Our website is 10 years old last month and I’ve always said the New York Times could put us out of business if it would just do the obvious journalism of the Israel/Palestine question. Today the newspaper takes a step in that direction: it has published a forum (spurred by the California Regents blunder) on the question, “Is Anti-Zionism Anti-Semitism?”
It is a good thing to have the term “anti-Zionism” mainstreamed. Though in fact the title is wrong. Based on what follows, the forum should have been titled, “Is Zionism bigoted?”
That’s the shocking news, three of the five pieces are anti-Zionist or at least seek to create space for anti-Zionism. Two of them state that Zionism is racism.
It is a stunning thing to read Omar Zahzah’s piece in the forum. “Zionism Justifies Discrimination and Oppression.” I don’t think I’ve seen such a bald description of the Nakba and the right of return in any composition that the paper itself commissioned.
There are two Zionist pieces, by Daniel Gordis, an Israeli rightwinger, and Benjamin Gladstone, a Brown student who says the criticisms of Israel are disproportionate. (And: “Jews are as entitled to a self-liberation and self-empowerment movement as any other people…”)
The hits. Sherene Seikaly of UC Santa Barbara and Jadaliyya has these good observations in a piece titled “Anti-Zionism Can and Should Be Anti-Racism”:
Zionism is a national political movement that began in the late 19th century as a response to anti-Semitism. Zionism was neither the only Jewish response to anti-Semitism nor the most popular until the Nazi persecution of Jews began in the 1930s..
Palestinian self-determination is a crucial step in ending the logic of racialization and civilizational hierarchy that produced anti-Semitism and genocide. This logic measures Palestinian life as less valuable than Israeli life. To say otherwise is to suggest that standing up for Palestinian rights is somehow anti-Jewish. Critiquing this logic is a moral responsibility.
Lisa Goldman seeks to make space for anti-Zionism; and makes these pertinent statements:
The most important element is neither God nor religion but the Holocaust, with its heavy legacy of trans-generational trauma. The lesson of the genocide, many believe, is that Jews need a safe haven. A state of one’s own.
In America, even regular participants in synagogue life can profess atheism or strongly criticize Israel’s policies. But openly identifying as a non-Zionist is anathema to Jewish communal life.
(Though she justifies American Jewish anti-Zionism by saying there are Israeli Jewish anti-Zionists. I’ve never based my politics on some foreign country’s.)
Finally, Omar Zahzah’s piece. “Zionism Justifies Discrimination and Oppression.” Make way for Palestinians! A graduate student at UCLA, Zahzah begins by describing the establishment of Israel as a time of ethnic cleansing, and links to the Nakba page of the Institute for Middle East Understanding.
My relatives were among the Palestinians displaced. They did not deserve to be expelled from their homes, nor do any of the Palestinians who are still being uprooted because of Israeli government policies.
Anti-Zionism is a principled anti-racist position. The notion that there should be freedom and self-determination for Palestinians leads me to call on Israel to respect the United Nations mandated right of return for forcibly displaced refugees and their families. It is my conviction of equality that compels me to speak out against Israeli apartheid, with over 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel and render them second-class citizens…
Just as we speak out about other forms of racism, those of us who oppose the discriminatory practices of the Israeli state must likewise oppose Zionism as the modern ideology that justifies these practices.
The New York Times has been ravished by Zionists for years, from Judy Miller to David Brooks to Bill Kristol to Roger Cohen to Jodi Rudoren. This forum is another clear sign of the Zionist crisis, and of the mainstream inclusion of Palestinian solidarity voices. Zahzah is the clear leader in this forum. (Not long ago I wrote that the conflict won’t end until American Jews sign up to the statement, “Zionism is racism.” This forum suggests that I wasn’t smoking weed when I said so.)