It is essential to recognize that antizionism can be a form of antisemitism, and Israel has the right to exist. You can criticize a country’s policies, but not rule out its right to exist.
On Monday, the 10th of Iyar, Israel will celebrate Herzl Day, a day to remember the father of Zionism whose ideas and efforts sparked and led to the Zionist dream of having an independent Jewish state. It is only appropriate after the country celebrated its 75th anniversary, where people of all denominations came together to celebrate the miracle that is Israel. However, antisemitism has been rising in the US over the last few years. According to the NYPD, antisemitic incidents in New York increased by 125% from November 2021 to November 2022. Antisemitic incidents, including violence, have been rising for the past five years. In 2022, independent organizations recorded 3,697 incidents, a 36% increase from the year before. It’s important to note that Jews make up only 2.4% of the US population but are victims of more than 55% of all religious hate crimes. One of the factors that has contributed to the increase in antisemitism is antizionism, which is the opposition to the existence of the state of Israel or its policies. While criticism of Israel’s policies is not inherently antisemitic, antizionism often crosses the line into antisemitism.
Many critics of antizionism argue that it is a form of bigotry that singles out the Jewish state and holds it to a double standard, which is recognized by the IHRA working definition as antisemitism. Some point out that Israel is the only Jewish state in the world and that opposing its right to existence can be a form of discrimination against the Jewish people. However, there is agreement among Jews about the role that Israel should play in promoting Jewish unity. Some argue that Israel’s policies often do not take into account how they can affect Jews in the Diaspora, while others argue that Israel is a beacon of democracy and human rights in the region and that focusing on defending the country against its enemies and should have unilateral support from communities worldwide.
There is a growing consensus among many Jewish organizations that the solution to antisemitism is unity among the Jewish people and support for a Jewish state. The existence of a Jewish state provides a safe haven for Jews worldwide and gives them a sense of pride and belonging. Jewish unity is also seen as a way to combat the divide-and-conquer tactics of antisemites, who often try to pit different segments of the Jewish community against each other. This is seen on US campuses, where the culture of boycotting often makes Jewish and Israeli students feel unsafe and even has led to antisemitic attacks due to misinformation and incendiary rhetoric.
One of the challenges in combating antisemitism is that many people do not understand the difference between antizionism and antisemitism. The two concepts are often conflated. While it is ok to criticize a government and its policies, it is as important to call out real instances of antisemitism. It is also important to be careful not to label all critics of Israel as antisemitic, but to make sure that blatant antisemitism hiding behind antizionism doesn’t go unchecked.
Looking back on Herzl’s vision, the world is reminded of the importance of supporting the Jewish state and combating antisemitism. He lived in a time when Jews felt great sorrow living without a land. Israel is a beacon of hope for Jews around the world. Furthermore, it is essential to recognize that antizionism can be a form of antisemitism, and Israel has the right to exist. One can criticize a country’s policies, but one cannot rule out the right of the state to exist and govern itself.