February 08, 2005

More on Zionism, anti-semitism and the UN

This is old news now but I don't check the Electronic Intifada as much as I should.

Laura Reanda follows the campaign by various Zionist organisations, led, it seems, by the World Jewish Congress, to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and to have both anti-Zionism and anti-semitism specifically condemned by the UN.

Underpinning the proposal for separate treatment are arguments that anti-Semitism is "a virus" that has survived since antiquity and combines all other group hatreds, and is "no longer political, social, religious or ethnic - [but] existential, metaphysical"[Elie Weisel - you guessed already]; "a plague of a different kind that does not conform to the norms and boundaries of other types of hate." However, recent statements by these organizations show an interesting conceptual evolution that betrays a very political agenda.

In the mid-1990s, at the height of the Oslo peace process, the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations in a submission to the special rapporteur on racism defined anti-Semitism as "an irrational hatred of the Jewish people...[resulting in] violence against Jews and Jewish institutions", without mentioning either Zionism or Israel. But recently, against the background of the second Intifada, Sharon's re-invasion of the occupied territories, and the events of 9/11, new formulations are presented which increasingly conflate Jews, Zionism, the state of Israel, the policies of its government, and by extension, the Bush administration's "war on terror". In this perspective, criticism of the Israeli government's occupation policies is seen as an attack against the state, which translates into an attack against Zionism, which in turn translates into an attack against all Jews rooted in timeless anti-Semitism - and thus lends support to the objectives of radical Islam. It is probably not a coincidence that the State Department's report on anti-Semitism includes "demonization of Israel, or vilification of Israeli leaders" along with "hatred toward Jews" in its definition.

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