Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing government has abandoned any façade of democracy and liberalism and is effectively exposing Zionism as a racist and nationalistic project rooted in white supremacy, settler colonialism, and 19thcentury European fascism. This has led to a profound crisis for Israel, which seeks to conflate Zionist interests with Jewish interests and values and is dependent on its links to American Jews who are predominantly liberal.
Israel’s consistent drift to the right
The rise of reactionary forces in the United States and Europe has served to embolden Israeli aggression and to encourage its continued drift to the right. As a result, the past few months have been especially traumatic for Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Here are some key events:
- As a “gift” for Israel’s 70th anniversary, the Trump administration decided to transfer the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a highly controversial move that officially ended any hope for a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine.
- To protest against the embassy relocation to Jerusalem and to mark the 70thanniversary of the Nakba, Palestinians organized “The Great March of Return”, which attracted thousands of Gazans of all ages.
- In response, Israel brutally cracked down on protesters, killing over one hundred and forty and injuring more than sixteen thousand.
- On July 14, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) began yet another bombing campaign of the impoverished Palestinian open-air prison of the Gaza strip, adding further to the list of dead and injured.
- On July 19, the Israeli government passed a law titled “Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People”, which effectively defines Israel as a Jewish ethno state and codifies a system of apartheid whereby Palestinian residents are second class citizens.
- To add insult to the list of injuries, the Israeli government has proudly coddled the Trump administration, in spite of its racist base. What’s more, Benjamin Netanyahu has openly embraced some of the worst anti-Semitic leaders in the world.
Zionism is white supremacy
Zionism has a long history of collusion with anti-Semitic, white supremacist forces, and champions a form of global apartheid that racists such as American President Donald Trumpand “alt-right” fascist Richard Spencer fully endorse. Anti-Semites have been among the Zionist project’s staunchest supporters, including from its beginnings as a fringe, messianic movement that was shunned by most Jews. Zionists have always had an interest in fomenting anti-Semitism worldwide, with the goal of driving Jewish immigration (preferably white) to Palestine/Israel as a means of battling the Palestinian “demographic threat”.
Israeli society’s inherent white supremacist nature has been extensively studied and detailed. It involves discrimination on multiple layers, including against indigenous Palestinians, as well as within Jewish Israeli society.
In fact, recent events only highlight the underlying motivation of Zionism from its early beginnings; i.e. settler colonialism that has formed a parasitic relationship with Judaism.
Young Jews revolt
The linkage between Zionism and Judaism is maintained by consistent historical revisionism and manipulation of the trauma produced by European anti-Semitism, which culminated in the Jewish Holocaust. It sustains support for Israel and serves to stifle effective resistance by attributing “anti-Semitism” to any critique of Israeli policies. Notably, this abuse of the term “anti-Semitism” has watered down and trivialized the real phenomenon of bigotry against Jews and thus further demonstrates the ongoing collusion between Zionism and white supremacy.
However, in spite of Israeli propaganda, an ever-growing number of young Jews have recognized Israel’s consistent drift to the right (see here and here) and its glaring incongruence with liberal Jewish values.
Today, these are mostly millennials who were raised on the ethical tradition of Judaism that is in stark contrast to the immoral behavior and exclusivist nature of the Israeli state (and its fundamentalist proponents), which claims to represent them. That said, outrage at the historical mantle of Judaism being claimed by Zionists has been vehemently opposed by sects of the most orthodox Jews for decades (e.g. Neturei Karta).
Israel is extremely threatened by this growing aversion among Jews and has gone as far as barring Jewish American anti-Zionist activists from entering the country. In addition, Israel recognizes only ultra-orthodox Jews as authoritative for determining religious matters and recently outraged many liberal Jews by detaining a conservative Rabbi for officiating non-Orthodox weddings.
Decoupling Zionism and Judaism
This growing awakening within the Jewish community paired with the Israeli state’s desperate countermeasures may indicate a hopeful development for those oppressed by the state of Israel; an age of Jewish rejection of Zionism en masse.
To promote this trend, it is essential to further drive a wedge between Zionism and world Jewry by consistently challenging the talking point that equates Zionism with Judaism, and stressing the unethical, and in fact, un-Jewish nature of Zionism from its early beginnings.
Those who subscribe to the hasbara talking point that Zionism represents Judaism are in effect scapegoating all Jews and promoting white supremacy and global apartheid. Blaming Judaism for the crimes of the Israeli state is akin to indicting Islam for Saudi Arabia’s offenses or Christianity for America’s.
In fact, decoupling Zionism from Judaism will have multiple positive effects. First, it will enable effective resistance to Zionist settler colonialism by viewing it as a rational, political (as opposed to religious), modern (as opposed to age-old) and therefore solvable issue that is the responsibility of the international community as a whole. Second, it will refocus and thus strengthen efforts to combat the global neo-fascistic surge that is promoting xenophobia and racism, including anti-Semitism, by linking these struggles. Finally, it will encourage solidarity and the formation of coalitions between forces opposed to white supremacy and settler colonialism, including Palestinians, black and brown people, immigrants, Jews, Muslims, indigenous groups and white allies capable of confronting their privilege.
Liberal Zionism and Haaretz
Israeli hasbara is arguably the most advanced form of state propaganda in history. It is focused on selling Zionism both at home and abroad as an ideology that can be consistent with moral, liberal values. In fact, many Israelis and Jews still cling to the notion of liberal Zionism as a sustainable model/philosophy that can lead to justice in the land between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.
The news outlet Haaretz is considered the prominent voice of liberal Zionism. As such, in response to the ‘Nation-State of the Jewish People’ law, Haaretz published a crafted editorial that condemns Netanyahu’s government, or in its words “the discrimination camp”, and urges members of the Zionist “opposition” (“the equality camp”) to fight back. Here, Haaretz craftily demonstrated its aversion from the grotesquely racist nature of Netanyahu’s camp and placed itself within the sleekly disguised version of the liberal Zionist camp. Thus, for Haaretz, it is a matter of style, not necessarily content.
A case study – when Gadi Taub met Steve Bannon
In an approximately 9000-word, front page puff piece for Haaretz’s weekend edition, quaintly titled (in Hebrew) ‘Gadi Taub meets Steve Bannon’ and in English ‘Steve Bannon Tells Haaretz Why the Russians Aren’t the Bad Guys and Why He Can’t Be an anti-Semite’, Taub provides ample space for Steve Bannon, former White House strategist and former executive chairman of the far-right Breitbart News, to outline his political philosophy. Or in other words, a platform to make Bannon’s xenophobia, anti-Semitism and neo-fascism palpable for Haaretz’s liberal Zionist readership (for those unfamiliar with Bannon’s fascistic viewpoints and inspirations, see here, here, here and here).
Notably, Taub’s article was featured on the front page of Haaretz’s prestigious weekend edition, not in a short op-ed. Complemented by a photo of Taub himself chatting it up with Bannon around a coffee table, the article includes a disturbing photo of Bannon’s daughter lounging on Saddam Hussein’s couch smiling in her American military uniform. There’s also a one of Rebekah Mercer of the far-right billionaire Mercer family who aided in Trump’s election, and two more of the Clintons, who are Bannon’s useful dupes.
Here, Taub refers to Bannon’s notions about his anti-Semitism:
With regard to anti-Semitism, Bannon rejected the criticism from the outset. Andrew Breitbart himself was a Jew, he said. The site employed Jewish journalists. Bannon himself recruited Milo Yiannopoulos, who sometimes identifies as Jewish (his maternal grandmother was Jewish), to Breitbart. Breitbart News’ support for Israel has always been consistent, loud and unapologetic. So is Trump’s support for Israel. And then there is also the fact that Trump’s daughter converted to Judaism. So, what anti-Semitism are we talking about? How can anyone even imagine such a thing? “Hey, I’m a Christian Zionist myself,” Bannon told me.
And there you have it. In spite of his well-documented anti-Jewish bigotry, Bannon claims that he cannot be an anti-Semite because he is a Zionist. This perfectly demonstrates the ongoing collusion between Zionism, in all its forms (including Haaretz’s liberal Zionism that only pays lip service when the “style” of oppression is too blatant), and white supremacy.
It is Past Time for Ethical Jews to Reject All Forms of Zionism
It is well past time for ethical Jews to accept the inherent racist and anti-Jewish nature of Zionism, which has manipulated the Jewish religion to morally justify seventy years of settler colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid of indigenous Palestinians.
With its new ‘The Nation-State of the Jewish people law’, Israel seeks to completely merge Zionism with Judaism and to eliminate any anti-Zionist enclaves within- and outside of Israeli society. As such, the state’s security forces continue to criminalize and harass pro-Palestinian, human rights activists, including Jewish Israeli citizens.
Thus, if Jews as Jews are to maintain any moral legitimacy and participate in the fight against the global surge of neo-fascism, they must confront and categorically reject in large and increasing numbers all forms of Zionism.
– Yoav Litvin is a doctor of psychology/behavioral neuroscience, a documentary photographer and writer living in New York City. You can find him at yoavlitvin.com. This article was originally published in Mondoweiss and was contributed to the Palestine Chronicle by the author.