24/11/2010

What is Zionism?

Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism

t What is Zionism?

Zionism is the movement for the reestablishment of the Jewish people's self-determination in their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. The goal of Zionism is political: the establishment of an independent state for the Jewish people. The most natural place for this state is Zion, or the Land of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people.

Although Judaism is a religion, the Jews constitute a people, with their own language, culture, literature and shared history. Zionism was their means to create a common future as well.

Jews from all persuasions - secular and religious, left and right - have supported the ideals of Zionism and their right to a national home like other nations around the world. Severely persecuted throughout the ages, the Jews had realized that their fate as a people laid in establishing their own country. For only in a Jewish state could the security of the Jewish people be guaranteed. Only in a Jewish state could they live their lives fully according to their own customs, culture, religion and sense of nationhood. Only in a Jewish state could refuge be ensured to Jews fleeing persecution around the globe.

In many ways, Zionism can be considered the national liberation movement for a people that was exiled from its historic homeland. Zionism differs from many other national liberation movements in one aspect: instead of seeking freedom in a new entity, the Jews sought the reestablishment of their ancient independent state.


Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism

t What is Zionism?

Zionism is the movement for the reestablishment of the Jewish people's self-determination in their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. The goal of Zionism is political: the establishment of an independent state for the Jewish people. The most natural place for this state is Zion, or the Land of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people.

Although Judaism is a religion, the Jews constitute a people, with their own language, culture, literature and shared history. Zionism was their means to create a common future as well.

Jews from all persuasions - secular and religious, left and right - have supported the ideals of Zionism and their right to a national home like other nations around the world. Severely persecuted throughout the ages, the Jews had realized that their fate as a people laid in establishing their own country. For only in a Jewish state could the security of the Jewish people be guaranteed. Only in a Jewish state could they live their lives fully according to their own customs, culture, religion and sense of nationhood. Only in a Jewish state could refuge be ensured to Jews fleeing persecution around the globe.

In many ways, Zionism can be considered the national liberation movement for a people that was exiled from its historic homeland. Zionism differs from many other national liberation movements in one aspect: instead of seeking freedom in a new entity, the Jews sought the reestablishment of their ancient independent state.

Although Zionism only coalesced as a modern political movement in the 19th century - indeed the term wasn't coined until 1890 - the longing for a renewed Israel dates back to ancient times. The desire of the Jews to return to their homeland began nearly 2000 years ago. In 70 CE, the Romans destroyed the holy Temple and razed the city of Jerusalem, the religious and administrative capital of the Jewish people's state. This act of horrific destruction brought Jewish independence to an end, and in the decades that followed, most of the Jews of Israel were exiled. Still, a small number remained, so that throughout history, there has always been a Jewish presence in the Land of Israel.

Despite their exile, the vast majority of Jews never stopped hoping to return home, and these yearnings played an essential role in their prayer and literature. For example, at the end of the annual Passover meal, Jews around the world repeat the vow "Next year in Jerusalem," while all Jews pray facing towards Jerusalem. Many spiritual aspects of Judaism are closely connected to the physical manifestations of the Land of Israel, with prayers and mitzvot (commandments) tied to the Land.

The Jewish connection with the Land of Israel was not manifested in prayer alone. In the late nineteenth century, as national movements took shape in Europe and as antisemitism on that continent grew, an Austrian-Jewish journalist, Theodor Herzl, began to organize the national movement of the Jewish people - the Zionist movement. At the same time, yet independent of Zionist activities in Europe, Jews from Yemen, Iraq, Turkey and Morocco began their own return.

The League of Nations, the pre-courser of the UN, granted international recognition of the goals of Zionism when it established the 1922 Mandate, declaring the League "in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people…" More and more Jews were returning, limited at first by the harsh conditions and then by British restrictions on immigration. Finally, the gates of Israel opened completely when the State of Israel was established in 1948.

Today, Zionism strives to maintain the State of Israel as a national home for the Jewish people. The future of Zionism rests in Israel's continued existence as a secure state that is both a homeland for the Jewish people and a democratic state for all its citizens, Arab and Jew alike.

 

t Is all criticism of Israel antisemitic?

It is important to recognize that Israel, as a democracy, is receptive to fair and legitimate criticism. A valid, yet negative, analysis of Israeli policies should not be considered antisemitic, any more than criticism of another country should be considered racist.

However, all too often condemnations of Israel cross the border from valid criticism into regions of denigration that can be considered antisemitic. The generally accepted term for this type of disparagement is "the new antisemitism." Just as in the past Jews were made into the scapegoats for many problems, today there are attempts to turn Israel into an international pariah.

The line between legitimate criticism and the new antisemitism type of criticism is often difficult for some to judge. Former minister Natan Sharansky, laid out the criteria for defining the boundary line in his seminal 2004 article "Anti-Semitism in 3-D." The 3-Ds of the new antisemitism are: demonization, double standards and delegitimization.

Demonization: Just as the Jews were demonized for centuries as the embodiment of evil, so too Israel has been called an evil entity. Much of the criticism in this category consists of comparing Israelis to the Nazis and Palestinians to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Holocaust inversion is not only prevalent in the Arab world, it is gaining ground in the West as well. This propaganda technique is particularly heinous as it not only fraudulently depicts Israel's struggle to defend itself, it also diminishes the extraordinary suffering of Holocaust victims, in itself a form of Holocaust denial.

Double Standards: The test for judging a double standard is to check whether Israel is being judged by different criteria than other states under similar circumstances. Double standards are often found in international forums, in which Israel is unfairly singled out for criticism and held up to standards not applied to any other state. At the same time, the behavior of other nations in a comparable, or even worse, situation is ignored. The application of double standards can often be recognized by the unreasonable quantity, as well as the quality, of the criticism.

A significant example of double standards can be found in the calls for boycotts of Israel. If such calls were part of a larger campaign against the many regimes that grossly violate human rights around the world, Israel would argue that its inclusion in such a list is not legitimate. However, when Israel alone is singled out for a boycott, this is a clear demonstration of antisemitic activity.

Delegitimization: The new antisemites are attempting to delegitimize the very existence of the Jewish state. They do this either by undermining its right to have been established in the first place or by attempting to turn present-day Israel into a pariah state, for example by using loaded terms such as apartheid or human rights violator. As Natan Sharansky wrote: "While criticism of an Israeli policy may not be anti-Semitic, the denial of Israel's right to exist is always anti-Semitic. If other peoples have a right to live securely in their homelands, then the Jewish people have a right to live securely in their homeland."

A secondary, yet critical test to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate criticism is the examination of the intent of the commentator. Legitimate critics accept the right of Israel to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people while antisemites do not.

Obviously not all criticism is antisemitic. Israeli society, with its robust support of democracy, is itself stridently self-critical.  Antisemites, however, do not share Israelis' interest in improving the society; their goal is to delegitimize the state in the short-run, and destroy it in the long-run. There is nothing Israel could do to satisfy these critics.

Although valid criticism of Israel has absolutely no connection to antisemitism, some of the unreasonable condemnation has its roots in antisemitic attitudes, often disguised as "anti-Zionism." As a nation dedicated to the principles of democracy, Israel believes that criticism, whether by other nations or our own people, is a powerful force for positive change. However, there is a clear distinction between legitimate calls for improvement and the attempt to delegitimize Israel through the use of far-fetched analogies, demonization techniques, singling out or holding it up to standards not applied to other states. These types of criticism ignore the context in which Israel must strive to survive in the face of violent attacks against its citizens and, all too often, against its very existence.

 

t Is there a difference between antisemitism and anti-Zionism?

Antisemitism is the name given to the form of racism practiced against the Jewish people. Though the literal interpretation of antisemitism would appear to denote hostility to all Semitic peoples, this is an erroneous belief. The term was originally coined in Germany in 1879 to describe the European anti-Jewish campaigns of that era, and it soon came to define the persecution of or discrimination against Jews throughout the world. Therefore, Arabs who claim that they cannot be antisemites because they themselves are "Semites" are merely attempting to obfuscate the issue, and thereby sanitize their own racist attitudes. This attempt to absolve them from the charge of racism is particularly blatant as extreme antisemitism exists in many Arab countries today.

Despite the relatively modern roots of the term antisemitism, hatred of the Jewish people is an age-old phenomenon. Antisemitism has taken different forms and used various motifs throughout history. In modern times, it has been promoted by extreme nationalistic and other ideologies. Antisemitism reached its peak in the Holocaust. Over six million Jews (one third of the world's Jewish population) were brutally and systematically murdered during World War II.

Modern antisemitism in Europe, after being repressed for decades following the Holocaust, has erupted with renewed fury in recent years in a new form: "anti-Zionism," or hatred of the State of Israel. This despite the fact that Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people - an expression of their legitimate aspiration to self-determination and national independence. The Zionist movement was founded to provide an ancient people with a sovereign state of its own in its ancestral homeland. Israel is the modern political embodiment of this age-old dream. To deny the Jews the right to their own state is to deny them the same right of self determination that other nations enjoy, and that distinction is antisemitism.

The goal of anti-Zionism is to undermine the legitimacy of Israel, thereby denying the Jewish people their place in the community of nations. Denigration of Zionism is therefore an attack on Israel's basic right to exist as a nation equal to all other nations, in violation of one of the fundamental principles of international law.

Just as antisemitism denies Jews their rights as individuals in society, anti-Zionism attacks the Jewish people as a nation, on the international level. Similar to the use of "the Jew" as a scapegoat for many a society's problems, Israel has been singled out for disproportionate and one-sided condemnation in the international arena.

Anti-Zionism is often manifested as attacks on Israel in the United Nations and other international forums. Over the years, many an event of the international community has been exploited as an opportunity to condemn Israel - no matter what the subject matter, no matter how tenuous the tie to the conflict in the Middle East.

Moreover, it is no coincidence that the censure of Israel in international forums and the media often has been accompanied by a sharp increase in antisemitic incidents in many parts of the world.

While legitimate criticism of specific policies of Israel is considered part and parcel of the democratic process, criticism that crosses the boundary into the illegitimate - by demonization, the use of double standards or the delegitimization of Israel - should be considered an expression of the "new antisemitism." Both the traditional forms of antisemitism, as well as its new version (in which Israel is treated as the Jew of the international community) should be vigorously condemned.

 

t Why has there been a rise in antisemitic incidents?

The campaign to delegitimize Israel has led to a sharp rise in anti-Israel and antisemitic attacks worldwide. Increasingly, the line between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitic attacks on Jewish targets has been blurred.

Since the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000, Israel has been subjected to a worldwide campaign of delegitimization. Every military action Israel takes brings on a new wave of attacks. Yet at the same time, the more concessions Israel makes for peace, the more it is subjected to verbal aggression.

Israel has been attacked in the media and international forums, vilified by political leaders and intellectuals. It has had its very right to exist questioned, as has its basic duty to defend its citizens. Extremists on the Left and the Right have joined together in their hatred of the Jewish state.

These attacks go beyond justifiable criticism, which Israel, as a vibrant democracy, considers part of the legitimate discourse of states. However, it is not legitimate to censure Israel in a grossly disproportionate way, single it out and hold it up to impossible standards not demanded of any other state. It is not legitimate to demonize Israel in any fashion. Not can it be acceptable to attempt to delegitimize its very existence or its existence as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

The reasons behind this growing phenomenon are many. It is closely connected to the ability of the Palestinians to market their image as one of powerless victims. They have used this perception to play on the sentiments of those who advocate human rights (while the Hamas leadership and terrorists violate the most basic human rights of innocent Israeli victims and of their own people).

Bias in the media has also been an important contributing factor to the delegitimization of Israel. It is not surprising that populations in the West, who generally trust their media, are influenced when exposed to largely one-sided depictions of the conflict.

Other condemnation is more ideologically based, often advanced by those who are willing to ignore all transgressions of totalitarian regimes, no matter how egregious, yet criticize any defensive steps taken by democratic states.

Traditional antisemitic attitudes, often cloaked as anti-Zionist positions, have also played a role. Given that there are those who are unable, or unwilling to differentiate between the Jewish state and Jewish communities abroad, these attacks on Israel's legitimacy have been accompanied by physical attacks on Jewish targets the world over, including in Europe. Antisemitic incidents have included bombings and the arson of synagogues and Jewish schools, vandalism and desecration of Jewish cemeteries, death threats and violence against Jews, and unprovoked assaults up to and including murder. These hate crimes directed against Jewish individuals, religious leaders and community institutions are often disguised as "anti-Zionist" actions.

These attacks often increase when armed conflicts break out. Both during and following the December 2008 - January 2009 operation in Gaza, antisemitic attacks in Western Europe peaked to a level not seen since the end of World War II.

The situation in the Middle East is even worse. Virulent anti-Israeli rhetoric was commonplace in the past, but it has intensified in the last decade. Antisemitic and anti-Israeli myths, often perpetuated by governments with their own agendas, are readily believed by large percentages of the region's population. The relentless flow of outrageous and unfounded accusations emanating from Palestinian spokespersons has greatly contributed to the growing wave of antisemitism. One of the consequences of this hatred has been an increase in the attacks on Jews and Jewish targets.

Israel is gravely concerned by the recent significant rise in antisemitism that targets Jewish communities in Europe and elsewhere. This growing phenomenon should arouse the deep concern of all civilized peoples. Israel calls on the governments of countries where the scourge of antisemitism is spreading to take all measures necessary to ensure the security of Jewish communities and to bring the perpetrators of these deplorable attacks to justice. Antisemitic incitement - whether by individuals, organizations or even the leaders of certain countries - should be strongly condemned at every opportunity.

http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/FAQ/FAQ_Attack_Israeli_Values.htm#intro

17:22 Écrit par Rose Tel-aviv dans Israël | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) |  Facebook

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