Reclaiming the word “Zionism” from the antisemites

Continuing with the theme of the previous post, where the importance of correct terminology and spelling of the term “antisemitism” was stressed, a similar need to reclaim the term “Zionism” from the dirty paws of the Jew-haters has arisen after the word has been turned on its head and is used to smear Jews and Israel-supporters. It’s something I have written about frequently on this blog, but I feel the need to raise the subject again has become very necessary.

Anyone who has been on social media in recent years has seen the way antisemites have twisted the term to suit their nefarious purposes. “I’m not an antisemite, some of my best friends are Jews. I’m just an anti-Zionist”. Worse yet are the accusations against Jews that they are Zionists, as if Zionism were a dirty word.

This formula has been used by Corbyn-cultists in Britain to revolting effect against campaigners against Labour antisemitism.

Further afield, Israellycool illustrates the issue with some horrid examples in his  series on “Anti-Zionist not antisemite of the day“.

Elder of Ziyon had an article just this week on how Dictionary.com distorted the meaning of the word “Zionist”. (They later amended the entry):

If you want to know what the word Zionist means, Dictionary.com will provide you with lots of examples to make you hate Zionists.

A Zionist is a follower of Zionism, a movement that created and supports Israel as the official state for Jewish people in Palestine. The term can be a neutral, positive, or offensive term for a Jewish Israeli nationalist.

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How Dictionary.com defined “Zionism”

Its basic definition is flawed to begin with by defining the area that Jews have wanted to live for millennia by the name it was given by the Romans to erase Jewish history there: “Palestine.”

The second sentence of the definition is also simply wrong: many Zionists are not Jews.

A dictionary should note that the word is used as an epithet by some. But Dictionary.com goes way beyond that, using only negative examples of the word, and misrepresenting them as well.

Its “related words” box has absolutely nothing to do with Zionism, and except for the Ten Commandments, they are all offensive.

Things get much worse.

Every example of its use comes from rabid haters of Israel. 

Not once does it mention that anti-Zionism is often a cover for antisemitism, which is in fact how it is used most of the time nowadays.

There is not a single example of using the word Zionist in a positive way. Not one. The people who coined the term don’t get to define it.

This is a reference site on the Internet, and Google uses it as an authoritative source. If this is how it defines Zionism, then if Dictionary.com has any integrity at all, people should be fired for politicizing a dictionary entry to incite hate.

(h/t Mitchell Bard)

UPDATE: Dictionary.com got rid of the offensive examples and changed the definition. The entry isn’t perfect but it is much better.

But the Jews and their supporters have had enough. We are not going to take this ursurpation of our langauge and our politics lying down, and we are going to reclaim our own terminology.

Here is Israeli activist Ashager Araro with a short, snappy video clip on what Zionism is:

The blogger and activist Ben Freeman has written an excellent essay on Reclaiming Zionism:

It is time to reclaim Zionism from the anti-Zionists.

What is Zionism?

Judaism and Jewishness have been connected to the Land that is now Israel through religion, language, culture, history, archeology and ethnicity for thousands of years. Ever since our expulsion from Judea and the region after the Roman invasion, and following millennia of cyclical persecution, Jewish people have been praying and longing to return to our indigenous land: Zion. Just today, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem just tweeted a photo of a two thousand year old coin that was found in ancient Jerusalem, it said, ‘For the freedom of Zion.’

The ADL defines Zionism as “the Jewish national movement of self-determination in the land of Israel — the historical birthplace and biblical homeland of the Jewish people.”

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Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism

Zionism is the belief in the Jewish people’s right to determine our own destiny. It allows Jews to finally live their lives free of the historical, repetitive, cyclical nature of prejudice, persecution, threat and murder because of our Jewishness. And it offers Jews living in the Diaspora comfort knowing that regardless of how bad things get in their respective countries, there is always the haven of Israel.

Jewish Connection to Israel

Judaism and Jews originated in the historic land of Israel which we were expelled from by the Romans. Since our expulsion in the first century CE, Jews have not forgotten our connections to this indigenous homeland.

The Hebrew language, nearly all Jewish festivals such as Sukkot and Shavuot originated in Israel. Jews continue to pray towards Jerusalem and during Passover, throughout history Jews have recited “Next year in Jerusalem”. The Sephardic Jews of Iberian Spain even inscribed their longing for a return to their indigenous land on their synagogues. Additionally, Jews have had a continuous presence in the Middle East as hundreds of thousands of Jews continued to live in the MENA region after the Roman expulsion and only left when they were in turn expelled by their respective countries.

The Context of Zionism

… Theodore Herzl — the father of modern Zionism — was spurred to action by attending the Dreyfus Trial. He saw a Jew, in an enlightened post-revolution France being framed for treachery and being abused as a Jew, not just a traitor. This led him to realise that Jews, regardless of where we live, would not be safe. During a time of intense violent antisemitism, specifically from the Russian Empire, Herzl campaigned tirelessly for a much needed Jewish State — State where Jews would be safe. In 1896 he wrote “Der Judenstaat” (The Jewish State) and in it he wrote:

“The Jewish question persists wherever Jews live in appreciable numbers. Wherever it does not exist, it is brought in together with Jewish immigrants. We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution.”

History proved Herzl right. Just forty five years after the publication of “Der Judenstaat”, the Nazis began exterminating Jews in Europe.

Zionism is also not just a European construct either. In 1862 Abba Zaga, a Kahen and leader of Ethiopian Jewry attempted to lead an ultimately unsuccessful mass aaliyah for the Beta Yisrael community. This attempted Aaliyah predates the first wave of Aaliyah from the Russian Empire.

Zionism Post-Israel

The indigeneity of the Jews to the land of Israel has not and will not change, and sadly neither has the need for a refuge for Jews, even in a post-Israel world.

Sadly, in the West antisemitism is as alive today as it ever was. According to the Campaign Against Antisemitism, “1 in 3 British Jews have considered leaving Britain in the past two years due to antisemitism” and “39% of British Jews conceal their Jewishness in public”. Based on the British Board of Deputies estimations that there are 284,000 Jews in the Uk, that is roughly 113,000 people. Britain is obviously not the only Western country experiencing the resurgence in aggressive antisemitism. The Kantor Centre recorded a 22% rise in violent anti-Semitic attacks in New York City, a 70% increase in violent anti-Semitism in Germany and nine out of 10 French Jewish students stated they had experienced anti-Semitism at least once during their studies.

Ultimately, Zionism gives Jews — wherever they are in the world — a safety net. As we have seen prior and post the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews have sought safety in the Zionist dream.

What is anti-Zionism?

It is very common today to see people on the left proudly declare their Anti-Zionism, but this is not a legitimate political position that is critical of government policy — that is quite different. First promoted by the USSR, anti-Zionism is the attempt to deprive Jews of their right to self-determination.To criticise Israel as you would any other country is not anti-Zionism. A helpful guide to understanding when criticism of Israel is actually Anti-Zionism (read antisemitism) is when criticism of Israel engages in Natan Sharansky’s 3 D Test: Criticism of Israel is antisemitism when it Degelitimises, Demonises and treats Israel with a Double Standard.

The definition of Zionism used by anti-Zionism differs greatly than the one used by Zionists. According to modern anti-Zionists argue that “Zionism is racism.” That is patently not the case. Zionism has been stolen and warped by anti-Zionists who use their definition of Zionism to justify their obsessive attacks on Israel. Zionists were framed as the ultimate imperialists colonising the Middle East which then ‘justified’ Soviet anti-Zionism. Based on traditional antisemitic tropes such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion Israel is targeted as the collective Jew. As well as being antisemitic, this idea also erases Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, which make up roughly 25% of the total population.

Reclaiming Zionism

In a recent video, the brilliant activist Ashager Araro stated that we Zionists needed to reclaim Zionism from ant-Zionists.

Ashagar is right, Zionism has been stolen and Zionist need to redefine it based on our history and experiences. This goes deeper than people just proudly declaring their Zionism, it means the anti-Zionist definition of Zionism must actively be rejected and Zionism must be defined by Jews.

Jews need a Jewish state, constant antisemitism, including anti-Zionism continues to justify the necessity of a Jewish State and Zionist must reclaim the definition of their Zionism.

Zionism is not racism. It is not Nazism. It is not an attempt for Jews — via the State of Israel — to control the world and exploit the rest of the international community. It is simply a movement for Jews to regain the land they were violently expelled from and to finally be free from violent antisemitism, to control their own destiny. That is what Zionism is.

In a rather more succinct manner Stephen Daisley of the Spectator explained “the false dichotomy between antisemitism and anti-Zionism” thus: (highlights are mine):

Why does Zionism trouble its critics so? Let’s set aside those Haredi Jews — thrust aloft as human shields by malicious Gentiles — who demur from Zionism for historical or theological reasons. (Nathan Birnbaum, who coined the term, eventually turned religious and against Zionism.) In its simplest rendering Zionism is a belief in national self-determination for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland. You could, in theory, be anti-Zionist without being anti-Semitic but if the Jews are the only nation whose rights you deny, it rather trips an alarm. Others will affirm their belief in Jewish self-determination but regard Zionism as a supremacist ideology. Again, though, if you object to the assertion that ‘the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish People’, to quote the Nation-State Law, you object to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state (and to all states that would not allow another nation to form a state within their borders). 

Zionism scares anti-Semites for the same reason it scares Jews: Zionism is Jewish power. If that burden weighs heavy on Jews, and troubles a people to whom the powerful have seldom been friendly, it terrifies anti-Semites. Jews as victims, they can just about tolerate. But sovereign Jews are Jews no longer pleading for toleration; they are free from the whims and prejudices and peripatetic sympathies of Gentiles. They are Jews with power.

Let us finally use this power which G-d gave us and our founding fathers assisted in achieving, and stand up for our rights. We shall not let the haters have the last – or even the first – word.

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6 Responses to Reclaiming the word “Zionism” from the antisemites

  1. Pingback: Reclaiming the word “Zionism” from the antisemites – 24/6 Magazine

  2. Reality says:

    Thank you for a well written post

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you. I can’t really take credit. Ben Freeman wrote an excellent article, and Stephen Daisley is a very good journalist who manages to say in few short sharp words what it takes me a whole post to say.

  3. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Ok, people, inscribe the following above your desktops or inside the covers of your laptops or other mobile devices: August Bebel, 19th Century German Social Democrat (we lefties aren’t all bad!) noted that “antisemitism is the socialism of fools”.

    Use it whenever you are confronted by left-wing antisemitism (aka Corbynism in the UK). By this, Bebel meant us to note that left-wing antisemitism uses antisemitic tropes to pretend that the problems of the world are caused by the “ownership” of the world by Jews, frequently used in political shorthand as “the Rothschilds” (“Zionism”, in this context, is a side-issue and a distraction). The implication is that get rid of the Jews grasp on the world economy and the left can change it forever in their desired direction.

    It never seems to occur to them that:
    (a) Jews are, at most, 0.2% of the world population – we are about 16,000,000 in a world population fast approaching 7,700,000,000 (how can 0.2% control the other 99.8% is beyond my feeble imagining);
    (b) Henry Ford (raging antisemite), the Rockefeller’s, Andrew Carnegie, etc, to say nothing of their modern counterparts such as Morgan Stanley, or their European equivalents, such as Lord Nuffield (of the Austin-Morris motor company), or the German Benz, etc, etc, weren’t Jewish;
    (c) collectively punching above your weight is not the same as dominating those who weigh more than you;
    (d) accumulating wealth and knowledge as a despised minority and out-group gives one chances of either or both buying one way out of dangerous situations or making oneself indispensable to the oppressors – which is not the same as supposedly “controlling” them. Being cleverer than his monarch didn’t save Thomas Cromwell from the executioner’s block.

    This is to suggest that, unlike their far-right counterparts, left antisemites tend to be a bit (but only a bit) smarter than them. The far right are, in some ways, easier to confront. Even without having to resort to violence, especially if we can get them into a situation in which they CAN’T resort to violence.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thanks for this well-written and timely reminder Brian. It works as well for my antisemitism post as it does for this one on anti-Zionism. As you and I and my readers know, the two are practically interchangeable in the eyes of the Jew-haters.

      I agree with you 100% that rightist antisemites are easier to confront because they are easier to identify and they are more open about their hatred The Leftists couch it in sly weasel words of “peace” and “equality”, thus making it harder to spot their hatred and to fight it, particularly for those not so knowledgable about Jews and Israel.

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        Spot on, Anne, re the Leftist antisemites: they are slightly less likely to foam at the mouth and gibber than the right-wing ones, and so sound almost sensible (underline “almost”).

        There’s a post right after mine on “Jews Down Under” (I cross-posted my comment above there) and I can’t quite make up my mind whether it’s serious or an attack on the article and me.

        Anyone prepared to read that comment and advise me will be rewarded in heaven (okay, among the legions of the good people!). Thanks in advance to anyone who takes the time and trouble.

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