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The other day, while attending the regular BDS protest in Adelaide’s CBD, I was informed by an Israeli sympathizer that I was a “f…ing leftist”. I find it quite ironic that a Christian person like myself, who regularly gets labelled as a conservative because of my Christian beliefs about Jesus, would get such a comment. I’m a person who doesn’t really like to be pigeon holed into the left or the right. I like to hear a person’s view point and try and evaluate what is being said on its own merits. The irony only increases when others see my criticism of Israel as evidence of some type of latent Nazism within. So what am I…right wing Nazi or left wing Nazi? Fortunately I don’t look to the supporters of Zionism to discover my identity. I know what I believe and why I believe it and I do it with a clear conscience. I have found that the vast majority of the supporters of Israel that I encounter here in Adelaide have absolutely no interest in finding out anything about why I support the cause of the Palestinian people. They simply want to take the easy way out and call me names and move on. I guess it takes all kinds.
The labeling of supporters of Palestinian rights to justice and self determination as being Nazis, by those of us who support the state of Israel, is an issue that is well know to Jewish people who can’t seem to find any justification for the policies of the Zionist state of Israel. A Jewish person who doesn’t get on the Zionist bandwagon is considered to be a self-hating Jew or a traitor. An Arab who doesn’t support the Palestinian cause is deemed a prophet. Have you ever heard the term “self hating Arab”? The pressure on Jewish people to support Israel is immense. Just ask Antony Loewenstein. Philip Weiss, of Mondoweiss website fame, posted the following insightful article on the phenomenon of Jewish criticism of Israel on 4/08/2011.
Rightwing Jew can call leftwing Jew a Nazi, but if leftwinger turns the tables, he’s an anti-Semite
by Philip Weiss on August 4, 2011
At DailyKos, Assaf relates a story about being smeared by an Israeli academic as a “Tsorer” [a term used traditionally for someone persecuting Jews with a genocidal intent] because of his advocacy for Israeli-soldier-refuseniks. Assaf says this is an example of the “bigotry by mainstream Jews against dissident Jews who challenge the “Israel good, Arabs bad” dogma.” And goes on, “In the mainstream Israeli (and older generation Disapora-Jewish) psyche there is a red line, usually referred to in Israel as a social-mental ‘Fence’, separating, supposedly, “legitimate” criticism and activism – but really demarcating tribal solidarity – from crossing over to become one of ‘them’”. And he adds that the charge of anti-Semitism is used, too: “Here are the rules of ‘Nazi Gotcha’, as far as I’ve managed to understand them:”
1. Anyone, at any time, can compare Israel’s current and past enemies to the Nazis – and we are even encouraged to do so.
2. No one, at no time, can compare Israel’s current or past actions to the Nazis. This is an immediate red card.
3. It is completely okay for Jews criticizing other Jews from the right to the left (e.g., the right criticizing the centre, the centre criticizing the left, etc.), to compare their criticism’s target to the Nazis. For example, in 1995 during the Oslo process a centre-right commentator said to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to his face on prime-time live broadcast, that he is a member of a “Judenrat Government”. That commentator, Tommy Lapid, later became a political star and even served under Sharon as a senior cabinet minister alongside Peres.
4. It is completely not okay, for Jews criticizing other Jews from the left towards the right, to use similar imagery. Never. Barring highly exceptional circumstances, this offense also carries an immediate and irrevocable red card.
5. In other cases, we will send the “jury” (composed always of centre and right nationalist Jews) out to deliberation, but in general if you are Jewish and not suspected of “anti-Israelism”, it is okay. For example, I don’t think Jerry Seinfeld paid any penalty for introducing the term “Soup Nazi” to English language and American pop-culture.
6. The meaning of a red card. If you were unfortunate to be issued a red card under rules 2, 4 and possibly 5 – then you are forever marked as someone “beyond the pale”, an “Antisemite”, a “self-hater”, or even worse. Pretty much nothing you will do can undo this verdict.
7. (almost) Finally…. any nationalist Jew is authorized to issue the red card to Jews on his left, or to non-Jews, upon witnessing an offense.
Would the real anti-Semites please stand up?
I define anti-Semitism as the belief that Jewish people are innately evil, inferior, corrupt or immoral in comparison to other people groups . Anti-Semitism is therefore one type of racist belief amongst many racist beliefs. This definition may not satisfy everyone, but is a good enough place to start.
Anti-Semitism is no lesser and no greater an evil than any other type of racism. To believe anything else would be racist in itself. To repudiate racism requires one to first accept that all forms of racism are equally abhorrent. Religious anti-Semitism is virtually always based in racial anti-Semitism. The whole question of whether or not being Jewish is a racial or religious identity has been dealt with elsewhere in this blog.There is absolutely no doubt that anti-Semitism has had a long history in the world and the fight against it must be continued and ever vigilant just as the fight against all forms of racism must be continued and ever vigilant.
Given this definition, I think the following questions are worth asking:
1) Can a Jewish person be anti-Semitic?
I guess it is possible for a Jewish person to be an anti-Semite, but such a person would be a very emotionally sick individual indeed! I would expect such a person to be generally quite disturbed and dysfunctional. Quite like the victims of childhood sexual abuse who are tormented by feelings of inadequacy and self loathing. Some gay friends of mine have been accused of being self hating homosexuals because of their strident criticism of the gay community. This is a very hurtful allegation and should not be thrown around arbitrarily.
The term, self hating Jew, is used very often by Zionists when describing Jewish people who advocate for the Palestinian people or who are overly critical of the Zionist state of Israel. Interestingly, I have never personally heard the term used by the Jewish opponents of Zionism when describing their critics. Zionists are described as oppressors, colonialists or racists, but seldom if ever referred to as self hating Jews or anti-Semites. While I think it quite possible that a Jewish person could be an anti-Semite, I feel that this tag has often been used as a convenient way to vilify Jewish people who do not accept the Zionist narrative of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It helps to perpetuates the myth of the virtual identical nature of Zionism and being Jewish.
2) Can a Zionist be anti-Semitic?
I think that most Zionists would tell you that it is virtually impossible for a Zionist to be an anti-Semite. This comes from what I see as their belief that they are the real Jews: the true spokespersons for the Jewish peoples true interests and survival. How else could they claim that Jews who do not subscribe to their ideology are anti-Semites and self hating Jews with such confidence?
I think that it is just as likely for a Zionist Jew to be a self hating Jew (if indeed such people exist) as it is for a non-Zionist or an anti-Zionist Jew. Sometimes I have heard extremely racist comments by Orthodox religious Jews (mostly by religious Zionists) regarding gentiles, but rarely have I heard them making comments that I would construe to be anti-Semitic. Zionist ideology is very much built upon the idea that Jewish integration or assimilation into the gentile world is impossible, hence the need for their own state. The reasons given for this inability to live amongst gentiles without persecution varies. Some may say it is because gentiles are by nature anti-Semitic. This belief seems to be racist in itself. It seems to imply that gentiles are basically inferior or less civilised than Jewish people. Some Jews may say that the inability of Jews to live safely with gentiles is a simple fact of history and read no more into it than that.
Zionisms rejection of Orthodox Torah Judaism, especially in its early years, is considered by many Orthodox religious Jews today to be fundamentally anti-Semitic.
3) Can a Christian Zionist be anti-Semitic?
Over the past few years I have definitely come to believe that Christian Zionists consider the state of Israel to be more important to them than it is for the Jewish people themselves. Having said that, you would think that their unconditional support of the Israeli state would put them on the least likely list of suspects for anti-Semitism. But you would be wrong. I have heard many Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews claim that Christian Zionist anti-Semitism is revealed in their theology, particularly their eschatology which is really the driving force for their understanding of the whole Israel-Palestine conflict.
Added to this is the whole notion of unconditional support for the Zionist state. I do not think that any one who would unconditionally support me in reality is acting as a true friend to me. Even my own parents never unconditionally supported me in life, and neither they should have. Unconditional love and unconditional support are clearly two different things. Would a parent be truly a good and loving parent if they were to support their child in their endeavors to rob, murder and steal if their son or daughter choice to go down those roads as many do? Of course not.
The so called unconditional support of Christian Zionists towards the state of Israel is loaded with self interest to say the least. Their support is entirely related to the convergence of their end goals with that of the Zionists i.e, for all Jews to live in Eretz Israel. If the Zionists had chosen to create a state any where else but Palestine, these Christians would probably revert back to the same type of religious anti-Semitism that has been common in Christian history for the past two thousand years. Even now many Christian Zionists believe that the Anti-Christ will be a Jew and that the vast majority of Jews will be hurled into the lake of fire upon Christ’s return to be tormented for all eternity.
Whereas Orthodox Judaism has understood the final return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel to be the ushering in of a great age of peace and Godly service of all humanity, Christian Zionists see it as bad news indeed for most of humanity and especially for the adherents of Torah Judaism.
4) Are Palestine solidarity activists anti-Semitic?
There is no doubt as well that there are Arabs, and non-Arabs, who oppose the state of Israel not so much because they are concerned for Palestinian rights to justice and self determination, but because they are anti-Semites. However, I must say that I personally have never met one Palestine solidarity activist that would fall into that category. Such people are quite easy to spot within the ranks of the solidarity movement when they do occur. This is simply because their criticism of the Israeli state is completely based on racial grounds and their contempt for Jewish people still remains even in the case of Jewish people who resist the Zionist narrative and stand up for Palestinian rights. They usually indulge in ridiculous conspiracy theories about Jewish world domination or even pseudo religious theories of demonic or satanic connections to the Talmud and Torah Judaism. The mere existence of the lunatic fringe in any movement (including Zionism) does not refute the basic validity of that movement.
I can say emphatically that the overwhelming majority of the Palestine solidarity movement abhors anti-Semitism and is motivated by the concern for the suffering and injustices that they see have been committed on the Palestinian people by the Zionist state of Israel. Anti-Zionists are no more anti-Semitic than anti-Communists are anti-Slavic or anti-apartheid activists are anti-Dutch. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine will not be stopped or justice be done by the ethnic cleansing of Israel. Justice in the Middle East will be justice for both people groups living together in equality and peace just as they did for centuries before the European colonialist ideology of Zionism took hold in the minds of many vulnerable Jewish people.
5) Does the Zionist understanding of how to fight against , or protect Jews from anti-Semitism cause and/or justify racism against those whom the Zionists perceive as being threats to Zionism?
A Jewish friend of mine, who grew up in Israel, once told me that she was taught as a child while she was in Israel that the Holocaust must never happen again…to us! (i.e. the Jewish people). It seems that the consensus was that the Jewish people must do whatever they must do to ensure their safety. Damage done to others in the process was of secondary importance at best. This destructive entitlement, is common in peoples who have been the victims of grave abuse and injustice (some Palestinians feel this way too) and is an attitude I have picked up in the language of many Zionists that I know. Being victims of the Holocaust simply does not give the Jewish people, or any people, a license to oppress and dispossess others. It may be argued that any security that is gained at the expense of others will indeed be temporary. It will not end anti-Semitism but probably only give more ammunition to the anti-Semites already in existence.
6) Do anti-Zionist Jews unwittingly help promote the cause of anti-Semitism?
Rather than promote anti-Semitism, I have found anti-Zionist Jews to be at the forefront of the fight against anti-Semitism. Many times have I heard of people who felt that they did not like Jewish people because of the oppression of the Israeli state towards the Palestinian people, change their minds about Jews when they discovered Jewish people who stood up for Palestinian rights in the face of a barrage of abuse by Zionist Jews. Zionism is a political ideology, not a racial or religious identity. To be anti-Zionist and Jewish takes immense courage and in my opinion reveals the real essence of being Jewish. To me, being Jewish is not really about ones lineage, but is about ones ethics and beliefs about human value.
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The ideological basis of Israel’s Ethnic Cleansing of Arabs in Palestine.
The root cause of the Israel-Palestine conflict lays squarely at the feet of Zionist colonialism and those European and western powers who have empowered and enabled the Zionist State of Israel to oppress the Arabs of Palestine. This oppression has provoked a people (previously enjoying good relations with Jews throughout the Arab world) to violence against the tyranny of the Zionist State of Israel. Unfortunately some Arabs have (in their despair and sense of powerlessness) resorted to acts of terrorism, just as the Zionists had done during the British Mandate period when they felt overwhelmed by those more powerful than them. However, the vast majority of Palestinian Arabs have resisted the Zionist State in a dignified and peaceful manner.
Though there were and still are many strains of Zionist thought, the one that has dominated in Israel has always been one that sought to dispossess the indigenous Arab population of Palestine in order for a Zionist (majority Jewish) state to exist in a land were Jews were not in the majority and had not been in the majority for some 1800 years. Zionism’s reaction to gentiles was based on their unshakable belief that integration or assimilation of Jews into a hostile gentile world was impossible. Just as the anti-Semites had believed, Zionists also espoused that Jews and non-Jews can not live together. Before 1945, the crime of ethnic cleansing was nowhere acknowledged as a crime and hence statements made by Zionist thinkers concerning Arabs were much more candid than any made by Zionists today. A list of just a few of the many statements made by Zionist thinkers (and European politicians complicit with them) regarding the ethnic cleansing of Palestine are given below.
1. Pamphlet by founder of socialist Zionism, Nahman Syrkin, says Palestine “must be evacuated for the Jews”. (1897)
2. The diaries of Theodore Herzl reveal Zionism’s intent towards the indigenous population of Palestine…
“We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the borders by procuring employment for them in the transit countries while denying any employment in our country. “(The Complete Diaries of Theodore Herzl, New York 1961, p. 88)
3. Israel Zangwill states Jews must drive out the Arabs or “grapple with the problem of a large alien population…” (1905)
4. One of Zionism’s most liberal thinkers, Leo Motzkin, said
“Our thought is that the colonization of Palestine has to go in two directions. Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel and the resettlement of the Arabs of Eretz Israel in areas outside the country. The transfer of so many Arabs may seem at first unacceptable economically, but is nonetheless practical. It does not require too much money to resettle a Palestinian village on another land” (1917)
5. Zionist Commission members at the Paris Peace Conference say “as many Arabs as possible should be persuaded to emigrate”. (1919)
6. Winston Churchill wrote “There are Jews, whom we are pledged to introduce into Palestine, and who take it for granted that the local population will be cleared out to suit their convenience.” (1919)
7. Stephen Sizer reports a disturbing letter, written in 1919 by Lord Balfour to Lord Curzon, showing the racism inherent in British attitudes towards Arabs:
“For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country…the Four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires or prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land… “(cited in Sizer, 2004, p. 60, 61).
8. Zionist leader Jabotinsky writes “…the Arabs must make room for the Jews in Eretz Israel. If it was possible to transfer the Baltic peoples, it is also possible to move the Palestinian Arabs.” (1939)
9. David Ben Gurion’s diaries show clearly Zionism’s desire for a Greater Israel with as little Arab presence as possible and how that might be obtained.
“The Jewish State now being offered to us is not the Zionist objective. Within this area it is not possible to solve the Jewish question. But it can serve as a decisive stage along the path to greater Zionist implementation. It will consolidate in Palestine, within the shortest possible time, the real Jewish force which will lead us to our historic goal.”
10. In private correspondence, Ben Gurion pushed the point even further.
“I have no doubt that our army will be among the world’s outstanding – and so I am certain that we won’t be constrained from settling in the rest of the country, whether out of accord and mutual understanding with the Arab neighbours or otherwise.”
11. Aharon Zisling, one time Minister of Agriculture in David Ben Gurion’s provisional government and member of the Haganah and participant in the founding of the Palmach, said:
“I do not deny our moral right to propose population transfer. There is no moral flaw to a proposal aimed at concentrating the development of national life;” (Finkelstein, 2003, p. 16).
12. On 17 November 1948 he told the Provisional State Council (the forerunner to the Knesset);
“I couldn’t sleep all night. I felt that things that were going on were hurting my soul, the soul of my family and all of us here (…) Now Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being has been shaken.”
(The expulsion of the Palestinians re-examined Le Monde Diplomatique, December 1997)
13. Moshe Dayan, Israeli General
“What cause have we to complain about their fierce hatred to us? For eight years now, they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived.” (Moshe Dayan, Israeli General, 1956)
Many more statements could be added. In 1919, at the Paris Peace Conference, the World Zionist Organisation put forth a map showing the land that they wanted for a Zionist state. Anyone looking at this map can see that no room has been made for an Arab state. The Zionists had no intention of sharing the land of Palestine with the Arabs and their continued illegal occupation and colonization of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza are indisputable legacies of this Zionist attitude towards non-Jews in the land of Palestine.
Sizer, S. (2004). Christian Zionism: Road-Map to Armageddon?
Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, Illinois.
Finkelstein. N. (2003). Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict. (second edition) Verso
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Zionism and Racism
It would be a mistake to assume that Zionism is encompassed fully by the teachings of the likes of Ben Gurion, Jabotinsky or Benjamin Netanyahu. I have discovered, over the years, a number of Zionist thinkers that proclaim a type of Zionism that I find far more reasonable than the Zionism that is evident in Israel today. The version of Zionism put forth by Brit Shalom, a political movement created in Palestine in 1925, sought a peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews, to be achieved by renunciation of the Zionist aim of creating a Jewish state. This alternative vision of Zionism was to create a centre for Jewish cultural life in Palestine placing great emphasis on the ethical and cultural traditions of Judaism while remaining secular in outlook as a whole. Brit Shalom, literally meaning “covenant of peace”, advocated the concept of a Jewish Homeland rather than a Zionist State, the latter explicitly requiring a Jewish majority in Israel. Martin Buber was an advocate of the ideology of Brit Shalom and Albert Einstein was known to be highly sympathetic to those same values.
Unfortunately the voices of Brit Shalom advocates were few in number and became drowned out by the cries for Israeli nationalism. Professor Yakov Rabkin tells us that:
“Among the many tendencies within Zionism, the one that has triumphed set out to reach four principle objectives: 1) to transform the transnational Jewish identity centred on the Torah into a national identity, like the ones then common in Europe; 2) to develop a new national vernacular based on biblical and rabbinical Hebrew; 3) to transfer the Jews from their counties of origin to Palestine; and 4) to establish political and economic control over the “new old land” if need be by force” (Rabkin, 2006, p. 5).
Uriel Zimmer, an Orthodox Jew and former United Nations reporter for several newspapers, states the ultimate goal of Zionism:
“The real aim of Zionism is the one stated innumerable times by the various Zionist thinkers and ideologists from its earliest conception until this day. From the essays of Achad Haam to the speeches of Ben Gurion, we can hear definitions of one goal, in various versions and phrases but with never-changing content:
TO CHANGE THE IDENTITY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE!” (Zimmer, 1961, p. 14)
Zimmer’s words echo the criticisms of Orthodox Jews against Zionism that are articulated by anti-Zionist religious Jews like those found at Neturei Karta. Jewish Orthodox intellectual, Yesayahu Leibowitz, has this to say about the historical concept of Jewish identity.
“The historical Jewish people was defined neither as a race, nor as a people of this country or that, or of this political system or that, nor as a people that speaks the same language, but as a people of Torah Judaism and of its commandments, as the people of a specific way of life, both on the spiritual and the practical plane, a way of life that expresses the acceptance of the yoke of the Torah and of its commandments. This consciousness exercised its effect from within the people. It formed its national essence; it maintained itself down through the generations and was able to preserve its identity irrespective of times or circumstances. The words spoken by Saadia Gaon more than 1,000 years ago, “Our nation exists only in the Torah” had not only a normative but an empirical meaning. They testified to an historical fact whose power could be felt up until the nineteenth century. It was then that the fracture, which has not ceased to widen with time, first occurred: the break between Jewishness and Judaism. The human group recognised today as the Jewish people is no longer defined, from the factual viewpoint, as the people of historical Judaism, whether in the consciousness of the majority off its members, or in that of the non-Jews. There indeed exists within this people a substantial number of persons who strive, individually or collectively, to live the Judaic way of life. But the majority of Jews – while sincerely conscious of their Jewishness – not only does not accept Judaism, but abhors it” (cited in Rabkin, 2006, p.35).
Zionism’s attempt to change Jewish identity struck fear in the hearts of the Orthodox for many reasons. Its seeming agreement with ideas about Jewish identity held to by anti-Semites was a major one. Rabkin says:
“Zionists and the anti-Semites saw eye to eye on three key issues: 1) the Jews were not a religious group but a distinct nation; 2) the Jews could never integrate in to the country in which they lived; and 3) the sole solution to the Jewish problem was for them to leave” (2006, p. 82).
The concept of a Jewish race is not taught in scripture and has not been the reality for Jews over the last 2,000 years. Being Jewish was fundamentally a religious, not racial, identity. Zionism sought to change that. Jews are now not defined so much by their acceptance of the Torah, but far more by their adherence to Zionism and Israeli nationalism. Being Jewish is not primarily about one’s religion, but about one’s support for secular nationalism in Israel.
Zionism is, in a sense, a capitulation to anti-Semitism. It recognises the ultimate separateness of Jews and non-Jews, just as the Nazis had believed.
For Zionists, anti-Semitism is an evil, but an evil that is absolute in its reality and can never be eradicated from the mentality of gentiles. As such, Jews must find a place to live that is separate and safe from the inevitable tide of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism has no ultimate cure according to the ideology of Zionism: integration or assimilation are impossible. Hence many have claimed that Zionism itself is deeply racist.
United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, adopted on November 10, 1975 by a vote of 72 to 35 (with 32 abstentions), “determined that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”. The resolution is often referenced in debates of Zionism and racism. Resolution 46/86 revoked the resolution on December 16, 1991. In the history of the UN, this is the only resolution that has ever been revoked. It was revoked as part of a deal to coax the Israelis back to the peace negotiations table.
Judaism as a faith embraces all peoples. The racist tag that Jewish people have had to wear over the past 60 years finds its origins far more in the ideology of Zionism than in the faith of Judaism which clearly reveals the Almighty’s concern for all peoples of the earth.
Rabkin, Y. (2006). A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition
to Zionism. Fernwood Publishing: Canada, Zed Books: London.
Zimmer, U. (1961). Torah-Judaism and the State of Israel. Jewish Post
Publications, London, England.
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