Anti-Zionists insist their views aren’t anti-Semitic. They’re often lying; but anti-Zionism continues to gain respectability, even among Jews. This is a challenge Zionists aren’t adequately addressing.
Patricia McAllister is a typical specimen. This former LAUSD substitute teacher popped into public view last October at Occupy L.A., when she told an interviewer: “I think the Zionist Jews who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve — which is not run by the federal government — need to be run out of this country.”
You are maybe wondering, does Zionism have any connection to the Fed? No. But anti-Semites like McAllister are like Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass: Zionism means whatever they want it to mean.
Now, Zionism has an actual meaning. Zionism is simply Jewish nationalism and devotion to the state of Israel — as benign and natural as the devotion to their respective homelands of, say, Italians, Koreans, Armenians or Mexicans. And aside from not being “racism” or “colonialism,” Zionism obviously has nothing to do with the Federal Reserve. But when a McAllister says “Zionism,” she doesn’t mean “the right of the Jews to have their own country.” She means “the most vile, depraved and hideous evils a perverse imagination can charge the Jews with.” Anti-Semites have turned “Zionist” into a content-free term of abuse. It serves the same function as “fascist” did for an earlier generation, or “neoconservative” more recently (another intended slur hurled disproportionately at Jews).
McAllister nicely illustrates the phenomenon. Her ideas are bonkers, and she is quite unable to maintain the pretense that she despises only Zionists, not Jews. Here’s a sample of her Facebook postings:
“These jews [sic] are not God’s chosen. If anyone was God’s chosen it was Hitler. Hitler was the only person who saw these Jews for what they are . . . demons.”
“If Israel attacks Iran, Israel might get blown off of the face of the earth. Many would applaud that, because we may then at once have world peace.”
“It does not matter what the truth is, these Zionist Jews will not admit that 6 million Jews were NOT killed in the Holocaust.”
“Can you believe these Jews? They are now talking about taking God off of our money. I think they want to put on our money, ‘In Jews We Trust.’ They actually feel like they are Gods.”
“These Zionist Jews who own the Federal Reserve Bank, and who print our money, think that they are going to starve the American people to death.”
“These Jews are now trying to further conquer the American people by making more of us drug addicts.”
“Most Americans don’t know it yet, but I think that our U.S. government has been taken over by the Zionist Jews.”
“30s Poland must have been a bloody paradise when this [sic] inbreds lived far away from the general public in their isolated ghettos.”
“Obama is a non-Jew and any non-Jew can be killed at any time according to Israeli law . . .”
Any distinction between McAllister’s anti-Zionism and her anti-Semitism is too subtle to detect without a microscope.
And using Zionism as an all-purpose insult is not the tactic only of marginal, laughable figures like McAllister. Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani recently attributed an unfavorable International Atomic Energy Agency report to a Zionist plot. Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, called Henrique Capriles, his opponent in the coming election, a Zionist (and a gay neo-Nazi, for good measure).
Anti-Zionists have a standard defense: They protest that Zionists smear any criticism of Israel or Zionism as anti-Semitism. Of course, this is false. Natan Sharansky has created an excellent analytical framework for distinguishing legitimate criticism of Israel and Zionism from anti-Semitism. He calls it the “3D test” of demonization (such as comparing Israelis to Nazis), double standards (singling out Israel for criticism) and delegitimization (denying Israel’s right to exist). This “3D test” smelts the anti-Zionist arguments, letting the anti-Semitism bubble up for all to see. But as McAllister shows, sometimes such rational, careful analysis isn’t necessary — one simply has to turn over the rock to see what is crawling underneath.
How did anti-Semites get the job of defining Zionism? The Arabs learned European anti-Semitic tropes from Nazism, before and during World War II (as when Amin Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, was Hitler’s guest in Berlin), and after the war (when fleeing Nazis found refuge among the Arabs), and called it anti-Zionism. Their allies in the Soviet bloc took up the refrain. Now anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism is firmly embedded in the “progressive,” illiberal left, as well as the less-influential far right.
Tragically, even Jews are affected by this poisonous environment. Jewish identification with Israel is withering, and American Jewry’s Zionist consensus is probably finished. The Palestinians have managed to convince the world, including many Jews, that Israel’s “occupation” of “their” land, rather than the Arab refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state, is the root of the conflict.
The crucial task is to stop letting our enemies define us. Zionism has nothing to do with the Federal Reserve, with drug trafficking or AIDS; it isn’t the puppeteer behind either communism or capitalism; it’s not a plot to conquer the world. We have to push back against the idiocy and the insanity. Zionists respect legitimate criticism of Israel, as well as the First Amendment rights of anti-Semites and lunatics. But their right to spread lies and garbage does not negate our right to expose them.
Most of all, the Jewish people must again proudly embrace Zionism as the splendid philosophy it is. Perhaps easier said than done, but the alternative is to let the Patricia McAllisters of the world have the last word.
This article was originally published in the Jewish Journal.