A new report details how Islamophobia fuels conflations of criticism of Israel with antisemitism. We spoke with one of the report’s authors about the slanderous attempts to muzzle supporters of Palestinian rights.

An Israeli flag flies during the “March For Israel” at in Washington, DC, on November 14, 2023. (Noam Galai / Getty Images)

On Saturday, November 4, some three hundred thousand people marched in Washington, DC, in solidarity with Palestinians. It was the largest pro-Palestine march in US history, a heartening sign that the McCarthyite backlash to solidarity with Palestinians in the face of Israel’s ongoing onslaught on the besieged Gaza Strip has not accomplished its aims. Rather than cowing critics of Israel, which has killed more than twenty-two thousand Palestinians in Gaza, domestic repression has fueled commitment, a determination among many not to sit idly by as an entire people are slaughtered.

That’s not for a lack of effort from those hoping to muzzle Israel’s critics in the United States, which continues to provide funds and military assistance for Israel’s bombardment. Such geopolitical ties make silencing critics in the United States a priority for Israel’s supporters.

One of the key strategies for achieving that goal is the equating of anti-Zionism with antisemitism. This is particularly true when the source of such criticism is a Muslim, and especially, a Palestinian. As Palestine Legal staff attorney Dylan Saba told me of the ongoing repression against critics of Israel in the United States, “All of this repression is overwhelmingly targeted at Palestinians, Muslims, and other people of color. At Palestine Legal we’ve responded to thousands of these kinds of incidents since 2014, and the climate of racist backlash right now is orders of magnitude worse than anything we’ve ever seen.”

Into this environment comes “Presumptively Antisemitic: Islamophobic Tropes in Palestine-Israel Discourse,” a report by the Center for Security, Race and Rights (CSRR) at Rutgers Law School. Coauthored by Mitchell Plitnick, the president of ReThinking Foreign Policy, and Sahar Aziz, Rutgers Law School distinguished professor and CSRR’s founding director, the report looks at the role Islamophobia plays in conflations of criticism of Israel with antisemitism, what the authors describe as the presumption of antisemitism.

I spoke with Aziz, who is also the author of The Racial Muslim: When Racism Quashes Religious Freedom, about censorship on US college campuses, what the report calls “the Islamophobia network,” and what the Palestinian solidarity movement should take away from the authors’ research. The conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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