People may say they care about human rights, but their sympathy stops short at Palestine.
People who do criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government for the injustices it commits are often met with accusations of anti-Semitism. But there is no logical basis for equating anti-Semitism and anti- Zionism.
Zionism is support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, according to Merriam-Webster. Anti-Zionism is opposition to the occupation of Palestinian land. Anti-Semitism is hostility, prejudice or discrimination against Jewish people.
It’s common to misassociate anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, but to do so erases the persecution of Palestinian people and draws attention away from real anti-Semitism in the world. Analyzing the past of Palestinians and Jewish people, there are many shared motifs of persecution and fighting for liberation, according to Jewish Voice for Peace, a Jewish pro-Palestinian organization.
“Our own history teaches us how dangerous [Zionism] can be. […] By creating a racist hierarchy with European Jews at the top, Zionism erased [Arab and African] histories and destroyed those communities and relationships,” according to Jewish Voice for Peace, in a statement criticizing Zionism.
It is possible to support a Jewish state that doesn’t oppress people, but Israel is not that state.
There are people who try to demonstrate the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, but they are reprimanded for it. The Alabama Civil Rights Institute rescinded a human rights award from Angela Davis on Jan. 5 because she advocates for Palestinian rights.
Recently elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib is the first Palestinian American in Congress, and she received backlash from people for being an outright opponent against Sen. Marco Rubio’s latest anti Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) bill. Sen. Rubio’s bill would allow for local and state governments to cancel contracts with companies boycotting Israel. Opponents said it went against the First Amendment.
Notable figures like Davis and Rep. Tlaib should be celebrated for the work they do to help marginalized communities. Palestinians should not be a grey area or exception.
Movements like BDS, designed to hold Israel accountable for human rights violations, call for people to stop purchasing goods from Israel and organizations that give money to the Israeli government. They do not make moral judgments based on religion or nationality, rather they critique the imperialism and violent occupation set in motion by the Israeli state.
BDS is often called anti-Semitic by people who don’t fully understand its mission. Critics of BDS claim it spreads hate, but it is the most effective, grassroots means for applying nonviolent pressure to change Israeli policies. Netanyahu creates nationalist laws to intentionally exclude people of color, like Palestinians, East Africans and North Africans, from Israel, with the assistance of the Israeli Defense Force. These tactics include home demolitions, forced eviction of Palestinian families, denial of citizenship to Palestinians, constant bombing and control of water supply to Palestine.
When anti-Zionists criticize Israel, they are criticizing the Israeli state and not Jewish people.
Today’s Zionism is a settler-colonial movement, establishing an apartheid state where white Jewish people have more rights than others, including African immigrants and Palestinians. Where Netanyahu claims Israel is for the Jewish people, Jewish people of color are excluded from those conversations. In April 2018, he planned on passing a law to legalize deporting African asylum seekers.
Zionist policy separates families, massacres Native peoples and decimates hundreds of thousands of olive trees — significant in Palestinian culture. It’s also made Jerusalem, a holy city for many faiths including Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Bahái’i, only available to those allowed to enter Israel. Palestinians are not allowed to enter.
Israel’s very existence is one of settler-colonialism, ethnic cleansing and fascism on Palestinian land, yet the narrative got mixed up. People refer to Israel as “the only democracy in the Middle East,” but there isn’t anything democratic about it’s policies.
Wanting to oppose Zionism can be conflicting, especially for Jewish people fearful of another genocide of Jewish people. It’s hard, and feelings can be complex around the subject. However, immediately equating all anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism is a big assumption to make, and is simply untrue.
Anti-Semitic events on campus in the last couple years, like swastika graffiti, and in the country, like Tree of Life synagogue shooting, are extremely concerning. They signal an intense rise in white nationalism and anti-Semitism, but are not remotely similar to the sentiments anti-Zionists have. Reevaluate why you’re calling someone “anti-Semitic” and put effort into fighting real anti- Semitism.