Antisemitism defined: Double standards against the State of Israel - World Jewish Congress

Antisemitism defined: Double standards against the State of Israel

Antisemitism defined: Double standards against the State of Israel

The 8th example in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism is “Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” 

Those holding antisemitic attitudes will often disguise their antisemitism by claiming they are “criticizing the Israeli government.” They outrageously accuse Israel of an array of crimes including genocide, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and in some cases even claim the state itself is illegitimate.  

While criticism of the Israeli government is not antisemitic, as the IHRA working definition states, “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic,” it is antisemitic when “critics” place a double standard on the Jewish state and expect a behavior not required of any other state. 

Double Standards against Israel  

For thousands of years, a clear signal of antisemitism was treating Jews differently than other citizens. This form of antisemitism was often accompanied by discriminatory legislation that treated the Jewish people differently than other nations and othered them.  Similarly, today we must be aware of when criticism of Israel is being applied selectively and a double standard if being implemented. Unfortunately, this often is often accompanied by demonization, delegitimization and double standards.  

With that in mind, just as applying double standards to the state of Israel is antisemitic, applying a double standard to Israelis for expressing their national identity is also antisemitic.  

One prominent example was when Tomer Hemed, Israeli Stricker for the Wellington Phoenix's soccer team, received a yellow flag for wrapping himself in an Israeli flag after scoring a goal. Other athletes in the same position as Hemed, such as from the Dominican Republic and Mexico, received no condemnation. 

Other examples of antisemitic double standards against Israel:  

  • Criticizing Israeli defensive operations, but not those of other Western democracies, despite Israel's 1:1 civilian to combatant ratio.
  • Accusing Israel of human right violations while refusing to criticize regimes with far worse human right abuses, such as Iran, North Korea, Iraq, and Pakistan.
  • Rebuking Israel for allegedly violating women’s rights, while ignoring significantly worse abuses carried out by governments and terrorist organizations. 
  • Agenda Item 7 calls for every UN Human Rights Council session to include a debate about Israel's human rights record, something that it is not done for any other country.  
  • Israel has been the subject to 9 special UN Human Rights Council sessions out of a total of 33.  
  • Claims that a nation state of the Jews is illegitimate while all other nation states are legitimate. 

What the 8th example of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism does not mean: 

The 8th working example of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism does not mean that criticizing Israel is antisemitic.  

Rather, it is essential for those criticizing Israeli policy to do so without using flagrant double standards, perpetrating antisemitic conspiracy myths, demonizing the Jewish people, or questioning Israel’s right to exist in peace.  

Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, the Biden administration’s special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism, notes that the best example of legitimate criticism of Israel is found at “cafes in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,” but delegitimizing Israel and denying that Israel does not have a right to exist is itself antisemitic. People who employ these double standards often defend themselves from accusations of antisemitism by arguing that those who support Israel (Jews) are silencing criticism of Israel by calling them antisemitic. Such claims are at best conspiratorial and at worst antisemitic. Embedded in this claim is the contention that Jews aren’t concerned about antisemitism and their security, but rather are advancing their political agenda, or are simply mistaken as to what constitutes antisemitism, an argument that would likely not hold for any other minority group. 

The “3 D” Test  

Nathan Sharansky, a Soviet Refusenik and former Israeli Minster for Diaspora Affairs, created a “3-D test” to determine when criticism of Israel becomes antisemitic. The 3 D’s are: Demonization, Double Standard, and Delegitimization. Double standards against the state of Israel often encompass all three of Sharansky’s test.  

In his explanation for the creation of the test, Sharansky said at the Helsinki Commission in 2004, “For thousands of years, a clear sign of antisemitism was treating Jews differently than other peoples, from the discriminatory laws that many nations enacted against them to the tendency to judge their behavior by a different yardstick.” Sharansky later added, “Since this antisemitism [criticism of Israel] can hide behind the veneer of legitimate criticism of Israel, it is much more difficult to expose.” 

In 2020, for instance, the United Nations General Assembly condemned Israel on 17 separate occasions compared to 6 resolutions directed toward the rest of the world. In a 2018 speech at the United Nations, Nikki Haley, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, said that the “UN is working overtime” in its double standard towards Israel. 

At times overlapping with double standards, delegitimization denies Israel the right to exist, just as the Jewish people had their right to practice their religion or the ability to identify as a peoplehood denied. Criticizing Israel is not antisemitic. Whether one recognizes it or not, it is the call for the ethnic cleansing of the largest Jewish community in the world and the destruction of the Jewish homeland. 

Why BDS is antisemitic:

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel calls for the isolation of Israel from the rest of the world and the exertion of pressure on the country to comply with international law. While BDS claims to criticize Israel through its efforts, the movement fails Sharansky’s 3D test. 

BDS applies a double standard towards Israel 

Israel is the only thriving democracy in the Middle East yet is held to the highest standard by those in the BDS movement, a standard much higher than any other state committing egregious human rights violations or fails to safeguard their democracy. Even more so, those in the BDS movement claim that Israel as a Jewish state does not have a right to exist due to Judaism being its official religion, as David Litwin, a BDS activist and professor at Rutgers University, claimed that “a ‘Jewish state’ is by definition dedicated to the supremacy of Jews over non-Jews in Palestine. "Meanwhile, over 80 countries have an official religion clearly demonstrating the double standard BS holds towards the only Jewish state.  

Even more so, those in the BDS movement outrightly claim that the real goal of the movement is to rid of Israel from the region as Omar Barghouti, the founder of the BDS movement claims, “Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.” Calling for the destruction of the only Jewish state does not only place a double standard on the Jewish state as no other country’s existence is called into question, but it also calls for the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish people from the region.  

The BDS Movement’s fixation on the only democratic Jewish state and their calls to destroy Israel highlights their double standard as Natan Sharansky mentions, “The movement seeks to bring the level of hatred against Israel today to the level of hatred against Jews in the past, to delegitimize the Jewish state to the point where it is seen by the world as a cancer that should be removed. It is the same approach that created the atmosphere that can lead to bloodshed.” 

While the BDS movement claims to fight for freedom, justice, and equality, members of the movement stay silent as Iran continues to finance acts of terror and human rights abuses take place across the world. Moreover, the BDS movement refuses to acknowledge the Israeli–Palestinian conflict as a conflict, instead, labeling Israel the oppressor and Palestinians as the oppressed, completely ignoring and condoning actions taken by Hamas such as suicide bombings, rocket launches, and stabbings of civilians.  

BDS delegitimizes Israel  

While supporters of the BDS movement claim to fight for human rights, its end goal is to eradicate the State of Israel. Omar Barghouti, the founder of the BDS movement, stated that “we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.”  In the words of BDS’s founder, the intention of the movement is not to create a future where both people can prosper, but where Jews are once again defenseless.  

BDS demonizes Israel  

The BDS leader at the University of California, Davis stated, “You can’t have coexistence with Zionists. Their purpose of Zionism is discrimination, elimination, and ethnic cleansing.”  

What WJC is doing about it:  

In addition to advocating for the adoption of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, the WJC works to counter bias and double standards toward Israel at various UN bodies. 

For example, at the UN Human Rights Council, the premier international body established to protect universal rights and liberties, the WJC takes the floor at every session to advocate for the abolishment of the biased anti-Israel Article 7, which is the only standing agenda targeting a country, as well as to prioritize the battle against antisemitism.  

During WJC’s Governing Board meeting in Paris on 19 November 2018, a resolution was passed entitled, “Israel: Bias at the United Nations Human Rights Council,” which noted that “that the disparate treatment of Israel in this way constitutes a clear manifestation of antisemitism as explicitly delineated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in its working definition of antisemitism.” 

In addition, the WJC also passed a resolution entitled “Recognition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism,”  which states that “whilst recognizing that " criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic," the IHRA definition of antisemitism recognizes that contemporary examples of antisemitism include: denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor; applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation; drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis; and holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.”