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Published on 5 December 2019

Vote IHRA - France gets it right

The French resolution helps provide the tools to fight against the intersection between antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

Published on December 4th, in The Jerusalem Post

France’s National Assembly voted that anti-Zionism is a form of antisemitism on Tuesday. This is a step in the right direction and should serve as a model for other countries to see how the pernicious toxic obsession with hating Israel is a form of hatred of the Jewish people writ large.

France’s resolution notes that “for some years now, France, the whole of Europe, but also almost all Western democracies are facing a rise in antisemitism.” Anti-Zionist incidents often hide antisemitic views. “Hate toward Israel due to its perception as a Jewish collective is akin to hatred toward the entire Jewish community.” This is in line with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition. Under that definition, forms of hatred of Israel are antisemitic, as well as comparing Israel to Nazi Germany and asserting that Israel’s very existence is racist.

In some ways this is a bookend to the infamous “Zionism is racism” resolution at the UN in 1975. Not only is Zionism not a form of racism, but obsessive hatred for Israel and Zionism is often a form of hatred of Jews. The reality is that today in Europe and in many Western countries, there is an uptick in attacks on Jews. Whether it is frequent assaults on Jews in Brooklyn, often by men radicalized by antisemitic views spread by the Nation of Islam, or graffiti directed at Jewish cemeteries, a Barcelona synagogue defaced with “free Palestine” spray-paint in September or a monument to a Yiddish author vandalized with swastikas in Ukraine, there is a wave of attacks against Jews and Jewish places of worship around the world.

There are so many attacks in recent years that it has almost inured us to them. Statistics not only tell of a rise in antisemitic attacks, but also the high percentage of hate crimes that involve anti-Jewish assaults. In New York City this year, for instance, of 290 reported hate crimes, a total of 152 were against Jews.

The French resolution helps provide the tools to fight against the intersection between antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

In almost every forum where there are obsessive anti-Israel views, there are antisemitic views as well. A secret pro-Palestinian Facebook group in the UK, for instance, was revealed to include Holocaust denial. The French definition also draws attention to how many world leaders are spouting antisemitism and using criticism of Israel to cover up their views.

For instance, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke at the UN in September and compared Israel to Nazi Germany. This is a trope used by antisemites. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has been spouting antisemitism for two decades at global forums, claiming Jews “rule the world by proxy” and claiming that hatred of Jews is free speech while he received applause at Columbia University.

Western universities too often roll out the red carpet for antisemites liked Mohamad. He was invited to Cambridge and Oxford. Iran’s Holocaust-denying former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia as well. This is an illustration that while some Western institutions feign being progressive and seeking to create a safe space for students, they appear to always invite the most far-right antisemitic leaders in the world, giving them a stamp of approval. France’s resolution clearly points a finger at these kinds of leaders as part of the problem.

The resolution has far-reaching implications. Linda Sarsour’s recent speech in the US in which she attacked Israel as a “supremacist” state is part of the antisemitic crusade against the Jewish state. Alone among countries that are nation-states, Israel is targeted with language that seeks to link Jewish self-determination to white supremacism.

The antisemites know what they are doing when they try to claim Jews are like Nazis. It is used as a way to both deny the Holocaust and paint Jews as the “real Nazis” at the same time. Hatred of Israel is not based on some human rights violations Israel may have done, it has been systemic since Israel’s creation and based solely on the hatred of the Jewish people. No other similar country is subject to such vicious hatred across Europe and through the Middle East to Malaysia.

It is a good start in France. A better end result would be to stop giving the red carpet to antisemitic speakers, leaders and politicians and encourage society to fight against antisemitic incidents, whether attacks against people with kippot in Germany, or a well-known antisemitic parade in Belgium.

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