Thursday, June 24th | 14 Tammuz 5781

January 25, 2019 12:04 pm

I’m a Jew, So I’ll Define Antisemitism

avatar by Sruli Fruchter


Strasbourg’s Grand Rabbi Harold-Abraham Weill inspects graves desecrated with swastikas in the Jewish cemetery of Herrlisheim, north of Strasbourg, France, Dec. 14, 2018. Reuters / Vincent Kessler.

You would not ask an engineer to diagnose tuberculosis, nor would you ask a doctor to identify a tax problem. So why is it that we allow those who have little or no experience with the Jewish community to define what is antisemitic?

I’m a Jew, and I believe that my experience has earned me a fair amount of credibility to define such a term.

On the basic level, antisemitism includes the expression — whether physical or verbal — of violence, prejudice, hatred, stereotyping, or discrimination against Jews.

It is not simply swastikas graffitied on walls or explicit calls for genocide of the Jewish people. Some of the easily recognizable signs include stereotypes that associate Jews as being “penny-pinchers,” having particularly large noses, or controlling the world. And of course, we must be sure to include the blood libels of Jews using children as part of recipes for their religious holidays.

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Another easy identifier of antisemitism is to replace the reference of Jews with any other minority. For example, replace “Jews” with “Blacks” in smears made against our people, and assess them as such. Now you can ensure your standards for racism and antisemitism are equal.

While these examples are presumably undisputed as antisemitic, there is another area that many are confused about: Israel. To be clear, legitimate criticism of Israel is not antisemitic, nor is it antisemitic to disagree with the current Israeli government or its policies; arguing as such would be against the democratic principles that Israel prides itself on.

One method I use to discern legitimate criticism from antisemitism is one that was taught during my StandWithUs high school internship by Natan Sharansky: the “three D’s” test.

The three D’s stand for the Delegitimization of Israel; the Demonization of Israel; and subjecting Israel to a Double standard. Each is indicative of antisemitism masked as legitimate criticism of Israel. An example of practical application would be as follows. “Israel is not cautious enough when it comes to civilian casualties with Palestinians” is a claim with which I disagree, but it is not antisemitic. To claim, however, that “Israel, today, is like Nazi Germany with its treatment towards Palestinians,” is a gross demonization of Israel because it carries an exaggerated and deplorable comparison to the Holocaust.

This “3D” litmus test can also be utilized to explain why anti-Zionism is antisemitic.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, Zionism is “the Jewish national movement of self-determination in the land of Israel — the historical birthplace and biblical homeland of the Jewish people.” Being a Zionist does not suggest support for any particular Israeli government or its policies; it merely suggests a bipartisan belief that a people should return to their indigenous homeland. Zionists hold a wide range of viewpoints across the political spectrum, everywhere from the far-left to far-right. Anti-Zionism, however, implies that the Jewish people are uniquely not entitled to self determination in their ancestral homeland — and that is antisemitism.

In an era when far- leftists are attempting to exclude Jews from the conversations about social justice, and when right-wing antisemitism is also on the rise, it is imperative to familiarize everyone with the intricacies of antisemitism. Today, in some parts at least, explicit antisemitism is considered unacceptable. Unfortunately, however, antisemitism never dies, it just changes form. That is where we must help others determine what is antisemitic today.

Sruli Fruchter was the 2017-18 StandWithUs High School Intern at Davis Renov Stahler Yeshiva HS For Boys in Woodmere, New York, and is doing his Gap Year in Israel.

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