A Broken Language, a Crippled
Debate, and the Gift of Art

Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism as Antonyms

Not everyone agrees with the thesis that anti-Zionism means anti-Semitism. In fact, many believe the opposite. Many Americans support the right of the Jewish people to live in peace, dignity, and security, yet also believe that certain aspects of the Zionist philosophy subvert, rather than ensure, those goals. They may object to the means and methods by which Zionism has unfolded and fear that the way Israel is conducting itself fosters anger and resentment that will eventually reverberate back on the Jewish people, both those in Israel and those living elsewhere. They call themselves anti-Zionist, but they care deeply about Jewish people. They are not anti-Semitic.

Some people disagree with religious Zionism, which claims that the Jewish people have a special relationship with God, from which grows a unique claim to the land of Palestine. They point out that distinguishing Jewish people as special in this way is anti-Semitic, because it presumes that Jewish people are different from all other people. Defining them as different-in-the-positive, they argue, opens the door to others who might want to cast them as different-in-the-negative. They support universal human equality and oppose exceptionalism in either direction. Persons holding this view are motivated by their respect for all people. They call themselves anti-Zionist, but they are the opposite of anti-Semitic.

Judaea Capta

Artist: Ilan Molcho (Israel)

Many in the Hassidic community oppose the establishment of the state of Israel, based on the belief that humans cannot by their actions hasten the coming of a messiah, predicted in their sacred texts to occur when Zion is restored. Such people are anti-Zionist, but since they are themselves Jewish and faithful followers of the Jewish religion, they are considered exempt from the charge of anti-Semitism.

Many progressive, Israel-allied organizations such as Americans for Peace Now (APN) are concerned with the influence of organized Zionism on American political affairs. They are disturbed by the policies of organizations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and by the reluctance of AIPAC to recognize the legitimacy and embrace the value of grassroots criticism of Israel or Zionism. There are many Americans, including Jewish Americans, who feel that AIPAC’s refusal to respond to the growing unease in the U.S. over Israel’s decisions relative to the Palestinians actually endangers Israel. These people see vocal opposition to organized Zionism — anti-Zionism — as essential to the future of a secure Israel. These people are clearly not anti-Semitic.


Artist: Zvi Levin (Israel)

Next Section: Anti-Semitism and Zionism as Synonyms

© 2003 Liberation Graphics. All Rights Reserved.


Please send us your questions and comments (English only please!)