The Overlapping of Fools? Drawing the Line between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in the Wake of the 2014 Gaza Protests

29 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2015 Last revised: 21 Apr 2015

See all articles by Robert Kahn

Robert Kahn

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)

Date Written: April 15, 2015


The goal of this paper is to provide a framework for analyzing the relationship between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Is anti-Zionism always anti-Semitic? Are the two ideas always distinct categories? Or does the extent of the overlap between the two concepts depend on the circumstances in which the speech or action takes place? To examine this issue, I look at the protests in Europe against Israel’s attack on Gaza and (to a lesser extent) the January 2015 attack in the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris.

In the paper I reject the absolutist positions that anti-Zionism is either intrinsically anti-Semitic, or simply a canard used to undermine the Palestine solidarity movement. Instead, one should focus three factors to determine whether an anti-Zionist speech or action is also anti-Semitic: i) location - an attack on a synagogue is more likely to be anti-Semitic than an attack on an Israeli embassy; ii) the presence of classic anti-Semitic tropes - a statement about a world Zionist conspiracy, or Zionist greed, is likely anti-Semitic; and iii) the target of boycotts and discrimination - boycotting Israeli products is not necessarily anti-Semitic; boycotting kosher products likely is.

My goal is not to deny the presence of anti-Semitism in the Palestine solidarity movement, or the wave of anti-Semitism that has engulfed Europe over the past year. These things exist. But their existence makes it all the more important to carefully distinguish between anti-Zionist feelings (just or not) directed at Israel, and anti-Semitism. This is all the more important given the convergence of interests European Muslims and Jews have on a variety of issues including circumcision and ritual slaughter bans.

Keywords: Anti-Zionism, Anti-Semitism, Palestine, Paris grocery attack, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement, Hate Speech

Suggested Citation

Kahn, Robert, The Overlapping of Fools? Drawing the Line between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in the Wake of the 2014 Gaza Protests (April 15, 2015). U of St. Thomas (Minnesota) Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-11, Available at SSRN: or

Robert Kahn (Contact Author)

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota) ( email )

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Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States

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