There should be no hierarchy of antisemitism - opinion

"Antisemitism is antisemitism, and all forms of hate against Jews must be countered with equal vigor," says Sacha Roytman Dratwa, CEO of Combat Antisemitism Movement.

 Palestinians burn Israeli flag during clashes with Israeli troops in Hebron, November 18, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA)
Palestinians burn Israeli flag during clashes with Israeli troops in Hebron, November 18, 2022.

Recently, there were two high-profile rants about Jews controlling the world and claiming that Jews set themselves above others, using age-old antisemitic myths and canards.

One was by American white supremacist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and the other was by Palestinian “researcher” Muhammad Al-Yahya.

While Fuentes was roundly condemned and rightly vilified, Al-Yahya’s message has been amplified, being shown repeatedly on official Palestinian Authority TV.

Sacha Roytman-Dratwa, CEO of the Combat Antisemitism Movement (Credit: CAM)
Sacha Roytman-Dratwa, CEO of the Combat Antisemitism Movement (Credit: CAM)

Unfortunately, while there is growing understanding and action towards fighting Antisemitism in many parts of the world, demonstrated by the growing international acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Definition of Antisemitism, far too many turn a completely blind eye to Palestinian antisemitism.

In fact, while the number of deaths resulting from far-right or white supremacist violence has been growing recently, it does not approach the thousands of innocent Israelis killed resulting from the steady flow of hate emanating from official Palestinian media and social media, its education system, and from its mosques.

It comes from the very top.

While, for many years, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas tried to adopt the guise of a moderate, over the last few years, that mask has dropped with a litany of disturbing antisemitism.

In 2018, addressing a meeting of the Palestinian National Council in Ramallah, Abbas placed the responsibility for hatred against Jews on themselves, claiming that “hostility against Jews is not because of their religion, but rather their social function related to banks and interest.”

Last year, standing alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at a news conference in Berlin, Abbas claimed that Israel had committed “50 Holocausts” against the Palestinian people.

Both of these statements egregiously and decidedly fall afoul of IHRA and are clear examples of antisemitism.

However, the reaction to these statements stands in stark contrast to how other prominent examples of antisemitism would be treated.

The first outrageous example of classic antisemitism, which had been used repeatedly throughout Jewish history leading to the massacre and annihilation of millions of Jews, was met with an almost apologetic response.

In reaction, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s foreign service, said in a statement: “Such rhetoric will only play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution, which President Abbas has repeatedly advocated,” adding “Antisemitism is not only a threat for Jews but a fundamental menace to our open and liberal societies.”

First, the tone of the response is extremely neutral without accusation, and then treats the hate-filled words as if they were legitimate but unfortunate political maneuvering. Then, in an extraordinary sleight of hand, the whole issue of antisemitism was deflected onto “open and liberal societies,” i.e., the West, meaning that it is a problem for Western countries, but apparently not for the Palestinians themselves.

This touches on the foundation of the problem many have with Palestinian antisemitism. It is not considered the same as antisemitism in the West, and is thought, at least in part, to be just part of the politics of the ongoing conflict.

This is an increasingly rampant form of the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Parts of the international community do not expect the same behavior of the Palestinians that it expects of others. This is bigotry, bordering on racism.

It allows the Palestinian Authority and its leaders to continue with its incitement and antisemitism and continues to fete and welcome Abbas as a legitimate leader.

Rarely do members of the international community strongly condemn Abbas’ antisemitic excesses, especially when made locally rather than on an international stage. They do not push and prod Abbas publicly to end the antisemitism, by making this conditional on aid and assistance.

Far too many see it as merely part and parcel of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and believe it is rooted in injustice. They see it as part of the war.

Nonetheless, people like Fuentes also believe they are in a struggle against the Jewish people. Only a few days ago, he said, “We will make them (Jews) die in the holy war.”

The primary difference is that Palestinian antisemitism is societally endemic and leads to massive and ongoing bloodshed on both sides of the conflict, whereas Fuentes only has a fringe following.

Thus, Palestinian antisemitism should be treated at least as seriously as other forms.

The bottom line is, antisemitism is antisemitism, and all forms of hate against Jews must be countered with equal vigor. 

There should be no hierarchy of bigotry.

The international community must treat the antisemitism and incitement against Jews that emanates from within or by the Palestinian Authority as it would if it came from a white supremacist or neo-Nazi source.

This is not just important so as to equalize hate, but it will also send a new and demanding message to the Palestinian leadership that there is now zero tolerance for antisemitism, and they will be shunned and lose any aid and assistance if they do not stop.

If this can lead to an end to Palestinian state-sponsored antisemitism, many lives will be saved, and peace will be closer to realization.

Sacha Roytman Dratwa is the CEO of Combat Antisemitism Movement

Written in cooperation with Combat Antisemitism Movement.