Flame suit on.
July 15, 2006 2:46 PM   Subscribe

Without starting a flame war; is it possible to be Anti-Zionist, without being Anti-semitic?

Posting as a 27 year old white Catholic male in Arizona.

Is it possible to see and to agree with the Palistinian position that the land that comprises Israel was taken from them in 1947.

I guess first, is that a valid suposition?

Second, if valid what would you do if someone stole your land?

Third, is holding those beliefs (if factual) Anti-Zoinism, and can that be seperated from Anti-Semitism?

The last question is what gets me. The jews I know (granted a small sample size) believe me to be an anti-semite for seeing any logic to the first part of this post.

What are the thoughts of Metafilter.
posted by CCK to Religion & Philosophy (73 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, I know Jews who are non-self-loathing and Anti-Zionist. So, yeah.
posted by unknowncommand at 2:50 PM on July 15, 2006


Answer: yes.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:54 PM on July 15, 2006


Wikipedia says the answer is "Yes."
posted by paulsc at 3:01 PM on July 15, 2006


Overwhelmingly yes. There are entire sects of Judaism that are expressly anti-zionist as a matter of faith.
posted by loquax at 3:02 PM on July 15, 2006


Noam Chomsky, who is Jewish, is a prominent anti-Zionist, by your (and his) terms. I would hardly describe him as anti-Semitic, and I would tend to think he would agree they are separate, disparate concepts:

QUESTION: In Philadelphia?

CHOMSKY: In Philadelphia. And the anti-Semitism was very real. There were certain paths I could take to walk to the store without getting beaten up. It was the late 1930s and the area was openly pro-Nazi. I remember beer parties when Paris fell and things like that. It's not like living under Hitler, but it's a very unpleasant thing. There was a really rabid anti-Semitism in that neighborhood where I grew up as a kid and it continued. By the time I got to Harvard in the early 1950s there was still very detectable anti-Semitism. It wasn't that they beat you up on the way to school or something, but other ways, kind of WASP-ish anti-Semitism. There were very few Jewish professors on the faculty at that time. There was beginning to be a scattering of them, but still very few. This was the tail end of a long time of WASP-ish anti-Semitism at the elite institutions. Over the last thirty years that's changed very radically. Anti-Semitism undoubtedly exists, but it's now on a par, in my view, with other kinds of prejudice of all sorts. I don't think it's more than anti-Italianism or anti-Irishism, and that's been a very significant change in the last generation, one that I've experienced myself in my own life, and it's very visible throughout the society.

posted by Mr. Six at 3:04 PM on July 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


The jews I know (granted a small sample size) believe me to be an anti-semite for seeing any logic to the first part of this post.

Intellectual laziness, but not a position held by all Jews, certainly — and fortunately.
posted by Mr. Six at 3:05 PM on July 15, 2006


As I drove by a local Hilel center yesterday, I noticed a protest demonstration; the protesters were carrying signs that read "Jews against zionism."
posted by oddman at 3:14 PM on July 15, 2006


Answer: yes, of course. You might not want to call it "anti-Zionist" as that's often code-talk for Jew-hating. You might instead say that you oppose some of Israel's actions and choices.

But at the same time, you might take a look into your heart and ask yourself whether you have a principled objection to one nationality holding land that was taken from another, or even taken from another in living memory (as opposed to, say, Arizona, stolen from Mexico who stole it from Indians).

Does it piss you off that Poland is sitting on large chunks of Germany taken from it in the 20th century? That it's still Gdansk and not Danzig again? Or that large chunks of eastern Poland were given to what's now Ukraine and Belarus? Do you think that random Polish farmers should have the land that they stole from murdered Jewish families expropriated from them and placed into some sort of trust?

If not, then you might ask yourself why Palestine bothers you so much more than these other land-grabs that happened at about the same time. A perfectly good not-anti-semitic answer is that Palestine has better PR than Germany or Poland does; that Palestinian kids have bigger, sadder eyes than German or Polish ones. Or that Germany and Poland have gotten along reasonably well since the 1940s, while Palestine has not. But if you find that landgrabs only really bother you down in your heart when it's Israel, you should look further into why that is.\

That is, it is entirely possible to be strongly opposed to much that Israel does and not be a Jew-hater. But being opposed to much that Israel does does not, at the same time, imply that one is not a Jew-hater. One way to tell the difference is how similar conduct by other nations makes you feel, or how you act in regard to similar conduct by other nations.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:14 PM on July 15, 2006 [4 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe, you are using specious arguments.

1. The Palestinians had occupied the land that is now Israel since time immemorial (or, if you want to be pedantic, at the very least since the Arab invasions of the 8th century.) The Jews last occupied the land since when? Masada in 66 A.D.? i.e. nearly 2000 years. If we give back everyone the land they occupied in 66 A.D. no country in the world would be remotely the same.
2. Poland got large chunks of Germany because of Germany's action in WWII. You know that. The Palestinians did not invade the Jews pre-1948.
3. Yes, the Poles got screwed. Even more so, so did many others in that part of the world and elsewhere but the Poles still have a country, even if it is not where it should be. The Palestinians do not.
4. Jewish property in general (and not just farms in Poland) should clearly be returned where this can be done but we are not talking about a whole country stolen as is the case with Palestinians.

Many of us are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause not because of their good PR (as you say anti-semitically - Palestinians are Semites too) or because of their big, sad eyes but because their entire country was stolen from them for reasons of American politics (Truman needed the Jewish vote against Dewey - it worked) and because the US continues to support Israel's vicious attacks.

Ask yourself would have been the reaction if any other country in the world had invaded a neighbor if three of its nationals were kidnapped not by that neighbor but by terrorist groups.

BTW, I am all in favor of an independent Kurdistan, an independent Catalonia and better rights for native Americans in all American countries, North and South.
posted by TheRaven at 3:31 PM on July 15, 2006


I sense a flame war coming on.....

On a more serious note, and in response to xenophobe's post above, I am always a little surprised at the selective historical memories and backassward mental gymnastics otherwise intelligent people are (perhaps unconsciously) willing to perform in order to justify their desired ends. Especially with regards to the middle east. Both sides have behaved awfully, and at least in the NYC media I'm constantly bombarded with local 'spokespeople' for each that will never admit that any action, no matter how viscous and cruel, wasn't completely justified.
posted by overhauser at 3:55 PM on July 15, 2006


Yes.

Consider: Zionism asserts the right of a particular group of people, based upon ethnic heritage, to possess a specific piece of land.

Does that make sense to you abstract from the question of this particular group of people being Jewish? If not, you're anti-zionist.
posted by beerbajay at 3:58 PM on July 15, 2006


Wiki on anti-zionism including Jewish anti-zionism
posted by bim at 4:00 PM on July 15, 2006


Masada wasn't the end of the Jewish presence in Palestine. A very few existed throughout the period. During the early modern era, the Ottoman Empire, a Turkish state, ruled the entire Middle East. Jews began migrating there and bought land. By the 1940's they comprised nearly 30% of the population. After the war, they looked to create a state. The UN suggested a compromise, with two intertwined and demilitarized states. The Jews accepted the compromise, the Arabs attacked.

But it is quite possible to be anti-Zionist without being anti-semitic. Lately that charge has been a canard designed to de-legitimize opposition to neo-conservatism and Israel's actions in the Middle East. That's bad.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:08 PM on July 15, 2006


My roommate is a proud Jew and anti-Zionist, as is most of her immediate family. She worked with a Jewish organization for a few months and the pressure towards Zionism was part of what made her leave.

There are various factors towards being disinclined towards Zionism. For my roommate, it's also a belief that religion/shared cultural identity and politics should not walk hand in hand, as well as a general disapproval towards Israel's actions in the past several decades.
posted by honeydew at 4:10 PM on July 15, 2006


As a Jew:

Here's the problem: The word anti-zionism has been hijacked. "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Nowadays, it is used as code for anti-semitism (which used to be code for plain old Jew hating, but I digress).

Can you believe that Jews do not have a valid hold on the land of Israel without hating Jews? Yes. Can you be an anti-zionist without hating Jews? No more than you argue that you're not homophobic, because you're not afraid of gay people, you just don't like them.

(FYI, similar issue with people who wonder why Jews get all bothered when accused of killing Jesus. It's not the statement alone, per se. It's the fact that it has historically been used as an excuse for genocide.)
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 4:12 PM on July 15, 2006


Who stole the land from the Israelites?
posted by caddis at 4:14 PM on July 15, 2006


Yes, although lots of people would disagree with me.
posted by bshort at 4:17 PM on July 15, 2006


TheRaven, you're mistaking me for someone else. I think both sides in the ongoing war conduct themselves abominably and, maybe worse, stupidly.

I thought CCK was coming from a place of some manner of genuine concern about the origins of his own thoughts and feelings. My answer was that he engage in more introspection and query his feelings, confident that in doing so he would find that he would find that he dislikes Israel, or its conduct, but not Jews. But that he should make some effort to look inside himself and really try to suss it out.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:18 PM on July 15, 2006


This is one of the deepest problems in the world today... the fact that the two ideas are ever confused at all. I criticise the state of Israel loudly and often, because in my view it is a very dangerous outfit... in essence, a church with guns. Likewise, I criticize the US government loudly and often, for many of the same reasons. I'm neither anti-American nor anti-Jewish, but I think their respective governments are doing an enormous amount of damage in the world.

Yet, some people believe criticizing Israel itself is anti-semitic. A former online Jewish friend of mine became very angry with me when I said that shooting children (referring to the deliberate killing of that kid and his father in the pictures) was immoral. She called me an anti-semite for saying so, and then she said to me possibly the most frightening thing I've ever heard:

"Malor", she said, "Israel defines morality."

For some folks, you are anti-semitic to say Israel is wrong to do anything... even killing children. It's not true, it's not just, and it's a method of dodging valid criticism. Political disagreement, no matter how vehement it gets, is not racism.
posted by Malor at 4:20 PM on July 15, 2006


What kingjoeschmoe said. Well done.
posted by desuetude at 4:34 PM on July 15, 2006


caddis writes "Who stole the land from the Israelites?"

The Babylonians?

But does it matter? The Israelites stole it from the Canaanites. Canaan for the Canaanites!
posted by mr_roboto at 4:42 PM on July 15, 2006


The thing is, the vast majority of the people reading this are on land stolen from someone else. How many of you are volunteering to give your house back to the Indians, to Mexico, to Spain or wherever? What makes you feeling good about where you liveokay... because maybe a century has passed since your land was stolen? Israel has been around a half-century. So the cutoff is between 50 years and 100 years? Where is it, exactly? 75 years? If Israel holds onto their land for 50 more years it becomes okay?

There aren't any easy answers. Unfortunately, virtually all the land on earth was bougt and paid for in blood.
posted by Justinian at 4:50 PM on July 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


Since I didn't make it explicit; the point of my post is to agree with the esteemed Rapid Offensive Unit Xenophobe. It is quite possible to be anti-zionist without being anti-semitic. Just as it is possible to think it was bad to steal all the Native American's land without being anti-American, or bad to steal land from the Maori without being anti-Kiwi, or bad to steal land from the Celts without being anti virtually-everyone-in-Europe. But a lot of anti-semites use that as cover for their anti-semitism, and the level of anger directed at Israel seems disproportionate when a lot of the people directing that anger are happily enjoying their own blood soaked land.
posted by Justinian at 4:53 PM on July 15, 2006


I'm not going to touch ROU's examples with a 10 foot pole, but the larger point is valid. There are, all over the world, territorial disputes that are to some degree similar to the Israeli/Palestinian one (the Balkans and Sri Lanka come to mind for me, doubtless you all could find better examples, but bear with me).

If you can look at those disputes, and come up with an internally consistent guideline as to who you support and why, then you should be able to prove, to yourself and/or to anyone else, that your support for the Palestinians and/or opposition to Zionism comes form principle, not prejudice.
posted by Jos Bleau at 4:56 PM on July 15, 2006


Scotland for the Picts!


As Justinian points out, we can go on like this.... That said, however, is there any room for being a little disturbed by an ethnically-based nation state after the painful lessons of the 20th century? Ethnic nationalism is still bad, isn't it? Why not a one-state solution? Switzerland for the French, and Germans, and Italians, and Romansh, right?

Disclaimer: I don't actually believe any of this.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:05 PM on July 15, 2006


I don't think you even need any sort of internal consistency; people are rarely consistent. It's entirely reasonable to be anti-Israel but have no firm opinion or feelings about other terroritorial disputes, recent past or ongoing, simply because the Israel/Palestine one is in the news all the time and others aren't.

I just think CCK should ask himself about it to make sure, is all. It's not like any of us will know his heart one way or the other.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:08 PM on July 15, 2006


Just for the record, the ADL believes that Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism. While I agree with the posters in the thread who disagree with the above position, it's a pretty common one and I would argue has unfortunately become dominant.
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:29 PM on July 15, 2006


But CCK didn't ask "Am I anti-Semitic?" CCK asked "is it possible to be Anti-Zionist, without being Anti-semitic?" The answer, as many have said, is "Yes." I don't see the need to recommend heart-searching, and the fact that you recommend it suggests (however wrongly) that you suspect CCK of hidden anti-Semitism.
posted by languagehat at 5:31 PM on July 15, 2006


(That was to ROU, not allen.spaulding, who snuck in there with an all-too-correct observation.)
posted by languagehat at 5:32 PM on July 15, 2006


What is very important and yet has so far not been mentioned here is that the majority of jews that are anti-zionist are jews that are very strongly orthodox, and their motive for being anti-zionist isn't the war in the middle east, but rather their belief that the messiah will come and bring everyone to a jewish homeland but that it is wrong to go there without "waiting" for him.
posted by alon at 5:57 PM on July 15, 2006


languagehat : "But CCK didn't ask 'Am I anti-Semitic?' CCK asked 'is it possible to be Anti-Zionist, without being Anti-semitic?' The answer, as many have said, is 'Yes.' I don't see the need to recommend heart-searching"

The comment I am making is noise, as it doesn't answer the question, and for that I apologize, but I just wanted to draw attention to this in the hopes that the usual I/P flamewar can be forestalled: Languagehat's point is right on the money. The question isn't "Is my anti-Zionism justified?", but "Can one be anti-Zionist without being anti-semitic?" Answers should be about whether or not this is possible, not the possible beliefs of the asker or advice on what the asker should or shouldn't do.

Don't get me wrong, this is going well, and even the advice to the asker is mature and orderly. I just don't want it to spiral off in the wrong direction.
posted by Bugbread at 6:04 PM on July 15, 2006


"I don't see the need to recommend heart-searching..."

I do. The problem here is that above-and-beyond the fact, as kingjoeshmoe points out above, that the anti-semites have a long history of congruency with anti-zionists, there's the more general problem that Zionism itself exists inextricably in the context of anti-semtism. My point is that even approaching the subject of acceptability of the existence of the state of Israel is tainted, whether it's from the perspective of decrying the displacement of the Palestinians or from the perspective of decrying a theistic nationalism. Making a point to object to either in the particular case of Israel brings one right to the doorstep of the anti-semites and there's no avoiding that.

I do think that criticism of modern Israel and its actions can safely avoid the trap of associating with anti-semitism.

A possibly specious analogy that occurs to me is being loudly opposed to "Ebonics". We know why the racists are opposed to it. But the problem for everyone else who is opposed to it is that the whole debate exists almost entirely within the context of racism. Why, for example, make the particular effort to legitimize this variety of English and not others? Why, for example, make the particular effort to deny its legitimacy, and not others? Being black oneself is no shield against an accusation that there's racist motives behind loudly opposing "Ebonics"—and rightly so, which we can see if we think about, for example, the history of prejudice by blacks against the darker-skinned.

A tempting response to these sorts of difficulties for someone who is inclined to object to X even though one does not wish to endorse the ideas of the bigots who also object to X is to to avoid the issue entirely. That's not really an intellectually satisfactory solution, though it is often an emotionally satisfactory one. Certainly, in both these issues—Ebonics and Zionism—I think that I, myself, use avoidance excessively.

Another possibility comes to my mind as I discuss this. It seems to me, though this idea is only in its infancy, that the degree to which one's opposition to X approaches being strongly ideological in opposition to X and strongly partisan in opposition to X is the degree to which one is most in danger of supporting by association something one very much would rather not. So, for example, by that reasoning Chomsky's anti-zionism may be evaluated as being indirectly anti-semitic. This seems correct to me, although it won't to many others, not the least because of my choice of a provocative example.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:05 PM on July 15, 2006


It's also possible to disagree with the strategy and tactics of the Israeli government in any particular situation (as one might, say, disagree with the strategy and tactics of the American government) and be neither anti-Zionist nor anti-Semitic.
posted by judith at 6:06 PM on July 15, 2006


But CCK didn't ask "Am I anti-Semitic?" CCK asked "is it possible to be Anti-Zionist, without being Anti-semitic?" The answer, as many have said, is "Yes."

That seemed so utterly self-evident to me that I went ahead and answered what, reading between the lines, CCK seemed to be really asking -- "I'm anti-Zionist. Does that make me anti-semitic? I don't think so, but..."

If I misread him, my apologies.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:27 PM on July 15, 2006


For me this is pretty cut and dried. As a USAian taxpayer, a portion of my earnings go to our largest beneficiary of US military aid, Israel. I may say whatever I choose to about how Israel is spending my money, and reserve the right to respond to any resulting accusations of anti-semitism with a hearty Go To Hell. Don't take my money if you are unwilling to take my advice.
posted by Scoo at 7:08 PM on July 15, 2006


Everyone seems to agree that Zionism and Judaism are two different things. There also seems to be a consensus that the term "anti-Zionist" has become a somewhat accepted code word, or at least indicator term, for "anti-Semitic."

My question is, why do we automatically associate anti-Israel sentiments with anti-Jewish sentiments? There are two answers, one of which is that people who are anti-Israel -- especially in the Middle East -- are often anti-Semitic. The other is that there is a very strong "for us or against us" mentality prevalent in the American Jewish community right now. It is a mentality actually applies across the board to most minority issues. If you are anti-affirmative action, are you racist? Was the Civil War about slavery? Are Muslims terrorists? Do Hispanic immigrants steal jobs from Americans?

These are all terrible trick questions that share one thread: identity. Those of us who identify as Jewish or Asian or Southern or God forbid, all of the above, are prone to visceral reactions to any criticism of Jews, Asians or Southerners.

It all boils down to over-simplification. You can't use the word "anti-Zionist" to describe yourself because you can't explain with that word that you have complex, multi-faceted views. Even if you could, a lot of people probably wouldn't listen. It's hard to get over that first visceral hump.
posted by brina at 7:40 PM on July 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


"you can't use the word 'anti-Zionist' to describe yourself because you can't explain with that word that you have complex, multi-faceted views."

That's why it's sometimes best to come up with new words. I think that people, including myself, are sometimes reactionarily opposed to adopting new language because of the actions of other people which we don't endorse. But that's putting pride before utility. The point of language is to effectively communicate. The point of using words to self-describe is to accurately portray yourself to others. If a term is misleading, then it's misleading—whatever its strict dictionary definition is, or our reluctance to abandon it.

Part of the point of my probably overlong previous comment is to call into question the need to self-describe as "anti-zionist" even if, strictly speaking, one actually is (again, strictly speaking, no connotations allowed). If the antisemites have co-opted the term, then let them have it, because in co-opting it, they've changed its meaning. And surely it's the case that once the term is deeply associated with antisemitism, then it is they who have good reasons to continue its usage while the rest of us don't.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:10 PM on July 15, 2006


I would say yes. To me, that's like asking "Can you think people who bomb abortion clinics in the name of Jesus are idiots without hating all Christians?" or "Can you think Osama bin Laden is a dick without hating all Muslims?"
posted by schroedinger at 8:17 PM on July 15, 2006


I am a Jew and also an anti-Zionist.

Unfortunately, there are some Zionist Jews who insist on conflating being a Jew with being a Zionist. That being the case, you can hardly blame a gentile anti-Zionist non-anti-Semite for stumbling over himself in his efforts to honestly express his point of view.

So what's really at issue here is the question: What exactly does it mean to be an anti-Semite? Does it mean believing that there is something genetically wrong with Jews? Or maybe a dislike of typically Jewish cultural characteristics? Or maybe simply a discomfort with the idea of befriending, or having some other relationship with, a Jew? You're going to find many answers to that question as well. And some people are going to answer: Anti-Semitism means standing in the way of the state of Israel. So you thought you were expressing your opinion about what's going on in the West Bank, and suddenly you're lumped in with Goebles.

Well, standing up to that sort of ridiculous attack takes fortitude. Nobody wants to be called a Nazi, and many well-intentioned people go around avoiding the words that mean what they want to express, for fear of the incorrect perception that they might possibly maybe come off as racist (or sexist, or treasonous, or whatever). But, in my opinion, that's no way to live.

If someone calls you an anti-Semite because you are an anti-Zionist, and you care what this someone thinks, then the most reasonable response is "Well, what exactly is an anti-Semite, as you see it?" And based on their answer, you can decide whether or not their opinion is even relevant.
posted by bingo at 8:21 PM on July 15, 2006


The word anti-zionism has been hijacked. ... Nowadays, it is used as code for anti-semitism (which used to be code for plain old Jew hating, but I digress).

Anti-Zionism was popularized in the Soviet Union in the 60's as a code word for antisemitic persecution, and enjoys wide use in that capacity to the present day, so I think you've got it backwards.

Any logical person would agree that one can oppose Zionism without being anti-Semitic (this is self-evident enough to me that I think the question, as phrased, is silly). But because of the history of "anti-Zionism," one needs to take special care to differentiate oneself from those who use it as a cover for antisemitism. Yeah, it would be great if we could approach all discussion without preconceptions, but that's simply not the case. If you want to visit the local LGBQT and argue against gay pride parades on aesthetic grounds, you might first need to convince your audience that you do not discriminate against gays. If you want to preach anti-Zionism to Jews, you might have to go above and beyond to convince them you are not antisemitic.

Things that help in that regard: proving that your attitude towards Israel is consistent when applied to other nations, recognizing the faults and strengths of both Israel and its opponents objectively. Things that do not help: legitimizing terrorism, comparing the Jewish state to Nazi Germany.
posted by Krrrlson at 9:09 PM on July 15, 2006


And lastly, are the Jews mentioned in the question Zionists? Because if you are anti-Zionist and they are Zionists, you are... anti-them. In that light, their behaviour is unsurprising.
posted by Krrrlson at 9:15 PM on July 15, 2006


Browsing through some of the links at the bottom of the wikipedia entry that bim linked to, I found the following:

"The anti-Zionist becomes an overt anti-Semite as soon as he goes beyond criticism of the policies of the Jerusalem government (a favorite activity of the Israelis themselves) and challenges the very existence of the State of Israel." (from here)

I think that sums things up well.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:59 PM on July 15, 2006


No. Challenging the existence of the state of Israel does not mean that you hate Jews.
posted by bingo at 10:47 PM on July 15, 2006


The answer's yes.

I'm surprised no one's invoked the "separation of church and state." I don't know about you, but my American history classes emphasized this as a major pillar in the foundation of the US way of government. It was supposed to be a good thing.

When the upside of that doctrine is invoked as an argument against the existence of Israel, the usual, interesting response is that Israel is effectively a secular state: because its legal system is based on English common law; because there are Muslim Arab Israeli citizens and citizens of other religions and no religion; for various other reasons.

To my mind, in the end, all this theorizing and ivory-tower hypothesizing about ethics and morals and doctrine and dogma is much of a piece with how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

When you get down on the ground, there are realities and there are multiple perspectives on the meaning of those realities and there is violence and the history of violence and the threat of future violence. If you really think you can come up with the "right" answer to this question from your armchair, you haven't been paying attention to the complex nature of the situation.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:11 PM on July 15, 2006


needs more cowbell : "I think that sums things up well."

How so? What if you oppose the existence of the State of Israel but not jews? What, for example, if you were a non-anti-semite before the State of Israel was founded, and then the State of Israel was founded, and you didn't like that? Does that turn one into an anti-semite, even though one's opinions of jews hasn't changed at all?
posted by Bugbread at 11:26 PM on July 15, 2006


What is very important and yet has so far not been mentioned here is that the majority of jews that are anti-zionist are jews that are very strongly orthodox...

That's one kind of Jew who is anti-Zionist. That is by no means the only kind of Jew who is anti-Zionist, as you can see by reading this thread. What's the evidence that the majority of Jews who aren't Zionist are Orthodox?

My question is, why do we automatically associate anti-Israel sentiments with anti-Jewish sentiments?


brina, you have some interesting answers to that question. I want to add another one: anti-Israel sentiment is sometimes (not always!) a quasi-acceptable way of expressing anti-Semitism. Modern-day racists have found ways of expressing themselves that don't include such obviously unacceptable behavior like joining the KKK, and this is one of them.

Once again, that's only one type of person who is anti-Zionist, and there are plenty of non-anti-Semitic reasons to disagree with Israel's policies. But because it can function as a prettier way of expressing prejudice, some folks are (understandably, imo) suspicious of anti-Zionism.
posted by equipoise at 11:30 PM on July 15, 2006


going off of bugbread, how should somebody like that describe themselves? if somebody is uncomfortable with the nature that israel was founded and some of their current policies, is there a way to say so with out being labled anti-semitic at all?

it seems like for some people, there's no way to make such a distinction. but it also seems that others can, but that our language doesn't.

as for the separation of church and state issue... what about the church of england?
posted by kendrak at 12:26 AM on July 16, 2006


Jewish guy here. I'm not a supporter of Israel. However, something about the "free Palestine" crowd has always upset me. It's something in their tone. Don't quite know what it is.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:05 AM on July 16, 2006


America for the Indians!
posted by sophist at 2:49 AM on July 16, 2006


We didn't come from India.
posted by vanoakenfold at 3:49 AM on July 16, 2006


What is very important and yet has so far not been mentioned here is that the majority of jews that are anti-zionist are jews that are very strongly orthodox, and their motive for being anti-zionist isn't the war in the middle east, but rather their belief that the messiah will come and bring everyone to a jewish homeland but that it is wrong to go there without "waiting" for him.
posted by alona at 5:57 PM PST on July 15 [+fave] [!]


Except for all the reform and non-religious Jewish people who campaign against the current Israeli policies.

Does anti-Zionism mean being against the state of Israel?

Is there a word for just being against any state that defines your citizenship by your ethnicity? I don't like that, in any place. People should never have their rights defined by blood.

Which does leave an issue with Native Canadians and Americans, as one could see their rights as being defined by ethnicity. But (in some tribes at least) citizenship in the nation (which exists as a separate state within the state), and thus the rights and status, is defined by your residency and allegiance, not your blood, and this is the better way to go.
posted by jb at 5:12 AM on July 16, 2006


To clarify - I don't mean being against the existence of the State of Israel, I mean thinking that the state of Israel should become a place welcoming to people of all nationalities and religions, perhaps with a special part of the constitution saying that racial discrimination of any kind (like the terrible anti-semitism throughout the first world that made the creation of Israel essential) would not be tolerated. Make it a homeland for all persecuted peoples, an example for the world of the way things should be done.
posted by jb at 5:14 AM on July 16, 2006


"It's something in their tone. Don't quite know what it is."

A lot of American and European self-styled anti-zionists who claim to not be antisemitic hit the same classic antisemitic notes as the antisemites. For example, with regard to the US, there is frequent talk of the "Jewish lobby" with what is to me an astonishing deaf ear to how that echoes a principal antisemitic theme. And this is but one example among several.

As a gentile leftist who, growing up, was completely ignorant of leftist antisemitic thought both present and historical, my initial encounters with leftist thought hostile to Israel absolutely stunned me with its similarity in substance, tone, and virulence with the antisemitic rhetoric I had previously thought only to be found on the right. Not having grown up with it, the supposed reasons why it's necessarily the case that while it may sound antisemitic it certainly isn't were unpersuasive to me.

Not only do you have the "walks like a duck and talks like a duck" argument, there's also the simple truth that antisemitism is not a niche sentiment in the history of Europe and the US, it is very broad and has been strong across the political spectrum and across the economic and social classes. Why, then, are we supposed to believe that rhetoric that hits all those classic antisemitic notes is innocently an unbiased ciritique of Israel policy?

Secondly, the digging in of the heels and the "I'm not going to soften what I say because you attempt to blackmail with charges of antisemitism" are the opposite of reassuring for me. It's exactly the sort of behavior I've come to be familiar with from cypto-racists who deny their racism.

I deeply object to Israel's policies and history with the Palestinians. Not unlike how I have serious problems with Britain's history and policies in Northern Ireland (or Ireland in general). But I'm neither Palestinian nor Irish and I single out neither cause for lifelong political action or deeply angry rhetoric. The world is a big place with a lot of bad actors and atrocities—why would I invest a great deal of myself into either of those conflicts unless, for me, one of them was representative of a larger conflict and important to my ideology? I believe that latent antisemitism is a motivating factor for a substantial number of leftist anti-zionists. Perhaps they themselves aren't aware of it.

I earlier mentioned "Ebonics". Another example that comes to mind is the pro-life movement. I disagree with the rhetoric of the pro-choice movement which claims that it is necessarily the case that to be pro-life is to be anti-woman. I believe that it is possible to take the pro-life position independently of being hostile to women's reproductive freedom. However, there's the problem that there's no question that a substantial portion of pro-lifers are self-evidently hostile to women's reproductive freedom in ways unrelated to abortion. Furthermore, a lot of the rhetoric used by pro-lifers is very similar to sexist rhetoric. Finally, there is the fact that so many pro-lifers take up this cause explicitly and fervently as part of a general culture war. It seems to me that by its nature, fervent and angry opposition, especially when it involves the villification of large numbers of people of a particular class, is inherently suspicious. Very often such opposition claims to be the natural and pure result of a principle or value, but very often it reveals itself through its actions as being really about one form of bigotry or another.

All this is to say that, given the history of antisemitism and given human nature and the history of such things, that I find it impossible to believe that the anti-zionist rhetoric which parallels general antisemitic rhetoric is in most cases devoid of antisemitism. It seems to me far more likely that the reverse is true.

How hard is it, really, to be aware of and sensitive to these sorts of things if you are someone who opposes the policies of Israel? I oppose those policies and I don't find it very difficult at all to be aware of these things and to modulate my rhetoric to avoid antisemitic overtones. I don't find it unduly restrictive or painful to eschew self-identifying as "anti-zionist" while being someone who opposes the policies of Israel.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:36 AM on July 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


"The anti-Zionist becomes an overt anti-Semite as soon as he goes beyond criticism of the policies of the Jerusalem government (a favorite activity of the Israelis themselves) and challenges the very existence of the State of Israel."
I think that sums things up well.


You're wrong, and it's attitudes like yours that make discourse on this topic so difficult. The existence of the State of Israel is predicated on the forcible expulsion of the prior inhabitants, contrary to all normal ideas of morality. It is quite possible to 1) be philo-Semitic in general, 2) be appalled by the brutal repression Jews have suffered in Christian Europe, and yet 3) oppose the theft of Palestinian land as a solution to the problem. The fact that I'm being persecuted in my house does not justify my throwing you out of yours. Insistence on "rights" allegedly derived from occupation of the land a couple of thousand years ago (after having seized it from its previous inhabitants, needless to say), allegedly on the orders of an alleged deity, is childish and unworthy of serious discussion. I don't claim that the views put forth in 3 above are obvious; people of good will can debate the issues in an honest fashion. But to peremptorily declare that anyone holding those views is ipso facto anti-Semitic is dishonest and proves lack of good will.

And EB, I'm surprised at you. You're usually exceedingly sensible, but on some issues you seem to allow irrelevant facts about your personal intellectual development to override rational analysis. (But then I've been more than a little shocked by your "I'd kill Ann Coulter in a heartbeat" rhetoric lately. I hope you're doing OK, amigo.)
posted by languagehat at 7:07 AM on July 16, 2006


languagehat, it's not 1947, it's 2006. The State of Israel's been around for close to 60 years. The topic of discussion is the [continued] existence of Israel, not the creation of Israel.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:53 AM on July 16, 2006


I've been letting this thread run it's course since I posted the original questions. I'm very proud of MeFi for being able to have the conversation we've had.

A few people earlier in the thread posted that I need some introspection to explain my stance on Israel. I think they may be right.

A little bit about me. One, I'm very (small l) libertarian. So the fact that Israel gets so much foreign aid bothers me tremendously. Actually disgust would be a better term.

Second, the only difference to me between the American Indians and Palistinians is how well we killed them off; the fact that we totally distroyed their civilazation. I guess what I mean by this is: if for some reason they (American Indians) decided they wanted to take the land back by force, I wouldn't fight for them but would probably not fight against them.

This leads me to a third point. Captured lands. When Israel has expanded its borders from land captured during war, that doesn't bother me at all. To the winner go the spoils.

Being a libertarian (small l) who stauchly believes in the seperation of church and state; the concept that a group of people diserve a tract of land because they are "God's choosen people" disgusts me as well.

I hope it's not to late to add a follow up question. If you (anyone who cares to respond) were in the Palistinian's shoes wouldn't you do exactly as they have? You can't beat the Israelis miltarily, so terror becomes your only weapon.
posted by CCK at 9:29 AM on July 16, 2006


EB - I'm totally with you. I think a lot of Anti-Zionists are either unaware of or unwilling to see how anti-semitic their rhetoric really sounds. I definitely hear echoes of the Elders of Zion in the arguments of people who like to go on and on about AIPAC. Add to that the virulent rage that people get worked up into when talking about this subject, and the Jew in me (the one who sat through sermons about Kristallnacht as a child) starts to get a little bit scared.

It makes me feel kinda isolated on the political spectrum. On the one hand, there are the right-wingers who think that America should defend Israel at all costs. On the other hand, we have the world's leftists, whom I will typically side with on most issues, but who tend to show their (really) ugly side any time the subject of Israel is breached.

If anything, I think the reason why this debate brings out the nonsensical in people is because of the unrealistic extremes involved in the argument. On the one hand, you have the Zionists, who want a majority-Jewish state in a region that is densely populated with non-Jews who hate their guts. On the other hand, you have the anti-Zionists, who expect a nation of 7M people to just up and leave, and not stay and defend their country. With these kinds of extremes in play, how can we possibly expect a sane dialogue?
posted by Afroblanco at 9:32 AM on July 16, 2006


If you (anyone who cares to respond) were in the Palistinian's shoes wouldn't you do exactly as they have?

In the early days, before Israel was an established state? Maybe.

Now? No. The goal of retaking the land is completely and utterly unattainable, and continuing to act as if it were somehow in the cards is just counterproductive to their own welfare. It is as pointless as if the Pequot took up arms against the US to retake Connecticut from the ehonkeys. It might not be evil for the Pequot or Palestinians to do so, depending on your point of view. Doing so might have some rough justice behind it. But, like the continuing armed struggle, it's just amazingly stupid.

The Palestinians don't need a weapon, be it conventional or terroristic. They need to find the best accommodation to their current state that they can, and, if at all possible, some manner of compensation for their losses. If the people and states funding the militant/terrorist groups cared much about the fate of the Palestinians, the way to do this would probably be to engage in multiparty negotiations with Israel with Iran/Syria/etc helping the Palestinians to obtain better terms by agreeing to end their side of the struggle too. But Iran, Syria, the Saudis, etc are probably funding the groups primarily for their own internal reasons with little regard for actually achieving anything positive for the Palestinians. Likewise, Israel seems to know this and periodically goad them into further dumbassed attacks, also for its own internal reasons.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:32 AM on July 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


retake Connecticut from the ehonkeys

And the regular old non-electronic honkeys too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:33 AM on July 16, 2006


I haven't throughly read the responses above, but I did see Berkeley professor Judith Butler speak a few years ago and she called herself a post-Zionist. For what it's worth.
posted by billtron at 11:22 AM on July 16, 2006


languagehat; the existence of the United States is predicated on the forcible expulsion (and in many cases, the killing) of the former inhabitants. In both cases, the issue is no longer with the creation of such a state but with its continued existence.

I object to people focusing on the question of whether Israel should have been created in the first place; that time has passed. It is simply a slick way to get around dealing with the fact that the only way to get rid of Israel now is to kill a hell of a lot of Jews.
posted by Justinian at 3:43 PM on July 16, 2006


Being a libertarian (small l) who stauchly believes in the seperation of church and state; the concept that a group of people diserve a tract of land because they are "God's choosen people" disgusts me as well.

I think that may be another over-simplification, or in fact a blatant misstatement. I'm not extraordinarily well-versed in this, but I've always thought the state of Israel was created mainly because Adolf Hitler killed more than 6 million Jews in an attempt to exterminate an entire religious and cultural group.

I'd compare it to creating Native American reservations in the United States, except on a larger scale ... and resulting in the displacement of another disenfranchised group and causing even more disenfranchisement.

The attitude that Jews deserve Israel because we are the chosen, if it truly exists, is one that it's totally fair to oppose. But ... separation of church and state is something that the founders of America chose in the 1700s. It is not something every nation chooses, and it's not something that (I think) should be forced upon people.

When I hear this question of whether Israel should exist, I think ... too late. It does exist. And there are a million arguments both for and against its existence, none of which will change anything.

It seems to me that something much deeper than questioning the nation's existence needs to happen, which is that Israelis and Palestinians need to recognize one another and learn to co-exist. It's too late to remove either one and would be unfair to both to do so. But it's not too late to modify behaviors and attitudes toward one another, unlikely as it seems.
posted by brina at 3:52 PM on July 16, 2006


...it's not 1947, it's 2006. The State of Israel's been around for close to 60 years.

Now? No. The goal of retaking the land is completely and utterly unattainable, and continuing to act as if it were somehow in the cards is just counterproductive to their own welfare... The Palestinians don't need a weapon, be it conventional or terroristic. They need to find the best accommodation to their current state that they can, and, if at all possible, some manner of compensation for their losses.

...that time has passed...

...too late. It does exist.


Ah, yes, it was all so long ago, surely it's irrelevant now? How can rational people go on and on about some ancient injustice and expect others to care? Wake up, it's 2006!

I hope all of you have examined yourselves thoroughly for any possible inconsistency in your application of this simple solution for historic problems and resentments. I'm too polite to venture my own guess as to the prevalence of such inconsistency.
posted by languagehat at 5:09 PM on July 16, 2006


EB, I question that stance as I would like to claim to be anti-zionist because I do not believe that Israel, as in the government and country of Israel, do not have a right to exist because of an otherworldly mandate. Zionism as a religious force -- which is what many people mean when they talk about it -- is ridiculous. It implies that there is a state religion that everyone follows and that religious dissention is an act against the government. I think the number of agnostic people, atheists, and people of other religions in Israel who enjoy living there would take issue with zionism on that basis, and many do.

I think that Israel has a right to exist as a country as it is currently a sovereign state. If the US supports it above others in the region, it should be because they have set a good economic, medical, and scientific standard for that part of the world. The country of Israel should exist because it is, for issues other than borders and hostility with neighbors, a good country. We should not treat it as a favored neighbor and ignore warlike actions, though.

The issue of Palestine is tricky because there is no historic country of Palestine, only many people in the region that is now divided into several countries, one of which is Israel. I think that the idea that there needs to be a Palestinean homeland is a fallacy -- were I alive when Israel began to take its modern shape, I may have felt the same about it. My wish, at this point, is that everyone finds a way to get along with the current countries and borders, with equal rights for all and no discrimination. Unfortunately, most people can't forget the past so easily.
posted by mikeh at 5:16 PM on July 16, 2006


For clarification, I was not calling Israel a "good country" with no strings attached. I meant that it is capable of good acts that are beneficial to everyone, but it should not be favored for that reason if it encourages or pursues violence.
posted by mikeh at 5:18 PM on July 16, 2006


Ah, yes, it was all so long ago, surely it's irrelevant now? How can rational people go on and on about some ancient injustice and expect others to care? Wake up, it's 2006!

Languagehat, I think you're missing the point. It's not about the ancient injustice -- at least I don't think it is. It's about dealing with the situation as it is rather than arguing about what the situation should be.
posted by brina at 5:48 PM on July 16, 2006


Questions for all the "anti-zionists": What does that mean to you; does it mean you are against the existence of Israel? If so, what should happen to all of the Jews who live there now? If you are not against the existence of Israel, what are you against and what are you for? The term is being used a lot in this thread and I don't think it means the same thing to everybody, but perhaps I am wrong.
posted by caddis at 6:16 PM on July 16, 2006


Basically, other than stating myself that I disapprove of Israel's actions and policies, and, for that matter, its establishment (but that only mildly), my points have been:
  • that, strictly speaking, of course it is possible to be an anti-zionist and also not be antisemitic
  • that self-identifying as an anti-zionist has become irrevocably tainted
  • that the rhetoric and tone of very many strident anti-zionists closely mirror antisemitic rhetoric
  • that being an uninvolved party yet investing a great deal into being anti-zionist is suspect in a world with a great many similar injustices of equal or greater measure
  • that it is not that difficult for someone with anti-zionist beliefs to avoid the above identifications with antisemitism
  • therefore, someone with anti-zionist beliefs who sincerely wants to avoid antisemtism ought not self-identify as an anti-zionist, but instead choose different terms and should approach discussions of this topic making clear his/her sincere intent to avoid antisemtism.
None of those points are unreasonabe or irrational. Nor have they been affected by "irrelevant facts about [my] personal intellectual development". In the end, this isn't that complicated, just as it isn't that complicated to object to the teaching with Ebonics yet avoid being racist and avoid being identifed as a racist. Basically, you just have to not be a racist/antisemite and actually care enough to demonstrate that you aren't.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:28 PM on July 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Afrobianca: Jewish guy here. I'm not a supporter of Israel. However, something about the "free Palestine" crowd has always upset me. It's something in their tone. Don't quite know what it is.

I'd agree with that about the "free Palestine" people, though really what I've found is that people who are staunch partisans of either side tend to be deeply unpleasant, and to have a broken moral compass, at least on that issue. I was something of a pro-Palestinian partisan when I first started being really aware of the whole issue(in no small part thanks to encounters with some rabidly pro-Israel folks of the sort who put "Palestinian" in scare quotes), but, well, not anymore. I'll just say that the more I read about the whole situation, the more complicated it seems, and the worse all parties involved look, and that August Bebel's "anti-semitism is the socialism of fools" quote continues to be accurate today. These days I'm mostly in the "plague on both their houses" camp.

Other than that, I just wanted to point out that this:

CCK: Being a libertarian (small l) who stauchly believes in the seperation of church and state; the concept that a group of people diserve a tract of land because they are "God's choosen people" disgusts me as well.

is more a reason for opposing a certain kind of pro-Israel argument than being anti-Zionist. The original Zionists were actually strongly secular, and viewed Jewishness as being fundamentally an ethnic thing. Israel was always intended as an ethnic homeland, rather than a theocracy. There are religious parties that want to change that, and they have more influence these days, but Israel was founded as, and fundamentally still is, a secular state.
posted by a louis wain cat at 9:13 PM on July 16, 2006


...urgh, that's Afrobianco I quoted, not Afrobianca. Sorry about that...
posted by a louis wain cat at 9:15 PM on July 16, 2006


actually, that is "Afroblanco" with an "l' (see the hair)
posted by caddis at 9:48 PM on July 16, 2006


...indeed it is. I guess this is kind of like how any post one makes correcting someone else's spelling mistake will, itself, have a spelling mistake. I'll just put this tall, pointy cap on and go to the corner now.

Anyway, before I do that, I'll just say that I'm impressed with how well this thread turned out. I was kind of expecting the usual flame war would start up, but it's been a very civil discussion. Credit is due to AskMe on this one.
posted by a louis wain cat at 12:06 AM on July 17, 2006


Late to the party, but: here
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:53 AM on November 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


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