Today there is much talk on the political left about “structural racism,” a kind of discrimination or bigotry which is never overt and rarely intentional, but somehow built into the system. The idea sometimes illuminates real ills, and at other times simply obscures and distorts. But a similar concept could prove useful in describing the way certain progressives speak about Israel, argues Jonah Goldberg:
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was appalled by President Biden’s statement that Israel has a right to self-defense. I don’t think Ocasio-Cortez is an anti-Semite, but I do think she’s perpetuating structural anti-Semitism. When she says it’s simplistic to say that Israel has a right to defend itself, she’s clearly right in a sense. It is simple: Israel has a right to defend itself.
But what she and countless others are arguing is that Israel has no right to act like a normal country. You don’t have to hate Jews to believe that the only Jewish country in the world is also the only country in the world that can’t behave like a normal country and defend its citizens. But the policy that flows from that argument is, in important ways, anti-Semitic—even if it isn’t intended as such.
That, by the way, is what Israel wants to be—a normal country. But it’s stuck in an abnormal predicament. . . . [W]hen people point to the fact that Israel is militarily more powerful than its neighbors, they make it sound like this is somehow unfair. On several occasions, Israel’s neighbors have declared war on Israel with the intention of destroying it. Those countries could afford to lose those wars—and they did—but Israel couldn’t, because to lose once is to lose for all time. If you know everybody in your neighborhood wants to kill you, you’re not the bad guy for being better armed than your neighbors.
And if you always start with assumption that the Israelis are wrong, or if you always end with that conclusion regardless of the facts, you may not be anti-Semitic, but you’re on the side of structural anti-Semitism.