Defining Anti-Zionism

This is the third in a series of articles by David Solway. David Solway is a Canadian poet and essayist. He is the author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity, and is currently working on a sequel, Living in the Valley of Shmoon. His new book on Jewish and Israeli themes, Hear, O Israel!, has just been released by Mantua Books. This article was originally published in Frontpage Magazine on January 23, 2009.
When Islamic terrorists incinerated 3000 people in the Twin Towers, we learned it was really a Mossad operation carrying out the orders of the Israeli government and that Jews were warned not to show up at the World Trade Center that morning. The fact that Jews were among the victims did not register.
When Bernard Madoff was recently indicted for perpetrating a $50 billion scam, antisemitic ravings flooded the Internet. The fact that individual Jewish investors and Jewish philanthropic organizations suffered crippling finanical losses in the scandal did not signify. Moreover, an exemplary post in the prestigious website fingered Israel as the beneficiary of the Madoff bonanza, as if Madoff were only an agent of Israeli depravity.
And when Israel belatedly responded to years of Hamas shelling of its civilian communities by sending its army into Gaza, it was immediately denounced by Western governments, media and NGOs, and Nazi comparisons flew about as indiscriminately as Hamas rockets. The fact that Israel is the world’s prime terrorist objective did not matter in the slightest. Very few protested when thousands of Israelis were killed and maimed by Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad and the rest of the terrorist consortium.
These are more than merely episodes. They are, of course, to be expected, the kind of old hat that is constantly being reblocked. The Jew has long been the repository of the world’s accusatory furor. But in today’s antisemitic climate a new dimension has clearly been added to the ancient canard: Israel. For Israel has now become the convenient and representative target of an ancestral hostility, allowing for the delegation of a shameful loathing under the serviceable code word of “anti-Zionism.”
The term has become a veritable gratuity for those who often profess to “love Jews” as the innocent victims of Israeli delinquency or to support an “authentic” Judaism which Zionism has supposedly profaned. They assert no brief against the Jewish people, disingenuously claiming to object to Israeli policies on neutral political grounds. But anti-Zionist posturing is not politically motivated, as it pretends to be; it is only the drapery which cloaks a far more insidious agenda. And despite our seemingly principled disclaimers, we know what it is.
The truth is that what goes by the name of “anti-Zionism” today is, by and large, nothing other than crypto-antisemitism, the contemporary mutation of the world’s oldest hatred deploying a new vocabulary. For Israel is the collective incarnation of the Jew qua Jew, enabling the deft and sinuous Jew-hater to escape moral censure under the sign of “impartial” criticism of a national state. The “anti-Zionist” argument is a far more sophisticated ploy than ostensible moral indignation or the apparent possession of secret incriminating knowledge.
The reasons for antisemitism are no doubt multifarious, but the major cause of antisemitism is that Jews happen to draw breath. In a speech given to the Domestic Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag in June 2008, journalist Henryk Broder distinguished between a prejudice and a resentment: “a prejudice concerns a person’s behavior; a resentment concerns that person’s very existence. Anti-semitism is a resentment. The anti-Semite does not begrudge the Jew how he is or what he does, but that he is at all. The anti-Semite takes offense as much at the Jew’s attempts to assimilate as at his self-marginalization. Rich Jews are exploiters; poor Jews are freeloaders….The anti-Semite blames Jews for everything and its opposite.”
No doubt, if the early Zionists with British agreement in principle had settled in a part of Uganda as a substitute homeland, or had improbably found a pied à terre in Angola or Cyrenaica (Libya), or had followed through on the Galveston scheme of 1907-1914, or if the 1928 Soviet proposal to create a Jewish socialist republic in Birobidzhan in eastern Siberia where Jews would function under their own institutions had not turned out to be a fraud, or if Israelis could be teleported to Alaska as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fantasized and novelist Michael Chabon imagined in The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, antisemites would still have found something to resent and execrate and antisemitism would have continued unabated.
Is it not revealing that antisemitism appears even in countries that are virtually empty of Jews? Soeren Kern, a senior analyst for the Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos in Madrid, considers Spain the most antisemitic country in Europe, nearly half of its people harboring negative opinions of Jews. Yet the Jewish community in Spain is infinitesmal, with only 12,000 Jews out of a population of 42 million, less than .05% (PajamasMedia, December 30, 2008). Similarly, there are only 1,300 Jews in Norway, approximately .0003% out of a population of 4,645,000, yet Norway is the major Scandinavian purveyor of anti-Zionist and antisemitic attitudes and beliefs, and indeed challenges Spain for the European honor (Behind the Humanitarian Mask, Manfred Gerstenfeld, ed.)
Then there is Japan, a world-leader in the propagation of antisemitic material though one would have to search far and wide to find a Jew in that country. According to the Stephen Roth Institute, many writers, publishers and organizations in Japan are preoccupied with Yudakaya, “the Jewish peril.” Books like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, The International Jew and Mein Kampf are regularly reprinted in new editions.
The Spanish, Norwegian and Japanese examples, bizarre as they may seem, are only illustrations of a universal reality. Antisemitism will undergo its recessions and its flarings in different parts of the world at different times, but all that really changes is the frequency of its rhythms and the locations of its emergence.
The Jewish community is now under prolonged attack from many different quarters and in many different ways, from suicide attacks and missile camisades in Israel to murderous strikes in other parts of the world to the mounting of conspiracy theories in the blogosphere to the numberless tractarian screeds flooding the marketplace to hostile newspaper editorials and op-eds to “learned” volumes condemning the malefic “Jewish lobby” to crusades of boycott and divestment emanating from important Western institutions to United Nations resolutions and NGO reports to Durban-type conferences to howls of “crime against humanity” whenever Israel moves to protect itself against its enemies.
Add to this the spate of Islamic sermons promising the eradication of the Jewish people from the face of the earth and the imminent nuclear threat of the Iranian mullocracy—and then let us try to convince ourselves that what we are witnessing under the euphemism “anti-Zionism” is really a virtuous campaign of nonpartisan solicitude.
But if we do not court a comfortable state of oblivion, we can sense the rising swell of predatory anticipation in a world preparing to cast out its chosen scapegoat from the body of nations. What we may be observing across the entire gamut of significance—from unknown New Zealand priest Gerard Burns smearing red paint mixed with his own blood on the Rabin monument in Wellington to an all-too-well known Iranian tyrant promising the nuclear destruction of Israel—are the preliminary stages of a world readying itself to launch the next Holocaust, or as close to it as it can get. Ever again.
One of Israel’s scarce Muslim friends, who has the interests of Jews and Israelis at heart, has stated this plainly. Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, Director of the Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community, despairs of Israel’s and the Jewish future. “The nations of the world,” he predicts, are “once again preparing bad days for the Jewish people” (, December 21, 2007).
He may well be right.

Written By
More from Hawkeye
CNN’s Cheerleader for Hizbollah
This is a cross-post from Honest Reporting CNN’s Senior Editor of Mideast...
Read More
0 replies on “Defining Anti-Zionism”