“Zionist is the code word. Jew is the actual word.”
Diana Fersko, Tablet, November 4, 2022
Since the November 1, 2022 elections in Israel and the victory of the Israeli right at the polls, there has been an avalanche of anti-Israel rhetoric by media experts and commentators foreshadowing the rise of Israeli fascism, racism, isolationism, and, of, course, apartheid Zionism.
It could reasonably be argued that this splurge of anti-Israel commentary is a result of those commentators not seeing the results their world-view would want in Israeli elections and an attempt to anchor the conversation within parameters they are traditionally comfortable with.
And, given the vicious invective of some of those columnists on the results of the latest round of fair and free Israeli election, it could also be reasonably argued that the win of the Israeli right wing in Israel has provided more grist to the mill of the we-are-anti-Zionist-not-antisemitic naysayers.
Some examples of the vocabulary used to opine on the results are radical, a threat to democracy, mysoginistic and extremist. The leftist American liberal J-Street called the results “deeply troubling”.
The Norwegian Refugee Council forecast a “vicious cycle of violence” as well as the “dol(ing) out (of) systematic and institutionalized discrimination and oppression.” Others commented that the outcome was “…an intolerable racist Jewish religious Right…”. A breathless Thomas Friedman postulated that the very “soul of democracy” was in the balance in the 2020 centre-right Israeli elections, while in 2022, he labels PM elect Netanyahu’s prospective cabinet ministers as an “…illiberal Israeli constituency…” the consequences of whose governance will be ominously akin to “…entering a dark tunnel.”
I do not propose to give additional airspace to comments from social media and pro-Palestinian outlets on the election results because, predictably, they range from somewhere between tense and negative to shaming, vitriolic, hyperbolic, and unambiguously condemnatory.
The above is a prelude to the core discussion of the war on Zionism which is near identical to that same ideological war on the West.
The War On Zionism
In recent years, there continues to exist a war, a culture war against Zionism, much like the one against the West.
In both cases, a remorseless war is being waged against all roots of Zionism as it is against the West.
Delegitimizers of political Zionism and, by extension, its realization in the eventual creation of the State of Israel, made the demand, as they did of Western democracies, that in order to have any legitimacy, Israel should fundamentally alter its demographic by allowing in 5.7 million Arab (now Palestinian) refugees whose grandfathers fled the civil war in Mandated Palestine 1947-49.
Similarly, in pushing the trope that Zionism is racism/racist/anti human rights, nothing on the scale as it applied to Zionist Israel is applied to, for example, China. Despite the documented racial abuses by the Chinese Communist Party against Uyghurs, nobody speaks out against China with the rage and invective leveled against Israel, people still buy cheap Chinese clothes, nobody calls for a boycott on items with a “Made in China” tag on them, and no author who refuses to have his book translated into Hebrew has any qualms when it is translated into Chinese.
This myopic leftist racial lens is also applied to the West as it is to the Zionist State of Israel. However, those same lenses cannot publicly distinguish/comment on, the horrific, violent racism by back Africans against other black Africans or in the Middle East outside of Israel where a thriving caste system exploits unprotected foreign workers as an imported labor class. Nor even in today’s India where the chamars/harijans/dalits are “untouchables” for no reason other than an accident of birth.
Yet, Zionism, and the West, are “racist” because the West, and especially Zionist Israel, are treated by different sets of standards that obviously do not apply to ideological Orientalists, Africa and swathes of the Middle East.
Orientalism as anti-Zionism – a quick analysis
Orientalism was a singularly anti-Western treatise by the Christian Arab writer Edward Said, and which was published in 1978. Its central theme was that anything western was to be both condemned and derided, because it viewed the Orient through western eyes, and that any crimes committed by non- western governments, regimes and dictatorships were of no interest. The big crime was that Western societies viewed other societies they came into contact with through western eyes. This is as unremarkable as it is obvious because, for example, one would not expect China to view the Middle East through Australian Aboriginal eyes. Nor Russia to view the Ukraine through Punjabi eyes….
Yet, Said was simply intellectually unable or unwilling to see that European Zionism which was realized in the Middle East in the State of Israel, was anything but a colonial, foreign enterprise.
In the final analysis, Said’s Orientalism was an openly political work beloved by both Islamists and the International Left. Its aim was not to investigate the array of disciplines or to elaborate exhaustively the historical or cultural provenance of Orientalism, but rather to fault western discourse, by analyzing it from the point of view of Edward Said the Oriental.
Further, Edward Said pilloried the “West” for essentializing all interactions with societies in the East; that is, to lump disparate the one with the other. Yet, he is guilty of being the quintessential essentializer himself when he stated in his 1978 book “It is therefore correct that every European…[is] consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.” (Said, 1979, Orientalism, p 204). Every European? Every single one of them?
The irony here is that if one replaced the word “European” with “Arab Christian” or “African”, there would not be many who would claim your work is seminal and a revelation. And yet, chief librarian at the British Library Liz Jolly’s woke 2020 comment that “racism is the creation of white people” (Simpson, Daily Telegraph, August 29, 2020) must be juxtaposed with a Saudi Arabian ban on all non-Muslim entry to Mecca, or the Palestinian Authority President’s 2013 stating that not a single Israeli would be allowed in a future Palestinian state based on two states for two peoples.
Edward Said’s anti-West hate in Orientalism was transposed onto the Arab-Israeli conflict supported by Islamists and the Left where that thesis was used as the base for the false claim that Zionists were western European implants (Said said so…), and NOT a displaced Jewish Oriental diaspora wanting to recreate a Jewish home despite its tragedies and return to its indigenous territory as recorded in three religious tracts: Tanakh, the Bible and the Koran. Or even as recorded in the non-religious Egyptian Merneptah stele from 1213 BCE…..
And, to further the strengthen the premise of a war on the West as well as Zionism, there can be little difference of opinion that Islamists and the Left do not agree about feminism, homosexuality, religion, secularism, and the aims of socialism, and yet they clearly share a common anti-Western and anti-Zionist agenda.
One might like to consider that in his thesis, Orientalism, Said had no idea of the glaring discrepancies in his work or what he was actually saying. Worse is to consider that he actually did, and attempted/preferred to perpetuate the lie.
The War on Zionism and the West – everything is “woke”
The basis of the war on Zionism, as it is on the West, is that it is anchored in a negative re-framing and delegitimization of both through, among other strategies, disseminating the falsehood that the religion and culture of both are dominated by a sense of superiority and superciliousness towards others.
These are generally, and arguably especially, theories developed by those who have no firsthand knowledge of the issues in question.
Thus Jesus became a Palestinian, the Kew Gardens, a repository for plants from around the world, is racist for having tropical climate rubber and bamboo plants on show (yes, racist gardening is a thing), the Temple Mount was in Hebron not Jerusalem, Zionism is racism, the archbishop of Canterbury flagellated the Church of England for its “institutional racism” in a nod to the church’s apparently new faith in critical race theory and Marxist ideas of exploitation rather than in Christ, and the Roman Catholic Church denounced the (unfortunate and unnecessary) police killing of George Floyd not as an over-reaction to a known violent offender with priors, but as systemic racism in the American police system. This despite the fact that more American blacks were killed by blacks than police in statistical data to date.
Music in the woke West too is under attack in that a 2018 New York Times bestseller by Ijeoma Oluo suggests that white people rapping, while (still?!) legal, should not be allowed because it is cultural appropriation and is unfair because it allows non-black rappers to make money from music sales. This apparently also applies to Israeli falafels and western exponents of Indian music, but not to black musicians using western technology to record the rap to make money from music sales, or wearing western style trousers in Chad or driving Japanese cars in Jamaica.
This sort of narrow minded “stay in your lane” bigotry sees only rape and pillage in everything instead of acknowledging that cultural osmosis in the arts, literature, medicine, science and technology is acknowledgement of, and a tribute to, the worthy endeavors of others for the wider good.
But the broad-based attacks on the foundations of the West continue. For example, Marx’s 14 foot China-donated statue in Trier, near the borders of Luxembourg, Belgium and France is but testimony to the left’s blindness in its attacks on Zionism; and the West.
In an 1861 letter to Engels, Marx stated: “The expulsion of a Leper people from Egypt, at the head of which was an Egyptian priest named Moses. Lazarus, the leper, is also the basic type of Jew” in Marx and Engels Collected Works, 1861, vol 41, p285).
Yet the veneration of Marx (and Edward Said by a later demographic) whose ideals fill left liberal governments and liberal administrations today is to be expected because their writings and reputations are useful for anyone wishing to delegitimize and pull down the West and, concomitantly, pressure the Zionist State of Israel to forfeit its legitimacy and sovereignty.
In the context of continuing anti-Zionist-but-not-antisemitic attacks on the very core of the founding of the State of Israel, and in the spirit of agreeing that if Marxism, Socialism, Capitalism, Communism, Catholicism, Mohammedanism, being black, white or brown, or being religious or an atheist are all acceptable norms and are not constructed as negative, then Zionism too and the kind of cultural, religious and cultural commonalities around that realization in the creation of the State of Israel too may not be constructed as negative.
Continuing to use virulent “anti-Zionist” (sic) discourse then becomes unambiguously and transparently antisemitic.
It is time to change the language of that discourse as it pertains to Israel.