A sign reading "Anti-Zionism does not equal antisemitism"

A sign reading "Anti-Zionism does not equal antisemitism" during a demonstration outside Labour Party headquarters in London on July 20, 2021.

(photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)

Equating Anti-Zionism to Antisemitism a Slap in the Face to Jews Like Me

Jewish people of conscience know that Israel’s massacre of Palestine is also an assault on the Jewish faith.

I am a Jewish person who opposes the settler colonial state of Israel. This is not despite my Judaism, but because of it.

My Jewish elders taught me that governments can manipulate and confuse the public to distract from genocide. I learned that media and political leaders dehumanize and demonize the oppressed, turning their backs on mass suffering as an unquestioning public continues to go about their daily lives.

I was also instilled with the belief that this is never acceptable, no matter who the oppressor is. So while Jewish people certainly have a right to exist, genocidal settler colonies constructed on mass indigenous graves, do not. Palestinians have an inalienable right to return to their homeland and live in peace.

According to the US House of Representatives, this viewpoint now makes me antisemitic.

Quietly and nearly unanimously, the House passed Resolution 888 on 28 November and Resolution 894 on 5 December with a 311-14 vote with 92 Democrats abstaining by voting "present."

Resolution 888 states, in no uncertain terms, that "denying Israel’s right to exist is a form of antisemitism". While not a law, resolutions articulate the sentiment of Congress. A second resolution, HR 894, elaborates on HR 888 and “clearly and firmly states that anti-Zionism is antisemitism”.

This is a dangerous false equivalency that weaponizes antisemitism and further equates my ancient religion with the violent nationalist movement of Zionism. It is an assault on Palestinians and their right to self-determination, and a slap in the face to anti-Zionist Jewish Americans like myself whose commitment to liberation is rooted in our Jewish values.

For context, the US House of Representatives is composed of 435 members. Of this body, 384 identify as Christian, 24 as Jewish and three as Muslim. Only one is Palestinian. More than two-thirds are white.

Sinister undertone

Firstly, we should all be deeply offended that a body with these demographics thinks it has the authority and expertise to determine what is “antisemitic.” Before the passage of HR 894, several Jewish Democrats spoke out against the resolution, stating that it was “just the latest unserious attempt by Republicans to weaponize Jewish pain and the serious problem of antisemitism to score cheap political points”, remarking that the resolution “does not account for the complexity of Judaism itself and ignores nuanced examples [of Jewish sects] which remain staunchly anti-Zionist and quite obviously is not antisemitic”.

Secondly, these resolutions pave the way for further punishment (such as censure or fines) for Congress members who violate the body’s "sentiment". Before HR 888 passed, the House had already censured its one Palestinian member, Rashida Tlaib, for her statements in support of Palestine during this US-funded annihilation of human dignity in Gaza. These resolutions are a clear and menacing message to anyone else who might dare to agree with her.

With erroneous statements such as “the Jewish people are native to the Land of Israel,” and by “reaffirm[ing] the State of Israel’s right to exist,” these resolutions are a love letter from one colonial government to another: two dying regimes etching their genocidal bond into stone, validating themselves to one another as public opinion slips away.

To add insult to genocidal injury, on 5 December, the House introduced HR 6578, a McCarthy-esque “Commission to Study Acts of Antisemitism”. This alarming bill builds on the state’s skewed definition of “antisemitism” to subpoena and force Americans to testify before a newly formed congressional investigative committee. This is a direct attack on Palestinians, anti-Zionist Jews, and all Americans who care about civil liberties and human rights.

As a Jewish person, I wholeheartedly support the Palestinian liberation movement and have never felt threatened inside it

There is a sinister and threatening undertone in telling Jewish Americans that we are “native” to Israel, while simultaneously erasing Palestinian ancestral ties to the land they are fighting to return to. Occupied Palestine should not exist as an optional, second home for Jewish Americans like me when it is the only home for Palestinians.

These resolutions set the stage for criminalizing pro-Palestinian activism as a hate crime against Jewish people. This is an abomination and will have a disproportionate impact on Black and brown activists, who are the primary targets of harassment, arrest, and surveillance within movements.

College campuses continue to be a main mark for this type of slander and repression. Twisting antisemitism into a shield and a cudgel for Palestinian genocide betrays every single Jewish ancestor who fought against and died at the hands of fascism.

Antisemitism is rooted in centuries of European hatred, and history shows its horrifying effects. Jewish people have advocated for years for the world to take antisemitism seriously. But by smearing people who speak out for Palestinian rights as “antisemitic”, Zionists (most of whom are Christians) dilute the word, distract from genocide, and further endanger Palestinians and all who stand with them, including Jews.

Anti-colonial resistance

Palestinians did not choose the identity of their occupiers. Their resistance is not antisemitic; it is anti-colonial. By stripping the word antisemitism of its essence and equating it with the interests of white supremacy and Western imperialism, we dishonor the legacy of our Jewish ancestors. Instead of their memories being blessings, Zionists exploit our dead to enact the same horrors on someone else’s sister, father, or child.

As a Jewish person, I wholeheartedly support the Palestinian liberation movement and have never felt threatened inside it. The antisemitic threats I experience daily come from Zionists, who endlessly harass me using Nazi slurs in an attempt to silence dissent.

How many of these come from Jewish people themselves? I’ll never know. But the Zionists are working overtime as Palestinians in the US are attacked just for daring to exist in public. I’m too seasoned in this movement to fall for the propaganda of “Jewish” and “Zionist” as synonyms, while Israel continues its merciless genocide undeterred.

The people of the world unequivocally stand with Palestine, even if our governments refuse to. I have never witnessed such an outpouring of sustained, public support for the Palestinian people in my 17 years of anti-Zionist activism.

Israel, the US and their Zionist benefactors are now panicking, spending additional billions of dollars on the war for public “sentiment.” They are flooding social media with tropes and lies about the Palestinian people. They pass resolutions in an attempt to scare us into silence. It will not work: our ethics are deeper than their pockets, and the movement cannot be bought.

Imperial big brothers

Israel has been getting away with torture and mass killings of Palestinians for decades, nestled comfortably in the arms of its imperial big brothers. Israel now finds itself without a playbook, as its flimsy propaganda can’t withstand the light of day. As fast as they release fraudulent recordings, fake videos, and falsified Arabic translations, their lies are debunked by masses of young people on social media who are faster.

The world sees Israel’s bald-faced lies disseminated unquestioningly by mainstream Western media. We can name the paid politicians and influencers. We have watched on our tiny screens the Israeli army assassinate journalists and schoolchildren. We’ve seen the babies that Israel let perish in hospital beds, and the kids digging through rubble with their bare hands, searching desperately for the limbs of their parents.

When Zionists violently stole the land from Palestinians, they also hijacked Judaism for their own political agenda

We have gained an acute understanding of what white phosphorus does when it burns to the bone. We can identify the network of racist hate surveillance groups masquerading as Jewish advocates.

The world is watching as Israel snipes and starves Palestinians, bombs so-called “safe routes”, besieges hospitals and kills more than 17,000 people in two months, including more than 700 in a single day after the temporary truce.

With protection and material support from the US and other Western powers, Israel acts with impunity. Don’t accuse us of anything; we are the world’s only Jewish state and are exempt from scrutiny. Never mind the cries of Holocaust survivors and their descendants demanding that our community’s pain not be used to prop up a US-funded and armed genocide. When Zionists violently stole the land from Palestinians, they also hijacked Judaism for their own political agenda.

My Jewish elders warned me about how all of society can converge to commit genocide under the pretense of making the world safer; and that powerful people will unleash every bit of military, political, media, and financial power at their disposal to crack down on dissidents and scare the public from resisting.

They also taught me “justice, justice shall you pursue,” and that our duty to rise against tyranny supersedes any other earthly loyalty. Jewish people of conscience know that Israel’s massacre of Palestine is also an assault on the Jewish faith. We refuse to sacrifice the beating heart of Judaism at Zionism’s altar of violent nationalism.

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