by Efraim Karsh
The sustained anti-Israel de-legitimization campaign is a corollary of the millenarian obsession with the Jews in the Christian and the Muslim worlds. Since Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, and since Zionism is the Jewish people’s national liberation movement, anti-Zionism—as opposed to criticism of specific Israeli policies or actions—means denial of the Jewish right to national self-determination. Such a discriminatory denial of this basic right to only one nation (and one of the few that can trace their corporate identity and territorial attachment to antiquity) while allowing it to all other groups and communities, however new and tenuous their claim to nationhood, is pure and unadulterated anti-Jewish racism, or anti-Semitism as it is commonly known.
By any conceivable standard, Israel has been an extraordinary success story: national rebirth in the ancestral homeland after millennia of exile and dispersion; resuscitation of a dormant biblical language; the creation of a modern, highly educated, technologically advanced, and culturally and economically thriving society, as well as a vibrant liberal democracy in one of the world’s least democratic areas. It is a world leader in agricultural, medical, military, and solar energy technologies, among others; a high-tech superpower attracting more venture capital investment per capita than the United States and Europe; home to one of the world’s best health systems and philharmonic orchestras, as well as to ten Nobel Prize laureates. And so on and so forth.
Why then is Israel the only state in the world whose right to exist is constantly debated and challenged while far less successful countries, including numerous “failed states,” are considered legitimate and incontestable members of the international community? The answer offered by this article is that this pervasive prejudice against Israel, the only Jewish state to exist since biblical times, is a corollary of the millenarian obsession with the Jews in the Christian and the Muslim worlds.
On occasion, notably among devout and/or born again Evangelical Christians, this obsession has manifested itself in admiration and support for the national Jewish resurrection in the Holy Land. In most instances, however, anti-Jewish prejudice and animosity, or anti-Semitism as it is commonly known, has served to exacerbate distrust and hatred of Israel. Indeed, the fact that the international coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the libels against Zionism and Israel, such as the despicable comparisons to Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, have invariably reflected a degree of intensity and emotional involvement well beyond the normal level to be expected of impartial observers would seem to suggest that, rather than being a response to concrete Israeli activities, it is a manifestation of long-standing prejudice that has been brought out into the open by the vicissitudes of the conflict.
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The above excerpt originates from an article by the same title and author as first published on-line by the Middle East Forum, where the author is principal researcher. He is also research professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King’s College London and author, most recently, of Palestine Betrayed (Yale University Press, 2010).