“To anyone conscious of the extent to which the higher journalism today, both in America and Europe, trades in willed self-delusion, these essays (from The State of the Jews: A Critical Appraisal by Edward Alexander will come as a decided relief. Witty, pungent, brutally intelligent and wickedly well informed, they demonstrate that the American mind, in spite of everything, is alive and kicking. Alexander’s range is enviably wide. . . . Inevitably, many of these essays touch on the antisemitism once again haunting intellectual discourse. Because antisemitism has killed so many people, we tend to treat it, sometimes grudgingly, with respect. These essays reveal it squarely for what it is: a delusion of the very stupid; a standing offence against the wit, humanity, intelligence, and decency that Alexander’s work so abundantly embodies.”
—Bernard Harrison, Emeritus E. E. Ericksen Professor of Philosophy, University of Utah, emeritus professor in the Faculty of Humanities, University of Sussex, UK.
I have always been reluctant to call anti-Zionism, “antisemitism”, partly because many anti-Zionists are simply lazy and stupid and are only too eager to go with the flow in their immediate environment. The category of “lazy and stupid”, and one can add “cowardly” into the bargain, is wider than one may first imagine. It includes not only the semi-literate, ignoramus but educated and otherwise intelligent and even admirable people who simply could not be bothered or lack the moral fortitude to go against the grain.
None of these are admirable traits but do they deserve to be called antisemitism? Well perhaps much of pre-Israel antisemitism was of this kind. Such people became the tacit accomplices of genocide, just as their latter-day offspring are willing to become tacit accomplices to the destruction of Israel. Let’s call them “anti-Zionists of convenience”. This is in contradistinction to the ideological anti-Zionists, or “anti-Zionists of conviction” who are obsessively, fanatically pre-occupied by their hatred of the Jewish state. They are not tacit accomplices, they are active would-be perpetrators of genocide.
So, anti-Zionists range from the pathetic to the despicable, but are they antisemites and does it matter? The answer to the first question is really two-fold: their position is objectively antisemitic since the people whom they demonise and wish to destroy are Israeli Jews, certainly not Israeli Arabs. They would claim (or at least some would) they do not wish to destroy the Jews of Israel (or anywhere else) only the Israeli State.
But why the Israeli State when it can be demonstrated, based on quite objective criteria, that there are numerous other states in the Middle East and beyond which are more wicked than even the worst interpretation of Israel could produce? Well then one gets into a maze of special pleading relying on the allegedly unique features of colonial, Zionist and Western oppression. By virtue of this ideology, a slap by an Israeli (or American) soldier carries more moral guilt than the rape and murder of 100 Muslim virgins by fellow Muslims. Against such logic, rationality founders.
But is this “antisemitism”, namely hatred of Jews qua Jews? Not necessarily. It is antisemitic operationally and in terms of intended outcome, but not motivationally. But, in addition, in among this tribe of anti-Zionists there are indubitably antisemites of traditional hue: they hate, envy, despise and resent Jews as Jews. There are many of them and it can be difficult for us, even them, to distinguish between the two.
So in the last analysis who cares? If it waddles, quacks and smells like a duck why should I care that it sees itself as a goose? It’s a duck I say and should be treated accordingly. And if I may be permitted a bit of near antisemitism myself, the stinkiest and most repulsive of all are the Jewish ducks!
So let me direct you to two sites: the first is a brilliant response by Denis MacEoin to Profs Malcolm Levitt and Stephen Hawking and the second is a review of Robert Wistrich’s book “From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel” by Edward Alexander. Both pertain to the issues above and you should follow up the books themselves, including Alexander’s collection of essays referenced in my introduction.