My progressive colleagues always ask me if anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic.


I have spent most of the past decade focusing on grassroots organizing and capacity building within the American progressive movement. From helping to create the largest leadership development organization on the left to launching a one-of-a-kind organization to mobilize male allies in the fight to protect and extend reproductive freedom, I proudly helped elect progressive change agents and pass landmark legislation.

I did all of this as a Jew who wears a kippah in public, as someone who statistically speaking shouldn’t exist. My grandfather is one of 10% of Polish-born Jews who survived WWII. Three million of its Jewish neighbors, and another 3 million across Europe, were packed into boxcars and sent to slaughterhouses, gas chambers, ovens.

Who I am is at the heart of who I am. So when I saw the statement from the Washington, DC chapter of the Sunrise Movement explaining refusal to march in rally for voting rights with Jewish groups because they are “Zionists”, I immediately understood that it was deeply problematic. Not only has the decision had the potential impact of spreading anti-Jewish bigotry, it has also weakened our movement more broadly at a time when democracy, necessary to secure civil rights, is under attack in America.

I also understood right away that for many people the anti-Jewish nature of the statement was not so obvious. When times like this happen, I get texts and calls from progressive peers across the country asking, “Is this anti-Semitic?” ”

To answer the question, I begin by explaining what it means to be Jewish. Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people. But Jewish identity is so much bigger and more diverse than religion. Some of us are deeply religious. Some of us are totally secular. We are all Jews. We are a people, not just a religious community. Contrary to what most think, anti-Semitism is not anti-Judaism in its modern form (several hundred years old). It’s anti-Jewish. It is not about how Jews pray, but rather who they are and what they are accused of doing.

We Israel binds the United States Embassy

Jews are attacked for allegedly controlling the world (governments, banks, media), for being disloyal to our home countries, for killing Jesus, for inventing the Holocaust, for being greedy, for undermining the white race and subverting people of color (among other things).

We have been blamed for epidemics, famine, economic hardship and war. Whatever the major problem of a society, the Jews have been blamed for it. None of these things have anything to do with religion.

Criticizing or opposing Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitic. Harsh criticism of Israeli government policies may make us uncomfortable, but it is not anti-Semitic. But Sunrise DC’s statement was not about politics. By attacking “Zionist organizations” in a coalition for the right to vote and saying that they cannot participate in a coalition that includes them, Sunrise DC has essentially said that it will not work alongside Jewish organizations ( or Jewish) who believe in the State of Israel. has the right to exist.

For the average Jew, Zionism has become simply the idea that Israel has a right to exist, rather than adhering to the policies of its government. The Zionist movement got its name at the end of the 19th century, but it really put a label on a 2,000 year old desire to return to the homeland from which the Jews were violently driven out (in an act of colonization). This desire has grown over time as we have failed to find lasting peace and security elsewhere, including in Europe, North Africa and the wider Middle East.

That’s why when people attack Zionists, we mean “Jews”. We hear them say that the 80-90% of Jews who believe that Israel has the right to exist are unacceptable, and that Israel, a country which came into being through the vote of the international community and which today is home to hui 7 million Jews, must be finished.

Why is this anti-Semitism? First, it distinguishes Jews when most people believe Israel has a right to exist. (In fact, 85% of the general American public thinks that the statement “Israel has no right to exist” is anti-Semitic, according to a poll published this week.) Second, it seeks to deny the Jewish people the right to self-determination by erasing our identity as a people and our connection to the land. Third, he declares that a national movement for Jews is particularly unacceptable, while arguing for another national movement.

Fourth, he divides the Jews into good and bad. Only those who oppose their own national movement can stay. Only Jews who reject Zionism are allowed. Replace “Jew” with any other group and ask if that would be acceptable.

Even if you renounce coalitions with anyone, Jewish or not, who thinks Israel is legitimate, it still denies the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. He says Jews must be a perpetual minority on this land subject to the whims and fanaticisms of the societies in which they live. For thousands of years the Jews have tried this and failed to find permanent refuge – which, fairly or not, is part of the reason. most Jews believe in the right and the need for national self-determination in part of a disputed territory.

Sunrise DC was not interested in the nature of their rejected Jewish allies’ support for Israel – even though each of the three groups, like most of America’s Jews, argued for a Palestinian state and an end to government policies. Israel that harm the Palestinian people, including, but not limited to, the occupation of the West Bank.

Ultimately, only Jews can define who and what we are and what anti-Semitism is. Too often in progressive spaces, this right is denied to Jews. Instead, to justify their own positions, some rely on Jews whose voices, while relevant, are far from representative on the question of what constitutes anti-Semitism. If someone ignored the voices and lived the realities of 80-90% of any other minority group, most progressives would quickly recognize this as an act of symbolizing to protect prejudice (or worse).

Some who identify as progressives think it is acceptable to use the word “Zionist” to attack others, claiming that the word is not about Jews. I encourage everyone to visit the extreme right-wing message boards from time to time. Once there, you will see what white supremacists generally call Zionist Jews. The importance of the word, in relation to the claims that they control governments and try to replace white “patriots” with black and brown “intruders”, will amaze you.

While there is plenty of room for criticism of Israeli government policy, there should be no room for the exclusionary, reductionist and dehumanizing language of white nationalists in the progressive discourse on the subject, or the denial of the right to self-determination of the Jews on this land. .

I believe in defending those who are attacked for being who they are as much as I believe in defending Jewish life. For me, this work is personal. Not because every problem affects me directly. But because I feel like I owe it to my grandfather. To the Jews who were murdered and never had the chance to live. To my peers here who face systemic racism and bigotry. And yes, because I believe that “Never Again” is not just a slogan to hope for, but rather a mission to fight for.


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