Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism

Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman, Head of the Department for Diaspora Activities at  the World Zionist Organization
Source: Matan Boni
Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman, Head of the Department for Diaspora Activities at the World Zionist Organization Source: Matan Boni

On November 9th-10th, we will commemorate eighty years since the Night of Broken Glass, Kristallnacht; a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany carried out by SA paramilitary forces and German civilians.  German authorities looked on without intervening.

Eighty years have passed and anti-semitic attacks are no longer tolerated throughout Europe, and especially in the German capital of Berlin. But whereas open anti-Semitism has become a taboo, be it violent or verbal, another phenomenon has emerged – anti-Zionism.
Eighty years have passed since the Night of Broken Glass– but have the lessons been learned by leaders, government and civil society?

A Jewish-run shop in Berlin after being vandalized and covered with anti-Semitic graffiti, November 10, 1938.
Source: Radio Free Europe /Radio Liberty

During the years after the Holocaust and with the establishment of the State of Israel, there was increasing hope for a new era in the relations between the nations of the world and Israel and world Judaism. The United Nations decision in 1947 to divide the British Mandate and create Jewish and Arab states was, in fact, the realization of the Zionist dream. It was the fulfillment of modern ideology that reflected the aspirations of the Jewish nation to establish and settle a sovereign Jewish state in the Land of Israel. From its onset and throughout its history, Zionism was never directed against any other group or nationality. Instead, it spoke of recognizing the right of the Jewish people to self-definition in a sovereign state of its own, including the basic right to defend itself.

United Nations resolution 3379, adopted in 1975, comparing Zionism with racism, broke the taboo that had prevented anti-Semitic proclamations since the end of World War II and the Holocaust; for the first time in history, the United Nations itself had laid the foundations for a new form of anti-Semitism, namely anti-Zionism. Although the United Nations itself revoked this appalling resolution, sixteen years later, in resolution 4686, there was no turning back. Defamation of Jews living in and outside of the State of Israel had become legitimate, under the guise of rejecting Zionism.

Over the years, anti-Zionist statements have become increasingly prevalent. Turkish President Erdoğan, for example, described Zionism as a crime against humanity in a speech in 2013. At a conference in Santiago, Palestinian ambassador to Chile Nabil Jadaa invalidated the very existence of the Jewish nation, saying that the Zionist movement was established in order to take over the world. Chairman of the UK Labor party, Corbyn, was heard making many anti-Zionist declarations, including referring to British Jews as “British Zionists”. But all of these politicians whose words incite hatred and violence against Jews, reject the accusation of anti-Semitism. Their line of defense is: They are only anti-Zionist.

Even universities, academic institutions that should sanctify freedom of speech and a multitude of opinions, have not been immune to these developments. Professors lash out at Jewish students, who bear the brunt of their aggression against Zionism, while their classmates spew just as much hatred. As a student in one of the world’s most liberal countries once told me, “I will never identify myself as a Jew when I first meet someone on campus, because they will immediately label me, which makes my life difficult”. These attitudes are becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide. In societies that consider themselves to be the most enlightened in the world, tolerance ends where anti-Semitism begins.

Our hopes that the nations of the world would recognize the rights of the Jewish nation have faded, as classic anti-Semitic stereotypes re-emerge and Jews are blamed time and time again for all of the world’s afflictions. Israel has become the modern-day “poisoners of the wells” in international law, as accused by PA Chairman Mahmud Abbas in June 2016.
The world has replaced the old, historically-charged anti-Semitism with a new, seemingly innocent anti-Zionism.

Anti-Semitic graffiti at the University of California. AMCHA Initiative Video – The University of California: A Hostile Environment, CC BY

It is enough to see how Israel is covered in the international media, as we engage in our ongoing struggle to protect our land and our citizens, compared to the coverage awarded the genocide in Syria, while Israel offers humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees and treats hundreds of refugees in Israeli hospitals. This says quite a lot about the double standards that exist and how they serve modern anti-Semitism.

The cries of the assassin that “all Jews must die” during the heinous massacre last week in the synagogue in Pittsburgh should alarm each and every one of us and serve as a reminder of the darkest times in human history. Freedom of religious practice is the irrevocable right of each and every human being

Eighty years have passed, and we must remember and pledge that every community, including the Jewish community, has the right to maintain its own lifestyle and traditions with freedom and security; without the need for walls, steel barricades, wire fences, or the armed forces that have become, over the years, so familiar a sight in Jewish institutions, synagogues and community centers.

It is time for everyone who values human-rights and freedom, to speak out not only against the anti-Semitism of the past, but against the anti-Zionism of the present. Let us learn from the past and make sure that what happened then, never happens again.

About the Author
Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman the Head of the Department for Diaspora Activities at the World Zionist Organization. She is a member of the WZO Executive and the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors. The former Associate Director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, Gusti has a B.A. in Social Work, a M.A. in Communications and is a certified organizational consultant.
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