Disproportionate criticism of Israel should be considered anti-Semitism, renowned Holocaust historian, and President Biden’s nominee to become the United States’ Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, said in a newly released episode of the All Inclusive with Jay Ruderman podcast Monday. Jay Ruderman is President of the Ruderman Family Foundation.
“When you pick out when you make Israel the singular focus, I have to ask, ‘Why, what’s behind it? What’s underlying it?’ Maybe not in all cases, but I would say in many cases it’s anti-Semitism – maybe unconscious anti-Semitism, but it’s anti-Semitism,” said Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta as well as the author of eight books on the topic of anti-Semitism. She is arguably best known for her libel trial against David Irving, the subject of her book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier.
“If you look at the UN Human Rights Council Commission, the number of combinations they pass of Israel and none of China for the Uyghurs or the Rohingyas in Myanmar, or other places in which they’ve been genocides – it’s just striking,” Lipstadt told the podcast’s host, Ruderman Family Foundation President Jay Ruderman. “That’s not to say, I’m not arguing that everybody does it therefore a prejudice or oppression or mistreatment is right. I’m not saying that at all, and I’m not saying that everything Israel has done is right. But this proportionate attention you just have to ask, why?”
In The Jewish Press’ July report about her nomination (Biden Nominates Deborah Lipstadt, Sued by Holocaust Denier Irving, as Anti-Semitism Envoy) we noted that in 2011 Dr. Lipstadt told Haaretz that, “if anti-Semitism becomes the reason through which your Jewish view of the world is refracted, if it becomes your prism, then it is very unhealthy. Jewish tradition never wanted that,” and in 2014 she criticized Israel for cheapening the memory of the Holocaust by using it to justify the Gaza war, but also rejected the view that the IDF engaged in genocide in Gaza.
In February 2019, Lipstadt resigned her Young Israel membership after its national council president defended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s forging the merger between Habayit Hayehudi and Otzma Yehudit.
In response to those who don’t believe in the right for a Jewish State to exist, Lipstadt argued on Ruderman’s podcast: “Give me an example of one Muslim state with possibly the exception of Morocco, where Jews and other religions live and prosper as minorities. A, you want to say the Jews as a people don’t have the right to national identity in their national homeland, and B, you’re glibly willing to do away with the State of Israel without thinking of the personal consequences. I would say if that’s not anti-Semitism, it’s pretty darn close to it.”
We would argue that after the signing of the Abraham Accords there are several Muslim states where Jews are welcome and are prosperous. Azerbaijan is an example of a non-Arab Muslim states where Jews are welcome.
Discussing the threat anti-Semitism poses to society as a whole, Lipstadt explained, “certainly, anti-Semitism is a threat to the Jew and it’s the Jew whose ox is gored, they’re the ones who are directly going to experience it. But it’s not just a threat to the Jew. It’s a threat to the democratic society which we so treasure, and which Jews and many others have so prospered in so many ways, and I don’t mean only financially but in terms of achievements and contributions. If you value this democratic society, this fragile democratic society in which we live, you’ve got to fight against all forms of prejudice but anti-Semitism goes to the roots of the democratic society which we treasure.”
At the same time, Lipstadt acknowledged that attempting to make a connection between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism must be a nuanced process, and cautioned that the Jewish community should avoid labeling all criticism of Israeli policies as anti-Semitism.
“We, particularly we in the Jewish community, have to be very careful because if we call any criticism anti-Semitism, then when we confront real anti-Semitism, nobody’s going to pay attention to us,” she said.
Asked why anti-Semitism has surged in recent years, Lipstadt pointed to the divisiveness in America that was amplified during former President Donald Trump’s time in office.
“I’m not saying at all that [Trump] created [anti-Semitism], not at all. It was there. It was there long before, but it was given a certain legitimacy, open expressions of prejudice, open expressions of racism, of hatred, the anti-Asian sentiments were made okay by that,” she said.
Note: the podcast enclosed below has not been vetted by The Jewish Press for content and language.