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Explaining Jews Part VII: Why anti-Zionism is anti-semitism

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Imagine someone saying that he seeks the destruction of Italy because he regards Italian national identity as racist. Further, imagine that this person constantly denies being anti-Italian, because he does not hate all Italians, only Italy and all those who believe Italy should exist.

Now substitute "Jewish" for "Italian" and "Israel" for "Italy" and you understand the absurdity of the argument that one can be anti-Zionist but not anti-Jewish.

Among the many lies that permeate the modern world, none is greater — or easier to refute — than the claim that Zionism is not an integral part of Judaism or the claim that anti-Zionism is unrelated to antisemitism.

In order to understand why, it is first necessary to explain Zionism and anti-Zionism.

A modern secular movement called Zionism was founded in the 19th century, but the belief that Jews belong in Zion (the biblical term for Jerusalem) is as old as the Jewish people. See Part One of this series, "Explaining Jews," for a discussion of why Jews are a people and not only a religion.

Starting in 586 B.C., with the destruction of the first Jewish state, Jews were already Zionists in that they fervently prayed to return to Zion. While the movement known by the specific name "Zionism" is modern, the movement of Jews returning to Zion is more than 2,500 years old. That is why the claim that Zionism — the return of the Jewish people to Zion — is not part of Judaism is a theological and historical lie.

Judaism has always consisted of three components: God, Torah and Israel, roughly translated as faith, practice and peoplehood. And this Jewish people was conceived of as living in the Jewish country called Israel. One can argue that the modern state of Israel was founded at the expense of Arabs living in the geographic area known as Palestine (there was never a country or a nation called Palestine); but that in no way negates the indisputable fact that Zionism is an integral part of Judaism. Nor does the fact that some Jews who have abandoned Judaism are opposed to Zionism, nor that a tiny sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews (Neturei Karta) believe that only the Messiah can found a Jewish state in Israel.

When anti-Israel Muslim students demonstrate on campus chanting, "Yes to Judaism, No to Zionism," they are inventing a new Judaism out of their hatred for Israel. It would be as if anti-Muslims marched around chanting, "Yes to Allah, No to the Quran." Just as Allah, Muhammad and the Quran are inextricable components of Islam, so God, Torah and Israel are of Judaism.

But, one might argue, even if Zionism is as much a part of Judaism as any other part of the Hebrew Bible, the modern Jewish state of Israel has no right to exist because it displaced many indigenous Arabs, known later as Palestinians.

Before responding to this, it is crucial to understand that this argument — that Israel’s founding was illegitimate — is completely unrelated to anti-Zionism. An intellectually honest person who believes Israel’s founding is illegitimate would still have to acknowledge that Zionism is an inseparable part of Judaism.

But the argument that Israel is illegitimate because its founding led to 600,000 to 700,000 Arab refugees is as anti-Jewish as is anti-Zionism. Virtually every country in the world was founded by displacing some of the people who had lived there, and many of those countries did far worse to far more people than Israel did. Therefore, anyone who calls only for Israel’s destruction had better explain why, of all the states on earth whose founding was accompanied by the displacement of others, only the Jewish state is illegitimate.

Take Pakistan, for example. Unlike the Jewish state of Israel, which had existed twice before in history, there was never a country called Pakistan, nor was there ever any other independent Muslim country in the part of India that was carved out to create Pakistan. Moreover, if the Jewish state of Israel is illegitimate because it created 700,000 Arab refugees, why isn’t the Muslim state of Pakistan, which created more than eight million Hindu refugees, illegitimate?

The answer is obvious. When people isolate the one Jewish state in the world for sanctions, opprobrium and delegitimizing, they are doing so because it is the Jewish state. And that, quite simply, is why anti-Zionism is simply another form of Jew-hatred.

You can criticize Israel all you want. That does not make you an antisemite. But if you are an anti-Zionist or advocate the destruction of the Jewish state, then let’s be clear: You are an enemy of the Jews and of Judaism, and the word for such a person is antisemite.

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