Israel’s enemies claim they harbor no ill feelings toward Jews despite their hatred of Israel. And while this may be true in some cases, the recent cross-border war in Gaza demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that the line between anti-Zionism and antisemitism is very thin and porous.
As the war unfolded, Palestinian Arabs and their supporters in North America and Europe staged noisy and disruptive demonstrations denouncing Israel as an apartheid state and comparing it to Nazi Germany. In a few instances, they shouted verbal abuse at Jews and physically attacked them.
By automatically conflating Jews in the Diaspora with Israel, they proved that latent antisemitism is the genie in the bottle of anti-Zionism.
Of course, this is hardly new or surprising.
Neo-Nazis and their ilk invariably refer to Jews as Zionists. And in from the 1950s to the 1970s, the now-defunct Soviet Union and its complaint East European allies — Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and East Germany — marginalized and demonized their Jewish citizens by branding them as Zionists.
From the moment Israel launched retaliatory air strikes against Hamas after it fired rockets indiscriminately at Jerusalem on May 10, pro-Palestinian mobs went on a rampage in the United States, Canada, Britain and other countries.
In Los Angeles, they threw bottles and punches at Jewish diners in a sushi restaurant.
And in Manhattan, they beat up and shouted antisemitic slogans at Joey Borgen, a modern Orthodox Jew. Borgen, 29, was wearing a yarmulke and was en route to a pro-Israel rally nearby when he was assaulted.
Meanwhile, in New York City’s heavily-Jewish Diamond district, hooligans threw fireworks at pedestrians from a car.
In Tucson, Arizona, vandals smashed the glass door of a synagogue, Congregation Chaverim, one of whose members is Gabby Giffords, a former member of the U.S. Congress.
And in Hallandale, Florida, a man passing a synagogue yelled, “Jews should die.” He returned a short time later and dumped a bag of human feces in front of the synagogue and spat at a menorah.
Luca Lewis, a professional soccer player with the New York Red Bulls, was accosted by a group of men brandishing knives who asked him whether he was Jewish. “I’ll beat the fucking shit out of you and kill you,” one of the attackers said, according to Lewis, who is not Jewish.
In the wake of these attacks, President Joe Biden issued a statement calling them “despicable” and demanding “they must stop.” Five major Jewish organizations urged him to address this issue through legislation and special programs.
The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, ordered state police to increase surveillance at Jewish schools, synagogues and community facilities. “Hate has no place in our state,” he said on May 24. “Antisemitic violence and intimidation is antithetical to the promise and purpose of New York State, and we will not tolerate it in any form.”
According to the Anti-Defamation league, there was a sharp spike in the incidence of open antisemitism in the United States in the first week of the Middle East war. Secure Community Network, the organization that advises American Jewish communities on security matters, recorded an 80 percent increase in antisemitic acts since the beginning of May.
In 2020, antisemitic incidents dipped by four percent compared to 2019.
In Canada, Palestinians organized anti-Israel marches in major cities. At Nathan Phillips Square, in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, some marchers attacked an elderly man and hurled antisemitic invective at pro-Israel activists.
Throughout Europe, Muslim demonstrators blasted Israel. In Britain, a convoy of about ten cars flying the Palestinian flag drove from the city of Bradford to the London neighborhood of Golders Green, where many Jews live, to vent their anger.
One of the riders shouted, “Fuck the Jews, rape their daughters,” in an incendiary exhortation that was probably heard when Russian pogromists rampaged through Jewish villages and neighborhoods during the late 19th century.
In another district of London, Jews pinned down a male who had attacked a Jewish driver sitting in his car.
Antisemitic venom originated in high places, too.
The foreign minister of Pakistan, Mahmood Qureshi, told interviewer Bianna Golodryga on CNN that Israel was losing “the media war” despite its “connections.” When she asked what “connections” he was referring to, he laughed and said, “Deep pockets.” When she asked him to elaborate, he replied, “Well, they’re very influential people, they control media.”
To which Golodryga said, “I would call that an antisemitic remark.”
When asked if he was prepared to condemn antisemitism, he said, “I will not justify any rocket attacks … and I cannot condone the aerial bombardment that is taking place.”
Qureshi went on to describe Israel’s air campaign against Hamas as “genocide,” “war crimes” and “ethnic cleansing,” catchall phrases that fail to address core issues such as Hamas’ aggression and its refusal to recognize Israel.
Perhaps the most surprising manifestation of antisemitism came from a most unusual source — China, which established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992
Historically, neither the Chinese government nor the Chinese people have a record of antisemitism. It is alien to them, though positive stereotypes about Jews abound in popular Chinese culture, and China has traditionally hewed to a pro-Arab policy since the birth of Israel.
But toward the close of the Gaza war, a Chinese announcer on the state English broadcaster CGNT, Zheng Junfeng, crossed an invisible line.
Questioning whether U.S. support for Israel was really based on shared democratic values, he declared that “some people believe that U.S. pro-Israeli policy is traceable to the influence of wealthy Jews in the U.S. and the Jewish lobby on U.S. foreign policy makers.”
He added that “Jews dominate finance and internet sectors,” and accused the United States of using Israel as a “beachhead” to fight the forces of pan-Arabism.
Israel’s embassy in Beijing shot back. In a tweet, it said, “We are appalled to see blatant antisemitism expressed in an official Chinese media outlet.”
Bottom line: Junfeng’s broadcast was removed after Israel’s complaint, but if the Chinese can be infected by this deadly virus, so can everyone else on this planet.