Anti-semitism means many things to many people, but inter alia it means to deny the right of Jews to self-expression, to demonize them, to try to shut them up with scare tactics. Anti-semitism is essentialist – it claims that Jews cannot have differences of opinions because it mandates Jews to be all of a certain type, no matter how they may appear to disagree.
In the L.A. Times, computer science professor Judea Pearl published his latest rant against anti-Zionism, labeling it "hate," "more dangerous than ani-Semitism," "seeking the physical destruction of five and a half-million people," "stabbing in the back" members of the peace camp, and other raving lunacies that one rarely hears here in Israel, thank God. According to Pearl, the "marginal minorities at best" of anti-Zionist Jews around today are either post-nationalist lefties, Neturei Karta righties, or they "hide, disown or denounce their historical roots in favor of social acceptance and other expediencies.".
This from a Jew who lives in the city with the largest number of Israelis outside of Israel – Los Angeles!
The "arguments" he adduces are the same stale and mindless ones we hear constantly from the dogmatic Zionist camp. My favorite is the "If-Every-People-Has-A-Right-to-a State,-then-Why-Not-the-Jews?", which has got to be the worst argument in the political Zionist arsenal. There are many peoples and ethnic groups that don't have states or homelands – just look at the Wikipedia article on ethnic groups and peoples for a long list. You can believe that Jews are a people or a nation without saying that have a right to a state, or that if they have a right to self-determination, you can claim that it doesn't have to be exercised in Palestine, or, for that matter, in the form of an ethnic state. Or you can argue that even if the Jews have a historical right to Palestine, it does not trump the rights of the natives, a majority of which the Jews ethnically cleansed between 1948-1952. All these arguments were made by Zionists prior to 1948; all are condemned today as heretical.
Are Jews a people? Are they a religion? The answer to that question, according to Pearl, depends on how it plays to the advantage of Zionism.
Anti-Zionism disguises itself in the cloak of political debate, exempt from sensitivities and rules of civility that govern inter-religious discourse, to attack the most cherished symbol of Jewish identity.
All of a sudden we are told that anti-Zionism violates the "rules of civility that govern inter-religious discourse." So Pearl wants to have it both ways – the Jews are a religion, Zionism=Judaism, and hence Zionism, like Jesus, is above discussion! But he also claims that the Jews are a nation, from which "it follows" that they have a right to take over their historic homeland and deny the rights of the native Palestinians to an equal sort of self-determination. To deny them that right would be to offend their religious sensitivities!
Look, it is not Pearl's Zionism that I mind – but the crazy logic that he uses to demonize the anti-Zionists, and the sort of hate-filled rhetoric that is taken from the ultra rightwing arsenal (Hmm, where have I seen Jews being accused of stabbing the nation in the back before?)
What about this familiar scare-tactic posing as an argument:
First, anti-Zionism targets the most vulnerable part of the Jewish people, namely, the Jewish population of Israel, whose physical safety and personal dignity depend crucially on maintaining Israel's sovereignty. Put bluntly, the anti-Zionist plan to do away with Israel condemns 5 1/2 million human beings, mostly refugees or children of refugees, to eternal defenselessness in a region where genocidal designs are not uncommon.
This is hogwash. Pearl cannot give an example of one anti-Zionist who advocates a system of government in Israel/Palestine which would make 5 ½ million Jews defenseless. To accuse Jewish anti-Zionists of plotting for the destruction of Jews is viciously anti-semItic. True, more Jews have died since World War II violent deaths due to war in Israel and because of Israel, than in any other place on the globe. But it is also true that the Palestinians have been vastly more defenseless than the Jews for the last eighty years. (And by the way, will Pearl allow the Palestinians a state in which they will not be defenseless, in which they will have an army the equal of the IDF?)
But more to the point, transforming a Zionist ethnocracy in Israel/Palestine doesn't mean replacing it with an Islamic Republic (in which state, by the way, the dhimmi Jews would have more rights than the Palestinians currently have on the West Bank). There could be two genuinely equal states (a solution that Pearl probably rejects, though he professes not to), a federation, or a confederation, or one state, or any solution in which both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples would have a great measure of self-expression and self-determination.
Because the Zionists adopted the Biltmore platform, because a Russian socialist named David Gruen designed the Jewish State hastily in 1948, and which remains today without a constitution, does this mean that the Zionist regime is the only bulwark against a future Holocaust of 5 ½ million Jews, God forbid?
Gimme a break!
Calling for regime change to make Israel more democratic and less Zionistic by non-violent means is not tantamount to genocide. By Pearl's logic, when Ronald Reagan called for the end of the Soviet "Evil Empire", he wanted to leave millions of Soviet citizens defenseless and liable for destruction. He did nothing of the sort, nor do the anti-Zionists. Most anti-Zionists today are unhappy with the Jewish State for many reasons, but they do not advocate a violent overthrow any more than did Reagan. And if one looks at some of the recent proposals of the Israeli Palestinians citizens for a more multi-cultural and democratic state then the current Jewish ethnocracy, the Jews would arguably be a lot more secure in the region than they are at present – and Israel would arguably be a much more meaningfully Jewish state, in the cultural and even religious sense, than it is at present. (See Bernard Avishai's book, The Hebrew Republic)
What saddens me most about the Pearl op-ed is how it reflects the staleness of Zionist discourse today. Over sixty years ago, there was a vibrant, intellectually exciting debate not only over Zionism, but over what shape it should take. Now, Zionists like Pearl are locked in an orthodox political Zionist dogma that sees only one form of Zionism – political Zionism as expressed in the institutions of Israel – as legitimate, and all forms of anti-Zionism and non-Zionism, as "worse than anti-Semitism."
I can forgive Pearl and those like him the anti-Semitism implicit in their remarks. There is a long tradition of Jewish intolerance to Jews, and some of my Jewish friends (though not my best friends) are anti-Semitic in this way.
It is Pearl's intellectual suffocation of non-statist forms of Zionism that saddens me. This sort of dogmatically orthodox Zionism is better described as "anti-Zionism."