News Release

What Price Zionism?

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OMER BARTOV, Omer_Bartov@brown.edu
Bartov is Samuel Pisar Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies in the Department of History at Brown University. His books include Genocide, The Holocaust and Israel-Palestine: First-Person History in Times of Crisis.

He is a signer, with over 1,000 others of a “Statement from Concerned Jewish Faculty Against Antisemitism“: “We accordingly urge our political leaders to reject any effort to codify into federal law a definition of antisemitism that conflates antisemitism with criticism of the state of Israel. This includes ongoing efforts to codify the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which has been internationally criticized for conflating antisemitism with legitimate criticism of Israel. … If our leaders are earnestly concerned with antisemitism, they should join hundreds of Jewish scholars from across the globe who have endorsed alternative definitions of antisemitism — such as those contained in the Nexus Document or Jerusalem Declaration. Unlike the IHRA definition, these documents offer meaningful tools to combat antisemitism without undermining Jewish safety and civil rights by insulating Israel from legitimate criticism.”

He just wrote the piece “Antisemitism, Then and Now: A Guide for the Perplexed,” which states: “Having sought to become a Jewish majority state at any price, [Israel] paid the price of creating a vast Palestinian refugee problem that it still refuses to address. Having enjoyed a Jewish majority for the first two decades of its existence, its greed for additional territory transformed it after 1967 into a country half of whose population are Palestinians, none of them with equal rights — most of them with no rights at all. Having sought to provide a secure home for Jews around the world, it has become the most unsafe spot for Jews on the globe. Having claimed to be the final answer to antisemitism, Israel is now the best excuse for antisemites around the globe, a nation whose addiction to violence and oppression, reliance on great powers and financial clout, and constant harping on the horrors of the Holocaust as an excuse for untethered violence against Palestinians are making even its erstwhile supporters shrink from it in discomfort, not to say horror and disgust.”

Referring to recent remarks and actions by President Biden conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism, Bartov added: “In part, this must be driven by pressures from conservative, Jewish nationalist donors and supporters — many with close ties to the Israeli right — even though in the United States they may be associated with liberal causes or institutions, such as Barry Sternlicht, a major donor to my own institution, Brown University, who withdrew his support after President Christine Paxson reached a landmark agreement with protesting students. Such donors, as well as university presidents dependent on them, prefer to call in the police and stamp out any voices protesting the atrocities perpetrated by the IDF at universities proclaiming liberal sentiments, diversity, and open-mindedness.”