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Anti-Israel boycotters want State Dept anti-Semitism definition changed

Anti-Israel boycotters want State Dept anti-Semitism definition changed

Jewish Voice for Peace starts petition drive as Illinois passes historic anti-BDS bill.

The anti-Semitism deeply embedded in the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been apparent for years, but particularly since the 2014 Gaza War.

Rallies against Israel regularly devolved into Jew-baiting throughout Europe, and even in some places in the U.S., like Miami where they chanted, “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning.”

At a Boston rally sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace in July 2014, Israel supporters were attacked by a woman who yelled that they would claim back Jerusalem for Christians and Muslims.

It is no surprise that Walking While Jewish is dangerous in many cities in Europe. While there is an intellectual distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, in reality on the streets of Europe and some places in the U.S., they are one and the same.

The BDS movement was launched at the anti-Semitic 2001 Durban conference, so it always has attracted hard-core anti-Semites, even if most of the followers naively think the movement is about peace and justice. The BDS strategy always has been about dehumanizing Israeli Jews with false, misleading and defamatory accusations, in order to delegitimize Israel.

In reaction, there are increasing legislative moves in the U.S. to boycott the boycotters, including an Illinois bill that unanimously passed the legislature today:

None of these legislative efforts prevent people from speaking out against Israel.

But they do reflect a national consensus that the U.S. will not become a party to efforts that fall within the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism:

“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

That definition carries with it real-world examples, as listed on the State Department website:

Contemporary Examples of Anti-Semitism

Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews (often in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion).

Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective—especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, the state of Israel, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations.

What is Anti-Semitism Relative to Israel?

EXAMPLES of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel, taking into account the overall context could include:


Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis
Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis

Blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions


Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation

Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations


Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist

However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.

Note the italicized wording: Mere criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic, so long as it is within the parameters of what we accept as fair criticism of any country.

But when it devolves into the types of gross caricatures of Israel and Israelis of the type we see almost daily, it crosses a line.

Attempts to paint Israel as the new Nazi regime, such as this photoshop of the founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl giving birth to Hitler, cross a line that the State Department recognizes exists between criticism of Israel and demonization:

Twitter - @bound0479 - giving birth hitler Zionism

Twitter - @maxblumenthal - reaction giving birth hitler Zionism

It is deeply problematic for the legitimacy of the BDS movement that the image above was approved by one of its most outspoken activists, Max Blumenthal. But that is just the tip of the BDS propaganda iceberg — an unrelenting campaign of defamation and distortion meant to instill hatred of Israeli Jews.

Jewish Voice for Peace is one of the most aggressive BDS supporters. The recent failed Bowdoin academic boycott referendum was backed by JVP, and JVP activists were behind the failed GreenStar Food Coop Israel boycott.

Wherever you see BDS divestment initiatives on campuses, JVP is not far away and often is the instigator through its campus branches. JVP is particularly useful to the movement because it has the term “Jewish” in its name; its left-wing Jewish activists and Rabbis provide convenient cover, and are among the truest of believers.

Because the reality of the BDS movement presents JVP with a dilemma, JVP is using its active database and email list to petition the State Department to change the definition of anti-Semitism and the examples on the State Department website.

That’s right, rather than address the anti-Semitism polluting the movement, JVP wants to change the definition.

JVP issued an action alert today and already has gathered 16,000 signatures (as of this writing) on a Petition asking John Kerry to change the defintion:

Dear Secretary John Kerry-

As Jews and non-Jewish allies, we stand with the hundreds of academics across the U.S. calling on you to change the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. Hatred needs to be stamped out, but we won’t achieve that by demonizing those who raise their voices to oppose Israel’s human rights abuses.

This proposal is superfluous in content, as the State Department definition already makes clear that mere criticism of Israel, even the type of harsh criticism directed at other states, is not anti-Semitic.

Perhaps JVP would do better to look in the mirror and see the horror show that lurks within its ranks and the BDS movement, rather than trying to play word games with definitions.


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“JVP wants to change the definition.”

It’s what the post-modern Collective just LOVES to do.

Tax breaks are “costs to government” or “subsidies”.

“Marriage” is…whatever.

Abortion is “choice”.

A successful argument is “hate speech”.

There are those…and I’m one…who hold that the greatest poison the Soviet Collective left behind is the pollution of language in service of totalitarian, evil ideology. I think Mr. Orwell said some things along the same lines.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to Ragspierre. | May 18, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    Spot on Rags, Spot on.

      clintack in reply to Gremlin1974. | May 18, 2015 at 9:28 pm

      Redefining words, banning others, sending things down the memory hole, and two minute hate — it’s like modern progressives read 1984 as a how-to manual.

        Skookum in reply to clintack. | May 19, 2015 at 9:02 am

        In this case “anti-Semitism” seems to be interpreted inappropriately narrowly. The term properly means anti-Jew and anti-Arab, but it’s used for some reason to denote only anti-Jew. I never or rarely ever encounter anyone claiming or accusing anti-Arabism, although there are many good reasons to be anti-Islamist.

        Socialists, even the Jews among them, seem to have an innate affinity for “anti-Jewishism,” which I’ve always found puzzling. But, they seem to have a simultaneous affinity for Islamism, which is also puzzling. While I can’t understand the claim that Judiaism birthed Hitler, there is no doubt that Jews played an important role in birthing the kissing cousin to National Socialism — Marxism.

        We need more specific terminology.

          Spiny Norman in reply to Skookum. | May 19, 2015 at 10:49 pm

          The term properly means anti-Jew and anti-Arab, but it’s used for some reason to denote only anti-Jew.

          The term “anti-Semitism” has a specific history, and has ALWAYS meant Jew-hatred. “Anti-Arab” never entered Wilhelm Marr’s mind when he invented the term. It was intended to give the oldest prejudice a “scientific” gravitas, as compared to the (in his mind) vulgar Judenhass.

          What causes confusion to the modern reader is that the term is a bit of “misnomer” because is meant as “anti-Jew” and is not related to other speakers of Semitic languages (Arabs, Assyrians, Ethiopians, etc).

          Skookum in reply to Skookum. | May 20, 2015 at 2:21 am

          Spiny Norm,

          You prompted me to look up the word for the first time, and you are right — is was coined as a euphemism for Jew hatred. I had also read the term literally. Not surprisingly, Marr seems to have been a Leftist, so abusing language probably came easy to him.

Thank you for reporting this.

Always change the definition, racism now only can be from white people of European descent, only men can be sexist, and small government supporters are fascist.

LukeHandCool | May 18, 2015 at 9:10 pm

With Jews like Max Blumenthal, who needs anti-Semitic goyim?

Sammy Finkelman | May 18, 2015 at 11:28 pm

Criticism of Israel is not anti-semitism, but certain kinds of criticism, or maybe I should say “criticism” is.

And actually you can go further than what the State Department says. Any repeated false charges against Israel, that the person making the accusation should know is false, and that would be rather evil if true, is anti-semitism.

Because what is anti-semitism if not false accusations of evil against Jews??

The State Department limits it to only: (more or less)

1) Accusing the state of Israel of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

2) Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis.

3) Comparing Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

4) Accusing Jews of duel (and wrong) loyalty for siding with (supposedly nefarious) Israel, or of the deficiency of not wanting Israel to be thrown under the bus and left to the mercy of its haters – something supposedly it might be against U.S. interests to prevent – that is, treating any feelings of sympathy to Israel as illegitimate.

5) Applying a double standard by requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation. (why the qualifying word “democratic?”)

6) Organizations allegedly interested in peace, or in human rights in general, investigating only Israel.

7) Saying Israel doesn’t have a right to exist, or that there is no right to self-determination for Jews. (while saying other people have it.)

And even if you removed the last three or four from your definition, the cartoon already fits under the first three.

None of the examples listed includes intelligent criticism of Israel.

Is there any chance you could provide of list of BDS failures and links to news articles covering those failures? The Wikipedia BDS article needs some fixing. News articles could be from any relatively mainstream news organization. Thanks