FAQ: Israel-Palestine

On 7th October 2023, Hamas terrorists perpetrated an attack against Israel which shocked the world and represents the largest loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust. Subsequently we have seen an appalling rise in anti-Jewish racism on our streets, online and in our schools. This has been a difficult time for students, teachers, and wider society, as they try to navigate a complex situation which feeling deep concern and sadness and the ongoing conflict and loss of innocent civilian life. We have compiled the following FAQs to assist teachers and the general public in navigating conversations around this subject.

Navigating conversations around the Israel-Palestine Conflict: FAQs

What is the State of Israel?

The State of Israel is a country in the Middle East, with a coastline on the Mediterranean Sea. It was established in 1948, following the Second World War, as a homeland for Jewish people.

The first Kingdom of Israel was formed in approximately 1000 BCE under Kings Saul, David and Solomon with Jerusalem as its capital and the location of the Jewish temple.

While the Romans expelled most Jews in 70 CE, the Jewish people have always been present in the land of Israel. A portion of the Jewish population remained in Israel throughout the years of Jewish exile while the rest settled around the world and became the Jewish Diaspora.

What is Zionism?

Zionism is a movement for the self-determination and statehood for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland, the land of Israel. Most Jews around the world feel a connection or kinship with Israel, whether or not they explicitly identify as Zionists, and regardless of their opinions on the policies of the Israeli government.

Modern Zionism emerged in the mid-19th century in tandem with the rise of other nation states, and widespread national liberation movements across Europe. The Zionist movement was also in response to a long history of intense anti-Jewish hatred, persecution, and discrimination in countries and societies across the world where Jews lived, including in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

There are many different streams of Zionism, including but not limited to: Political Zionism, Labour Zionism, Religious Zionism, Liberal Zionism and Cultural Zionism.

What is antisemitism?

Antisemitism is a form of prejudice or discrimination directed toward Jews as individuals or as a group. Antisemitism is based on age-old stereotypes and myths that target Jews as a people, their religious practices and beliefs, or the Jewish State of Israel.

Words or actions related to Israel are antisemitic when they blame all Jews for the actions of the state, single out Israel in denying the country’s right to exist as a Jewish state and an equal member of the global community, use anti-Jewish stereotypes or conspiracy theories (such as accusations of Jewish world domination), or traditional antisemitic imagery or comparisons to Nazis.

Read the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism here.

Is criticism of Israel antisemitic?

No. It is ok for people to disagree with the actions of the Israeli government. However, such sentiment crosses the line into antisemitism when:

  • All Jews are held responsible for the actions of Israel.
  • Israel is denied the right to exist as a Jewish state and equal member of the global community.
  • Traditional antisemitic symbols, images or theories are used.

Israel is a country like any other and like other countries, there is always discussion around the policies of its government. Israel’s press is often critical of its own government’s policies and politicians. So are many Israeli citizens.

Legitimate criticism of the Israeli Government and its policies is not antisemitic. But sometimes criticism or condemnation of Israel is a cover for antisemitism, such as when it uses traditional antisemitic imagery or stereotypes, blames all Jews for the actions of Israel, or denies or questions Israel’s right to exist.

Why is comparing Israel to the Nazis antisemitic?

By comparing Israel to Nazis, some seek to label Israel as a singularly, uniquely evil state, playing upon old antisemitic stereotypes that treat Jews as demonic and uniquely evil. Moreover, it can be argued that those that make the comparison between the Jewish state and the Nazis have not chosen this comparison innocently or dispassionately. It is a charge that is purposefully directed at Jews to associate the victims of Nazi crimes with the Nazi perpetrators and serves to diminish the significance and uniqueness of the Holocaust. To make such a comparison is antisemitic and constitutes hostility toward Jews, Jewish history, and the legitimacy of the Jewish State of Israel.

7th October massacre in Israel: What happened?

On 7th October 2023, Hamas – the terrorist group in control of the Gaza Strip - perpetrated a terrorist attack against civilians in the State of Israel.

After breaching the border, the terrorists proceeded to massacre, torture, rape and mutilate civilians. 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been murdered, making 7th October the deadliest day for Jewish people since the Holocaust. The Nova Music festival that was taking place at this time saw some of the most brutal scenes where hundreds of young music lovers were killed.

In addition, over 200 Israelis, including children as young as 9-months old and the elderly, were abducted by Hamas. Although in the week commencing 20th November some of these hostages were released, over a hundred more continue to be held captive.

What is Hamas? Why do people say Hamas is antisemitic?

Hamas is a Sunni Islamist terrorist organization, proscribed in the United Kingdom, meaning it is illegal to show public support for them. Hamas operates as the de facto authority in the Gaza Strip. Hamas was founded in 1988 during the First Intifada (explained below) as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas’ goal stated in its founding charter is the creation of an Islamic state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. This would result in the destruction of the State of Israel - the world’s only Jewish state – and its people. The charter also states that "our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious". It suggests that the Day of Judgment would not come until the Muslims fight and kill the Jews and makes sweeping claims about Jewish influence and power.

Why is the chant “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” antisemitic?

There will be many people using this chant as a general expression of support, or perhaps seeking to express their desire that the Palestinian people will be ‘free’ from oppression. However, the chant can have a more sinister interpretation.

As stated above, this chant directly links to the rallying cries of several terrorist groups -including Hamas – who have carried out deadly attacks. This chant calls for the establishment of a State of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, erasing the State of Israel and its people. It denies Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and equal member of the global community.

Learn more about antisemitism witnessed at Pro-Palestinian/ Anti-Israel demonstrations here (Resource from APT – Antisemitism in Pro-Palestinian/ anti-Israel demonstrations)

Why is the slogan “Globalise the Intifada” problematic?

There have been two Intifada (Arabic for rebellion / uprising) in the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The first Intifada (1987-1993) was a sustained series of protests and violent riots carried out by Palestinians in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. The Second Intifada (2000-2005) resulted in a high number of casualties on both sides, with close to 1,000 Israelis killed or injured in Palestinian terror attacks, including suicide bombings and bus bombings. Calling for an intifada like this to be globalised means spreading these attacks around the world with Jewish communities likely to be targeted.

Support of Zionism does not preclude support for Palestinian self-determination and statehood. One can support a safe and secure State of Israel alongside a safe and secure Palestinian state.

Why is it problematic to call the current situation a genocide?

Israel is sometimes accused of committing acts of “genocide” against the Palestinians. Genocide is a legal term, and Israeli policies and actions in no way meet this legal threshold.

Rather, use of the term genocide in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not only inaccurate and misleading, but it serves to demonize the State of Israel and to diminish recognized acts of genocide.

Following the Holocaust, the United Nations General Assembly recognized genocide as a crime under international law. It was codified in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948.

Accusing Israel of genocide results in diminishing real acts of genocide – such as those that occurred in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.

 

Simon Sebag Montefiore (The Atlantic) - The Decolonization Narrative Is Dangerous and False

Jonathan Freedland (Guardian) - The tragedy of the Israel-Palestine conflict is this: underneath all the horror is a clash of two just causes

Anthony Julius - This is Britain’s antisemitic moment — and our institutions are failing to respond

The Telegraph - Jewish students hiding kippahs and Stars of David amid safety fears

Karen Pollock - Mutation of anti-Jewish hatred from history’s shadows to today’s reality