Sarah Katz
Don't fit the mould - MAKE the mould.

Political Implications of the Zionist Movement

The establishment of the State of Israel as a reunification of the Jews in Diaspora around the world has become an immensely controversial topic in global politics. More specifically, Israel’s existence as a Jewish nation among a majority of Muslim nations in the Middle East has made the former a target of excessive international and regional attention. Furthermore, Israel’s unique status as a country with a largely homogeneous cultural and religious population frequently overshadows yet fails to overtake the existence of differing opinions among the Israeli population as to their nation’s geographical location and, for some, the need for a Jewish State in the first place.

Let us begin by examining Israel’s position in the international arena. In addition to the long-standing and much studied controversy surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the more recent issue of rising tensions between Iran and Israel gains more attention every day, as Israeli officials fear an imminent nuclear threat from Iran. To fully comprehend the Iranian government’s hostility toward Israel’s existence and the subsequent Israeli concern regarding Iran’s military intentions, one must cast a glance at regional history. Following over a century of Western occupation of Iranian soil and influence over Iranian economy with both the Trans-Iranian Railway of 1939 and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, Iranian elite and society—like many other Arab and Muslim nations–have grown weary of Western involvement in the Muslim Middle East [1].

Moreover, America’s recent interference in Iraq and Afghanistan have furthered Iranian contempt toward such Western presence, which brings us back to the subject of Israel in the Middle East region. Provided both Israel’s establishment by European nations as well as the long-standing U.S. support of Israel, President Ahmadinejad and others who oppose Israel’s existence deem its presence in the Middle East as a sort of Western-backed infiltration upon Arab and Muslim land. In addition, these dissidents use Palestinian suffering since Israel’s establishment as a means to demonize Israel. During his time in office, Iranian President Ahmadinejad has consistently referred to Israel as a hostile actor in the Middle East, one whose existence has proven a burden for international law:

“Continued threats by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation is a clear example of this bitter reality. A state of mistrust has cast its shadow on the international relations whilst there is no trusted or just authority to help resolve world conflicts.” [2]

Indeed, Ahmadinejad’s words reflect the opinions of many of Israel’s opponents within the international sphere. This anti-Zionist approach associates the Zionist desire for a Jewish homeland in the Middle East with a Western ‘conspiracy’ to continue imperialism of Muslim land. However, the depiction of Zionism as a morally questionable ideal also persists among Jews themselves. Such Jews, living both in the State of Israel and abroad, believe that remaining in Diaspora would have been preferable to colonizing a piece of Arab territory and provoking the contempt of not only the surrounding Muslim nations but a disapproving attitude from many other countries throughout the world. One such entity, the Neturei Karta, a coalition of anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews, describes Zionism as ‘the wrong answer’ to unification of Jews and instead, as a pursuit which has soiled the image of Jews throughout the globe, due to the resulting oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli government. [3] This view that Israel should not exist at the expense of Palestinian freedom is indicative of the strong belief among Leftist Israelis that a Jewish homeland no longer has a place in the Middle East.

Notwithstanding, despite such anti-Zionist views held by Jews of all different sects, there are also many Jews who relentlessly support the Jewish State and consider it crucial to Jewish existence and security. These groups, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Likud party in Israeli Parliament, have a strong presence in Israeli politics today and will stop at nothing to ensure the safety of the Israeli State.[4] Indeed, returning to the issue of an Iranian nuclear power, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has even expressed concern over a potential second Holocaust for the Jews of Israel, at the hands of Iran. [5]

By now, we arrive at the Leftist and anti-Zionist argument against pro-Israel discourse: that their ‘forceful’ defense of Israel’s existence defiles the Jewish reputation by portraying Israel and its Jewish inhabitants as violent ‘occupiers’. This split in Israeli national opinion regarding Israel’s existence in the Middle East has led to a divide among Israeli citizens, in terms of exactly what it means to be a Jew and whether or not there should exist an actual Jewish homeland or simply a virtual Jewish nation based on cultural faith. Leftist Israelis press for settlement freezes in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, while pro-Israel Jews and Israelis insist on extension of Israeli borders to the lines established for the Holy Land in biblical times. As we have examined above, this argument has also reached an international level as Israel’s Muslim neighbors, the United States and Europe all hold stances as to which policies Israel should adopt in functioning as a Jewish nation in the Middle East.[6]

On the whole, this idealistic binary is unique in that it pertains to both the perception of Israel by its own citizens, by Jews abroad and by people worldwide—and is not only a political question of borders and treaties but also a cultural question of what exactly it means to have a historical homeland. However, while a good deal of anti-Zionism among Jews persists as resistance to the need for a Jewish homeland, Israel’s regional opponents conflate the Israeli state’s political establishment with a Western conspiracy to continue colonization—a claim which remains questionable, provided Israel’s creation as a state of refuge for Jews escaping persecution in Europe, not a stronghold for Western military presence.

Regardless of her society’s split opinions, Israel remains a small fish in a large pond-surrounded as she is by Muslim neighbors-and it frequently follows that the little fish be singled out as ‘culprit’ in a form of political bullying. The point which remains for certain is that both regional and international opinion of Israel’s existence and Israeli policies have resulted not only in decreased support for Israel as a nation but also in a decline in Israel’s security in the Middle East, as her regional opponents—vexed over years of Western presence on their soil–grow stronger every day.

[1] Bonakdarian, Mansour. Britain and the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1906-1911: Foreign Policy, Imperialism, and Dissent. Syracuse: Syracuse UP in Association with the Iran Heritage Foundation, 2006. Print.

[2] Kelemen, Michele. “Ahmadinejad Rails Against Israel In U.N. Speech.” NPR. NPR, 26 Sept. 2012. Web. 09 Jan. 2013.

[3] “Zionism Is Not the Answer.” Neturei Karta International: Orthodox Jews United against Zionism. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2013.

[4] “Our Mission.” American Israel Public Affairs Committee. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2013.

[5] Glickman, Aviad. “Netanyahu Links Holocaust to Iranian Threat.” Ynetnews. N.p., 18 Apr. 2012. Web. 09 Jan. 2013.

[6] “BBC Poll: Israel Viewed Negatively around the World.” The Jerusalem Post. N.p., 17 May 2012. Web. 9 Jan. 2013.

About the Author
Sarah Katz is a UC Berkeley alumna, cyber security engineer, and author.