Antisemitism And Its Useful Idiots

All over the world people who challenge Zionism are being accused of antisemitism. You might imagine the one group of dissidents who are safe from this kind of delegitimization is the Israeli Jews—we are not. This cruel irony, when exposed, may actually play a productive role in decoupling antisemitism and anti-Zionism. As actual antisemites take positions of power in the US government while maintaining a pro-Israel stance, the need to oppose the false accusations of antisemitism becomes ever more vital.

I was recently accused of antisemitism over an article I wrote about resistance to Israeli apartheid in the Jordan Valley. At first I was perplexed—could I have said something antisemitic? Surely I’m not immune to bigotry just because I am a Jew whose grandmother fled Nazi Germany to find refuge in Mandatory Palestine with her parents losing their entire livelihood in the process. But after a close reading of the accusations I found them a revealing example on the accusatory phenomenon as a whole. They cite as evidence of antisemitism my citation of reliable UN sources indicating that a process of ethnic cleansing has been occurring in the Jordan Valley since 1967, with no shred of compassion for the Palestinians whose situation I try to make visible. They see the Israeli soldiers and bureaucrats whose actions I condemn as representatives of the Jewish people en bloc, as if we Jews were all one likely-minded monolith. In this logic, however incoherently framed, anyone who criticizes Israel could be accused of antisemitism. This empties the word of meaning, which is a very dangerous prospect when the Nazi salute is being performed minutes away from the White House to celebrate an actual bigot’s presidency.

Zionism and antisemitism are long-time bedfellows, and not strange at that. They’ve been consistently sharing the cause of emptying Europe of Jews while transplanting them in Palestine. Theodore Herzl, the founder of colonial Zionism, stated very clearly in his Diaries: “The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies.” This alliance continues to this day as the burgeoning extreme right aims to have a Jew-free white America while maintaining a staunch support for Israel. Trump’s friendship with Netanyahu is emblematic of this tendency.

Zionists like to think of themselves as the saviors of the Jews, as if Jews were compliant lambs until the Zionists came over and put pitchforks and guns in our hands. This way Zionism attempts to overshadow Judaism’s important contribution to legacies of struggle. In my own life, Judaism informs my resistance to the Israeli state (and to all states, for that matter). I lit candles on Hanukkah commemorating the Jewish rebellion against Hellenistic imperialism almost 2200 years ago. I cherish the legacy of the ZOB, who led the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and wrote: “All people are equal brothers…. To separate peoples, colors, races – is but an act of cheating!”

If I felt anxiety at the sight of my own picture flagging the word “antisemite,” and thought I may need to choose my words more carefully next time, I can imagine it being quite daunting for non-Jews who feel compelled to support the Palestinian call for equality. Indeed, international groups I speak to often say that fear of the “antisemitism accusation” is the biggest challenge they face as activists. We need to be crystal clear about the illegitimacy of this invocation: to support the Palestinian call for equality and freedom is not antisemitic. It is not a call against Jewish people, but against the dehumanizing policies of a state. Opposing Israel is not opposing Jewish people (on the contrary). Following are five reasons for which these accusations should be opposed and discredited:

  1. Jewish people are not a single monolithic group. Zionism and the State of Israel do not represent all Jews. To consider opposition to Israel as opposition to all Jews makes the assumption that Jews are all represented by the Israeli State – this is a racist assumption. (A similar argument is often made by Omar Barghouti)
  2. The Zionist idea that Jewish people have a birth-given right to colonize Palestine comes out of a nineteenth century white European notion that Ashkenazi Jews are not Europeans, that they are “strange Asiatics” who come from the Middle East and therefore must all “return” to it. This is an unfounded and antisemitic argument. (Authoritatively articulated by Joseph Massad and others)
  3. Accusing people who oppose the State of Israel of antisemitism is an equation that works both ways—it creates a false image of antisemites as people who uphold Palestinian rights. It is therefore an accusation which strengthens actual fascists, as it puts them in a positive light. (See an article by Michael Lesher)
  4. Zionists accuse people of antisemitism in order to silence resistance to Israeli crimes.
  5. At a time in which fascism strengthens globally, the groundless allegation of antisemitism drains the word itself of meaning, making it incoherent and irrelevant, allowing racists who support Israel, such as Donald Trump or his chief strategist Steve Bannon, to hide their antisemitism.

Profiling activists as antisemites, whether those with Holocaust survival in our family history or those without, is not only rhetorically dangerous, but may actually put people at risk. Right now Palestinian solidarity efforts are being criminalized the world over. But fearing these kinds of accusations and limiting ourselves to a false political correctness only leaves a void to be filled by authoritarian politics. It’s time we call antisemitism for what it is. The recuperation of anti-racist politics as a whole is at stake.

– This post was published on:


About Clownmonkey

Anarcha-clownist, writer, and activist from Jerusalem.
This entry was posted in Analysis, Antisemitism, Occupation, Palestine and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Antisemitism And Its Useful Idiots

  1. Alona Lifshitz says:


    נשלח מסמארטפון ה-Samsung Galaxy שלי.

  2. Dan Vered says:

    Dear Amitai
    In your article you mentioned 5 reasons why Antizionism=Antisemitism should be rejected.
    While I agree it should be rejected , it seems you have overlooked one main reason.
    Judaism is a religion which exists for few thousand years while Zionism is a political movement
    created by Bourgeois secular European jews and exists for around 120 years only.
    Zionism should be exposed for using antisemitism to mobilize Jews into making “Aliyah” so they can be used
    as cannon fodder to achieve the Zionist goal i.e colonizing historic Palestine through ethnic cleansing of
    the indigenous population i.e the Palestinian people.
    Zionism and Antisemitism are two sides of the same coin.Without Antisemitism Zionism has no Oxygen therefore
    the struggle against Zionism (The Israeli state is the manifestation of zionism) should be coupled with the struggle against antisemitism and all forms of Racism in general.

    • Clownmonkey says:

      Dear Dan,
      “the struggle against Zionism…. should be coupled with the struggle against antisemitism and all forms of Racism in general.”
      Word. Thanks for your contribution.
      I agree. Except I didn’t overlook your point(s), did I? See #2 (including hyperlinks), Herzl’s quote, and the very last line of the piece.

  3. Karly says:

    It is easy enough to maintain that criticism of Israel does not constitute anti-Semitism. No need to prop it up with Joseph Massad’s erroneous, oversimplified, hate-filled diatribe which can only be considered as either a massive declaration of ignorance or else a malicious forgery.

  4. Shachalnur says:

    Great stuff.

    Found your article on Mondoweiss.

    Even 3 years ago some of your arguments were not accepted in the comment section of MW ,so we’re advancing.

    Ofcourse you’re right,and sadly enough there are only few Jews that think like us.

    My parents and grandparents Holocaust survivors from Holland(they knew exactly what role Zionists played since 1897),lived in Israel 7 years,been there ,done that,didn’t buy the t-shirt.

    Just dropped in to say it always makes me happy and hopefull to see there’s guys like you.

    It doesn’t happen often enough.

    • Clownmonkey says:

      Cheers, Shachalnur, stick around!

      • Shachalnur says:

        Will do.

        You take care and stay close to like-minded people.

        Especially discussing pre-ww2 Zionist activities is a subject that is very problematic,and any Jew mentioning anything uncomfortable from this period is a much bigger threat to Zionism than BDS.

        Just an idea:

        Have you tried reading sites like True Torah Jews,NKUSA and Satmar ?

        You’ll be surprised how much attention is being paid to this period in Zionist history,and very well documented.

        It was shocking to me to read their objections to Zionist Israel ,besides the religious ones,are very much like crazy Jews like you(and me).

        I was able to have long conversations with some Satmar guys ,and like-minded groups ,when I was a squatter in the Jerusalem Forest in 2012,close to where they hold their family-picnics.

        Yup,there are more clowns than just you,

        Years ago,when my boy was born in Jerusalem,I saw the Jerusalem Forest was a garbage belt,and promised the forest to come back one day,when I have time,and clean it up myself.

        And I did,for 40 days every day,until KKL kicked me out by destroying the abandoned beautiful stone house and waterwell I found at the back of the forest..

        These Orthodox guys know everything and more,much more than so-called educated Israeli’s,and not being an Orthodox is no problem at all,they like to talk about this subject.

        One even said that Ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist Jews have more in common with secular anti- Zionist Jews than with Religious Zionists.

        It was surprising to hear that,as a non-observant Jewish clown.

        What do you think,did it ever cross your mind,did you ever try to talk to these people about this subject?

        I feel the current movie is not gonna end well,and since the only protests come from the Ultra-Orthodox and anti-Zionist fringes,these extremes might have more in common than most think.

        Only as a movie ,ofcourse.

  5. Mauricio Shtand says:

    Not, you are not an antisemitic or someone who hate herself as the rightist could say it.
    Instead of this, you are a pet of the real antisemitism, European Israel heaters, BDS lovers and extreme right and left wing supporters, because people like you, they give them legitimization for saying whatever they want and it would be true because they have that jewish girl and israeli ( double point ) who writes in a good english for a European audience and she is saying what we want, even things that probably you dont support.

    I am Oleh, Zionist, Borochov believer and Avodah Supporter.
    I am against to Bibi and his Racist friends.
    I am tired to see how this government invest more money for the Amona than the north or south of our country ( Arab or Jewish towns )
    I think that there is a kind of occupation in the west bank that it is untenable in the time.
    I want a palestine state beside my country but my country has not have to be destroyed for it

    But you know what ?

    I dont write a blog for extreme lefties and rightist Europeans and take photos with posters in English in Jerusalem.
    I dont support a website like 972mag where even the terrorist attacks are justified and Bibi is the bad boy and abbas or Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi are Angeles.
    I dont think that refusing to serve in our IDF or Sherut leumi would help us.,

    I dont think that bibi is going to resolve this problem.
    I dont think that Abbas will resolve it.
    I dont think that Europeans, Americans , Russians will do it.
    I think our problems are ours and, we, the people have to resolve it.

    You know why ?
    Latin Americans, we say : We wash our own dirty laundry at home.

    And this is something that extreme israeli left have to learn and give the fight inside our country, not outside !.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s