Sunday, February 4, 2024

Israel instrumentalizes ‘anti-Semitism’

Thomas Suárez is a London-based historical researcher as well as a professional Juilliard-trained violinist and composer. A former West Bank resident, he devoted several years to researching poorly-tapped and newly-declassified historical archives to compile his latest book: Palestine Hijacked: How Zionism Forged an Apartheid State from River to Sea. His previous books include three landmark works on the history of cartography, and Writings on the Wall: Palestinian Oral Histories. His personal web page can be consulted here.

This is an edited version of his presentation to a seminar sponsored by Weekly Worker on January 25.


Clear the smoke and mirrors

Zionism relies on anti-Semitism and is itself a form of anti-Semitism. Thomas Suárez discusses the ability of the Israeli state to excuse its crimes and silence critics

Why are we discussing seemingly academic topics like anti-Semitism and Zionism while the Palestinians are being massacred? Seventy-five years of exposing Israel’s crimes has failed to stop it, and so its uncanny impunity must be dissected to see how it works. Key to that impunity is Israel’s weaponisation of anti-Semitism, and so defeating that weaponisation is essential if we are to defeat its weapons of steel and explosives.

I would like to preface this by explaining that I do not like the term, ‘anti-Semitism’, and think it should be dropped in favour of ‘anti-Jewish bigotry’. The use of a dedicated term for bigotry against Jews - as opposed to bigotry against anybody else - feeds into the notion of Jewish exceptionalism. It is also illogical and inaccurate in its use of the term ‘Semitic’; and above all, for reasons I will explain, the term ‘anti-Semitism’ aids Israeli impunity; it is an asset in its wielding of the smear of anti-Jewish bigotry to silence critics.

But I will continue to use the word ‘anti-Semitism’ here to avoid distracting from the larger issue at hand. That larger issue is, of course, the ongoing genocide, which requires us to address not the victims, but the perpetrator and its principal weapon: the Israeli state/Zionism and its weaponisation of anti-Semitism.

First, I think we should look at the various roles that anti-Semitism plays in the Israeli state and in its ongoing genocide.

1. Anti-Semitism is, of course, the alleged rationale for Zionism and the Israeli state.

2. For devotees of the Zionist cult, anti-Semitism is both the threat and the fetish that Zionism wields to keep them obedient.

3. The transference of historic western anti-Jewish bigotry onto Palestinian identity is core to the dehumanisation of the Palestinians that Israel requires to justify its slow and not so slow genocide against them.

4. Anti-Semitism is Zionism’s essential fuel that it must ensure never runs out, and thus:

5. The cry of anti-Semitism, real or fake, is the key money-raising tool for the Zionists, and

6. The false smear of anti-Semitism is, of course, the principal weapon wielded to squash opposition to its crimes.

7. Importantly, anti-Jewish bigots were courted by the Zionist movement, with anti-Semitism used as a positive marketing strategy. If you do not want Jews showing up on your shores, support Zionism! Because we have a huge ghetto for them far away from you.

8. And so the last point: actual anti-Semitism, white nationalism and neo-fascism, are soulmates of Zionism, as is the anti-Semitism of the rabidly pro-Israel Christian Zionist movement.

In short, anti-Semitism is integral to the Israeli state - a multi-purpose, inseparable tool. Israel is woven out of anti-Semitism.

Under the hood

Now, for a quick look at the beginning of it all, I would like to quote the correspondent for the London Standard, reporting on the first Zionist Congress in 1897:

The idea of founding a modern Jewish state which goes by the name of Zionism, finds little favour in Germany, except among the anti-Semites … the Frankfurter Zeitung sums up an article on the subject as follows: In short, the degeneration which calls itself anti-Semitism has begotten the degeneration which adorns itself with the name of Zionism.

‘Anti-Semitic’ should have been the epitaph that buried Zionism along with Theodore Herzl. But Herzl and those who followed fought back through the only tactic that could counter Zionism’s obvious anti-Semitic nature. They claimed worldwide Jewish allegiance and crowned Zionism as the standard by which good Jews and bad Jews are distinguished.

To quote Herzl, “No true Jew can be an anti-Zionist. Only Mauschel [an offensive word for a religious Jew] is one. Merely to look at him - let alone approach or, heaven forbid, touch him - was enough to make us feel sick.” So here we have the beginning of the hijacking of Jewish identity by this racial-nationalist movement, resulting in the nation-state today that calls itself ‘the Jewish state’.

Now, we accept this trilogy of words - the Jewish state - with little thought. But, even on the obvious level, the term ‘the Jewish state’ already creates a magic shield around Israel. Compare the psychological difference between ‘Why are you always criticising [whatever state]?’ and ‘Why are you always criticising the Jewish state?’

The term, ‘the Jewish state’, serves as a weapon that shoots its bullets without leaving any forensic evidence. It empowers the smear of anti-Semitism in the most insidious way, because it strikes without the overt accusation, thus leaving the victim not even the option of responding to the smear, unless he or she overtly raises the issue of anti-Semitism - which only has the appearance of vindicating the smear.

So, in order to disable this magic shield, we need to look inside to see what powers it. Under the hood, we see that ‘the Jewish state’ is a stealth term that creates a messianic gateway to the public mind, sparking its message of exceptionalism past any critical thought. There is an entire world of narrative hidden within these three words, the most powerful of which is the first one, ‘the’. Israel does not claim to be merely ‘a’ Jewish state, in the sense of countries that have a national religion. Indeed to quote David Ben-Gurion, Israel has nothing to do with Judaism, but rather with ‘being a Jew’. And nor with being just an Israeli Jew, but the ethnicity itself. According to Israel’s construct, it is the state of all Jews, as Jews - free of national borders and indeed free of individual Jewish consent on the matter.

This is anti-Semitism, and it is unique in the world. There is no analogy to it with any other nation-state, as much as Israel’s apologists try to pass Israel off as analogous to any other state with a national religion. Simple experiment to prove that. There are multiple Christian states; there are multiple Muslim states, Hindu states, Buddhist states. Now, imagine that some state somewhere in the world were to establish itself and declare that it is a Jewish state, just like Israel. Israel would go ballistic. It would say, ‘No, you can’t be the Jewish state: we are the Jewish state.’

For states with an official religion, that officialness extends to their borders and stops. Such states neither claim exclusivity on the religion or its various cultures, nor to have any claim on co-religionist citizens of other countries. Israel is the opposite. Israel is the ‘only Jewish state’ (as its apologists constantly remind us) not in the sense that there happen to be no other, but because by Israel’s construct there can be no other. Why? Because its claim over Jews is global and involves ethnicity itself, not citizenship. This nation-state adaptation of tribalism, in which the state is part of the DNA of an ethnic identity, bears no relation to states with a national religion. And it is the internal workings of its weapon of silencing critics through the smear of anti-Semitism.

Now, where else do we come across this same mentality? It is the method of common bigots. Racists blame individuals by virtue of claimed oneness with some ethnicity or nationality or ‘type’. And so, during the spread of Covid19, ‘Chinese-looking’ people were attacked because the virus came from China. ‘They’, ‘the Chinese’, caused Covid. This is classic ignorant bigotry, and we all condemn it.

Israel’s magic shield works by doing precisely this to Jews - but turning it around in order to hold Jewish identity ransom to insulate its crimes. And, instead of condemning this anti-Semitism, we run in fear from it - which is doubly tragic, because we are also running in fear from Zionism’s fatal flaw.

We would say, Israel did xyz, while a bigot would say the Jews did xyz. But that bigot is now the Israeli state and its cheerleaders, who have made state and ethnicity synonymous in order to repackage criticism of the state as anti-Semitic.

Other states deflect criticism of their crimes by ‘hiding behind the flag’, accusing dissenting citizens of being unpatriotic to the state. Israel instead hides behind the ethnicity, free of borders, accusing dissenting voices anywhere of being traitorous to Jews as Jews.


Now, we are all familiar with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance pseudo-definition of anti-Semitism, which in reality is not a definition of anything, but rather a tool to silence Israel’s critics and thus empower Israel’s crimes. The IHRA does, however, contain one truth: it states that it is anti-Semitic to hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the Israeli state. Well, of course! - but that, ironically, is precisely what the IHRA is engineered to do. That is its purpose, and that is the inner workings of the smear.

You do not even need to unscrew the cover of the IHRA to look inside to see how it works. It is a very simple and obvious mechanism: what Israel does ‘the Jews’ do, so to accuse the state of crimes is to accuse Jews as Jews of those crimes - which, of course, is blatant anti-Jewish bigotry, and we must start saying so.

This same tactic Israel wields to silence us. It is its Achilles heel, but we have collectively been so beaten down that we have not exploited it. Israeli theft of Jewish identity makes Jews, as Jews, simply because they are Jews, the doers of its crimes. Traditional anti-Semitism, for all its horrors, is powerless to harm the integrity of Jews or Judaism, powerless to make its libels true. However, the Israeli state and Zionism - if we accept them at their word - succeed. If we accept their claims on Jewish identity, then we are common racists, blaming Jews as Jews.

The very name ‘Israel’ is of course also part of the weaponisation of the smear of anti-Semitism. For anyone from the larger western tradition (and I include secular people) the name ‘Israel’ exists apart from all other place names. Its very sound transcends the realm of the profane and touches a nerve deep within our collective cultural subconscious.

It is a place rooted in Genesis itself, and Israel - the modern nation-state - very openly exploits this to position itself as that place, the land’s ancient artefacts as the nation-state’s artefacts, and its settlers as that Biblical land’s people. As laughable as that may (and should!) sound, its power is very real, and is the reason the name was chosen.

Zionists’ use of Hebrew as the vernacular operates in tandem with the weaponisation of anti-Semitism. Hebrew was necessary for the theatre of the messianic ‘return’ to biblical lands. It, too, is an artefact serving to place the Israeli state in a protected part of our collective psyche. To criticise someone speaking Hebrew is, in this militarisation, to criticise Jews.

In sum, Zionism has hijacked Jewish individual identity and turned it into a monolithic, racial, supremacist cult. Why is this not blatantly obvious to the general public?

One key aspect, in my view is this: What, as seen by the public, are the two ‘sides’ to what they are told is a ‘conflict’? Well, they would say that ‘It’s obviously Israel versus the Palestinians (or the Arabs)’. To me, this juxtaposition is very misleading, and it hides Israel’s anti-Semitism.

Question: what is it about the Palestinians that makes Israel target them? Why does Israel place them under apartheid, ethnically cleanse them and commit genocide against them? Why? It is not because they are Palestinians per se. It is not because they are Arabs. It is solely because they are not Jewish. If they were Jewish, whether Palestinian or Arab or anything else, they would instead be welcomed by Israel and given a generous subsidy to take over a house whose owner was expelled because s/he is not Jewish.

Jews were always part of the fabric of Arab Palestinian civilisation - until the arrival of the Zionists. The Zionists extracted all Jews from Palestinian civilisation, robbing them of their Arab identity. More Zionist anti-Semitism. That the rest were by definition not Jewish - and nothing else - is why Israel has condemned them to apartheid, bantustans and camps, why the Zionist militias depopulated several hundred villages in 1948, and why it continues to depopulate them in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and, especially, in Gaza. The core goal of Zionism is a racially pure Jewish state from river to sea. Anyone there who is not Jewish is to be gotten rid of.

So, Palestinians are the targets because Palestinians are the native people river-to-sea minus the Palestinian Jews, who were all removed by the Zionists.

Describing the situation as ‘between Israel and the Palestinians’ falsely frames this racial nationalism as a real estate dispute - a conflict - and indeed provides Israel the rhetorical gymnastics through which it denies it is an apartheid regime. Accurately describing the situation as Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinian non-Jews exposes Israel’s crimes against Jews - its hijacking of Jewish identity as a human shield to insulate its crimes in the name of Jews.

Thus the Israeli state is genocidal in its very nature, as its goal is and always has been to effectively erase the original ethnic identity by expulsion and the hijacking of their cultural iconography as its own. The ongoing genocide in Gaza, and in slower motion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - and, of course, within Israel itself - is all part of Zionism’s grotesquely anti-Semitic crime of hijacking Judaism into a racial supremacist cult. Israel is in effect conducting genocide and blaming it on the Jews.

Israel’s squandering of Jewish identity is also obvious if we look at the people who were ethnically cleansed in 1948 and beyond - ongoing through to this moment - because they are not Jewish, and have for generations been reduced to life in camps. What do we call these camps? Unfortunately, playing right into Israel’s narrative, we call them refugee camps, shielding Israel from this aspect of its abuse of Jewish identity.

No - what is a refugee camp? It is a camp for people displaced by conflict or natural disaster, on account of which are unable to return home. But this has not applied to the Palestinians for 75 years. Since the end of 1948, they have been perfectly able to go home, have wanted nothing more than to go home, have the unqualified individual right to go home, and there is nothing stopping them from going home ... except that the Israeli state blocks them! Why? It blocks them because they are not Jewish.

So these are not refugee camps - they are Israeli internment camps for non-Jews, paid for by the ‘international community’. The term, ‘refugee camps’, obscures this crime Israel is committing in the name of Jews, making the fact that millions of people wake up every morning to the squalor of camps sound like some tragedy of circumstances. No - Israel keeps them imprisoned in internment camps, because they are not Jewish - end of story.

As an example of how cynical is Israel’s theft of Jewish identity, one of these Israeli internment camps for non-Jews, Shu’fat, is already in what is claimed to be Israel. According to Israel, East Jerusalem (where the camp is) is Israeli, as much a part of the state as any other. So, the people of Shu’fat camp do not even need to ‘return’ - they are already there!

But they are in camps. They are in camps, even though they are in Israel, according to Israel, in order to preserve Israel’s self-professed identity as ‘the Jewish state’ - a remarkably cynical term, in that its exterior demands unqualified respect, while its interior hides a neo-fascist, racist abuse of Jewish identity to empower its crimes against the Palestinians.


Since its purpose is to protect the state itself, not Jews, and since the very mission of the state is a racist one, anti-racists - that is, the vast majority of the people working for Palestinian liberation - are the targets of the smear, whereas actual anti-Jewish bigots, and even neo-fascists, are not targets because they are invariably avid supporters of the state.

I came of age in the United States during the height of the US-led war against Vietnam, and like many people of all ages at the time, I was active in the movement to stop it. Now, we were called traitors, but traitors to what? Traitors to a state of which I was a citizen by happenstance of the geography of my birth. It was an external aspect, not part of my DNA. Citizenship is like belonging to a club. Everyone - well, except the Palestinians and other stateless people - automatically belong to one of these clubs, and sometimes join another or resign from one.

But people brainwashed from birth by Zionism believe that Zionist ideology and the Israeli state are part of who they are. And it is for this reason that Israel does not allow Israeli nationality for Jews. The nationality of Jewish citizens of Israel is, by Israeli law, Jewish. Israel claims a hold on Jews by what it treats as ‘race’, and thus cannot be renounced. Israel claims to own Jews as Jews.

One example of how this plays out: in the 1980s, during former Lehi bigwig Yitzhak Shamir’s second term as Israeli prime minister, Russia finally allowed Jews to leave. Most wanted to go to the US, but Shamir, furious, called them ‘defectors’ and successfully coerced US president Ronald Reagan to close its doors in order to force them to go to Israel, where they were needed as place-holders for the state’s expansion into the West Bank.

In my view, this psychosis - this drug of anti-Semitism, to which Zionism has gotten its devotees addicted - is why we have the phenomenon of Zionist Jews faking anti-Semitic incidents, such as scrawling swastikas on the wall or their dormitory door, this sort of thing - even bomb scares - a phenomenon that I believe is more widespread than has been acknowledged.

Anti-Semitism has become a racket. For many years, organisations such as the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Community Service Trust and the Board of Deputies - or in the US the Anti-Defamation League - have been devoted to maintaining an ever-increasing hysteria over anti-Semitism, both to keep Zionism’s adherents terrified and satisfied, and to keep us silent.

Does anyone remember any of these organisations announcing, ‘Great news - anti-Semitism has declined this quarter’? Or even levelled off? No. It is so farcical that several years ago the Daily Mail reported that “Jews feel as threatened as they did in the holocaust, experts say”, and there has been no let-up since. Yet the media continue to parrot one new alarm after the other without betraying the slightest curiosity.

The struggle for Palestinian liberation demands that we counter this weapon - the militarisation of anti-Semitism. What, then, to do if you are falsely smeared with the ‘anti-Semitism’ label? Absolute rule: never respond on the terms handed you. Do not respond with protestations of your innocence; nor with any form of pseudo-apology for anything you did not do, thinking you will placate the inquisitors.

The smear is to silence you, of course; but they are also thrilled if you protest, because anti-Semitism remains the issue, you remain on the defensive, and because the words, ‘Palestine’, ‘apartheid’ and ‘genocide’ are nowhere to be found.

In my view - and I feel strongly that I am correct in this - when the Scarlet Letter, ‘A for anti-Semitism’, is scrawled on your chest, you should instead - correctly - boomerang the charge back. And it must include the words that the smear was intended to silence:

  • No - don’t blame Jews for the crimes of Israel.
  • I’m arguing for simple human rights. Stop smearing Jews as bigots - as opposing equality - in order to shield Israel.
  • No, the only anti-Jewish bigotry here is from those defending Israeli apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide in the name of Jews.


  • It is not enough to say that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism: rather, Zionism is anti-Semitism.
  • It is convoluted to say that criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic. Rather, adulation of Israel is far, far more likely to spring from anti-Semitism.

The militarisation of anti-Semitism has to be thrown back - exposed - for the racist outrage that it is. And here is why I maintain that the term ‘anti-Semitism’ should be dropped in favour of ‘anti-Jewish bigotry’, or any straightforward term consistent with how one would reference any other target of racism.

The smear, ‘anti-Semitic’, is a blunt weapon that not only infers Jewish (and is thus understood as Israeli) exceptionalism, but obscures precisely what act is being alleged. If instead the accuser is forced to clarify that bigotry against Jews (as opposed to Israel) is the accusation, that puts the onus on the accuser to explain why, for example, arguing for equal rights river to sea, is somehow anti-Jewish. It suddenly becomes more transparent that it is the accuser, not the accused, who is libelling Jews.

Israel - the world’s great purveyor of anti-Jewish bigotry - has created a world of smoke and mirrors out of the crime to grease the wheels of genocide. It is long overdue to clear the smoke and mirrors.