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Don’t dismiss Zionism

This article is over 5 years, 8 months old
Issue 2619
Its right to criticise Israel-on a demo in May this year
It’s right to criticise Israel—on a demo in May this year (Pic: Alisdare Hickson/Flickr)

Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of antisemitism for saying a group of Zionists—people who support Israel’s founding ideology—didn’t understand “English irony”.

His opponents immediately claimed he meant the Zionists didn’t “belong” in England, and that his comments betrayed an attitude that treats Jewish people in general as outsiders.

Corbyn was talking about a group of Zionists who frequently disrupt pro-Palestinian events.After they harangued Palestinian ambassador Manuel Hassassian, Corbyn suggested that they—native English speakers—hadn’t grasped the meaning of something non-native English speaker Hassassian said.


It’s a big stretch to claim he was talking about all Jewish people, or even all Zionists. So the argument became that, by talking about Zionism, Corbyn had attacked some aspect of Jewishness.

But Zionism is not intrinsic to Jewishness—it’s intrinsic to Israel. It is a political ideology that has justified the expulsion and oppression of Palestinians.

Many Jews aren’t Zionists.

Some supporters of the Palestinians now think it would be safer to talk about Israel’s crimes without mentioning Zionism.

Yet it would be impossible to explain the cause of Palestinian oppression, or Israel’s behaviour, without talking about the Zionist ideology that underpins it.

That’s exactly what those defending Israel want.

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