Foxman slams Zionism entry in 'Encyclopedia of Racism'

"Any effort to defend this or rationalize it is unacceptable," says Anti-Defamation League head.

Abe Foxman 224.88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Abe Foxman 224.88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Announcing that "Zionism has no place in an encyclopedia on racism," the Anti-Defamation League has joined a chorus of condemnation of an article published in an encyclopedia that covers race and racial discrimination. Printed by the Gale publishing company in November 2007, The Encyclopedia of Race and Racism has been awarded reviews promoting it for use in high school and religion classes. But an entry on Zionism featured in the encyclopedia has drawn the ire of Jewish groups, including the Zionist Organization of America and the American Jewish Committee, which called last month for the article to be withdrawn - prompting an apology from the publisher, but no pledge to pull the entry. Gale, a division of Cengage Learning, published the apology on its Web site last week, with links to both the AJC and ZOA Web sites, and a message promising to supplement the on-line version of the encyclopedia with articles describing alternative perspectives on Zionism. However, the message goes on to say that Gale, which also publishes an updated version of The Encyclopedia Judaica, stands by the article, and that it will remain. "Gale's role as publisher of the encyclopedia is not to present a particular viewpoint on any topic, but to provide well-founded information that presents a broad scope of knowledge and views on a subject," the message read. "Further, while we cannot and do not shy away from controversial views, we are committed to providing comprehensive, respectful coverage. Based on the constructive feedback we have received, we have concluded that we should offer a broader range of views on the subject of Zionism." The ZOA called those measures insufficient, and the ADL is renewing the call for the entry to be pulled altogether. "Zionism simply has no place in an encyclopedia on racism," said Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL's national director. "It is offensive to see it there, period. Any effort to explain this, defend it, rationalize it, or to give others an opportunity to rebut it is unacceptable. Nothing can change the fact that a fundamental mistake and a terrible error in judgment was made." When the original complaint was filed with Gale in October, AJC Executive Director David Harris pointed out that "no other form of nationalism is included in the three-volume encyclopedia. Gale has given fodder to academia and beyond to assault the State of Israel." Noel Ignatiev, whom the ADL has described as "a known anti-Zionist," authored the entry on Zionism, and is the co-founder of Race Traitor: Journal of the New Abolitionism, an on-line publication that has featured anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic authors who demonize Israel and the Zionist movement. In a letter to Frank Menchaca, Gale's executive vice president and publisher, AJC not only questioned why Zionism had been included in the encyclopedia but also pointed out a number of factual and historical inaccuracies in the chapter. According to the AJC, Ignatiev had no track record of scholarship in Middle Eastern or Jewish studies and his previous writings showed an inherent bias against Jews and Israel. In fact, the entry misrepresents Zionism as an "ideology of race" and promotes the canard of Zionist-Nazi "collaboration." In May 2004, Race Traitor printed a piece by Ignatiev based on a talk he gave in March 2004 titled, "Zionism, Anti-Semitism and the People of Palestine." In his speech, Ignatiev likened Zionism to racism and Israel to Apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany, accusing Zionists in the US of unfairly using charges of anti-Semitism to stifle debate on Zionism. "Israel is a racial state," an excerpt from the piece reads. "Where rights are assigned on the basis of ascribed descent or the approval of the superior race. In this respect it resembles the American South prior to the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, Ireland under the Protestant Ascendancy, and, yes, Hitlerite Germany. But in its basic structures, it most closely resembles the old South Africa." Ignatiev goes on to write: "The greatest ideological weapon in the Zionist arsenal is the charge of anti-Semitism." Before beginning his academic career, Ignatiev had worked in a Chicago steel mill and become a prominent Marxist activist. In 1985 he was arrested on charges of throwing a paint bomb at a strikebreaker's car. In a letter to Patrick C. Sommers, president of Gale, the ADL pointed to the encyclopedia entry's invented claims about Israel's practices and incendiary statements regarding Zionist ideology as making it unfit for inclusion in an encyclopedia that purports to contain factual information. The League's letter called on the publisher to take immediate steps to remove the entry from the publication. The League's letter to Gale also noted that the charge of "Zionism is Racism," which has long been used by Israel's critics to demonize and delegitimize the existence of the Jewish State, including, most notoriously, in a 1975 resolution passed in the United Nations General Assembly that was repealed in 1991.