What is and what is not anti-Semitism


In the aftermath of the massacre at the Pittsburgh synagogue there has been a lot of debate about anti-Semitism. It’s a phenomenon that sadly exists on the fringes of both sides of politics from skinheads and white supremacists concerned about the Jewish bankers controlling the world to Louis Farrakhan recently comparing Jews to termites. With the increasing immigration to Western countries, a third, Islamic strain of anti-Semitism, a melange of the old religious prejudice with the more modern hostility to Israel, has been added to the anti-Jewish prejudice in the developed world.

The Pittsburgh mass shooting is another recent example of the left having developed a new chaos theory: a Trump butterfly flapping its lips on socials causes every hurricane around the world. Thus, the efforts to somehow blame Trump for the deadly actions of an anti-Semite who hated Trump because he thought that Trump was controlled by the Jews. The Orange Man truly is the new global warming of the political discourse, responsible for both everyone’s actions and reactions. It’s a bit of a long shot to impute that a life-long liberal Democrat businessman and celebrity from New York, whose daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren are Jewish, and who turned out to be perhaps the most pro-Israel President in a living memory, is an anti-Semite himself. So instead he is blamed for having some among the tens of millions of followers (or, in case of the synagogue shooter, non-followers) who are, or for influencing the debate in a negative way. You see, Trump has been vocal against the Central American “refugee caravan” now heading through Mexico towards the American border. It’s clear that this is not a spontaneous event but a well managed and logistically supported political spectacle, in which some see the influence of George Soros and his money. The synagogue killer was one of the people who thought that the American Jews in general were behind the illegal immigration – ergo, for the left, Trump and his rhetoric are to blame for the massacre.

I thought this is perhaps the right time to produce a quick primer for anyone confused about this issue (to borrow from the great Jewish thinker Maimonides, perhaps a new “Guide for the Perplexed”) that goes beyond sterile academic definitions and concentrates on real life examples.

Criticising Soros by focusing on his ethnicity (“fucking Jew”) or otherwise implying that he embodies supposed Jewish racial characteristics (“rootless disloyal cosmopolitan like all of them”) – anti-Semitism.

Criticising Soros’s philosophy and actions – not anti-Semitism.

No one is and should be immune from criticism.  But criticise people for what they say or do, not who they are. I find Soros a sinister influence not because of his ethnicity, which I find completely irrelevant, but because of his left-wing beliefs, not the least the “open borders” philosophy that proclaims the Western democracies have the obligation to open the door to anyone from anywhere around the world who wants to live there. This philosophy is widely shared across large sections of the left; Soros merely happens to be one of the more prominent exponents and financial backers of such activism.

From this point of view the common argument along the lines of “Soros is a victim of anti-Semitic attacks from neo-Nazis, therefore if you attack Soros you too must be a anti-Semitic neo-Nazi” is pure bullshit designed to shut down any debate. It’s also a logical fallacy, a form of an “appeal to authority” or rather a non-appeal to non-authority, and guilt by associations. The fact that anti-Semites do attack Soros is not going to stop me from expressing my criticisms of him. The difference is that anti-Semites think Soros is evil and that this evil is an essential function of his Jewishness; I think that it is the beliefs that Soros shares with many others on the left (combined with his deep pockets for political activism) that make him dangerous.

Talking about “the Jews” as a collective, and a sinister one at that, as in “the Jewish bankers who control the world” or “the Jews as the string pullers behind communism/capitalism/globalism/media/entertainment/finance/etc.” – anti-Semitism. There is no such thing as “the Jews” as some sort of a collective like-minded entity any more than any other ethnic or religious group is a monolith. The Jews have been prominent throughout history, particularly modern history, well out of proportion to their numbers. This is a legacy of many historical factors to do with their centuries-long forced separation from the mainstream society as well as the importance placed on literacy and education in the Jewish culture, but there are no patterns or conspiracies about it.

Criticising the actions of the Israeli government and authorities – not anti-Semitism.

As long as you apply the same standards to all governments and authorities.

Anti-Zionism – anti-Semitism.

Let me explain, because this is an often made distinction – “I have nothing against the Jews, I’m just an anti-Zionist”. To me, anti-Zionism is an argument that essentially all other nations around the world deserve and can have a state of their own except for the Jews. This is singling out one particular group and denying them the same rights as enjoyed by most others. French can have France, Vietnamese can have Vietnam, Paraguayans can have Paraguay, but Jews shouldn’t be allowed their own nation state. There are legitimate arguments about, for example, the exact shape and extent of the territory of Israel, but not about its right to exist. Some anti-Zionists will say that they don’t question the existence of Israel, they just think it shouldn’t be an exclusively “Jewish state” in that it should be shared with Palestinians. Putting aside for a moment the basic unworkability of such an arrangement, due to demographic factors the Jews would soon find themselves a minority in such a two-nations state, losing control over their fate. You can’t put long-time enemies in the same room together and expect happy results; if you do you are either stupid or are demonstrating bad faith.

This brings up an important though often overlooked point – anti-Zionism in a sense of hostility to a particular ethnic group having control over its country is merely an extreme example of the far-left’s open borders philosophy. Just as we are told that the United States, Australia or the European Union should let everyone in who wants to live there, so in effect should Israel. Borders are bad, borders are racist, borders discriminate against the wretched of the Earth, who constitute the majority of the population of the world, in favour of wealthy white Westerners. There is a hostility here against one’s own civilisation, history, society and against capitalism; there is a large dose of white and colonial guilt, which posits that we owe this to the developing world as part-compensation for the past oppression and exploitation, there is self-interest in the perfectly justified belief that new migrants will boost the left’s electorate.

Not surprisingly, George Soros, who think that the American and European borders should be open to all, is also one of the godfathers and financiers of the anti-Israel “Boycott Disinvestment Sanctions” movement, which aims to apply economic and other pressure on Israel to “make peace” with Palestinians. For the BDS movement this involves dismantling the security border wall between Israel and the West Bank and allowing the millions of descendants of Palestinian Arabs who escaped or were ejected from within the borders of Israel in 1948 to return. This would, needless to say, destroy Israel as a Jewish state. Israel is seen by the international left as a product of European colonialism – perhaps the last colony – and the Israelis as honorary Europeans for the purposes of the global oppressor/oppressed dichotomy.

Referring to Jews as termites and synagogues as temples of Satan – anti-Semitism.

Farrakhan, by the way, is still on Twitter, as is the Holocaust denier in chief (anti-Semitism too), the former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.