The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism is increasingly recognized as authoritative. It states simply: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Rather than leave the definition entirely open to interpretation, it goes on to cite a variety of examples of what constitutes anti-Semitism, including several related to Israel. Here’s one that should be added: If you believe Israel has no redeeming qualities, you are an anti-Semite.
Exhibit A: all those who accuse Israel of various types of—fill in the blank—“[ ] washing.” The anti-Semites who use this expression accuse Israel and its supporters of trying to deflect attention from the Jewish state’s irredeemability. In their view, absolutely nothing positive can be said about Israel.
Probably the first example was the accusation of “pinkwashing” whenever someone calls attention to Israel’s tolerance of the LBGTQ community. If ever you needed proof that certain promoters of the Palestinian cause don’t give a damn about Palestinians, this is it. You never hear any of the sanctimonious human-rights advocates condemn the treatment of LBGTQ Arabs whose lives are under constant threat and who often seek refuge in Israel. Queers for Palestine, for example, might be one of the most Orwellian of the pro-Palestinian groups—and that’s saying something.
One of the newer calumnies is to accuse anyone who has the temerity to talk about Israel’s efforts to protect the environment of “greenwashing.” Israel is the country that invented drip irrigation and built desalination plants to conserve water. Israelis have been using solar water heaters for decades, long before many people heard of solar. Israel has been planting trees for more than a century. The Palestinians, meanwhile, polluted the aquifer in the Gaza Strip, making it undrinkable, and threaten other water resources with their mismanagement. They burned thousands of acres of forest and agricultural land and destroyed 25 percent of all nature reserves near the Gaza border, killing plants and animals during their “Great March of Return.” Nevertheless, the BDS campaigners convinced the Sierra Club to cancel all of its Israel trips. Fortunately, the club’s leaders regained their sanity and rescheduled them.
Another galling example is “purplewashing,” which refers to Israel exploiting feminism and women’s issues. One accuser said, “The case of the IDF … [is] one of the most glaringly obvious examples that a ‘pro-women’ attitude can be nothing but an advertising ploy.” BitchMedia, “a feminist response to pop culture,” tweeted: “Their gendered advertising is seemingly created to sanitize the violence they inflict on Palestinians.”
Once again, while Israel is an oasis of feminism in the Middle East, Palestinian society is where women can be murdered in “honor killings.” According to the Palestinian Authority’s own statistics, one in five Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza reported at least one incident of physical abuse from their husbands. Check the U.S. State Department’s latest report for more examples of discrimination against women.
Have you ever heard any advocates speak out against the mistreatment of Palestinian women?
Another way to “whitewash the occupation” is through “artwashing” whereby artists are used to hide Israel’s crimes. The Sydney Festival was hit with this accusation because it accepted a donation from the Israeli embassy. Somehow, this decision meant the festival was supporting Israel’s “oppression” of the Palestinians and prompted a number of acts to cancel their participation. A group of Israelis, not surprisingly, protested the Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv because it helped “Israel promote its so-called values of [being a] young, hip, multicultural, LGBTQ-friendly place.”
And let’s not forget “sportwashing.” BDS’ers were apoplectic because Argentina and Uruguay played a soccer match, and a stage of the Giro d’Italia cycling race were held in Israel. An opinion writer in The Guardian said, “The soft power objective of Israeli sport is for us to focus on a cycling team or a visit by Lionel Messi rather than Palestine.” Heaven forbid that all our time and energy are not focused on “Palestine.”
Here’s a good one: “funwashing.” When a mall and theme park opened in Ma’ale Adumim, one of the settlements even Palestinians have acknowledged will be part of Israel, Haaretz questioned whether this was “funwashing.”
Anti-Semites are getting increasingly inventive in their campaign to smear Israel in every conceivable way.
When Israel promoted Mimouna, a North African celebration of the end of Passover, Jewish Voice for Peace came up with “brownwashing.” JVP accused Israel of “appropriating ‘indigenous’ Middle Eastern and North African culture” and “claiming to have ‘rescued’ Jews” from the Maghreb. I wonder what the Jews from Ethiopia, Morocco and other parts of North Africa who were brought to Israel think about that accusation. It brings to mind William Safire’s quote after “Operation Moses”: “For the first time in history, thousands of black people are being brought to a country not in chains but in dignity, not as slaves but as citizens.”
Yup, that was those brownwashing Israelis.
Wait, there’s more.
Israel is also using its wine industry to avoid the Palestinian issue. In one example of that charge, the accompanying illustration showed red wine dripping from a press, presumably symbolic of what the writer said was “the periodic massacre of Palestinians.” Israelis may now be producing world-class wine, but we mustn’t forget that “wine has been made for millennia” in Palestine. By promoting the “booming wine scene” Israel is engaged in, you guessed it, “winewashing.”
One of the more bizarre examples is “hummus-washing,” the claim that the Jews have appropriated hummus as an Israeli food. BDS activist Ali Abunimah said that New York Times journalist Jodi Rudoren (now editor in chief of The Forward) “helps anti-Palestinian Jewish Agency hasbarist disseminate hummus-washing ‘peace’ propaganda” because she retweeted about an Israeli hummus restaurant that gave Jewish-Arab tables 50% off.
With all this washing, Israel must be the cleanest country in the world. Its accusers, however, have anything but clean hands. By demonstrating their hatred of all things Israeli and unwillingness to recognize, or allow the mention of any positive attributes of Israelis, the launderers are exemplifying one more manifestation of anti-Semitism.
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”
Be a part of our community
JNS serves as the central hub for a thriving community of readers who appreciate the invaluable context our coverage offers on Israel and their Jewish world.
Please join our community and help support our unique brand of Jewish journalism that makes sense.