Zionism — as defined by the overwhelming majority of the world’s Jews — is the Jewish movement for self-determination in the ancestral Jewish land, the Land of Israel (Israel-Palestine today). It can also be described as Jewish nationalism. It’s worth noting that self-determination is a basic tenet of international law. The fact that Jews come from the Land of Israel should not be debatable; it is easily proven through 3000+ years’ worth of archeology, DNA science, historical record, and Jewish culture.
The name “Zionism” comes from a historical event known as the Return to Zion, which took place in 538 BCE. In 1897, in response to virulent, deadly antisemitism, Jewish representatives traveling from Europe, Central Asia, Southwest Asia, and North Africa congregated for what is known as the First Zionist Congress. At the end of the Congress, the representatives agreed: “Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Eretz Israel [the Land of Israel] secured under public law.”
Beyond the concept of Jewish self-determination in Israel, you’d be hard pressed to find anything else at all that Zionists agree with. Zionism is a wide movement, ranging from religious Zionism to labor Zionism to green Zionism and many, many others.
It’s true that Zionism, in practicality, had devastating effects for Palestinian Arabs. But it’s insincere not to consider these effects in context, including the Arab riots of the 1920s and 1930s, the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Southwest Asia and North Africa, as well as the 1948 Arab (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia) invasion of Israel.
The earliest anti-Zionists were neither Jewish (see next slide) nor Arab nor Palestinian. In the 1870s, antisemites, particularly in Germany, decried the growing political Zionist movement as an element of the supposed Jewish plot for world domination. For example, Wilhelm Marr, the notorious German antisemite who coined the word “antisemitism,” wrote that the First Zionist Congress in 1897 was “a foul Jewish swindle.”
With the rise of Nazism in the 1930s, the Germans associated Zionism with “other alleged vices of the Jews.” Hitler himself despised Zionism, unsurprisingly viewing it as a continuation of a broader Jewish conspiracy of world domination.
The German philosopher Eugen Dühring claimed that Zionism was a global threat in 1930, stating: “[A hypothetical Jewish state would necessitate] something like a second Roman clearing action...where the matter would be brought to an end in an entirely different and far more comprehensive sense.”
The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the most notorious and arguably the most influential antisemitic text in history, was published in Russia in 1903. The text purported to be a transcript of the minutes of the First Zionist Congress, held in 1897. According to The Protocols, Jews from across the world had met to discuss their plans for world domination. The text was, of course, a complete fabrication. In the early 20th century, The Protocols was distributed across Europe and the Middle East, likely by British soldiers. It was imported to the United States in 1920 by virulent antisemite Henry Ford. The Protocols had a deep and lasting effect, influencing everyone from Hitler to modern-day white supremacists. It is quoted extensively in the original 1988 Hamas Charter and is still taught as fact in the Arab world, despite it being extensively debunked as false.
Most of the earliest Jewish opposition to Zionism is best described as “non-Zionism,” rather than anti-Zionism. This opposition was rooted not in a denunciation or denial of Jewish ties to the Land of Israel/Palestine, but rather, on two separate premises: (1) many secular Jews found the idea of returning to the Jewish homeland and establishing a Jewish nation-state too impractical and far-fetched, and thus advocated for Jewish assimilation into non-Jewish society; this was especially common of Jewish Marxists and socialists (most notably, the Jewish Bund), as well as the Reform movement (which has since adopted Zionism), and (2) many traditionally Orthodox Jews rejected Zionism on the premise that a Jewish state should not be established prior to the arrival of the Messiah.
There were, however, two significant Jewish anti-Zionist groups that were virulently antisemitic:
(1) in the earliest days of Hitler’s rule, there was a small group of Jews that supported Hitler. In 1921, a Jewish man named Max Naumann founded a group known as the “Association of German National Jews.” In 1934, the Association issued a statement of support for Hitler.
The Association of German National Jews was especially hostile to the less assimilated Jews from Eastern Europe, who they considered backwards and “racially and spiritually inferior.” They were also hostile to Zionists, as they believed that they were a threat to Jewish integration into wider society. The main goal of the Association of German National Jews was the self-eradication of Jewish identity.
(2) in 1918, 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.” The mission of the Yevsetskiya was, quite literally, the “destruction of traditional Jewish life, the Zionist movement, and Hebrew culture.”
Until their dissolution in 1929, they imprisoned, tortured, and murdered thousands of Jews. According to historian of Soviet history Richard Pipes, “In time, every Jewish cultural and social organization came under assault.”
By the end of the Holocaust, the Jewish People overwhelmingly adopted Zionism. In a survey of 19,000 Jewish refugees held in Displaced Persons’ Camps, 97% of them stated they wanted to go to Palestine. When asked for a second choice, many said “crematorium.”
The British Mandate for Palestine was a League of Nations mandate (essentially, a territorial transfer) for British administration in Palestine following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. The mandate was assigned to Great Britain in April 1920 and became effective from 1923-1948. Transjordan (now Jordan) was added to the mandate shortly thereafter.
Holocaust inversion — the antisemitic act of depicting Jews and/or Israelis as Nazis, crypto-Nazis, or “worse than Nazis” — is not only a form of Holocaust denial, but also has its roots in British anti-Zionism right in the midst of the Holocaust.
In March of 1945 — about two months before the Nazis even surrendered — the High Commissioner of Palestine, Lord Gort, told the Colonial Secretary in London that “the establishment of any Jewish State in Palestine…will almost inevitably mean the rebirth of National Socialism [i.e. Nazism] in some guise.”
Sir John Bagot Glubb, who later became the British Commander of the Jordanian Arab Legion during the 1948 war, wrote in a 1946 memorandum to the British government that the “new Jews” (i.e. Jewish refugees) had copied Nazi techniques and adopted Hitler’s master race theory. Unsurprisingly, Glubb was a virulent antisemite who considered Jews “unlikeable, aggressive, stiff-necked, vengeful, and imbued with the idea of [being] a superior race.”
Other British officials that engaged in Holocaust inversion included Lord Altrincham, who stated that Zionist youth groups were “a copy of the Hitler Youth,” and Sir Harold MacMichael and Sir Edward Grigg, both of whom equated Zionism with Nazism even while Jews were being slaughtered by the millions in Europe.
Following the end of the war, renowned British historian Arnold Joseph Toynbee disseminated Holocaust inversion to a wide audience, claiming in “A Study of History” that the Zionists in Palestine were “disciples of the Nazis” but were much worse than “their Nazi teachers.”
For more on this, I recommend my post 77 YEARS OF HOLOCAUST INVERSION.
ARAB WORLD (PRE-1948)
Zionism — and, as such, anti-Zionism — didn’t quite enter into the collective Arab or Arab Palestinian consciousness until the early 20th century, thanks to the nascent, British-sponsored Arab nationalism in the wake of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. However, earlier, in 1899, Yusuf al-Khalidi, the Arab mayor of Jerusalem, wrote to the Chief Rabbi of France: “In theory, the Zionist idea is completely natural, fine and just. Who can challenge the rights of the Jews in Palestine? Good Lord, historically it is really your country. But in practice you cannot take over Palestine without the use of force…”
His position largely reflected the Arab point of view at the time: historically, Palestine was the Jews’ by right, but in reality, they were not about to let that happen. Over the next few decades, the situation for the Jews in Palestine — whether they were recent immigrants or their families had lived in Palestine continuously for millennia — very quickly deteriorated, culminating in a series of antisemitic massacres and the 1936 Arab Revolt.
As tensions ignited in Palestine, Jews elsewhere in the Arab world suffered antisemitism under the guise of anti-Zionism. In the summer of 1947, a Sephardic Palestinian Jewish representative, Eliahu Eliachar, testified to the United Nations about the condition of the Jews in the Arab and Muslim worlds, stating the following of Iraq: “Religious fanaticism, coupled with national chauvinism and mass ignorance, are fraught with dangers, particularly since an anti-Jewish campaign is kept ablaze everywhere under anti-Zionist pretences.”
In 1947, the Egyptian prime minister told the British ambassador: “All Jews [are] potential Zionists [and]…anyhow all Zionists [are] Communists.”
ARAB WORLD (POST-1948)
The situation only worsened with the outbreak of the 1947-1949 Palestine War. In 1948, Iraq made “Zionism” a capital offense; a Jew only needed to be accused of Zionism by two Muslims for the punishment to be carried out. When the wealthiest, openly non-Zionist Jew in Iraq was executed, the Jewish community reacted with shock, finally convinced that no matter what they did, they would be persecuted anyway.
Ultimately, some 850,000 Jews — nearly 100% of the Jewish population — were expelled from the Arab world under “anti-Zionist” pretenses.
The 1956 Suez Crisis between Israel, Egypt, France, and Great Britain further exacerbated the persecution of Egyptian Jews. The government proclaimed, “All Jews are Zionists and enemies of the state.” Thousands of Jews were imprisoned, assets were seized, and more. Ironically — or by design — prominent anti-Zionist Jews were also removed from their positions and ended up leaving.
Prior to 1948, 130,000 Jews lived in Iraq. After the Jewish community fled en masse, only 3000 Jews remained. After the Arab countries’ huge defeat in the 1967 Six Day War, the Iraqi government once again persecuted its small Jewish minority on charges of “Zionism” and “espionage.” Jews were dismissed from their jobs, their bank accounts were frozen, and they were confined to house arrest.
In 1968, the new socialist Ba’athist regime announced that they were “hunting down an American-Israeli spy ring” that was supposedly trying to destabilize Iraq. Twelve Jews were arrested. Nine of them were hung publicly in January 1969 to a dancing crowd of 500,000 people. The other three were executed that August.
The persecution didn’t end there, with hundreds more arrested and tortured and many executed. By the 1970s, almost no Jews remained in Iraq. Today only 3 remain.
While in the late 1940s the Soviet Union was sympathetic to Israel, given the socialist nature of labor Zionism, Stalin (who’d long expressed antisemitic views) quickly changed his tune in the 1950s. Because, following the Holocaust, antisemitism became heavily associated with Nazism, the Soviets began persecuting Jews under the guise of anti-Zionism instead.
Interestingly, however, the Soviets were never covert about the fact that their “anti-Zionism” was actually just antisemitism. 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,” comparisons of Judaism to the Italian mafia, and claims that Israel was merely a means to an end of Jewish imperialism and world domination.
Following WWII, Soviet Jews were accused of aiding “American imperialism” and were swiftly removed from their positions in the sciences, universities, and more. A massive “anti-Zionist” propaganda campaign shrouded in antisemitic conspiracies was disseminated across the Soviet Union. This campaign culminated in the Doctors’ Plot, when Jewish doctors were arrested, tortured, and executed. Historians widely agree that the Doctors’ Plot was only the beginning to a wider act of ethnic cleansing and possible genocide (that was never realised thanks to Stalin’s sudden death).
The Soviets presented the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, a region in the Russian Far East, as an “alternative” to Zionism. In reality, the JAO was a plan of forced deportation (ethnic cleansing), similar to the displacement of other ethnic minorities in the Soviet Union.
Even after Stalin’s death, the Soviets continued their “anti-Zionist” campaigns, though in more subtle ways. For example, Jewish religious and cultural practices (such as learning Hebrew) were illegal. Jews were also forbidden from emigrating and banned from many professions.
In 1968, a series of student-led protests broke out against the Communist government of Poland. The Polish government responded to the instability by scapegoating their now tiny post-Holocaust Jewish community. They enacted a massive “anti-Zionist” propaganda campaign, spreading conspiracies that Zionist were plotting to take over Poland.
Poles were forced to denounce Zionism and Jews were purged from their positions in the government and other sectors, accused of holding dual loyalties to Israel. Many were arrested, beaten, and tortured. The government created lists of Jews, eerily echoing Nazi Germany. 15,000 out of 25,000-30,000 Jews in Poland were stripped of their Polish citizenship; 20,000 ended up fleeing, and some 9000 were removed from their jobs. The 1968 Polish political crisis is sometimes called a “symbolic pogrom” because the severe disenfranchisement Jews experienced resulted in a series of suicides.
In the late 1970s, a new Marxist government rose to power in Ethiopia. An antisemitic, anti-government right-wing group began a killing spree in 1978, cutting children’s feet off, bludgeoning babies, castrating men, raping women, torturing elders, and selling women and children into slavery.
Instead of condemning the attacks, the Ethiopian government decided to crack down on its Jewish community. They claimed to do so in the name of combatting “Zionist propaganda.” Because of the worsening conditions, Ethiopian Jews tried to flee to Israel. As a punishment for “Zionism,” Jews were collectively arrested, tortured, and hung.
In the 1920s, Mountain Jewish leaders in Central Asia were deported to gulags. Things only worsened following WWII, when “Zionism” was officially outlawed. Bukharan Jews were “purged” and forbidden from teaching Hebrew. Synagogues were shut down and seized by the government to be used for different purposes. Judeo-Tat, the language of the Mountain Jews, was banned as well. Jews were also forced to participate in regular “anti-Zionist” demonstrations.
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