Monday, July 5, 2021

The Fight Against Antisemitism

Two recent articles discuss the connections between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, a subject that I have written about at length.

One article is about an Arizona law that stipulates that questioning Israel’s right to exist is antisemitic

Legislation approved on Tuesday by the Arizona Senate requires local schools to teach that any claim about Israel not having the right to exist is anti-Semitic, KAWC News reported.

The 16-14 vote came after every Democratic lawmaker in the Senate reportedly objected [to] Resolution HB 2282, arguing that it would hinder discussions about Israel's treatment of Palestinians. However, Sen. Paul Boyer (R-Glendale) said there's nothing in the measure that prevents criticizing the policies of the Israeli government.

"If you've spent any time in Israel, you know that criticizing the state of Israel and the government is really an Israeli pastime," he said, explaining that the legislation is aimed at addressing the issue of blood libels, such as holding all Jews responsible for the decisions of the Israeli government.

It is interesting not only to observe who opposed this law, but also to think about why such a law is not necessary (but would not be controversial) regarding any other nation. In general, it is not a common practice to question a country's right to exist, even if the country is a totalitarian regime that persecutes its citizens and wages war against its neighbors; no one questions Iran's right to exist, or Syria's right to exist, or China's right to exist--and anyone who suggested that those countries do not have a right to exist would be termed a racist who hates Iranians, Syrians, or Chinese respectively. Only Israel's right to exist is open to public debate, and Israel is the only country whose right to exist is apparently a difficult right for many Democrats to acknowledge. Why would self-proclaimed "progressive" people oppose a law against antisemitism? Are antisemitism and anti-Zionism fundamental planks in the Democratic Party's platform?

The Arizona statute adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition of antisemitism. The IHRA page discussing that working definition includes the following specific examples of antisemitism:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

This is a useful checklist to keep handy when politicians, media members, and other public figures utter antisemitic rhetoric. If you are not sure whether or not a statement, policy position, and/or action is antisemitic, just compare that statement, policy position, and/or action to the checklist, and draw conclusions accordingly. 

Bizarre thinking about Jews and Israel is not limited to politics, but has also infiltrated many sectors of society, including children's books. The fight against antisemitism is not easy or for the fainthearted; the second article describes how the publishing industry is increasingly hostile to Jews and Israel:

A prominent writers' organization apologized for releasing a statement in June that condemned rising anti-Semitism, raising concerns among Jewish authors about the literary world's stance towards Jews and Israel.

After Twitter users slammed the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators for acknowledging a spike in attacks on Jews without also condemning Islamophobia, the organization's director apologized for "the pain our actions have caused to our Palestinian and Muslim members."

Some Jewish SCBWI members were left reeling by the apology, which appeared to suggest that condemning anti-Semitism harms Muslims, or that anti-Semitism isn't an issue deserving of a standalone statement.

Gila Green, a Canadian-born, Israel-based author and former member of SCBWI, told World Israel News that the saga is just the latest development in an industry that's grown increasingly hostile towards Jews and stories about Israel.

"It's a masking of anti-Semitism," Green told WIN, that is often cloaked in the language of social justice ideology.

Green also expressed concerns about the so-called progressive ideologies that are infiltrating the writing business:

Green added that she is alarmed by a culture in which authors must tiptoe around ever-shifting social justice and critical race theory-inspired norms when they write, lest they spark social media outrage that would reflect badly on publishing houses.

"They are redefining what a novel is, in a very disturbing way," she said. "Novels can't be written by committee." The pressure to toe the party line stifles creativity and defeats the purpose of literature, she said.

If authors "write the right characters, who say the right things" according to the dominant orthodoxy, what's being produced "is no longer art," Green said. "It's propaganda."

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