Anti-Zionism Is Anti-Semitism

Peter Beinart's piece in the Guardian, "Debunking the myth that anti-Zionism is antisemitic," published on March 7, 2019, is based upon a number of flawed assumptions.

Beinart's first point is that "states based on ethnic nationalism" do not have a monopoly on maintaining "public order and individual freedom."  But is Israel a state based on ethnic nationalism?  The Law of Return allows for Jews to immigrate, including converts to Judaism, but excludes Jews who practice another religion.  A state based on ethnic nationalism alone would neither accept converts nor deny citizenship to an ethnic Jew who converts to another religion, as Israel does.

Beinart's second point is that it is not bigotry to try to change this "ethnic nationalism" into a civic nationalism.  He refers to the apartheid regime in South Africa, where the white nationalist regime was replaced with a civic nationalism in 1994 aimed at ensuring that all ethnicities enjoyed equality under the law.  The comparison with South Africa is not a valid one for reasons mentioned earlier.  Perhaps it is more correct to define Israel as an ethno-religious democracy.  Beinart goes on to advocate steps toward inclusivity that would include, among other things, a stanza added to the Israeli national anthem that acknowledges the hopes of its Palestinian citizens.  Underlying this vision is the hope that a cessation of hostilities will follow.

The cold reality is that this is but a pipe dream, for the foreseeable future, at least.  Few Palestinians express enthusiasm for the two-state solution.  The popular belief in the Arab and Muslim world is that Israel will one day be abolished, and the Jews, like the Crusaders of old, will be driven back to Europe or face annihilation.  Even for those who reluctantly accept the notion of a two-state solution, it is but a bitter pill to swallow until the armies of Islam are strong enough to defeat Zionism and Israel militarily.  That appears to be the desired outcome, rather than working toward an independent state for Palestinians who serve as a means to an end toward the greater goal.  For it is shameful and a grave loss of face if Jews (whose "corrupted" religion Islam was supposed to replace) usurp "Islamic" land.  The honor of Islam needs to be restored.  A similar zeal drove the desire to oust the Christian Crusaders centuries earlier.

Openly calling for Israel's destruction, as is the norm in Muslim countries, would hardly be tolerated in the West, where "resistance groups" like Hamas and Hezb'allah have been outlawed as terrorist outfits, and the overwhelming majority believe that a two-state solution is the road forward to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  In this climate, it is impossible to support jihad against Israel openly.  Consequently, many Muslims in the West — including prominent Palestinian activists — have instead joined forces with the Israel-hating hard left in calling for a one-state solution coupled with the right of return for Palestinian refugees.  Demographical change is the only way they can hope to destroy Israel due to Israel's military might.  Under the guise of human rights, the hard left, driven by its Marxist tendencies, enthusiastically collaborates in a subversive project designed to destroy Israel's Jewish majority from within.

What many in the West do not appreciate is that the Muslim street identifies with Hamas, Hezb'allah, and other extremist groups seeking the destruction of Israel more than they do with the leaders who may be conducive to resolving the conflict through diplomacy and concessions.  Thus, Egypt and Jordan may have normalized relations with Israel, but many Egyptians and Jordanians remain opposed to the idea of peace.  When the West Bank was under Jordanian control during 1948–1967, no Arab or Muslim country demanded that Jordan declare the West Bank an independent Palestinian state.  Why did the Arab or Muslim nations not champion Palestinian rights to independence during this period?

The "individual freedom" that Beinart speaks about is hardly a cherished dream in the Muslim Middle East, where the culture dictates that tribal and family allegiances trump individual freedoms.  Even in Baathist, socialist, or secular nations like Iraq, Syria, or Lebanon, practices like honor killings are still sanctioned.  The liberal, freedom-loving idealism that the West upholds cannot be imposed on shame and honor cultures, which still cling to ancient traditions.

Beinart's third point is that in the real world, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism do not always go together.  Historically, some state actors supported Zionism in order to decrease the Jewish population in their own nations.  As he notes, Arthur Balfour welcomed the 1905 Aliens Act, which sought to limit Jewish migration to the United Kingdom.  Similarly, in the 1930s, Poland's government chose not to recruit qualified Jewish fighters in the Polish military in the hope that they would emigrate to Israel.  Therefore, Beinart's assertion that one can find ardent supporters of Zionism among anti-Semites is plausible.  However, it is to a large extent irrelevant in that it assumes that 100% concurrence between anti-Zionists and anti-Semites alone ought to confer legitimacy upon  Zionism; it is sufficient that the majority of Zionists are not anti-Semites.  As the former Chief Rabbi Mirvis wrote in 2016: 

Zionism is a belief in the right to Jewish self-determination in a land that has been at the centre of the Jewish world for more than 3,000 years.  One can no more separate it from Judaism than separate the City of London from Great Britain.

Historically, Jews sometimes attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to establish a Zionist state in their ancient homeland.  In 1666, Shabtai Tzvi managed to convince the multitudes that he was the promised Messiah.  Many Jews began to prepare to emigrate to Israel in the belief  that he would lead them to their redemption.  These plans were scuppered by the Ottoman sultan, who gave Shabtai Tzvi the choice of conversion to Islam or death.  Traditional Islamic belief dictates that one day, the entire world will be the domain of Islam.

Beinart observes that Zionists can be anti-Semitic and points to rightist European leaders like Hungary's Viktor Orbán, Heinz-Christian Strache of Austria's Freedom Party, and Beatrix von Storch of the Alternative for Germany, who are avid supporters of Zionism.  He cites Richard Spencer, who in 2017 referred to himself as a "white Zionist," lauding Israel as the model state for his racist dream of a white homeland for the United States.  Tellingly, these views serve to highlight the ignorance of the far right in that they view the world through the prism of race, whereas Israel has welcomed successive waves of immigration from places like Russia, the Arab states, and Ethiopia.  Does Beinart really believe that would-be Nazis projecting their racist agenda upon Israel delegitimizes Zionism?

Nor does Beinart's claim that anti-Zionism clearly exists without anti-Semitism hold any water.  He writes:

In 2017, 20,000 Satmar men — a larger crowd than attended that year's American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference — filled the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for a rally aimed at showing, in the words of one organiser: "We feel very strongly that there should not be and could not be a State of Israel before the Messiah comes."

Actually, here the Satmar hasidim are affirming that they are Zionists but that the State of Israel should be established after the Messiah comes.  In other words, they differ over only the time frame and not the belief in the eventual establishment of a Zionist state.  Therefore, it would be more than mildly amusing to see the reaction of anti-Zionists like Nazim Ali, who like to wheel out the Neturei Karta to distance themselves from charges of anti-Semitism, if these hasidim were to suddenly declare that their Messiah had arrived.  Would they welcome the establishment of that Zionist state any more than they do the current Israel?

There is therefore ample evidence to conclude that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.

Zeyba Nur writes about issues concerning Muslim anti-Semitism.  She can be contacted at zeybanur@outlook.com.

Peter Beinart's piece in the Guardian, "Debunking the myth that anti-Zionism is antisemitic," published on March 7, 2019, is based upon a number of flawed assumptions.

Beinart's first point is that "states based on ethnic nationalism" do not have a monopoly on maintaining "public order and individual freedom."  But is Israel a state based on ethnic nationalism?  The Law of Return allows for Jews to immigrate, including converts to Judaism, but excludes Jews who practice another religion.  A state based on ethnic nationalism alone would neither accept converts nor deny citizenship to an ethnic Jew who converts to another religion, as Israel does.

Beinart's second point is that it is not bigotry to try to change this "ethnic nationalism" into a civic nationalism.  He refers to the apartheid regime in South Africa, where the white nationalist regime was replaced with a civic nationalism in 1994 aimed at ensuring that all ethnicities enjoyed equality under the law.  The comparison with South Africa is not a valid one for reasons mentioned earlier.  Perhaps it is more correct to define Israel as an ethno-religious democracy.  Beinart goes on to advocate steps toward inclusivity that would include, among other things, a stanza added to the Israeli national anthem that acknowledges the hopes of its Palestinian citizens.  Underlying this vision is the hope that a cessation of hostilities will follow.

The cold reality is that this is but a pipe dream, for the foreseeable future, at least.  Few Palestinians express enthusiasm for the two-state solution.  The popular belief in the Arab and Muslim world is that Israel will one day be abolished, and the Jews, like the Crusaders of old, will be driven back to Europe or face annihilation.  Even for those who reluctantly accept the notion of a two-state solution, it is but a bitter pill to swallow until the armies of Islam are strong enough to defeat Zionism and Israel militarily.  That appears to be the desired outcome, rather than working toward an independent state for Palestinians who serve as a means to an end toward the greater goal.  For it is shameful and a grave loss of face if Jews (whose "corrupted" religion Islam was supposed to replace) usurp "Islamic" land.  The honor of Islam needs to be restored.  A similar zeal drove the desire to oust the Christian Crusaders centuries earlier.

Openly calling for Israel's destruction, as is the norm in Muslim countries, would hardly be tolerated in the West, where "resistance groups" like Hamas and Hezb'allah have been outlawed as terrorist outfits, and the overwhelming majority believe that a two-state solution is the road forward to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  In this climate, it is impossible to support jihad against Israel openly.  Consequently, many Muslims in the West — including prominent Palestinian activists — have instead joined forces with the Israel-hating hard left in calling for a one-state solution coupled with the right of return for Palestinian refugees.  Demographical change is the only way they can hope to destroy Israel due to Israel's military might.  Under the guise of human rights, the hard left, driven by its Marxist tendencies, enthusiastically collaborates in a subversive project designed to destroy Israel's Jewish majority from within.

What many in the West do not appreciate is that the Muslim street identifies with Hamas, Hezb'allah, and other extremist groups seeking the destruction of Israel more than they do with the leaders who may be conducive to resolving the conflict through diplomacy and concessions.  Thus, Egypt and Jordan may have normalized relations with Israel, but many Egyptians and Jordanians remain opposed to the idea of peace.  When the West Bank was under Jordanian control during 1948–1967, no Arab or Muslim country demanded that Jordan declare the West Bank an independent Palestinian state.  Why did the Arab or Muslim nations not champion Palestinian rights to independence during this period?

The "individual freedom" that Beinart speaks about is hardly a cherished dream in the Muslim Middle East, where the culture dictates that tribal and family allegiances trump individual freedoms.  Even in Baathist, socialist, or secular nations like Iraq, Syria, or Lebanon, practices like honor killings are still sanctioned.  The liberal, freedom-loving idealism that the West upholds cannot be imposed on shame and honor cultures, which still cling to ancient traditions.

Beinart's third point is that in the real world, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism do not always go together.  Historically, some state actors supported Zionism in order to decrease the Jewish population in their own nations.  As he notes, Arthur Balfour welcomed the 1905 Aliens Act, which sought to limit Jewish migration to the United Kingdom.  Similarly, in the 1930s, Poland's government chose not to recruit qualified Jewish fighters in the Polish military in the hope that they would emigrate to Israel.  Therefore, Beinart's assertion that one can find ardent supporters of Zionism among anti-Semites is plausible.  However, it is to a large extent irrelevant in that it assumes that 100% concurrence between anti-Zionists and anti-Semites alone ought to confer legitimacy upon  Zionism; it is sufficient that the majority of Zionists are not anti-Semites.  As the former Chief Rabbi Mirvis wrote in 2016: 

Zionism is a belief in the right to Jewish self-determination in a land that has been at the centre of the Jewish world for more than 3,000 years.  One can no more separate it from Judaism than separate the City of London from Great Britain.

Historically, Jews sometimes attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to establish a Zionist state in their ancient homeland.  In 1666, Shabtai Tzvi managed to convince the multitudes that he was the promised Messiah.  Many Jews began to prepare to emigrate to Israel in the belief  that he would lead them to their redemption.  These plans were scuppered by the Ottoman sultan, who gave Shabtai Tzvi the choice of conversion to Islam or death.  Traditional Islamic belief dictates that one day, the entire world will be the domain of Islam.

Beinart observes that Zionists can be anti-Semitic and points to rightist European leaders like Hungary's Viktor Orbán, Heinz-Christian Strache of Austria's Freedom Party, and Beatrix von Storch of the Alternative for Germany, who are avid supporters of Zionism.  He cites Richard Spencer, who in 2017 referred to himself as a "white Zionist," lauding Israel as the model state for his racist dream of a white homeland for the United States.  Tellingly, these views serve to highlight the ignorance of the far right in that they view the world through the prism of race, whereas Israel has welcomed successive waves of immigration from places like Russia, the Arab states, and Ethiopia.  Does Beinart really believe that would-be Nazis projecting their racist agenda upon Israel delegitimizes Zionism?

Nor does Beinart's claim that anti-Zionism clearly exists without anti-Semitism hold any water.  He writes:

In 2017, 20,000 Satmar men — a larger crowd than attended that year's American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference — filled the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for a rally aimed at showing, in the words of one organiser: "We feel very strongly that there should not be and could not be a State of Israel before the Messiah comes."

Actually, here the Satmar hasidim are affirming that they are Zionists but that the State of Israel should be established after the Messiah comes.  In other words, they differ over only the time frame and not the belief in the eventual establishment of a Zionist state.  Therefore, it would be more than mildly amusing to see the reaction of anti-Zionists like Nazim Ali, who like to wheel out the Neturei Karta to distance themselves from charges of anti-Semitism, if these hasidim were to suddenly declare that their Messiah had arrived.  Would they welcome the establishment of that Zionist state any more than they do the current Israel?

There is therefore ample evidence to conclude that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.

Zeyba Nur writes about issues concerning Muslim anti-Semitism.  She can be contacted at zeybanur@outlook.com.