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Hamas = Modern-day Antisemitism?

by Dr. Eitan Bar
8 minutes read

“We have understood, with horror,
that antisemitism is still alive.
And on this issue, our response must be unforgiving.”

(Emanuel Macron, President of France)

After enduring two millennia of relentless persecution and antisemitism, it became imperative for the Jewish people to establish their own homeland. This would not only offer them a much-needed haven of security but also the freedom for self-determination. Moreover, it would serve as a sanctuary where they could preserve and celebrate their unique culture without the constant specter of fear.

The ancient Land of Israel was chosen as the location for this homeland because it holds deep historical, cultural, and religious significance for the Jewish people. The land of Israel is the ancestral home of the Jewish people, with a continuous Jewish presence dating back thousands of years. The region is central to Jewish religious beliefs and is the birthplace of Judaism.

Indeed, the modern State of Israel was established in 1948, following a United Nations resolution that aimed to create separate Jewish and Arab states in the region, allowing for the Jewish people to return to their historical homeland and establish a nation-state where they could live free from persecution.

After Israel was established in 1948, the country faced immediate challenges and conflicts. Neighboring Muslim states, which opposed the creation of a Jewish state in the region, launched an immediate military attack against Israel, leading to the first Arab-Israeli war, also known as the War of Independence. Israel managed to defend its territory and even expand its borders during the conflict.

Since then, Israel has faced multiple wars, attacks, and periods of tension with its neighbors, such as the Suez Crisis (1956), the Six-Day War (1967), the Yom Kippur War (1973), and ongoing conflicts with Palestinian groups. Despite these challenges, Israel has built a strong, thriving nation with a robust economy, advanced technology sector, and vibrant cultural scene. However, the region’s path to peace and stability has been complex. It remains an ongoing pursuit, as thousands of Israeli (and Palestinian) civilians have been killed in conflicts, wars, and terrorist attacks since the establishment of the state in 1948.

Worldwide, modern-day antisemitism takes many forms, ranging from overt acts of violence and hate speech to more subtle forms of discrimination. One form of modern-day antisemitism is the use of hate speech and violence against Jews. This can include physical attacks on individuals or vandalism of Jewish property, such as synagogues and cemeteries. In recent years, there has been a disturbing rise in antisemitic violence and hate crimes, particularly in Europe and the United States.

Hatred towards the Jewish people persists in various forms. In 2019, antisemitic incidents rose by 74%,[i] and by 2020, they had increased by an additional 27%.[ii] Europe and the U.S. have witnessed an alarming surge in violent acts against the Jewish community. This includes a 36 percent increase in 2022 in the US. Campus and school incidents up nearly 50 percent; 91 bomb threats targeting Jewish institutions.[iii]

In some extreme cases, replacement theology directly contributed to evil acts of terror against Jews.[iv],[v] This makes it particularly challenging for Jewish individuals to distinguish between Christians who believe in replacement theology and Christians who don’t.

Another form of modern-day antisemitism is using stereotypes and negative portrayals of Jews in media and popular culture. These can range from classic antisemitic tropes, such as the portrayal of Jews as greedy and manipulative who systematically try to take over the world, to more subtle forms of discrimination, such as the exclusion of Jews from certain roles, or the portrayal of Jewish characters in a negative light.

In addition to these more overt forms of antisemitism, there are also more subtle forms of discrimination against Jews. This can include the exclusion of Jews from certain social or professional circles or the use of language or policies that are disproportionately harmful to Jews.

One example is the “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” (BDS) movement, which aims to political and financial pressure Israel. While the BDS movement claims to be a nonviolent and human rights-based movement, some of its supporters have been accused of using antisemitic language and promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories. These conspiracy theories have no basis and are used to spread misinformation and sow division.

The devastating impact of the Holocaust has seemingly diminished the most extreme forms of anti-Semitism among Christian leaders. However, anti-Semitism persists in a modern, refined guise known as anti-Zionism. While traditional anti-Semitism aimed to expel Jews from the lands they inhabited, anti-Zionism now rejects their right to dwell in their own homeland. A prime example of this contemporary anti-Semitism is a document published by Dr. James Kennedy’s Knox Theological Seminary in 2002, which has been endorsed by numerous theologians and pastors, including famous Calvinist theologian R.C. Sproul. This open letter to Evangelicals addresses the topic of Israel, denouncing the belief that biblical promises about the land are being fulfilled today for a single ethnic group.[vi]  The document contends that these promises “do not apply to any particular ethnic group but to the church of Jesus Christ, the true Israel.”

Moreover, it denies the Jewish claim to any land: “The land promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled under Joshua.”[vii] And also, “The entitlement of any one ethnic or religious group to territory in the Middle East called the ‘Holy Land’ cannot be supported by Scripture.” The document also asserts, “The present secular state of Israel… is not an authentic or prophetic realization.”[viii]

Since then, other reformed pastors have expressed the same sentiments. For example, John Piper wrote that because the Jews “broke covenant with their God,” and therefore, “the secular state of Israel today may not claim a present divine right to the Land.”[ix]

BDS Movement = Hamas

We have, in Israel, a thriving democracy, a beacon of tolerance, an engine of enterprise and an example to the rest of the world for overcoming adversity and defying disadvantages. It is only when you walk through Jerusalem or Tel Aviv that you see a country where people of all religions and sexualities are free and equal in the eyes of the law.
The boycotts, divestment and sanctions movement is wrong, it is unacceptable, and this party and this government will have no truck with those who subscribe to it. Our focus is the opposite – on taking our trading and investing relationship with Israel to the next level.
Antisemitism is racism. It has absolutely no place in our society and we must fight its bitter scourge wherever it rears its head. I’ve been proud to lead a government that is tackling such discrimination in all its forms – from making sure courts have the powers they need to deal with those who peddle hatred, to asking the Law Commission to undertake a full review of hate crime legislation. But there is yet more to do.
(Theresa May, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom)

I recognize that not everyone may agree with me. Still, I argue that the BDS movement is a modern antisemitic movement (propelled by an underlying Islamic agenda) which, unfortunately, is supported by many Christians who do not always understand BDS’ true motives. The challenge in recognizing the BDS movement for what it truly arises from the movement’s skillful manipulation of human rights language and the distortion of noble concepts like “justice” and “peace.”

Far from seeking a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the BDS movement ultimately aims to dismantle Israel as we know it. BDS co-founder and leader Omar Barghouti occasionally reveals this intent: “We oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.”[x] Although BDS claims to advocate only non-violent measures, its proposals would dissolve the world’s only Jewish state. Moreover, anyone familiar with the Middle East understands that realizing BDS’s goals would spell disaster for the Jewish population. In a majority Palestinian state—likely led by Islamist groups like Hamas—Jews would face violence and oppression, as is common for minorities in the region. Those who argue that Jews could live securely in a majority Palestinian state are merely concealing their cynical intentions behind the guise of justice.

According to official British Mandatory estimates, both Christians and Jews used to live in Palestine. In fact, the Christian population in 1922 constituted about 10-15% of the Arab population. Today, Muslims are 99.5% in the Gaza Strip, while Palestinian Christians comprise approximately 0.5% only. No Jews live in Gaza anymore. Most Christians and all Jews either fled or were killed. It is not hard to imagine what would happen to the Jewish people if Muslim groups took over Israel.

Debating whether BDS or anti-Zionism is antisemitic is inherently flawed. How can calling for dismantling the world’s only Jewish state not be antisemitic? Furthermore, even if one could distinguish between denying individual Jewish rights (antisemitic) and rejecting their collective rights (supposedly acceptable), we are still discussing the dismemberment of a UN Member State. Regardless of whether that state is Jewish or, say, Ukrainian – advocating for its end cannot be considered a legitimate political position.

Despite this, many Christian individuals, as well as Christian churches, such as the Presbyterian denomination,[xi]support BDS.

While not all hate speech is illegal, political and diplomatic leaders should focus on opposing extremist groups rather than delineating their legal rights, especially in the context of Jews and antisemitism.

According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (endorsed by the European Parliament and Council), over a hundred antisemitic imagery and language are in use by the BDS.[xii] These include cartoons depicting Israel as a hook-nosed religious Jew or as a pig with the Star of David; Comparing Israel to Nazis; Denial of the Jewish people’s rights to self-determination, and more. The report is heavily footnoted, and the examples are accessible online.[xiii]

BDS’s immediate victim isn’t Israel but Jews in the diaspora.

A bipartisan US House of Representatives resolution noted that BDS “leads to the intimidation and harassment of Jewish students and others who support Israel.” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau highlighted Jewish students’ feelings of “unsafety” on campuses, and a survey by the European Fundamental Rights Agency found similar trends among European Jews.

As the Israeli government report accurately noted, partly because of BDS, “the West has become desensitized to antisemitic discourse when it appears in an anti-Israel context.” One example is a recent German court decision ruling that the firebombing of a synagogue in Wuppertal was not antisemitic but merely “a political protest” against Israel.[xiv]

The BDS movement employs divisive and misleading terms like “apartheid,” “genocide,” “settler colonialist,” and “supremacists” to criticize Israeli actions or policies. This language serves to demonize the Jewish state of Israel and those who support its existence.

The Anti-Defamation League contends that many of the BDS movement’s founding goals, which effectively reject or ignore the Jewish people’s right to self-determination or would result in the eradication of the world’s only Jewish state, are antisemitic.

Moreover, some BDS advocates and campaigns engage in antisemitic rhetoric, including allegations of Jewish power, dual loyalty, and Jewish/Israeli responsibility for unrelated issues and crises. Some openly oppose the existence of the state of Israel altogether or justify or express support for violence against Israelis. Disturbingly, incidents involving BDS advocates holding all Jews accountable for the Israeli government’s actions and demanding that Jews renounce Israel.

In conclusion, the Israeli government is far from perfect. Yet, the BDS movement is a modern manifestation of antisemitism, and its true intentions should not be ignored or downplayed. Political and diplomatic leaders must oppose extremist groups and address the impact of BDS on Jewish communities worldwide.

This article was a copy-paste from my new book, “Why Don’t Jews Believe in Jesus

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[i] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/rise-of-antisemitism-elevates-fears-in-france

[ii] https://www.timesofisrael.com/france-reports-27-increase-in-anti-semitic-acts/.

[iii] https://www.adl.org/resources/press-release/us-antisemitic-incidents-hit-highest-level-ever-recorded-adl-audit-finds

[iv] https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2019/05/01/alleged-synagogue-shooter-was-churchgoer-who-articulated-christian-theology-prompting-tough-questions-evangelical-pastors/.

[v] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/28/us/gab-robert-bowers-pittsburgh-synagogue-shootings.html.

[vi] www.knoxseminary.org/Prospective/Faculty/WittenbergDoor/index.html

[vii] Ibid., section IX

[viii] Ibid., conclusion.

[ix] John Piper, “Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East, “DesiringGod.org sermon March, 7, 2004

[x] https://www.creativecommunityforpeace.com/about-bds/

[xi] https://www.ngo-monitor.org/press-releases/presbyterian-church-officials-promote-bds

[xii] https://www.jpost.com/opinion/bds-and-antisemitism-604286

[xiii] https://www.gov.il/BlobFolder/generalpage/behind_the_mask/en/strategic_affairs_Behind%20The%20MAsk_en.pdf

[xiv] https://www.ajc.org/news/bds-is-antisemitic

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Dr. Eitan Bar
Author, Theologian, Activist