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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.

All of these leftist and Islamist organizations claim they are just criticizing Israel for its bad behavior, for discrimination against Arab Muslims, for enacting laws that are discriminatory, for walls and checkpoints, policies of separation and for lower levels of service. In truth, walls and checkpoints save lives, separation has become somewhat necessary to protect the majority Jewish population as well as its minorities. However, when one examines the facts, none of these fallacious claims hold up. In fact, one might argue that there is an antiZionist industry, fuelled by overseas funds, probably largely from Iran, Qatar, and Turkey (our latest major enemies), that is pushing to have the world condemn Israel while ignoring the very real discrimination and inhumane behavior of their own governments.

These governments, and that of former President Morsi of Egypt, may have fooled their people at the outset, gotten them elected on the basis of offering social welfare, better lives, national pride and Islamic solidarity, but in the end, they have proven enormously destructive of their own countries, aggrandizing the elected leaders, and rushing backwards fast. Think of Hamas and Fatah, both now in their 9th year of a 4year term. When they can’t govern, it’s not unusual for Islamists to blame the Jews, and that is the pattern in Islamic countries which are tyrannies and dictatorships. Now it’s Israel that is the Jew.

Consider that for several years, Toronto’s Pride Parade featured a group, marching under banners denouncing Anti-Israel Apartheid, knowing full well that in the Middle East, only Israel then and now, grants total civil rights to all gay folks and even provides a safe haven for gay Arab Muslims escaping persecution in their homes and communities in Gaza and elsewhere. Ironically, in the year that I walked in solidarity with Kulanu Toronto, a Jewish LGBTQ organization, the group behind us wore face masks, though scant if any clothing, and when I inquired of a young man standing directly behind our group, why the mask, he said it was because he and his group were Iranian. He went on to say that if any photos of himself or his group members were posted and seen back home, recognition could bring disaster to their families. Where was the shock and anger of Pride for this suffering gay community?

The Left doesn’t care. Not one of their Palestinian support organizations has lifted a finger to better the lives of the people they purport to care about. Not one of the so-called human rights or social justice organizations has taken any meaningful steps to consider justice for Jews, not even when young Jews are held hostage, raped, murdered, terrorized in their own streets, homes, bus stops, schools or houses of prayer. Bitter sweet, they do nothing for Arab Muslims either, they only do negative propaganda against Israel, against Jews.

When promoting his own brand of Socialism, Bernie Saunders, a US Presidential candidate, dared to claim that Israel had massacred about 10,000 Gazans during Protective Edge, a military conflagration initiated by Hamas in Gaza, for which only combatants were targets, during which its well documented that only between 2125 and 2310 Gazans were killed. What he did was set in motion more antisemitism. He might have taken the time to simply Google the facts, but the intensity of his hatred towards Israel belied his consideration of truth, fairness, justice.

Instead of asking ourselves, how is it that the Left has suddenly become antisemitic, we ought to remember that it’s ever been thus. It’s only that the New antisemitism has targeted Israel, but the left is the major purveyor of this form of hatred, except of course for the Islamist form.

In the Americas, we have Communism, such as that of Venezuela’s President Maduro and previous President Chavez, whose hatred of Israel destroyed the previously solid support of that country for Israel, but they obeyed their antisemitic partner Iran, and ended relations with Israel. Was this anything more than a disguise for antipathy towards Jews? Not all individuals disguise it, as we have most recently seen. Antisemitism is coming from the mouths, tweets and voting patterns of young newly-elected Democratic Congresswomen in the US, notably Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

It’s truly got to be noticed that while antisemitism has often accused Jews of dual loyalty or disloyalty to their native homeland, these two women bask in their ethnic origin to the point that Tlaib draped herself in the flag of so-called Palestine, not the American flag, at her installation as an American congress woman. In the entire history of America, where persons of many backgrounds have been elected and provided admirable service to their country, none has ever before desecrated Congress with flags of another country. So who is showing dual loyalty?

Several individuals in Canada also exemplify the new bond between the Left and what I characterize as Islamofascism, or Islamism, the merge of  religious and political Islam, a phenomenon with proposes Islamic supremacy and domination of the world, intended to eventually make us all adherents to sharia law. Of course in our country, and in the US, the majority of Muslims themselves might not wish to surrender their freedoms to this version of Islam, but we are seeing the enormous influence of the radical Islamist minority with a silent Muslim majority perhaps allowing this to move forward.

A local, home grown example can be seen in the 2017 debate in the House of Commons that led to adoption of a report coming from the Heritage Committee around Motion 103, a motion that initiated the study on racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia. The study was instigated under false or exaggerated claims of discrimination, unsupported by data, that Canadians are extremely “Islamophobic”. The Committee, despite numerous requests, refused to actually define that word, even when it was argued as essential by internationally recognized Muslim humanists, reformers and critics of extreme Islam, such as Raheel Raza, Salim Mansur and Tarek Fatah, all people who put their lives on the line to defend our democracy and our freedoms. We must consider why these federal actions, instigated by a member of parliament whose sole agenda is to get Islamic precedents before the House of Commons. Why else would someone like Iqra Kahlid bring Motion M-103 forward as her first official act, and then find funding for a Muslim Brotherhood initiated organization, all in her first few months in office. What other priorities does she have?

Why does the Left, so-called “Progressive”, allow antisemitism and anti- Zionism to grow? And more importantly, why is the Liberal/left Jewish population allowing this or ignoring it?  Maybe their fear of losing their left-wing bona fides blinds them to the fact that the only proper response to prejudice of any kind — antisemitism included — is unambiguous condemnation. Deborah Lipstadt makes it clear: we need to condemn antisemitism on all sides. Every manifestation of Jew-hatred is dangerous.

The new antisemitism correctly posits that much of what is purported to be criticism of Israel is tantamount to demonization and denigration intent on destroying Israel, and demonstrably uses a double standard in evaluating Israel’s policies, conduct and contributions. In this way anti-Zionism is demonstrably antisemitic. It is disguised and propagandized and for too long it’s been ignored as a tool in the armament of bigots and enemies of the Jewish people, and today it is simultaneously emanating from the far left, the far right and Islamism.

To quote American philanthropist Adam Milstein, it is “a three-headed monster,” and “a closer look reveals that Jews are not the only target of these extremists; each one of the radical movements has a bigger vision of our civilization and their hatred doesn’t discriminate just against the Jews. Unfortunately, ideologues who hold much value in their own narrow definition of “political correctness,” whether on the right or left, are ignoring this big picture, avoiding the imperative to collaborate and to attack the beast together. Extremism has murdered millions of people all over the world, just in the last 70-80 years. So it’s time that people of goodwill joined together to fight antisemitism, anti-Zionism, and the plagues of leftism, rightism and Islamism.

Arguments are made all the time about why the Jews are singled out, and then the onus is put upon Jews, Jewish communities and Jewish organizations to defend themselves, to demonstrate their national loyalties, to explain their lifestyle, to distinguish themselves in all manner of endeavours, but is it ever enough? Jew-hatred runs deep and as I have already said, it’s not rational, it doesn’t generally meld into love of Jews just because facts are used to counter the hatred. Of course, logic and rational discourse must be presented and prevention attempted with solid education, but if the true goal of the well-funded propaganda is to demoralize, isolate, and destroy the Jewish state, what else can be done?

That the haters attack Jews outside of Israel in the name of punishing the Jewish State, should convince everyone that this is antisemitism. When a secular Jew in Europe is killed, a synagogue is attacked in America, Jews in Brooklyn are beaten up on the street, and Jewish youth are attacked in Toronto, when campus life is fraught with antisemitic messages, and Jewish cemeteries, schools, and places with other symbols of Jewish life are vandalized, we must do more. We must stand together with our Christian Zionist and other defenders, name and shame the haters, seek out other minority communities which also know hatred and discrimination, teach Canadians the rule of law, challenge the government to be more honest, and require them to take steps to recognize the real demons,  for now Israel is the Jew among the nations.

Andria Spindel

February 19, 2019

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