Forward Thinking

Conflating Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

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A brief addendum to Gal’s earlier post on Ron Paul.

The New York Times published a thorough piece this weekend examining Paul’s much-discussed relationship with the racist fringe of the libertarian spectrum. The story, which reported that Paul doesn’t agree with his most extreme followers but that he won’t reject their support, is well worth reading.

But two lines near the top of the article — both of which appeared on the front page of the edition of the Times I read on Sunday — struck me as odd. My questions are more or less semantic quibbles relating to the line between a fierce rejection of Israel and a hatred of the Jewish people, but both bear mention due to the story’s front page play.

In the fifth paragraph, the Paul story reads:

“The white supremacists, survivalists and anti-Zionists who have rallied behind his candidacy have not exactly been warmly welcomed. ‘I wouldn’t be happy with that,’ Mr. Paul said in an interview Friday when asked about getting help from volunteers with anti-Jewish or antiblack views.”

This paragraph is difficult to parse, but it appears to be using the terms “anti-Zionist” and “anti-Jewish” as synonyms. That’s not the only possible reading — it may also be that Paul was asked about anti-Jewish volunteers before the piece’s authors came up with the story’s framing. But if the terms are being used as synonyms, it’s worth noting that, while some anti-Zionists are anti-Jewish, some Jews are anti-Zionist, and the terms are certainly not identical.

I also thought it odd that the story lists a book called “The Invention of the Jewish People” as among the implicitly racist books published by an apparently extremist press that has supported Paul. “The Invention of the Jewish People,” written by Tel Aviv University professor Shlomo Sand, was certainly controversial when it was published in English in 2009, as the Times itself reported that year. And Sand could be called anti-Jewish, in the sense that he doesn’t believe Jews exist as a people. But he’s not an anti-Semite, in that his work is not apparently motivated by hate.


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