Alexandria Fanjoy Silver

To the Vanguard of the Cult of the Antizionist

Found on instagram, SJP

Antizionist. Forget the hyphen. David Seymour, in his 2019 article about antisemitism and antizionism, argues that the latter should be qualified the same as the former, as a movement and ideology in and of itself, because like “the ideology of antisemitism tells us nothing abut Jews but everything about antisemites, the ideology of antizionism tells us more about itself” than the actual Zionism that Jews throughout history and today espouse and implement. In short, it’s got little to do with the actual Jewish state itself, or any legitimate criticism of it, and everything to do with the imagined evils that are born of the antisemitic mind. And the cult of the antizionist is expanding everywhere: we see it on campuses, we see it on social media, we see it in elected leadership. 

And you, the encampment leaders all over elite universities, you are the vanguard of the cult of the antizionist. I understand that you hold yourself to be the inheritors of a legacy of largely peaceful anti-war protest politics; almost like you are among those who protested the Vietnam war in the name of not being sent to the jungle to die. Or those who marched for civil rights in Selma and on buses across the south. But how do you understand yourself to be peaceful protestors if you shout slogans that advocate for people’s death? When, instead of shouting such slogans as “give peace a chance” and “make love, not war” you shout “there is only one solution/ intifada revolution” and “by any means necessary”!

I wonder if you understand yourself to be members of this particular cult, in which Israel becomes the demonized incarnate of your wildest fantasies. Many of you self-identify as communist or Marxist, but you may be less thrilled to understand how much of the negative elements of the communist legacy you have picked up and carried forward. While you may see yourself as the noble inheritors of revolutionary fights against traditional systems of authority and power, you too have imbibed the violence that characterized much of these systems. Communism across all countries was overwhelmingly characterized by the shaping and control of the “truth,” the rewriting of history to serve political needs, the demand for ideological homogeneity, and physical, social and emotional consequences meted out for those who disagree. Youth movements of Stalin and Mao intimidated others, silenced dissent, and quashed free thinking — and often started at universities. As you physically throw yourself in the way of students’ access to campus, break into halls of learning, forcibly barricade Jewish students in libraries, draw swastikas on Jewish students’ doors, threaten speakers who disagree with you, project “glory to our martyrs” on buildings while Israelis still lie dead in their homes, demonize anyone on the “other side” as fascists and Nazis, you’re effectively aligning yourself with some of the most evil leaders and violent periods of the 20th century. And, like them, you have reshaped this violence as righteous and justifiable. 

Indeed, you represent far more of the state-sponsored “revolutionary” youth groups of the Stalinist and Maoist regimes than any anti-war protest. Perhaps a logical step, as the USSR was where the cult of antizionism was born, wherein “zionism” came to represent a whole host of various imagined maladies. It’s perhaps no shock that Mahmoud Abbas received a PhD for an ahistorical screed against the “Zionists” in the Soviet Union. Beware what you see in this historical looking glass, particularly as you may come to understand yourself as being remarkably similar to the Maoist Red Guards. This youth group, charged with fomenting the deadly Cultural Revolution, attacked university campuses first, when students and professors were intimidated, coerced and lived in fear of denunciation. They blanketed the campus with posters that included such slogans are “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” “blood debts must be repaid in blood,” “fight and return to the school, thoroughly go in for revolution,” and perhaps most hauntingly, “revolution is no crime, to rebel is justified.” They enforced ideological hegemony through public humiliation of those who were “ideologically unreliable”— some of whom faced physical consequences. The Red Guard spread through China, effectively shutting down campuses in 1967. Their focus in these protests was to intimidate the “other” — you were either with them, or against them, and if you were against them, you were an enemy. This is, of course, to a certain extent logical: to identify what you stand for, you clarify what you stand against. But specific to these movements was the alienation, public humiliation and shaming, and calls for violence directed against those who found themselves on the outside. Posters and books from the time include phrases that, for all I know, you literally copied verbatim onto your own posters. Indeed, even the Red Guard screeds sound like something of yours: “revolutionary war is an antitoxin which not only eliminates the enemy’s poison but also purges us of our filth. Every just, revolutionary war is endowed with tremendous power and can transform many things or clear the way for their transformation.” Word to the wise: the Red Guard were almost all overwhelmingly sent to re-education camps and were destroyed in the fires of the Cultural Revolution that they fomented. 

Your cult is just like any other cult. It exists outside of logic, reason, and argument. You are the mouth-piece of powerful men (in this case, the Ayatollah) who are capitalizing on your lack of understanding and inability to grasp complexity and nuance. Much like these groups, truth is irrelevant, a casualty of war, sacrificed on the alter of jargon. And you are the ultimate example of living a movement that seeks to create and shape what is “true.” You insist that Gaza is occupied, despite the fact that Israel disengaged from it in 2005. You ignore the shocking failure of Palestinian leadership to accept opportunities for independent statehood. You ignore Egypt and Jordan’s significant roles in the Palestinian tragedy. You describe Palestinians as being “marginalized in Gaza” before the war, as if those responsible for that were not Hamas. In the name of “decolonization” you ignore the fact that Jews are indigenous to the land. You close your eyes to the accusations of rape, torture and murder, and threaten the NYT for running a piece on sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas. You repeat ad nauseam that Israel is committing genocide, despite there being no basis for its truth. It is apparently irrelevant that the Palestinian population has grown by almost 4 million since 1967, and that even taking Hamas’ numbers as gospel, the civilian to militant death toll is some 2:1, when the UN describes the average in modern conflicts as 9:1. But much like the Stalinist leadership that created and shaped the truth to fit a political agenda, you too ignore facts in the name of an ideological position. You tout Hamas numbers as an absolute fact, odd when it’s a terrorist organization that has demonstrably lied about such things in the past, namely the bomb that Israel was accused of firing at a hospital. But you don’t stop just there: no, indeed, some of you make gleeful claims that you are Hamas, and that Jewish students next to you on campus are Hamas’ next targets. A strange psychological and physical space simultaneously inundated with language of “safe spaces” and “micro-aggressions” and where calls for the genocide of Jews is seen as a right of “free speech.”

This cult-like behaviour is seen in your application of one issue (“zionism”) as directly reflective and responsible for all other evils in the world. When you tout the party lines that Zionism is racism, fascism, Nazism, white supremacy, settler-colonialism etc. you are the spitting image of youthful and useful idiots that have spurred many ultimately violent revolutions of the past. You somehow have been convinced to believe that an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist state — whether you’re talking about Iran or Hamas — is somehow the greater supporter of the marginalized you claim to represent. The same regimes that kill women for not wearing a hijab properly, who kill LGBTQ+ people for the sin of being born how they are, who literally advocate for genocide against an entire ethnic and religious population. Is this not the definition of the cult of the “antizionist”? Where the only country in the Middle East that enshrines the legal rights of LGBTQ+ people is picketed by “queers for Palestine”? This cult showed itself most on October 8th. Before dead Israelis were in the ground, you were cheering. There were shouts of this massacre being “exhilarating.” Long before one Israeli soldier crossed the border, there were accusations that Israel was genocidal and murderous, that this violence and the burning and beheading of babies was justified. You even co-opted the symbol of the paraglider as yours, as if you were proud of it. And maybe not everyone in these encampments hold the extreme views of their leadership, but your participation enables it. While there is plenty of legitimate criticism of Israel’s handling of the war, the definition of the cult of antizionism is that no conduct in this war would ever have been acceptable. Because your beliefs have little to do with the actions or complexity of the Jewish state itself, and merely your determination to make it the root of all evil. 

Can I offer a suggestion for your future? If you are so upset about the legal ramifications of your illegal trespass — something that Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and all real actors of civil disobedience accepted as the anticipated outcome of their protests — perhaps try a stint in Iran. After all, the University of Tehran is offering you all acceptance. You may find that forced enrobing and protestors hanging from cranes in Tehran is to your taste. Violence is justified, right?

About the Author
Dr. Alexandria Fanjoy Silver has a B.A. from Queen's University, an MA/ MA from Brandeis and a PhD from the University of Toronto (all in history and education). She lives in Toronto with her husband and three children, and works at TanenbaumCHAT as a Jewish history teacher.
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