This week, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a left-wing organization that seeks to undermine public support for Israel, released a statement explaining why it opposes Zionism. The statement is comprised of shameful lies about the Jewish state, but its words should be taken seriously, for they epitomize the anti-Zionist attitude toward Israel.
JVP claims that it is "guided by a vision of justice, equality, and freedom for all people," and that Zionism has, in contrast to those ideals, established "an apartheid state where Jews have more rights than others" and Palestinians face egregious discrimination. In reality, however, such anti-Zionism is the most important and influential form of anti-Semitism today.
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Anti-Zionism is, by definition, the same as anti-Semitism. Historically, Zionism was a political movement that sought to reestablish a Jewish national home in the land of Israel. Once that goal was realized in 1948, being a Zionist meant, and still means, supporting the survival of Israel as a prosperous Jewish state. Consequently, being an anti-Zionist means opposing the survival of Israel as a prosperous Jewish state.
Anti-Zionists do not necessarily seek the destruction of Israel through violence. But anti-Zionists do, at the very least, seek to reverse the Zionist project, undermining Israel to the point that it effectively ceases to exist as we have come to recognize it, with, as I have previously written, the disastrous "implications for Israeli Jews, who live in a region in which most governments have shown no qualms about slaughtering Jews," or watching others slaughter them.
Even if anti-Zionists do not wish violence on Israel's Jews, that is precisely what their vision would lead to. "There's a real-life Jewish state with millions of Jews loyal to it," Yoram Hazony, president of the Herzl Institute, recently wrote on Twitter. "The Jews here are not going to give it up in exchange for any other political entity your imagination can concoct. The chances of dismantling this state without wholesale killing of Jews: Zero." In other words, the only way, ultimately, to replace Israel with Palestine, or a bi-national state, or whatever else anti-Zionists may want, is to fight the Jewish state, and therefore kill large numbers of Jews. This is, after all, a matter of national survival. Some people, perhaps the leaders of JVP, may be too ignorant to understand this truth, but ignorance is no excuse to absolve what are effectively calls for large-scale murder.
Anti-Zionism does more to justify and inspire hatred and persecution of Jews than any other force today. Just look at the millions of people in the Middle East who seek to murder Jews but couch their desires in the language of anti-Zionists—the Israeli "occupation," Palestinian suffering, etc.
Anti-Zionists invoke the exact same canards against Israel that anti-Semites have invoked against Jews for millennia. One should not define anti-Semitism as hatred and persecution of Jews; rather, anti-Semitism is, to paraphrase Bernard Lewis, about assigning restrictive, disadvantageous double standards to Jews and, more importantly, attributing to them a cosmic, Satanic evil, the likes of which cannot be found anywhere else. Consider the language used by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), who in 2012 tweeted, "Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel." The tweet, which Omar wrote during an Israeli military offensive in Gaza, is still online. Just replace the word "Israel" with "Jews," and Omar would fit right in with the most outspoken Jew-haters of the Dark Ages.
Almost as remarkable is how Omar defended her tweet this week. When pressed on television to explain her choice of words, Omar responded, "I remember when that was happening, watching TV and really feeling as if no other life was being impacted in this war, and those unfortunate words were the only words I could think about expressing at that point."
Omar added that there is a "difference" between criticizing a military action by a government that has "exercised really oppressive policies" and attacking "particular people of faith." She defended her tweet by employing the same language that anti-Zionists use to attack Israel.
Because anti-Zionism targets the Jewish state rather than the Jewish people, it is acceptable in public forums.
Of course one can criticize Israel without necessarily being anti-Semitic. The problem is that anti-Zionists so often go beyond legitimate criticism, throwing out outrageous charges of genocide and apartheid to demonize and de-legitimize the Jewish state. Such language is part of an effort to wage political warfare, not to exercise one's right to freedom of expression.
The great irony of anti-Zionism is that its adherents seek precisely what drove Jews to push Zionism in the first place: a Jewish people without a national home, at the mercy of the forces that sought either to kill or expel them for so long. That is why the fundamental purpose of Israel is to protect Jews, to serve as a place of refuge with a standing military. To reject Zionism is to reject the security of the Jewish people.