A Recent Israeli Debate over Anti-Semitism Challenges the Original Assumptions of Zionism

Last month, Israel’s alternate prime minister Yair Lapid gave a speech on anti-Semitism, which he described as a species of the “family” that includes any persecution of people “not for what they’ve done, but for what they are, for how they were born.” His comments provoked a sharp response from his main political rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, who accused him of minimizing anti-Semitism and denying its uniqueness—sparking much argument in the Israeli press. To Haviv Rettig Gur, this controversy reflects a broader one that goes back to the origins of Zionism itself:

[Early] Zionists acknowledged anti-Semitism’s strange power but argued it was caused by the [unusual] condition of the Jews within the societies in which they lived. Normalize the Jews and you’ll end, or at least “normalize,” anti-Semitism, transforming it from a unique, society-mobilizing hatred to mere banal prejudice. Jewish nationhood and self-reliance would end the world’s obsession with the Jew.

In hindsight, it might astonish us that Zionism could ever have believed the solution lay in changing the Jew. Anti-Semitism, then and now, was simply too useful to be abandoned just because the Jews of the eastern hemisphere had reorganized themselves into a nation-state.

It’s no great leap to notice the parallel between [neo-Nazis’] argument that Jews, through some secret political order, are the cause of America’s troubles, and the claims by some progressives amid the racial reckoning now rocking American society that Israel, in some equally hidden political order, is responsible for those racial ills.

In this sense, Gur concludes, there is something “apparently unique” about the hatred of Jews, namely:

the role Jews are forced to play in the political imaginations of non-Jews as the incarnation of, and explanation for, their deepest fears and most vexing social ills. It is not the idea that Israel is doing wrong, but the idea that Israel, in some deep order of global affairs, is what is wrong with the world.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Anti-Semitism, Benjamin Netanyahu, History of Zionism, Israeli politics, Yair Lapid

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship