A Broken Language, a Crippled
Debate, and the Gift of Art

Zionism and Anti-Zionism

Many contemporary dictionaries carry definitions, however imperfect, of anti-Semitism. Fewer carry definitions of Zionism. Since the term is so essential to any discussion of the Middle East, one might reasonably assume that people are in agreement as to its meaning. But this assumption is false; disparities in definition have created much of the present confusion.

Zion is a Hebrew word, which according to religious texts describes the land God promised to the descendents of Abraham. Zion also is a synonym for Jerusalem and the land of Israel.

Zionism is an ideology that emerged in the late 1800s, concurrent with Marr’s invention of the term anti-Semite. At that time, persecution of the Jewish community was endemic. Nationalism had arisen, and European colonization of Africa, Asia, and the Americas was at its apex. The basic premise of Zionism, first articulated in 1893 by Nathan Birnbaum and refined by Theodore Herzl in 1897, was for Jewish individuals and communities to leave behind their persecutors by coming together to colonize Palestine and form their own nation-state. There are many streams of Zionism such as cultural Zionism, religious Zionism, synthetic Zionism, political Zionism, and practical Zionism, among others, suggesting a wide range of justifications behind this ideology and its implementation.

Anti-Zionism is the term used to indicate opposition to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. People have different reasons for being anti-Zionist. For example, Palestinian anti-Zionism springs directly from their having been physically displaced by Israel. Arab anti-Zionists object to the intrusion of a neo-colonial force in formerly Arab territory. Orthodox Jewish anti-Zionists object to the creation of Israel in violation of religious principles. Secular Israeli anti-Zionists object to Israel’s formation as a religious state. Progressive Israeli anti-Zionists object to the occupation of territories not recognized by the world as Israel’s and to the increasingly harsh military tactics Israel employs to defend itself. Secular American anti-Zionists object to the influence that the hasbara (Hebrew: Israel advocacy, solidarity) movement exerts in Congress, and they object to the use of their tax dollars to support actions of a foreign state that is repeating the darkest episodes of oppression from their own national history.

Help Them Build the Jewish Future

Artist: Unattributed

Next Section: Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism As Synonyms

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