Toxic Left-wing antisemitism: Zionism=Racism and BDS

Arutz Sheva brings you a policy paper that will give you the background, understanding and information about the emergence of the increasingly violent and far-reaching Left-wing antisemitism advocating the end of Israel. Part II.

Prof. Peter Kurti

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מהפגנות הBDS באירופה

Part II of a III part series (for part I, click here)

United Nations Resolution 3379: Zionism = Racism

The value of the proposition that Jews sought to secure the racialised status of Israel intensified in 1975 when the UN General Assembly passed a resolution declaring Zionism to be “a form of racism and racial discrimination.”[17]

Although rescinded in 1991, the legacy of the original resolution retains its potency. It remains widely accepted on the left that Zionism — the movement that created Israel —commits the most heinous of the post-colonial world’s moral crimes: racism.[18]

Postmodern left antisemitism, being interwoven with a deep-seated hostility to the USA and its allies, sees Israel as a settler, colonial venture that is part of a western drive to dominate the Middle East region.

What is distinctive about this new mutation of antisemitism is that its object is the State of Israel itself rather than individual Jewish people, communities or groups.
British scholar Dave Rich analyses this worldview as: “Zionism is part of a global nexus of power that is white, Western, and wealthy, and Diaspora Jews who support Israel are themselves part of this racist structure.”

It is not a big step from the idea that Zionism is racism to the idea that Israel as a country should not exist at all. But it is a step many on the political left in the west have taken. And they use the word ‘Zionist’ as an epithet to denigrate those who defend Israel.

As Rich notes: “this has become a moral question and one of political identity, rather than an objective analysis of Israeli policy.”[19]

What is distinctive about this new mutation of antisemitism is that its object is the State of Israel itself rather than individual Jewish people, communities or groups. However, it extends to any Jews who demur from the view that Israel is “a diabolical imperialist conspiracy that must be destroyed.”[20] Needless to say, this is the vast majority of modern Jews.

Different forms of antisemitism as expressed on the political right, the political left, or in Islamic

societies do, of course, overlap. What makes left-wing antisemitism distinctive is its different emphases.

Left-wing antisemitism tends to be expressed in terms of moral imperatives. Its focus is on the alleged capitalist financial depredations by Jews, opposing what it perceives as the supremacist claims of Zionism and the questionable legitimacy of Jewish national consciousness.

Furthermore, it allies with — and adopts the language of —international human rights groups and NGOs, in criticising Israel’s ‘neo-colonial ambitions’ and campaigning for liberation of the ‘long- oppressed’ Palestinian people.[21]

Antisemitism and International Human Rights: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

The association with such human rights groups has given the political left’s opposition to Israel a global reach. As Goldhagen remarked: “the left’s antisemitism has merged its long-standing identification of Jews with the predations of capitalism and the world economic order with its newfound relentless international orientation.”[22]

The ancient tropes of racial ‘Jew hatred’ antisemitism are not features of left-wing antisemitism — which is much more overtly political and secular. Human rights advocates assert they are simply upholding fundamental humanitarian principles in their pursuit of international justice and peace. They insist their hostility is not directed to Jewish people, but to alleged financial depredations and neo-colonial practices preventing the vulnerable from realising their goals.[23]

Yet as English writer Ben Cohen has noted, the political left’s fashionable application of the language of human rights and international justice to criticise actions by the State of Israel amounts to a questioning of the legitimacy of Israel. This questioning, in turn, is characterised by startling inconsistency as standards of extraordinary severity are applied to Israel alone:

Israel is not condemned for what it does, but for what it is.

Syria and Sudan might be criticized for their woeful human rights records, but it is never suggested that either state is illegitimate in itself. Neither state is regarded, in contrast to Israel, as an inherent pariah.

Neither state, therefore, is the subject of relentless campaigns questioning their right to exist; nor are they the targets of economic, academic and other boycotts.[24]

As a consequence, “the opposition to Israel’s very legitimacy means that the terms ‘Jew’, ‘Israel’, and ‘Zionist’ are increasingly interchangeable in contemporary left-wing discourse.”[25]

In other words, the language of humanitarian concern for rights and justice provides a respectable veil that camouflages antisemitism. It is a discourse that has given antisemitism “a universal language and justification — that is in tune with the times — for [antisemitic] beliefs and hatreds, albeit transformed and concealed to gain universal appeal.”[26]

Participants in this discourse within Australia include some trade unions, academics, journalists, political activists, and the Christian churches.

A good example of activism by the Christian churches happened at 2010’s triennial Forum of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA), which announced it would “continue to add its voice to the call for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine.”[27]

Declaring its solidarity with Palestinian Christians, the NCCA went on to invite the member churches “to consider a boycott of goods produced by Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, adding: “It is hoped that such actions will liberate the people [sic] from an experience of injustice to one where a just and definitive peace may be reached.”[28]

The ‘call’ to which the NCCA referred was the ongoing international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign launched in 2005 by 171 Palestinian NGOs in a bid “to pressure Israel to comply with international law.”29

The BDS has three objectives: an end to Israel’s occupation and colonization of Arab lands and removal of the Separation Wall; equal rights for Arab-Palestinian citizens inside Israel; and the right of return of Palestinian refugees.[30] Taken together, these are an attack on the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

The boycott campaign view of the situation in Israel makes no mention of Arab aggression against Israel  in 1948 or 1967; the Palestinian rejection in 2000-01 of the Clinton-Barak offer of a Palestinian state in the 'West Bank' and Gaza, including the removal of Jewish settlements (often cited as a barrier to peace); the more generous offer of statehood (which included an offer to withdraw from 93 per cent of the 'West Bank') made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008; or of the enduring commitment of Hamas to the destruction of the State of Israel.

Notwithstanding the claim that “the focus of BDS is on Israel’s abuse of power and Israeli institutions that acquiesce in that power, not on Jewish people or Judaism,”[31] a closer examination of each of the campaign objectives shows that the BDS is not presenting a nuanced critique of Israeli government policy at all. The campaign has a darker purpose: to damage and delegitimise the Jewish state by calling into question the basis of its creation and continued existence as a liberal democracy.

The discourse of delegitimisation is antisemitic. If one participates in this discourse and shares the objectives of those who propound the discourse, it is not open to claim to be untainted by their ideological position.

By allying oneself with a position or an argument that is antisemitic, one becomes a participant in antisemitic discourse. To argue otherwise is disingenuous.

Prof. Peter Kurti is a Senior Research Fellow, Director of the Culture, Prosperity & Civil Society program at the Centre of Independent Studies, and adjunct Associate Professor at the School of Law, University of Notre Dame, Australia. He has written extensively about issues of religion, liberty, and civil society in Australia.


17. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 was passed on 10 November 1975 by a vote of 72 to 35, with 32 abstentions. It was revoked on 16 December 1991 by UN General Assembly Resolution 46/86 by a vote of 111 to 25, with 13 abstentions.

18.Dave Rich, The Left’s Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Antisemitism, (Biteback Publishing: London, 2018), 112.

19. Dave Rich, The Left’s Jewish Problem, as above, 343.

20. Robert Wistrich, as above, 32.

21. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, as above, 250.

22 Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, as above, 246.

23; Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, as above, 250, 388.

24; Ben Cohen, “A Discourse of delegitimisation: The British Left and the Jews”, originally written for the Institute of Jewish Policy Research, London, 2003 and available at essay_cohen_delegitimisation.htm p.3

25; Ben Cohen, as above, 3.

26; Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, as above, 399

27.The National Council of Churches in Australia, founded in 1994, is an ecumenical organization bringing together some 19 member churches for the purposes of dialogue, practical cooperation, and political lobbying. In its time, the Executive Body of the NCCA has issued social justice policy statements on issues such as gambling, poverty, housing and racism.

28. releases/550-a-call-for-justice-security-and-peace- for-palestine-and-israel

29.See “What is BDS?” BDS Freedom Justice Equality

30. TqTYgXEcVQo

31.Sonja Karkar, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions

– A Global Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid, (Melbourne: Australians for Palestine, 2011), 39.