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The Israel lobby is geared up globally to use accusations of anti-Semitism as their main public weapon to attack Palestinian rights activism and defend Israel’s occupation. Their deliberate response targets the growing Palestinian rights movement among youths, students and even Jews.

Real anti-Semitism, like all racism, must always be opposed. When the definition of anti-Semitism becomes politicized to support an expanding Jewish state on unceded Palestinian land against active Palestinian resistance, opposing real anti-Semitism is undermined by the very forces that claim to be defending Jews. 

The Montreal Gazette article “BDS event raises tensions on Concordia campus” and this article are a good reference to how these politicized accusations have been worded.

1. Are there any facts? 

Seriously. Charging someone, or some group, with anti-Semitism has become so frequent now that many accusations directed at Palestinian rights activities avoid any details or facts. The Gazette article lacks facts, while linking BDS  (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Week to hatred of Jews. 

If facts are presented, are they true?  The commonly disputed charge by the Israel lobby that activists shout anti-Jewish remarks or slogans at public pro-Palestinian events is rarely, if ever backed up with either a video recording or a valid interpretation of the Arabic or Farsi chants (if relevant).

2. Are trigger words substituted for facts in laying the accusations of anti-Semitism? 

This is key to most current accusations that Palestinian rights activities are anti-Semitic. The Gazette cites Jewish students “feeling like the target of a hate campaign,” and further states that BDS Week succeeded in “polarizing students,” “raising tensions,” creating an “atmosphere was not inclusive,” “speakers spewing hate,” a “hostile environment,” “aggressive manner with no opposing viewpoint represented,” and that Jews will “fight the sickness…known as BDS.”

3. Are any of the facts presented biased by political partisanship or ideology? 

A valid charge of anti-Semitism is one that relies on acceptable and corroborative factual evidence, demonstrates well-defined examples of prejudice, and does not rely on faulty argumentation like the use of “trigger words” or “loaded language.” 

The incendiary claim of a “new anti-Semitism” reflects the Zionists’ ideological goal of occupying and expanding a Jewish state on unceded Palestinian land. This new ideological definition of anti-Semitism, which negates the Palestinians’ right to exist and also to resist, sounds more like propaganda utilized in the fight for power — not human rights.

4. Are these unsubstantiated claims by some Jewish students who say they feel “threatened” part of a larger campaign to combat Palestinian rights activism? 

The 2009 British Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism was followed by the  Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism, championed by Liberal and Conservative Party MPs, which targeted universities. 

B’nai Brith, Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs frequently intervene in Canadian universities against Palestinian rights activism. The links between the Israel lobby’s attacks, the  Jewish students “feeling targeted” by BDS or Israeli Apartheid Week, the university administrators who clamp down on Palestinian rights activism and activists, and the mainstream media which reports this are not coincidental. 

5. Are pro-Israel Jewish organizations with a strong history of fighting Palestinian activism quoted?

Are they often used to provide weight for the unsubstantiated charges of anti-Semitism? The Gazette quoted the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center denouncing the BDS event, calling on Concordia to support Jewish students and “to implement a plan to address continued anti-Semitic hate on campus.”

6. Is there an unstated message to Jewish students by the Israel lobby to play the victim card during BDS and Israeli Apartheid Week events?

It is not secret that within the Jewish milieu, there is a lot of pressure on young Jews to toe the party line to support Israel and oppose Palestinian activism.

7. On campus, is there a pro-Israel institute or Jewish studies program whose agenda includes re-framing the topic of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel?

Across campuses, the Israel lobby is establishing programs and institutes to study anti-Semitism.  Does their intellectual production give a subtle (or not-so-subtle) Zionist interpretation of topics such as Israel, Palestine, Islam and anti-Semitism?  Do they seem to focus on material and speakers who justify Israel’s status quo; gloss over Israel’s war crimes, apartheid policies and occupation; denigrate the Palestinian struggle for independence; conflate radical and violent interpretations of Islam with the Palestinian struggle; ignore the vast non-violent Palestinian struggle while highlighting terrorism by Palestinians and ignoring terrorist acts by Jewish Israelis?

8. Are university and student administrations colluding with the Israel lobby, even unintentionally, by punishing Palestinian rights activists?

Do they hinder or ban them; deny room reservations for activities; charge outrageous security fees for events; threaten or legally charge student activists? With teachers, is their employment, tenure or academic career threatened?

9. Have you noticed a seeming collusion between anti-Palestinian rights organizations, local media and local politicians

Do they seem to coordinate their activities, articles and statements opposing Palestinian rights organizing, especially during BDS Week or Israeli Apartheid Week? 

10. Do you see slanderous mainstream media Op-Eds against students?

It is another example of the influence of the Israel lobby that a national columnist, and the Ontario legislature, would be informed about a master’s thesis by a Palestinian rights student activist who is Jewish; the columnist not only denounced it in his column, but also named and shamed the student and the school.

Here is a fact: the Zionists’ frequent Jew-shaming and bullying of Jewish youth into feeling victimized is an example of anti-Semitism, unlike Palestinian rights activities.

When the pro-Israel lobby organizations accuse Palestinian rights activities of anti-Semitism, don’t believe their hype. Challenge them, and the academic and media bodies that collude with them.

Scott Weinstein is a steering committee member for Independent Jewish Voices Canada. He is based in Montreal. 

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