Ten years ago, predictions of the global return of anti-Semitism were dismissed as paranoid, but, tragically, they turned out to be accurate. The recent murderous attacks on synagogues, the rise of Jew-hating European ultra-nationalists, and the vilification of Israel in church and campus BDS campaigns, reflect this bitter reality. From left and right, Jewish conspiracy theories are in vogue again, echoing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery.
As dramatically highlighted in a recent BBC documentary, much of the hatred in the British Labour party and from its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is focused on Israel. Their hostility is not due to specific policies (“occupation”) or individuals (Netanyahu), but with the existence of a Jewish-majority state, in any form.
Modern anti-Semites want a reversal of the 1947 UN Partition vote and the outcome of the 1948 War, including a “return” for millions of descendants of 1948 refugees, three generations later. These measures, wrapped in the language of justice and human rights, would mean that Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, would cease to exist. The language may differ from the blood curdling threats emanating from Tehran, but the goals are the same.
Eliminationist campaigns began in the UN shortly after Israel survived the 1948 war, fed by Stalin and his successors in the Soviet bloc, and the growing number of Muslim countries. In the 1970s, with European acquiescence, they produced the infamous General Assembly Resolution which branded Zionism as racism. In 1991, the resolution was finally rescinded, but the UN machinery producing this vicious anti-Semitic rhetoric, including the Department of Palestinian Affairs, remains.
Similarly, the UN Human Rights Council continues to pound away against Israel. The reports and statements of Michael Lynk, the “Special Rapporteur for Palestine”, and a former faculty member at the University of Western Ontario, are eliminationist primers. The libel-filled repertoire includes apartheid, war crimes, human rights abuses, violations of international law, genocide and ethnic cleansing.
To promote this agenda, Lynk, like other leaders of boycotts and similar campaigns sell the mythology that Israel is the most evil state on the planet – worse than Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela and China. In the academic jargon that accompanies the eliminationist campaigns, Israel is presented as uniquely fitting the description of a colonial settler state that deserves to be eliminated.
The 1948 Arab invasion with the declared goal of driving the Jews into the sea – in which one per cent of the Jewish population lost their lives – is recast into an Israeli war of conquest.
Similarly the 1967 Six Day War, triggered by the same threats from the Egyptian and Syrian armies, is said to highlight Israel’s “true objective” of Middle Eastern and indeed world domination – repeating the standard images of the old pre-1948 and pre-Holocaust anti-Semitism, but now aimed at the Jewish state.
Eliminationism is not only anchored in the words that are used to demonize Israel but extend to the accompanying graphics. The BDS movement’s website and Facebook pages feature posters with maps of “Palestine” – from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. They don’t even make the pretense of acknowledging Israel’s existence. And the boycotters who proclaim that they are simply using this tactic to protest Israel’s post-’67 occupation policies are in fact promoting the no-Israel agenda.
In the deliberately confusing political battlefield over BDS, anti-Semitism and Israel, eliminationism brings some clarity and can avoid long and ultimately useless semantic arguments.
Boycotts associated with maps showing a Middle East without Israel are not merely forms of “legitimate criticism”, and the same is true for the use of terms like “apartheid” and “racist” in reference to the Jewish state. Obsessive repetition of accusations like war crimes, human rights violations, or ethnic cleansing are used to justify singling out Israel, and not to advance universal moral principles.
Calling out eliminationist anti-Semites, from Corbyn, the BDSers, to Lynk and their allies, and making their immoral obsession the focus, can change the public discourse. The haters will continue to hate, but without the facade of legitimate criticism.