Andria Spindel's Presentation: "Anti-Zionism, the New Antisemitism or the Inversion of Reality"

Editor's Note: On Tuesday, February 19, 2019, Speakers Action Group Executive Director, Andria Spindel was the guest speaker at the Forest Hill Lion’s Club in Toronto, having been invited to speak about the work of the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation. She titled her talk, “Anti-Zionism, the New Antisemitism or the Inversion of Reality". Her presentation in whole follows.

“Zionism is dedicated to ‘genocide, racism, treachery, aggression, and annexation..all characteristic attributes of fascists.” This sentence quoted from an East bloc historian after the Six Day War on October 4, 1967, (and referred to in a paper by Joel Fishman, an historian and Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Political Affairs,) speaks volumes about the inversion of reality that has come to be mainstream since WWII. The lies and distortions about Israel became a major industry almost from the day the country declared Independence, and have grown to magnificent proportion with hate emanating from the Left, the Right and Islamism.

How has it  come to pass that the State of Israel is so despised by so many, that no matter what good it does in humanitarian efforts around the world, no matter what scientific, technological and medical advances it shares and makes available to everyone, and no matter how much Israeli society itself illustrates tolerance of diversity of faith, creed, race, gender, sexual orientation, Israel still attracts more hostile media, punishing UN resolutions, political jibes and jabs, and less sympathy than dictatorships which massacre their own people? How is it that even when Israelis experience brutal terrorist attacks, much of the world blames Zionism, the belief in Jewish rights to its homeland?

Deborah Lipstadt, author of Antisemitism, Here and Now, in a speech given in Toronto on January 31st this year, pointed out that the Jew is hated for being isolationist and for being aggressive and assimilationist, the Jew is hated for being poor and dependent on his community, and for being rich and above the station of non-Jews in the community, the Jew is seen to be too smart, too competitive and then also hated when he is doing menial work and for wanting to own land and farm. Thus, as we know, it has been both the peasant and bourgeois Jew who were persecuted and abhorred throughout time. Forbidden from various vocations, and from landownership, ``Jews were prevented from integrating, forcibly segregated, then condemned for being distinctive, and considered disloyal to whatever country gave them no option, but as well, Jews were turned out of cities and towns where they had successfully become too much like their local hosts. Jews have been driven from the country side, driven from cities, denied land ownership, had businesses confiscated, and been accused of disloyalty and this even after serving in the armies of their host countries. Jews have been murdered as non-citizens in countries where they dwelled for over 1,000 years. Jews have been chided and ridiculed for their distinctive appearance, and then when they are not identifiable, forced to wear an identify badge. It’s probably not common knowledge that when the Nazis looked for a beautiful fair- haired, blue-eyed child to be the symbol of their campaign for Aryan purity, the child they chose just happened to be Jewish. That fact was revealed in 2014 when Professor Hessy Taft had the last laugh, donating to Yad Vashem, a 1935 Nazi propaganda magazine, which bears her baby photo on the cover.

Antisemitism is irrational, yet it seems also eternal. Antisemitism, has always been “hostility to or prejudice against Jews.  But that is inadequate to define what Jew-hatred  truly is in all its discriminatory forms and behaviours. In the pursuit of a permanent reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust and its denigation of Jews and the fomenting of hatred, the former Swedish Prime Minister, Goran Persson, initiated the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research or ITF in 1988. This expanded to a network of experts, educators and policy makers focused on watching for early warning signs of present day genocide, education on the Holocaust and supporting governments and institutions to combat antisemitism and actively prevent genocide. Headquartered now in Berlin, the task force has become the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and has a professional staff.

The IHRA work led to the current useful and very important Working Definition of Antisemitism that has been adopted by its 31 active member countries, of which Canada is one. The current chair Sandro De Bernardin is a former Italian ambassador who has served in both Canada and Israel, and member countries include Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, UK and US to name a few; there are 8 observer and 2 Liaison countries which have not yet endorsed the definition.

It is crucially important to be knowledgeable of the IHRA definition and to be cognizant of the fact that this was drafted and is being promoted entirely because the international community has noted the increase in acts and expressions of antisemitism. The document with the definition of antisemitism is non-binding, but it can still have an impact, particularly in the countries, mostly European and North and South American, which adopt it.

The IHRA definition is, “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

Here are important elements of the definition to note:

Manifestations might include targeting Israel. Criticism of Israel, similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic, but it’s the application of a different standard that is used to criticize and condemn Israel that is the New antisemitism. Holding Israel to a double standard, actually to one that no country achieves, ignoring the atrocities committed by other countries and even ignoring the failings of other countries but only criticizing Israel IS antisemitism.

The document goes on to give contemporary examples, which one should bear in mind when reading some of the hateful statements coming from left and right wing extremists, including a few Democratic Party Congress members of late. These can be played out in any number of situations and environments and absolutely none are acceptable, whether in workplaces, academica, media, religious institutions, or in the public square.

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.

  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries). Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews. Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.

Today the expressions of antisemitism are coming from the right, in the classic form of neo Nazism, white supremacism, and fascism, from a virulently antisemitic Left, in the guise of social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, LGBTQ human rights campaigns, and even from members of the Green Party, major labour unions, and NGOs, and from a third and perhaps most vile source. This source embraces both the old and the new antisemitism, seeking to hurt individual Jews and to vilify and demonize Israel. This is coming from wild-eyed, fanatic, literalist Islamic clerics and their adherents at home and abroad, from the worst of the worst, Ayotollah Khamenei, to a few local Imams, such as have been identified in Toronto.