I didn’t want to write about anti-Semitism until a Jewish family member called me an anti-Semite. Specifically, she said some of my writing and posting on social media was anti-Semitic.
Naturally, I was hurt. I’ve watched her blossom from an infant into a confident young mother of four, raising her children to follow in the family’s orthodox Jewish beliefs and traditions. I’ve honored and cherished her family’s beliefs by attending family weddings, funerals and other important gatherings every year. Calling me an anti-Semite was a slap in the face that still stings to this day.
I responded by sharing my disappointment, and explaining that nothing I’ve written or posted can be construed as a hatred of Jews or the Jewish faith. She’s conflating legitimate criticism of Israel (WHICH I WRITE A LOT ABOUT!) with hatred of Jews.
It’s been over two years and we’ve never returned to the conversation, but I’ve been reading and learning a lot about anti-Semitism, especially from the book published in 2017 by Jewish Voice for Peace — “On Anti-Semitism—Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice”. More about that later.
Now I know that my family member is confused because the State of Israel has been deliberately promoting a new definition of anti-Semitism. The idea for a new definition started when the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 3379 in 1975 equating Zionism with racism. (It was revoked in 1991.) Antony Lerman, the founding editor of Antisemitism World Report from 1992 to 1998, writes:
Zionists have always understood full well that antisemitism helped advance the cause, even as they promoted Zionism as the solution to the scourge of antisemitism. Exploiting this dualism today is absolutely central to far-right Zionist ideology and to right-wing Zionism’s Jewish and non-Jewish fellow travelers.
The latest iteration of this new anti-Semitism is the bill introduced in Congress this week, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018 which includes an overly-broad, political definition of anti-Semitism, that includes criticism of the state of Israel. The Arab-American Institute provides a good summary and the reasons why it should be opposed, see here.
Our members of Congress should hear quickly and forcefully from their constituents about the troublesome aspects of this bill. Here’s one way to communicate with them quickly by completing the online message. I’m going to call each of them and tell them that even the author of the working definition utilized in this legislation went on record in 2016 explaining that he believed this approach to be an “affront to academic freedom,” and “unconstitutional and unwise.”
My family member can be excused for her reaction to my criticism of Israel, but lawmakers must be held to account.