Israel and its supporters use the charge of antisemitism to deter anyone who dares to hold Israel accountable — from commenters on social media all the way up to the International Criminal Court.
Earlier this month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed that it has jurisdiction over territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
The decision could pave the way for investigations into war crimes that may have been committed there.
Rather than argue ICC jurisdiction on its legal merits, Israel resorted to a well-known tactic in its arsenal: raising the antisemitism card in the face of its critics to stifle any legitimate attempt to criticize its criminal behavior.
In 2019, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said that she is “satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine”.
She added that “there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed in the context of the 2014 hostilities in Gaza” by Israel and Hamas.
She further stated her intention to investigate Israeli settlement policy in the West Bank as a possible war crime, as well as the brutal Israeli response, which killed over 180 people and injured thousands, to weekly peaceful Palestinian protests along Gaza’s fence with Israel held in the context of the “Great March of Return” between 2018 – 2019.
Based on the ICC’s decision that it has “territorial jurisdiction” over the occupied Palestinian territories, an investigation may start soon.
Consequently, many senior Israeli military and security officials may find themselves subject to international arrest warrants on the grounds of having committed war crimes.
The daily Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel has prepared a confidential list of those who may be at risk. Israel’s PM, Netanyahu responded to these developments saying, When the ICC investigates Israel for fake war crimes, this is pure antisemitism.
Antisemitism is a real problem, and, just like Islamophobia, or any other form of bigotry, hatred and discrimination against a specific group, it must be rejected.
This does not mean that Israel enjoys immunity for its actions when it insists on making any criticism of it and its policies synonymous with antisemitism.
This a carefully considered and calculated approach to make this accusation a sword hanging over the necks of all those who oppose Israel, thus deterring any substantive discussion about it and its policies and actions as a state.
Netanyahu’s angry response is an example of this strategy. The ICC “outrageously claims that when Jews live in our homeland, this is a war crime”, Netanyahu forcefully asserted.
Since the court limits its territorial jurisdiction to the West Bank and Gaza, Netanyahu equates the rejection of Israel’s illegal colonization with antisemitism.
Netanyahu also shamelessly invoked the Holocaust to disparage the ICC and to distort its decision. “The court established to prevent atrocities like the Nazi Holocaust against the Jewish people is now targeting the one state of the Jewish people.
At the same time as Israel’s spurious charges against the ICC, the Israeli government, Zionist organizations and individuals are pressuring Facebook to add criticism of Zionism as a form of antisemitism.
The campaign Facebook, We Need to Talk, spearheaded by a diverse coalition of organizations including American Muslims for Palestine, have criticized this move as a blatant attempt to conflate Judaism as a religion with Zionism as a political ideology that some Jews subscribe to while others do not.
Zionists are also attempting to create deliberate confusion between questioning Israel’s behavior as a state and antisemitism.
As part of its controversial definition of antisemitism, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) includes examples of antisemitism, including “targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivist.”
Such broad and vague language is meant to deter any criticism of Israel and its crimes as a state, and therefore stigmatizes freedom of expression regarding Israeli policies.
Another example mentioned by the IHRA is “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor”. This example equates antisemitism with legitimate criticism of racist Israeli policies under which Palestinians are subjected to a separate-and-unequal regime.
If this standard is adopted in defining antisemitism, then people will be condemned as bigoted for criticizing Israel’s racism as evidenced, for example, in its discriminatory 2018 Jewish Nation-State law.
This conflation of criticism of Israel with antisemitism has real world consequences for our ability to advocate for justice for the Palestinian people.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced that it “embraces and champions” the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism. This position was also embraced by the Trump administration.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried in the last months of Trump’s term to designate prominent human rights and relief NGO’s, like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam, as antisemitic on this basis.
Last month, during her Senate confirmation hearing, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, “I find the actions and the approach that BDS has taken toward Israel unacceptable.
It verges on antisemitism, and it is important that they not be allowed to have a voice at the United Nations, and I intend to work very strongly against that”.
The fact that the US Ambassador to the UN is willing to smear people who boycott for Palestinian rights is deeply disconcerting.
In short, Israel and its supporters use the charge of antisemitism as a tactic to deter anyone who dares to hold Israel accountable for its violations of human rights, UN resolutions, and international treaties.
These attempts, despite their ferocity, indicate that the Zionist movement and its supporters realize that Israel is a tarnished brand, and that marketing it internationally, within its current specifications, has become impossible; therefore, it must be marketed with intimidation.
The United States must end its complicity with this Israeli attempt to devalue real antisemitism in its insidious campaign to equate criticism of its policies with hatred toward Jewish people.
Mondoweiss / ABC Flash Point News 2021.