‘Israelophobia’: The roots of the modern obsession of hating Israel

“Our Middle East: An Insider’s View” with hosts Dan Diker and Khaled Abu-Toameh and guests Michal Cotler-Wunsch and Izabella Tabarovsky, Ep. 7

What are the roots of the modern anti-Israel obsession? Is it just another form of antisemitism? Is the hyper-focus on Israel really helping the Palestinians?

On this episode of “Our Middle East,” hosts Dan Diker and Khaled Abu Toameh welcome Wilson Center researcher and Soviet expert Izabella Tabarovsky, and former Knesset member and JCPA fellow Michal Cotler-Wunsch to discuss the issue. 

Does anti-Zionism equal anti-Semitism?  

The panel discusses what some have labeled “Israelophobia”—the genocidal hatred of Israel that has both supplanted and added to classic antisemitism.

Tabarovsky and Cotler-Wunsch agree that such hatred harks back to Soviet-era propaganda. 

“Soviet anti-Semitism, in fact, was what we would call today anti-Zionism,” says Tabarovsky. “It was very much framed in the terms so familiar to us today: Zionism is racism. Israel is an apartheid, racist state. All of the slogans that we hear today coming from the left all come from that kind of pool of ideas and propaganda, and the explanatory logic that comes with it; conspiracies.”

Online anti-Semitism

This found expression in online anti-Semitism during the coronavirus pandemic. Former MK Cotler-Wunsch, who chaired a Knesset committee that led to the creation of a multinational task force to deal with antisemitism, dealt with Jew hate on digital platforms like Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and Google during the pandemic.

“Disinformation and propaganda intersected with viral antisemitism and anti-Zionism from initiatives like ‘COVID 48,’” she says.

Unconventional international warfare

Diker and Cotler-Wunsch also connect the anti-Zionism phenomenon to what is referred to in the security community as “hybrid warfare.” Having failed to defeat Israel militarily, the Arabs and their international allies hijacked the language of human rights to paint Israel as a pariah state, they argue. This led to the creation of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement and anti-Israel campus groups. 

The radicalizing of Palestinian society 

Abu Toameh discusses how the effort by the international community and Palestinian leadership to demonize Israel only lead to the poisoning and further radicalization of Palestinian society. 

“What is absurd and sad is that they are using the media that was provided to them thanks to the Oslo Accords to promote conspiracy theories and anti-Israel, antisemitic sentiments, and no one is calling them out,” he says. “No one is banging on the table and saying, why are you doing this? Why don’t you start preparing your people for peace instead of radicalizing your young people? Why are you poisoning the hearts and minds of these young people? The international community is silent.”

Violence against Jews

“As someone who comes from the Soviet Union, who grew up there and who then studied the propaganda that the Soviet Union put out, it’s very, very clear that whenever anti-Zionism becomes widely adopted and politically weaponized, Jews suffer, antisemitic outcomes are inevitable,” says Tabarovsky. “However you come out of it, in the abstract, theoretical terms, the practical outcome is that they end up being the same.”

“Our Middle East: An Insider’s View” airs live every Monday on JNS TV Youtube Channel, Facebook and Twitter at 1:30 PM EST/8:30 PM IST. You can also listen to the audio version here. A Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs podcast produced by JNS.

You can catch the audio version on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Dan Diker is the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a foreign policy expert and the former Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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