Anti-Zionism Is Anti-Semitism – HuffPost

Posted By on August 17, 2017

I spent the last week in Basel, Switzerland where in 1897 Theodor Herzl officially inaugurated the Zionist movement when he convened the First Zionist Congress. One of the first places I visited was the Three Kings Hotel. It was Herzls home while in Basel and I wanted to see the balcony from where he posed looking over the Rhine, ostensibly thinking about the millions of Jews suffering under pogroms in Europe and who would need the refuge he would describe in his manifesto, called (in German) Der Judenstaat or the Jewish State.

Herzls goal was unambiguous: it was to establish a Jewish state somewhere (the ancient Jewish homeland of Palestine, preferably, but elsewhere if Palestine was beyond reach) to which European Jews could escape to avoid the continuation or (as he correctly expected) the radical intensification of the physical attacks on Jews that was commonplace in Europe since the conversion of Europeans from paganism to Christianity. Although he could not have imagined the Holocaust, he anticipated it anyway.

His message to Jews was to get out of Europe before it was too late. But time ran out.

Of course, Herzls thesis was proven right. Had Jews managed to acquire a homeland in Palestine or East Africa or Latin America (the last two were Herzls proposed alternatives to Palestine), the slaughter of six million Jews might not have happened. But it did happen and the Jewish state of Israel was established as a response, in theory so it could never happen again.

Herzl never imagined the nakba (the displacement and expulsion of Palestinians) that occurred as a result of the Jews establishing their state in Palestine. Given his willingness to accept even a small part of Africa or Latin America as an alternative to Palestine, he never would have demanded for a Jewish state (he often spoke as a mere homeland in Palestine, not a state in all of it) as has been the goal of rightist Israeli prime ministers like Binyamin Netanyahu.

As for the transformation of Palestinians into second class citizens or occupied non-citizens, he was on record of favoring full equality as described in his futuristic novel Old New Land which envisioned a quasi-socialist homeland for all the people of Palestine. An assimilated and utterly non-religious Jew, he was appalled by Jewish exclusivity or claims to a special status as conferred by a God he did not believe in.

Herzl died in 1904 so he never saw the realization of his dream. Hence we have no way of knowing what he would think of Israel today. One thing that is clear: he would have opposed the occupation. He would have been so ecstatic that Israel existed within what we now call the pre-67 lines that he would have been repelled at the idea of jeopardizing that state in favor of pursuing some divinely inspired manifest destiny in the West Bank. Again, he was an assimilated non- (even anti-) religious Jew. He would cherish Tel Aviv and secular Israel, not Arab-inhabited West Bank lands because Jews walked there 3000 years ago. He wanted a refuge for Jews, not some place to worship rocks and ruins.

Zionism is not about holding the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem even if Netanyahu and the Israel lobby here want it to be. It is about Jews having sovereignty in a parcel of land where they can live in security and to which they can welcome future Jewish refugees if worst comes to worst again, an eventuality not hard to imagine in the era of Trump and the alt-right.

To argue that Jews are not entitled to that right is anti-semitic.

After all, why (especially given their history) are Jews the only people in the world who dont have it. I suppose opposing Zionism is not bigotry if one also opposes the rights of other stateless people, like the Palestinians and the Tibetans to a state or if one argues that no people really needs sovereignty.

But the very people who call themselves anti-Zionist are those who demand all of Israel and all of the occupied territories for the Palestinians. Anti-Zionists oppose even an inch of the land for Jewish sovereignty, while a sizable percentage of Israelis and their supporters favor sharing the land with the Palestinians.

After all, it was only in 1995 that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered for beginning the process of negotiating the dividing of the land between Israelis and Palestinians. Only the Jewish right favors Jews keeping all the land and they are quite rightly defined as rightists and bigots, the Jewish alt-right. Why doesnt the same opprobrium apply to those who proudly call themselves anti-Zionists and whose motto could be not one inch for the Jews. Add to that the animus toward Jews in general that emanate from websites that carry the anti-Zionist banner like Mondoweiss, the most prominent one. Its writers and editors continually blur the line between Zionists and Jews because, in modern parlance, there isnt one.

The bottom line is this. Calling out Israel for its policies (many of which are abominable) is legitimate and more than legitimate. It is right. Demand the end to the illegal, immoral occupation and every settlement. Boycott or dont boycott (BDS is NOT intrinsically anti-semitic). But stop attacking Zionists when you just mean Jews. After all, if you believe that every other people on the planet have the right to a place in the sun where they will not be persecuted, where their children are safe, but that Jews or Israelis dont, then you are an anti-semite. My only advice to you is to stop saying you oppose Zionism when what you really oppose are historys favorite scapegoat: the Jews.

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