GEW Briefing

 

(1) Key Differences Between Zionism and Anti-Zionism

Zionism and anti-Zionism are two opposing ideologies that have played significant roles in defining the Middle East’s political environment, particularly concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

 Definition and Goals

Zionism is a political movement that emerged in the 19th century in Europe, intending to establish a Jewish homeland in the Middle East. This movement used both anti-Semitism and Western imperialist objectives in the Middle East to create a “safe haven for Jews” by dispossessing the Palestinians from their land. With the assistance of the United States and some of its Western allies, the Zionist movement resulted in the foundation of the modern state of Israel in 1948.

Anti-Zionism, on the other hand, opposes the establishment and support of a Jewish state in the Middle East. Anti-Zionists argue that the creation of Israel as a Jewish state has led to the displacement and oppression of the Palestinian people. Some anti-Zionists view Zionism as a colonial-settler project that was only achievable through an alliance with colonial powers.

 

Critiques and Opposition

 

Critiques of Zionism often focus on its impact on the Palestinian people. Critics argue that the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine has led to the displacement of Palestinians, the appropriation of their land, and the denial of their right to self-determination.

Some argue that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism, as it denies the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. But this is an empty argument, as evidenced by the fact that many Jews, previously mentioned, are anti-Zionists and accusing them of anti-Semitism is just nonsense.

Both Zionism and anti-Zionism have had a substantial impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Zionism culminated in the establishment of the state of Israel, which has been at the centre of the conflict.

Anti-Zionism, on the other hand, has fueled opposition to the state of Israel and support for Palestinian rights.

However, many people don’t know that some prominent Jews, like Einstein, Freud, Arendt, Asimov, Chomsky, etc., are anti-Zionist.

 

(2) Most Jews Do Not Live In Israel

 

The Jews who oppose Israel are predominantly ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist organisations, the most prominent of which is Neturei Karta (NK). NK, founded in 1938, opposes the modern state of Israel because it believes that the Jewish people do not have the right to self-determination and that only God can restore Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel by introducing the Messiah. NK has a considerable following in the United States and regards itself as the religious Jewish authority on Zionism and Israel. They wish for the peaceful demise of the state of Israel.

NK’s views are not representative of the vast majority of the Jewish community. While the ultra-Orthodox community largely disapproves of Israel’s secular government and liberal policies, the vast majority thoroughly abhors and rejects Neturei Karta’s ideology.

But NK are not the only Jews that oppose Israel.

Satmar Hasidism is another anti-Zionist movement. They see Zionism and the foundation of the State of Israel as anti-messianic acts born of sin. They believe that the Jewish people were commanded not to use physical force to return to the Land of Israel, nor to “rebel against the nations of the world,” nor to “hasten the End.” They were compelled to wait for heavenly, complete, miraculous, supernatural, and meta-historical salvation that is different from human striving.

It is important to note, first, that “most Jews do not live in Israel”.

On the other hand, not all Jews hold these views. According to a Pew Research Centre survey, 45% of US Jewish adults say that caring about Israel is “essential” to what it means to be Jewish. The survey, however, discovered that Jewish Americans have significantly disparate views on Israel and its political leadership.

 

(3) Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism

 

Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, while sometimes conflated, are distinct concepts. Anti-Semitism refers to hostility and prejudice directed against Jewish people, based on age-old stereotypes and myths that target Jews as a people, their religious practices and beliefs, or the Jewish State of Israel. Anti-Zionism, on the other hand, is opposed to the political movement of Zionism, which advocates for the establishment and support of a Jewish state in Palestine – a land that is completely Arabised and Islamised for centuries.

Jewish – like Arab and Muslim- anti-Zionism, expresses resistance against a political movement used by imperialist powers to control the Middle East after the end of the XXth century colonialism. It has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. The evidence is that many Jewish people are still living in Arab Muslim countries, as they used to for centuries, safe and secure. Only in Europe have the Jews been harmed. Hence, their unfortunate flight to Palestine where, mobilised by Zionism they did not try to integrate into the life of the locals but preferred to have their own state at the expense of the Palestinians. Then, they became more greedy and started making their way by the force of weapons, aided by the same Western imperialist powers.

The Working Definition of Anti-semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance specifically acknowledges that criticism of Israel, while comparable to critiques directed at any other nation, should not be seen as an expression of antisemitism.

Anti-Zionism has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Some Jewish groups, such as the Satmar Hasidic sect, or Neturei Karta (NK) oppose the state of Israel on religious grounds, believing that a true Jewish state can only be established with the coming of the Messiah.

In conclusion, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are not the same. Anti-Semitism is a form of prejudice against Jews, while anti-Zionism is opposition to the political ideology of Zionism. It’s crucial to distinguish between legitimate criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Semitic rhetoric or actions.

Some of the greatest Jewish minds are anti-Zionists.

 

(4) Prominent Anti-Zionist Jews

 

Several prominent Jewish figures have opposed Zionism or refused to serve Israel. These individuals come from various fields, including academia, literature, and the arts. Here are some notable examples:

  1. Albert Einstein: The renowned physicist was a vocal critic of the idea of an ethnically exclusive Israeli state.
  1. Sigmund Freud: The founder of psychoanalysis, believed that the claim of Zionist Jews to the Land of Israel could not be a realistic political claim.
  1. Primo Levi: The writer and Auschwitz survivor compared the plight of Palestinians to that of Jews.
  1. Isaac Asimov: The famous science fiction writer stated that he was not a Zionist and criticised the idea of any heritage being considered more important than others.
  1. Hannah Arendt: The political theorist criticised Zionism for its reliance on antisemitism.
  1. Noam Chomsky: The linguist and philosopher has been a vocal critic of Israeli policies and has questioned the rationality behind the state’s creation.
  1. Richard Falk: The former UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has called Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories “a crime against humanity”.
  1. Haredi Jews: Since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, Haredi Jews have refused to serve in the Israeli military for religious reasons.
  1. Yaakov Meiersohn and Joseph Berger: Members of the Jewish-Marxist Poale Zion, they turned into anti-Zionists in the early 1920s after realising that Zionism would be discriminatory.
  1. International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network: This is a secular, socialist, antiwar, anti-imperialist organisation that calls for “the dismantling of Israeli apartheid, return of Palestinian refugees, and the ending of the Israeli colonisation of historic Palestine”.
  1. George Steiner, Tony Judt, and Baruch Kimmerling: These intellectuals of Jewish background in Israel and the diaspora have been noted for their anti-Zionist or post-Zionist views.
  2. Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum: The founding Satmar Rebbe, was one of the most prominent anti-Zionists of the twentieth century, who formulated a detailed theological rationale for his opposition to the state of Israel.

 

(5) Why Jewish Intellectuals Oppose Zionism?

 

Jewish intellectuals who oppose Zionism do so for a variety of reasons, including religious beliefs and interpretations, political and ethical concerns, critique of Israeli policies, support for Palestinian rights, and opposition to nationalism and ethnic exclusivity.

  1. Religious Beliefs and Interpretations: Some Orthodox Jews oppose Zionism on religious grounds, viewing the creation of a Jewish state as preempting the Messiah. They believe that the return to the land of Israel and the creation of a state should be divine acts, not human ones. They also object to the secular nature of Zionism, which they see as using sacred terms like “Zion”, “Jerusalem”, “Land of Israel”, “redemption” and “ingathering of exiles” in a secular and literal sense, rather than as sacred terms.
  1. Political and Ethical Concerns: Some Jewish intellectuals oppose Zionism because they see it as a threat to efforts to facilitate Jewish citizenship and equality within the European nation-state context. They argue that Zionism espouses nationalism in a secular fashion, which they see as problematic. Some also view Zionism as a form of nationalism, which they claim to be a product of capitalist societies.
  1. Critique of Israeli Policies: Some Jewish intellectuals critique Zionism due to their opposition to certain policies of the State of Israel. They argue that these policies violate human rights and international law. This critique is often linked to a broader critique of imperialism and colonialism, with Zionism seen as a representation of Western power.
  2. Support for Palestinian Rights: Some Jewish intellectuals oppose Zionism due to their support for Palestinian rights. They contend that the Palestinians were forcibly removed from their homeland upon the establishment of the State of Israel. They see this as a form of colonial dispossession and argue for the rights of Palestinians to self-determination and sovereignty.
  1. Opposition to Nationalism and Ethnic Exclusivity: Some Jewish intellectuals oppose Zionism because they see it as promoting nationalism and ethnic exclusivity. They say that a state should not be based on a single racial or religious identity. Instead, there should be a civic nation where every citizen has the same rights and duties, no matter what racial or religious group they belong to.

 

(6) Historical Events That Influenced Jewish Anti-Zionist Views

 

 

Several historical occurrences and ideological shifts have influenced Jewish anti-Zionist views. Here are some key events and movements that have shaped these views:

  1. Orthodox Jewish Opposition to Zionism: Orthodox Jewish communities have historically opposed Zionism, viewing it as a secular movement that undermines the religious nature of Judaism. They believe that the establishment of a Jewish state should only occur through divine intervention, not human action. This belief is rooted in the Talmudic oaths that prohibit Jews from establishing a state by force and rebelling against the nations of the world. The Neturei Karta is a well-known group that holds these views.
  2. Political Zionism’s emergence in the late 19th century: Orthodox Jews, contending that only the Messiah could reestablish Jewish rule in Israel, opposed it on religious grounds. Secular Jews also opposed it, uncomfortable with the idea that Jewish peoplehood was a national or ethnic identity.
  1. Rise of Nationalism in Europe: The rise of nationalism in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries influenced Jewish anti-Zionist views. Some Jews saw Zionism as a form of nationalism, which they opposed as a product of capitalist societies. They also saw it as a threat to their acceptance and integration in the countries where they resided.
  1. Arab Christian and Palestinian Anti-Zionist Movements: Palestinian Christians and Arab nationalists have also influenced Jewish anti-Zionist views. Palestinian Christians have been active in promoting Palestinian nationalism and resisting Zionism. Conversely, Arab nationalists have regarded Zionism as a potential menace to their personal ambitions, particularly with the growth of the Zionist labour movement and its “Hebrew labour” programme.
  1. Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism: Antisemitism has also played a role in shaping Jewish anti-Zionist views. Some Jews have opposed Zionism because they believe it fuels antisemitism by promoting a distinct Jewish national identity. They argue that this undermines the acceptance and integration of Jews in the countries where they reside.

These historical events and movements have shaped Jewish anti-Zionist views in complex ways, reflecting a range of religious, political, and social perspectives.

 

References For Further Reading

(1) Key Differences Between Zionism and Anti-Zionism

[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36160928
[2] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Zionism
[3] https://www.jstor.org/stable/2537506
[4] https://www.adl.org/resources/blog/anti-zionism-antisemitism-how-anti-zionist-language-left-and-right-vilifies-jews
[5] https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2012/12/24/zionism-anti-semitism-and-colonialism
[6] https://www.jstor.org/stable/2535480
[7] https://www.ajc.org/sites/default/files/pdf/2020-10/AntiZionism%20and%20Antisemitism.pdf
[8] https://www.brookings.edu/articles/how-do-americans-feel-about-zionism-antisemitism-and-israel/
[9] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/anti-semitism-and-anti-zionism
[10] https://www.jstor.org/stable/23563220
[11] https://www.adl.org/resources/tools-and-strategies/what-anti-israel-anti-semitic-anti-zionist
[12] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/a-definition-of-zionism
[13] https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/cambridge-history-of-judaism/zionism-and-its-critics/73C4F39C05491B593F680206CAB87978
[14] https://www.jstor.org/stable/23529420
[15] https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounder/anti-zionism
[16] https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounder/zionism
[17] https://www.historystudies.net/dergi/tar201512085fc.pdf
[18] https://www.intelligencesquared.com/events/anti-zionism-is-anti-semitism/
[19] https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/mar/07/debunking-myth-that-anti-zionism-is-antisemitic
[20] https://www.vox.com/2018/11/20/18080010/zionism-israel-palestine
[21] https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2019/1/9/the-zionist-fallacy-of-jewish-supremacy
[22] https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/is-anti-zionism-anti-semitism
[23] https://georgetownvoice.com/2023/03/24/anti-zionism-and-antisemitism-are-not-the-same/
[24] https://www.heyalma.com/israel-guide/what-is-zionism/

 

(2) Most Jews Do Not Live In Israel

[1] https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounder/neturei-karta
[2] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/anti-zionism-among-jews
[3] https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2021/05/21/u-s-jews-have-widely-differing-views-on-israel/
[4] https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ultra-orthodox-anti-zionist/
[5] https://www.annefrank.org/en/topics/antisemitism/are-all-jews-zionists/
[6] https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2021/05/11/u-s-jews-connections-with-and-attitudes-toward-israel/

 

(3) Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism

[1] https://www.ajc.org/sites/default/files/pdf/2020-10/AntiZionism%20and%20Antisemitism.pdf
[2] https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36160928
[3] https://www.adl.org/resources/blog/anti-zionism-antisemitism-how-anti-zionist-language-left-and-right-vilifies-jews
[4] https://www.adl.org/resources/tools-and-strategies/what-anti-israel-anti-semitic-anti-zionist
[5] https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/mar/07/debunking-myth-that-anti-zionism-is-antisemitic
[6] https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/is-anti-zionism-anti-semitism
[7] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/anti-semitism-and-anti-zionism
[8] https://www.wsj.com/articles/anti-zionism-is-a-more-malevolent-form-of-anti-semitism-jews-israel-hamas-b84c59de

 

(4) Prominent Anti-Zionist Jews

[1] https://www.stopwar.org.uk/article/from-albert-einstein-to-noam-chomsky-famous-jews-who-have-opposed-israel/
[2] https://katz.sas.upenn.edu/resources/blog/most-anti-zionist-text
[3] https://www.adl.org/resources/blog/roger-waters-extends-his-legacy-antisemitic-rhetoric
[4] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/anti-zionism-among-jews
[5] http://ieg-ego.eu/grillt-2011-en
[6] https://forward.com/opinion/430535/a-lot-more-jews-are-anti-zionists-than-you-think/
[7] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/one-hundred-years-ago-einstein-was-given-heros-welcome-americas-jews-180977386/
[8] https://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/member-stories/
[9] https://katz.sas.upenn.edu/taxonomy/term/424
[10] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-2-pro-nazi-nobelists-attacked-einstein-s-jewish-science-excerpt1/
[11] https://www.jewishnashville.org/our-impact/community-relations/community-relations-committee/roger-waters-spreads-hate
[12] https://www.jstor.org/stable/2535683
[13] https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/2015-11-23/ty-article/what-was-einsteins-relationship-to-judaism-and-zionism/0000017f-f443-d497-a1ff-f6c377e30000
[14] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2018-11-20/ty-article/.premium/israeli-professors-warn-against-equating-anti-zionism-with-anti-semitism/0000017f-dc1e-d856-a37f-fdded13e0000
[15] https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/mar/07/debunking-myth-that-anti-zionism-is-antisemitic
[16] https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691144122/einstein-before-israel
[17] https://www.wsj.com/articles/anti-zionism-is-a-more-malevolent-form-of-anti-semitism-jews-israel-hamas-b84c59de
[18] https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/is-anti-zionism-a-form-of-anti-semitism/
[19] https://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/physics/brau/H182/Term%20Papers/Eric%20Weiss.html

 

(5) Why Jewish Intellectuals Oppose Zionism?

[1] https://www.britannica.com/topic/fundamentalism/Jewish-fundamentalism-in-Israel
[2] https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/jjewiethi.4.2.0109
[3] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2021-04-15/ty-article-opinion/.premium/between-antisemitism-and-anti-zionism-the-intellectuals-dilemma/0000017f-db54-d3ff-a7ff-fbf495350000
[4] https://www.adl.org/resources/report/antisemitism-and-radical-anti-israel-bias-political-left-europe
[5] https://www.jstor.org/stable/29779843
[6] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/anti-zionism-among-jews
[7] https://academic.oup.com/book/9169/chapter/155801542
[8] https://academic.oup.com/book/39979/chapter/340295066
[9] https://georgetown.edu/welcome/student_news/detail?_kgoui_bookmark=e3637e94-03e0-5062-8b5b-f2e05174defa&feed=student_news_1&id=085d42bf-813c-5df0-b1d2-0034dadad3f0
[10] https://academic.oup.com/book/628/chapter/135333910
[11] https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/mar/07/debunking-myth-that-anti-zionism-is-antisemitic
[12] https://www.jstor.org/stable/4467521
[13] https://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?anchor.id=d0e2718&brand=eschol&chunk.id=s1.3.6&doc.view=content&docId=ft709nb49x&toc.depth=100
[14] https://merip.org/2022/10/changing-attitudes-towards-zionism-among-american-jews-an-interview-with-zachary-lockman/
[15] https://criticallegalthinking.com/2018/08/27/against-appeasement-whats-wrong-with-zionism/
[16] https://www.jstor.org/stable/2535683
[17] https://www.adl.org/resources/blog/anti-zionism-antisemitism-how-anti-zionist-language-left-and-right-vilifies-jews
[18] https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/is-anti-zionism-a-form-of-anti-semitism/
[19] https://www.loc.gov/rr/amed/pdf/palestine4/Is-Zionism-the-solution-of-the-Jewish-problem.pdf

 

(6) Historical Events That Influenced Jewish Anti-Zionist Views

[1] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/anti-zionism-among-jews
[2] https://www.jstor.org/stable/30245608
[3] https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1122&context=aujh
[4] https://muse.jhu.edu/article/239325/pdf
[5] https://www.fpri.org/article/2015/01/origins-and-evolution-of-zionism/
[6] https://www.jstor.org/stable/40213810
[7] http://ieg-ego.eu/grillt-2011-en
[8] https://www.britannica.com/topic/political-Zionism
[9] https://lsa.umich.edu/content/dam/cmenas-assets/cmenas-documents/unit-of-israel-palestine/Section1_Zionism.pdf
[10] https://www.adl.org/resources/blog/anti-zionism-antisemitism-how-anti-zionist-language-left-and-right-vilifies-jews
[11] https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ultra-orthodox-anti-zionist/
[12] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Zionism
[13] https://www2.rivier.edu/faculty/lcarr/Some%20thoughts%20on%20the%20relationships%20between%20nationalism,%20anti-Zionism%20and%20anti-Semitism..pdf
[14] https://www.un.org/unispal/historical-timeline/
[16] https://www.nli.org.il/en/discover/israel/zionism/zionism-history
[17] https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2019/1/9/the-zionist-fallacy-of-jewish-supremacy
[18] https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/antisemitism-in-history-the-era-of-nationalism-1800-1918
[19] https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounder/neturei-karta
[20] https://academic.oup.com/book/628/chapter/135334068
[21] https://www.adl.org/resources/report/antisemitism-and-radical-anti-israel-bias-political-left-europe

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