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All About Palestine I: Zionism is Not Judaism

All About Palestine I: Zionism is Not Judaism

Palestine. What was once a thriving, culturally, and religiously diverse land, now lies under the military occupation of a racist, colonial regime.  In the early 1900’s, ‘Imperialism’ and ‘Zionism’ merged together in perhaps the greatest conspiracy in human history: to uproot a nation and establish a military outpost in the form of a settler-colony on the shores of West Asia, to serve the British Empire’s interests in the region.

All About Palestine I: Zionism is Not Judaism

Palestine. What was once a thriving, culturally, and religiously diverse land, now lies under the military occupation of a racist, colonial regime.  In the early 1900’s, ‘Imperialism’ and ‘Zionism’ merged together in perhaps the greatest conspiracy in human history: to uproot a nation and establish a military outpost in the form of a settler-colony on the shores of West Asia, to serve the British Empire’s interests in the region.

Written by: Nadia Hojaij and Yahia Hassani | Copy Editors: Zainabrights | Design: Fatima El-Zein

In 1896, Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodore Herzl published “The Jewish State”. Following the high profile treason conviction of a French Jew by the name of Alfred Dreyfus, Herzl  proposed that a Jewish state was the only solution to the new wave of anti-Jewish sentiment growing across Europe. Herzl, considered to be the father of Zionism, capitalized on the situation. In the following year, the First Zionist Congress was held in Switzerland which established the World Zionist Organization with Herzl as its president. Zionists knew the plan for the Jewish State would require backing by one of the world’s great powers. They first considered locations in Africa and the Americas before ultimately settling on Palestine after garnering support from the British Empire which was already planning to colonize the region after the Ottoman Empire’s collapse in WWI.

Historically, Palestine was defined as the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Strategically situated between three continents, Palestine has a tumultuous history as a crossroads for religion, culture, commerce, and politics. Its land is significant to Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, and has been controlled by many kingdoms and powers across the centuries. Between the early 1500s to the end of WWI, the area was governed by the Ottoman Empire, and was a religiously diverse land consisting of Muslims, Christians, and Jews who for centuries lived side by side in peace and harmony.

An 1878 census depicts an indigenous population of 403,795 Muslims (86%), 43,659 Christians (9%), and 25,001 Jews (5%).

After the First Zionist Congress, a delegation of Zionist rabbis from Europe were sent to explore Palestine as a potential land for the Jewish State. They infamously wrote back: “The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man”. Nonetheless, in 1901, the Jewish National Fund was established to be dedicated for land acquisition and settlement funding. The century old Zionist trope “A country without a people, for a people without a land” is heavily used to perpetuate a false narrative that Palestinians were inconsequential and to overlook their presence as natives.  Therefore, Zionism is a socio-political movement aimed at nationalizing followers of Judaism from all over the world in order to establish an ethno-Jewish State in Palestine. The way to do this was by colonizing Palestine and ethnically cleansing its indigenous people. Zionism promoted the notion that Jewish people have an inherent and inalienable right to Palestine granted to them by God.  Zionists would use religious beliefs as a pretext to lay claim on a foreign land. Herzl, a Hungarian born Jew with no native ties to Palestine, met with Jewish delegates from all around the world to lobby the idea.

It is important to emphasize that native Palestinians were never opposed to Jewish people living in Palestine, where Jews and Arabs peacefully coexisted for centuries, all of whom were considered to be Palestinian. Native Palestinians were opposed to being expelled from their homes by foreign settlers, regardless of the settlers’ religion or ethnicity. From its inception, Zionism was not only a plan for colonization, but one for expulsion of the land’s indigenous people. Here are some examples of Herzl pushing the settler-colonial agenda.

He said “If it is God’s will that we return to our historic fatherland, we should like to do so as representatives of the Western civilization and bring cleanliness, order, and well-established customs to this plague-ridden, blighted corner of orient.”

Although many subscribed to the ideology, there were also others who rejected it. They were comfortable in their respective nations and believed causing a mass exodus of Jews from Europe would only work in favor of anti-semitism and not resolve the issue.

In 1975, the United Nations passed Resolution 3379 which declared that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” Zionists equate Zionism with Judaism in order to indoctrinate world Jewry into its racist settler-colonial ideology and subsequent occupation of Palestine. Early Zionists syncretized many aspects of European fascism and white supremacy. They had a vile history of cooperating with anti-Semites, imperialists and fascists in order to promote an exclusive expansionist agenda. The vast majority of Zionists today are not even Jewish, but rather, consist of those who subscribe to the socio-political ideology and settler-colonial project.

The United States alone has nearly 70 million Evangelical Christian Zionists, who believe a Jewish State needs to be established over the entirety of Palestine in order to bring about the second coming of Christ, whereas world Jewry today only makes up about 15 million people.

By equating the political movement of Zionism with the religion of Judaism, and by presenting the Israeli entity as a Jewish State, Zionists weaponize the prejudice of anti-semitism to silence and censor opposition by accusing any criticism of Zionism or Israel as being anti-Jewish and therefore “anti-semitic.” For the past two decades, there has been an international campaign to re-define anti-semitism in order to criminalize criticism of Israel. In November 2023, the US House of Representatives voted 412-1 to pass H.Res 888, which states that refusing to recognize Israel equates to anti-semitism. They also voted 311-14 to pass H.Res 894, which firmly states that anti-Zionism is anti-semitism.

The ADL claims anti-Zionism is anti-semitism because it denies the Jewish people’s right to self determination. However, this right to self-determination comes at the expense of uprooting an already existing people and usurping their land. By definition, Semites are those who speak a semitic language, such as Hebrew and Arabic, and are not confined to Jews alone. This is not to undermine anti-semitism in the context of bigotry against Jewish people, which is abhorrent and has a tragic history.  However, opposing Zionism or the State of Israel is not synonymous to opposing Jewish people, Judaism, nor people who speak a semitic language. Taking an Anti-Zionist stance therefore is not anti-semitic as it opposes a political movement and not a religion, race, nor ethnicity. 

Zionism and the Israeli entity do not represent all Jews, nor the Jewish faith. Many Jews were and still are vehemently opposed to Zionism and the creation of Israel. The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish group Neturei Karta believe Zionism contradicts traditional Jewish religious teachings and call for the dismantlement of the State of Israel. They are active in voicing their opposition towards Israeli policies and oppression towards Palestinians.

Other organizations to name a few include True Torah Jews who declare their mission to inform the world that the State of Israel does not represent Jews nor Judaism, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network who support Palestinian resistance against occupation, call for all refugees to return and for an end to the the Israeli colonization,  Jewish Voice for Peace who are the largest progressive anti-Zionist Jewish organization in the world and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for liberation, and the If Not Now Jewish movement who call for an end to US support for the Israeli apartheid system.

This poses the question, how could Jewish people be anti-semites themselves while opposing Zionism? Arabs are also semites, and cannot be anti-themselves when opposing the Israeli occupation. In the context of religion or ethnicity, labeling the criticism or opposition of a political movement such as Zionism as anti-semetic would be equivalent to labeling the criticism or opposition of any political movement as anti-Christian, Islamophobic, or “anti” an ethnicity if the movement is composed of Christians, Muslims, or people from that specific ethnicity. 

In actuality, opposing Zionism is to oppose the ideas, actions, and policies of a political movement that include Israeli aggressions, expansionism, and forced evictions of Palestinians from their land. Opposing Zionism is not to be prejudiced or racist to a religion or ethnicity.  Furthermore, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the US Constitution, all people are entitled to free speech, opinion and expression, especially with regards to countries, governments, and political parties. Zionists equate Zionism with Judaisim to bypass this human right in order to censure opposing free speech as hate speech.

Israeli born Jewish philosopher Moshe Machover states “Zionism is based on the fallacy that there exists a single nation encompassing all the world's Jews. How can Zionism claim that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, since the only attribute shared by all Jews is Judaism, a religion and not an attribute of nationhood in any modern sense of the word? Jews can belong to various nations—a Jew may be French, American, Indian, Argentinian, and so forth—but being Jewish excludes other religious affiliations.”

 He argues the Zionist claim that all the world’s Jews constitute a single distinct national entity is an ideological myth, invented as a misconceived way of dealing with the persecution and discrimination suffered by European Jews, in particular. Indeed, from its earliest iterations and up to the present day, Zionism—a colonizing project—has been fueled by an inverted form of anti-Semitism: if, as it claims, Israel acts on behalf of all Jews everywhere, then all Jews must be collectively held responsible for the actions of that state—clearly an anti-Semitic position.”

Nonetheless, the Israeli entity continues to equate itself with Judaism. Current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu passed a Nationality Law defining the country as a nation-state of the Jewish people. He stated that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens. Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people–and only it.” Palestinians within Israel who have Israeli citizenship protest this law, arguing it promotes Jewish supremacy and further solidifies that Palestinians are in fact second class citizens.

The piece you just read is a part of a larger report on Palestine. Each day we will delve into a different aspect.

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