October 7 will be remembered as a date that wrenched history in a new direction. The previous day, Israel was struggling with the deep internal divisions that had brought protesters into the streets for nine straight months. The greatest threats to Israel’s future, it seemed, were domestic. On the international front, Israel was poised to sign a landmark peace treaty with Saudi Arabia that would functionally mark the end of inter-state conflict between Israel and its near neighbors. (Iran is another matter.) The Palestinian issue was relegated to the back burner, with hopes that all Palestinians, not just the Palestinian Authority, would eventually accept Israel’s right to exist, as the Arab states had done, and accept a two-state solution. Jewish Americans felt safe and rabbis joined vigorously in condemnation of the Netanyahu government for, among other things, forming alliances with Israeli extremists.
In one day of savagery, Hamas shattered that reality. The upwelling of antisemitism around the globe and especially in the United States mocks the naïvety of those who imagined that the oldest hatred was mostly in the past, that Israel could be a normal nation, or that a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue could be realized in the near future. American Jews, stunned by the worst mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust, are reeling from the lack of basic decency shown by many progressives. If your ideology blinds you to the crimes of rape, arson, kidnapping, and mass murder, what is there to discuss?
No more hiding behind “anti-Zionism is not antisemitism.” This moment, for all its horror, is at least clarifying. Jewish schools and synagogues are closing around the globe. Vandals stenciled Stars of David on the doors of Jewish homes in Paris. What has Zionism to do with that?
Criticizing the Israeli government, or even generally taking the side of Palestinians over Israelis, is not anti-Zionism. No, anti-Zionism is dehumanizing hatred of Israelis and Jews. It’s the denial of Israel’s right to exist and the hunger to punish, harm, or kill Jews wherever they may live. It is indistinguishable from antisemitism. This may cause some soul-searching on the part of the small number of Jews, such as those affiliated Jewish Voice for Peace, an adamantly anti-Zionist group that employs most of the tropes popular on far-left sites: apartheid, ceasefire, oppression, boycott. As a piece in Jewish Currents put it, “many avowed anti-Zionist Jews found [after October 7] they could not join solidarity protests because they needed something the protests could not provide: a space to grieve the Israeli dead.”