There is an exceptionalism applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whether it be the moral standard to which the Israeli army is held or the justification of terrorism, critics of Israel engage in extraordinary mental gymnastics in order to demonize Israel. Many who champion the Palestinian cause are opposed to Israel’s very existence – viewing Zionism and the Palestinian national movement as incompatible, even though Israel has supported coexistence with a Palestinian state.
Palestinian suffering persists not because of Israel, but because of this refusal to accept its legitimacy, a stubbornness which paralyzes peace, and a precedent not applied to any other context. Even if all grotesque claims about Israel were true, no one denies the US, Canada, Australia, Russia, or China’s right to exist – countries built on colonial expansion and human rights violations. Corrupt Palestinian leadership and their so called “allies,” who care more about demonizing Israel than Palestinians themselves, encourage this doomed narrative, which exploits Palestinians and denies them real self-determination and liberty – impossible to achieve without partnership with Israel.
Antizionists view the entire land as Occupied Palestine. Palestinian leadership have refused every two-state solution proposed since the Peel Partition Plan of 1936. They see Israel’s mere existence as the root cause of their suffering. This framework not only impedes peace but justifies terrorism as a legitimate means of struggle, as has been used in other contexts to “decolonize” land from occupiers. Palestinian “martyrs” are glorified not only by jihadists but by many progressives in the West, obsessed with siding with oppressed peoples. These two anti-Israel groups champion the Palestinian cause for different reasons, but both lack a basic understanding of the history of the region.
Historical and archeological records, along with Jewish collective memory and cultural tradition, affirm the Jewish people’s origins and constant presence in the land of Israel spanning three thousand years. Even the Supreme Muslim Council of British Mandatory Palestine recognized – with regard to the Temple Mount – that “its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.” In 132 CE, 500 years before Islamic conquests in the Levant, Roman Emperor Hadrian renamed the province of Judea to Syria-Palestina (after the “Philistines”, an originally Aegean ancient enemy of Israel) and scattered many of the Jews across the Roman Empire. The region was subsequently controlled by various powers – Byzantines, Caliphates, Crusades, Mamluks, Ottomans, and British – but Jewish communities retained their identity and remained in holy cities like Jerusalem, Hebron, Tzfat, and Tiberias. They were the last Indigenous population in the region to have independent sovereignty, in the form of the Hasmonaean Kingdom in the 2nd century BCE. Diaspora Jewish identity, formed due to Roman expulsions, was built around the dream of return, chanting “Next Year in Jerusalem” and facing the former site of the temple during prayer. In Judaism, the region has always been referred to as ‘The Land of Israel’ and “Zion,” while ‘Palestine’ became the common name for the region. The 19th-century Zionist movement, primarily led by secular, socialist Jews, aimed to re-establish a modern Jewish nation in their ancient homeland. In 1947, UN Resolution 181 proposed a Jewish state and an Arab state. Jews rejoiced and Arabs rejected the decision, sparking the First Arab-Israeli War, as neighboring Arab countries invaded, determined to “drive the Jews into the sea.” This was not hyperbole; The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine’s spiritual leader, Haj Amin Al Husseini, who was hosted by Hitler during WWII, proclaimed, “I declare a Holy War, my Moslem brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!” – but Israel prevailed then, and again in 1967 and 1973.
Although the entire land, including Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), is the ancestral Jewish homeland, Israel has been willing to compromise for peace, while the Palestinian perspective remains committed to denying Israel’s right to exist altogether. For Islamist groups like Hamas, there can be no Jewish state in the Muslim Middle East. It does not matter that Israeli leaders have tried repeatedly to pursue a two-state solution; that “Israel” is mentioned thousands of times in the Torah but “Palestine” not once in the Quran; that there was never Palestinian sovereignty until Israel gave the Palestinian Authority administration over parts of the West Bank and Gaza; or that Gaza has not been occupied since 2005. They simply believe that Israel entirely must not exist; Palestine should exist instead, and anything is justified in this pursuit, including Intifada (violent resistance). Unfortunately, this belief is widespread, with 75% of Palestinians supporting the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7, and 74.7% supporting a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea” as the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Another issue in the conflict that seems to transcend all precedents is that of Palestinian refugees. The 1948 war waged by Arab states on Israel displaced 600,000 Palestinian Arabs. The Arabs who fell on the Israeli side of the armistice line became citizens, and their descendants today form the 2 million Arab Israelis with full equal rights. Wars always displace people, but in no other context has a refugee group been led to believe that the nation that has caused them to be displaced will one day cease to exist. This fantasy has been pushed by Arab countries, who for 75 years, have not integrated Palestinians, but kept them in refugee camps, often without citizenship. Where is the outrage at those countries? Palestinians are also the only refugee group in the world whose refugee status is inherited intergenerationally, even if they live in the Palestinian territories, governed by the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian refugees even have their own UN agency, UNWRA, separate from UNHCR. UNWRA schools around the Middle East teach Palestinian children to not only hate Israelis, but Jews in general, and teach kids to view Israel as an entity that will be defeated. This perverse wishful thinking not only calls for ethnic cleansing, but is manipulative to Palestinian children worldwide, who are exploited as pawns for the anti-Israel agenda.
Another dimension of the 1948 war were the 850,000 Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews who fled or were expelled from Arab countries following violent riots against their communities. This explains why Arab countries are devoid of Jews today. No UN agency ever represented them or dealt with those expulsions. None of these 680,000 Jews and their descendants live in refugee camps; they were fully embraced and integrated into Israel society.
Many Western progressives also now champion the Palestinian cause. Since Israel represents values that progressives typically hold dear – decolonization, democracy, liberalism, secularism, and religious and sexual freedom – they rely on the erasure of Jewish identity to make the Palestinian cause fit their narrative, framing Israel as a settler colony. Their opinions rely on emotion rather than historical facts, applying a Western lens of social justice binaries (white/black, oppressed/oppressor, etc.) to an inapplicable context. It does not matter that Jews are indigenous to the region or that Zionism is an anti-colonial movement surrounded by 22 Arab states because of Arab colonialism. What matters now is that Israel is strong, and looks and feels like the bad guy, oppressing the underdog Palestinians. For “woke” people, unlike Jihadists, this conflict has nothing do with religion or ancient history, because they frame it in terms they can understand, like racialization, occupation, and settler-colonialism. They need not know the geopolitical history of the region so long as they are able to view the conflict from this framework. They use inflammatory and legally inaccurate terms like ‘genocide’ and ‘apartheid’ to fit this complex conflict into a catchy slogan on a poster. This leads to antisemitism – not only because it demonizes, delegitimizes, and places double standards on the one Jewish state in the world, but also because it ostracizes Jewish people, the vast majority of whom are Zionists.
Hypothetically, even if all those anti-Israel claims were true, what is the reasoning behind this over obsession with Israel, and disproportionate focus on this conflict compared to other, quantifiably more tragic issues around the world? Antizionists are so obsessed with condemning Israel, that they do so at the cost of not condemning, and sometimes altogether absolving, actual genocidal, racist terror groups, and countries currently committing far more egregious crimes than Israel – like Russia, China, and Iran. All these countries directly or indirectly support Hamas, and are excused, along with Hamas, despite their persecution of Muslims in their own countries. Jews unfortunately know the reason behind this disproportionate focus on Israel, but apparently Jews are the only minority group not allowed to define what prejudice against us looks like. So, when we say that antizionism is a form of antisemitism, we are scolded. Throughout history, Jews have always been the scapegoat, from both sides of the political spectrum. It seems that minority groups are only looked out for by progressives when they are downtrodden, not when they achieve the power to defend themselves.
Biased news networks go to absurd lengths to demonize Israel, like silencing Palestinian voices who speak out against Hamas, or choosing not to publish IDF footage released from Al-Shifa Hospital, proving Hamas’ use of the hospital as a base of terror. Recently, a Sky News reporter claimed that Israel releasing 3 Palestinian terrorists for every 1 civilian hostage was a sign of how little Israel values Palestinian life. This is an absurd claim. The deal demonstrates how much Israel values the lives of its own civilians, and their willingness to comply with Hamas’ manipulative terms. Reporters, upon watching videos of Hamas returning Israeli hostages, have also pointed out the surprisingly decent physical conditions of the hostages, even implying that Hamas treated them well – ignoring that just 50 days before, these genocidal terrorists pillaged these people’s homes, killed their friends and families, and violently abducted them. It is no surprise then that the UN Women agency and other champions of the #MeToo movement issued no mention of the multiple eye-witness accounts of Hamas raping and performing necrophilia on Israeli women on October 7. People will ignore what Hamas blatantly does and says – like Sinwar calling October 7th a rehearsal – in order to demonize Israel.
Antizionists also like to utilize antizionist Jews to legitimize their claims. This is called tokenism, and it is a form of racism. In every community, there is a minority who go against the movement of the majority – like gay people against Pride or black people against BLM. Over 90% of North American Jews are Zionists. When people claim to be antizionist but not antisemitic, or attempt to extract Zionism from Judaism, they are essentially creating a litmus test that most Jews cannot pass. One of the most tokenized antizionist Jewish groups is the ultra-Orthodox sect Neturei Karta. This is a tiny, fringe, fundamentalist group of about 5000 worldwide, who oppose the State of Israel not for humanitarian reasons, but because they interpret a section of the Torah to mean that Jews may not re-establish sovereignty in the Land of Israel until the messiah arrives. Ironically, most of them live in Israel. Because of their fervent opposition to the state, they go as far as to march in anti-Israel protests, befriend and visit antisemitic world leaders, and have even attended a Holocaust denial summit in Iran. The vast majority of Jews and Jewish religious leaders view them as an insane cult.
Other token Jews are the far-left Jews of North America, who conform to the antizionist propaganda that Israel enacts settler colonialism, apartheid, and genocide. These groups, like Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, also represent a loud minority of Jews. They are typically involved in very secular forms of Judaism, if any. Jews at such rallies can been seen blowing shofars, wrapping tefillin, and wearing tallit in incorrect ways. There is even a video of a rabbi reading from the Torah at one such rally, lowering her tone to a hush when reading lines where God promises the Land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants. These disconnected Jews must cut out parts of Judaism to fit their narrative that Zionism contradicts Judaism. They attempt to distinguish antisemitism from antizionism to allow themselves to criticize Israel, as if being antizionist means criticizing the Israeli government. A simple google search shows that the definition of Zionism is not the unequivocal support for the Israeli government, but the belief that Israel has a right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people. Proud Zionists marched the streets of Israel for months to protest the actions of the Israeli government. In this era of antisemitism, which often erases Jewish history and nationhood to delegitimize the Jewish right to self-determination in their homeland, some Jews forgo that aspect of Judaism, to conform. Judaism is a multi-faceted identity, including aspects of religion, culture, ethnicity, and nation. Israel is engrained in the collective memory of the Jewish people; only Jews who do not connect to that are willing to turn their back on it.
This unlikely alliance of Jihadists and progressives, who oppose Israel’s right to exist, to protect its civilians, and to defend itself against an entity which seeks to destroy it, illustrates the absurdity of discourse when it comes to Israel. Where else could you find united under the same cause – those who praise Hitler and those who call the IDF Nazis, those who throw gay people off buildings and those who accuse Israel of pink-washing, and those who call for Israel’s destruction and those who call for a ceasefire? Antizionists worldwide care more about demonizing Israel than they care about Palestinians. Otherwise, they would be condemning Hamas and supporting Israel’s efforts to remove them, and would support actual, realistic pathways to peace, rather than perpetuating a naïve future where Israel will one day cease to exist. Supporting Palestinians makes sense. Thinking that it supports Palestinians to demonize, delegitimize, and make farcical claims about Israel is as nonsensical as those claims themselves.