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November 13, 2019


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When you say "the condemnation of Zionism by non-Jews – is itself anti-Semitic" to me it begs several questions.

Where do you draw the line between condemnation and criticism?

Where do you draw the line between Zionism per se and policies described or claimed as Zionist?

Where do you draw the line between Zionism and Israeli policies, past and present?

I think the statement "the condemnation of Zionism by non-Jews – is itself anti-Semitic" comes dangerously close to suggesting that any criticism of Israel or Israeli policies is anti-Semitic. I don't think that was your intent, but it certainly could be portrayed that way.

Steve L.

Good to have you back, Mack. Sorry about the delay in posting; your comment was caught in the spam filter.

You ask where I draw the line, but the important point is that there is a line to be drawn. Bernie recognizes that it is anti-Semitic to deny the concept of Jewish "self-determination." I agree with him, and that's the line.

Zionism is the ideological basis for Jewish self-determination. It is not defined by the Netanyahu government, or other Israeli policies, past or present, any more than American patriotism is defined by Trump's border wall.


Actually, Zionism is not "the ideological basis for Jewish self determination." Formulations like that invite anti Semitic tropes, because "Jewish self determination" can occur anywhere, and isn't linked at all to Israel.

From Wiki, for a quick, but seemingly accurately terse definition of Zionism:

"Zionism (Hebrew: צִיּוֹנוּת Tsiyyonut [t͡sijo̞ˈnut] after Zion) is the nationalist movement of the Jewish people that espouses the re-establishment of and support for a Jewish state in the territory defined as the historic Land of Israel ... Until 1948, the primary goals of Zionism were the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, ingathering of the exiles, and liberation of Jews from the antisemitic discrimination and persecution that they experienced during their diaspora. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Zionism continues primarily to advocate on behalf of Israel and to address threats to its continued existence and security."

Antisemites frequently cloak Jew Hate under the rubric of opposition to Jewish nationalism vis a vis Israel. Technically, opposing this "Jewish nationalism" is, as they claim, can be legitimate (not, as is often the case, exaggerated and dishonest claims) and not Jew hate.

The arguments tend to slip, however. First, any Jew who supports Israel is a "Zionist." Then, any Jew, whether that Jew supports Israel or not, is a "Zionist." Then, any argument that doesn't recognize that the Jews as a people as "Zionist," is "Zionist." and, then, "Zionism is Racism" becomes the charge, and all of the foregoing are guilty.

e.g., "So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country."

Think she was speaking about Ukraine?


Part of the issue is that the definition and perceived meaning of Zionism is more amorphous than your post suggests and it has changed dramatically over the years. It has also been both crudely caricatured by some - and to a degree self-caricatured by Israeli politicians for their own purposes.

I went to high school at a school (confusingly named The High School), whose past pupils included Chaim Herzog (whose father, the Irish Chief Rabbi, was known as the Sinn Féin Rabbi for his support of Irish independence), the Yeats' family (father and both sons including WB) - ostensibly Church of Ireland it was popular with Jews and later liberal Catholics who did not want to send their children to Catholic schools. About 500 feet away was another secondary school, Stratford College which was Jewish. Notably a large proportion of Dublin's most prominent Jewish families, including the most "Zionist" (it's hard to beat the future President of Israel) would not send their kids there. In any event I grew up around Zionists, many of whom were good friends - I do not recognise either caricature of Zionism amongst the image that is currently portrayed of it.

Zionism at the beginning had a religious wing and a secular socialist/cultural wing - but it is fair to say that the early movement was secular and indeed broadly supportive of self-determination, including Arab self-determination (and Middle Eastern Jews were somewhat prominent in their countries independence movements. The problem is that "Zionism" is both a caricature promoted by both sides of the debate about Israel and has also become a lazy verbal shorthand for Likud-ism and Israeli policies that, though identified as Zionist, have little really to do with Zionism per se.

A related problem (beyond the lazy use of the term Zionism) is that it is virtually impossible for groups that legitimately oppose Israeli policy to purge themselves of anti-semites. As I have pointed out to a few critics of Israel, the anti-semitism of many Palestinians (which faced with an increasingly confessional "jewish" state is sad but not surprising) is not productive and hurts their cause, as it naturally causes the Jewish diaspora to rally around Israel.Most of the surveys I have seen that ask the question have found that the Jewish diaspora are broadly more critical of Israel's policies than their countries' general population (probably because they pay more attention and have a commitment to social justice.) Anti-semitism is both wrong and a tactical error when faced with a community, the Diaspora, many of whom might be inclined to support Palestinian claims if they did not see that as siding with the anti-semites.

By the way opposing Israeli policy, despite 'anons' usual breathless post, is not Jew-hate per-se, though this is his standard line. it is at this point getting tediously predictable. Has he got a key-board short-cut?

Steve L.

I don't know what it is about your posts, Mack, but they keep getting caught in the spam filter (over which I have no control).

You observations about Zionism are accurate, but I would add one more. Many anti-Semitic attacks are now disguised as anti-Zionist, as though that justifies them. The most noxious example is the so-called ZOG, popular among white supremacists, which stands for "Zionist Occupied Government," which of course is just the latest version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zionism.

More worrisome, because of the greater audience, is Joe DeGenova's recent rant on Fox News about the "Soros occupied State Department." Not too hard to read between the lines.

But we see the same thing on the left in both the US and the UK, sometimes using the slur "Zio" to stand in for Zionist and Jew.

Finally, it is true that Netanyahu and company have attempted to claim Zionism to mean only the right wing, but that is no different that Trump's attempt to appropriate Americanism and patriotism. Both are wrong and inaccurate and should not be accepted.


As usual, indeed.

How could someone twist this sentence "Technically, opposing this "Jewish nationalism", as they claim, can be legitimate (not, as is often the case, exaggerated and dishonest claims) and not Jew hate." into "By the way opposing Israeli policy, despite 'anons' usual breathless post, is not Jew-hate per-se, though this is his standard line."?

Recognizing the conflation of "Zionist" with "Jew" and the slogan "Zionism is Racism" starts to get one on the way to understanding the point above. Do a simple syllogism.

And, finally, it seems that at least Steve agrees that Jew Hate often lies under the cloak of "anti Zionism."


I was going to respond to anon - but then I decided he's not worth it ... I'll just scrape him off my shoe.

The problem with Zionism - in public perception - and in reality - is that what it is is difficult to pin down. Zionism has had many branches, the good, the bad and the ugly, and some have done some pretty awful things for reasons they claim to be Zionist. It would be easier if one could say these things hadn't happened. Because Zionism is so hard to pin down, the corollary is that anti-Zionism is equally hard to pin down (I recall that some of the ultra-Orthodox for example are anti-Zionist.)

A long time ago I found myself in an argument with someone over Israel's right to exist. There were two problems with his argument - first, it kept trying to reach back to the past, arguing about the morality of the Balfour declaration, or more recently the Nakba - but this ignores the reality, Israel exists today. The question of whether a country or state has a "right to exist" is a present day question (just as Northern Ireland, whatever the rights and wrongs of its creation exists today.) Moreover, the creation of the state of Israel cannot be divorced from what happened just before, not simply the Holocaust, but the way in which Jews desperate to escape were deliberately stymied by people who should have offered refuge - in the 1930s US State Department, in neutral countries (and yes I've read Stephen Miller's uncle's letter to him.) I'd mention the odious Oliver J Flanagan - because in a university debate in the 1984, to which the creep had bizarrely been invited, I got into trouble for flinging a 1943 quote of him in his face (it was rude and outrageous I was solemnly informed):

"There is one thing that Germany did, and that was to rout the Jews out of their country. Until we rout the Jews out of this country it does not matter a hair's breadth what orders you make. Where the bees are there is the honey, and where the Jews are there is the money."

Apparently it simply wasn't done to mention this - though I'm glad to see it's in his Wikipedia entry.


diGenova's comments were a quite transparent anti-Semitic dog-whistle - as for that matter are Viktor Orbán's about Soros (and more generally.) That Netanyahu counts Orban as an ally is quite shocking.

Ever and Anon

Unfortunately, the comments above betray a generational bias. Much of the Left has left nationalism behind as a per se illegitimate concept. Indeed, nationalism is often deemed to be "dangerous," as it's thought to be a mere skip and a jump from the tepid variety to Trump/Hitler - if they in fact differ (so goes the "reasoning".) Let me add that, having worked in universities in several countries over the two decades, I wouldn't dream of considering this to be just a uniquely American perspective/bias - especially as I'm not American. Lubet and others are free to hold on to the idea of Left Zionism. However, it is most doubtful that the winds will blow left wing politics in its - or comparable national projects' - favor/direction again, at least for the next generation or so.

Accordingly, why wouldn't Netanyahu consider Orban to be an ally? Both leaders want to preserve their nation-states. Not without reason, they probably think the EU elites want to sweep both of theirs aside, and all others, qua nation-states that is. Even if you don't agree about their goal for other countries, it's rather clear that the EU leaders consider this to be their project for Europe at least; this, in order to create a post-national society and super-state, one that is (and shall remain) heavily dependent on mass (non-European) immigration to compensate for low birth rates therein. The dancing around about things simply being about economic ties, rather than increased political integration, is no longer credible - so much so that certain European voters can no longer lend credence to their preferred political parties to actually do what they claim they will do in this regard! It's thus in Netanyahu - and Israel's - interests to support those Europeans, of the Right and the Left, who are opposed to this - frankly, fascist - project. (Of course, the Left is split over the EU too: many want the post-nationalism, but not the neoliberalism.) Far more important than Orban, it seems to me, is for Israel to begin to cultivate greater allegiances with post-colonial democratic and/or just states that are fed up with Europe, and America, telling them how to live and structure their societies.

The question of a "right to exist," moreover, is both part of legitimate debate, and propaganda efforts, about what to do tomorrow. (Presentism, of a sort, wouldn't have helped the South Sudanese before the creation of their state, would it?) Should we retain trade and economic relations? Should we expand or contract military ties? Should we boycott - and WHO should we boycott? Further, we can and should deliberate about what we ought to do based on our own, and others', past actions. I won't ignore the past in my considerations, and won't stop at Balfour or the "Nakba", but rather take into account the last 1400-3000 years thank you very much, when assessing certain groups' claims of right, property, and sovereignty, in additional to questions of cultural, legal, political, and religious abuse, theft, humiliation, etc.


Goodness - aren't Brexiters insidious, peddling their assumptions, their arguments about the EU, etc.

Surely Ever and Anon the farce in the UK should have told you that this "stuff" you circulate is nonsense.

Ever and Anon

Is that the best you can do, MacK?

I'm happy to just expose more examples of erroneous reasoning in your comments above instead, if you'd like.

First, though, should we address what 'begs the question' actually means? Used properly, can you see how it might apply to your last sentence?


E and Anon

Here's a great example. Brackets says:

"A long time ago I found myself in an argument with someone over Israel's right to exist. There were two problems with his argument - first, it kept trying to reach back to the past ...[second] ... the creation of the state of Israel cannot be divorced from ... the Holocaust, [and] the way in which Jews desperate to escape were deliberately stymied by people who should have offered refuge - in the 1930s ..."

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