Is being an anti-Zionist an anti-Semite?

Image: Ron Rov


The Israeli lobby and its staunch supporters do not fight against the anti-Semitism they claim exists, they fight against criticism of Israel

In general, when a critical debate begins regarding the policy of the State of Israel, its military actions and intervention in the territory of Palestine or even in other regions of the Middle East, several comments emerge from its supporters in its defense, to explain and justify the barbarities committed by the “only democracy in the Middle East”. Among these comments, several accusations arise, the most serious being to accuse all those who oppose the State and State policy of Israel as anti-Semitic.

All political criticism of Zionism is taken as synonymous with anti-Semitism, according to Zionist intellectuals and supporters. In fact, among some criticisms of the State of Israel, there are anti-Semitic demonstrations by neo-Nazi organizations and, among others, by organizations that declare themselves Islamic. The central point is to contextualize the reader how each concept fits into this discussion, so that they are not misinterpreted or taken out of context as has commonly occurred.

According to Santos (2018, p. 12) “Zionism is a political movement with nationalist aspirations, which affirms the right to the existence of a Jewish State” and which historically proposes the eradication of the Jewish diaspora, having as its main theorist the Jew Theodor Hetz (1860-1904). Within the Zionist movement, three locations were considered for the construction of the State: Argentina for having one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, Uganda for being under British mandate at the time of negotiations with the Zionist movement and Palestine for also being under British mandate and being a historically important region for Jews.

Hetz theorized and concentrated these ideas in his main work The Jewish State (1896). This idea gains strength in the face of violent attacks and persecutions against Jews in the West, especially in England, Germany, France and Russia, which intensified during the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries. These persecutions of Jews became known as pogroms.[I]

Anti-Zionism is a term used by social activists for Human Rights, movements that oppose the idea of ​​creating a Jewish national state in historic Palestine and above all that oppose the policies of the State of Israel. Antisemitism is prejudice and hate speech against Semites, mainly encompassing hatred against Jews. The Semites encompass several ethnicities such as Jews, Hebrew Arabs, Arameans, Phoenicians and Assyrians.

During the XNUMXth century, the Israeli propaganda machine appropriated the term “anti-Semitic” as a prejudice committed only against Jews, excluding other Semitic peoples. In protest of this, some authors prefer to use the term “Judeophobia”. An ethnic Jew, logically, can never be anti-Semitic, but can express political and religious opposition to Zionism. Many ethnic and religious Orthodox Jews vehemently reject the Jewish State or as they prefer to call the Zionist State. The Jewish community after the Second World War went through one of its biggest ruptures in history when it came to supporting the creation of the State of Israel and consequently the immigration policy to Palestine where they became settlers.

The idea that for 2000 years Jews have longed to return to the Holy Land is false and denied by the traditional Jewish community. Rabbis faithful to the interpretation of Torah They constantly assert in their protests against Zionism that the return to the Holy Land, according to the sacred book, could only occur on the occasion of the advent of the Messiah.

“Pious Jews who publicly criticize Zionism believe they must do so because of obligations imposed by the Torah. The first is to prevent the profanation of God's name. As the State of Israel intends to act on behalf of all Jews in the world, including in the name of Judaism, these Jews feel obliged to publicly explain, especially to non-Jews, what they consider to be a fraudulent interpretation. The second obligation derives from the precept of preserving human life. By highlighting Jewish rejection of Zionism, they hope to distance Jews from the animosity that, in their opinion, the State of Israel provokes among nations. They want to prevent Jews around the world from becoming hostages to Israeli policies and their consequences. They assert that the State of Israel should be known as the “Zionist State” and not as “the Jewish State” or “Hebrew State”.[ii]

This attempt to assimilate anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism is a great tool on the part of the State of Israel and its allies to silence any criticism directed at them as if they were criticism of Judaism and Jews. This is nothing more than a brilliant discursive way to silence critics of Israeli Zionism. It is interesting to note that this type of silencing has become a policy on the part of the Zionist State and its supporters.

We can use professor Steven Salaita as an example of silencing[iii] who in 2014 had his job offer rescinded by the University of Illinois after a series of tweets that directed criticism at the State of Israel. After much lobbying by the American Zionist movement, the professor was not accepted into any other university. Some time later, the professor went to court and managed to reverse the situation by reaching an agreement with the university and receiving around US$600.000.

The association of Jews with the State of Israel is almost automatic when mentioned in the media or academic circles. When any staunch opponents of Zionism shout for the end of the State of Israel and call for the self-determination of the multi-ethnic and secular Palestinian State, they are soon associated with enemies of the Jewish people spread throughout the world. The Zionists did something very well besides expelling the Palestinians from their lands and being responsible for the diaspora of the people descended from the Philistines, they knew how to create and reinforce the connection between the global Jewish community and the State of Israel, presenting themselves as the vanguard of the Jews. The Zionist school of thought and propagation of ideas should in no way represent Judaism, just as Al-Qaeda and ISIS-Islamic State do not represent Islam.

Jewish philosopher Judith Butler sees these associations as having extremely negative consequences for the Jewish movement: “In the United States, I have been alarmed by the number of Jews who, disheartened by Israeli policy, including the occupation, indefinite detention practices, the bombing of civilian populations in Gaza, seek to deny their Jewish status. They make the mistake of thinking that the State of Israel represents Judaism for our times, and that if someone identifies as Jewish, they support Israel and its actions. And yet, there have always been Jewish traditions that oppose state violence, that affirm multicultural cohabitation, and uphold principles of equality, and this vital ethical tradition is forgotten or marginalized when any of us accept Israel as the basis of Jewish identification.”[iv]

Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism at all, for the same reason that being anti-Nazi does not mean being against the German people. Being against Israeli Zionism and its policy of apartheid, segregation, violation of human rights, ethnic cleansing against Palestinians cannot be considered an “anti-Semitic” act. The Israeli lobby and its staunch supporters do not fight against the anti-Semitism they claim exists, they fight against criticism of Israel.

Gustavo Alves Lima is a graduate in history from the Federal University of Latin American Integration (UNILA).


[I] Pogroms (in Russian “destruction”): These were massacres organized for the annihilation of any group or class, especially with the connivance of the Russian government against the Jews. The term was first used outside Russia at the time of the anti-Jewish uprisings organized by the Black Centuries in Russia in 1905, but it is often applied to previous Russian insurrections, starting in 1881 (ROTH, 1966, p. 976).

[ii] Rabkin, Yakov M. Jews against Jews – the History of Jewish Opposition to Zionism. Cotia, SP: Acatu, 2009. p.17

[iii] Palestinian-American professor and intellectual who became known for winning a lawsuit against the University of Illinois.

[iv] Judith Butler responds to attack: 'I affirm a Judaism that is not associated with state violence' - Judith Butler on August 27, 2012 – Mondoweiss, Available: <>

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