What Is “Anti-Semitism” and What Does it Have to Do with Critics of Israel?

Roger E. Olson | 12/14/2019 | Staff
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What Is “Anti-Semitism” and What Does It Have to Do with Critics of Israel?

According to a recent Associated Press release (published in my local newspaper December 12, 2019 and written by AP reporter Kevin Freking) President Trump has signed an executive order requiring colleges and universities to combat anti-Semitism on their campuses or risk losing federal aid. This was followed by a column put out by InsideSources (also published in my local newspaper) by Ariel Sobel of the J’accuse Coalition for Justice, “a think tank dedicated to combating anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and anti-Israel bias.” Sobel strongly defended the executive order against critics.

Critics - Executive - Order - Answer - Anti-Semitism

Why would there be critics of the executive order? The simple answer is that “anti-Semitism” itself has become an essentially contested concept. Does it include criticism of the government of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians? According to some Jews and Christians it does. I know such people personally.

For example, according to the AP news release and article, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) considers criticism of Israel anti-Semitic. Also according to the news release, the president’s executive order uses the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism. Sobel’s column, however, states that the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism “in no way condemns all criticism of Israel.”

Sobel - Executive - Order - Freedom - College

It seems that Sobel, in defending the executive order, which will affect academic freedom on college and university campuses, conveniently overlooks what was clearly stated in the AP article—that it is the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism the order uses.

Let me be clear. I grew up in a church and home that was saturated with love of Jews and of the state of Israel (“Christian Zionism”). Although no doubt some would consider us anti-Semitic only because we believed Jesus to be the messiah, in practice we loved Jews and supported their causes including the Jewish state of...
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