Anti-Zionism Does Not Equal Anti-Semitism

The presence of Anti-Semitism on college campuses was vehemently debated at a congressional hearing last week to examine the viability of the proposed “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” – conceived to formally identify the language used in such an act, and to aid in the investigating of alleged civil rights violations.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) acknowledged “widespread bipartisan condemnation of anti-Semitism,” but expressed that the way in which it “changes over time and presents itself in different forms over time would counsel against codifying any particular definition of anti-Semitism.” Such talk from the powerful congressman indicates the bill – unanimously passed by the Senate but yet to receive a vote in the House – faces a rough road to enactment, and rightfully so.

Speaking at Goodlatte’s behest, professor Barry Trachtenberg, Director of Jewish Studies at Wake Forest University, said it was “a factual distortion to characterize campuses in the United States as hotbeds of new anti-Semitism,” and that “creating a ‘special status’ for speech concerning Jews and Israel would only reaffirm otherwise anti-Semitic claims that Jews are exceptional and therefore need to have a special category of laws that apply only to them.”

Trachtenberg was joined at “Examining Anti-Semitism on College Campuses” by experts like Anti Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt; Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and Pamela Nadell, the president of the Association for Jewish Studies.

True Torah Jews is opposed to the passage of the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” because it mistakenly enmeshes and obscures the two separate and distinct concepts of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Jews adhere to no single nationality, race, or culture. They come in all colors and hues, and hail from every place on earth. What they do share is a common religion. And, while the Zionists want to change that, TTJ wishes to disassociate from the anti-Semitic characterization of Jews as a separate national entity. We believe rhetoric on Israel should never be deemed ‘pro or anti Jewish’ as we have absolutely no connection to the State of Israel.

It is crucial to note that Jews are patriotic American citizens who practice the religion of Judaism, and that there are, generally, two types of people who conflate Judaism with Zionism: Zionists who try to legitimize Zionism, or anti-Semites who try delegitimizing Judaism.

“Zionism and Zionistic activities not only depress Judaism by putting nationality first and religion second, but they injure Judaism by combining religion and nationality,” wrote Anglo-Jewish British leader Claude Montefiore.

Alexander Hamilton, vice president of the Anglo Jewish Society, concurred: “Emancipated Jews in this country regard themselves primarily as a religious community…They hold Judaism to be a religious system, with which their political status has no concern, and they maintain that, as citizens of the countries in which they live, they are fully and sincerely identified with the national spirit and interests of those countries. It follows that the establishment of a Jewish nationality in Palestine, founded on this theory of Jewish homelessness, must have the effect throughout the world of stamping the Jews as strangers in their native lands.”

Chairman Goodlatte has the right idea in not even allowing the debate to reach a vote on the House floor. Such thickly proscribed legislation is likely to engender more prejudice than it erases.