Yesterday’s anti-Zionism is today’s anti-Semitism

The head of the Community Security Trust responds to Frank Furedi’s essay on 21st-century anti-Jewish sentiment.

Mark Gardner

Topics Politics

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spiked’s extensive analysis of the Western reaction to the war in Gaza has generated much debate. We will be publishing a series of responses to our coverage. Here, Mark Gardner of the British-based Community Security Trust, which fights against anti-Semitism and offers physical training and advice for the protection of British Jews, responds to Frank Furedi’s essay on 21st-century anti-Jewish sentiment.

Frank Furedi’s otherwise impressive analysis of contemporary anti-Semitism is compromised by his initial health warnings against trusting its victims’ advocates.

Furedi begins by claiming that anti-Semitism has been manipulated ‘in recent decades’ by Jews and Zionists: meaning that charges of anti-Semitism ‘should not be accepted at face value’. Furthermore, ‘Worse still, the pro-Israel movement’s propagandistic association of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism has encouraged others to erode the conceptual distinction between Zionism and Jews’. The erosion between Zionist and Jew is echoed by Furedi, who in the space of three paragraphs variously cites ‘Jewish organisations’, ‘the defenders of Zionism’, and ‘the pro-Israel movement’ as all being untrustworthy in their own ways.

He is surely putting the victims’ cart before the racist horse. Not a word at this stage of his essay about the accumulating weight and insidious impact of demonising hate propaganda from Arab nationalist, Islamist and revolutionary left sources in recent decades. Nor a mention of the repetition and resonance of historical anti-Semitic themes throughout that propaganda: where once Jews ran the world for their evil purpose, today it is Zionists who do so. The sheer scale of ‘anti-Zionist’ charges, fear and hysteria show it to now be a rebranding of anti-Semitism to suit modern sensibilities, conveniently repackaged in a human rights box, and fulfilling the same scapegoat function as was so successfully exploited by its original version.

Zionists hoped that the creation of Israel would normalise the condition of Jews amongst the peoples of the Earth. Today, hatred of Zionism and Israel has been normalised and anti-Semitism is revived. Whatever ivory-tower ideological arguments may be had over whether or not anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic, there can be no doubt whatsoever that anti-Semitism is just about the only practical impact of anti-Zionism.

Anti-Semitic crime levels have soared throughout Western Europe since the start of the Second Intifada in October 2000, in the physical manifestation of what Furedi correctly identifies in his opening paragraphs as ‘[recently] how Jews are perceived has become closely bound up with the issue of Israel’. There is also, however, the psychological impact whereby European Jews are regarded as moral reprobates for being associated with Israel. Both phenomena impacted to a far greater extent than ever before during the Gaza conflict. Anti-Semitic attacks were almost twice the previous highest level ever recorded, and anecdotally, Jewish schoolchildren, students and employees report having suffered unprecedented shunning from their peers.

Furedi should avoid framing victims’ concerns about anti-Semitism as if these were merely some tactical fabrications by ‘Jewish organisations’, ‘defenders of Zionism’ and the ‘pro-Israel movement’. Zionism is foundationally a Jewish response to anti-Semitism. It is a Jewish nationalist attempt to escape from Jew-hatred in all its forms, be they historical, contemporary, potential, or actual, while seeking to overcome the scarring of anti-Semitism upon the Jewish (and non-Jewish) psyche.

It should also be obvious that whenever supposed anti-racists scorn Jewish and Zionist fears about anti-Semitism, this merely reinforces those fears: especially when these same critics only malign Jews in this way. (Unlike Furedi, who appears to be an equal opportunities sceptic.)

In the post-Holocaust age, Zionism and the existence of Israel are regarded as obvious necessities by the overwhelming majority of Jews. It is they who actually comprise Furedi’s awkward constructions, ‘defenders of Zionism’ and ‘the pro-Israel movement’. The current wave of anti-Semitism throughout Europe and elsewhere will foster more Zionism amongst these Jews, as they question what vulnerable future awaits their children and grandchildren. None of this is mendacious or manipulative on the part of some rarefied Zionist elite. Rather it is, and has for the most part always been, an authentic emotional and political response from the Jewish masses to being singled out for opprobrium (and worse) from the rest of society.

Furedi’s powerful list of ‘new expressions of anti-Semitism’ is followed by striking analyses of the left, attitudinal surveys, and uses of the Holocaust. This explains much of the recent gradation of the current anti-Semitic malaise, but renders his initial warnings of mistrusting Jews and Zionists even more curious. Surely his own findings demonstrate that Jews and Zionists were more right than wrong in complaining about the growing anti-Semitic stench – and that their detractors were (and are) more wrong than right in so eagerly telling them to shut up.

The reasons for the curious disconnection between Furedi’s subsequent findings, and his initial distrust for the authenticity of fears expressed by Jews and Zionists, may lie in the cautionary statement with which he preceded his analysis: ‘Disputes such as this one should remind us that there is a powerful subjective and interpretative element to how we characterise another individual’s words and behaviour – and these acts of interpretation can be influenced by unstated cultural and political assumptions.’

Frank Furedi and I clearly have many assumptions of our own. Is there anybody who does not? If so, can they please make themselves urgently known.

Mark Gardner is director of communications at the Community Security Trust, the organisation that fights against anti-Semitism and provides physical security, training and advice for the protection of British Jews. Visit the CST website here.

After Gaza: what’s behind 21st-century anti-semitism, by Frank Furedi

The politics of anti-Zionism, by Brendan O’Neill

Creating their own private Gazas, by Nathalie Rothschild

Sanctions did not liberate South Africa, by Tim Black

Gaza is not Warsaw, by Nathalie Rothschild

There is no such thing as a ‘good lie’, by Tim Black

Who made Gaza into a bloody trap?, by Brendan O’Neill

The antithesis of anti-imperialism, by Brendan O’Neill

Whose war is it anyway?, by Brendan O’Neill

War without ends?, by Mick Hume

The first Twitterwar, by Nathalie Rothschild

‘We are all Gazans now’, by Tim Black

Israel, Gaza and the politics of victimhood, by Philip Cunliffe

Read more at spiked issue: War in Gaza

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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