Originally published in the Autumn 2022 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 70, printed December 14. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Autumn 2022 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For other issues dating back to 2012, see the Full Issues page.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has a slick trick he uses to slip a moderate cover over a reactionary proposal. Like when he pounced on Terry McAuliffe when the Democrats’ 2021 gubernatorial candidate blurted out in a debate that, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Once in office, Youngkin moved to white- wash the way public schools teach U.S. history.

In a similar way, the second-string presidential candidate and sometime-governor has come out strongly against anti-Semitism, a critical issue as attacks on Jewish people in the United States reach an all-time high.

Youngkin’s Commission to Combat Antisemitism, which he created on his first day in office, has issued a report calling for, according to The Washington Post, “… a series of actions to combat antisemitism in Virginia, including increasing education in schools about the Holocaust and stepping up law enforcement against hate crimes.”

The Post also notes that Youngkin himself has “… faced criticism for hobnobbing with right-wing figures who have been accused of making antisemitic statements, such as former Maine governor Paul LePage, who once said that most of Democrats’ money comes from Jewish people. During last year’s campaign, Youngkin appeared on the radio show of Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump administration official with ties to antisemitic groups in his native Hungary.

So a spotty record, at best.

What’s dangerous about the commission’s report is what seems to be its equation of anti-Semitism, a dangerous racial and religious bigotry, with anti-Zionism, a political stance against a political movement. Among other recommendations, the commission calls for the governor to “… issue an executive order prohibiting colleges and universities from academic boycotts of foreign countries, except those classified as terrorist states.”

This is an obvious reference to the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign.

Israel, which regularly commits terrorist acts against Palestinians, is not classified as a terrorist state, at least by the U.S., which itself has a sordid history of terrorist attacks against other peoples. (See “Indigenous genocide,” “Trans-Atlantic slave trade” and “Hiroshima,” for starters.)

Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism.

The Jewish people have been around for thousands of years. Zionism is a new phenomenon, dating back to its founding as an organized movement in 1897 by Theodor Herzl, an Austro-Hungarian journalist, playwright, political activist and writer. Its original goal was to establish a homeland – not a country – for the Jewish people. Uganda was under consideration before the movement decided on Palestine.

The growth of Zionism caused real divisions within the Jewish community. There were fierce political battles between Zionists and leftists in progressive U.S. unions like the Furriers in New York City.

Today not all Zionists are Jews and not all Jews are Zionists. In fact, some of the most outspoken anti-Zionists are Israeli Jews, outraged over their government’s treatment of Palestinians.

But those who support Israel purposely blur the difference.

If being progressive means anything, it means opposing all forms of racism, including both anti-Semitism and Zionism.

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