when is anti-Zionism literally just antisemitism?

WHEN YOU DENY OUR HISTORY

Jewish history is extremely well-recorded and it has been for the past 4000 years. Our past is not up for debate just because our history inconveniences your political views.

Jews come from the Land of Israel. Like other Indigenous groups across the globe, we were forcibly displaced from our homeland. This should not be up for debate in any way, shape, or form, and yet “anti-Zionists” will consistently deny or rewrite our past because acknowledging our history demolishes many of their arguments. But we have 4000 years’ worth of archeology and historical record — both our own and that of our historic oppressors (e.g. the Romans or the Arab caliphates, for instance) — on our side.

Denying any marginalised group their history is bigoted, point-blank. It’s bigoted to, say, deny Indigenous peoples in the Americas their history and it’s bigoted to deny Jews ours. Our history is an intrinsic part of us. Stripping us of our past, of our heritage, and of the stories of our ancestors is what oppressors do.

If you must deny or rewrite Jewish history to justify your anti-Zionist views, you are literally just an antisemite.

 

WHEN YOU DENY OUR IDENTITY

Similarly, denying Jews our identity is also bigoted, point-blank. Like other marginalised groups, only Jews should get to define our identity, who we are, and what is important to us.

For 4000 years, we have called ourselves the “People of Israel.” For 4000 years, we have referred to ourselves as a nation and a tribe (or a confederation of tribes). Ever since our first mass displacement (i.e. the Babylonian captivity), we have yearned not only to return to our homeland, but also to exercise our own sovereignty over it. In fact, we have fought for it, thousands of years before 1948. Nearly everything in Jewish culture is inextricable from the Land of Israel. Our calendar follows the agricultural cycle of the Land of Israel. We revere the land (as in, the physical ground) of the Land of Israel. Our holidays celebrate the harvests of the Land of Israel. “Israel” as a noun is mentioned 2,507 times in the Torah. Even in exile, we continued to pray facing Jerusalem. The “Shema,” the most important Jewish prayer, begins with the following: “Hear, O Israel.”

Even though the term “Indigenous” only entered the lexicon of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the 1990s, Jews have long considered ourselves Indigenous to the Land of Israel (worth noting that the term “Indigenous,” independent of Indigenous peoples of the Americas, only entered the lexicon of international law in the 20th century). For example, in 1947, Sephardic Jew Eliahu Eliachar stood before the United Nations and stated: “As the Indigenous population of Palestine, we demand the restitution of our rights…”

If you must deny our identity and what is important to us to justify your anti-Zionist views, you are literally just an antisemite.

 

WHEN YOU DENY OUR RIGHT

Self-determination — or the concept that peoples have the right to decide their own sovereignty and international status without any outside interference — is a cardinal principle of international law.

Zionism, as defined by the First Zionist Congress, is the following: “Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish People in Eretz­ Israel [the Land of Israel] secured under public law.” The term “Zionism” comes from an event known as the Return to Zion, which took place in 536 BCE. Zionism is a wide movement with a plethora of iterations; the only thing all Zionists can agree on is in the belief that Jews are entitled to self-determination in the Land of Israel.

Even if you, for your own reasons, reject the official definition of Zionism, denying Jews our legal right to self-determination is bigoted. Worth noting that, in Europe, Jews were not even considered citizens until after the French Revolution. In Southwest Asia and North Africa, Jews — if we had citizenship at all — were considered second-class citizens, something which did not change anywhere in the region until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

There is a reason — 3000 years of persecution, virtually everywhere — that Jews overwhelmingly believe our survival depends on having sovereignty in our homeland.

If you must deny our legal right to self-determination to justify your anti-Zionist views, you are literally just an antisemite.

 

WHEN YOU EXCLUDE US

Alienating Jews from public life is nothing new, and neither is alienating “Zionists.” Not only do polls consistently show that 80-97% of Jews feel some level of connection to Israel, but every single country that has ever outlawed Zionism ultimately just ended up persecuting all Jews, even those that were quite outspoken anti-Zionists or non-Zionists (e.g. when the wealthiest Jew in Iraq, a non-Zionist named Shafiq Ades, was accused of Zionism in a show trial and was executed in 1948).

When such an overwhelming majority of Jews identify as “Zionists,” excluding Jews from universities, jobs, and everything else is just a euphemism for excluding Jews.

The Soviet Union was the first non-Arab nation to persecute Jews on the basis of “Zionism.” But even so, they were not exactly secretive about the fact that when they said “Zionists,” they actually meant Jews. In the 1960s, Soviet propaganda 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.

If you must exclude the majority of Jews from public life to justify your anti-Zionist views, you are literally just an antisemite.

 

WHEN YOU WANT US POWERLESS

Anti-Zionists often erroneously claim that Jews, Muslims, and Christians got along perfectly in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel or before the arrival of the modern political Zionists. This is not only an outright lie and a denial of our history, but it also tells us the following: you are only okay with Jews so long as we are powerless.

Despite what the antisemitic conspiracies have claimed for 2000 years, after the conquer of the Kingdom of Judah in 587 BCE, Jews have had no systemic power or autonomy anywhere in the world (a brief exception being the period of the Hasmonean Kingdom of Judea between 110-63 BCE, as well as small periods of time in Ethiopia and Yemen over 1000 years ago). In Southwest Asia (the Middle East), Central Asia, and North Africa, Jews were dhimmis, or second class citizens, which, among other things, left us completely disenfranchised and powerless in the legal system. In Europe, Jews only started to become emancipated after the French Revolution, whereas before, we were not even considered citizens; even so, the Dreyfus Affair of 1894-1906 demonstrated to us that in practicality, that emancipation meant very little and that our persecution would continue. Up until the 1970s, Jews were still banned from housing and academic institutions in the United States. And these are just a few examples.

If you only accept Jews so long as we are powerless, you are literally just an antisemite.

 

WHEN YOU TOKENISE US

Tokenisation is neither acceptance nor allyship. Tokenisation is nothing more than lip service and bigotry disguised as acceptance. Here’s the thing: all Jews, whether you like us as people or not, deserve to be protected from antisemitism, because antisemitism is always wrong. If you are only protecting those of us that agree with your political views, you are not protecting us at all — you’re actually using us, likely to advance your cause.

If the overwhelming majority of the community is telling you something — say, that you’ve just said something antisemitic — the correct thing to do is to listen to us and honestly consider what we have to say. Instead what often happens is that anti-Zionists point to their Jewish friends to deny accusations of antisemitism. But everyone can have a Jewish friend. Very few people actually understand antisemitism and how it functions.

Anti-Zionists consistently tokenise fringe Jewish groups, such as Jewish Voice for Peace or the Neturei Karta, to prove that they are not antisemitic, just anti-Zionist. But the majority of the Jewish community finds these groups problematic and offensive, for a multitude of reasons. Instead of tokenising a few fringe Jews, a person who is not an antisemite would listen to what most of the Jewish community actually has to say.

If you only accept and protect the Jews that agree with your politics, you are literally just an antisemite.

 

WHEN YOU USE ANTISEMITIC CONSPIRACIES

Antisemitism spreads via conspiracy theories. Some of these conspiracy theories have origins that date back thousands of years. It doesn’t matter if you accuse “Zionists” rather than “Jews” of said conspiracies; an antisemitic conspiracy is antisemitic whether you use an euphemism or not.

In fact, for much of history, antisemitic conspiracies have been shrouded in a multitude of euphemisms, ranging from imperialists to globalists to lizard-people to, yes, Zionists. Antisemitism doesn’t usually present itself as blatant, Nazi-esque Jew-hatred; it’s generally much more insidious than that, which is why euphemisms are the perfect way for it to spread.

If you believe “Zionists” are behind every calamity on the face of the earth — from 9/11 to the civil war in Syria to police brutality in the United States — you are doing nothing more than falling for a millennia-old antisemitic conspiracy. Think about it: you are accusing a nation the size of New Jersey that constitutes just 0.11% of the world population (and 0.2% of the world population, if we assumed every single Jew was a Zionist, which of course isn’t the case) of being the sinister masterminds behind every and all evil on the planet. Does this not sound like an antisemitic conspiracy to you? Such claims are plucked straight out of the most notorious antisemitic texts in history, such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and The International Jew.

If you use antisemitic conspiracies to justify your anti-Zionist views, you are literally just an antisemite.

 

WHEN YOU CALL FOR OUR MURDER

You’d think this was common sense, but apparently it’s not. In recent years, protesters at pro-Palestine marches, well-meaning or not, have taken to chanting to “globalise the Intifada.” So let’s get this out of the way first: the intifadas, particularly the Second Intifada, were extremely violent uprisings that very specifically targeted the Israeli civilian population, which is both (1) terrorism, and (2) a war crime under international law. During the Second Intifada, over 140 suicide bombings, stabbings, kidnappings, shootings, and more targeted civilian spaces, resulting in the death of over 1000 Israelis and 55 foreign citizens, 80% of them civilians.

But that’s not it. Historically, violence in Israel-Palestine has translated to violence against the Jewish community in the diaspora. For instance, following the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war in May of 2021, antisemitic hate crimes in the United States rose by 34% and reached an all-time high since at least 1979; in New York, where most of the American Jewish population lives, antisemitic hate crimes rose by 300%. Anti-Zionist groups such as Black September (an unofficial wing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Hezbollah have long massacred Jews in the diaspora. Some examples include the 1994 AMIA bombing, the 1976 Entebbe hijacking, and the 1972 Munich Massacre.

It’s noteworthy that the largest donor to the conservative Israel lobby in the United States is an Evangelical Christian group, and yet, Evangelical churches are never attacked in retaliation for whatever is happening in Palestine.

This April, Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas chief of Gaza, threatened to attack “thousands of synagogues worldwide” in retaliation for the violence in Jerusalem.

If you call for the murder of Jews, whether in Israel or the diaspora, you are literally just an antisemite.

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