Simon Hardy Butler
Simon Hardy Butler

The Old ‘Zionism Is as Bad as Anti-Semitism’ Myth

While waiting outside Theatre 80 St. Mark’s to meet the spot’s estimable owner, Lorcan Otway, last weekend, I noticed one of the individuals who was there to protest silly anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon’s appearance at the venue was working on some kind of large sign. It was face-down on the ground, but its size was impressive, so I made a comment in that light … without noticing what it read. In a few moments, the person finished setting it up and held the completed thing aloft.

“If you say what the far right says, you are the far right,” it noted. OK, not too unclear there. Then, after those words:

“NYC has no space for antisemitism or zionism.”


WTF, Protester Person?

Equating anti-Semitism with Zionism is just absurd. And it’s offensive. When I saw these words, I thought in the back of my mind something interesting:

This protester is just like Gilad Atzmon.

Yes, just like him. Just as bigoted and idiotic. Just as inclined to waste time on nonsensical comparisons. As well as avoid doing any real work to bring divided populations together.

A little clarification: Zionism is the political movement created to see that a home was created for the Jewish people. One was approximately 69 years ago in the development of the country of Israel. A Zionist is someone who believes that Jews have a right to have a nation of their own. That’s all.

I believe in that right. I also believe in the right of Israel’s neighbors to live peacefully with their Jewish brethren. I believe that Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side, with equal rights for all.

I don’t believe in the ridiculous assertion that somehow, Zionism is as horrible as anti-Semitism. That bit of sophistry slaps a label on a political idea that doesn’t make any sense. All Zionists are bad? Come on, Protester Person. That’s a rather vast, fallacious generalization, don’t you think? My mother raised money for Israel when it was a nascent state. So did my grandfather. Want to color my entire family as “bad,” too?

I didn’t think so.

When one condemns Zionism as a concept, one is condemning the idea of Jews’ right to have a land of their own. That’s pretty bigoted, folks. It sounds just like the kind of ignorance that comes from Atzmon’s mouth (or fingers, if you also count his ludicrous screeds attacking world Jewry that he posts on his website and Facebook). In essence, one is saying that Jews should be migratory, homeless. One is saying that Jews shouldn’t have stability or structure. One is saying that Jews can’t settle down in a place of their own.

In the words of West Side Story‘s Jets: “Krup you.”

My feeling about this rather deluded protester is that this type of cause is not as prevalent as the person would like to think it is. Still, it’s quite insidious … and highlights the same brand of intolerance that Atzmon sputters. No, there’s no place for anti-Semitism in New York. But there’s also no-place for anti-Zionism, either, because the two go hand in hand.

And New York City, the city I live in, the town I grew up in and love and get annoyed by and sing about and dine in and love in and take the subway in and condemn prejudice in, is not the town for any of that inanity.

Get it? Got it? Good.

My work here is done. At least until the next protester comes around advocating such lunacy.

Hopefully, we won’t need to experience that for a long, long time.

About the Author
Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. He has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek and has interviewed innumerable people—including two Auschwitz survivors whose story may be heard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website. His views and opinions are his own.
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