The media have at last taken up an important discussion: the relationship of Judaism and Zionism. Many supporters of Israel say that to be Jewish means to be a Zionist; and therefore it’s anti-Semitic to be anti-Zionist. Even public officials (from Hillary Clinton to Ted Cruz to Barack Obama) have backed up this claim.
I thought it would be helpful to ask Israeli-American Tziva Thier, a former Hebrew school teacher and liberal Zionist, about the difference between Zionism and Judaism. I met her in New Brunswick, N.J., ten days ago, and she said:
Anti-Zionism is being anti- a political movement that is nationalist. This is a nationalist movement. Anti-semitism is racism against a group of people because of their religion. So there is no connection. Anti-semitism is hating Jews for being Jews. Anti-Zionism is being anti- what the Zionist entity is doing right now as a colonialist apartheid country.
I point out that American synagogues and Jewish institutions freely and widely define Jewishness as Zionism. Thier responds that many orthodox Jews are anti-Zionist, and the synagogues are just wrong.
Jews are not allowed to murder innocent people. This is against Judaism. Yes– in the synagogues– they are wrong. When they will wake up? I don’t know if it will be in my lifetime, but they will. They must wake up some time… Israel is committing crimes, and it’s not Judaism, it’s nationalism.
Even the name of the country is taken from the Jewish religion, but that’s a trap, she says. “Israel is also stolen from Judaism. [In the bible] the other name for Jacob was Israel.”
That is why she calls Israel “the Zionist entity.” I say that she is potentially alienating Israelis from a movement for democracy in Israel and Palestine. Don’t we want to persuade Israelis, not alienate them?
“They’re lost. No change will come from within,” Tzvia Thier says. She then explains that she is for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions as a means of pressuring Israeli society to change without bloodshed.
In the next video, I ask Thier about the possibilities of nonviolent change. Dont we want an F.W. de Klerk to arise in Israel, as in South Africa? Thier says the only possible de Klerk in Israeli society is Ayman Odeh, the Palestinian politician and leader of the Joint List.
I ask whether Israel will only be transformed as Algeria was, or the slave south in the United States: with massive violence. She says if the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) gets real strength, it might do the trick. “If people are hungry, maybe then, those who are now in deep coma, they will wake up. When they are economically really hurt… If they will be really, really hurt, maybe they will raise their voices. Not because of being so humane about the Palestinians, but take care of themselves.”
That could take another 20 years. In South Africa, change happened much more quickly. But South Africa didn’t have the Holocaust. Israel is “using and abusing” the Holocaust so it extends its existence, she says. (Thier’s family fled Eastern Europe when she was a girl.)
At the end of the video, Thier urges people to speak out against Israel despite efforts to brand criticism as anti-Semitism. “It’s fighting against crimes… war crimes… It’s beyond criticizing.”
Finally, here is a video in which Thier explains the nature of Zionist indoctrination. I challenge her over the fact that American Jewish institutions broadly and willingly support the existence of Israel. She says Zionism has taken Jews hostage; and refers to the use of the Holocaust as the rationale for Israel. She says at minute 3:00 that the Holocaust is “too traumatic” a historical experience to be the basis for nation-building. In fact, Israel has become one of the least safe places in the world for Jews and others.