One hundred forty-two years after the first modern settlement of Jews in the Land of Israel was founded at Petah Tikvah (recollecting, of course, the Four Holy Cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias and Tsfat to which Jews emigrated and dwelled for many hundreds of years); 124 years after Theodor Herzl convened the First Zionist Congress; 120 years after the founding of the Jewish National Fund; 101 years after the San Remo conference decided that Great Britain would be the Mandate power charged to reconstitute the Jewish National Homeland in Palestine, a decision ratified by all 50 members of the League of Nations in 1922; and 73 years after the establishment of the Jewish State of Israel – after all this, anti-Zionists are still at work.
Armed with the instruments of social media platforms and capitalizing on the current radical atmosphere, they regurgitate, rehash, and spin decades-old positions that are as wrong now as they were then. Using new language and twisted semantics, they clothe their misguided reasoning and logic in contra Zion campaigns that are both irrational and mind-boggling fatuous.
They write letters of protest to major newspapers beginning with the words “I am a Jew” or “as a Jew” or even, as in the case of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, “as Jewish supporters of the State of Israel.” Shrewdly offering these declarations as credentials for criticizing the Jewish State, they then contribute op-eds and columns proclaiming they no longer believe in a Jewish State. They get into such an angry frenzy at Israel’s legitimate actions that they recite Kaddish for dead Hamas terrorists. They wrongly and purposefully redefine terms like “apartheid” so they can accuse Israel of doing what it doesn’t do.
They insist they are acting as good, loyal and authentic Jews, as did Gabriel Schubiner, the Google software engineer who launched an open letter calling for both Google and Amazon to end the Project Nimbus contract that involved Israel. He insisted he did what he did “as a Jew,” adding, “I do recognize the privilege that comes with my identity.” They fume. They smolder. They are beside themselves. They exploit any and every essential Jewish symbol, text or ritual by turning it on its head.
Consider the Jewish Voice for Peace organization. This past November, they publicized their event “Hanukkah Against Apartheid,” asking people to “celebrate Hanukkah this year building a radical, loving, anti-Zionist Jewish movement for liberation.” Explaining their emptying out of the holiday’s element as a war of national liberation from the occupying Greeks, they declared, “Here, in diaspora, we can recognize the ‘Temple’ as what we are building together: Judaism beyond Zionism. The Temple is where we practice our treasured values of justice, freedom, and equality; it is this practice that sanctifies the Temple.” One could presume to be comforted that at least, unlike the original Reform approach of Abraham Geiger, the Temple is not done away with altogether.
Some adopt the ideological trappings of secular socialistic neo-Bundism, one of the failed political movements of the previous century, while others assume a fanatical religious outlook predicated on a misreading of the Talmud. Others simply turn Judaism into an ethical philosophy to avoid any theological arguments. They will block entrances to offices of organizations supporting Israel and, pridefully, will seek to sabotage Israel-linked programs and join Arab BDS activities.
The recent “Statement on Israel/Palestine” by Scholars of Jewish Studies and Israel Studies uses terms accusing Israel of engaging in “state violence” against Hamas. It defines Zionism as “ethnonationalist” and “settler colonial” systems of “Jewish supremacy” that have led to the “segregation” of “Palestinians.” Moreover, “by virtue of the work [they] do, [they] hold it imperative to listen to, amplify, and support our Palestinian and other colleagues whose scholarship details aspects of these histories and link Palestinians within Israel/Palestine to a broader Palestinian diaspora.” In other words, by redefining objective academic standards by virtue of being “Palestinian,” the signatories assume a responsibility to “amplify and support” scholarship that undermines Jewish national history.
Despite, or perhaps because of their ignorance, they never seem satisfied with simply avoiding comments of any kind. In days past, Jews assimilated, converted or simply disappeared. Today, many of Zion’s opponents opportunistically reclaim their “Jewish identity” to legitimize their opposition to the Zionist idea and to denounce, castigate and suggest ways to punish Israel.
The pre-state Jewish community and State of Israel overcame a thirty-year terror campaign that began in Jerusalem with the 1920 Passover Riots (and has never really abated). England, which had reneged on its international commitments, then was forced to uphold the Mandate to the UN. Israel went on to overcome invading Arab armies in 1948. It successfully thwarted the continuing terror of the Fedayeen and the PLO in its first two decades, won the 1967 war and the Yom Kippur war, the Lebanon campaigns, and endured two intifada’s as well. Israel proved itself to be resilient.
Despite relentless security threats, Israel has absorbed thousands of immigrants, its economy is remarkable. It is a leader in providing assistance to other countries in times of need and a beacon of democracy. Israel’s scientific, medical, technological and environmental discoveries and innovations have made life easier for nations around the world, including even its sworn enemies, the Arabs of Palestine. Its humanitarian teams travel across the globe to save lives. Yet none of this moves the anti-Zionists nor persuades them to grudgingly admit that Israel is a positive force for mankind.
While Zionism sought to solve the problem of Jew-hatred, those who hate Jews continue to persecute them, rejecting the idea that they have a right to protect themselves by reasserting their national identity in their historic national territory. The antisemites have not given up, and dangerously there are Jews who align themselves with these Jew-haters. These Jews – Diasporic Supremacists – willingly assist this hatred while ignoring the ramifications for the Jews in Israel, the Jews in their own communities and, eventually, for themselves.
Zionism has never lacked opponents. Yet the efforts of the past few decades and the “intellectual” anti-Zionist support provided by Tony Judt, Peter Beinart and Shlomo Sand, to highlight a few, along with Jewish Voice for Peace, T’ruah, Na’amod and IfNotNow, have reached new nadirs. It is as if they actively seek to be engaged in an extended alternate universe, endlessly suspending all reality. The American-Israeli historian Gil Troy observed, after President Isaac Herzog’s determined visit to Hebron for Hanukkah this year, that “It is depressing to watch some Jews embrace every claim Palestinians make while ignoring basic historical truths, lest they dare help the Jews. Peace will never be achieved by denying our ties – that’s mere surrender.”
They adopt the most outlandish, false and immoral claims. While they may not intentionally seek to “love dead Jews,” their policies and actions inexorably lead to that conclusion. They reject being labeled as “antisemitic” or “self-hating Jews,” yet the inescapable presumption would seem to be they surely do not love the seven million Jews living in Israel, and more specifically, the more than 700,000 Jews they refer to as “settler-colonialists.”
In “Zion and Communism,” an article the Zionist thinker Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote in 1932, he stated that communism is anti-nationalist and therefore its adherents need be anti-Zionist. Furthermore, they must attack Jews, for they are the weakest point of all national movements. The article dealt with a student who appealed to Jabotinsky that while he doesn’t fully reject Zionism, he does seek to serve a new social order. Jabotinsky suggested to him he was mixing up “convictions” and “ideals” and suffered from a “problem of internal conscience.” He added, “[I]deals do not tolerate any competition.” Jabotinsky did not see a need to negate the young man’s Jewishness, however.
It would not be unreasonable to see the parallel in his words to the contemporary anti-Zionism to which it has aligned itself ever since the August 1967 SNCC attack on Israel. That statement defined Zionism as “a worldwide nationalistic Jewish movement…[that] created the ‘State of Israel’ by sending Jewish immigrants from Europe into Palestine (the heart of the Arab world) to take over land and homes belonging to the Arabs”. It followed the previous month’s 71-page onslaught on Israel by Maxime Rodinson, the Jewish second-generation Marxist, as being a settler-colonialist state.
Rodinson later attempted to tone down his criticism, stating that in Israel “a new nationality or ethnic group with a culture of its own now exists there, and not a religious community … nor a heterogeneous collection of gangs of occupiers who could be sent back where they came from with the greatest of ease.” Nevertheless, his conceptual thinking was adopted and entered the canon of anti-Zionist literature, legitimizing the usage of “apartheid,” “white privilege,” and worse.
Consider how Smadar Lavie and Forest Rouse concocted a make-believe reality back in 1993 that would comply with their Marxist outlook: “The Zionist leadership had to invent an Israeli national tradition … [Zionists] had to rupture the European textual continuity of their victimized diasporic Jewish past and create a new fictionalized continuity of bold Jewish experience qua text in the biblical promised land ….” Had to invent?
But there was an internal contradiction in their positions. While fundamentally denying Jews the right to a national existence and only one state, preferring a global order rather than a national one, they seek to award to an Arab multitude (who until Zionism came along were Southern Syrians by their own definition) a state to join the other two dozen Arab countries. They cry foul at a crime, as it were, of “occupation” while the illegal Jordan occupation of 1948-1967, which effectively denied those Arabs of Mandate Palestine their state, was ignored. It is only when Jews are involved that they become bothered and restless.
What they ignore is that if it were not for Zionism, the world would likely never have heard of a “Palestinian people.” Anti-Zionists today possess no pangs of conscience and there is no distinction between their convictions and ideals, as their violent antagonistic passion, in words and protests illustrates. The leading academic feminist, Phyllis Chesler, insists that Zionism was, and still is, the liberation movement of the most maligned and persecuted people on Earth, and that anti-Zionism is synonymous with racism and Jew-hatred.
If Caroline B. Glick’s observation, that “progressive Jews would rather defend progressive anti-Semites than defend the Jews against progressive anti-Semites,” is largely true, it would indicate that these Jews have sought to throw in their lot with non-Jews who seek the death of their fellow Jews. This is similar to what Marc Thiessen noted about critical race theory, since anti-Zionism “rejects reason, it cannot be questioned.” Like Arab assertions over the past century about Jews, Zionism and Israel, logic for anti-Zionists doesn’t matter. Rationality is unimportant and facts are irrelevant. Jewish so-called “immorality” in “constructing settlements” cannot be compared to Arab terror, as the latter is perceived as legitimate “resistance.” And that “resistance” then comes to university campuses and student fraternities, and then to synagogues and to all other visible Jewish targets.
The real danger in their ideological position, their perversion of Judaism and their debilitating political action campaigns is in their determination to cause physical, economic and diplomatic damage to the Jewish state. Indeed, as we witness on college campuses in America and Europe, even debating halls have become arenas of contretemps, not only with verbal shutdowns but physical altercations. In situations such as that witnessed in the United Kingdom, when the Labor politician Jeremy Corbyn gains power and standing, it became a frightening prospect.
Consider the Tzipi Hotovely affair, when demonstrators were urged to harm Israel’s Ambassador to Great Britain by “smashing in her car window” upon leaving the London School of Economics following her presentation. Tommer Spence, a founder of Na’amod (and a representative of Jewish students on the Board of Deputies of British Jews) was quite clear in a Haaretz op-ed about his intent to obfuscate: “[to suggest] individual acts [such as threats of violence or intimidation], in their own right…that they alone constitute antisemitism, simply because she is an Israeli government official, is both tenuous and harmful, given that one of the core messages of antisemitism education is that Jews and the State of Israel are distinct rather than interchangeable.”
Spence is wrong in underplaying Jew-hatred within the framework of the Arab conflict with Jews in the Middle East. Indeed, less than two weeks later, a bus carrying Chabad adherents coming to celebrate Chanukah at Oxford Street, London, were attacked by Moslems. Antisemitism isn’t a minor element of Palestinian nationalism. It is its backbone, from the Mufti to Abbas. This has been well documented, by popular blogger ElderofZiyon, Palestinian Media Watch and countless academics. Ignoring this aspect by those opposed to Israel is willful blindness to the true essence of Palestinianism.
In Jewish history, there have been those who left and disappeared. There have been those who assimilated and those who became apostates. And there were those who having converted, sought to serve their new masters by actively engaging in the persecution of Jews, whether the Church or the Communist Party and its Yevsektzia or editors of literary periodicals.
Daphna Kaufman has formulated the current overarching phenomenon of what she sees as an “erasing” of Jewish narratives, identity, and agency as categorizing Jews “within a ‘white oppressor’ category.” This seeks to “de-exceptionalize” the Jewish experience within progressive politics. In times past, the Talmud was denounced in France, Jews were handed over to the Inquisition, and synagogues were turned into clubhouses. Yeshivot and chedarim were closed in Russia by Yevsektsiya activists, who believed that religion was a main force preventing the spread of Soviet ideology. When trials of theology were conducted in Aragon, Jews were in the forefront of the attack on Judaism. Zionism now has become the target of their zealotry. Today, we witness a reformulation of former practices of apostasy from centuries past.
A particular concern has been the linkage with intersectionality, wherein all forms of oppression are seen to constitute an intersecting system. Popular terms and memes that are false and misleading – such as “Israel is an apartheid state,” a “colonial project” lacking “indigenous sovereignty” – are adopted. On display is “a strange, selective animus against the Jewish State.” The idea that Jews are a people and a nation is not a new Zionist idea. On the contrary, the idea that Jews are only a religion and no more is a brand new anti-Zionist idea, created specifically to disconnect Jews from their ancient homeland.
Especially since the 2001 Durban hate fest, Palestinianism has weaponized Israel against the Jewish people. Indeed, it is more than just anti-Zionism. As David Wurmser has noted, Peter Beinart specifically, and by extension, almost all the angst-ridden Jewish anti-Zionists, are engaged in “a broad and dangerous assault on the State of Israel, Judaism, and Judeo-Christian values.”
They relate to the so-called “Palestinians” only “as an extension of a narcissistic, anguished struggle within Judaism to seek meaning and morality.” The Arabs who are referred to as “Palestinians” only serve as bystanders in an “act[ing] out” of their own internal Jewish debate, as “not real, but invented tools for a narcissistic existentialist exercise in the meaning of life (meaning of Judaism).” Dr. Einat Wilf suggests that Zionism, in challenging Diaspora Jews to protect, promote and return to an ancient homeland, confront them with values that are Jewishly unique. That uniqueness, it appears, makes some Jews uneasy. Judea Pearl coined the term “Zionophobia”.
The current situation is a potent mixture of the ignorance of the anti-Zionists and those non-Jews they play up to, and their presumption that they are not ignorant but are simply parroting inanities. As the poetess Louise Glück wrote in her 2006 volume Averno, “ignorance cannot will knowledge. Ignorance wills something imagined, which it believes exists.” Avi Shilon provided an example of this ignorance when he related that at New York University, when he discussed the place of the Holocaust in Israeli society, a student said that the very idea of being preoccupied with the Holocaust is white privilege.
The fact is that there are Jews who denude the essence not only of Jewish nationhood but of Judaism as well. They deny its history and its covenantal-community character. They seek to isolate its social and political values. They campaign to have Jews abandon genuine cultural frameworks, replacing them with external hostile paradigms. Their manipulation of the instrument of intersectionality has among other things, set Blacks against Jews, such as the JVP’s Deadly Exchange campaign. It has contributed to the cowering of Jewish students in dorms. This is quite astounding, given the direct threat of Judeophobic violence.
They do not hate themselves but rather love themselves so much that they assume they can alter definitions and amend practices and modify beliefs. Thus, millennia-old Jewish ideas, concepts and customs are distorted by progressive anti-Zionist Jews and with the assistance of those non-Jews they view as allies. They seek to dismantle Judaism and resurrect a new form of Jewishness. They do not hate themselves, but they hate their Jewish brethren. As Isaac Babel wrote in Red Cavalry, “they are trying to live without enemies.” Perhaps anti-Zionism has evolved into a new proto-Christo-messianism: no more a Jewish nation, no more a unique religious community. But they bring no true good-will and, to echo Matthew 10:34, they are not intending peace but a sword.
Their alliance with the progressives, the Islamist Palestinianism and the radical Black forces has launched a new crusade on Jews and Israel. The infiltration over the past few decades of the media, diplomatic circles, academia, governmental institutions and bodies of political representation has resulted in a powerful force providing support and mediation for suppression of independent Jewish thought. Their acceptance of Pallywood presentations is pitiful. What has been described by the CUNY Alliance for Inclusion (CAFI) as their “ahistorical chant of ‘apartheid, genocide, war crimes’” is no longer a dispute over ideas and opinions. Rather, it is intended to physically harm Jews in the context of the Arab conflict with Israel, and to harm Zionism. To quote Shakespeare: “[We] are in great danger. The greater therefore should our courage be.” (Henry V, IV, 1).