“Anti-Zionism is thus anti-Semitism’s moral salvation, its perfect disguise, its route to legitimation,” writes Cary Nelson in Israel Denial, a book about the faculty campaign against the Jewish state. In a year that’s been rife with an old hatred rearing its ugly head in new and myriad ways, it’s profoundly refreshing to see an academic so clear-headed about the overlapping nature of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. The past decade has seen an increasing number of Jews publicly expressing their internal conflicts over Israel, with a growing number of progressive Jews identifying as anti-Zionist, and using their own membership in the community to suggest that hatred toward Jews and hatred toward the Jewish state are in no way linked.
This is a lie. Nelson, a professor emeritus of English and Jewish culture and society at the University of Illinois, explains how. “Anti-Semitism,” he notes, “enables and underwrites castigation of Israel whenever it is based on practices typical of other countries, not different from them.” Thus when Israel acts in an entirely unremarkable fashion, Jew-hatred inspires critics to react as if the Jewish state has committed unspeakable horrors.