“Having grown up in Jerusalem I can recall how each year on particular days, including the Israeli Day of Independence, there would be processions at the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods where the Israeli flag would be burned.”
JERUSALEM — (Analysis) According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, anti-Semitism is defined as “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.” This is also how anti-Semitism is understood by people in general. However, the state of Israel and Zionist organizations around the world do not want the term to be defined as only racism against Jewish people but also to include criticism and rejection of Zionism.
Jewish rejection of Zionism
The Zionist movement had no concern for God or Jewish law because the Zionist leaders were secular and their vision was to create a secular state. They claimed that Jews were a nation just like any other, even though clearly that is not the case. Jews in Yemen, in Iraq, in Poland or in the Holy Land itself had and continue to have their own distinct customs, clothing, culture and language. The only common thing that Jewish people around the world possess is their religion. This is true even today, when many Jewish people see themselves as secular. Jews in America have a distinct culture that is different from that of Jews in France or Iran or in occupied Palestine.
The Zionists secularized the Old Testament, treating it as though it was a historical document, which it very clearly is not; and, finally, the Zionists claimed that Palestine is the Land of Israel and that it is the land of the Jewish people and therefore they have a right to take it, even by force. They invented and spread the motto, “A Land without a People for a People without a Land,” even though clearly there were people on the land, the Palestinian Arabs. These people, in the eyes of Western colonizers, being non-European and not white, were just insignificant and invisible.
Jewish opposition to Zionism was swift and fierce and is well documented. The leading Rabbis of the Ultra-Orthodox community were very clear in their opposition and the points they made were as relevant in the early 20th century as they are today. According to Jewish law, the Jewish people are forbidden from claiming sovereignty in the Land of Israel. They were expelled by Divine decree as a result of their own rejection of God’s laws and are not permitted to return until such time as God sends His messenger to grant them permission to return. To claim, as many Zionist do, that God gave The Land of Israel to the Jewish people and therefore they are permitted to live there, and force another nation into exile in the process, contravenes the commands of the very God that they claim gave them the land.
God’s promise of the land to the Jewish people was conditioned upon their obedience to His laws. Having failed to so obey, they cannot simply claim it back. Furthermore, there is a prohibition on taking the land by force, dying for the land, or taking a life of another human being. Jewish law commands its followers to be loyal citizens in whatever country they happen to live.
Furthermore, in a book named Or Layesharim or Light for the Truthful, published in the year 1900, the rabbis of the early twentieth century warned of four major inevitable consequences should the Zionist movement be allowed to accomplish its goal of a so-called “Jewish state” in Palestine.
- Unprecedented violence to the Holy Land;
- Unprecedented tensions between Jews and the Palestinian Arabs;
- Jeopardizing the relations between Jews and Muslims;
- Casting doubt as to the loyalty of Jewish people in the countries in which they reside around the world.
Sadly, no one listened to the rabbis and, as things turned out, every one of their warnings became true.
Conflating anti-Semitism with rejection of Zionism
From early on, the Zionist movement and then the State of Israel have had a tense relationship with the Ultra-Orthodox community because of its clear anti-Zionist stance. Having grown up in Jerusalem I can recall how each year on particular days, including the Israeli Day of Independence, there would be processions at the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods where the Israeli flag would be burned.
The Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, which claims to be a civil-rights organization but is in reality a Zionist watchdog, maintains that “Anti-Zionism is a prejudice against the Jewish movement for self-determination and the right of the Jewish people to a homeland in the State of Israel.” This is an interesting twist on Zionism and what it means to oppose it.
To begin with it is not prejudice to oppose Zionism. The Zionist movement has been around for over a century and has a clear track record of racism and extreme violence. Nor is it prejudice against the right of Jewish people to live in Palestine. The creation of the state of Israel came at an enormous cost and included genocide, ethnic cleansing, and the establishment of an apartheid regime. That is enough reason to oppose any movement.
The ADL also claim that BDS — the Palestinian call for a boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign against Israel — is anti-Semitic. On its website, it says that “ADL believes that the founding goals of the BDS movement and many of the strategies used by BDS campaigns are anti-Semitic.” It goes on to say that “the [BDS] campaign is founded on a rejection of Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state. It denies the Jewish people the right to self-determination.”
However, the proclaimed demands of the BDS call, as stated on their website, could not be more clear nor could they be farther from what the ADL claims they are. Namely:
- Ending the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall.
- Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.
- Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
These demands are all remedial and one can summarize them with three words: Freedom, Justice and Equality — three values that are perfectly congruent with Judaism and Jewish values and with which millions of Jewish people fully agree. Not one of these demands poses even the slightest danger to Jews anywhere. However, they are demands that the State of Israel opposes; and Zionist watchdogs like the ADL, which work in the service of Israel, falsely claim that such opposition to Israel constitutes anti-Semitism.
Unfortunately, many if not most people around the world are unaware that historically the Zionist movement and Zionist ideology have been at odds with world Jewry.
As it was then, so it is today: there are entire communities of Jewish people who reject Zionism. The anti-Zionist religious Jews are one such community and there are others, who are not religious and have rejected Zionism and live and thrive in countries around the world, as Jewish people have done throughout the vast majority of Jewish history.
It is safe to say that the Zionist establishment, concerned about its own legitimacy, decided to embark on this campaign to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Historically the secular, European Zionist establishment did succeed in convincing and applying pressure on governments and non-governmental organizations around the world to ignore the calls and opinions of traditional rabbis, and accept the Zionist state and consequently accept the claim that opposing Zionism is equivalent to anti-Semitism.
As a result of the growing support for the Palestinian cause and realization that Zionism as a movement is responsible for the inexcusable crimes committed by Israel towards the Palestinian people, consecutive Israeli governments felt the need to stop the growth of anti-Zionist sentiments around the world and began a campaign to conflate criticism and rejection of Zionism with racism and anti-Semitism.
This has reached ridiculous proportions, as when the self-appointed International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, or IHRA, took it upon itself to define anti-Semitism and began a campaign to have its definition accepted by governments and non-governmental organizations around the world. This is how we reach absurd situations like the one in the U.K., where the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who has fought racism his entire life, is accused of anti-Semitism.
If one wants to eradicate anti-Semitism, one should fight to end all forms of racism; supporting Israel is supporting racism. Claiming that opposition to Zionism is anti-Semitic is a false, shameless claim.
Top Photo | A Hasidic Jewsih man, a member of Neturei Karta International, Jews United Against Zionism, hoists a Palestinian flag as he protests outside the Washington Convention Center at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington , March 4, 2012. Cliff Owen | AP
Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”