Elchanan Poupko

Anti-Zionist Jews, have you seen the mirror?

An elections poster of the Anti-Zionist General Jewish Labour Bund hung in Kyiv, 1917. Heading: "Where we live, there is our country! (Copyright free image)

Dear Anti-Zionist Jews,

Remember how angry you were at your parents and teachers for not telling you the full story? You claimed to be brainwashed by Jewish day schools, summer camps, Birthright trips, and your families. Why did they not teach you about the plight of the Palestinians as well? Why have they told you so such a one-sided story about Zionism and Israel while talking about the suffering of the Palestinian people? 

Amazon and Apple TV will soon bring to hundreds of millions of homes the anti-Zionist film Israelism. The film, which interviewed Jewish educators under false pretenses, cutting their words and portraying a negative image of Jewish day schools and communities as “brainwashing” Jewish children to blindly support Israel will now come to hundreds of millions of viewers. The anti-Zionist film slanders the vast majority of Jews as giving their children a one-sided picture of what has been happening in the Middle East and submitting their youth to a one-sided, anti-Palestinian, blind view of what is going on in the Middle East. 

Like every rebelling teenager looking down at their parents with snarling contempt, the past few months have given anti-Zionist Jews the opportunity to grow up and show that they could have done better. When they grow up, they will show what a sensitive and sophisticated multisided view of Israel, the Palestinians, and the full truth about 1948. 

Then came October 7th and their opportunity to share that nuance. Anti-Zionist Jews could have given the world the sophisticated, informed, unbiased, non-tribal, absolutely objective truth. Anti-Zionst Jews could have spoken about the plight of Palestinians and the people of Gaza, while sharing both sides of the story. They could have given everyone the full picture without siding with people who openly call for the destruction of America. Anti-Zionist Jews could have been the sophisticated, 

But they didn’t. 

Anti-Zionist Jews ended up being everything bad they had accused their parents and teachers of doing—and then some. 

The people who were angry at Birthright for taking them on a free, all-expenses paid trip to Israel without taking them to Gaza, Ramallah, and Sheikh Jarrah were somehow unable to utter the words Kibbutz Be’eri, Sderot, Metula, Kiryat Shmona, or the massacre at Nova music festival. Those who were angry at their teachers for celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut with no mention of the Nakba were suddenly unable to speak about the Hamas charter calling for the killing of Jews worldwide. Sure, they were able to pay vague lip service, calling for “the release of all hostages from both sides,” an appalling equivocation to begin with, but you did not see the names of Kfir Bibas, Na’ama Levy, or 86-year-old Shlomo Mansour appear in their many statements. 

Like so many past examples, anti-Zionist Jews became a cartoon of everything they had been accusing the mainstream Jewish community for so long. The people who accused their parents and teachers of not engaging enough Palestinians on issues have partnered with the “do not engage with Zionists crowd”. 


Yet perhaps worst of all, was not what anti-Zionist Jews said–or did not say–but rather the company anti-Zionist Jews have chosen to keep. Over the past few months, Anti-Zionist Jews have stood shoulder to shoulder with masked and uniformed individuals in public places, physically blocking off “Zionists.” The Brownshirt-styled exclusion of their fellow Jews from public spaces in universities, the siding with terrorist organizations that call for the annihilation of all Jews in the world, and making partnerships with what is objectively the most antisemitic movement since the Holocaust was just too easy for them to swallow. 

As someone who lives in New Haven, Connecticut, where there is a robust Jewish anti-Zionist community, I got to see firsthand what anti-Zionism in Jewish spaces meant. A group of anti-Zionist Jews shared to their social media videos with cheers like “there is only one solution–intifada revolution,” which is a call for deadly violence, “from water to water (the Jordan to the Mediterranean), Palestine will be Arab” — an unambiguous call for ethnic cleansing of Jews from all of Israel, and “from the belly of the beast, hands off the Middle East,” an anti-American reference to the United States as “the beast.”  

Over the past few months, anti-Zionist Jews have gone from being angry at their parents and teachers for not teaching them the full scope of both sides of the history of Israel to many of them siding with the world’s most imperialistic colonizing force–Iran. After graduating from Tiktok University and becoming sudden experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as Iran began shooting ballistic missiles and drones carrying hundreds of tons of explosives at Israel’s civilian population, many anti-Zionist Jews were there to explain why Iran was justified in its attacks on Israel.  


A cornerstone of anti-Zionist Jewish philosophy going back more than a century is the idea of “doikayt,” hereness. The concept championed by Lithuanian Jewish members of the Bund was meant to counter the idea of Zionism. While Zionism focused on the future of Jews as destined to be only in our ancient homeland of Israel, doikayt would focus on a diasporic Jewish existence with no connection to Israel. 

Ironically, anti-Zionist Jews championing the idea of “doikayt,” hereness, side with the very people threatening Jewish existence – in the Diaspora. If you want to know why there is no future for Jewish life in places like in Toronto, Detroit, Columbia and Harvard University, or in Sweden — it is because of the anti-Zionist mobs terrorizing local Jews into hiding and leaving. The irony of anti-Zionist Jews siding with the mobs behind the greatest push for Diasporic Jews to move to Israel cannot be overstated. Those who want you to believe Jewish safety should not depend on the State of Israel have helped make much of the diaspora unsafe for Jews and Jewish life, thus making the case for Zionism and for Jews to move to Israel. 


My wife attended the University of Toronto, and many of my family members attended the University of British Columbia in Canada. Neither of those universities would be a safe place for my own children. If they seek a safe place to pursue an academic career, Hebrew University or Ben Gurion University in Israel are far more likely places for them to pursue academic ambitions and live as proud Jews. Anti-Zionist Jews have sided with a movement that has made “doikayt” a far less appealing argument. When the people you march with are the reason countless synagogues, JCCs, and day schools are hiring more security, you probably don’t get credit for making Jewish life in the Diaspora more appealing. 

Proponents of “doikayt” also fail to mention the tragic fact that 94% of Lithuanian Jewry, including many in my own family, were murdered in the Holocaust, a relevant historical fact to the discussion of how vital Jewish life in the Diaspora is. 

Finally, anti-Zionist Jews have recently played a role not played for over a half a century since Soviet authorities have used tokenized Jews to “prove” antisemitism was not rampant in Soviet Russia. Anti-Zionist Jews know they represent less than 5% of the Jewish population. When they go from one anti-Israel and antisemitic event to the other to “prove” the event is not antisemitic, they know they are harming the rest of us. Sure, there are many antisemitic spaces where a Jew can show up with a Palestinian flag and a Keffiya and be embraced, but that does not mean those spaces are any less antisemitic. If a Jew can show up in a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville with a shirt that says “anti-globalist, George Soros, Rothschild and communism-hating Jew,” it does not make attendees any less antisemitic.  Anti-Zionist Jews have taken on a new role of antisemitism enablers we have not seen since Stalin’s useful Jews. 

Anti-Zionist Jews keep saying they are not bothered by what names they are called, but they really mean the names they are called in the Jewish community. I strongly disagree with those who call anti-Zionist Jews “kapos,” or “self-hating Jews,” or other names, but I do agree anti-Zionist Jews don’t care about being called that. We are not who they are seeking to curry favor with. They are betting their present and future outside the confines of the Jewish people, and they will do anything to gain the acceptance of the antisemitic circles in which they traffic. 

Yet, as anti-Zionist Jews continue to defame the rest of the Jewish community, the time has come to respond to them as a phenomenon. It is time to point out the extremism they have taken to, the company they keep, the virulent antisemites whose acceptance they seek, and most of all, the humor that they embody by becoming everything they had accused their parents, teachers, and communities of being. When anti-Zionist Jews hold signs that say: “this Jew is against genocide”, besides for defaming other Jews as being for genocide, they also often forget the truly genocidal company they keep, company that would like to eradicate the State of Israel. It is time for anti-Zionist Jews to take a look in the mirror. 

About the Author
Rabbi Elchanan Poupko is a New England based eleventh-generation rabbi, teacher, and author. He has written Sacred Days on the Jewish Holidays, Poupko on the Parsha, and hundreds of articles published in five languages. He is the president of EITAN--The American Israeli Jewish Network.
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