‘Zionism’ means something different for some Muslims
After thousands of years, we are witnessing God’s promise in the Torah and the Koran with our own eyes, in the form of the presence of the Jews in Israel.
A mosque in Turkey Photo: Reuters
M any Muslims dislike the word “Zionism.” A great many of these are actually
people who like Jews. They have no complaint about the existence of Israel. But
they always object to the word Zionism. In their eyes, Zionists are bad people
who cause war and unrest. Zionists are supposedly even behind many tragedies in
The reason for this is that for years the name Zionism has
been thought to be part of the different and false belief known as “goyim.” In
the eyes of many Muslims, Zionists imagine they are the only true religious
believers in the world, and believe the Creator belongs to them alone and that
other people are therefore irreligious, and even animalistic entities far
beneath them. These Muslims believe that for Zionists, everything is permissible
in regard to the Holy Land, including constant bloodshed in order to reach the
desired borders of the Promised Land.
They also believe that the desired
borders of the Holy Land are so wide as to include almost all the Middle East,
or even the entire eastern part of Turkey, right up to central Anatolia. A
Zionism used to support an expansionist ideology wherein obtaining this
territory is the highest priority, the “be-all-end-all,” is very alarming for
the region and of course, for Turkey.
Let us now look at the matter from
Turkey’s perspective. We Turks have always thought of Zionism like that. The
term has always been alarming to us ever since our childhoods. We have got on
well with Jews and Israeli Jews, yet ironically, if someone says, “I am a
Zionist,” we have learned to shy away. That is what Zionism has always meant for
the Turkish people: ethnocentric, fascist, aggressive ideology.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meant when he described both Zionism
and anti-Semitism as crimes against humanity during the UN conference in Vienna,
thus protecting the values of Jews but differentiating Judaism from Zionism, was
very likely just that.
Turkish people caught on immediately.
since that is not the truth about Zionism, reactions from Israel and America
quickly followed. As a Turkish citizen, I think it would be a wise move and most
suitable for the prime minister to make a new statement in order to better
clarify what he was trying to say.
Turkey is a country that wants Israel
to exist in the region. It is happy at the presence of Jews there. Turkey was
the first Muslim country to recognize the Israeli state, founded in 1948; the
presence of a Jewish state in the Holy Land, genuine Zionism in other words, has
never been a problem for Turkey. Many people are misinformed on the subject, but
of course, there is much in this world that people are misinformed about. Much
of the world is misinformed about values, ideologies, theories and even
religions. The important thing is to be able to give them the accurate
The greatest concern in Israel in the wake of Erdogan’s words was
this: Would it have a negative impact on Turkish people? Would it cause a rift
between Turks and Jews? Would the danger of anti-Semitism prevail in Turkey? No.
Zionism means something very different to Turks than it does to Israelis. It has
nothing to do with Jews or the Holy Land where the State of Israel
It is of course important for this misunderstanding to be put
right, as it increasingly is in Turkey. Muslims are told in the Koran that the
Jews have the right to live in the Holy Land, whose borders are explicitly set
out in the Torah. That is what true Zionism means. Muslims’ own faith tells them
of the presence of the Jews there. Turkey is becoming increasingly aware of
this. Many Muslims have learned it for the first time in recent
The Jews have the right to live there, in accordance with the
Prophet Moses’ command to his own people in a verse from the Koran; “My people!
Enter the Holy Land which God has ordained for you.
Do not turn back in
your tracks...” (5:21).
This is a glad tiding. After thousands of years,
we are witnessing God’s promise in the Torah and the Koran with our own eyes, in
the form of the presence of the Jews there. God has told us of His promise, and
there they are.
We are in a time when this false belief regarding the
nature of Zionism has spread across the world. This is a time of testing. Tests
are difficult; they require self-sacrifice, loyalty and maturity, and for those
who do not know to be taught the truth. There may be a high price. But we cannot
move toward goodness, the truth, love and peace in any other
Therefore, when we see that misunderstandings lie behind problems,
we must seek ways of resolving that misunderstanding, rather than immediately
turning to anger.
That can be done by educating people. Many things have
been resolved through education, and this can be, too. Peace must not speak
words of hatred. We must make peace possible by responding with education even
The writer is a commentator and religious and political
analyst on Turkish TV and also a peace activist. She is the executive producer
and a host of the Building Bridges Show (http://bit.ly/UfTuVf) and writes as an
op-ed column for The Washington Post, Moment Magazine, IslamOnline, Gulf Daily
News and Haber Hilal in Turkey. Her Facebook page: