The Clare Spark Blog

January 15, 2015

Antisemitism vs. “anti-Zionism”: is there a difference? Headline: “France envoy to JPost: Jewish crisis has ‘nothing to do with Israel and the Palestinians’.” Michael Wilner’s column, quoting French Ambassador Araud, dated January 14, 2015 in The Jerusalem Post, disturbed me, so I am writing a short summary of the distinction between antisemitism and anti-Israel propaganda and sentiment (i.e., “anti-Zionism.”) (The discussion of antisemitism is continued here:

First, the notion that antisemitism in Europe is limited to Muslim immigrants and their offspring flies in the face of history, particularly in the history of France, where antisemitism, often associated with the reaction to the French Revolution (Napoleon, to be precise), flourished on the reactionary Right. It is well known that wartime Occupied and Vichy France showed little resistance to shipping off Jews to concentration camps and death. As the late David Wyman has shown, all of the West abandoned the Jews of Europe, including the United States. Nor did any of the “anti-fascist” combatants in WW2 call a conference after the war to conduct some soul-searching.  Instead, multiculturalism was increasingly institutionalized and allied with the United Nations. Indeed, the very first issue of Commentary publicized and supported the New Deal notion of “intercultural education”; see

Despite some efforts to credit Harry Truman with recognizing the Jewish State in 1948, it was the competition between the US and the Soviet Union (plus the willingness of Sabras and refugee Jews to take large casualties in the 1948 war) that enabled Israel’s existence as something more than a binational state controlled by Brits, Arabs, and Jews expected to limit immigration and hence aggressive “expansionism” as UN rapporteur and Acting Mediator Ralph Bunche feared., and

As long as the Soviets expected a Jewish state to join the Eastern bloc, they supplied weapons to fighting Jews fending off invasion from five Arab neighbors, much to the horror of Bunche, the UK, and the US Department of State.  But when Israel allied itself with the West, communists everywhere lost their enthusiasm. Today’s New Left apes the revised Soviet line, equivalent to what is now called “the Palestinian narrative.”  (The Palestinian narrative in one sentence: “rooted” poor Arab farmers (the majority) were uprooted by rootless cosmopolitans (a few urban Jews), especially the “maximalist,” modernizing Jabotinsky faction whose ideological descendants now dominate Israeli politics, thus inspiring Left cadre in US academe to mount boycott campaigns.)

Palestinian narrative in maps

Palestinian narrative in maps

In today’s liberal political discourse, “the Left” refers both to social democrats and to communists. I usually draw a sharp line between these incompatible “left” factions, but with respect to Israel, it is hard to maintain a distinction. Social democrats (many of whom represent themselves as moderates or “neocons”) support Israel to the extent that Israel will acquiesce to a “peace agreement” with “Palestinians” even as “the right of return” is a condition of “peace” from the Arab side. Because of this attitude, many conservative Jews, horrified by the end of a Jewish homeland and haven-state, conflate antisemitism with “anti-Zionism” on the grounds that Israel is “where the Jews are.” I believe that this is mistaken.

Look at today’s liberal or “moderate”-dominated mass media, even those with intellectual pretensions:  even after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris (along with the kosher grocery store killings), the tenets of multiculturalism reign undisturbed—except that radical Islam is split off from moderate Islam, thus maintaining a reactionary ideology (multiculturalism) that suits the United Nations and its internationalism and ostensibly peaceful globalism; i.e., mechanisms are now in place to stop wars through “inclusion,” toleration of “difference” and international law.

Alas, it is considered to be a fringe belief that female genital mutilation is widely practiced in Muslim countries. What is at stake is the refusal to accept modernity, so that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not about resistance to modernity that has elevated the status and influence of women, Jews, and ordinary people; rather, even our most public intellectuals continue to describe the Mid-East conflict as a fight over the control of a small strip of land. Nor do they trouble themselves over the intertwining of antisemitism and misogyny, let alone the exact character of Nazism, whose baleful influence is still felt throughout much of the Nazified Arab world and Iran.

honor killing

honor killing

Much of this website is devoted to the study of antisemitism, which is not taught in our schools, though token gestures are made toward teaching “the Holocaust” particularly when other “genocides” are included to discredit “the [capitalist imperialist] West.” The particular threat offered by intellectually combative Jews (either secular or observant, viewed as catalysts of change) is thus buried in a populist offensive against capitalism, “materialism,” and science. (See my index on antisemitism here:


  1. My point may not be as clear as I would wish. It is really that Wistrich leaves something out of his equation. That is that the American ruling capitalist class (yes capitalist and imperialist and these words are well studied and not trotted out as dogma!) would (sell their granny) and betray every historical principle such as the great principles of the Constitution in order to survive. Wistrich is quite, quite opposed to this way of looking at the world and so this leads him to throw illusions in the American Government of whatever party about and to seriously color a discussion in that way also.

    Comment by Felix Quigley — January 26, 2015 @ 9:58 am | Reply

  2. “Mid-East conflict as a fight over the control of a small strip of land.”

    Spoken like a Zionist winner in a successfully occupied and colonized Palestine.Talk about minimizing an unconscionable Crime against Humanity and the Palestinian People.While there is little argument from me that Islam needs to be dragged,kicking and screaming if necessary,preferably by Muslims themselves,into Modernity,it should not be used as a Red Herring to dismiss,deny,demean or deflect the legitimacy of the Palestinian Nakba.To think otherwise is Denial not unlike Holocaust Denial,with similar motives and agenda.

    Comment by Ron Grant — January 23, 2015 @ 6:35 am | Reply

    • To Ron Grant: What is my agenda? Am I a Nazi sympathizer?

      Comment by clarelspark — January 23, 2015 @ 3:11 pm | Reply

      • Ron “Nabka” is the language of the Nazis and indeed the very worst Nazi of all and certainly the equal of Hitler and the close friend and associate of Eichmann namely Hajj Amin el Husseini was in 1948 actually directing the Arab effort to complete the Holocaust on the Jews. What a distortion of actual history Ron! see

        Comment by Felix Quigley — January 26, 2015 @ 9:51 am

      • “Ron “Nabka” is the language of the Nazis..”

        Felix,have you ever heard Palestinians refer to themselves as “victims of victims” ? They recognize and acknowledge that Jews were themselves victims over time and place,including the more recent Death Camps and Holocaust.That shows more than a small amount of insight and moral integrity.I think it is the Zionists who fail to acknowledge their own unconscionable role in the Palestinian Nakba.And one has to consider such denial in the light of Holocaust Denial,whether by neo Nazis’,Arabs,Iranians,etc.

        Comment by Ron Grant — January 26, 2015 @ 4:50 pm

      • To Ron Grant: if you read the literature on Arab responses to the Holocaust and the prospect of a Jewish state, their line was that the extermination of European Jewry was a European problem, and that Arabs should not take the rap for Nazi policies. Arabs also wanted the UK out of the region. But these were Arab elite opinions. The condition of the Arab masses due to a medieval ideology was noticed by numerous visitors to the region post-1945. It puzzles me that you would side with Arab elites, since your heart is bleeding for victims.

        Comment by clarelspark — January 26, 2015 @ 5:47 pm

  3. I read: “in the history of France, where antisemitism, often associated with the French Revolution (Napoleon, to be precise), flourished on the reactionary Right.” How could those words be taken any other way? The author’s reply is illuminating, no doubt about it.

    Comment by gagaismine — January 16, 2015 @ 12:58 am | Reply

  4. I wasn’t familiar with Napoleon as an anti-semite, I thought on the contrary that it was he who established the civil status of Jews on a par with other citizens in France. Could you provide references for his “right-wing” antisemitism, please? I am fluent in French so French references will be fine. Thank you so much! Diana

    Comment by gagaismine — January 15, 2015 @ 10:44 pm | Reply

    • Diana misunderstood the blog or perhaps I am to blame for unclear syntax. Napoleon called the Sanhedrin as his project in emancipating the Jews of France. To my knowledge he was not an anti-Semite. However, many French anti-Semites blame the French Revolution, not Napoleon in particular, for emancipating the Jews.

      Comment by clarelspark — January 16, 2015 @ 12:11 am | Reply

      • Possibly the Declaration of Man and of the Citizen (August 1789) — see Wikipedia for the clauses. These were largely influenced by America’s Virginia Declaration of Rights and Jefferson’s drafts of the Declaration of Independence.

        Comment by churchmouse — March 16, 2015 @ 10:50 pm

  5. Your argument is supported by the fact that Muslims (not all of course) in the west are showing poorly in terms of integration. This is due to a reluctance to rid themselves of old world “anti- infidelism”.

    Comment by Maimon Chocron — January 15, 2015 @ 9:55 pm | Reply

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