In his first month on the job, February 2019, the new Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism quickly defined his top priority: policing the world based on a far-right, Israel-centric definition of anti-Semitism. And in the months since, he has escalated his extremist actions.
Carrâs State Department bio indicates that he served on the National Council of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), was a voting member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and was the international president of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi; all are committed to Israel.
It appears that Carrâs mother is an Israeli citizen;Â It is unknown whether Carr himself also has Israeli citizenship. The Times of Israel reports: âCarr has described casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who backed his unsuccessful political runs, as a âclose personal friend.’â (For more on Adelson see this, this, and this.)
Carr hit the ground running in his new position, declaring at the annual Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem that âthere is no distinctionâ between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, and promising, âI will work to eradicate the attempted distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.â
He elaborated during a visit to a Jewish student group at UC Berkeley:Â âZionism isnât an extrinsic feature of Judaism; Itâs an essential part of Judaism, a central tenetâ of the culture and religion.
Many Jews disagree with Carrâs claim, and have done so for decades, including authors Alfred Lilienthal and Rabbi Elmer Berger and the American Council on Judaism in the 1940s.
The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs identifies the birth of Zionism as 1897, with the call for a Jewish home in historic Palestine. Its modern origin contradicts Carrâs assertion that the ideology is an intrinsic component of Judaism.
In an interview with the Times of Israel, Carr described what he claims is the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism: âMy goodness, itâs become almost accepted to publicly talk about how detestable the State of Israel is and how detestable Zionism is. Itâs the unthinkable, but itâs become common,â he said.
Carr includes the boycott, divest, and sanctions (BDS) movement as a type of anti-Semitism:Â âThe idea that Israel should be singled out forâŠboycotts [and] demonization is anti-Semitism. An obsessive hatred of the Jewish state is nothing more than an obsessive hate for the Jewish people.â
Carr expressed the claim that the anti-Zionism he sees today is a denial of the alleged Jewish right to a homeland and to the practice of their faith:
There is a greater rise in new antisemitism that clothes itself as anti-Zionism. The antisemitism of the European street, of the college campus and of those that have embraced the notion that the Jewish people donât have a right to their homeland.
Zionism wasnât born in 1948 or with (Theodor) Herzl or with the First Zionist Congress . Zionism started withÂ Parshat Lech-LechaÂ (the Torah portion on Godâs call in Genesis to Abraham to settle the land of Israel), with Moses and on the banks of the river of Babylon.
Carr intimates that critics of Israel do not believe in the Jewish right to a homeland because they are Jews. This oversimplification ignores crucial objections to the creation of that homeland, especially the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to make room for a population that was Jewish.
Carrâs suggestion that Israelâs existence is based on Scripture has been called âthe founding myth of Zionismâ; Yossi Gurvitz (like others before him) recently debunked the theory using historical fact. Even for those who stand behind a âliteralâ interpretation of the Bible, a Jewish exclusive right to the land is problematic at the very least.
While the Anti-Defamation League says that right-wing extremism was behind nearly every hate-related killing in 2018, Carr said that anti-Semitic hate can come from both the left and the right, and announced: âI intend to fight anti-Semitism in all its forms, regardless of the ideological clothing in which it dresses itself.â
Carr insists that the US is unique in its readiness to fight anti-Semitism and support Zionism:
The United States is the most philo-Semitic country in perhaps history and this president is the most philo-Semitic president weâve ever had. He loves the Jewish community, he supports the Jewish community and he is overtly, unabashedly pro-Israel in every way one could imagine.
Ironically, while the Trump administration has catered to the pro-Israel contingent, many analysts adamantly insist that the President is rabidly anti-Semitic. (The fact that the Trump administration delayed appointing an antisemitism envoy for two years had also been cited as evidence of Trumpâs alleged anti-Semitism.)
While Jews almost universally see anti-Semitism as a problem, many vehemently disagree with Carrâs depiction of Israel as âan essential part of Judaism, a central tenet.â
Likewise, a large number dispute his statement that âthere is no distinctionâ between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
Elan Carr frames his objection to anti-Zionism as rejection of Jewsâ rights to a homeland where they can observe their faith in its land of origin; those who oppose Zionism do not necessarily dispute the right of Jews to live and worship in historic Palestine.
Rather, anti-Zionists criticize the exclusivist ideology that includes harsh, racist beliefs and practices.
Jeff Halper, a Jewish activist living in Israel, wrote, âRegardless of Zionismâs claim to have begun as a genuine national movement, [it became an]âŠunacceptable and unsustainable settler colonial enterprise.â
The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network describes its opposition:
Zionism perpetuates Jewish exceptionalism. In defense of its crimes, Zionism tells a version of Jewish history that is disconnected from the history and experiences of other people. It promotes the narrative that the Nazi holocaust is exceptional in human history â despite it being one of many holocausts from Native Americans North and South to Armenia and Rwanda. It sets Jews apart from the victims and survivors of other genocides instead of uniting us with them.
The moment when the Zionist movement decided to build a Jewish State in Palestine, it became a movement of conquest. Like the imperial conquest and genocidal ideologies of the Americas or Africa, Zionism depends on the segregation of people and the confiscation of land that produces ethnic cleansing and depends on unrelenting military violence.
so demeans and dismisses and conflates Palestinian lives, that after a horrendous casualty rate in massive demonstrations at the Gaza borderÂ [a government spokesman said of] the men, women, children and elderly protesters camped Â âAll 30,000 are legitimate targets.â
An Ethiopian-Israeli writes of Israelâs policy that seeks to deport 37,000 Jewish Eritrean and Sudanese refugees (which Israel calls âinfiltratorsâ) back to Africa âout of fear of the âAfricanization of Israel.â
Of the 37,000, the Jewish State recognized just ten Eritreans and 1 Sudanese as refugees in eight years. (According to Human Rights Watch, the EU has an acceptance rate of 90% for Eritreans and 60% for Sudanese.)
Jewish Israeli academic Ilan PappĂ© points out,
A society that endorses a 40-year occupation of another people cannot be a liberal one. A society that discriminates against 20 percent of its population because they are not Jews cannot be described as progressive. The problem in Israel is not the role of religion or tradition; it is the role of Zionism, a very clear ideology of exclusion, racism and expulsion.
Detailed analyses by two experts recently documented the fact that Israelâs system constitutes apartheid.
Orthodox Rabbi Joseph Hayyim Sonnenfeld of Brisk wrote in 1898 that Zionists have âasserted their view that the whole difference and distinction between Israel and the nations lies in nationalism, blood and race, and that the faith and the religion are superfluous.â
One Hasidic branch of Judaism that originated in Israel, Neturei Karta, states: âThe Zionist movement created the Israeli state. The latter is a persuasion less than one hundred years old. Its essential goal was and is to change the nature of the Jewish people from that of a religious entity to a political movement.â
TheÂ Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-SemitismÂ is a part of the Office of Religion and Global Affairs (S/RGA) under the USÂ Department of State. It was created during the George W. Bush administration by the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 over the objections of the State Department, and has been part of an ongoing, long-term campaign to redefine anti-semitism to include criticisms of Israel.Â
In his position as special envoy, Carr has attended a number of conferences on âcombating antisemitismâ that work to embed the new definition of anti-semitism in institutions around the world.
At an October conference in Munich sponsored by the World Jewish Congress, CarrÂ said thatÂ âevery law enforcement office and every prosecutorial agencyâ must âforce everybody who has even a hint of antisemitism to undergo a tolerance program.â
This month, Carr delineated his belief that anti-Semitism comes from three distinct sources: right-wing white supremacists and neo-Nazis; âradical Islamistsâ; and left-wingers who demonize and delegitimize Israel. All of them, he said, must be addressed: âWhen you leave two-thirds of a tumor untreated or even one-third of a tumor untreated, the patient doesnât do well,â he said.
Carr also indicated that it is not enough to combat all forms of hatred â anti-Semitism, he claimed, is a special case âin terms of its relentlessness, its ubiquity, and destructive power.â Carrâs statement belies the fact of Jewish prosperity: according to Pew research, Jewish Americans constitute the wealthiest religious group in the U.S.
When asked how best to combat anti-Semitism in the US, he listed several Trump initiatives as part of the administrationâs âfight against anti-Semitismâ: moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing Israelâs sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority.
It is unclear how any of these actions â each of which has drawn loud criticism from the international community and Jewish groups in the US â actually fight anti-Semitism.
Carr also pointed to the Department of Education decision to define Jewishness as a ârace or national origin,â not just a religion. This puts Jewish students under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, protecting them from discrimination on campus.
Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA-30) called the move âa milestone in an eight-year effort to protect Jewish college students from anti-Semitism masquerading as legitimate criticism of the Israeli government,â but experts worry that the shift will enable the silencing of Palestine advocacy on college campuses.
President Trump signed an executive order to the same effect this week, with Carr speaking at the event. While the order was officially entitled âcombating anti-Semitism,â in reality it largely focused on combating criticism of Israel.
Kathryn Shihadah is staff writer for If Americans Knew. She blogs atÂ Palestine Home.Â