Of the destructive forms of intolerance that have afflicted humanity for millennia, anti-Semitism is among the most persistent. Not only do incidents of traditional anti-Semitism (including synagogue daubings, cemetery desecrations, and physical attacks) continue to occur but, according to journalist Barbara Kay, “A new strain of the old cancer is metastasizing throughout Western countries.”
Irwin Cotler has observed that, for the human rights regime that dominates current international political discourse, Israel has become “the new Jew.” Barbara Kay, writing in the *National Post* (Nov. 21, 2007), argues that “The new Jew-hatred isn’t characterized by brutal government-sponsored Kristallnachts. It is covert and ‘respectable’. Indeed, wearing the fig leaf of anti-Zionism, Israel hatred in Europe is more than respectable; it is fashionable.” But, Kay continues, “make no mistake: Organized and aggressive anti-Zionism is, effectively, anti-Semitism filtered through an ideological spellcheck. Scapegoating Jews for the world’s ills, once a tactic of the right, is today a global left-wing phenomenon.”
Criticism of Israel is not intrinsically anti-Zionistic, nor is it anti-Semitic. Some who criticize Israel do so out of a sincere love of the Jewish state and with a full understanding of the complex challenges it faces; most importantly, they judge Israel by the same standard they apply to everyone else. Others, however, gratuitously condemn Israel’s every action without any appreciation of the context, and they consistently judge
Israel by a higher standard than they apply to any of Israel’s Arab neighbours.
Barbara Kay writes that, “you know Israel critics have become Israel haters when: they are obsessed with Israel’s moral failures and ignore others’; they respond compassionately to Arab war victims, but not to Israel’s terror victims; they deny Jews’ ancestral roots and continued habitation of Israel; and they employ code words, such as ‘neoconservatives’ or ‘Israel Lobby’, as a euphemism for Jews.”
Particularly abhorrent are the analogies drawn between the actions of Israeli soldiers in combating Palestinian terrorists, and the methods used by the Nazis in exterminating European Jews; or between the status of West Bank-Gaza Palestinians and black South Africans under apartheid. Such comparisons are unacceptable, not only because of their fundamental inaccuracy, but more importantly, because their sole intent is to demonize and delegitimize Israel and Israelis, and by extension, the Jewish people.
Those who claim Canadian immunity from the “new anti-Semitism” should recall the hateful CUPE-Ontario boycott of Israel, the participation of Canadian labour leaders and politicians in Hezbollah solidarity demonstrations alongside marchers carrying placards urging “Death to Jews,” and the ongoing campaigns on several Canadian university campuses to stifle pro-Israel voices.