Israeli academics and artists warn against equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism
Their open letter ahead of a conference in Vienna advises against giving Israel immunity for ‘grave and widespread violations of human rights and international law’
Nov 20, 2018
An open letter from 35 prominent Israelis, including Jewish-history scholars and Israel Prize laureates, was published Tuesday in the Austrian media calling for a distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel, “harsh as it may be,” and anti-Semitism.
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The letter was released before an international gathering in Vienna on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in Europe.
The event this week, “Europe beyond anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism: Securing Jewish life in Europe,” is being held under the auspices of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. His Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, had been due to take part but stayed in Israel to deal with the crisis in his coalition government.
“We fully embrace and support the [European Union’s] uncompromising fight against anti-Semitism. The rise of anti-Semitism worries us. As we know from history, it has often signaled future disasters to all mankind,” the letter states.
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“However, the EU also stands for human rights and has to protect them as forcefully as it fights anti-Semitism. This fight against anti-Semitism should not be instrumentalized to suppress legitimate criticism of Israel’s occupation and severe violations of Palestinian human rights.”
The signatories accuse Netanyahu of suggesting an equivalence between anti-Israel criticism and anti-Semitism. The official declaration by the conference also notes that anti-Semitism is often expressed through disproportionate criticism of Israel, but the letter warns that such an approach could “afford Israel immunity against criticism for grave and widespread violations of human rights and international law.”
The signatories object to the declaration’s alleged “identifying” of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. “Zionism, like all other modern Jewish movements in the 20th century, was harshly opposed by many Jews, as well as by non-Jews who were not anti-Semitic,” they write. “Many victims of the Holocaust opposed Zionism. On the other hand, many anti-Semites supported Zionism. It is nonsensical and inappropriate to identify anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.”
Among the signatories are Moshe Zimmerman, an emeritus professor at Hebrew University and a former director of the university’s Koebner Center for German History; Zeev Sternhell, a Hebrew University emeritus professor in political science and a current Haaretz columnist; sculptor Dani Karavan; Miki Kratsman, a former chairman of the photography department at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design; Jose Brunner, an emeritus professor at Tel Aviv University and a former director of the Minerva Institute for German History; Alon Confino, a professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; and graphic designer David Tartakover.
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