Don’t say the Z-word

US Politics
on 36 Comments

The row in British politics concerning Labour’s alleged ‘anti-Semitic problem’ needs no further introduction these days.

Inside this atmosphere of witch hunting, agendas meant to stifle debate about Zionism are being promoted.

Michael Levy, who was known as Tony Blair’s “Lord Cashpoint” from his major fundraisings towards Blair’s campaigns (which won him the unofficial title of Blair’s private envoy in the Middle-East during Blair’s premiership), has recently suggested on BBC Newsnight, that usage of the word “Zionist” has become “another form of anti-Semitism” and that “this should not be tolerated”.

UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis told the Sunday Times that Jewish students at universities were confronted with a “wall of anti-Zionism, which they feel and know to be Jew hatred”, bemoaning that they are sometimes even described by “the ugly term Zios”.

These pundits do not seem to find a need to provide actual basis for their suggestions. As Mirvis puts it, Jews “feel and know” it.

Seeing beyond the cynical political agendas of what Max Blumenthal recently and wittily referred to as “a very British coup,” I think it is very important to look at the agendas regarding the stifling of debate concerning Zionism. The attempts to make this term “forbidden” under the suggestion that it veils anti-Semitic thoughts and feelings, threatens to make it impossible to discuss the political aspect of Zionism as separate from Judaism – and this threatens to have a limiting impact upon our discourse concerning Judaism, Zionism and Israel in the future, making it harder to discern the elements without stepping on eggshells.

Usage of the term “Zionist” is in itself not feared amongst Zionists themselves. In fact, it is a revered and seen as holding nationalist and patriotic merit – hence the center-left block in Israel calls itself “The Zionist Union”. The term is a typical boasting from the left, to signal to the right that being on the left does not mean one is “soft” on nationalist issues. Sometimes this pathological need to show one is not ‘soft’ in fact spills over into overt racism, as when the leader Isaac Herzog warned that his party must not be seen as “Arab lovers”. 

So if the term “Zionist” is both used by those opposing Zionism and those supporting it, how can the term itself be considered anti-Semitic? It is almost like saying that the term “Jew” is problematic, since it is being used by anti-Semites for hateful purposes. What the pundits are essentially saying is that the term Zionism may be legitimately used by Jews and political supporters of Zionism (be they Jewish or not – as in Christian Zionists), but that usage of the term by those who are critical or opposing of Zionism is illegitimate, because it harbours a thinly veiled form of Jew-hatred.

If Zionism and Judaism were one and the same, the Zionist Union would not need to call itself that. It could call itself the ‘Jewish union’ – but that would immediately signify it as more overtly racist and nationalist – these titles are more fitting for the further right parties such as the “Jewish Home”. If Zionism and Judaism were one and the same, why would there be a ‘World Zionist Congress’ convening every 4-5 years? Why not just ‘World JEWISH Congress’?

Whilst Zionism does not represent all Jews, it seeks to create a monopoly upon the usage of the term ‘Zionist’, and its pundits are seeking to stifle debate about it. The aim of this is obvious – if it would be impossible to discuss Zionism and Judaism separately, Zionism could become an unchallenged representation of Jews all over the world. This is indeed Benjamin Netanyahu’s wet dream. As he said last year: “I went to Paris not just as the prime minister of Israel but as a representative of the entire Jewish people.” He would be the unelected king of the Jews. The self-anointed Messiah.

As ridiculous as these chauvinistic and megalomanical expressions may be, we must not dismiss them as a mere slip of the tongue by a madman. These are expressions which are rooted deep in the Zionist psyche – that it is the ultimate and uncontested answer to the ‘Jewish problem’. That it IS Jewish survival.

This is the absolutism that we are being cunningly pressed to accept: that Israel’s political exclusivity as a Jewish State must not be questioned, must not be challenged. Any attempt to do so is automatically labelled as anti-Semitic. Challenging the paradigm of ethnic exclusivity is thus equated to racism. And that is how Newspeak is established – you say something and it automatically means the opposite.

We must fight this ideological atavism with all our might, and open the debate on Zionism as far and as wide as we can, in the seeking of new paradigms of identity and governance that may be viable unto a future of freedom and equality. Zionism has not only done very poorly on these fronts – it is actually threatening to shut down our minds so that we may not be able to perceive any other way.

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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36 Responses

  1. eljay
    May 10, 2016, 2:51 pm

    … UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis told the Sunday Times that Jewish students at universities were confronted with a “wall of anti-Zionism, which they feel and know to be Jew hatred”, bemoaning that they are sometimes even described by “the ugly term Zios”. …

    Zio-supremacist Jewish students at universities would do well to consider the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:

    … When bad things happen to a group, its members can ask two different questions: “What did we do wrong?” or “Who did this to us?” The entire fate of the group will depend on which it chooses.

    If it asks, “What did we do wrong?” it has begun the self-criticism essential to a free society. If it asks, “Who did this to us?” it has defined itself as a victim. It will then seek a scapegoat to blame for all its problems. …

  2. just
    May 10, 2016, 3:03 pm

    Superb! Many thanks, Jonathan.

    You might be interested in these letters published today:

    “Anti-Zionism does not equate to antisemitism”

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/10/anti-zionism-does-not-equate-to-antisemitism

  3. MHughes976
    May 10, 2016, 3:33 pm

    If they feel and know that opposition to claims of exclusive Jewish rights in Palestine arise from hatred of Jews they must ‘know’ that everyone, Jews and non-Jews alike, would be fine with the same behaviour on the part of non-Jewish people in the contemporary world. Where is there is an example of exclusion and disfranchisement with which we all see nothing wrong?

  4. ritzl
    May 10, 2016, 5:07 pm

    Great article.

    This reasoning is irrationally arrogant or oblivious…or something:

    The aim of this is obvious – if it would be impossible to discuss Zionism and Judaism separately, Zionism could become an unchallenged representation of Jews all over the world.

    I totally agree that the “aim … is obvious.” The question raised by that goal is, how can anyone think they have such control over 7B other independently-thinking people on the planet to even remotely think it could be made “impossible” to discuss, well, anything.

    7B people are just going to tell them to piss off and discuss away, in any way they see fit.

    The arrogance that must exist in order to even conceive the notion that somehow any significant number of people are going to give a rat’s ass when someone tells them they can’t use the word Zionist is truly breathtaking, alternate-reality kind of stuff. These guys are assuming power that doesn’t exist while abusing good faith that does. Bad combination.

    Ho hum.

    • Mooser
      May 10, 2016, 6:20 pm

      “These guys are assuming power that doesn’t exist while abusing good faith that does.”

      Very well said.

      • ritzl
        May 10, 2016, 11:09 pm

        Thanks Mooser.

      • Mooser
        May 11, 2016, 10:51 am

        “Thanks”

        I’ve been trying, without a lot of success, to express almost the same thing.

      • genesto
        May 11, 2016, 7:08 pm

        Ditto! May I have permission to use this expression in the future? It’s beautiful!

      • rosross
        May 12, 2016, 7:47 pm

        I second that. Great line.

  5. Kay24
    May 10, 2016, 5:21 pm

    Anything to silence criticism. How about OCCUPIER or LAND THIEVES? will that be okay then?
    I am sure there are plenty of other titles that are appropriate, but then in their twisted minds, even that will be called anti-semitism.

  6. Mooser
    May 10, 2016, 6:44 pm

    ” there are plenty of other titles”

    I’m partial to “freebooters” , myself.

  7. Jabberwocky
    May 11, 2016, 12:10 am

    Zionism is to Judaism as the Islamic State is to Islam.

    Both racist, supremacist organisations should be opposed by those that support human rights.

    • Tigger
      May 12, 2016, 12:15 pm

      Except that the majority of muslims condemn the ‘Islamic State’.
      They even go so far as to call them by the epithet ‘daesh’ which is very similar in sound, I believe, to the Arabic for ‘shit’.

  8. Bumblebye
    May 11, 2016, 7:00 am

    Jon Lansman, founder of left-wing, Corbyn supporting ‘Momentum’ doesn’t think we should use the word either:

    http://www.leftfutures.org/2016/05/why-the-left-must-stop-talking-about-zionism/

    • eljay
      May 11, 2016, 7:34 am

      || Bumblebye: Jon Lansman, founder of left-wing, Corbyn supporting ‘Momentum’ doesn’t think we should use the word either:

      link to leftfutures.org ||

      … Why is a new language necessary: because British Jews, most of whom support a Palestinian state (71%), and see the expansion of settlements as a major obstacle to peace (75%) and feel a sense of despair when they are expanded (68%) generally see themselves as “Zionists” (59%) with more who also “possess some traditionally ‘Zionist’ attitudes“) – all figures from The Attitudes of British Jews towards Israel). Zionism takes many forms, and British Zionists (at least those who are Jewish) are a world apart from Israeli Zionists. …

      There’s no reason to appease the “kinder, gentler” supremacism of British Zionists who – like all Zio-supremacists – advocate, support and defend the existence of Israel:
      – not as a secular and democratic Israeli state – a state of and for all of its Israeli citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally; but
      – as a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” – a state primarily of and for Jewish Israelis and non-Israeli Jews – in as much as possible of Palestine.

    • Shmuel
      May 11, 2016, 10:00 am

      Lansman’s tactical argument is not without merit, but the very fact that so many — Jews and non-Jews — conflate Zionism and Judaism is what fuels their refusal to see reality for what it is and/or their reluctance to do anything about it (or even to allow others to do something about it).

  9. Vera Gottlieb
    May 11, 2016, 9:53 am

    I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it…I am utterly ashamed of my Jewish background. As long as Zionism behaves like Nazis I want absolutely NO part of this country. For shame.

    • genesto
      May 11, 2016, 7:12 pm

      Vera,

      No need to be ashamed of your Jewish background. My Jewish wife celebrates the beautiful part of her heritage, along with her Goyim husband, while distancing herself from the shameful, Zionist – albeit Zionist lite – connection she once had.

      • Mooser
        May 11, 2016, 8:24 pm

        Thanks, “genesto”, I’ve been looking at “Vera’s” comment and tried a couple of times to say something.
        I wonder, realistically, just how much we should expect from our Jewish backgrounds. One thing we can do is make our own Jewish foreground.

    • DaBakr
      May 11, 2016, 8:45 pm

      @vg

      and we’ll keep saying it over and over that we are ashamed of your jewish background just as much if not more then you. so, we agree on some things.

      • Mooser
        May 12, 2016, 4:39 pm

        “and we’ll keep saying it over and over that we are”

        Everybody bow, or curtsy. It takes a real queen to speak of himself with the royal “we”!

    • rosross
      May 12, 2016, 9:37 pm

      There is no point being ashamed of ancestry of any kind for that belongs to others, those who came before.

      You are responsible for your actions. Give up the religion and don’t be Jewish anymore if it bothers you so much. Or if you need religion, convert to another and you are no longer Jewish.

      But really, your religion is not who you are – how you act is who you are. Your ancestors are not who you are, not even your parents – who and what you are is who and what you are.

  10. Jane Porter
    May 11, 2016, 10:32 am

    So! in the UK one risks to be fined, threatened, sacked from your job and god knows what else…not speaking nicely about zionism, like in M.Valls’s France? Jonathan you are lucky to live in Denmark. I hope they are not backwards as the french or british politician clowns.
    I remember travelling in Sicily, somebody there advised me never to utter the word “maffia” that could be dangerous for me…and instead
    use the word “rose-bush”…so if we tweet something nasty about Isr. or Z. we’ll have to use something like flower-bed, angel of the garden.

  11. James Michie
    May 11, 2016, 10:42 am

    Zionists are accomplished in playing the “Anti-Semitic card”, as they wrap themselves in the Star of David and claim to be Jewish when they are NOT! Zionism = brutality, racism, genocide, ethnic cleansing and FASCISM.: the epitome of galactic hypocrisy! The tens of thousands of Zionist murders of Palestinians and grand theft of Palestinian lands does in no possible way bespeak of Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat 31:a.

    So much for madman Benjamin Netanyahu’s Fascist “democracy”!

  12. Ossinev
    May 11, 2016, 11:10 am

    “that usage of the word “Zionist” has become “another form of anti-Semitism” and that “this should not be tolerated”.

    I am getting a little bit confused here so perhaps (sorry no choice have to use the term ) one of MW`s resident “Zionists” can clarify. If I use the term”Jew” or refer to “Jewishness” or “Judaism” am I being anti – semitic. Should I in fact to avoid giving offence instead refer to Jews as Semites ? Might be complicated though and cause even further offence since “Semites” cover groups of people in the Middle East including pre -Islamic Arab peoples , Babylonians and pre “Zionist” Jews viz:

    Semite =”a member of the group of Caucasoid peoples who speak a Semitic language, including the Jews and Arabs as well as the ancient Babylonians”

    Oh sh.. I am really in it now.I have just referred to Jews as being Caucasoids. I could be drifting into Life of Brian territory here as in sorry can`t come out today I have a bad case of the Caucasoids . It could be worse though I could have spoken of them being the “Chosen Caucasoids” (including the Chosen Caucasoids happily living in Brooklyn,Florida and Golders Green)

    • just
      May 11, 2016, 1:54 pm

      Searing and lol funny, Ossinev! Looking forward to the clarifications that you requested…

      ‘Always look on the bright side of life… ‘(playing it now!)

    • Stephen Shenfield
      May 12, 2016, 6:38 am

      You shouldn’t be saying anything at all about Jews. Not unless you have a special license to do so.

      • Boomer
        May 12, 2016, 12:14 pm

        “You shouldn’t be saying anything at all about Jews. Not unless you have a special license to do so.”

        Who issues such a license?

      • Mooser
        May 12, 2016, 5:35 pm

        “Who issues such a license?”

        And what a license it is! A piece of paper that makes a man a veritable James Bond of Hasbara. A ‘license to k’vel‘!
        You want a ‘license to kvetch‘ cooked up, better go see the Chef Rabbi.

  13. RobertHenryEller
    May 11, 2016, 11:29 am

    “Whilst Zionism does not represent all Jews, it seeks to create a monopoly upon the usage of the term ‘Zionist’, and its pundits are seeking to stifle debate about it.”

    Zionists are also trying to monopolize the words “Jew” and “Jewish.” They are often claiming that if one is not a Zionist, one cannot be a “real” Jew. Netanyahu simply assumes this, when he claims to speak for all Jews. He clearly means that Jews are all Zionists, inferring that anyone who claims to be Jewish but who is not a Zionist cannot be a Jew.

  14. Talkback
    May 11, 2016, 4:26 pm

    Zionist defnition of antisemitism: Anything that displeases any Jew.

  15. Talkback
    May 11, 2016, 4:47 pm

    A total of 71 percent of practicing Israeli Jews support the expulsion of Arabs. What’s “Rabbi” Mirvis responce to that? He’s whining about the term “Zio” which to him is more deplorable.

  16. Stephen Shenfield
    May 12, 2016, 6:58 am

    Some Zionist organizations still have the word “Zionist” in their title but many do not–they do indeed simply call themselves Jewish (American Jewish Congress, Jewish Defense League, etc.). I think many Zionists try to use the words Zionist and Zionism as little as possible even among themselves because such usage does imply the possibility of being Jewish without being Zionist — and that is what they seek to deny. In the early phase of the Zionist movement there was no hiding the fact that Zionists were a minority among Jews, but once Zionism achieved a near-monopoly of Jewish self-expression (at least in public) it became feasible to obliterate the distinction between Jewish and Zionist, thereby making Zionism a “natural” and intrinsic part of being Jewish, something that should go without saying — and therefore without thinking. As Symes explained to Winston Smith, the goal of Ingsoc is to make thoughtcrime impossible.

    Now there has reemerged a substantial body of openly expressed Jewish opinion that is opposed to Zionism. As awareness of this spreads being Zionist will lose its appearance as a natural part of being Jewish and be exposed as one choice among others. That will hasten the decline of Zionism, which once it achieves a certain momentum will be as rapid as its rise. The proposal to delegitimize and suppress use of the terms Zionism and Zionist is a desperate attempt to halt this process.

  17. Annie Robbins
    May 12, 2016, 10:55 am

    Whilst Zionism does not represent all Jews, it seeks to create a monopoly upon the usage of the term ‘Zionist’, and its pundits are seeking to stifle debate about it. The aim of this is obvious – if it would be impossible to discuss Zionism and Judaism separately, Zionism could become an unchallenged representation of Jews all over the world.

    while this may be true, that Jews seek to “create a monopoly upon the usage of the term ‘Zionist’,” i don’t think this attempt to ban the word from common usage is so that “Zionism could become an unchallenged representation of Jews all over the world ” — i don’t think that’s where this comes from.

    and perhaps jonathan never heard (or forgot) about frank luntz’s “words that work” powerpoint ( here: https://jewishphilosophyplace.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/luntz-presentation-9-2014.pdf ), but i’m surprised no one in the comments recalled it. this push to get us to stop using this term originated from none other than luntz, recognized as the guru of hasbara and selling israel to the world. phil wrote about it here: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/11/zionism-american-concedes/

    he found out by surveying americans (maybe he did it in britain too) — not american jews, but americans — in sept 2014, after the 2014 summer slaughter — to change US public opinion which had taken a downturn that summer. it’s called “communicating the truth about israel” and it’s just a way to formulate effective propaganda.

    divided into “students” and “opinion elite” and he asks them

    What’s your reaction to the word: ” Zionist/Zionism “

    dividing into those who felt favorably, neutral, or unfavorably about the word. and as it turned out too many people looked unfavorably on the word. so this is just an attempt to ban it from use because people respond negatively towards it. had everyone liked it, there would be a push to use it. and like everything else in hasbara land, the most effective way to ban something is to call it anti semitic.

    so if you think about it, prior to the summer slaughter there were no efforts to ban the word — this is the new frank luntz hasbara effort coming to fruition — nothing random about it. just a result of the study on words that do not work in US public opinion. zionism has gotten a bad wrap so ban the word. it didn’t come from an “aim” to make it impossible to discuss Zionism and Judaism separately, although that may be one outcome of it.

    as luntz says, in big bold letters at the very top of the powerpoint:

    These are merely bookends…
    the opening/closing language

    1. You decide which facts matter
    2. You decide the length of response
    3. Just remember: your opening
    words set the tone and your final
    words determine your success.

    those who own the words determine the outcome. and i will decide for myself my own “opening/closing language”. we need to own the words and speak honestly about their meaning — as we see fit.

    • Boomer
      May 12, 2016, 3:19 pm

      re:

      “1. You decide which facts matter

      “2. You decide the length of response

      “3. Just remember: your opening
      words set the tone and your final
      words determine your success.”

      . . .

      “those who own the words determine the outcome. and i will decide for myself my own “opening/closing language”. we need to own the words and speak honestly about their meaning — as we see fit.”

      So true.

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