Empirical Research into Anti-Zionism

As observed, there is considerable debate concerning the conceptual and moral boundaries between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. Recently, social scientists have begun to contribute to this debate by examining anti-Zionism empirically and particularly its relationship with antisemitism. On the whole, the little empirical social science research that has been conducted in this area suggests that antisemitism and anti-Zionism are in fact closely related, although the design of most studies renders it difficult to determine empirically the causal relationship between the two constructs. There is generally a lack of experimental research which would shed light on causality. Nonetheless, there is some emerging evidence that antisemitism at least partially underlies anti-Zionism.

Kaplan and Small (2006) conducted a large survey study of 5000 citizens of ten European countries in which they sought to examine the causal relationship, if any, between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. They demonstrated that the prevalence of those who self-reported antisemitic views significantly increased with participants' degree of anti-Zionist sentiment, even after controlling for other factors. Moreover, their results indicated that those with lower scores on anti-Zionism tended not to harbour antisemitic views, which suggested that it is quite possible to be critical of Israel without being antisemitic. This large-scale, exploratory study demonstrated that there is a relationship between the constructs, but Kaplan and Small did not provide a theoretically-grounded explanation of anti-Zionism and its relationship with antisemitism. Thus, it is difficult to see how and when the two forms of prejudice may converge.

Conversely, in their experimental research into mortality salience and attitudes towards Jews and Israel, Cohen et al. (2009) did position these forms of prejudice within the context of social psychological theory. They reasoned that, because modern sensibilities discourage people from manifesting overt prejudice such as classic antisemitism, individuals would be more likely to channel their prejudice via a more socially acceptable route, namely anti-Zionism. In study 1, they found that antisemitism was positively correlated with anti-Zionism and that individuals
appeared to manifest greater levels of anti-Zionism in the bogus pipeline condition,

i.e. when they were led to believe that lying would be detected and was thus futile, than in the control condition. The researchers interpreted this result as preliminary evidence that, though individuals regarded anti-Zionism as more socially acceptable than overt antisemitism, they nonetheless recognised the antisemitic undercurrent of their anti-Zionist position. This is an important fi because it is indeed often claimed that anti-Zionism constitutes a more socially acceptable means of manifesting antisemitism. Furthermore, Cohen and colleagues argued that there is likely to be a bi-directional causality between antisemitism and anti-Zionism – antisemites are more likely to express anti-Zionism, while anti-Zionism can also accentuate antisemitism. However, this claim requires further empirical investigation.

Study 3 of their project revealed that in the mortality salience condition participants expressed greater support for punishing Israel (than Russia and India) for human rights transgressions, suggesting a disproportionately punitive attitude towards the Jewish State. Their studies demonstrated that antisemitism and anti-Zionism might feed back into one another due to their bi-directional relationship and, thus, rejected the claim that anti-Zionism is completely unrelated to antisemitism (cf. Klug, 2003). In another experiment examining the underlying antisemitism of anti-Zionist political cartoons, Cohen (2012) found that when participants were led to believe that they would be caught lying they viewed anti-Zionist cartoons as being more justified than in the control condition. In the mortality salience condition, participants viewed the cartoon of an Israeli leader eating the flesh of babies as more justified than in the control condition, although a similar experimental effect was not observed when participants were presented with the cartoon of a Chinese leader consuming the flesh of Tibetan babies. She concluded that mortality salience in conjunction with the bogus pipeline induced greater demonisation of Israel than of other countries with a dubious human rights record. Thus, it appears that people do single out Israel vis-à-vis other countries and that they do focus their attention upon the perceived transgressions of Israel more so than those of other countries. Given its close empirical link with antiZionism, antisemitism may constitute the explanatory factor.

It has been observed that anti-Zionism appears to be associated with specific groups in society. Frindte et al. (2005) examined the prevalence of anti-Zionism and antisemitism in accordance with people's political orientations. They reasoned that, because it is socially stigmatised to express overt antisemitism in Germany and indeed in many other Western countries, “criticism of Israel and anti-Zionism could represent special forms of substituted communication of anti-Semitic attitudes and, thus, could be described as modern forms or derivations of antiSemitism” (p. 245). Their survey study indicated that those participants who were politically orientated towards the left were more inclined to voice their anti-Zionist attitudes than political right-wingers, highlighting the social acceptability of antiZionism in such political circles. Moreover, they argued that modern German antisemitism could take the form of anti-Zionism or “exaggerated Israel criticism”. It is possible that anti-Zionism, or “modern antisemitism”, may be manifested in a
way that is consistent with the perceived ethos of the particular group – in the case of left-wing individuals in the form of “exaggerated Israel criticism”.

There has been limited empirical research into anti-Zionism among ethnic and religious minority groups and in non-Western contexts, although there are some recent exceptions. In a survey study, Baum and Nakazawa (2007) examined antisemitism and anti-Zionism among North American Muslims and Christians. They found that antisemitism and anti-Zionism were moderately correlated and that the main effect of religion on anti-Zionism was signifi while that of ethnicity was not. Their sample included both Arab and non-Arab Muslims and, contrary to expectations, non-Arab Muslims scored higher than Arab Muslims on anti-Zionism, despite the little or non-existent geographical or ethnic commonality with Arab Muslims who have indeed suffered political and military confrontations with Israel. It appears that the shared superordinate Muslim identity united individuals of diverse ethnicities, given that the Israeli-Arab confl can be construed, at least partly, as a religious confl through its Islamicisation (Litvak, 1998). In his survey study of antisemitism and anti-Zionism in the Iranian general population, Jaspal (2011c) found that antiZionism was predicted by political trust (in the Iranian government) and Iranian national identity, which suggested that individuals who trusted the Iranian regime would adhere to the “version” of Iranian national identity that was disseminated. Crucially, as demonstrated in this book, anti-Zionism is frequently constructed as a necessary tenet of Iranian national identity.

It appears that the causal relationships between antisemitism and anti-Zionism cannot be unequivocally ascertained on the basis of these studies alone, despite their attempts to examine empirically the inter-relations between these forms of prejudice. The key to improving our understanding of these inter-relations may lie in the close examination of individuals' discourses using qualitative analytic methods. Moreover, there is clearly a need to examine the manifestations and motivations of anti-Zionism, as well as its relationship with antisemitism, among those groups that are most associated with this form of prejudice in those contexts in which anti-Zionism is most prevalent. Accordingly, this book explores the case studies of Iranians and British Pakistani Muslims in order to examine the manifestation of antisemitism and anti-Zionism.


This chapter highlights the multifarious understandings of the political ideology of Zionism and the complexity of anti-Zionism. In this book, it is defined as opposition to the ethnonational ideology which emphasises the Jewish people's right to national self-determination. It is acknowledged that there is considerable debate about the boundaries between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, but there does appear to be a relationship. Anti-Zionism may be caused by underlying antisemitic prejudice, or it may itself induce or exacerbate antisemitism even where antisemitism did not exist before. Moreover, it is plausible to regard anti-
Zionism as an aspect of antisemitic prejudice because of its excessive, negative focus upon the Jewish State and its action orientation to destroy the national symbol of the Jews. To that extent, it can be considered as part of the continuities and discontinuities of antisemitism.

In this chapter, an overview of some of the major events and debates in the Israeli-Arab conflict is provided in order to exhibit the impetus to much contemporary anti-Zionism. There is a widespread perception of negative Israeli/ Zionist might vis-à-vis Arab weakness, which has induced sympathy for the Arab world and hostility towards Israel. Moreover, in the Arab/Muslim world itself, the long history of conflict may have contributed to humiliation, weakened selfconfidence and threats to social and psychological wellbeing, inducing hostility towards Israel. In examining some of the anti-Zionist representations which dominate the debate on Israel, it is evident that aspects of the Israeli-Arab conflict and the political obstacles to peace between the Israelis and Palestinians have been offered in support of anti-Zionism. However, these complex aspects are sometimes re-construed in ways that echo the antisemitic myths and motifs outlined in Chapter 2.

This book contributes to existing empirical research into antisemitism and anti-Zionism by examining the case studies of the Islamic Republic of Iran (social representations and public perceptions), and the British Pakistani Muslim community in Britain. It is necessary to examine antisemitism and anti-Zionism in those contexts in which these forms of prejudice are particularly salient, but also in distinct contexts where the boundaries of acceptability may differ. While the Islamic Republic of Iran openly advocates anti-Zionism and sometimes antisemitism, the British context is more ambivalent – it provides social and institutional support for a milder version of anti-Zionism and appears to condone and implicitly encourage anti-Zionism among minority groups, such as the British Pakistani Muslim community.

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