The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Why Israel Receives Such Disproportionate World Attention and Criticism

Israeli sovereignty and military power means Jews are refusing to play the role assigned to them by Christian, Marxist, and Islamic ideologies


Why does Israel attract so much attention and criticism relative to other states involved in much bloodier conflicts? For a long time, I was in the camp that it wasn't primarily related to antisemitism, but to leftist anticolonialist ideology, hatred of the U.S. by proxy, and so on. While such things are factors, I've changed my mind about the importance of the role that Israel as a state of the Jews plays in the attention Israel gets, and I wrote a blog post for the Times of Israel about it.

In short, people are fascinated by Jews, after two thousand years of exile and oppression, having sovereignty and wielding collective military power. Many people are enthralled by it, which accounts for some of the attention. But many more around the world, especially in the Christian and Muslim world, are repulsed by it, for reasons that are ultimately antisemitic.

The relevant antisemitism is rarely Nazi-like right-wing antisemitism. Rather, it's expecting Jews to behave in ways that conform to ideological expectations with roots in Christianity, Islam, and Marxism. As explained in the Times of Israel piece, the relevant ideologies have something in common, which is that they can't abide Jews having a sovereign, militarily powerful state in Israel.

One point worth I thought I would highlight here: while Israel-haters like to go on and on about Israeli "hasbara" (public diplomacy, less charitably interpreted as propaganda), the ideologies I discuss are products in large part of much more intensive state-sponsored antisemitic campaigns run over the decades by the Vatican, Czarist Russia, Nazi Germany, the USSR, and various Arab and Muslim states. The USSR's antisemitic propaganda campaign against Israel has had especially dramatic influence. Young leftists today repeat slogans from Soviet propaganda organs Izvestia and Pravda of fifty years ago without even being aware of their provenance.