First Obama, now Pope Francis: Anti-Zionism is Antisemitism

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for “progressive” anti-Zionists.

First, Barack Obama, during his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg last week, clearly suggested that denying Israel’s right to exist is antisemitic.  More recently, it was reported that Pope Francis told Portuguese-Israeli journalist Henrique Cymerman that “anyone who does not recognize the Jewish people and the State of Israel — and their right to exist — is guilty of anti-Semitism.”

Pope Francis' visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, with President Shimon Peres and Prime Ministrer Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Amos Ben Gershom GPO
Pope Francis’ visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, with President Shimon Peres and Prime Ministrer Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Amos Ben Gershom GPO

Of course, the comments by Obama and Pope Francis regarding the inherent racism of denying Israel’s right to exist are consistent with EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism and the US State Department’s definition.

The UK media largely avoided reporting on Obama’s comments about antisemitism. So, it is likely that the same media outlets – who were so eager to selectively quote the pontiff’s highly disputed comments about Mahmoud Abbas being ‘an angel of peace’ – will similarly ignore Francis’s apparent agreement that you can’t simultaneously be an anti-racist and an anti-Zionist.

You may recall that, back in March, Marcia Freedman, in a J-Street panel discussion on Liberal Zionism, argued that the Jewish people should not have a state, and should instead live as a minority in an Arab Palestine. And, Peter Beinart (who participated in the J Street panel with Freedman), in his latest column at Haaretz, expressed his disagreement with Obama’s equating of anti-Zionism with anti-Zionism.

The comments by Obama and Francis seem to demonstrate the increasing acceptance of the idea that the level of hostility towards Israel expressed by the likes of J Street and Beinart – and their ideological fellow travelers in the media – is, at the very least, antisemitic in effect.

Further, given the exceedingly high popular support for Israel among diaspora Jews, the fact is that the “debate” on whether Israel should exist or not is still given a platform within mainstream ‘progressive’ publications shows how far elements of the ‘anti-racism’ movement have strayed from their original principles.  

The fact is that you can’t align yourself squarely against the rights and moral aspirations of the overwhelming majority of actual Jews and claim to be shocked when you’re accused of antisemitism. 

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