I am often reminded of Martin Luther King’s statement about anti-Zionism:
“You declare that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely anti-Zionist. And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops…When people criticize Zionism they mean Jew; we are talking anti-Semitism….Zionism is nothing less than the dream and ideal of the Jewish people returning to live in their own land… Anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic and ever will it be so. And what is anti-Zionist? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the globe. It is discrimination against Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it is anti-Semitism.”
Late last year, Israeli author A.B Yehoshua observed: “Instead of attacking Jews they are attacking Zionism, and this is the way because you cannot attack Jews anymore openly.”
Anti-Zionism gives old fashion anti-Semitic intent a sheen of civilised discourse, but people of good conscience should not be deceived or intimidated to deal with it or let down their guard. As they say, the devil is in the details. Principally, anti-Zionism is an accurate reflection of unbridled street level anti-Judaism feeding on anti-Semitic myths that in turn nurture the battle against the existence of Israel. Obviously, it’s easier to disseminate age-old anti-Jewish feeling cloaked as anti-Zionism. But in no way should Anti-Zionism serve as a convenient cover, a euphemism, a loophole for those spewing and fomenting anti-Semitic slander.
For the record, not every criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. No one wants to stifle a free, honest and open debate on all sides. It’s all about the pitch the criticism reaches. Moreover, there’s no problem with champions of the Palestinian cause who dissent and use industrial strength criticism to make a point about the specific policy of the Israeli government. As long as they recognise Israel’s right to exist, do not deny individual Jews self-determination and the right to live and do not seek Israel’s destruction because it is “a racist entity’ guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity” (NGO declaration before Durban).
To wit, who can forget the blatantly hypocritical circus of the Durban conference where a considerable number of nations insisted that every reference to Anti-Semitism be linked with the racist practices of Zionism” while simultaneously arguing that Zionism was a movement based on racist supremacy akin to apartheid.
It has been noted that the line is crossed when Israel is imbued with known antisemitic stereotypes, when Israelis and Jews are compared to Nazis and blamed for worldwide disasters (the Mel Gibson syndrome), when they are singled out and attacked in a disproportionate manner, and when Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is questioned.
For Gabriel Schoenfeld, editor of Commentary, anti-Semitism is “the right and the only word for an anti-Zionism so one-sided, so eager to indict Israel while exculpating Israel's adversaries, so shamefully adroit in the use of moral double standards, so quick to issue false and baseless accusations, and so disposed to invert the language of the Holocaust and to paint Israelis and Jews as evil incarnate.” In a similar vein, Ruth Wisse reveals that, “Contemporary Anti-Zionism has absorbed all the stereotypes and foundational texts of fascist and Soviet anti-Semitism and applied them to the Middle East.” Swedish statesman Per Ahlmark wisely doubts that anyone would believe this declaration, “I am against the existence of Great Britain, but I’m not anti-British.”
History has shown us that rarely has there been anti-Zionism without anti-Semitism. Dr King named the lie, saw that anti-Zionism is often used to mask the face of anti-Semitism and so do I. Take Resolution 3379 (Zionism=racism), a strategy to de-legitimatise Israel’s right to exist. Arab Historian Bernard Lewis has written that the insidious resolution was chosen as the best stand in for a vicious anti-Semitic campaign by Soviet and Arab Ideological goals. Once accepted, it erased the taboo against publicly expressing anti-Semitic sentiments in the wake of the Holocaust. And as then US Ambassador to the UN Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan recalled in his book A Dangerous Place, the shameless resolution was not only aimed against Israel but also against world Jewry. Intellectual William F. Buckley observed at the time that the UN had become “The most concentrated gathering of anti-Semitism since the days of Hitler’s Germany” while Lionel Trilling maintained that with this legal travesty the ghost of Hitler haunted the halls of the UN.
Recognising the interdependence of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, the US Senate passed a resolution condemning the vote as an encouragement of Anti-Semitism as did the Australian Parliament. In 1991, President Bush in an address to the UN assembly, stated, “Zionism is not a policy, it is the idea that led to the creation of a home for the Jewish people in the state of Israel…To equate Zionism with racism is to reject Israel itself, a member in good standing of the UN.” Even the Vatican, in its document The Church and Racism of the Holy See’s Council acknowledged that, “Anti-Zionism…serves at times as a screen for anti-Semitism feeding on it and leading to it.” (part II, no. 15).
Consider that anti-Zionism is the first type of Jew hatred to deny that it hates Jews. Today, those who hate Jews and who fan the flames of bigotry call themselves anti-Zionists, seeking new modes of packaging their virulent ideology and knowing that “if one tells the same lies long enough” as Goebbles stated, “people will begin to believe them”. Yet, it is beyond dispute that throughout the world, classical anti-Semitism is being dressed us as anti-Zionism, a more respectable, but no less poisonous and vile, type of hate.
There is hard and fast evidence that all too often anti-Semitic figures brand themselves anti-Zionists. Consider Kwawe Ture. When speaking on American campuses, the Black Nationalist figure’s favourite punchline is “The only good Zionist is a dead Zionist.” Ture asserts he is not anti-Semitic, merely anti-Zionist although he heads the AAPRP, one of the most radical anti-Semitic groups on the left, tells audiences that Jews dominated the slave trade and that Zionists collaborated with the Nazis to create the Holocaust. Clearly, animosity towards Zionism by high profile hate mongers is always bonded to smearing against Judaism. Robert Wistrich remembers an interview with Valery Emelianov a leading member of the ultra right wing Russian group Pamyat in which Elianov kept using the word Zionists where it was plain it was a transparent codeword for Jews, also repeatedly employing the term “Jewish Nazis”. And what about Syrian Defence Minister Mustafa Tlas and his 1983 book The Matza of Zion, a blood libel clocked as insight into Zionist behaviour and intention. One could also add the Peronist congressman in Argentina who classified Zionism as device for taking over Latin America and the Court in Crete that ruled in 1984 that Jehovah’s Witnesses are part of a Zionist conspiracy to rule the world as prime examples.
Even left-wing icon and peace activist Israeli author A. B Yehoshua has recognied the anti-Zionism agenda. In March last years he observed: "Instead of attacking Jews they are attacking Zionism, and this is the way because you cannot attack Jews anymore openly." Let us also recall that that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran spoke at anti-Zionism conference when he infamously spoke about wiping Israel off the map.
The establishment of a Jewish state has not erased anti-Semitism. There is still a need for a demonized scapegoat and Israel itself has become the world’s Jew, its favorite scapegoat. Anti-Zionism is an ingenious way to defame Israel and the Jewish people. And for that very reason, anti-Zionism should not lose its seat on the bus of political correctness that protects certain groups; it should never be made acceptable, tolerated, ignored or hushed up.