I began by noting that there appears to be a strong correlation between anti-Israel rhetoric and a rise in anti-Semitism. That is to say, take any country or geographic region or institution which focuses aggressive anti-Israel criticism, and it doesn't take too much longer before we see a rise in generic anti-Semitic acts. Europe, for example, has seen a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents over the last few years. The Arab world generally crossed the line from political anti-Israel to full bore looney anti-Semitism long ago. Venezuela has seen a dramatic rise in attacks on the the native Jewish population during Chavez's regime -- in which anti-Israel/anti-Zionist rhetoric was a mainstay of policy.
But then I thought further, we see this in the U.S. The rise in anti-Islamic attacks correlates fairly strongly with the focus on al-Qeda. Same thing with attacks on Latinos and the rise of the immigration issue.
In fact, the pattern repeats itself in most places where I can find data. Focus on a particular issue involving a subgroup of a clearly identified race or ethnicity and you see a rise in attacks on people of the associated race or ethnicity even when they have nothing whatsoever to do with the subject. Latinos who have lived in this country for 3 generations find themselves verbally and physically assaulted as 'illegals' and 'Mexicans.' American Muslims find themselves viewed with suspicion and are openly challenged to prove their loyalty. And Jewish institutions find themselves festooned with swastikas and targeted by would-be terrorists.
The correlation and relationship is far more complex than simply causative. But it is not simple coincidence either. It is not that anti-Semitism is the sole (or even primary) motivator of criticism of Israel, or that racism is the only reason one would oppose immigration reform. But the high correlation over time is one reason why the target communities themselves react very differently than the surrounding population.
What astonishes me is that most people seem surprised by the correlation, even though it is quite broadly applicable. This includes members of the target community, who tend to view the problem as unique to their own ethnicity/religion/distinguishing characteristic. i.e., it is obvious that those critical of Israel are anti-Semitic but absurd to think that those opposing immigration reform are racist, and vice versa.
The next reaction is defensive "Are you saying we can never criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic/ oppose immigration reform without being racist/ believe we need better security against al-Qeda without being anti-Moslem?" Obviously not. But it is just as ridiculous to ignore the correlation that when you target a particular group with identifying characteristics along race, ethnicity, religion or gender, nuances are going to get lost and incidence of overall hostility will rise. This will have impact on the target population in the splatter zone (or, as others would say, they get all defensive and sensitive and stuff).
The sad reality is there is no happy answer. Life is annoyingly complicated that way.