Don’t use anti-Zionism to legitimize anti-Semitism

David Meyers Former White House Staffer
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Louis Farrakhan was at it again last week, claiming that “Zionists dominate the U.S. government and banks” and that American Zionists are going to push the U.S. into war. But he tried to sanitize his statements by noting that he doesn’t have anything “out for the Jewish people,” just Zionists.

These comments illustrate the recent and disturbing trend of anti-Semites masking their prejudice behind the guise of “anti-Zionism.” Hatred of the Jews is nothing new. From the crusades, to the pogroms, to the Holocaust, people have always found ways to express this hatred. And many modern-day anti-Semites are claiming to be merely anti-Zionists in an attempt to justify their bigotry.

In many parts of the world, it’s no longer acceptable to espouse anti-Semitism. This is in no small part because the Holocaust showed where those views must ultimately lead. So instead, anti-Semites say they are anti-Zionists. They don’t hate all Jews, just the Jews in Israel. (Never mind that more than one-third of the world’s Jews live in Israel, and that the country has become the international symbol for Judaism).

Israel didn’t exist between 1939 and 1945, yet during this time a feverish anti-Semitism engulfed Europe and claimed the lives of six million Jews across that continent. The state of Israel didn’t exist during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but this didn’t stop the murder of tens of thousands of Jews in pogroms and other acts of violence. And the state of Israel didn’t exist during the 1700s and 1800s when thousands of Jews were murdered in countries such as Libya, Algeria, and Morocco. Never mind the countless acts of discrimination, humiliation, and torture committed against Jews over the centuries.

Is it possible that anti-Semitism, which has existed for thousands of years, has suddenly vanished? Or has anti-Zionism now become the acceptable way for bigots around the world to espouse anti-Semitism?

To be sure, reasonable people can and do object to Israel’s policies. And many people who oppose Israel’s policies are not anti-Semitic. But it’s clear that most anti-Semites like Farrakhan have now turned to anti-Zionism as a euphemism for anti-Semitism.

So it was refreshing to see plain old anti-Semitism rear its ugly head last week thanks to Charlie Sheen (who used a producer’s Jewish name to disparage him), Julian Assange (who blamed his troubles on a Jewish conspiracy), and fashion designer John Galliano (who fancifully wished Hitler had finished the job on the Jews).

The state of Israel has only existed for 60 years. Anti-Semitism has existed for thousands. Anti-Semitism has not vanished overnight, and anti-Semites everywhere should have the courage to espouse their hatred without masking it behind the guise of anti-Zionism.

David Meyers served in the White House from 2006 to 2009, and later in the United States Senate. He is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.