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Home arrow Sociology arrow Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism Representation

Anti-Zionist Representations

While Zionism is regarded by some as a national liberation movement which safeguards and protects the continuity of the Jewish people, it has also been criticised as constituting a racist, colonialist ideology which favours Jews and discriminates against non-Jews (in particular, the Palestinians) (Pappé, 2006, 2007; Shafir, 1999). These perspectives have contributed to anti-Zionism. Conversely, some people

7  Israel Defense Forces Blog idfblog.com/facts-figures/rocket-attacks-

toward-israel/

8  Jerusalem Post website jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/PA-

incitement-is-confidence-destroying-measure
consider anti-Zionism to constitute a form of antisemitism, commonly referred to as “new antisemitism” (Chesler, 2003; Sacks, 2002). They argue that anti-Zionism constitutes a means of projecting one's anti-Jewish hostility onto the Jewish State or the “collective Jew”. There are two principal strands of contemporary antiZionism: firstly, it refers to the growing hostility towards Israel and Jews (who are perceived to be supportive of Israel's actions) in the aftermath of the Second Palestinian Intifada. Such hostility is attributed to left-wing organisations and Muslims, in particular. Secondly, it refers to the persistent anti-Israel bias that is said to exist in the western media, in left-wing intellectual circles and the United Nations. While classic antisemitism focused upon the Jewish people (see Chapter 2), anti-Zionism focuses primarily upon the Jewish State but commonly alludes to the Jewish people. There is often an inter-relation between the alleged focus upon the Jewish State and acts of antisemitism – anti-Zionism, which delegitimises the State of Israel, has been cited as a cause for acts of antisemitism committed against Jewish people in England, France, the US and in the many other countries in which Jews have been victimised.

Anti-Zionism is manifested in a multitude of ways in accordance with social, political and ideological context, but they all converge in their aim to delegitimise the State of Israel. Some organisations and nation-states refuse to use toponym “Israel”, preferring the term “Zionist Regime” or “Occupied Palestine” in order to call into question the legitimacy of Israel. This is clearly observable in the Islamic Republic of Iran's stance on Israel (Jaspal, 2013a, 2013c). Others, such as The Guardian, tend to represent Israel in a biased manner as a malevolent aggressor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Wistrich, 2011). This section provides a general sketch of some of the dominant anti-Zionist themes that are observable in both Middle Eastern countries, in which anti-Zionism is often an official state policy, and the West, in which anti-Zionism has gained considerable traction since the 1967 Six-Day War, in particular.

As demonstrated in Chapter 2, antisemitism has been characterised by a diverse range of motifs and representations, which construct Jews as villainous, treacherous, bloodthirsty and in other demeaning ways. It is striking to observe the deployment of similar motifs and representations in relation to Israel. While in antiquity Jews were regarded as an “alien” culture, today Israel is often referred to as an “anomaly” in the Middle East (Jaspal, 2013a). Just as Jews were represented as a villainous race throughout their history, the Jewish State is consistently constructed as a villainous state which overtly disregards international law and which is governed by “criminals”, as exemplified in a comment made by former London mayor Ken Livingstone.9 The blood libel accusation which permeated medieval representations of Jews has been deployed in describing Israel's actions

– Israeli leaders are frequently depicted as devouring the flesh of Palestinian children (Kotek, 2009), and actual accusations of organ trafficking (of dead Palestinian children) have been levelled against the Jewish State (Wistrich, 2010).

9  The Guardian theguardian.com/politics/2005/mar/04/society.london The accusation of Jewish world domination frequently surfaces in representations of Israel – while the Nazis accused the Jews of dominating the world, contemporary anti-Zionists level this very accusation against “Zionists” (Jaspal, 2013a).

Islamic countries in the Middle East have undoubtedly become the centre of antiZionist representation and activity, given the long-standing and protracted IsraeliArab confl Indeed, various analyses of anti-Zionism in the Middle East have elucidated the scale and intensity of anti-Zionist representation in the public, political and media spheres (Jaspal, 2013c; Litvak, 1998; Webman, 2010; Wistrich, 2010). As Elpeleg (1993) has shown in his excellent biography of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, anti-Zionism can be traced to both Palestinian nationalism (and, more specifi , to the Grand Mufti's collaboration with Nazi Germany), and also to the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the 1930s. With the establishment of the Jewish State and its numerous military victories against the Arabs, anti-Zionism intensifi and began to draw upon antisemitic representations concerning the evil of Jews and historical theological representations concerning the Prophet Muhammed's struggle against the Jews in the early days of Islam. Today, the State of Israel is accused of murdering Palestinian children and stealing their organs, of deliberately attempting to destroy Islam, of instigating political assassinations and natural disasters and of many other malevolent acts against Muslims (Webman, 2010). Anti-Zionist conspiracy theories abound in the Middle East, and are supplemented and supported by frequent references to antisemitic literature such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (see Chapter 2).

Scholars have cited theological reasons for extreme anti-Zionism in the Middle East, such as the Islamic belief in the dhimmi status of Jews and, hence, the widespread inability to accept a Jewish State on what is perceived as “Muslim land” (Shahvar, 2009). Moreover, given the Islamicisation of the Israeli-Arab conflict, many in the region believe that acceptance of the legitimacy of the State of Israel constitutes an un-Islamic act and is, thus, incompatible with Islamic identity. Wistrich (2010) has noted that many of the Islamist organisations like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Iranian regime that openly espouse anti-Zionism (and, in some cases, antisemitism) as official policy, advocate the total destruction of the State of Israel. It appears that anti-Zionism had become the main thrust of policy in various Arab and Islamic countries in which it is openly and enthusiastically manifested (Wistrich, 2010).

However, it is true that some nations appear to be more anti-Zionist in stance than others and are more overt in their unconditional condemnation of Israel – Britain, for instance, is said to have become “the hub of an assault on Israel's legitimacy” (Wistrich, 2012, p. 538). Anti-Zionism is associated with left-wing political organisations, not only in Britain but in the West more generally. These organisations usually purport to be Marxist, anti-globalist and, crucially, antiracist (Taguieff, 2010). Yet, these same organisations often employ rhetorical weapons that are no less discriminatory and exclusionary than those used by racists (Wistrich, 2012). Israel is often perceived as a Western, colonial and capitalist creation which oppresses the “native” people of Palestine, suggesting that Israeli
Jews are not “native”. The pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist stance of many of these left-wing organisations means that more often than not a blind eye is turned to any violence perpetrated by Palestinians and Islamists, such as suicide bombings and other atrocities, while any military action taken by the State of Israel is rapidly interpreted as evidence of Israeli “fascism”. Following Israel's military responses to the Second Palestinian Intifada (2000–2005) and the Second Lebanon War (2006), anti-Zionist (and, in some cases, overtly antisemitic) representations and images emerged in media, political and public discourses, with a rise in antisemitic attacks in various locations in the West. A common representation in the left-wing repertoire consists of the accusation that Israel functions as an apartheid state, which constructs synergy between the State of Israel and the racist regime in Apartheid South Africa. These motifs construct the State of Israel as a “rogue state” which uniquely disregards human rights in the world and which poses a threat to world peace, and thereby construct a need to destroy the Jewish State.

In Britain, many elite and reputable media outlets appear to endorse antiZionist imagery, such as the London Review of Books which has consistently represented Israel in unfavourable terms while depicting organisations like Hamas and Hezbollah in more sympathetic terms; and The Guardian, which habitually employs biased and inflammatory anti-Zionist language in its coverage of the Israeli-Arab conflict (Wistrich, 2011). Some of the images and political cartoons reproduced in the British media are clearly intended to denigrate Zionism but, in many cases, also verge on antisemitism. For instance, in a political cartoon published in The Independent on 27 January 2003 during the height of the Second Palestinian Intifada, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was depicted as an ugly and evil-looking naked giant standing in the wreckage of a Palestinian city and consuming the flesh of a Palestinian child. This cartoon was just one of many anti-Zionist political cartoons which echoed the medieval antisemitic blood libel accusation and the representation of Jews as evil and barbaric. While antisemitism may not have been the express aim, the cartoons clearly evoke antisemitic imagery in achieving their anti-Zionist goal (see Chapter 6).

Similarly, prominent UK politicians have manifested support for anti-Zionism, which has served only to legitimise this form of prejudice. For instance, Liberal Democrat Baroness Jenny Tonge publicly expressed sympathy for Palestinian suicide bombings against Israel, stating that “If I had to live in that situation – and I say that advisedly – I might just consider becoming one [a suicide bomber] myself”10, which served to single out Israel as the root cause of Islamist terrorism. Moreover, she drew a comparison between the Nazi persecution of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, arguing that “You are almost getting a situation like the Warsaw ghetto. People can't get in or out. They can't work. They can't sell anything”.11 In a typical display of anti-Zionism

10  BBC News news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3421669.stm

11  The Guardian theguardian.com/politics/2003/jun/19/foreignpolicy. israel
with clear antisemitic undertones, Tonge compared Israelis with the Jews' worst tormentors, namely the Nazis, and thereby constructed Israel as an evil entity. Furthermore, recycling the antisemitic representation of Jewish world domination, Tonge appeared to swap the category “Jewish” for “pro-Israeli lobby” in another anti-Zionist statement she made: “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they've probably got a grip on our party”.12 There are countless other examples of British political complicity in antiZionism: former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, who claimed that “Israel's own expansion has included ethnic cleansing” as well as the “slaughter and systematic murder of innocent Arabs”;13 the MP George Galloway, who claimed that “despite all the efforts made by the British government, the Zionist movement and the newspapers and news media which are controlled by Zionism” and that “we hate Zionism, we hate Israel, we hate murder and injustice. Israel blasphemes against the Torah by calling itself a Jewish state”.14 His fervent anti-Zionist stance was clearly exemplifi by his explanation that “the reason [for not engaging with a question posed by a British-Israeli student during a debate] is simple: no recognition, no normalisation. Just boycott, divestment and sanctions, until the apartheid state is defeated. I never debate with Israelis nor speak to their media. If they want to speak about Palestine – the address is the PLO”.15 These representations, disseminated by prominent political fi and media institutions in the UK, exemplify the general

themes of anti-Zionism which are pervasive in the West.

Many “anti-racist” left-wing organisations are committed to anti-Zionism because, in these circles, Zionism is widely regarded as a capitalist, racist, exclusionary, oppressive ideology. This representation is clearly aided by some of the prominent political fi cited above, but its most important boost came in the form of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, passed on 10 November 1975, which “determine[d] that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”.16 The resolution was voted in 72 to 35 with the support of the Soviet-aligned and Arab and Islamic majority nations. Although the resolution was subsequently revoked in United National General Assembly Resolution 46/86 in 1991, it served to attribute international credibility to the representation that Zionism, the national ideology underlying the State of Israel, constituted a racist doctrine. Opponents of Zionism

12  BBC News news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5366870.stm

13  Anti-Defamation League archive.adl.org/special_reports/livingstone/ livingstone.html#.UxHaXHlQN6k

14  Totally Jewish news archive archive.totallyjewish.com/news/galloway-

under-fire-after-tv-slur/

15  The Telegraph blog blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/timstanley/100203777/ george-galloway-storms-out-of-a-debate-refusing-to-talk-to-an-israeli-hes-become-anideology-on-legs/

16  UN Resolution 3379 entitled “Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination”, The General Assembly, United Nations. daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/ GEN/NR0/000/92/IMG/NR000092.pdf?OpenElement
would prefer to deny the status of Israel as a Jewish state and compel it to absorb the Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war and their descendants. This would effectively amount to the destruction of the State of Israel.

Similarly, the infamous United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances, which took place in Durban, South Africa in 2001, reiterated the representation that Zionism equals racism. The Secretary General of the Arab League referred to Israel's “racist actions” and “Zionist racist practices” against the Palestinians, and proceeded to equate the Palestinians with Jewish Holocaust victims.17 It therefore facilitated the systematic comparison of Zionism with, and anchoring to, Nazism, as demonstrated by the plethora of anti-Zionist representations that have been observed in a wide range of media. Indeed, in his extensive analysis of Jews and the Jewish State in the Arab and Western media, Kotek (2009) has observed a systematic representation of Israel as the “real” Nazi state, which is responsible for the “Palestinian Holocaust”. Clearly, the allegation of “Zionist racism” lies at the heart of the constructed conflation of Zionism and Nazism. It is an elaboration of this original motif. This elaboration has given rise to newspaper images depicting Israeli leaders as Nazis, Israeli soldiers as SS-soldiers, and the Palestinian territories as Nazi concentration camps (Kotek, 2009). Indeed, there is a tendency in left-wing circles to compare Israel to Nazi Germany, and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazi genocide of the Jews. Accusations of “ethnic cleansing” and “racial segregation” abound in their discourse. Despite the groundlessness of this assertion, it is invoked, repeated and reiterated.

The representation of Zionism as a racist ideology facilitates the construction of Israel as an apartheid state (Clark, 2012). This is of course intended to establish linkage between contemporary Israel and the racist regime in South Africa which insisted on racial segregation. The construction of Israel as an apartheid regime is inaccurate – Arabs constitute a fifth of the Israeli population; they study and work alongside Israeli Jews; they use the same beaches and public washrooms; there are several Arab representatives in the Israeli Knesset etc. However, the apartheid analogy has existed for decades, and has become particularly prominent following the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier in 2005. The presence of a physical barrier separating the Palestinian and Jewish communities has provided further impetus for the use of this analogy, because it is cited as “evidence” of segregation. Burke (1984) has argued that “the great danger of an analogy is that a similarity is taken as evidence of an identity. Because two things are found to possess a certain trait in character which our point of view considers notable, we take the common notable trait to indicate identity of character” (p. 97). Anti-Zionists employ such analogies to single Israel out in negative terms and to encourage people to discredit it in ways that other previous regimes (e.g. Apartheid South Africa, Nazi Germany) have understandably been discredited.

17  Al-Ahram Weekly Online weekly.ahram.org.eg/2001/546/fr2.htm Despite the inaccuracy of the apartheid representation, it has gained traction and become an anti-Zionist buzzword for delegitimising the State of Israel. It constitutes the focus of the so-called Israel Apartheid Week, an annual series of lectures and events which allegedly aim to “educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement”.18 Thus, users of the apartheid analogy invite us to regard Israel's actions as racist, malevolent and oppressive, rather than as necessary for the safety and security of Israeli cities which have been targeted by Palestinian suicide bombers. This shifts one's attention from security (which is one of the aforementioned obstacles to a peace agreement) onto racism. Crucially, South Africa's apartheid regime was almost unanimously opposed by the world's nations due to its blatant racism and it was eventually defeated. The apartheid allegation in relation to Israel is anti-Zionist in character because it implicitly invites the same outcome for the Jewish State.

While Holocaust denial has been particularly endemic in extreme right-wing political circles and, more recently, in Arab and Islamic contexts (see Chapter 2), anti-Zionists tend to criticise the alleged “use” of the Holocaust by Zionists in order to achieve particular political goals. Although critical debate on representations of the Holocaust in Israeli politics is not necessarily an act of anti-Zionism (see for example Jaspal and Yampolsky, 2011), anti-Zionists sometimes employ or implicitly invoke arguments grounded in Holocaust revisionism. For instance, it has been argued that the Holocaust is exaggerated by Zionists or maliciously invoked in order to induce sympathy among outgroups and to justify political actions. Moreover, as noted above, there is a consistent comparison between the Nazi Holocaust perpetrated against the Jews and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, which serves to attenuate the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews perished and to demonise the State of Israel for “repeating” the crimes of their worst tormentors (Litvak and Webman, 2009).

Some scholars have noted that anti-Zionism has provided a common platform for various groups opposed to Israel's existence – principally, left-wing organisations and Islamists (Wistrich, 2010, 2012). There are enormous ideological differences between these groups which are simply glossed over in a united front against Zionism and the State of Israel. Collectively, these groups attempt to translate their anti-Zionist representations into anti-Zionist actions.

 
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