Israel and the weaponisation of antisemitism

Feb 19, 2024
Burning candles

As someone who has written in the past on the topic of antisemitism in this Journal – South Australia and antisemitism, July 12 2022, and Antisemitism and the IHRA definition, April 26 2023, I was moved to do so again following the piece published by the newly formed Jewish Council of Australia (the Council) on February 8, 2024: Jewish Council of Australia launches to provide expert voice on antisemitism and racism in Australia.

The Council draws attention to the fact that one quarter of Australia’s Jews ‘do not identify as Zionists’. Whilst not an insignificant percentage, the statistic nevertheless indicates the overwhelming support of Israel afforded by Australian Jews – three quarters of them. The Council correctly defines antisemitism as ‘the hatred of Jewish people as Jews’ and rejects attempts to conflate antisemitism with support for Palestinian rights, including any criticism of Israel. Whilst one can only commend the founding members, said to be a ‘coalition of Jewish scholars, historians, human rights lawyers, and writers’ for drawing attention to the issue I believe that it is necessary to scratch a bit further below the surface. My own view is that the phenomenon of antisemitism, no doubt existing to some extent since the adoption of Christianity, reached its apex in the 19th Century and first half of the 20th Century and was sourced from an ascendant Christian religion giving effect to a dislike or contrariness to a minority. But for the settler/colonial enterprise that resulted in the State of Israel in 1948 traditional antisemitism would have died, aided by the growth of secularism, and liberal humanism’s recognition of the importance of equality to mankind.

Antisemitism did not, however, die, because Zionists, intent on advancing Israel, saw the utility of using the concept of antisemitism to suggest that all Jews are semitic, i.e., of near Eastern origin, and as such clearly having a valid claim to a portion of the near East.

Today’s Zionists, intent on precluding a Palestinian State, and securing ‘God’s gift of the Holy Land’ to the Jews, also see the utility of charging opponents of such a venture with the acknowledged moral sin of antisemitism: hence the advancement of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition.

What has occurred so frequently since October 7, 2023, has been the weaponising of the charge of antisemitism in justification of the genocidal attack upon the Palestinian people. Co-incidentally, however, Israel’s actions may well have resulted in a form of antisemitism which is in fact an anti-Israel attitude, a dislike of Israel. By way of example, what caused Jewish owned restaurants in France to suffer a decline in business, apparently noted, is readily explained by the community’s disapproval of Israel’s response to October 7.

One of the causes of this modern form of antisemitism, or dislike is the fact that the majority of non-Israeli Jews, such as the 75% the Council has pointed out can be said of Australian Jews, are hampered by the fact that they have given unqualified support to Israel, and by the fact that they are impacted by the Law of Return. So that a dislike of Jewish people as Jews has been enhanced, consequent upon the conduct of the State of Israel. Such antisemitism might also be an extension of the World’s overall rejection of the idea of an exclusively Jewish state on the land of historic Palestine, a rejection of apartheid. Again, liberal humanism is playing its part.

Such dislike is far removed from the traditional, historic, antisemitism featured by references to semitic people, their characteristics and appearance, otherwise known as tropes. I am reminded in this respect of what I learnt as a boy when studying The Merchant of Venice (Shylock), and Oliver Twist (Fagin), in English literature. Such traditional antisemitism has nothing to do with any perceived antisemitism consequent upon anger against Israel for its conduct, and pales into insignificance compared to racism directed at Palestinians, Muslims, Arabs, Chinese, etc.

What about those traditional characteristics? Do they still exist? No doubt they would embrace such assertions as the power of the Jews in the media, or as political lobbyists. Such assertions might be considered indicative of the trope of Jews having unusual power. But is a belief in such assertions to be condemned? Should such a belief result in moral turpitude? What if the assertions are true? What if there is a powerful Zionist influence within the Murdoch press, or, topically, within the ABC? What if the Zionist lobby in the United States does in fact have considerable power in political circles? Is it wrong to note that? I say not.

All of this is not to dismiss the genuine danger posed by antisemitism. This is most obvious in the rise of far-right extremists, modern fascists, clinging to Hitler’s hateful ideology towards the Jewish race and living in a World that has passed.


Note: This article was written February 15, prior to Caitlin Johnstone’s article ‘The perfect recipe for a real antisemitism crisis’, February 16, 2024; which can be read at the link below:

The perfect recipe for a real antisemitism crisis

Share and Enjoy !

Subscribe to John Menadue's Newsletter
Subscribe to John Menadue's Newsletter


Thank you for subscribing!