Tuesday, December 24, 2013

When Bashing Anti-Zionists Borders on the Anti-Semitic

An article that appeared in Tablet, defending International Hillel’s decision to bar events and groups that do not toe the Zionist line, used arguments that reminded me of classic anti-Semitic tropes, like “They sound high-minded in public, but among themselves they plot to get us,” or “They are indistinguishable from each other, so if one of them commits a crime, they are collectively responsible.”

Ok, maybe I am over-sensitive, another so-called characteristic of Jews. Maybe I shouldn’t be playing the anti-Semitism card. But read this  passage, where the author claims to define the true goal of the anti-Zionist:

It is important, in other words, to be clear what we’re talking about when we say “anti-Zionist.” As a correspondent here for many years, I have had enough contact with activists involved in anti-Israel campaigns to understand that many or most of them are not concerned with returning Israel to its 1967 borders, but rather answer to this description. These people certainly do not have nuclear bombs, and they use words like “inclusiveness,” “democracy,” and “rights” in ways that scramble the radar of liberals in the West. But their goal is to destroy the state of Israel, and they are generally willing to tell you that if you are listening.

Now I am willing to bet that the author never in his life ever heard a Palestinian activist who talks about “inclusiveness,” “democracy” and “rights” say that his or her goal is to destroy the state of Israel. “Replace the Zionist regime with a more liberal, democratic regime for all its citizens” is not the same as destroying a state.  Ronald Reagan thought the Soviet Union was a bad thing, an evil empire, and he longed for regime change. But he never talked about destroying it.

Here’s another way the author characterizes the goals of the anti-Zionist, which are that

More than 6 million Jews who have found a refuge and a home here will have that home taken away, that a century of Hebrew culture will end, and that the entire Jewish people will go back to living by the whims of Muslim and Christian majorities.

Let’s leave aside the author’s self-contradictory admission that a non-Jewish Palestine had close to forty years of Hebrew culture before the establishment of the state of Israel.  Who are the anti-Zionist groups that Hillel doesn’t allow in the doors who say anything like this? Jewish Voice for Peace, which talks in its mission statement about self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians? The Palestinian civil society organizations that signed the BDS call in 2005, a call that requires the existence of the State of Israel for its goals to make any sense.

Surprise, surprise, there aren’t any – which is why the  author doesn’t actually link to any website, or give any evidence, besides his “Trust me, I know.”So he has to say instead that the language of rights is a ruse, that these groups, many of whom are in trouble with both the PA and the Hamas because they stick out their necks for human rights, are secretly plotting the destruction of Israel and taking the homes away from six million Jews  In fact, “if you are listening” (i.e., if you can crack their secret code), they are willing to tell you this!

But wait, there’s another reason, according to our anti-Zionism expert,  why those who  partner with anti-Zionist groups should not be given a place at the Hillel table. It seems that anti-Zionists  are not committed to civil debate because one of their number, Ali Abunimeh, once heckled Ehud Olmert, and, presumably, they’re all like that. (As if Mr. Abunimeh never himself participated in a civil debate….)

The shrill, hysterical, and ultimately ridiculous, demonization of anti-Zionism – which for decades was the norm among world Jewry, and to this day, is an option among the orthodox  and reform – is the flip side of the sanctification of Zionism as a Jewish, indeed, moral value.  What follows from that beatification?  If you happen to be a Palestinian who doesn’t accept the right of the Jews to a state; in other words, if you don’t accept the right of your conqueror to dispossess you,  you are ispo facto immoral.  Small wonder that Prime Minister Netanyahu insists not only that Jews be Zionist, but that the Palestinian people become Zionist, by recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

For years I have considered myself a Zionist, and I still do. But, Ribono shel Olam/Master of the Universe, with Zionists like the author of the Tablet article, it’s a wonder I’m still on that team.


  1. It is parallel.

    What is parallel about the anti-Zionist movement and the right-wing Zionist movement is that they are movements, by definition a group momentum.

    The common form of application is oversimplification and rationalization and sadly, denial.

    I see it in your comment about the fear that the BDS movement will go too far, that you dismiss it, and especially with a straw-man deflection.

    My household received a death threat (literally) a couple years ago for opposing BDS. A participant in a discussion group that I participated in called my employer to complain about my presence during work hours on a prominent blog.

    Don't minimize the moral lapses of movements, please. Political systems and norms that enhance individual conscience and consciousness, are far more agile and responsible than movements.

  2. “Replace the Zionist regime with a more liberal, democratic regime for all its citizens” is not the same as destroying a state.
    And in a way it is - no more jewish state. And I've seen people defend the choice of words.
    They can do that because we have weak ideas about dealing with words. Words have radial structures with a center and a perifery, and people react to the center meaning.
    Clear -and honest- language often means sticking close to the central meaning and avoiding the periphery.
    But we've learned they should be treated as precise well defined boxes where center or edge doesn't matter.
    If I ask my kids to provide food for the birds in the garden then they will react to the idea of a prototypical bird. Rather small, can fly.
    When they hang bird seed balls I can point out their bad thinking because the birds in this case chickens and now the chickens can't even reach the seed balls.
    'A state of all its citizens' is a very periferal meaning of 'destroying Israel'. The emotional load is derived from the violent central meaning. So even if one can defend the statements from a logical point of view - and proceed to produce utter rubbish.

    I hope that's not too boring.