FRESH AIR

“Anti-Zionism” is illegitimate and immoral regardless of whether or not it is antisemitic

Mar 12, 2024 | Oved Lobel

(image: Shutterstock/Syndi Pilar)
(image: Shutterstock/Syndi Pilar)

Ever since the multifarious Zionist movement arose in Europe in the nineteenth century, it has been accompanied by its opposite: anti-Zionism. These critiques of Zionism came from within Jewish communities as well as from outside and spanned the political and religious spectrum.

However, “Zionism” ceased to be the same concept once the movement had achieved its sole purpose in 1948; namely, the establishment of a Jewish State in Mandatory Palestine, which became a United Nations member state one year later. By definition, then, anti-Zionism ceased to be a relevant political position in 1949 and all previous historical, religious and ideological arguments against Zionism became academic. Today, Zionism simply means supporting the continued existence of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people, while anti-Zionism means the opposite – that is, calling for ending its existence.

The decades-long claim of anti-Israel activists that anti-Zionism isn’t antisemitism has been addressed at length by experts on the latter in countless books, articles and reports. In most, though not all, cases, it is false. But this is almost beside the point.

Even if one were to believe that anti-Zionism is never antisemitic, anti-Zionism would still be fundamentally illegitimate, immoral and extreme as a political stance. The Jewish State of Israel has existed for 75 years, about three generations, as an internationally recognised fact. To be an “anti-Zionist” now means advocating the destruction of a long-established UN member state and, intentionally or not, the death, expulsion or subjugation of all of its Jewish citizens.

So-called anti-Zionists occasionally draw a parallel between their anti-Israel activism and the anti-Apartheid fight in South Africa, but anti-Apartheid activists did not call for the destruction of South Africa, only for enfranchisement of its majority population and equality.

Nor are there any parallels between anti-Israel activism and the 20th-century decolonisation movements across the world, as these did not aim for the destruction of their respective metropoles, only for their own independence. The independence movements for Algeria and Vietnam did not call for the destruction of France; the independence movement for Indonesia did not call for the destruction of the Netherlands; the independence movement for India did not call for the destruction of the UK; and the independence movement for Angola did not call for the destruction of Portugal.

There is, in fact, only one recent parallel to anti-Zionism, and that is the imperial Russian attitude towards Ukraine, which sparked Moscow’s invasion in 2014 and a renewed genocidal push in 2022 to erase what Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has long asserted was a fake country and ethnicity.

Putin has made false, conspiratorial and irrelevant contentions about artificial nations and borders – almost all modern nations and borders are artificial, reflecting the 19th and 20th-century results of contemporaneous European ideas and the collapse of regional and global empires – which are constantly echoed in anti-Zionist tirades against Israel’s existence.

Outside Israel and Ukraine – and perhaps erstwhile Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s effort to annex Kuwait in 1990 – what other countries are the subject of arguments that they should be eradicated?

Unlike Russia’s campaign against Ukraine’s existence, however, the anti-Zionist movement to destroy Israel is global and immensely popular. In that sense, it is unique in world affairs and domestic politics.

There are plenty of arguments to be had over Israeli policies and actions – including regarding the demands, aspirations and rights of Palestinians – but Israel, like Ukraine, exists. Both are UN member states. Calling for the destruction of a UN member state – and that’s all “anti-Zionism” is – should never be a legitimate nor morally defensible position. Espousing such a cause, aside from being completely anathema to the post-war international order per se, necessarily entails the death and displacement of millions, even if its advocates seek to deny or ignore the consequences of what they are advocating.

And Jews would not be the only victims of the anti-Zionist program. The current humanitarian crisis in Gaza is a direct consequence of the most popular strain of anti-Zionism, represented in Gaza by Hamas and its sister terrorist organisations and championed by much of the Arab and Islamic world globally, all of whom talk about undoing “75 years of occupation.”

This type of anti-Zionism is predicated on the false notion that if the Jews are killed and terrorised in requisite numbers, the survivors – all of whom it is widely but falsely believed in these circles are foreigners and dual citizens – will flee Israel to their alleged country or countries of origin. The mass slaughter and kidnapping on October 7 was explicitly part of this strategy.

As Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh stated in his speech on October 7, addressing all Jews in Israel, “Get out of our sight… We no longer wish to see you on this land. This land is ours, [Jerusalem] is ours, everything is ours. You are strangers in this pure and blessed land. There is no place or safety for you.”

Senior Hamas official and co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar declared in 2017 that “removing the Jews from the land they occupied in 1948 is an immutable principle.” Nizar Rayyan, another Hamas leader assassinated in 2009, said in 2005, “We do not distinguish between what was occupied in the 1940s and what was occupied in the 1960s. Our Jihad continues, and we still have a long way to go. We will continue until the very last usurper is driven out of our land.”

Anti-Zionists are vague about what precisely would happen to the 7 million or so Jews in the event of a Muslim victory, but Arab and Muslim anti-Zionists are generally quite clear that former Mandatory Palestine must be cleansed of their presence by one means or another.

Western anti-Zionists often deny that this is what they are seeking, insisting they only want to replace Israel with a “Palestine” in which all residents, including Jews, will have equal rights. They are either being deliberately deceptive or deceiving themselves; there is no real-world path to such an outcome that does not involve mass violence and displacement.

On top of the many moral and historical problems with this worldview – such as its foundation that Jews are the only people in the world whose self-determination, granted more than 75 years ago, must be revoked – there are numerous, obvious real-world flaws in both the “ethnic cleansing” and “state for all its citizens” versions of the anti-Zionist program. Collectively, these combine to make anti-Zionism a recipe for the suffering, death and displacement of both Arabs and Jews.

With regard to the “ethnic cleansing” version, only about 20% or less of Israel’s population of more than 9 million people have a second passport; most have been solely Israeli for generations. Moreover, no country would be willing to take in millions of Jewish refugees. Finally, and most importantly, Jews are deeply attached to Israel and will resolutely and, for the aforementioned reasons, desperately defend the existence of the state.

Meanwhile, proponents of the “state for all its citizens” version ignore not only the fact that Israelis will never agree to their discriminatory program for Jews to be the one and only people in the world whose self-determination must be taken away from them – no country, and particularly none with as strong a national identity as Israel, surrounded by a genocidal population, would willingly and suicidally dissolve itself so its population could become a minority – but also the reality that the “ethnic cleansing” version of anti-Zionism dominates the Palestinian national movement.

It is absurd to suggest that Israel’s Jews should be happy to accept a new status and identity as a minority in an Arab-majority State of Palestine, but it is even more absurd to suggest all the Arab residents of that new state would then happily treat those Jews as fellow “Palestinians”, with full and equal rights.

Both Hamas and the PLO have always argued that any Jewish presence in the land is invalid and illegal and Israeli Jews are all foreign colonists, and they have taught generations of Palestinians as much. They have also incited against Jews to such a degree that surveys – focused on traditional antisemitic beliefs, not Israel or Zionism – clearly show that Palestinians are the most antisemitic people in the world.

Furthermore, how does this superficially less violent strain of anti-Zionism expect to impose its program not only on Israelis – who have no reason to dissolve their legally recognised, long-standing and successful state – but on Palestinians, as well, only 8% of whom support a single “democratic” state with rights for Jews?

Of course, no democracy is on offer. The choices are between the theocratic terrorist dictatorship of Hamas and the autocratic thugocracy of the Palestinian Authority. Incidentally, if Palestinian presidential elections were held today between Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the former would win with 78% of the vote.

Finally, there is the Palestinian “right of return”, universally embraced by Palestinians despite being legally baseless, which says that all of the more than 5 million descendants of the 700,000 refugees from the 1948 war have a right to not only “return” to Israel in violation of its sovereignty, but to the exact towns, neighbourhoods, villages and houses from which their ancestors fled.

Obviously, this would displace any Jews who now live in those towns, neighbourhoods, villages and houses today, and may have done so for generations. This in itself would amount to mass displacement, and given the Arab attitudes noted above, would likely be accompanied by extensive violence.

The more these anti-Zionists pursue their strategies, the more people will die or be displaced in Israel’s defensive wars, most of whom, incidentally, will be Arabs. Indeed, the entire Palestinian predicament for most of the last century is the direct result of anti-Zionism, not of Zionism. What’s happening in Gaza is but a taste of the logic of anti-Zionism, which calls for total war on Israel’s existence. When you wage total war on someone’s existence, they will fight back as fiercely as they must.

In the end, all forms of anti-Zionism amount to calling for the violent death and displacement of not only Jews, but Arabs in the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon, as well. The Jews are not going to dissolve their state and will use overwhelming and destructive force to defend it, as any people in a similar situation would.

Some Western “anti-Zionists” may simply be too naïve or ignorant to understand that such mass death and displacement are built into their cause, just as many idealistic Marxists in the 20th century did not understand that totalitarianism, violent expansionism and vast human rights violations were inherent to Communism in practice. Naivete and ignorance, however, do not excuse anti-Zionist advocacy, with all its morally indefensible implications, regardless of whether or not one believes it to be antisemitic.

RELATED ARTICLES


(Credit: Shutterstock)

Emboldened Iran is still seeking nuclear capacity

Apr 18, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR, In the media
Large anti-Israel protest in Washington, DC, in October. No other issue turns out so many protestors so consistently and globally (image: Shutterstock/ Volodymyr Tverdokhlib)

Where is everybody when Israel isn’t involved?

Apr 15, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR
A destroyed section of Al-Shifa Hospital (image: screenshot)

The tragic history of Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital

Apr 10, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR
Crocus City Hall Sign After Attack

What recent ISKP attacks reveal about US, Russian and Iranian intelligence agencies

Mar 27, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR
Aid trucks at the Kerem Shalom crossing (Image: Shutterstock)

Contrary to news stories, aid is getting to north Gazans without UNRWA’s help

Mar 26, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR
Screenshot 2024 03 15 At 6.19.20 pm

Four Corners “Forever War” episode reflected the endless crusade of its creator, John Lyons

Mar 15, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR

SIGN UP FOR AIJAC EMAILS

RECENT POSTS

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Emboldened Iran is still seeking nuclear capacity

Ma60tyfA

Move to recognise Palestine comes at the worst possible time

Screenshot 2024 04 16 At 3.14.28 Pm

‘Flipping of the narrative’: Israel ‘depicted as victim’ after Iranian attack – Ran Porat on France 24 television

Large anti-Israel protest in Washington, DC, in October. No other issue turns out so many protestors so consistently and globally (image: Shutterstock/ Volodymyr Tverdokhlib)

Where is everybody when Israel isn’t involved?

Image: Shutterstock

AIJAC calls on Government to join coordinated international efforts against Iran in wake of attacks on Israel

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Emboldened Iran is still seeking nuclear capacity

Ma60tyfA

Move to recognise Palestine comes at the worst possible time

Screenshot 2024 04 16 At 3.14.28 Pm

‘Flipping of the narrative’: Israel ‘depicted as victim’ after Iranian attack – Ran Porat on France 24 television

Large anti-Israel protest in Washington, DC, in October. No other issue turns out so many protestors so consistently and globally (image: Shutterstock/ Volodymyr Tverdokhlib)

Where is everybody when Israel isn’t involved?

Image: Shutterstock

AIJAC calls on Government to join coordinated international efforts against Iran in wake of attacks on Israel

SORT BY TOPICS