One of the most effective tactics that anti-Semites are relying on for their various causes is the rewriting of history. In the United Nations, Jewish indigeneity to the Land of Israel is erased and replaced with Palestinian claims.
The European Union often backs up these viewpoints and repeats them ad infinitum. Certain European countries—mainly in the more conservative eastern portion of the continent—are also rewriting Holocaust history to paint Nazi collaborators as national heroes.
Meanwhile, anti-Semitism on the left-wing of the political spectrum take the UN/EU methods to a whole ‘nother level. The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement and its allies seek to portray Jews as foreign European colonists in a land usurped from “indigenous brown people.” They bolster these claims by linking Zionism to White Supremacy.
In doing so, they erase the history of Sephardic, Mizrahi, and Ethiopian (among others) Jewish communities who were already in Mandatory Palestine, or immigrated there to escape persecution in Islamic lands. The Black Hebrew Israelites also bolster this claim of “White Supremacy” and engage in the Khazar conspiracy theory to “point out” that Black Americans are the “real Jews.”
Too often, pro-Israel Jews are on the defensive in such scenarios, and using outdated and ineffective arguments to bolster our claims. Instead, it’s time to go on the offensive. For one, hasbara needs to be changed.
I have referenced this in the past as well, but will say it again here. Nobody in BDS cares if Israel is more progressive than neighboring countries, for a few reasons. For one, being better than the likes of Syria or Saudi Arabia on LGBT rights or women’s issues is not saying much. Secondly, Israel still has a long ways to go when it comes to addressing the treatment of women and the LGBT community by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate.
Its marginalization and mistreatment of minorities, such as Mizrahim/Sephardim and Ethiopian Jews, is an unfortunate and ongoing reality. Rather than touting Israel’s “success” against others in the region, those who parrot these useless arguments would have their time better spent fighting against these injustices.
Talking about great Israeli technological advancements also isn’t a good counter argument. While this is indeed cementing Israel’s newfound ties with developing countries, as well as the Arab World at large, it has nothing to do with the conflict with the Palestinians or Jewish identity.
And in this age of progressive movements bashing Eurocentric worldviews (often times, rightly so), it is not strategic as well as historically inaccurate to keep depicting Israel as a Western country that is essentially Europe-lite. Doing so also “whitewashes” the existence and experiences of non-Ashkenazi Jews, while ignoring the Eastern origins of all of world Jewry. This is likely where the far-left and UN campaign to “Europeanify” Israel and Jews came from.
The pro-Israel community—especially Jews—need to adopt a different approach that will not only disprove such conspiracy theories, but allow us, and only us, to tell our story. Firstly, we need to make sure that our leadership is more diverse.
Straight Ashkenazi men can not be the only ones leading Israel or Zionist advocacy groups. The Ashkenazi story is an integral part of Jewish history, yet it is not the only one. Sephardic Jews, Mizrahi Jews, Ethiopian Jews, Jewish women, and LGBT Jews also need to be ceded some ground when it comes to leadership—or take it ourselves.
Not only will this disprove the notion that Zionism is “White Supremacist” or politically far-right, but it will allow other, largely marginalized Jewish voices to be shown to the world. Palestinians will not be seen as the sole victims of the conflict—so will Jews from Islamic countries who were displaced from their homes.
Nobody is advocating for a “right of return” or compensation for such communities. The only home they have known is Israel. The same goes for the Ethiopian Jewish community, which escaped famine, persecution, and civil war and was brought to Israel.
The “go back to Europe” chants from far-left anti-Semites do not apply to these communities, and erase their experiences. Giving more leadership roles to these minority communities within Israel and the Jewish community will also empower them to lessen their own plight and take up the mantle of leadership nationally.
Secondly, Ashkenazi Jews (and others) need to work on accepting their Levantine history and heritage. This will bring about an end to the often rampant colorism that many other Jews experience in Ashkenazi communities, as well as lead to an end of calling Israel a “Western” or “semi-European” country.
It is a country in the Middle East, where the Jewish people on a whole originated. Claiming otherwise is historically inaccurate and bolsters the discriminatory view that being Western/European automatically makes one superior. It excludes Jews who were not in Europe, and bolsters the argument that Jews are foreigners who stole the land from others.
Thirdly, the pro-Israel advocacy community needs to stop its partisan divide and end the squabbling between conservative Jews and liberal Jews. When it comes to Zionism, the goal is to support Jewish self-determination in our native homeland.
That is it. Squabbling over other political issues, like abortion, Donald Trump’s opinions on immigration, gun control, or tax policies only serves to divide—which is what our challengers would like. We should be calling out anti-Semitism wherever it exists—whether that is in the Women’s March or Proud Boys.
Anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism—it knows no particular political creed, and needs to be challenged wherever it originates. That includes calling out the racist, historically-inaccurate laws and motions occurring in eastern European countries with which Israel is strengthening ties. We are a proud and strong people, and the worship of Nazi collaborators is unacceptable. Any true leader of the Jewish people would never overlook this.
Finally, pro-Israel advocates need to stop responding to trolling and bait from the likes of the UN and BDS. The UN’s discriminatory measures and historic whitewashing are something that we must challenge, but on our terms, not theirs.
Our narratives shouldn’t be a response to what the UN—an irrelevant organization with no teeth—passes, but as an educational experience for others. We don’t need to respond to Palestinian narrative of suffering, let alone with the Jewish narrative. We just need to tell our own story, on our terms, instead of letting others dictate it for us or accuse us of “(insert word)washing.”
In short, Jews need to take back control. Leave personal politics at the door when entering pro-Israel spaces. Stop letting others erase our history or dictate the narrative. Point out the lies when necessary, not as a response to the claims of others. Let’s tell our own story—Jewish refugees from Africa & the Middle East deserve for their story to be genuinely told, rather than used as a token response to another argument.
But more generally, minority Jewish communities need to be given leadership spaces to expose our narrative and close the equality gap with the Ashkenazi community. The Ashkenazi community also needs to rethink its approach to hasbara, its own identity, and inclusivity. And all of us need to challenge anti-Semitism from all directions, instead of only pointing it out when it comes from the opposite political side.
These new approaches will allow our community to heal from deep divisions related to politics and identity. But they will also give the reigns of the Jewish narrative back to the Jewish people, on our own terms.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of The Israel Press.