A black-and-white photograph from the 1970s [Fig. 1] shows happy Soviet children at a May Day parade. They are hitching a ride on a parade installation: a giant hook-nosed spider wearing a military cap adorned with the Star of David, its teeth bared in a sinister grin. Massive rods under its legs suggest both the spider's web and the meridians of the globe it is trampling. The accompanying slogan offers the proper ideological lens: "Zionism is the weapon of imperialism!"
It was this image that popped into my mind the day of the infamous New York Times's cartoon [Fig. 2] of a short-legged guide dog Jew with the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a Star of David medallion dangling from its collar, dragging a blind kippah-wearing Donald Trump.
The outrage the Times' cartoon produced was appropriate, but interpretations of what had happened fell short. Was the cartoon truly a lineal descendant of the anti-Semitic propaganda published in Der Stürmer, as some reflexively opined? To stop there was to accept the possibility that the offices of the New York Times' international edition are packed with white supremacists. Even if a single production editor was responsible for the incident, as the paper asserted, the publisher's decision to put the entire staff through sensitivity training to address "unconscious biases" would suggest that senior management was worried others in the company might be similarly infected. Yet the idea that the Times is infested with neo-Nazis seems patently silly.
What makes more sense is the possibility that the cartoon made it into print because the paper's staff—whether singular or plural—saw it as "a political issue and not religious," in the words of António Moreira Antunes, the artist who drew it. Like the slogan on the Soviet May Day parade installation, the face of the Israeli prime minister must have signaled to the New York Times staff that the cartoon was about Israel and therefore political—anti-Zionist perhaps, but not anti-Semitic.
Yet the conventional wisdom on the left that anti-Zionism is easily distinguishable from anti-Semitism has run into some obvious practical difficulties in recent months as the Women's March, the U.K. Labour Party, Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, Marc Lamont Hill, and AJ+ Arabic, Al Jazeera's popular online platform, have all shown an inability to distinguish between what they consider to be anti-Zionist political positions and overt anti-Semitism.
So if anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are not the same, why is the left doing such a poor job of distinguishing between the two? How is it that the side of the political spectrum that makes anti-racism one of the central tenets of its platform repeatedly stumbles into espousing such vile hatred?
[Editor's note: This is an excerpt. To read the entire article, please click here.]