Does it convey a certain worldview?
What is ideology but a body of beliefs with the power to stir up and mobilize people. The beliefs are not meant to be studied and understood, but to believe in with a burning faith.Communism told the faithful to believe in a struggle between classes for political and economic power. Nazism mesmerized Germans to believe in a struggle between pure and impure races for world domination. And then came anti-Zionism…
To be heir-apparent to the earth-shaking isms of the 20th century, anti-Zionism must, as they did, convey a particular world view. For that matter so must Zionism if, as many would argue, it is the vilest ideology of all. It certainly is older than all. As a movement Zionism goes back to the last half of the 19th century, though as a faith, as the unwavering attachment of Jews and Judaism to a homeland, Zionism extends back to biblical days. Whether ideology is the right pigeonhole for it depends on the lessons we learn from anti-Zionism.
“One who has thought as well as suffered.” So wrote the New York Times when Hannah Arendt published her seminal work, “The origins of Totalitarianism” in 1951. One could wish for no better class on ideology than that of the great political scientist Arendt.
Ideology, we learn from her, is first and foremost a body of beliefs. Not just some random beliefs; they must explain past and present, and predict the future, no matter how far removed from reality the beliefs happen to be. Indeed, if they were linked to reality there’d be nothing ideological about them.
As for the tent of followers held enthrall, they must be incapable of learning, from history or from current events. Hence the power and allure of beliefs, of axiomatic premises and made to order facts: they emancipate people from reality. At this point indoctrination takes the lead role, reciting the belief system ad nauseam. In sum, ideology is poles apart from a mere political movement.
And here we leave Arendt, just for a while to compare notes with anti-Zionism. How far does it depart from a political movement? Does it claim to explain the past and present and predict the future? Has it a body of beliefs, of premises and facts that liberate anti-Zionists from reality? Is it taught ad nauseam?
The beliefs of anti-Zionism are a matter of public record. Who has not heard Zionists execrated for the vilest intents or deeds? They pull the levers of power; they’ve made America beholden to Israel; the media is in their grasp; their occupation of Palestine is uniquely wicked; their creation Israel a foreign colonial enterprise running an Apartheid system and committing crimes against humanity. Even the Arab world meltdown is only because Zionists live (too well) on one hundredth of one percent of a region home to people of another faith. The Middle East would get along fine without the Zionist cancer. Only eradicate it and Sunnis would lie down with Shiites, swords beaten into ploughshares.
If the angry belief system had a core it would subsist in two innocent enough words: ‘Occupation’ and ‘Control.’ Yet how those words suffuse every indictment, how they colour every canard. Hardly a day passes without the claim that the Zionist occupation is a crime. No proof is given and, like any rallying cry worth its salt, ‘occupation’ is kept undefined. Just as Hitler railed against a Jewish conspiracy while not a Jew lived outside ghetto or death camp, so anti-Zionists rail against occupation while not a Jew lives in autonomously-run Palestine. And who except ideologues out of touch with reality would crew a ship to free Gaza from itself.
Then there is control. Zionists are believed to have the malice and wherewithal to control every important thing. Even when they don’t, Zionists pull levers to get others to do their bidding. The media is under Zionist control; ditto for American policy making and the special treatment that Israel gets. Down in the engine room Zionist money keeps the wheels turning, and the Holocaust card held for when the engine gets tired, threatening the Zionist enterprise. Then the card is played for all its worth. Such manipulative control and lever pulling is “beyond chutzpah” in the words of Norman Finkelstein the anti-Zionist.
Still, anti-Zionism would fall short of ideology unless its core beliefs were drummed into the hoi polloi. Institutions of learning, like the old Soviet Comintern, play that role. When anti-Zionist tenets are not in the syllabus, they’re taught at campus events or summer camps. But remember Hannah Arendt. To be a proper ideology anti-Zionism must go further than learning beliefs by rote. It must explain the past and present, and predict the future. All are key indicators ticked by the narrative so familiar to us.
According to this narrative European Jews came over and stole the land from native Palestinians. Israelis are colonial usurpers and ethnic cleansers. Jackbooted, they oppress harmless Palestinians. What for other people are conscience-free acts (putting up housing, turning on taps, driving on roads, keeping business running) are criminal acts when Zionists engage in them. The anti-Zionist can be neither argued nor shaken out of his credo: Zionists are never innocent, Palestinians never guilty. Period. The anti-Zionist is there to tell you, not to argue.
The credo is sacred to skinhead and professor alike. Law professor John Dugard got angry with the chairman of the UN-Goldstone team after he decided that the Zionists were innocent after all. Amnesty Int. Professor Derrick Pounder considered no sign of dead bodies to be proof of dead bodies which the Zionists had somehow secreted away. Haifa Professor Ilan Pappe refused to let go of a fake Zionist massacre long after his student had apologized for inventing one. Come what may, Zionists must be guilty of one thing or another. People emancipated from reality by a belief system, and only such people, can be clownish and contrary to this degree.
What of the predicted future? And how do anti-Zionists work to make it happen?
They predict a one-state outcome – yet another Muslim state, and labour to see it come about. After Palestinian qualifiers crawl out from all corners of the globe to take up their right of return, Palestine will have a Jewish minority. The size of that minority will depend on how many Jews are left alive, and on how many survivors accept dhimmi (third class) status, as Christians ruled by Muslims have done elsewhere. Then the anti-Zionist can take a back seat and wait for the inevitable to takes its course. Ethnic cleansing will solve the Jewish problem. Zionists won’t last long in Palestine, but share the fate of persecuted Christians. No temple precinct, no patriarchal tomb, no synagogue, will be sacrosanct. Of this mouth-watering prospect the anti-Zionist dream is made.
Could Zionism be more vile? Only if it happens to be a real ideology to begin with.
To be one does it have what it takes? Does Zionism boast a solid body of beliefs, a single narrative that claims to explain the past and present, and predict Israel’s future? Not according to anti-Zionists, when their mind is on other matters. To verify their claims and calumnies about Israel to whom do anti-Zionists turn, first and foremost? Who but to Zionists of ‘conscience’. Disaffected Jews are grist to their mill. The indictments of columnists Robert Fisk or Tom Friedman tap into them on every occasion possible. The books of Israel-hater Norman Finkelstein are filled with source notes from Israeli media, Israeli human rights bodies, Israeli political figures. Boycott Israel platforms are given to professed Zionists.
Inadvertently, anti-Zionists disclose that the Zionism they villify boasts no body of beliefs. By their own acts they prove that Zionism is anything but ideological. Too clever by half, they disprove that Zionism is one hell bent ideology. Against their better judgment they paint a picture of Zionism as an accommodating tent for divergent leanings. World views as far apart as liberalism, conservatism, socialism, Judaism and neo-Zionism feel comfortable under Zionism’s big tent.
No – Zionism is quite unlike its nemesis, that ideology zealously advocating faith in a wicked nation of Jews.