How the Right Has Tried to Rebrand Anti-Semitism | by Mairav Zonszein | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
... the Israeli government and its US supporters have redoubled their efforts to render #BDS politically toxic, even criminally punishable. Their strategy is simple: to declare support for BDS intrinsically anti-Semitic because—the claim goes—the movement denies Israel the right to exist as a Jewish state. This rhetorical maneuver suppresses an essential point for many that BDS is not a denial of Israel’s right to exist as such, but an objection to its right to exist as a state that affords rights based on ethnicity (as opposed to a civic nationalism that grants equal rights to all citizens) . Israel, as a national homeland for Jews, gives Jews a right to a country, but the military and geopolitical power Israel has amassed since gaining independence has emboldened the state to control as much territory as possible while largely denying Palestinians civil rights inside Israel’s 1948 borders and their right to self-determination in areas occupied after 1967.
Over time, Israel’s hawkish leadership has construed criticism of its policies as hatred of Jews. The logic has stretched so far that today being pro-Israel appears necessarily to entail being anti-Palestinian. This semantic feat relies on a modern redefinition of anti-Semitism, sometimes called “the New Anti-Semitism,” as primarily a racist hostility toward Israel. The term dates from the last decades of the twentieth century, but it solidified when a 2001 UN conference notoriously drafted a declaration that Zionism was racism. (After the US and Israel withdrew from the meeting in protest, the statement was dropped, but the damage was done.) In the hands of the pro-Israel political right, the New Anti-Semitism effectively flipped the script by declaring that anti-Zionism is racism. In doing so, it added new tropes of “demonization” and “delegitimization” of Israel to the ancient slurs of traditional racism against Jews.
Proponents of the New Anti-Semitism also seek to identify a specifically left-wing form of anti-Semitism, distinct from the traditional far-right manifestations. As Israeli politics, particularly under the governments of Netanyahu, have moved farther and farther to the right, it was inevitable that the definitions of the New Anti-Semitism would harden into a dogma deployed to silence progressives who criticize Israel and advocate for Palestinian rights.