Former UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Former UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan SacksReuters

Britain's former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has written a blistering oped slamming modern-day anti-Zionism as the "new anti-Semitism."

In his Newsweek article, published Sunday, Rabbi Sacks refers to figures showing how escalating anti-Semitism has left many Jews considering leaving Europe ("as high as 46 percent in France and 48 percent in Hungary"), and noted that the phenomenon was quickly spreading to the US, specifically via university campuses.

The vehicle allowing anti-Semites to express their Jew-hatred is what Sacks describes as a sort of festival of anti-Israel hatred on campus.

"Much of the intimidation on campus is stirred by “Israel Apartheid” weeks and the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign against Israel. These have become what Easter was in the Middle Ages, a time for attacks against Jews," he writes.

Describing anti-Semitism as a "virus that survives by mutating," he points to the rapidly-changing, often conflicting "motives" given by anti-Semites for their attacks against Jews.

"Before the Holocaust, Jews were hated because they were poor and because they were rich; because they were communists and because they were capitalists; because they kept to themselves and because they infiltrated everywhere; because they clung tenaciously to ancient religious beliefs and because they were rootless cosmopolitans who believed nothing.

"...In the Middle Ages, Jews were hated because of their religion. In the 19th and 20th centuries they were hated because of their race. Today they are hated because of their nation state, Israel. Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism."

Similarly, he warns, anti-Semites throughout history have utilized different arguments to legitimize targeting Jews in ways which would not be deemed acceptable in any other context.

Typically, he notes, "Throughout history, when people have sought to justify anti-Semitism, they have done so by recourse to the highest source of authority available within the culture.

"In the Middle Ages, it was religion. In post-Enlightenment Europe it was science. Today it is human rights. It is why Israel—the only fully functioning democracy in the Middle East with a free press and independent judiciary—is regularly accused of the five crimes against human rights: racism, apartheid, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide. This is the blood libel of our time."

"Today the argument goes like this. After the Holocaust, every right-thinking human being must be opposed to Nazism. Palestinians are the new Jews," Rabbi Sacks continues.

"The Jews are the new Nazis. Israel is the new crime against humanity. Therefore every right thinking person must be opposed to the state of Israel, and since every Jew is a Zionist, we must oppose the Jews."

Such thinking provides a convenient avenue for opportunists to scapegoat the "other" - in this case Jews - for their own failings, he said.

However, while the ramifications for Diaspora Jewry are dire, Rabbi Sacks warns that the societies which produce anti-Semitism inevitably succumb to the weight of their own hatred.

"The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. In a world awash with hate across religious divides, people of all faiths and none must stand together, not just to defeat anti-Semitism but to ensure the rights of religious minorities are defended everywhere.

"History will judge us by how we deal with this challenge. We must not fail."