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.
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.
In the early 1950s, Stalin began to put forth a plan for the ethnic cleansing (and possible genocide) of the Jewish People. This plan is known as the Doctors’ Plot (see my posts THE DOCTORS’ PLOT and THE JEWISH AUTONOMOUS OBLAST). Thankfully, because of Stalin’s sudden death, the plan never came to fruition. Upon Khrushchev’s denouncing of most of Stalin’s policies, he notably did not denounce his mistreatment of Jews. In the following decades, the Soviets continued to heavily repress their Jewish population, including spiritual and cultural repression (studying Hebrew, for example, could get you arrested). See my post REFUSENIKS for more.
Following the Arab and Islamic conquests of Southwest Asia, North Africa, and Central Asia beginning in the 600s, Jews became “dhimmis,” or second class citizens. While this dhimmi status is often glorified, in reality, it was heavily repressive (though the exact nature of the repression varied drastically across territories and time). For example, Jews were subject to extra taxes (in fact, the Jews of Israel-Palestine were so severely taxed into poverty that the Jews of the diaspora had to financially maintain them), Jews had to dress differently than Muslims, and Jews were left with virtually no legal recourses, among many, many other oppressive policies. For thousands of years, Jews were periodically massacred in pogroms in Arab and Muslim-majority nations. For more, see my post WHAT WAS BEING A JEWISH DHIMMI LIKE?
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Jewish aspirations for self-determination began to clash with Arab nationalist and pan-Arabist aspirations, which only exacerbated tensions.
During and preceding World War II, the Nazis enacted massive antisemitic propaganda campaigns in Arab countries. The Arab Higher Committee of Palestine, for example, was ardently pro-Nazi. In Iraq, a 1941 Nazi-inspired pogrom known as the Farhud took the lives of up to 1000 Jews. With the Axis invasion of North Africa, North African Jews recall the indifference — or outright antisemitism — of their non-Jewish neighbors when Jews were rounded up and deported to concentration camps.
In the 1950s, the Soviet Union — itself a major enemy of the Nazis — began exporting Nazi propaganda films to the Arab world to further turn Arab public opinion against Israel. Between the 1940s-1970s, ~850,000 Jews were ethnically cleansed from Southwest Asia and North Africa, usually under the guise of anti-Zionism, despite the fact that, for example, some of the notable Jews murdered were ardent anti-Zionists.
UNITED NATIONS ANTISEMITISM
The United Nations has always been quite blatant in its antisemitism. As of 2013, the State of Israel, the only Jewish majority state, where nearly 50% of the world’s Jews live, was condemned in 45 resolutions, accounting for 45% of ALL UN resolutions. In 2020, alone, Israel was condemned in 17 resolutions, compared to 6 resolutions for the rest of the world combined.
Whatever one thinks of Israel’s policies, it’s impossible not to see the double standards. Israel is a country the size of New Jersey with just 9.2 million people (for comparison, the United States has 329.5 million people, France has 67.39 million people, Egypt has 102.3 million people, and there are about 9 million people in New York City alone). It’s ludicrous that such a small country with such a small population could account for nearly 50% of the world’s injustices.
Even more damning, at the time that UN Resolution 3379 passed (“Zionism is racism”), the UN Secretary General, Kurt Waldheim, was a former Nazi intelligence officer. Every single permanent member of the Security Council has a history of persecuting Jews, and that’s without mentioning the history of egregious antisemitism in the countries forming other UN councils. Considering antisemitism is institutionalized and often systemic in these nations, it’s no surprise that antisemitism would become institutionalized in the United Nations, too.
3 NOTABLE FACTORS
(1) in 1969, the United Nations passed the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Both the United States and Brazil wanted to add a clause including antisemitism. The Soviet Union, which had been heavily oppressing its Jewish population since the 1950s (see my posts THE DOCTORS’ PLOT, REFUSENIKS, THE PERSECUTION OF SOVIET JEWS, and THE JEWISH AUTONOMOUS OBLAST), worried that such a clause would be used to rebuke them for persecuting Soviet Jews. As such, they included a counter proposal, which was a clause that equated Zionism to Nazism. That way, they could say they were persecuting Zionists, not Jews. While neither clause passed (yes, that’s correct: the UN refused to condemn antisemitism), this laid the groundwork for the Soviets and the Arab League to push the “Zionism is racism” resolution in 1975.
(2) after suffering a humiliating defeat in the Six Day War of 1967, the Arab League was relishing in their surprise attack on Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Egypt and Syria, aided by the Arab League, Cuba, the Soviet Union, and the Soviet bloc surprise attacked Israel on the holiest, most solemn day of the Jewish calendar (Yom Kippur). As such, they were looking for an opportunity to further humiliate Israel on the world stage, and passing the “Zionism is racism” resolution would accomplish just that.
(3) to gain the support of African countries, the USSR disseminated a propaganda campaign in Africa equating Zionism to South African apartheid.
On November 10, 1975, on the 37th anniversary of the Nazi pogrom (anti-Jewish riot, massacre) of Kristallnacht, the United Nations, headed by the Soviet Union, Soviet satellite states, and the 20+ countries in the Arab League, passed Resolution 3379, stating that Zionism is a form of racism. The resolution passed 75 to 35, with 32 abstentions.
The resolution never defined Zionism, nor did it explain, how and why, exactly, Zionism is a form of racism (shouldn’t a resolution on something start by defining what that something is?). In fact, the delegate for Liberia stated that, while reading the resolution, he “anxiously waited” to see (1) a definition for Zionism, and (2) an explanation as to how Zionism is racism. Since he found no such thing, he voted against the resolution.
Out of thousands of independence and nationalist movements in the world (including Palestinian nationalism!), only the Jewish movement has ever had a UN resolution condemning it. The double standard is not just there; it’s glaring.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia all but admitted that Resolution 3379 had been nothing more than a Cold War propaganda ploy, calling it “a relic of the Ice Age.” In December of 1991, UN Resolution 46/86 revoked Resolution 3379.
90 of the countries who had voted in favor of Resolution 3379 (a reminder that after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there were many new nations, which is why the number is greater than the 75 that voted in favor in 1975) voted in favor of Resolution 46/86. Resolution 46/86 passed 111 to 25, with 13 abstentions (including 6 Arab nations).
Despite the fact that Resolution 3379 was repealed, its legacy remains to this day. Much of anti-Zionist discourse on the left and in Arab media is not a legitimate critique of Israeli policies, but rather, an outright, word for word parroting of 1950s-1970s Soviet “anti-Zionist” propaganda.
Beyond antisemitism, Resolution 3379 actually emboldened the West Bank (and back then, Gaza Strip) settler movement, as many Israelis realized that, no matter what Israel did, the United Nations would continue to pummel Israel (in other words, they adopted a “to hell with United Nations law” attitude, considering the UN had basically just called the very existence of Israelis racist). Many geopolitical experts consider Resolution 3379 a death blow to secular Zionism.
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