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July 3, 2017 1:25 pm

Top ACLU Official: Israel ‘Exploiting’ Antisemitism to ‘Encourage’ Jewish Immigration

avatar by Ben Cohen

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Mehdi Hasan’s video “explaining” antisemitism on the Qatari-funded Al Jazeera network. Photo: Screenshot

A high-level official at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has accused the Israeli government of exploiting antisemitism so as to secure greater Jewish immigration to Israel – leading one senior Jewish human rights advocate to counter that the veteran civil rights organization is actively compromising the fight against anti-Jewish prejudice.

“He has an important position within the ACLU and one would hope he would use that platform to fight antisemitism, rather than making it harder for those of us who are trying to do so,” antisemitism expert Kenneth Marcus told The Algemeiner on Monday, following a tweet on Sunday from Jamal Dakwar – the director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program – that “Israeli leaders exploit horrible acts of anti-Semitism to encourage Jews to move to Israel.”

Dakwar added, “Judaism ≠ [does not equal] Zionism, Anti-Zionism ≠ [does not equal] Anti-Semitism.”

The tweet was a comment attached to a short video on the nature of antisemitism by the British pundit, Mehdi Hasan, that was broadcast by the Qatari-funded Al Jazeera network. Acknowledging that antisemitism is a form of racism – “no ifs, no buts” – Hasan then presented the problem as largely concerned with the far right, tying it heavily to the election of US President Donald Trump last November. Antisemitism on the left was mentioned in passing, while antisemitism among European Muslims was not discussed at all, with Hasan describing the terror attack on the Hypercacher supermarket in January 2015 as “the attack on a Jewish supermarket in Paris,” without mentioning that the perpetrators were Islamist terrorists.

Hasan’s fundamental point – which recycles a favored theme of past Soviet and Arab anti-Zionist propaganda – is that Israel’s “cynical” leaders welcome eruptions of antisemitism as an opportunity to urge Jews to immigrate en masse to the State of Israel.

When it came to those engaged in “conflating” the Jewish people with Zionism and Israel, Hasan concluded, “maybe let’s not forget to include as well some of the irresponsible, and yes, cynical leaders of the State of Israel.”

Marcus – President and General Counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, and the author of “The Definition of Antisemitism,” published by Oxford University Press in 2015 – expressed amazement that, in sharing Hasan’s video, Dakwar was buying into a definition of antisemitism coined by Al Jazeera.

“He is not wrong to distinguish between Judaism and Zionism, nor is he incorrect that anti-Zionism and antisemitism are different conceptually,” Marcus explained. “But he has borrowed from Al Jazeera a simplistic and distorted understanding of the relationship between them.”

Marcus continued: “It’s extraordinary that he relies on Al Jazeera‘s conception of antisemitism and then criticizes (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu for failing to follow it. It is as if he assumed that anti-black racism is entirely what white supremacists define it to be, and then castigated black leaders for holding a different view.”

Marcus also pointed out that the ACLU – founded in 1920 – “has been leading the battle against the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which is one of the most important current legislative efforts to fight antisemitism in colleges and universities.”

The Act – passed by the Senate in December 2016, but still to be considered by the House of Representatives – uses the definition of antisemitism approved by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which provides guidance on how to determine whether anti-Zionism has crossed into antisemitism, as is frequently the case. But the ACLU believes that Act will clamp down on First Amendment free speech rights for pro-Palestinians and anti-Zionist groups on campus such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which supports the elimination of the Jewish state of Israel through the creation of a single Palestinian state.

“The ACLU should be leading this battle,” Marcus argued. “But they’ve gotten on the wrong side of it.”

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