Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz tackle the question on Mondoweiss, in the context of the current ‘controversy over whether certain criticisms of the state of Israel can be considered anti-Semitic.’
Saying Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state is not anti-Semitic
Excerpt: ‘… This is obviously a battle ground; and we have a clear position: We think it is legitimate and not anti-Semitic for critics to make such an argument. Given the principle of separation of church and state, such an argument has a long pedigree in modern political philosophy. Moreover, Israel’s history shows that creating and maintaining a “Jewish state” has entailed ethnic cleansing of Palestinians on a regular basis, including in East Jerusalem and broad portions of the West Bank to this day, in order to maintain a Jewish majority in certain areas. In practice, the Jewish State in Israel/Palestine has meant an ethnocracy where Jews are given special and exclusive rights over other citizens and non-citizens under the sovereignty of the Israeli government. This is a system that we (Horowitz and Weiss) reject for political, personal and moral reasons that are in no way connected to vilifying or discriminating against Jews, the traditional definition of anti-Semitism.
Of course, many other people oppose these definitions of anti-Semitism as well.
Palestine Legal has an excellent FAQ on the State Department definition that notes that it blurs criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. The FAQ addresses the “right to exist” idea:
Likewise, any criticism of Zionism—which questions Israel’s definition as a state that premises citizenship on race, ethnicity, and religion — is considered anti-Semitic under this redefinition, because such speech can be seen as “denying Israel the right to exist” as a “Jewish state” that privileges its Jewish citizens over others
Palestine Legal points out that blurring Jewishness and Zionism are essential tactics of Israel supporters:
[C]criticism of the Israeli state is not based on the Jewish identity of most Israeli citizens or leaders; it is based on the nation state’s historical and present day actions. Despite these important distinctions, some go to great lengths to lump Jewish people and the Israeli state together, arguing that Jews and Israel are inherently connected, and that any attack on one is an attack on the other.
Yossef Rapoport, who self-defines as a Zionist, asks the same question.
Read the article in full here.
Excerpt: ‘…does the current State of Israel have a right to exist as a Jewish state? I’m not sure, and it is definitely not anti-Semitic to doubt it. It is not its Jewishness that puts Zionism under this spotlight; for me, there is really nothing inherently wrong with Jews having a state they can call their own. Rather, it is two generations of occupation and the denial of the rights of refugees that put a question mark about Israel’s legitimacy.
[…] The permanency of the occupation goes into the heart of Israel’s legitimacy, because there are as many Palestinians who live between the sea and the river as there are Jews, but Jewish sovereignty is maintained by denying citizenship to most of those Palestinians. To ask for equal rights for all who live on the land cannot be branded anti-Semitic, even if it would end the Jewish state. Continue reading “Is it antisemitic to ask if Israel has ‘right to exist’?”