There is a loud chorus of people who don’t simply disagree with some Israeli policies, they are against the entire principle of Zionism. Keith Ellison, the current Attorney General of Minnesota and former Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Council summed up this attitude when he said “Zionism, the ideological undergirding of Israel, is a debatable political philosophy.“
The objection to Zionism stems from a belief that global powers had no right to facilitate the movement of Jews to Palestine as they outlined in the 1920 San Remo Agreement and the 1922 Mandate of Palestine. The fact that Jews always moved to Israel at rates far surpassing non-Jews even during the Ottoman Empire period is actively ignored as besides the point.
The root of the Arab objection was that it was no longer a fellow Muslim entity (the Ottoman Empire) which ruled them in Palestine but Western powers. Christian nations decided they would enable the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” another non-Muslim group. Even though Jews historically lived in the land, considered the land holy and moved to the land during Ottoman rule, the local Arabs considered the non-Muslim efforts an assault on their way of life.
Consider the statement by President of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser in May 1967 as he readied to destroy Israel: “What is Israel? Israel today is the United States. The United States is the chief defender of Israel.” Muslim nations view the Jewish State as a foreign implant of western powers which continues to be supported by such foreigners (jihadists read ‘infidels’). It is an attitude that drives Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to demand an apology from Britain for the Balfour Declaration today.
That position manifests itself in two principal ways: hating the presence of Jews in Palestine, and protesting the sovereignty of the Jewish State of Israel.
The Presence of Jews
While Jews rapidly moved to Palestine under the Ottomans, they did so in even greater numbers under the British and then under the modern State of Israel. The influx of these people offended the Arabs who fought to curtail the immigration of Jews, even during the Holocaust as they were being wiped out in Europe, getting the British to institute the infamous 1939 White Paper. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem met with Adolf Hitler and many other Nazi leaders to make sure European Jews never made it to Palestine. Palestinian Arab efforts caused the deaths of over 100,000 Jews, many more than the total number of Arabs who died fighting Israel since the country’s founding.
When Israel declared itself an independent state in 1948, several Arab countries invaded with the stated goal of destroying it. After the Transjordanian army took over Judea and Samaria, it ethnically cleansed every Jew from the area and gave citizenship to everyone as long as they weren’t Jewish. During the nineteen years that the re-branded Jordan held the Old City of Jerusalem, it destroyed 56 of the 58 synagogues and wouldn’t allow any Jews to enter the city walls to pray at the Western Wall.
That Judenfrei sentiment remains. Those Jordanian Arabs are now called Palestinian Arabs in the renamed “West Bank.” The current head, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he “would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands,” calling to ethnically-cleanse Jews from the region once again. Palestinian law makes it a crime – either with a death sentence or life in prison – for selling land to Jews.
Today, many pro-Palestinians continue to argue that the mere presence of Jews is an affront to Palestinian pride. White House correspondent Helen Thomas said Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Poland, Germany, America and “everywhere else.” In October 2014, President Barack Obama’s spokesperson said the Obama administration condemns Jews who move into “residential buildings in the neighborhood of Silwan” because their “agenda provokes tensions.” This inversion blamed new Jewish neighbors for the anti-Semitism of the local Arabs.
The Sovereignty of a Jewish State
Some anti-Zionists are less triggered by the physical presence of Jews and more by the notion of a Jewish State. They object to a land which had a Muslim majority for a thousand years suddenly having a flag with a Jewish star and an anthem reflecting the yearning of Jews. Many Muslims regard this as a direct insult to Islam.
Shortly after the founding of Israel, the Muslim world routed almost all of its local Jews. Almost all Muslim countries still refuse to recognize the Jewish State over 70 years later. Other Islamic regimes are more aggressive such as Iran, which said that Israel is “cancerous tumor” (a dangerous foreign entity) that “will undoubtedly be uprooted and destroyed.”
The Palestinians are divided between those who want to see the Jewish State destroyed (HAMAS/Gaza) and those who won’t recognize it (Fatah/West Bank), like PA President Abbas who said “We will never recognize the Jewishness of the state of Israel.” The Palestinian objection to Jewish sovereignty is so ingrained that leadership would forgo establishing a new Palestinian Arab State if it also required recognizing Israel as a Jewish State. It begs the question of whether Palestinians truly are “desperate” for independence and sovereignty or to be rid of the Jewish State.
Many non-Muslim anti-Zionists hold common cause decrying Israel. While there may be dozens of Islamic states as well as religious Christian democracies like Denmark and Greece, Palestinian supporters shout absurd smears of “Jewish supremacy” and “apartheid” against the liberal country which has more rights for all of its citizens than any country within 1,000 miles.
Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism
People debate whether anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism in a more politically-acceptable form. As reviewed here, one needs to look at the nuances of anti-Zionism to reach the conclusion.
In the first instance – the people who do not want Jewish neighbors and would go so far as to support the genocide of the Jews in Europe – the answer is clear that they despise Jews. Palestinian Arabs are overwhelming anti-Semitic as further shown in recent ADL polls which show 93% of West Bank and Gaza Arabs hold anti-Jewish views.
Regarding the notion of Jewish sovereignty, it is true that the idea of creating a Jewish State 100 years ago may have been “debatable” to quote Ellison but Israel is a well established reality. The country is more stable, more democratic, more open and thriving compared to all of the countries which surround it. To call for the country’s destruction (as Iran does) or to call for boycotts and divestment only against this country for perceived short-comings is a poor double-standard which reeks of anti-Semitism.
The majority of Palestinians are complete anti-Zionists, objecting to both the presence of Jews and the sovereignty of Jews in the holy land. Most Muslim countries are less extreme and do not object to Jews living in Israel as long as they become a minority living under an Islamic flag. Other Muslim countries have normalized relations with the Jewish State, noting that the country is a wonderful trading partner and not going anywhere.
Outside of the Muslim world, liberal anti-Zionists believe that they are siding with the stateless Arab underdogs as part of their religion of empathy. However, they all-too-often adopt the anti-Semitic language and philosophy of anti-Zionism: seeking to minimize the presence of Jews in their ancestral and holy land, as well as to obliterate the only Jewish State.
Some anti-Zionists might object to these two categories and suggest they do not object to Jews as neighbors, just as invaders. That argument simply means they deny Jewish history which is also anti-Semitic. Others could protest that “Zionism is Racism” is a commonly held belief, as demonstrated at the 2001 Durban Conference to combat Racism. The reality is that there is a lot of systemic hatred, such as the reality that most of the world also considers homosexuality a crime which does not absolve the anti-LGBT sentiment, much as anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist laws do not wash the hateful stain. Anti-Semitism remains a large global problem in its many forms.
Thousands of years ago, it made sense to focus on the narrow strip of land that acted as a bridge between Africa and Europe / Asia, but no longer, in this larger, connected world.
The ongoing critical obsession on a country with 0.1% of the global population which is home to the most persecuted people in history which suffered both a genocide in the European continent and a mass expulsion from the Muslim Middle East / North Africa within the last century should raise immediate alarms. That the goal of much of the criticism of the Jewish State is to weaken it militarily and economically or even to destroy Jewish autonomy in their ancestral home and religious capital is terrifying, and must be combatted aggressively.
A person can be in favor of yet another Arab state to join the dozens of others without being an anti-Zionist. However, one cannot be an anti-Zionist without being an anti-Semite.
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