Socialist Worker

Does anti-Zionism mean anti-Semitism?

by Mike Rosen, author and broadcaster
Issue No. 1881

Zionists accuse anti-Zionists of being anti-Semitic. The reasons for this, they say, are (1) some anti-Zionists express anti-Semitic ideas, and (2) the very fact of denying the right of 'the Jews' to have a 'homeland' is anti-Semitic.

What is anti-Semitism?

'Street' anti-Semitism, in countries outside of Israel, is abuse and violence attacking people simply and only because they are Jews. Theoretical anti-Semitism claims that 'the Jews' are a race or nation conspiring to take over the institutions of finance, industry, the law, the arts or the media in order that they might run the world for the benefit of 'the Jews'. There are also forms of religious anti-Semitism that claim, for example, that the Jews killed Jesus Christ.

What is Zionism?

Zionism says that there is a homeland for all the people who call themselves Jews and that this homeland is in a place called Israel. Israel is and must be a Jewish state.

What is anti-Zionism?

Political anti-Zionism says that:

  1. People who call themselves Jews are so varied that it's absurd to talk of the Jews as a nation-therefore there is no one single 'Jewish homeland'.
  2. The words Jew, Israeli and Zionist do not mean the same thing. Jews may or may not be Zionists. Zionists may or may not be Jews. Israelis may or may not be Jews.
  3. The idea of a Jewish state, run solely by and for the benefit of Jews, is not 'self determination'-it's nationalist, colonialist and racist.
  4. Zionists have not freed 'the Jews'. All that's happened is that a tiny minority of the world's Jews-and indeed a tiny minority of the world's Zionists-run a country propped up by massive amounts of American money and arms in the interests of America. To do this, they have massacred and displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
  5. The Palestinians are right to resist Israel. The Israeli 'refuseniks' are right to refuse to fight the Palestinians.
  6. A solution can be found based at the very least on the old principles of 'liberty, equality and fraternity' for all peoples. Some anti-Zionists accept a two-state solution. Others advocate a single secular, democratic socialist republic achieved through popular resistance.
  7. It is not anti-Semitic to say any of these things, and a sizeable minority of Jews holds some or all of these views. To say that it is anti-Semitic is to try and gag criticism of Zionism with what has been one of the great liberal taboos since the time of the Holocaust.

Can anti-Zionism be anti-Semitic?

It is possible if the criticisms of Israel are part of an anti-Semitic outlook, for example, blaming 'the Jews' for what's happened in the Middle East when it is Zionists, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who've made the problem. To argue against there being a state run solely by and for Jews is not anti-Semitic. It is a classic anti-racist, multiculturalist view.

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Article information

Sat 13 Dec 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1881
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