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News :: International
31 May 2005
This article from American Atheist Magazine clearly explains why Zionism Is Racism.
by Brian Lynch
American Atheist, October 1986

When the United Nations General Assembly voted to officially designate Zionism as a form of racism, the U.S. media, and many government officials, wailed with outrage, immediately condemning both the vote and, in a few cases, the UN itself. The vote, recorded on November 10, 1975, was anticipated by the New York Times, which misinformed its readers on November 9 that it was the work of "Black intellectuals" and "anti-Semitic clergy." The U.S. ambassador to the UN knew that the vote was coming; he attempted to enlist Western European allies' support in pressuring many Third World nations to vote with the U.S. or face unspecified sanctions. The cries of outrage and indignation by politicians and the media after the vote had an unreal quality. In no newspaper or other organ of U .S. corporate media was there substantive analysis of Zionism as a political philosophy or of the manner in which it is realized through the laws and institutions of the nation of Israel. This article is an effort to partially correct that deficiency and to educate readers by looking into the historical and political nature and substance of Zionism.

After the vote, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, attempted to play down the humiliation of the United States with a curious word game. He told the press that the resolution meant nothing because the UN had never formally defined whet racism was. The closest thing to a definition of racism that could be found was a statement by the Soviet Union in 1968 which equated Nazism with racism. The fact that there was no formal vote on a definition of racism in the UN General Assembly is not material because the International Convention on Racial Discrimination (ICRD) -a UN document, does define racism.

The UN General Assembly's vote was predicated on the duties and obligations imposed by the ICRD. Since Israel is not a signatory to this convention, it is not bound by it in the sense of a treaty obligation. The convention, however, may provide a juridical basis for alleged human rights violations, even though the nation whose con- duct is the subject of a complaint or vote has not undertaken implementation of the convention's measures in its own laws.

A report filed in 1971 by the Syrian government with the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination served as a focus for the 1975 vote. The report stated that since Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights in the June 1967 war, over 110,000 Syrians had been subject to "discriminatory and racist policies and practices" in violation of Article 5 of the convention. The report detailed seizure of property by Israeli military personnel, forced evictions, job discrimination, credit and wage discrimination, police harassment, and numerous incidents of petty hatred. The report ended by calling on the parties to the convention to act to eliminate these conditions and practices. The convention later issued a decision noting that Israel was not a part of the convention, but stating that: (1) "racial discrimination is being practiced in that part of Syrian territory known as the Golan Heights and which is under Israeli occupation," and (2) the convention would "call the attention of the General Assembly to the situation."

For the record, Art. 5 of the ICRD defines "racism or racial discrimination" as follows:

Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or

ethnic origin, which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment

or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political,

economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

The ICRD specifies a number of rights that the parties to the convention under- take to guarantee, "without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin." These rights include equal treatment before judicial tribunals or courts, freedom of movement and residence, freedom to return to one's country, freedom to form and join trade unions, housing, and education, etc. So the definition of racism is clearly set forth as an international legal norm. The convention specifies four essential criteria that must be met before an idea, act, or set of policies may be formally designated as racist. They are:

(1) There must be a distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference.

(2) These must be based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin.

(3) These must have either the intent or effect of impairing the equal exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

(4) The freedoms so impaired must be political, economic, social, or cultural in nature.

So it is against the foregoing that Zionism must be examined to determine whether or not it is a form of racism. In order to do this, it is essential to understand what Zionism was, what Zionism is, and how Zionism is practiced or manifests itself.

Early Zionist Leaders

It is clear from the statements and writings of modern Zionism's early leaders that Zion- ism is a nationalist political movement and that nation-states were envisioned by them as social organisms which grew from basic racial characteristics of the people. When Theodore Herzl formed the World Zionist Organization in 1897, he and other founders made no secret of their belief that all Jews were members of a single nation and that this "nation" had political rights in Palestine -first, because Jews were a "nation dispersed," and second, by virtue of certain official government statements. The WZO and modern Zionism arose out of two principal fears: fear of anti-Judaism and fear of Jewish assimilation. In The Jewish State, Herzl emphasizes that hatred of Jews is an ineradicable element in non-Jewish societies and that safety for Jews can only be had in a society run by Jews and where Jews were a majority.

Vladimir Jabotinsky, a brilliant early Zionist, was the principal proponent of the racial nature of Judaism and used his racial ideas to argue for a Jewish nation. He was vociferously against mixed marriages; he stated in 1904 that,

All of the nations which have disappeared {apart from those which perished from massacre) were swallowed up in the chasm of mixed marriages. Autonomy in the Golah {exile) is likely to lead to the complete disappearance of the Jewish nation from the face of the earth. ..this will mark the end of the battle waged by the Jewish people for national existence. ...A preservation of national integrity is impossible, "except by a preservation of racial purity, and for that purpose we are in need of a territory of our own.

In a 1913 booklet called Rasa, Jabotinsky stated what he thought constituted a nation: " A nation is manifested by its own 'racial spectrum' which permeates to a greater or lesser degree, the personality of any average member of the group beneath and above the diversity of individual physiognomies." He was certain that each nationality would eventually be reduced to a matter of blood type, glandular secretion, or "factor" (an early twentieth century term for what is now called genetics).

Jabotinsky's racism stood in opposition to the scientific and Marxist theories of "national identity," which held that climate, cultural isolation and experiences, and other historical or materialistic factors were the determinants. It's easy to see the sources of Jabotinsky's beliefs, though. As a member of the Russian upper class, he was inundated with the social-Darwinist ideas of natural biological conflicts between races and classes. As a Jew, he was also inundated with Talmudic prohibitions against proselytizing and marrying Gentiles. The myth of Jews all being related by flesh and blood runs deep in the Jewish faith, and it formed the basis for the racism of the early Zionist leaders.

The belief in a Jewish race was the catalyst used by WZO leaders to crystallize support for the Zionist agenda. Of course, Jews are not a separate race. In times when Jews were isolated, they proselytized and converted people. No Jew living today can trace his or her ancestry back any further than a non-Jew, arid even among Jews, there is bitter conflict over who is and who is not a Jew. Within Israel, riots broke out in 1979 when Prime Minister Begin called for "Identity Cards" to be issued to all Jews. Orthodox Jews refused to recognize converts and those not observing Talmudic laws; orthodox rabbis proposed "rating" each person's card according to his or her adherence to customs or laws. That proposal was dropped over Orthodox opposition. Currently, the legal test for citizenship in Israel is a religious one, while the Identity Cards of Jewish Israelis designate " Jewish" as nationality.

In his negotiations with heads of state and plutocrats, Chaim Weizmann was careful to always stress the following points, set forth by Herzl and Jabotinsky: (1) Jews constitute a nation, but they lack the attributes of political nationality; (2) Jewish survival can only be assured if there is an independent Jewish state. After receiving the apparent support of Great Britain in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the WZO prepared to colonize Palestine after World War I. The interest of the British government and the Zionists appeared complimentary.

With control of Palestine accorded to Britain by the League of Nations after World War I, a vehicle for creating a closed Jewish state was formed, known as the Jewish Agency. Its slogan was "Conquer the land, Conquer the work, and Purchase Jewish goods." In practice, this meant that the native Arab population was to be excluded from full economic, political, or other participation. The exclusion was formalized through official boycotts of non-Jewish goods and labor, segregated schools, and setup of Jewish governing bodies.

Use of land was organized under a system of long- term leasing for varying time periods. All leases were financed through an entity known as the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which declared in its charter that all lands under its control were to be held in perpetuity for Jews. The JNF bought some land, but frequently it resorted to military force and merely seized it. Under the terms of JNF leases, the lessee must be Jewish. Non- Jews were forbidden to work on the land - even to cultivate it. The JNF was established by the WZO at the Fifth Zionist Congress and is still in existence.

The importance of military force cannot be overstated. To control and extend its empire, Britain always relied on militarism. In Palestine, during the early twentieth century, the desires of the Zionists to be secure in "their" lands served as a useful pretext for British military actions, which extended British control and influence. During the entire period of British-Zionist cooperation, there was never any question in the British mind that no matter what they did, it was good for the native population, who were a lower order of human life and who needed to be " civilized." The Zionists shared this racist notion and went further, claiming that all of Western Civilization owed a great "cultural debt" to Jews and Jewish intellectual prowess. Jabotinsky felt that it was only fitting that Christians serve Jewish interests, since Judaism is the bedrock upon which Christianity was constructed.

Zionist Land Acquisitions

In the 1948 War of Independence, Zionist militia moved out Arab inhabitants of villages, citing concern for their safety. In most cases, they were given assurances that they would be allowed to return after hostilities ceased. In most cases, the lands were turned over to the JNF, with no compensation for the Arabs. In 1948, the military declared all "relocated" persons to be security risks, and the Cabinet voted that the people should never be allowed to return to their land, although they were citizens of Israel. Golda Meir stated publicly that "to return the land to the Arab Israelis would constitute an erosion of the Zionist principle." This principle is that once Jews "own" land, it can never be alienated to anyone who is not a Jew.

The expropriation of land in Palestine and the Zionist principle meant that the rights of ownership rested not only with Jews living in Israel, but with all Jews -whom the WZO claims to represent. After the nation of Israel came into being in 1948, the heads of various departments of the WZO and the Jewish Agency were placed in charge of the various ministries of the state. Under the Status Law of 1952, both the WZO and the Jewish Agency (the WZO's army in Israel) were charged with being the "authorized agency" which would continue to operate in Israel for: (1) "the development and settlement of the country," (2) "The absorption of immigrants from the Diaspora," and (3) "The coordination of the activities in Israel of Jewish institutions." Section 5 of the Status Law states that "the ingathering of exiles" is the "central task of the State of Israel and the Zionist Movement in our days."

After the creation of Israel, the JNF remained under the control of the WZO. A separate government body, the Israel Lands Authority, was formed to speedup land acquisitions by reducing reliance on private funds, but the JNF was allowed to retain control of its land. The Israeli government adopted all of the restrictive JNF policies regarding sale and lease of land, except for labor. Arabs would be allowed to work on Jewish-owned land. After the nation of Israel was created, nearly all Arab-owned land was transferred to the state. A series of laws gave this the veneer of justice. All of the laws citied emergencies, and Zionists claimed that the state was only taking possession of "unoccupied or vacated" land. The "transfer" of ownership was significant: in 1948, only 6 1/2 percent of Israeli land was owned by the JNF and the National Lands Authority, but after 1955, over 94 1/2 percent was owned by JNF or NLA.

More recent legislation has reinforced the intention of these laws. One is the Agriculture Settlement Law of 1967, which allows the state to suspend water allocation for lands put to "non-conforming use." Such uses include vesting any right in the land or its crops in a tenant. Since owners and lessees must all be Jews, "tenants" must be non-Jews. Another, the Discharged Soldiers Law of 1970, is essentially a Jewish family subsidy plan. Since it is nearly impossible for a non-Jew to serve in Israeli military forces, all of the benefits go to Jews.

The WZO/JA compiles reports of its activities for the Zionist Congresses held every four years. These reports only refer to the work being done on behalf of Jewish housing, Jewish agriculture, Jewish industry, etc., and are used to influence spending priorities by the Knesset. For this reason, status in Israel (whether one is a Jew or not) is very important, non-Jews are nonpersons.

The primary law relating to status and citizenship in Israel is the Law of Return, passed in 1950. This law establishes the “right" of every Jew to emigrate to Israel. No one other than a Jew has this right. Amendment 2, Sec. 4(b) states: "For the purpose of his law, Jew means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has converted to the Jewish religion and is not a member or supporter of any other religion." For Palestinian Arabs, and everyone else, citizenship rights are controlled by the Nationality Law of 1952. For a non-Jew to be considered an Israeli citizen, regardless of where he or she was born and has lived, "it must be established that he or she (a) was registered as a resident of Israel by March 1, 1952; (b) was a resident of Israel on April 1, 1952; and (c) was, from the date of the establishment of the state and until April 1, 1952, in Israel or an area that was annexed by Israel after its establishment, or had entered Israel legally during that period." Because records of birth and residence for many of the "relocated" Arabs were destroyed in the 1948 war, over 400,000 Arabs are barred from citizenship. This non-citizenship is "inherited" by their children and so on, meaning that non-Jews and their descendants will never become citizens.

In recent years, the economic crises in the Israeli economy have allowed extremists like Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon, both 11ilitary men, to ascend to power. It patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, then religion is the first. The Likud and other right wing parties have never had enough support to rule on their own, so they have enlisted the aid and support of religious orthodoxy. As the economy worsened, and the government could not adequately provide for the demands of citizens, it was necessary to devise a mechanism for "legally" excluding some citizens from benefits. Religious orthodoxy proved to be a useful mechanism, and so Likud leaders built a coalition government with the National Religious Party, Agudat Yisrael, and Tami group -all of which are principally made up of religious reactionaries. A few reforms and laws had to be passed in order to cement the coalition. These included a law mandating a five-year jail sentence to anyone offering material inducements for anyone to convert from Judaism. Orthodox Jewish women were exempted from military service so that they could always be under the guardianship of their fathers. Abortions were permitted for "social reasons" (abortion not being a "sin" in Judaism). Theatres were closed on Friday nights. Knesset passed a law granting the orthodox Rabbinate sole authority to say who may register Jewish marriages. Technically, all non-orthodox Jewish marriages could be declared null and void. To date, the orthodoxy has exercised this power in only a few cases, but the potential for social upheaval is there.

Begin's religious minister, Aharon Abuhatzeira, was found guilty of "financial malpractice" when he was convicted in 1981 for allocating funds to religious organizations for political reasons. The scandals, plus the worsening economy, forced Begin out of office and made way for Sharon. Sharon's plan for revitalizing the economy has relied on the creation of a permanent subclass of non-Jews to do cheap work, and on Israel becoming a major arms exporter to right wing military dictatorships and to repressive nations like South Africa. Religious bigotry has increased in Israel and there has been a slow, steady erosion of freedoms (especially for non-Jews) as orthodox Jews have exerted greater influence in politics.

Racism Taken For Granted

The political philosophy of Zionism and the government apparatus through which it is expressed in Israel is principally exclusionary. From the early modern Zionists to Zionists today, an essential and immutable core idea was that Zionist objectives could only be reached through processes which were exclusionary. These processes were similar to those that had been used in other places and eras with varied motivations. Basically, that process was colonization. The land which the Zionists desired to colonize was inhabited, so the Zionists saw three options open to them: (1) eliminating all or part of the indigenous population through genocide, (2) subjugating of the indigenous people by passage of exclusionary and restrictive laws, and (3) pushing the indigenous people outside of the area which the Zionists wanted. The latter two were and are the methods of Zionists.

When the Zionists proclaimed the creation of Israel, the British "emergency laws" were in effect, and these became the laws of Israel. Under these laws, Palestinians and other non-Jews were divided geographically, were labeled "security risks," and placed under the guard of military governors. These governors had the power to declare areas closed and to control entry or exit from them. Pass laws required all "security risks" to inform police and military officials of their movements. The pass laws also permitted the military to issue orders restricting a person's movements and contacts with others, requiring supervision of work, and even forbidding a "person to" work. All persons subject to pass laws could be summoned to a police station and detained without any charges or trial for an unlimited period, and were required to remain indoors from sunset to sunrise. Additionally, the police and military had legal access to these people's homes at all times, and the military was permitted to confiscate or destroy any property if the people living there were suspected of storing any arms or weapons. All of this is still rationalized or played down by Zionists, who attempt to excuse these laws by saying that 1948 was a time of war. But the truth is, these laws are still enforced in Palestinian "refugee camps" and in regions which Israel is attempting to annex - including the West Bank of the Jordan, the Golan Heights, southern Lebanon, and the Galilee region. As Israel's population in- creases, the government urges Jews to settle in non-Israeli lands, and when hostilities break out {when the indigenous people try to stop the taking of their land), the government declares a "State of Emergency" and places the military in command.

The racist nature of Zionism is revealed in the educational system also. Jews and non- Jews are segregated. Non-Jews may only attend Jewish schools with special state authorization. Jewish schools receive several times as much money per student as non-Jewish ones, and the range of subjects taught at the Jewish schools is far broader. In all branches of government, this segregation has also been institutionalized. All Israeli government ministries or departments have special sections for "Arab" or "Palestinian" affairs to which members of these groups must apply or take grievances. Finally, the national government gives subsidies to all municipal government units. In 1975, Syrians living in Israel obtained figures from the Knesset, which proved that Jewish municipalities received seven times as much in subsidies per capita as non-Jewish ones.

What is critical to remember about the discrimination in Israel is that it is not only sanctioned by the government and cannot be challenged in any court of law, but that it is also a fundamental precept upon which Zionism is founded, and therefore it permeates the entire culture. In the laws, discrimination is not merely a matter of how the laws are applied, it is intrinsic to the laws, written into them. This is critical in revealing the basis upon which Zionists have organized Israel. This is fundamentally different from most existing U .S. laws where discrimination is evident in the enforcement, but not in the actual content, of laws. The discriminatory application of laws in the United States can be remedied (often only at great expense to victims) through the courts, but this is not the case in Israel. Since the goal of Zionists is the construction and maintenance of a Jewish nation, discrimination against non-Jews is essential.


The two principal defenses offered for Zionism in the UN and other forums since 1948 have been that Zionism is an anti- Imperialist movement and that its prime objective is the national liberation of Jewish people. The fact that Zionism has been realized through alliance with the major imperialist powers of the twentieth century does not in itself make Zionism imperialist. There is, however, a mutually beneficial political relationship between imperialism and Zionism. Zionism can never be anti- imperialist because of what it is: a political movement directed at a land populated by non-Jewish people that seeks to place those lands under Jewish control and owner- ship. As for the claim that Zionism is a "national liberation movement" of Jews, the critical question is: When did Jews, scattered all over the world, a group of proselytes, converts, and descendents of the same, constitute a nation? A nation is generally defined as a historically evolved, stable community sharing territory, language, culture, and experiences. Even the "flesh and blood" beliefs of Jabotinsky and other modern Zionist leaders aren't valid criteria for Jews, since they assume common lineages -which those who call themselves Jews certainly do not share. Jews are a people who share a few common beliefs and ritual practices, nothing more. Zionism, therefore, is not a movement of "national liberation" for Jews; it is the creation of a nation of Jews.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a desire to retain traditions and a sense of identity with a group, and no group or members thereof should be forced to relinquish unique expressions of cultural heritage where those expressions do not violate the rights of others. To the extent that Jews or any other people are prevented or prohibited through a restrictive legal system or through violence against them, they have a right to undertake to change the system that denies them equal rights. In national liberation movements, we see one op- pressed group attempting to assert itself on an equal basis with the oppressors. The Arabs and Palestinians are in no way oppressing Jews in Palestine or anywhere else, so there is no need for a Jewish "Liberation" movement. The UN set forth the following in a statement on the "right" of national liberation: "No man or people may achieve National Liberation at the expense of another." Evaluated against this statement, Zionism is not a national liberation movement.

Zionism has not liberated Jews or brought peace and security to Israel. Instead, it has isolated them in the world community. It has brought the Middle East war without any foreseeable conclusion. In the United States, western Europe, the Soviet Union, and elsewhere, Zionism has not allowed Jews to become more integrated into these societies. Instead, it has polarized them in a movement that alienates Jews from the general society.

It is instructive that the 1985 International Women's Conference sought to single out Zionism as an especially odious example of racism, and that only extreme pressure brought by the U.S. government stopped the conference from specifically citing Zion- ism and Israel, and instead, issuing a general condemnation of "all forms of racism."

The nature of Zionist pressure in Washing- ton, D.C. is directly responsible for the near blackout of unfavorable information about Israel and for the hypocrisy being exhibited by the House and Senate over sanctions against the racist government of South Africa. The South African situation for Blacks is worse than the Israeli situation for non-Jews, but only in degree, not kind. The United States should get in step with the rest of the world and condemn Zionism as racism. If sanctions are appropriate actions against South Africa, they are also appropriate against Israel.

A Last Note

In doing research for this article, I ran across information concerning Soviet Jewry. Jabotinsky, who detested Marxism and scientific materialism, was never critical of modern Soviet treatment of Jews. Unlike the Czars, the Communists never instigated a pogrom against Jews, and they were willing to integrate Jews into the general society under the same terms and conditions as non-Jews. Jabotinsky said very little about the Soviet Union, but had harsh criticism for Western capitalist nations, particularly Germany and the United States, where anti-Semitism was rampant and discrimination against Jews was common. In 1940, Jabotinsky wrote, "For the last ten years, we have heard no report of any symptoms of anti-Semitism in any Soviet territory, and we assume this to mean that no such symptoms exist." ~


Brian J. Lynch is the former director of the Massachusetts Chapter of American Atheists and the current media coordinator for the national office. With a BS/BA from Babson College, he has often debated on such topics as religion, Atheism, politics, the arms race, history, and science.

American Atheist Magazine, October 1986
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01 Jun 2005
"Unlike the Czars, the Communists never instigated a pogrom against Jews..."

Ever heard of Stalin?
01 Jun 2005
Defending Zionism in a Time of Occupation and Oppression

Stephen Zunes

As someone who has emerged in recent years as one of the more prominent academic supporters of Palestinian national rights and critics of Israeli policies and U.S support for the Israeli government, many people are surprised that I am unwilling to categorically denounce Zionism.

I am not at all oblivious to the many crimes committed in the name of Zionism, but there is often real confusion as to how one defines it. Many supporters of the Palestinian cause tend to portray Zionism as its worst historical manifestations (just as many supporters of Israel do the same for Palestinian nationalism). Certainly, if Zionism is defined as an ideology which advocates dispossession, oppression, and racism—which, unfortunately, is how most Palestinians have experienced it—I have no problems calling myself anti-Zionist.
However, there is something fundamentally wrong with someone who does not identify with a certain ideology defining what that ideology is. (One can only remember Rev. Pat Robertson's definition of feminism as an ideology which teaches women to "leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.")

This confusion has been exacerbated by the tendency of some American Zionist leaders to imply that one can only be a true Zionist by blindly supporting Israeli government policies.
What, then, is the nature of Zionism?

The creation of modern Israel was based in part on the premise that only by establishing a Jewish nation-state would Jews be safe from the waves of oppression which had occurred in virtually every country in which they had lived, especially in the West. Ironically, the relationship of Israel to its Western backers, particularly the United States, has actually perpetuated and exacerbated anti-Jewish attitudes (including those on the Left) and has strengthened institutional structures which perpetuate what is commonly known as anti-Semitism.

The modern Zionist movement began at the height of European nationalism. In certain respects, it is ironic that it was not until the Enlightenment—which for the first time allowed Jews to participate in largely Christian societies—that Jewish nationalism came into being. However, while Jews could finally be accepted as part of the larger society under certain conditions, the rise of nationalism led to continued persecution because they could not be accepted as true members of the nation. Jews were still perceived as exiles and thereby of questionable loyalty, as dramatically illustrated in the Dreyfus Affair. Their Jewish identity denied them a nationality of their own. To be treated as equal citizens, Jews had to assimilate, thereby negating many of the cultural and religious aspects of their heritage which made the Jewish identity special. The nation-state, whatever its faults, has been the primary vehicle during this era by which historically oppressed groups have been able to develop and defend autonomous social institutions, which is what made nationalism a largely progressive force; thus, Zionism was born.

Zionism is based in part on the fear of annihilation. Indeed, many of the worst pogroms occurred during the culmination of the Enlightenment. Still, the Jewish community was divided on the question throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Holocaust vindicated the Zionists throughout most of the Ashkenazi community, in that it demonstrated the extreme vulnerability of Jews as a minority population in the Western world and physically eliminated most of the non-Zionists in Nazi-occupied Europe. The persecution of Jews in the Arab world following the establishment of Israel led the Sephardic community—which had been living in relative security compared to their European counterparts for many centuries—to likewise embrace Zionism and immigrate en masse to the new Jewish state.

The simplest and most accurate way to define Zionism is that of Jewish nationalism. Like any nationalist movement, there are elements ranging from the reactionary to the progressive, and while the former have tended to dominate the Zionist movement, this does not mean that Zionism is in itself illegitimate. Few nations have been created without displacing and subjugating large numbers of indigenous inhabitants, including Britain, France, Japan, and most of today's "Arab" states. Most of the English-speaking world—the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—was far more brutal and thorough than the Israelis in coming to dominance over the territories they now occupy. This does not make Israeli repression any more legitimate, ongoing policies more acceptable, or the need for a viable Palestinian state less urgent, but the tendency of many to use Israeli policies as the rationale for failing to recognize the legitimacy of Zionism is no more justifiable or practical than using the crimes of terrorists as the rationale for failing to recognize the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism.

At the same time, it should be recognized that the racism, militarism, and alliance with imperialist Western powers certainly predates Likud dominance of the Zionist movement. Any socialism that focuses exclusively upon the class relations within a particular national group, as demonstrated by Labor Zionism, runs the risk of promoting racism. Indeed, the early Labor Zionists were so obsessed with their immediate goals—the establishment of a socialist Jewish polity in Palestine—they ignored the potential for conflict with Arabs. What mattered was the establishment of a state where Jews would be equal; the fate of non-Jews was not of major concern.

Still, while definitely a minority, the efforts and accomplishments of progressive Zionists, both historically and in the present, should not be underestimated or unappreciated. Had the early protestations of some of the more enlightened socialist Zionists been heard, there would probably have been peace years ago.

Critics of Zionism point out that there is a contradiction between a Jewish state (or any kind of ethnic or religious-identified state) and a liberal or socialist vision of equality. While these contradictions cannot be denied, they are just one of a number of contradictions between professed values faced in this imperfect world, ranging from legalized abortion to affirmative action. This does not mean that these aren't important principles worth defending despite these internal contradictions, nor does it mean that it is wrong to defend solutions that are less-than-perfect but nevertheless better than other alternatives. Indeed, there are contradictions in Palestinian nationalist ideology as well, such as the strongly-held belief in both a pan-Arabism and a distinct Palestinian national identity.

It is tragic in many ways that we live in the era of the nation-state, which helps create just these kinds of contradictions. While the predominance of the nation-state system has been a relatively short epoch in human history and one that is in decline, it will still be with us for another several decades if not centuries and we have to work within it, even as we strive for alternative visions of social organization less prone to mass violence.

Marxists have traditionally rationalized their support of repressive and even reactionary Third World governments on the grounds that nationalist revolution is a necessary requisite for socialist revolution. Fatah, the dominant party of Palestine, would be labeled "bourgeois nationalist" by most Marxists, but nevertheless receives their widespread support. A history of terrorism, large-scale financial support from reactionary Middle Eastern dictatorships, and an absence of any commitment to socialism are troubling to anyone on the Left, yet the primacy of the Palestinians' national rights is generally viewed as taking precedent over these clear ideological problems.

Similarly, if Zionism can be seen as its lowest common denominator, Jewish nationalism, there is no reason why it should not receive the same support and recognition by the Left as any other nationalist movements of historically-oppressed peoples.

Zionism was born at a time of ultra-nationalism and militarism in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The continent's powers were at the peak of their brutal imperialism against the peoples of Africa and Asia and were preparing to slaughter each other as well. With martial and racist values so dominant, it was clearly an inauspicious time to launch a visionary and progressive national movement, particularly when its implementation would later require the utilization of these very elements. Zionism's early obsession with establishing a state led to a blind nationalism which eclipsed many of the other goals of a Jewish identity. The character of this new Jewish homeland was not given sufficient attention, as the schul was absorbed in this quest, and the consequences of the state's establishment on the Palestinian population was not given the concern it deserved.
While Zionism may inherently be as valid as other nationalist movements of historically oppressed peoples, its difficulty in being recognized as such by much of the Third World and the international Left can be traced to two major factors: its treatment of the Palestinian population and other Arabs; and its alliance with Western imperialist powers.

In seeking a nationalistic solution to anti-Jewish persecution, Zionism was inherently exclusionary of non-Jews. Virtually every movement by an oppressed group to reclaim its identity from the majority culture has found a need for a degree of separatism, as demonstrated in Western societies by Black Nationalists, radical feminists, and others. While such efforts have often brought charges of "reverse discrimination" and "reactionary segregation," they are generally seen by the Left to have merit to the degree that they allow for autonomous development in a space relatively free from the oppressive institutions of the broader society.
Given the pervasive insecurity Jews have suffered as a minority in virtually every society, perhaps Zionism can be seen as a kind of global affirmative action. Just as the slogan "I'll be post-feminist in the post-patriarchy" attests to the ongoing need for women's liberation, I'll be anti-Zionist when there is no more anti-Semitism.

Still, while nationalist movements based around such a common identity can play an emancipatory role, there are risks that they can emerge not just as a means to an end but as an end in itself, and may fall into a pattern of chauvinism and oppression against still weaker target groups.
While the nation-state is a legitimate vehicle for such autonomous development, the trappings of state power and its coercive mechanisms can exacerbate such risks. This is particularly true when the state is established in an area already inhabited by an oppressed and colonized people. The establishment of Israel in an already inhabited land brought these contradictions to the surface, and the inevitable conflict led to the rise of militaristic and chauvinistic elements in Zionism, even within the movement's left wing. Nationalism blinded the Zionists to the reality of an Arab Palestine, to the extent that the early Zionist slogan came to be "A land without a people for a people without a land." Meanwhile, the Palestinians' own nationalism and the loss of their homeland to foreign conquest has led them to focus upon the crimes committed in the name of Zionism rather than understanding what led to emergence of Zionism itself.

Given the growth of such a nationalist movement, and its culmination into a nation-state on already-inhabited land, the support of outside forces became necessary from the outset. British Prime Minister Lloyd George had wanted to annex Turkish-occupied Palestine since the beginning of World War I, and an alliance with the Zionists seemed a good pretext, so the British government opened up negotiations which led to the Balfour Declaration. European diplomatic support led to the 1947 United Nations partition which legitimized the creation of Israel, while virtually every African and Asian state in the General Assembly voted in opposition. The massive influx of Czech arms to Jewish forces played a crucial role militarily in the subsequent war. British and French arms flowed to Israel during the country's first two decades and when these European colonial powers sought to block the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company and overthrow Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser, they called on the Israelis to seize Egypt's Sinai Peninsula as the pretext for their own invasion.

Subsequent to the 1967 war, the United States has played the role of Israel's primary backer. Israel has successfully prevented victories by radical nationalist movements in Lebanon and Jordan, as well as in Palestine. They have kept nationalist governments like Syria in check. Their air force is predominant throughout the region. Israel's frequent wars have provided battlefield testing for American arms. They have been a conduit for U.S. arms to regimes and movements too unpopular in the United States for openly granting direct military assistance, such as apartheid South Africa, Iran's mullahs, Guatemala's juntas, and the Nicaraguan Contras. Israeli military advisors have assisted pro-Western governments and insurgencies. The Mossad and the CIA have cooperated in intelligence gathering and covert operations. The military-industrial complexes of the two countries are tightly intertwined, especially as the United States increases its military presence in the Middle East.

As a result, the United States has been encouraging some of the more chauvinistic and militaristic elements in the Israeli government, and undermining the last vestiges of Labor Zionism's commitment to socialism, non-alignment, and cooperation with the Third World. As Israel's military strength and repression of the Palestinians has increased, so has U.S. aid, contradicting the widespread belief that U.S. military assistance is used to defend a threatened and democratic Israel.

One of the more unsettling aspects of U.S. policy is how closely it corresponds with historic anti-Semitism. Throughout Europe in past centuries, the ruling class of a given country would, in return for granting limited religious and cultural autonomy, set up certain individuals in the Jewish community as its visible agents, such as tax collectors and money lenders. When the population would threaten to rise up against the ruling class, the rulers could then blame the Jews, sending the wrath of an exploited people against convenient scapegoats, resulting in the pogroms and other notorious waves of repression which have taken place throughout the Jewish Diaspora.

The idea behind Zionism was to break this cycle through the creation of a Jewish nation-state, where Jews would no longer be dependent on the ruling class of a given country. The tragic irony is that, as a result of Israel's inability or unwillingness to make peace with its Arab neighbors, the creation of Israel has perpetuated this cycle on a global scale, with Israel being used by Western imperialist powers to maintain their interests in the Middle East. Therefore, one finds autocratic Arab governments and other Third World regimes blaming "Zionism" for their problems rather than the broader exploitative global economic system and their own elites, who benefit from and help perpetuate such a system.
The ramifications of U.S. policy are quite apparent when it comes to the suffering of Palestinians, Lebanese, and other Arabs. But it also has a negative impact on Israel. The late Israeli intellectual Ishawa Leibowitz noted, "The existence of the Jewish people of 60 to 80 generations … was a heroic situation. We never got from the goyish world a cent. We supported ourselves. We maintained our own institutions. Now we have taken three million Jews, gathered them here and turned them over to be parasites—parasites of America. And in some sense we are even the mercenaries of America to fight the wars of what the ruling persons in America consider to be American interests."

It is important to note that most of the actions of the Israeli government which have brought the most criticism from the world community would not have been possible without the acquiescence and, at times, encouragement, of the United States and other Western powers. This has placed the Zionist movement in a serious dilemma. Through a combination of historical circumstances—however legitimate the goals of national self-determination for the Jewish people may have been—it has inexorably been linked in the eyes of most of the world as a neo-colonial movement backed by Western imperialism, and a major obstacle to the national liberation of Arab peoples.

Anti-Semitism has been called "a fool's socialism," in that it often takes on populist rhetoric in support of economic justice against capitalist exploitation, yet focuses upon an exaggerated view of the power and influence of a tiny sub-segment of the ruling class.

In a similar way, anti-Zionism may be a "fool's anti-imperialism," where Jewish nationalism itself is erroneously seen as the problem rather than the alliance its leaders have made with exploitative Western interests.

This is why it is often hard to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate criticism of Israel. For example, when I overhear a conversation about oppressive policies of the Israeli government, I am initially concerned—even if I agree with everything they are saying—about what is actually motivating their opposition. Is it part of a universal commitment for human rights, international law, self-determination, and justice? Or are Israeli policies being used simply an excuse to bash the world's only Jewish state?
If there was only one black state in the world, certainly most African-Americans and many white liberals would be similarly sensitive to criticism of that government's policies, even if justified, out of a fear that the criticism was an excuse for racism.

This has led many Jews and others sensitive to the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism to be reluctant to publicly criticize Israeli policies for fear it would encourage such bigotry. The effect, however, could be just the opposite. If those of us who do care about Israel's security do not criticize Israeli actions for the right reasons, it will be left to the Pat Buchanans and David Dukes to criticize Israel for the wrong reasons. And, the more universal Jewish support is for what are clearly illegal and unethical policies by the Israeli government, the more Jews as a whole will be blamed.
Unfortunately, certain right-wing Jewish leaders, both in Israel and the United States, have played on the fears, mistrust, and insecurities of their constituencies and give the false impression that increasing militarism and repression by the state of Israel enhances the security of Jews everywhere. The reality, of course, is just the opposite. Israeli progressives, and even a growing number of non-ideological pragmatists, stress that Israeli security and Palestinian rights are not mutually exclusive, but mutually dependent. These Israelis argue that Israel will be far more secure with a viable demilitarized Palestinian state on its borders than trying to suppress nearly two million people in the Occupied Territories engaged in open rebellion.

Only when Israel sees it future with the Third World—made necessary by its geography, its Semitic language and culture, its sizable Sephardic population, and the Jews' history of exploitation by the Europeans—will Israel end its isolation and find the real security that it has been missing. Many of the so-called "supporters of Israel" in American politics are actually making Israel vulnerable by tying its future to an imperial agenda, and blocking its more natural alliance with the world's Afro-Asian majority. The combination of Israeli technology, Palestinian industriousness and entrepreneurship, and Arabian oil wealth could result in an economic, political, and social transformation of the Middle East which would be highly beneficial to the region's inhabitants, but not necessarily to certain elites in the United States and other Western nations who profit enormously from the continued divisions between these Semitic peoples. Meanwhile, Israeli leaders and their counterparts in many American Zionist organizations are repeating the historic error of trading short-term benefits for their people at the risk of long-term security.

This cycle can only be broken when current American policy is effectively challenged, and Israelis and Palestinians will finally be able to settle their differences among themselves and join together in liberating the Middle East from both Western imperialism and their own short-sighted rulers.

Stephen Zunes is a professor of Politics and chair of the Peace & Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco and the author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003).
16 Jun 2005
Isn't it ironic that the victims of the self proclaimed "Master Race" are in turn now the victimizers calling themselves "Gods Chosen People" killing and stealing for a pure homeland.
Its easy to see that Zionists are nothing more than Nazis in Jews clothing.