo-Nazi salutes were center stage.

In Berlin protesters shouted “Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight.” 

While in Frankfurt they carried signs such as “The Jews are Beasts” and the Star of David is “The Star of the Devil.”

In the Hague, Netherlands, crowds chanted “death to all Jews,” shocking local officials.

In England, particularly London, there have been over 100 anti-Semitic incidents, and anti-Israel protesters pushed The Protocols of the Elders of Zion anti-Semitic tract.

And it was not just overseas.  In Miami, protesters chanted “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammed is returning,” commemorating an Islamic war victory.

In Boston, pro-Israel supporters had to be rescued from an angry crowd that shouted “Jews back to Birkenau” and “Drop dead, you Zionazi whores.”  A pro-Israel student was attacked by a woman insisting that Jerusalem would be cleansed of Jews, while another crowd shouted that “Jews better learn how to swim.”

There are dozens of other examples.

This was not an isolated instance, or a group of soccer hooligans.  Certainly there can be acts of bigotry and prejudice expressed anywhere.

There is something fundamental to the anti-Semitism being expressed, as it is closely tied into anti-Zionism.  

The rhetoric accompanying these protests is that Zionism is the equivalent of Nazism, that Israelis are the new Nazis or worse.

On social media we have seen the same phenomenon.

Incredibly, an American leader of the anti-Israel academic boycott even tweeted that Zionists were partly to blame for the outbursts of anti-Semitism. 

Another frequent anti-Israel campus speaker approved of a photoshopped image of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, giving birth to Hitler.

Many people have been surprised that anti-Israel fervor manifested itself as anti-Semitism.

But I was not surprised.  I have seen this trend for years, in which anti-Zionism is the mask for anti-Semitism.  Israel alone is singled out and held to standards applied to no other country precisely because it is a Jewish state, and deemed illegitimate in the eyes of Islamists and many leftists.

The boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) movement is the modern mother’s milk of anti-Semitism

BDS was founded at the 2001 Durban conference, which was so anti-Semitic that the U.S. walked out.  The extreme anti-Zionism of BDS fuels the hatred of Israeli Jews as colonial occupiers, even in Tel Aviv, and seeks to dehumanize the right of the Jewish people to a homeland in the Jewish homeland.

It’s no surprise that BDS banners and shirts were seen at some of the anti-Semitic protests listed above.

Certainly, in theory, one can be anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic. 

There are ultra-religious Jews who do not believe in Zionism for religious reasons. And there are some left-wing Jews who side against Israel. 

There also are those who truly just want Israel to leave Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), although the Israeli departure almost a decade ago from Gaza calls such a strategy into question.

But the exceptions prove the rule. Intellectually one can distinguish anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism. But in the real world, on the streets of Paris, Berlin, London, Boston, Miami and elsewhere, they are one and the same.

It’s time we stopped pretending otherwise.

Jacobson is a clinical professor of Law at Cornell Law School, and publisher of Legal Insurrection Blog.