Alice Marcu

Kol Yisrael

I was recently asked my opinion about anti-Zionist Jews, something I have privately reflected on before. Here are some of my thoughts.

To be clear, I am distinguishing people who are critical of Israel or its government from people who claim the Jewish state has no right to exist at all. The former can be Zionists in my experience, while offering totally legitimate criticism. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever met an Israeli Jew who hasn’t criticized at least one Israeli government (it could easily be our national sport), so to de-legitimize criticism of the government would ironically mean de-legitimizing all Israeli Jews. Clearly, that’s not what anti-Zionism is.

Anti-Zionism is denying the very right of Jews to have self-determination, meaning the right to determine our own fate. In practice, self-determination for Jews translates into us having our own state in our ancestral homeland. Because that’s how the world has practiced this universally, by recognizing every people’s right to a state of their own.

By denying a universal right to Jews alone, anti-Zionism is always discriminatory towards the Jewish People, and as such, inherently antisemitic. That becomes particularly glaring when it’s done in the name of supporting that same right to statehood and nationalism when it comes to Palestinians.

I have come across people who claim their anti-Zionism is due to a general rejection of the state concept, yet somehow whenever I ask them to show me they’ve invested the same kind of attention, effort and took the same kind of actions to oppose the existence of other states, it always turns out they dedicate an extraordinary amount of energy specifically to dismantling the Jewish one, way more than they waste on exposing the existence of other states. It’s a bit like someone declaring they hate Jews, and only after getting called out on being antisemitic, they excuse it by saying they hate all people. It rings false and hollow. Those who really do simply hate people in general don’t feel the need to make statements singling out Jews. Similarly, those who truly wish to abolish states, don’t start or focus this crusade on the one country which currently protects what’s left of the Jewish People after millennia of persecution and repeated massacres everywhere in the world, including the worst genocide in human history.

But this isn’t the only reason why anti-Zionism is antisemitic. Even if tomorrow, the right to self determination would stop being recognized as a universal one, denying Jews the right to self-rule in our own ancestral land will remain antisemitic. Because anti-Zionism goes against a core value of Judaism.

While Judaism does encourage debate and multiple interpretations, there are some core values it holds, which can’t be argued. If you deny these, then what you’re advocating for is no longer Judaism. For example, a core element of Judaism is the belief in one God. We can argue about almost every aspect of God, about his nature, about how we worship him, about whether it’s right to refer to God as “him,” but the second anyone erases this core value from our faith, we’re no longer talking about the Jewish one. Another example of a core value in Judaism is that every human is made in God’s image, and therefore every life is equal and sacred. Again, we can argue about what does “in God’s image” mean, or how does the right to self-defence (which in Jewish law is sometimes framed as an obligation) play into this, but it is a core value of Judaism and cannot be disputed. If one does, they’re no longer speaking about Judaism.

It is a terrible reality that every member of a marginalized group might end up internalizing forms of bigotry against and oppression of their own people, and Jews are no exception, even before the advent of the modern political movement of Zionism. Anti-Zionist Jews do subscribe to a narrative that is antisemitic in how it erases Jewish native rights in Israel, distorts Jewish history and rejects a core part of Judaism itself.

One of the tragic things that comes out of this, is that anti-Zionist Jews often struggle with calling out antisemitism in their own ideological camp. Either they don’t do it at all, because their whole stance is an offshoot of an antisemitic notion, or they try through posts they make on social media, saying things like, “Here’s how to be anti-Zionist without being antisemitic,” but these just end up being instruction manuals on how to better disguise the antisemitism of this camp. It doesn’t really address the main reasons why anti-Zionism is inherently antisemitic, and therefore these posts end up only dealing with appearances.

For example, they encourage people not to compare Zionist Jews to the Nazis because that’s harmful and antisemitic, but they never tackle the question of why anti-Zionists are so happy to make that offensive and unfounded comparison to begin with. These anti-Zionist Jews also don’t face the fact that the Nazis were, in a sense, anti-Zionist themselves. When Eichmann secretly visits the Land of Israel under the British Mandate in 1937, he returns to Germany thoroughly convinced that a Jewish state in Israel could constitute a revival for the Jewish People, and therefore must be prevented by all means. The Nazis proceed to devise plans on how to make sure the Jews in Israel are exterminated as well, and as part of that, they even collaborate with (and pay a monthly salary to) the anti-Zionist extremist Haj Amin al-Husseini, a Palestinian religious leader, to make sure the Jewish community in pre-state Israel will be wiped out. In fact, anti-Zionism likes accusing Israel of being a tool for “Jewish supremacy,” a term coined by the Nazis, and imported to the US by former KKK leader and notorious antisemite David Duke.

Having said all this, I also believe in another core value of Judaism, which is Jewish solidarity. That means I stand by ALL Jews. Even anti-Zionist ones. I do think they’re mistaken, I am afraid of the harm they’re capable of causing Zionist (which is to say: the majority of) Jews, I’m bothered by the way they no longer feel committed to that core value of Jewish solidarity, I fear that very often there’s a lot of ignorance and internalized antisemitism at play (and it could be that they don’t even realize it), but they are still my siblings. I’m even afraid of what might happen to them as Jewish people if anti-Zionism is ever successful in destroying this overwhelming majority of Jews. So I still care about them deeply. I will wish good things for them. That will include for them to realize they’re being exploited by antisemitic non-Jews, and stop allowing themselves to be used as pawns by such people, for the sake of all of us, including them. And if anyone dares try to harm them as Jews, I will fight for them no less than I will fight for any other Jew.

From that place of true Jewish solidarity, I’d like to encourage as much empathy and compassion for anti-Zionist Jews as is possible, without turning a blind eye to the harm of the antisemitism they subscribe to, or the way they’re used by anti-Zionists overall, to wrongfully dismiss criticism of the Jew hatred that runs rampant within this movement, and is inherent to it.

Something which has recently given me a lot of hope is learning that there are anti-Zionist Jews, who have re-embraced the Zionist core element of Judaism. Ironically, I never came across one until after the Hamas massacre of October 7, and have since learned of several. I think it is incredibly important for us to listen to and learn from them. What are we, as a modern Jewish society, missing when it comes to educating the younger generation? What do we need to change in how we relate the complex realities of our history, our ancient identity and our homeland, to the fellow members of our tribe? And maybe most importantly, are we being there for each other the way we should be, so that not a single one of us can be exploited and turned against their own people, made into a weapon against the rights and safety of all Jews, including their own?

About the Author
Alice Marcu's story begins in Communist Romania, where even after a part of her family survived the Holocaust, Jews were still persecuted, despite the ruling ideology's promise of equality for all. Her family was thankfully rescued, thanks to the State of Israel and Jewish solidarity. She served in the Israeli army with the paratroopers, the artillery forces and the women's officers course. She studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, majoring in Psychology, as well as General and Comparative Literature (with an emphasis on queer and feminist studies, plus Jewish history and literature). She volunteered at the Jerusalem Open House, the city's queer community center, including giving GLSEN-equivalent lectures, and has worked at Yad Vashem for the last ten years, giving tours, lectures and workshops.
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