This past week I have been in many conversations about the importance of separating criticism of Israel from sweeping definitions of anti-Semitism. The merging of these two items serves to silence Palestinian cries for justice, equality and freedom, as well as water down the violence of true anti-Semitism. And yet, this is exactly what proponents of such a broad definition seek to do, and they are hard at work pressuring political and cultural leaders to comply. Palestinian and Jewish brothers and sisters are asking for our assistance with this critical concern.
On Monday, the Biden administration said it “embraces and champions” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism that includes criticism of Israel, a definition that several Jewish organizations find problematic. On Wednesday, I met with staff members of Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Senator Feinstein to let them know my concerns. Among them are criticism of Israel is valid and they need to be held accountable for their actions, criticism of any government is constitutionally protected free speech, this definition takes away from addressing true anti-Semitism and the deep harm it causes. I also voiced concern that Janet Yellen (Biden’s pick for Treasury Secretary) has made it clear that she will challenge BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement led by an absolute majority of Palestinian civil society. BDS, which Lakeshore participates in through being and HP-Free congregation, is a practice of non-violent resistance that refuses to participate in injustice. These strategies have huge historic significance in our own country and several denominations have taken strong stands of solidity through their participation.
On the cultural level, Facebook is considering censoring any posts that challenge Zionism, the political ideology that Israel has a right to exist as an ethno-national state and justifies settler colonial practices and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. This Wednesday I met with representatives of Jewish Voice for Peace about these concerns and they asked that I circulate the following petition, supported by dozens of Jewish, Christian and Muslim organizations. I encourage you to sign the petition, adding your voice of solidarity with so many who are fighting injustice in the Holy Land. I was heartened to know that Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church was already listed as an ally in this work!
A broad coalition has launched a petition to prevent Facebook from revising its hate speech policy to define critique of Zionism as inherently antisemitic.
Conflating criticism of the nationalist ideology of Zionism with antisemitism undermines efforts to dismantle real antisemitism. It also severely limits the space for Palestinians and others to express their political points of view, describe violations of their human rights, and share experiences of violence at the hands of Zionists. Please sign and share this petition.
If Facebook decides to move ahead with adding “Zionist” to its hate speech policy, it could silence the critical work we are doing to expose the underlying antisemitism and Islamophobia inherent in Christian Zionism. Those of us who seek a more just world know that we must confront the political ideology and heretical reading of the Bible expressed by Christian Zionists—a group in the U.S. that vastly outnumbers American Jews who embrace a Zionist ideology.
Thank you for taking action!
P.S. This petition is just the beginning of a global effort – this version comes from Friends of Sabeel North American, a Christian Voice for Palestine.