Sometimes, It's Not About Israel
We spend a not-insignificant amount of time as a Jewish community discussing Israel. Especially in a post-1967 age, it's difficult not to. However, the centrality of Israel to modern Jewish culture has leaked into discussions of Jewish issues in non-Jewish spaces. Particularly in conversations about antisemitism, left- and right-wing non-Jews alike tend to use whataboutisms and bring up Israel in order to delegitimize Jewish struggle. Situations like this lead me to one conclusion:
It isn't always about Israel.
It may seem counterintuitive to disconnect Jewish issues form Israel. After all, Israel is home to 30% of the world's Jewish people and the country exists to safeguard Jewish populations at risk in the Diaspora. However, not every conversation about Judaism is tied to the nation in the Middle East. To put it in context, would it make sense to bring up Denmark every time a Lutheran Christian spoke? No, of course not, because a nation identifying with a religion doesn't mean it fully encompasses that religion.
This is not to discredit the obvious and inherent connection of Jewish people to both the land and state of Israel. Jewish roots in the land of Israel have been proven time and time again through archaeology, biology, genetics, and historical record. But the land is not our entire identity, and it is our duty to remind the world that there is so much more to the Jewish people than a place.
Oftentimes, when a content creator on social media stands up against antisemitism and hate speech, they are met with whataboutisms: "what about the IDF?" "What about the refugees?" "What about Israelis who are violent toward Palestinians in the West Bank?"
But who said anything about Israel? Why is it acceptable somehow to discredit an anti-hate movement with information about a different conflict?
Israel and the Jewish people are inextricably linked, but in certain ways, their issues are not. The issues of internal Israeli political corruption, for example, is not the fault of the Jewish community, but of the corrupt politicians themselves. The issues of violence between Israelis and Palestinians is not the fault of world Jewry, but of the individual wrongdoers and the system that enables them. Jewish people are not responsible for the actions of its worst individuals, just as any nation is not represented by single people but rather the population as a whole.
Again, this isn't to say that we shouldn't be correcting the aforementioned accusatory language as well. The rhetoric surrounding anti-Zionism and even certain criticisms of Israel can be dangerously antisemitic. However, it's important to call attention to the real reason antisemites bring up Israel when faced with a challenge about their antisemitism: they cannot or do not want to admit their own prejudice.
So if you are faced with backlash from a non-Jew insisting their out-of-context anti-Israel commentary isn't hateful at all, riddle them this:
If someone calls out antisemites and you act defensive, it's probably because you're antisemitic.