How to tell when criticism of Israel is actually anti-Semitism

South Carolina just passed a law deeming any criticism of Israel in public schools or universities to be anti-Semitic.

.. Israel attracts additional scrutiny because it is a top recipient of U.S. foreign aid and the only Western nation currently carrying out a military occupation of another people.

.. anti-Semitism on the right is often easier to spot

.. At rallies on college campuses, speakers regularly list “Zionists” in the same category as white supremacists and Nazis.

So how can you tell the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism? Here are five useful markers.

Seeing Jews as insidious influencers behind the scenes of world events

On the left and the right, anti-Semitism often manifests in a nefarious belief in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy that wields outsize power. On the right, it’s “globalists” and “elites” who manipulate events. On the left, it’s “Zionists.” The terms may differ, but the fundamental conspiracy theory is the same.

Using the word “Zionist” as code for “Jew” or “Israeli”

.. But refusing to call Israel or Israelis by their internationally accepted names denies the very existence of the state and its people’s identities. These coy linguistic tricks are as unacceptable as the right-wing penchant for denying the existence of Palestinians and Palestinian identity.

Denying Jewish history

.. Statements like these ignore the fact that, unlike most white people here and elsewhere, Jews have been subject to racially based discrimination — and that more than half of Israeli Jews are not Ashkenazi, meaning their families did not come from Europe.

.. Dismissing the humanity of Israelis

.. one young activist told me, “I can’t judge how other people carry out their liberation movements.”

.. Assuming that the Israeli government speaks for all Jews

.. Imagine assuming that all Americans support President Trump’s policies, or asking Americans to expressly disown their own country before engaging in any international human rights campaigns.

.. Jews who care about Israel — many of whom revile Netanyahu and his politics — should not be excluded from progressive spaces based on their answers to such questions.

Why the American left gave up on political violence

despite what Trump has claimed, repeatedly, in his public statements since the tragic events there, the willingness to employ organized violence to achieve political goals remains a signature quality of only one side. And it’s not the left.

.. Extremism on the left is real. It can be seen in attempts to stifle the free speech of conservative speakers on university campuses (as at Middlebury and Berkeley); in the belligerent attitudes toward corporations and capitalism expressed, for instance, by some fringes of the Occupy Wall Street crowd and anti-globalization protesters; and among anti-Zionist movements that peddle conspiracy theories (such as the contention that Jews control U.S. foreign policy) to delegitimize Israel.

.. organized and strategic violence and incitement embraced by right-wing extremists, whose leaders profess faith in the necessity of the fight. Nothing the left can do today even comes close to that — and hasn’t for decades.

.. Labor unions battled constantly with railroad barons, industrial tycoons and mining bosses during the Gilded Age. Even while outnumbered and outgunned, usually by private armies that enjoyed the backing of law enforcement and state militias, workers fought in bloody clashes that left dozens dead on battlefields such as Chicago’s Haymarket Square (1886) and West Virginia’s Blair Mountain (1921).

.. for many younger activists who came of age in the postwar era, violence remained a key strategy — even a way of life.

  • Inspired by the Black Panthers’ embrace of violence for self-defense, and
  • enraged by the escalating war in Vietnam,
  • antiwar protesters from New Left organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) sought to “bring the war home” to end the fighting abroad.
  • This concept culminated in the rioting during the 1968 Democratic convention and on university campuses.
  • Radical offshoots including the Weather Underground and the Symbionese Liberation Army took things even further: The former bombed government buildings, and the latter committed homicide, robbery and, famously, kidnapping.

But since the 1960s, left-wing movements in the United States (and in the West writ large) have gradually turned away from violence. There are three main reasons for this.

  1. The first is practical: It backfired terribly.
    • The Vietnam War protesters initially believed that their country was beyond redemption, so a revolution was imperative. This The Vietnam War protesters initially believed that their country was beyond redemption, so a revolution was imperative. This alienated the general public, helped unify a deeply divided conservative movement and emboldened Richard Nixon’s “silent majority.” Violence proved counterproductive to ending the war; if anything, it helped prolong it. and emboldened Richard Nixon’s “silent majority.” Violence proved counterproductive to ending the war; if anything, it helped prolong it.
    • Mark Rudd, a leader of the Weather Underground, sounded an unequivocal mea culpa. “Much of what the Weathermen did had the opposite effect of what we intended,” he conceded. “. . . We isolated ourselves from our friends and allies as we helped split the larger antiwar movement around the issue of violence. In general, we played into the hands of the FBI. . . . We might as well have been on their payroll.”
  2. The left’s second reason for rejecting violence was even simpler: There were better ways to get things done. The civil rights and feminist movements showed that nonviolent protest could achieve tangible political goals.
    • it was not based only on ethical principles of Christian brotherly love but also on shrewd political calculations.
    • The lesson: There was no point in challenging the legitimacy of a government that enabled them to accomplish many, albeit not all, of their goals through the democratic process.
    • the modern left, which coalesced around George McGovern’s quixotic 1972 presidential run, effectively represented a gathering of fugitives.
      • African Americans,
      • Hispanics,
      • women,
      • gay men and lesbians,
      • Native Americans, and
      • workers:
    • These long-ostracized groups, which came to replace the New Deal coalition anchored by the white working class, were the very peoples against whom violence had been done for so long.
  3. Their painful histories made them instinctively averse to, and intolerant of, political violence. Those who had survived lynchings, beatings, bombings, sexual violence, forced removals and economic exploitation were least disposed to employ them in return.
    • Antifa is mostly anarchist in nature; its members are suspicious and dismissive of the left’s embrace of government institutions. More important, it is loosely banded, disorganized and low scale. Brawling on campuses, throwing rocks or vandalizing property is reprehensible and illegal. But it is incomparable to the scope and breadth of organized violence demonstrated by the extreme right.

The left has successfully integrated into most political, economic and cultural facets of the country, but members of the extreme right say they have been

  • devastated by the economic effects of globalization,
  • disempowered by multiculturalism and
  • disenfranchised by the election of the nation’s first African American president.

.. Organized militias that are well armed, well trained and well networked have seen a particular spike since the beginning of the Obama presidency.

.. “Sovereign citizens” are armed to the teeth and willing to challenge officials, as they did in last year’s armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Many such militiamen have killed or injured local police.

.. They pose a greater threat than the Islamic State or al-Qaeda, according to a 2016 U.S. government report: “Of the 85 violent extremist incidents that resulted in death since September 12, 2001,

  • far right wing violent extremist groups were responsible for 62 (73 percent) while
  • radical Islamist violent extremists were responsible for 23 (27 percent).”

A Very British Radical

Now, though, in the imminent British election called by an overconfident Theresa May, a different sort of Trumpian figure is closer to victory than anyone expected. This is Jeremy Corbyn, the radical backbencher turned Labour leader, whose campaign was supposed to be a joke but now finds itself, like Trump’s before it, just a “normal-sized polling error” away from a truly shocking upset.

.. the Corbyn-era Labour Party’s tendency to find itself explaining why its members, activists and sometimes politicians are merely anti-Zionist and not actually anti-Semitic, even as their critiques of Israel or global finance blur into old-fashioned anti-Semitic cliché. Especially since the intersection of left-wing anti-Zionism and Islamist Jew-baiting is probably a more substantial threat to Jewish security in Western Europe than what remains of right-wing anti-Semitism.

.. Corbyn’s inner circle has a similar minimizing tendency where the crimes of Stalinism are concerned, plus the equally inevitable far-left affinity for Latin American authoritarianism. If the specter of long-ago Vichy lurked behind Le Penism, the specter of present-day Venezuela lurks not that far in the background of Corbynism.

.. Corbyn’s fellow-traveling with the Irish Republican Army at the height of its bombing campaigns, or his habit (for which he recently offered regrets) of offering comradeship to Hezbollah and Hamas.

.. All’s fair in love and the last week of a campaign, but still it’s a little audacious, since Corbyn clearly has an old revolutionary’s soft spot for a certain kind of terrorist.

.. a Prime Minister Corbyn would probably make Brexit somewhat softer

.. this amounts to saying that it’s O.K. to elect an extremist with anti-Semitic and authoritarian and even terrorist connections if he or she just takes the official European Union line on immigration and monetary policy.

.. The entire populist phenomenon, left and right, is happening because our establishment is in need of serious unsettlement, and that can’t happen unless movements and ideas with extreme or disreputable associations are allowed into the conversation.

.. May’s attempt to reimagine conservative politics along more populist, “Red Tory” lines strikes me as a healthier response to the moment than Corbyn’s unreconstructed socialism.

A Case for Jeremy Corbyn

Of course Trump tried to make cheap political capital from the blood on London’s streets. He quoted London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, out of context in a flurry of tweets aimed at buttressing the case for his bigotry. The president of the United States just felt like insulting a prominent Muslim.

.. all that British pomp for His Neediness.

.. competing for the favor and lucre of despots. To heck with the European Union, there’s always Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Xi Jinping. So begins the post-American century.

.. His slogan — “For the Many not the Few” — was no less effective for having been borrowed from Tony Blair.

.. the urban under-30s, is remarkable. To them he is a near Messianic figure, the righter of capitalist wrongs; the proud socialist who will nationalize the railroads, make universities free again and inject billions into the National Health Service (while somehow balancing the budget)

.. I dislike Corbyn’s anti-Americanism, his long flirtation with Hamas, his coterie’s clueless leftover Marxism and anti-Zionism, his NATO bashing, his unworkable tax-and-spend promises. He’s of that awful Cold War left that actually believed Soviet Moscow was probably not as bad as Washington.

.. After the terrorist attacks, he said “difficult conversations” were needed with Saudi Arabia: Hallelujah! He would tackle rising inequality. He would seek a soft departure from the European Union keeping Britain as close to Europe as possible. His victory — still improbable — would constitute punishment of the Tories for the disaster of Brexit. Seldom would a political comeuppance be so merited.