Opinion | The Progressive Assault On Israel
Next is the belief that anti-Zionism is a legitimate political position, and not another form of prejudice.
It is one thing to argue, in the moot court of historical what-ifs, that Israel should not have come into being, at least not where it is now. It is also fair to say that there is much to dislike about Israel’s current leadership, just as there’s much not to like about America’s. But nobody claims the election of Donald Trump makes America an illegitimate state.
Israel is now the home of nearly nine million citizens, with an identity that is as distinctively and proudly Israeli as the Dutch are Dutch or the Danes Danish. Anti-Zionism proposes nothing less than the elimination of that identity and the political dispossession of those who cherish it, with no real thought of what would likely happen to the dispossessed. Do progressives expect the rights of Jews to be protected should Hamas someday assume the leadership of a reconstituted “Palestine”?
Then there’s the astounding view that anti-Zionism bears only a tangential relationship to anti-Semitism. Hatred of Jews is a shape-shifting phenomenon that historically has melded with the prejudices of the time in order to gain greater political currency. Jews have been hated for reasons of religion, race, lack of national attachments, and now an excess of national attachment. The arguments for hating Jews vary; the target of the hatred tragically remains the same.
Of course it’s theoretically possible to distinguish anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism, just as it’s theoretically possible to distinguish segregationism from racism. But the striking feature of anti-Zionist rhetoric is how broadly it overlaps with traditionally anti-Semitic tropes.
To say, as progressives sometimes do, that Jews are “colonizers” in Israel is anti-Semitic because it advances the lie that there is no ancestral or historic Jewish tie to the land. To claim that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, when manifestly it is not, is anti-Semitic because it’s an attempt to Nazify the Jewish state. To insist that the only state in the world that has forfeited the moral right to exist just happens to be the Jewish state is anti-Semitic, too: Are Israel’s purported crimes really worse than those of, say, Zimbabwe or China, whose rights to exist are never called into question?
But the most toxic assumption is that Jews, whether in Israel or the U.S., can never really be thought of as victims or even as a minority because they are white, wealthy, powerful and “privileged.” This relies on a simplistic concept of power that collapses on a moment’s inspection.