Mark Tapson is the Shillman Fellow on Popular Culture for the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
In a free new ebook from the David Horowitz Freedom Center, author and regular FrontPage Mag contributor Richard L. Cravatts Ph.D., a Shillman Fellow at the Center, counters the lies and misrepresentations of the pro-Palestinian movement on American campuses, exposing its roots in the ancient animus of Jew hatred and the genocidal threat of Islamic supremacism.
Jew Hatred Rising: The perversities of the campus war against Israel and the Jews can be downloaded as a PDF document or read in full at this link. In it, Dr. Cravatts deconstructs, with forceful eloquence, the arguments of pro-Palestinian activists who declare Israel to be illegitimate while championing the nonexistent nation of “Palestine.” He also describes the hostile campus climate that BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) activists have created for Jewish students, who are smeared as racists for supporting a Jewish state and denied equal participation in student affairs.
“The notion of ‘two states living sides by side in peace,’ as the oft-repeated refrain goes, is, and always has been, of complete irrelevance to the Arabs,” Cravatts writes of the rising “new antisemitism.” “The creation of a new Arab state is not the sought-after goal; what is the actual goal is the extirpation of the Jewish one.”
I posed some questions to Dr. Cravatts about his new book.
Mark Tapson: Richard, thanks for this timely, important ebook. What is the “new” antisemitism and why is it surging so alarmingly?
Richard Cravatts: Thanks for inviting me, Mark.
Anti-Semitism, which scholar Robert Wistrich called “the longest hatred,” has been with us for millennia and has manifested itself as hatred of Jews for their perceived defects and characteristics. While classic forms of anti-Semitism—those evident in right-wing fringe groups such as neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan, and other white supremacists—still exist and sometimes, such as in the case of the 2017 Charlottesville rally, expose their dark bigotry, on university campuses, at least, this type of Jew-hatred is largely invisible. Instead, something that you accurately referred to as the “new anti-Semitism” has evolved, a form of Jew-hatred that deflects its true nature by focusing animus not on the Jew as an individual but on the Jew of nations, Israel.
Mendaciously disguised as mere “criticism of Israel and Zionism,” the new anti-Semitism emerges in ways that have been outlined, for instance, in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism, and particularly the section of the IHRA definition that suggests that “Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation” is anti-Semitic.
As you are aware, on university campuses now there is an obsession with race and intersectionality, the shared oppression of minority groups. So, the slander that Zionism is racism and that Israel is an apartheid, colonial regime of “white” Jews that oppresses an indigenous “brown” people is a repeating trope we witness on campuses and one that has spread widely as progressives try to position Israel as a racist, illegal entity.
It may be comforting for virtue-signaling student radicals to show their overriding concern for the Palestinian self-determination, but on American campuses, this demand regularly, and relentlessly, manifests itself in toxic, anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, often anti-Semitic activism in which the Jewish state and the Jews who support it are vilified as racists, colonialists, occupiers, and militaristic reincarnations of the Third Reich who brutally trample and oppress the indigenous Palestinians and subjugate them in a system of apartheid.
This is not, as Jew-haters claim, simply criticism of Israel. It is a targeted, unrelenting campaign to demonize, slander, and weaken the Jewish state, and, by the IHRA definition at least, often manifests itself in what is clearly anti-Semitic expression and behavior.
MT: How do you counter the kneejerk leftist argument that criticism of Israel is not to be conflated with antisemitism?
RC: As we have been encouraging universities and other organizations to adopt the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism, unsurprisingly there has been pushback from the very people whose speech and expression are the very examples of anti-Jew bigotry the definition was created to address. Many of these individuals have argued that the definition will suppress their pro-Palestinian advocacy and free speech. They also contend that any definition of anti-Semitism which includes the debate about Israel is disingenuous and, in their erroneous view, falsely conflates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, something they contend is never true.
Moreover, critics of the IRHA definition claim that it is an immoral tool being used by supporters of Israel to paint critics of the Jewish state as anti-Semites when, they contend, they are merely criticizing the Jewish state,
But this counter-argument is fallacious. The IHRA definition specifies that criticism of Israel, if it is expressed in the same way as criticism of any other country, is perfectly acceptable and not anti-Semitic. But when Israel and Israel alone is the repeated target of condemnation, and particularly for offenses occurring elsewhere (and often in more extreme instances), and the criticism and condemnation is way out of bounds and not part of a reasoned and reasonable debate; when Zionism, Jewish self-determination, is painted as immoral and racist when other people’s self-determination is not; and when Israelis and Zionists are likened to Nazis committing a “slow-motion genocide” on an innocent indigenous people and Israel’s military is accused of being brutal, murderous, even Nazi-like in its execution and oppression of the Palestinians; all of those go way beyond what might be considered reasonable “criticism” of Israel and, according to the IHRA’s definition in the context of Israel, are, in fact, anti-Semitic.
Pro-Palestinian activists feel that the mere fact that they stand in solidarity with an oppressed people means that any behavior—including terrorism–is justified. They also believe that the attacks on every aspect of Israel’s existence should be permitted and are reasonable because Israel is perceived as the oppressor and the Palestinians, at least in their view, are the ever-oppressed victims of a colonial settler state.
They may reject the IHRA definition; they may claim they are not anti-Semites; they may not wish to put their radical activism in check; but anti-Semites do not get to decide whether or not they are anti-Semitic.
It is obvious why anti-Semites, and those who apologize for or are complicit in this bigotry, would seek to ignore a definition of anti-Semitism that exposes them for their anti-Semitism, exactly why the radical anti-Israel groups and individuals have ignored or rejected the IHRA tool.
MT: Thanks largely to the seemingly ubiquitous campus group Students for Justice in Palestine, which explicitly links Zionism to white supremacy, the atmosphere on college campuses today is intolerant and hostile to Jewish college students. Can you expound a bit on what pressures and threats pro-Israel students face?
RC: Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), with chapters on more than 200 campuses, has a pattern of radicalism, misbehavior, toxic speech, and regular instances of overtly anti-Semitic behavior. That radicalism has been problematic, particularly since reports by the AMCHA Initiative, an organization that tracks anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism at universities, “indicate a significant increase in actions which directly harm or threaten Jewish students, including physical and verbal assaults, destruction of property, harassment, discrimination and suppression of speech, at schools with an SJP or similar anti-Zionist chapter.” In fact, the reports revealed that SJP’s very presence on a campus resulted in a 70% increase in incidents of Israel-related anti-Semitic harassment.
SJP is the chief sponsor of the annual campus hate-fests known as Israeli Apartheid Week during which Israel is demonized, accused of ethnic cleansing and genocide, and is depicted as an illegal, immoral regime trampling on the rights of the ever-aggrieved Palestinians. Other anti-Israel groups’ behavior borders on being cruel and anti-Semitic, such as when University of Toronto student activists tried to deprive Jewish students of kosher food on that campus because the suppliers supposedly supported Israel.
Anti-Israel radicals regularly sponsor BDS resolutions that they try to push through student governments, alienating Jewish students and other supporters of Israel by accusing them of being racist oppressors. Pro-Israel speakers, if they are even allowed on campus after being accused of being Islamophobic by merely defending Israel, are frequently heckled, shouted down, or their speeches canceled by disruptions by SJP members. Jewish pro-Israel students have been excluded from student government positions and their objectivity questioned. Radicals have demonstrated, as they did, for example, at CUNY, while screaming for Zionists to be thrown off the campus, for another intifada, an armed uprising of terror, to be launched against Israelis, and, as is often heard at anti-Israel rallies, for “Palestine” to be liberated “from the River to the Sea” – in other words, for Israel to be destroyed.
Even when the collective conscience of the whole world joined forces to end apartheid in South Africa, no one at that time called for South Africa itself, the entire country, to be extirpated for its perceived sins. It is only the Jewish state and only its supporters who are accused of such malignancy that Israel’s complete elimination is considered as a viable option.
Jewish and non-Jewish students who happen to be liberals have found themselves regularly excluded from progressive causes simply because of their support for Zionism and Israel. While progressives fastidiously protect the rights of perceived minority groups on campus—blacks, the LGBTQ community, Hispanics, Muslims—Jews are now considered to enjoy “white privilege,” to be essentially white, and, if they support Israel, it is claimed, they are endorsing a form of white supremacy in the form of the racist oppression of the “brown” Palestinians by “white” Jewish Israelis. Sadly, then, leftists have made it impossible for a student to be progressive while also supporting the Jewish state.
MT: In the essay titled, “What Being Pro-Palestinian Really Means,” you state that it has never actually been about Palestinian statehood. Can you elaborate on that?
RC: As I mentioned in that essay, based on their actions over decades of debate and negotiation, it seems very clear that the long sought-after two-state solution is something the Palestinians can neither conceive of nor even appear to want. And the notion of “two states living sides by side in peace,” as the oft-repeated refrain goes, is, and always has been, of complete irrelevance to the Arabs. The creation of a new Arab state is not the sought-after goal; what is the actual goal is the extirpation of the Jewish one.
How do we know this? Because, as history tells us, the Arabs were offered statehood in 1937, in 1947, in 1967, in 2000, in 2005, and on other occasions, and in each instance their leaders walked away from the negotiating table and rejected all the terms offered them, no matter how generous.
Remember, too, that from 1948 until 1967, during which time Jordan had illegally annexed Judea and Samaria (what is referred to now as the West Bank) the Arabs could, at any time during those 19 years, have established a Palestinian state, But they did not and that helps reveal that they actual ambition for Arab Palestinians is not statehood at all, but the replacement of the Jewish state with a Muslim entity.
In fact, previous offers of statehood were rejected precisely because the creation of an Arab state beside Israel would involve recognition of the Jewish one next door—something that Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas would never do. And Hamas has little or no interest in the creation of a new Arab state; instead, they have ambitions to create a Muslim caliphate in all of historic Palestine, including modern-day Israel.
And even if the creation of a new Palestinian state involved the expulsion and slaughter of Jews anywhere in the Holy Land, that is perfectly acceptable, given that the language of the Hamas Charter specifically calls for the murder of Jews and the liberation of Palestine.
On university campuses, of course, where the true intention of anti-Israel activists is couched in the language of social justice, it is less obvious that much of the Palestinianism that has infected college campuses—not to mention the UN, NGOs, and other institutions worldwide—has as its primary objective, not the creation of a new Arab state, but the debasing, weakening, and, ultimately, the elimination of Israel.
A Jewish sovereignty in territory that is thought to be Islamic land forever is abhorrent to Muslims, so its existence is also a wound on the honor of the Muslim world, and the end of the Jewish state is more critical than the creation of another Arab one.
MT: In the final essay in your collection, you address some “lies in the cognitive war” against Israel. Could you discuss a couple of those lies?
RC: The ongoing cognitive war against Israel has resulted in a pernicious narrative having been created, one in which, as I mentioned, Israel is a colonial, racist oppressor and the Palestinians are an innocent, oppressed, indigenous people whose land was stolen by white Jews who appeared in the Holy Land—with no previous connection to the land—from Europe in the ashes of the Holocaust.
That mendacious narrative gave birth to a subsequent tissue of lies in which the basest and most immoral qualities were ascribed to Israel with the intention of making it a pariah among the world’s nations.
Former Canadian MP Irwin Cotler once observed that the worst accusation that could be made against an individual is that they are a racist. And Cotler noted that in the 20th Century the most egregious examples of racism were embodied in apartheid and Nazism. And isn’t it interesting that those very examples of racism are regularly, although falsely, lobbed at Israel, so that Israel is accused of being a racist, apartheid state and that Israelis are the new Nazis, that Gaza is equivalent to the Warsaw Ghetto, and that the grisly manner in which Israel is perpetrating a genocide against the Palestinians, coupled with ethnic cleansing, is eerily familiar to the behavior and murderous depravity of the Nazis.
Of course, these accusations are grotesque and false, and, in fact, are examples of Holocaust inversion and Holocaust minimization (both forms of anti-Semitism) but these tropes have become part and parcel of the anti-Israel campaign manifested in Israeli Apartheid Weeks, mock apartheid walls, swastikas scrawled on the Israeli flag, and the pseudo-scholarship of such morally imbecilic professors as Rutgers University’s Jasbir Puar who claims, for instance, that Israel deliberately maims and mutilates Arab bodies for the purpose of keeping the Arab population subjugated.
Even when Israel defends itself from thousands of lethal rockets fired at its citizens by Hamas from Gaza, its response is denounced as being disproportionate, and its military actions are criticized as being murderous, genocidal, and cruel in targeting and killing civilians, including children.
This narrative is based on falsehoods, a misreading of history and fact, a lack of context, and gross exaggerations which invariably assign all blame to Israel, but it has been effective in helping to shape world opinion against Israel. The cognitive war against the Jewish state is at once grotesque and lethal.