Is anti-Zionism antisemitism?

August 18, 2014 by Brenda Segal
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200 members of the Melbourne community have attended a  panel discussion on – “Is Anti-Zionism Anti-Semitism?”


Dr David Bernstein, Dr David Breakstone and Sarah Mali


The panel hosted by the Zionist Council of Victoria and the Zionist Federation of Australia was made up of international experts, Dr David Bernstein (Dean of Pardes Institute, Jerusalem), Dr David Breakstone (Deputy Chairman, World Zionist Organisation) and Sarah Mali (Director of Machon and Leadership Project at Jewish Agency for Israel). Moderated by Zionist Council of Victoria board member, Liora Miller, the evening attempted to put context and understanding around the age old question.

Dr Breakstone, in his opening comments said that the rise of antisemitism and anti-Zionism is perhaps our own fault as we call Israel the nation of Jews, therefore we as Jews are seen as responsible for everything Israel does and are held accountable as such.

Dr Bernstein said that anti Zionism is politically correct way of describing the world’s oldest hatred and that it was very difficult to differentiate between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

Sarah Mali’s expanded on the concept of anti -Zionism as the new vehicle for antisemitism, likening anti-Zionism to a mutation of a larger virus called antisemitism. She stressed the importance of distinguishing between legitimate criticism of Israel and blatant antisemitism, citing the 3D test as a useful resource. She explained how demonization, double standards and delegitimisation are all factors used in arguments about Israel that are in fact not simply anti-Zionist, but antisemitic.

“The first D is double standards – when criticism of Israel is applied selectively; when Israel is singled out by the UN for human rights abuses while the behaviour of known and major abusers such as Syria is ignored – this is antisemitism.”

“Demonization – this is when the Jewish state is being demonized – when Israel’s actions are blown out of all sensible proportional when comparisons are made between Israelis and Nazis, and between Palestinian refugee camps and Auschwitz – this is antisemitism, not legitimate criticism of Israel.”



Philip Chester, Liora Miller and Dr David Bernstein

“The third D is the test of deligitimisation – when Israel’s fundamental right to exist is denied – alone among all the people in the world – this too is antisemitism.”

Dr Bernstein reminded the audience that anti-Zionism in itself is not necessarily antisemitic, and that there were key differences between being actively anti-Zionist and being a passive non-Zionist. He also felt it was appropriate to discuss the context of the younger generation of Jews living in the globalised Diaspora and not truly understanding what the importance and significance of the land of Israel is to the Jewish people

He also focused on the complex and unique nature of Judaism as both a religion and a race. “One of the reasons we have difficulties is the Jewish problem – we are a religion and a race and we don’t fit into other categories in the world. If we are a religious group, why does a religion need a country?”

The discussion was open to the floor and community engagement was encouraged. One of the key issues raised by the community was that of disaffected or disengaged Jewish youth, and the propensity of younger people to consider “Jewish” and “Israel” as separate entities.

Sarah Mali discussed some of the challenges the Jewish community faces in not only re-engaging those youth with Israel, but also in reinventing the ties between Judaism the religion and Israel the spiritual home of that religion to make Zionism an integral and central aspect of the Jewish identity once again.”


One Response to “Is anti-Zionism antisemitism?”
  1. Jason Crilly says:

    Hello, When it comes to the issue of Anti-semitism It’s very clear this is unacceptable and as someone from regional Victoria I was also disgusted to find someone within my community had brandish a NAZI flag tarnishing my town and most importantly insulting those people/families who were affected during WW2. So to the Jewish community, we do not approve or accept these behaviours regardless of our differing views, beliefs or other. Our communities are inclusive to all walks of life and being someone who has relatives with Chinese ancestry I found this to be somewhat a double blow from the perpetrators.

    When it comes to Zionism itself, I’ll agree that there’s some things I don’t approve of but the same can be said towards many different groups and organisations. I think the issue surrounding Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism is the religious/political differences though I understand the difference is minimal at the same time.

    What I want to know is below.

    Is criticising the political goals of Zionism considered Anti-Semitism especially when it isn’t necessarily directed at an individual/groups of people in a racist/derogatory way and more so some decisions made by people in the Jewish/Zionist community? I think there’s a lot of confusion surrounding this particular area and this really needs to be addressed. I’m not learned about Zionism/Judaism so sorry if I haven’t made any sense and if I have somewhat qualified as one of the two (Anti-semitism/Anti-Zionist) I apologise in advance.

    Thank you.

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