Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, Haim Fireberg, director of Research at the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Fireberg was responding to a global survey of attitudes toward Jews published last week by the Anti-Defamation League.
The survey, which polled over 50,000 people in 102 countries, indicated that one quarter of adults worldwide are “deeply infected” with of anti-Semitic attitudes.
At a press conference held to present their findings in New York last week, Jeffrey Liszt, a partner at Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, the group that conducted the poll, told The Jerusalem Post that the relationship between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism or anti-Israel sentiments was difficult to tease out. In Scandinavian countries, for example, anti-Semitic attitudes are among the lowest in the world – 9 percent in Denmark, 15% in Norway and 4% in Sweden – but anti-Israel sentiments tend to run higher.
Israel was viewed unfavorably by 36% of respondents in Denmark, 37% in Norway and 33% in Sweden.
ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said it was difficult to clarify whether anti-Semitic attitudes were caused by the conflict with the Palestinians or whether the conflict was an “excuse” for such beliefs.
“It is evident that the Middle East conflict matters with regard to anti-Semitism,” he said. “We believe anti-Israel attitudes impact on anti-Semitism, but we have no statistical data to confirm this.”
Speaking with the Post on Tuesday, Fireberg said that according to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights’ (FRA) former working definition of anti-Semitism, commonly accepted among researchers, anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.
“If people say I’m not anti-Jewish, I’m only anti-Zionist they are still anti-Semites according to these guidelines because they are saying that Jews as a group are not worth[y of] having their own nation, country or state,” Fireberg said. “This is anti-Semitism.”
According to the working definition, which the FRA recently dropped, prompting vocal outrage by Israel and European Jewish organizations, “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations” is a sign of anti-Semitism.
“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” and “applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation” are also listed as criteria.
Fireberg said that it appeared that the questions posed by the ADL’s pollsters put more weight on questions related to traditional forms of anti-Semitism than to those related to anti-Zionism “so the Scandinavian countries can say, ‘Okay, we are not anti-Semites.’” According to the survey, 27% of Swedes and 40% of Norwegians agree that it is “probably true” that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their countries of residence.
Anti-Zionism was given short shrift in the ADL questionnaire and the questions included were not the best that could be asked, Fireberg continued, adding that the poll should have asked respondents about some of the attitudes defined as anti-Semitic by the FRA.
“The questions have to be more precise and more dealing with today’s anti-Semitism,” he said. “They didn’t ask many questions about that.”
Despite low levels of anti-Semitism according to the survey, calls for some Jewish practices keep popping up in the Scandinavian nations under the banner of human rights. Recently, Denmark banned ritual slaughter and Norway’s nurses union called for a ban on circumcision.
Maya Shwayder contributed to this report.