Regardless of whether one believes that anti-Zionism is inherently antisemitic or not, we must recognise that, historically, those who’ve persecuted “Zionists” have made no distinction in their persecution between Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews.
Every single nation that has passed laws explicitly outlawing Zionism has then also systemically oppressed its Jewish population, regardless of whether said Jews identify as Zionists or not.
Criticism of Israel is valid, important, and necessary. However, we must understand that the ways in which we “criticise” Israel can have a catastrophic impact on diasporic Jewish populations.
I’m leaving my comments closed on this one for my mental sanity.
THE SOVIET UNION
I have three posts dedicated to the persecution of Jews in the Soviet Union: THE JEWISH AUTONOMOUS OBLAST, THE DOCTORS’ PLOT, and THE PERSECUTION OF SOVIET JEWS. Check those out for a more in-depth dive into this topic.
Though the Soviets initially voted in favor of the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state and even provided military aid to Israel in the 1948 war, they very quickly changed their tune and allied with the Arab League. Stalin’s antisemitism had long been recorded. However, after the Holocaust, “antisemitism” was associated with N*zism, so the Soviets persecuted their Jews under the guise of “anti-Zionism” instead.
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.
Though Jews had lived continuously in Iraq for thousands of years, the situation for them drastically worsened with the introduction of N*zi propaganda in the 1930s and the spillover of the conflict in Mandatory Palestine. By 1935, all Palestinian Jewish Hebrew teachers were deported and the head of the Iraqi Zionist organisation was put on trial.
Leading up to the UN Partition vote, Jews in Iraq were massacred, including blood libels, lynchings, and more. Despite all of the violence, Iraqi Jews hoped that it would pass.
However, after Israel declared its independence in 1948, Zionism became a capital crime in Iraq. A Jew only had to be denounced by two or more Muslims to be convicted, and there was no system of appeal. Jews were accused of “treason” and dismissed from their jobs. They were arrested on trumped up charges, tortured, executed, and their assets were seized, an estimated 80 million dollars worth. In one case, a man was sentenced to 5 years of forced labor for having a Biblical Hebrew inscription, which the accusers claimed was a “coded Zionist message.”
The biggest shock came to the Jewish community when the wealthiest Jew in Iraq, a non-Zionist named Shafiq Ades, was accused of Zionism and was executed. After this, Iraqi Jews knew that there was no safe future for them in Iraq and fled en masse. For more, please read my post THE ETHNIC CLEANSING OF JEWS FROM SOUTHWEST ASIA, CENTRAL ASIA, AND NORTH AFRICA.
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.
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 N*zi Germany.
15,000 out of 25,000 Jews in Poland were stripped of their Polish citizenship. 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, r*ping 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.
Jews have lived continuously in Egypt since ancient times. In the early 1940s, the situation for Egyptian Jews took a severe downturn. In 1947, the Egyptian prime minister told the British ambassador: “All Jews were potential Zionists [and] ...anyhow all Zionists were Communists.”
Between 1948-1958, 60,000 out of 75,000 Egyptian Jews fled Egypt, escaping repressive policies, massacres, bombings, and more. 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, prominent anti-Zionist Jews were also removed from their positions and ended up leaving.
UZBEKISTAN AND AZERBAIJAN
Following centuries of severe repression under Islamic rule, the Bukharan Jews and Mountain Jews of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, respectively, favored the Soviet takeover of the region in the 1920s. The relief, however, was short-lived.
In the 1920s, Mountain Jewish leaders 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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