The problem with “anti-Zionism”

by Yoni Higgsmith

The problem with smearing Corbyn as antisemitic, which he isn’t, or focussing on whether he sat on a panel with an antisemite, or called Hamas his friends (which he did in a parliamentary setting while discussing peace), is that it doesn’t add real value to the conversation and allows us not to talk about our real fears. It’s just a smokescreen for our identity to hang its hat on.

The real fear is that on the left of Labour, and spoken by many supporters of Corbyn, there is a deep anti-Zionist sentiment. That it is OK to be otherwise left wing and champion socialism and justice and equal rights for all… except when it comes to Israelis or Zionists. Then it is OK to call them racist, to claim that supporting any part of Israel is a crime against left wing values, and that all Zionists want to land-grab and destroy Palestine. That we can look to Zionism from before Israel existed and quote its numerous philosophers and try to equate that with a modern Zionism which is about the country’s right to exist. That there is no difference between the right-wing fundamentalist religious Zionism and the majority of Zionists.

The one thing all Zionists agree on is that Israel has a right to exist in peace. This is something Corbyn also agrees with. Zionists disagree about how to protect Israel. We have progressives and fundamentalists — as all ideologies have.

I understand that there are Zionists who co-opt Zionism to represent things that are wrong, but as a Zionist who does not do that, I have still feared recently to say out loud that I am a Zionist because of the wrath it brings. As a member, I’ll say that the left have a problem with anti-Zionism.

I love what Corbyn stands for. He is able to make a stand against what Israel is doing wrong. He can point it out to a room full of Jewish Labour supporters and get a round of applause from about the half the room when he says we must campaign against Israel’s treatment of Palestinian prisoners, we must campaign against the settlements, we must end the blockade which is inhumane and as a tactic for security has failed. We need to start talking peace with both sides. And he can do it from the perspective of wanting a return to 1967 borders and having both a Palestine and an Israel who share the land in peace.

In my opinion, being anti-Zionism or being anti-Palestine are the same evil. We can label ‘fundamentalist’ the people who are either Zionists who are anti-Palestine or pro-Palestine people who are anti-Zionist — those with a belief that the solution to the conflict is for one side to swallow up the other. Those who believe that granting any legitimacy to the other side somehow weakens their argument.

In the right wing of politics they have an anti-Palestine problem and on the left we have an anti-Israel problem. And it has to stop if we are to bring about peace.

We have to have a narrative and understanding of both cultures and fight to protect them both — because if we do not than we are supporting the destruction of one side.

  • This article is abridged from the “Jewish Voice — Voice of socialism and progressive Jewish values”

1 Comment

  1. Being anti-Zionist does not automatically make you anti-semitic. That’s a point that needs to be made. To quote: “The real fear is that on the left of Labour, and spoken by many supporters of Corbyn, there is a deep anti-Zionist sentiment. That it is OK to be otherwise left wing and champion socialism and justice and equal rights for all… except when it comes to Israelis or Zionists. Then it is OK to call them racist, to claim that supporting any part of Israel is a crime against left wing values, and that all Zionists want to land-grab and destroy Palestine.”

    I’m not aware of a universally accepted definition of zionism. I’ve heard many use the term in the sense of wishing to expand Israel’s borders. Maybe such people use the term incorrectly. Using a term incorrectly and condemning “zionists” for actions and beliefs that aren’t inherently part of zionism, is emphatically not anti-semitic. Personally I no longer use the toxic word “zionist”. When discussing the outrageous treatment of Palestinians, the word doesn’t add anything useful to the debate.

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