an open letter to anti-Zionist Jews


I want you to know that I am coming from a place of genuine care and concern. Not care and concern for you — I don’t know you and you don’t know me, and surely you don’t need condescending platitudes from me — but care and concern for the health and future of the Jewish People. 

I hope that you will at least take 10 minutes to read this with an open mind. 

I have dedicated the past three years of my life to teaching and researching Jewish history, at great personal cost. But I do it because I believe that it’s important and empowering for us to know our history through the eyes of our ancestors, not through the eyes of our oppressors. That’s the main motivator that drives my work. 



Definitions are really important. A challenge we come up against time and time again when we engage in debates about Zionism is that more often than not, both sides are not talking about the same thing. One side opposes “Zionism,” which, in their heads, means one thing, while the other side supports “Zionism,” which, in their head, means another thing. We get nowhere this way. We need to first come to an agreement about what exactly we are talking about; otherwise we are just missing each other in our discussion.

Scholars who have dedicated their entire lives to studying how propaganda works have noticed one thing: propagandists keep terms loose or undefined; in other words, vagueness is a telltale sign of propaganda. When concepts are vague or loosely defined, they are essentially rendered meaningless. 

For the sake of this letter, I am defining “Zionism” as it was defined in the First Zionist Congress: “Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Eretz ­Israel [the Land of Israel] secured under public law.”

This is what I’m talking about here, in this letter. Nothing more and nothing less. 



Were you brainwashed in Hebrew school? Were you fed propaganda? I know that I was never taught the uglier sides of Israeli history. I wish my parents had been more honest with me. I wish I had been trusted enough to understand that history can be really messy and ugly and complicated.

But you are not immune to brainwashing just because you’ve been brainwashed before. So I want to share something with you.

From its inception, the Soviet Union was hostile to Zionism, much like it was hostile to all forms of minority nationalisms that threatened Soviet homogeneity across the region of the former Russian Empire. This hostility, however, ramped up significantly in the aftermath of World War II. But they made little effort to disguise the fact that their hostility to Zionism was, for all intents and purposes, just hostility to Jews by a different name.

In the 1960s, Soviet propaganda (such as newspapers) made blatantly antisemitic claims, including: “The character of the Jewish religion serves the political aims of the Zionists,” “Zionism is inextricable from Judaism, rooted in the idea of the exclusiveness of the Jewish People,” and claims that Israel was merely a means to an end of Jewish imperialism and world domination.

To strengthen their sphere of influence over Arab and African nations, the Soviets launched a covert operation against Israel, named Sionistskiye Gosudarstva, meaning “Zionist Governments.” According to KGB chairman Yuri Andropov (1967-1982), “We had only to keep repeating our themes—that the United States and Israel were ‘fascist, imperial-Zionist countries’ bankrolled by rich Jews.’”

Võ Nguyên Giáp was a Vietnamese general, communist politician, and advisor to Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization until 2004. Frustrated by the lack of success of the Palestinian cause, in the 1960s, Arafat heeded the advice of Giáp: “…stop talking about annihilating Israel and instead turn your [Arafat’s] terror war into a struggle for human rights.”

Today the majority of the news that comes out of the Middle East comes from Al Jazeera, which is quite literally owned by the Qatari royal family — the biggest financial benefactors to Palestinian terror groups. This is not impartial reporting.

Is it possible that maybe, just maybe, you’re being brainwashed again? Just a thought.



And it’s not colonialism. How could it be? These prayers are thousands of years old.

Our legal and historic claim to Israel is not some religious fantasy. It’s rooted in thousands of years of historical record and archeological, genetic, and linguistic evidence. Your parents may have lied to you about other things, and they may have sugarcoated things, but this is not one of them. Our ethnogenesis — the development and formation of an ethnic group — took place in the Land of Israel. We come from the Land of Israel. Foreign empires forcibly displaced us from the Land of Israel. And for thousands of years our ancestors yearned to return to the Land of Israel. This yearning was not hypothetical or metaphorical. In every generation, for thousands of years, the Jewish People attempted to regain sovereignty in the land of our ancestors. We were unsuccessful, but we tried.

To deny this is, quite frankly, outright historic revisionism.

Your entire life you’ve heard us describe Jewish communities outside of Israel as the “Diaspora” — a word that was invented for us — and you’ve heard fellow Jews describe themselves as “Members of the Tribe.” You think that was Zionist propaganda, too? That we’ve been calling ourselves these things for thousands of years for a conflict that’s not even a hundred years old?

You think we feel entitled to Israel because we have a fictitious divine mandate from a God that may or may not exist? That’s what antisemites — I’m talking literal white supremacists — say about us. What bigots say has zero bearing on our actual historical and cultural relationship to the land. I don’t know why you’re allowing them to dictate what your identity is or isn’t.



I’ve never seen mental gymnastics quite like that of anti-Zionist Jews who, when confronted with fact, resort to name-calling, insults, and straw man arguments. You always, always come to the same conclusion: somehow, no matter what, it must be the Jews’ fault. Sounds a bit like antisemitism, huh? Is this self-flagellation a trauma response? I don’t know. I don’t know why you act the way that you do.

You oppose colonialism and imperialism? Then why do you make excuses for Arab colonialism, which destroyed nearly every Indigenous minority in the Middle East? Why do you parrot Soviet propaganda, word for word, when the Soviet Union was one of the largest empires in history?

You support Iranian women? So why do you justify the murder of Israelis at the hands of the exact same people tormenting Iranian women? You think the use of child soldiers is abhorrent? Then why do cheer on “resistance” groups that recruit children as fighters? You believe in science? Then why do you refuse to accept the fact that the Jewish People became a people in the Land of Israel? You despise historical revisionism? So why do you revise Jewish history to fit your agenda?You want to punch a Nazi? Then why do you deny the well-recorded historical fact that the early Palestinian nationalists were deeply entrenched with Nazi Germany? Why do you forgive Nazi rhetoric when it comes with a Palestinian flag on the side? (No, I’m not saying Palestinians are Nazis. Don’t put words in my mouth).

You support Land Back? But not for Jews because…why, exactly? Because most of us were gone too long? Would you revoke your support for Land Back for other Indigenous groups in a couple hundred years? Will you say, “Sorry, you’ve been colonized and/or displaced for too long. The colonizers win. No more Land Back for you”? You victim blame Israeli “settlers” when they are murdered. But you actually live on stolen land, don’t you? What would you say if someone that you love was mowed down by a car? Would you say, “Well, they were a settler”? Probably not, huh?

You think the Jews who were gone too long are no longer Indigenous to the land, but the Jews who were never displaced from the Land of Israel — its indisputably Indigenous population — always considered all of us members of the same tribe and yearned for our return. Who are you to tell them who is or isn’t a member of the land’s Indigenous nation?



So did most left wing Israelis. But every time Israel took steps to end the occupation, it was met with more and more violence. The Oslo Accords, during which Palestinians were given political autonomy for the first time in history, were met with a five-year-long suicide bombing campaign, 80 percent of it targeting civilians, a war crime under international law. In 2005 Israel pulled out all of its military and civilians out of the Gaza Strip. Palestinians destroyed the infrastructure Israel left behind and the Strip became a launching pad for missiles aimed at Israeli civilian centers. Also a war crime. So what’s actually going on? 

I think my friend Sam Hyde said it best: “In truth, occupations aren’t birthed out of nowhere and they have never caused war; instead, occupations are the result of war.”

I think the occupation is inflammatory. But it’s not the source of the problem. It’s the outcome of the problem. It’s easier for me, and for you, probably, to think that in ending the occupation, the conflict will come to a peaceful resolution. If ending the occupation is the issue, then we, as a Jewish community, can do something about it. But the problem is that the occupation is not the issue, and thus ending the problem is out of our control. It’s safer to think that we have control over things. But we don’t. 

Let me be blunt: the root of the problem is, that after 1300 years of subjugating Jews, Arabs in Palestine refused to accept Jews with any semblance of autonomy in the Holy Land. In 1937, the British asked Haj Amin Al Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and leader of the Arab Higher Committee, should there be a “one state solution,” if Palestinian Arabs would be willing to absorb the 400,000 Jews already living in Palestine. And he said: “No. Some of them would have to be removed by a process kindly or painful, as the case may be.”

In 1939, the British offered the Arabs a majority Arab, non-partitioned Palestinian state. In other words: the British offered the Arabs precisely what they wanted. The Arabs rejected the proposal. Between 1945-1947, the British proposed a number of “one state solutions” to the Arabs. All were rejected. So then the United Nations voted in favor of partitioning the territory. And the Palestinian Arab leadership threatened: “The Arabs have taken into their own hands the Final Solution of the Jewish problem. The problem will be solved only in blood and fire. The Jews will soon be driven out.” 





As I illustrated earlier, years before 1948, Palestinian leaders were given opportunity after opportunity to have precisely what they wanted: a singular Arab state in what was all of the British Mandate territory. That’s what they were asking for, and time after time, they said no. Not if the Jews were to stay.

In May 1947, the United Nations created the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, or UNSCOP, to investigate the best course of action. To investigate the issue, UNSCOP planned to interview both the Jewish and Arab leadership. The Jewish Agency saw this as an opportunity for the Zionists to plead their case, but the Arab Higher Committee boycotted the committee, incensed that Jewish aspirations were being considered at all.

When UNSCOP visited Jewish towns, they were met with cheers and flowers. By contrast, the Arab Higher Committee threatened Arabs with death if they were found meeting with the UNSCOP. They evacuated Arab towns and villages prior to the UNSCOP’s arrival, leaving only children behind to boo and jeer at the committee members. Arab villagers outright ignored the committee’s questions and school pupils were instructed not to look them in the eye. Had the Arabs agreed to actually engage with the investigators, they likely could’ve been given what they asked for. 

So then the United Nation passes partition, and the Arabs initiate a war, with genocidal threats quite literally quoting the Nazis not even three years after the end of the Holocaust. For months they attempt to starve 100,000 Jews in Jerusalem, and the Jews get fed up. They pass Plan Dalet, which states that, in the case of resistance, conquered Arab villages are to be evacuated to outside of the borders of the Jewish state.

None of this — literally none of this — was instigated by the Zionist leadership. None of this had to happen.

You’ve heard mumblings about “population transfer”? Well, you’ve heard it entirely out of context. In the early to mid twentieth century, the League of Nations and later the United Nations oversaw a number of population transfers much larger than the entire population of Mandatory Palestine, because for a very long time, population transfer was considered an ethical legal solution to ethnic conflict. Population transfer never once became official Zionist policy. In fact, population transfer was first suggested not by the Zionists, but by the British, in a plan that the Jews did not endorse.





As I said earlier, I truly believe that knowing your history is empowering. I really do. And that includes knowing how, historically, Jews who felt and believed as you do have been perceived by the non-Jewish world. Because your anti-Zionism is righteous, right? Altruistic? Surely you believe that you’re doing the right thing, and I commend you for that. But to an antisemite, that doesn’t matter. Antisemites don’t care if you’re a good Jew. They care that you’re a Jew. 

I’m going to share two stories with you.

In 1918, the midst of the Russian Civil War, the Soviet Communist Party established a “Jewish branch,” with the consent of Vladimir Lenin. It was named “Yevsetskiya,” meaning “Jewish Sections of the Communist Party.”

At their second conference on July of 1919, it demanded that all Zionist organisations be dissolved. At their third conference in July of 1921, the Yevsetskiya officially dedicated itself to the “total liquidation of Zionism.”

But this wasn’t enough. They might’ve been staunchly anti-Zionist, but they were Jews, and by virtue of being Jews, Jews were simply too Zionist. The Soviet government dissolved the Yevsetskiya in 1929, claiming that it was no longer needed. During Stalin’s Great Purge in the 1930s, virtually all its members were arrested and executed.

In 1948, the richest Jew in Iraq, an anti-Zionist named Shafiq Ades, was accused of the capital crime of Zionism, convicted in a show trial, and executed. 

I repeat: antisemites don’t care that you’re one of the good Jews. They care that you’re one of the Jews. 



Unlike other Zionist Jews, I actually really don’t care whether you identify as a Zionist or not. I understand the word is charged. Here’s what I care about: 

I care that you are revising Jewish history to a degree that is making things really dangerous for Jews. I care that you are discounting and disregarding the lived experiences of Jews who needed to flee to Israel for safety. I care that you are discounting and disregarding the lived experiences of Jews who had nowhere else to go. I care that you are distorting Judaism into something that it isn’t, when our ancestors fought so hard to preserve our ways throughout millennia of persecution. I care that you are giving antisemites a pass when they are the right kind of antisemite. I care that you are making excuses for antisemites. I care that you are uplifting their voices and emboldening them, when at the end of the day, they will come for you too. 

I care that you insist we must place our goodwill in the hands of people who have never throughout history protected us. I care that you justify or worse, encourage, violence against half of our population. I care that you want us to throw away 3000 years worth of traditions for a conflict that is not even 80 years old, especially when so many of our ancestors gave their lives so that we could keep being us. I care that you project your internalized antisemitism onto the rest of us. 

I care that, for some reason, you seem to think Jews and only Jews are precluded from what is a universal human right: self-determination, whatever that might end up looking like. I care that you will sacrifice your people for what you perceive to be the goodwill of the world. 

I appreciate that you are an ardent supporter of Palestinian human rights. Supporting human rights is a good thing. What I don’t appreciate is when this supposed support is contingent on lies, half-truths, distortion, and most of all, antisemitism. We deserve better, but honestly, you deserve better too. 

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