Iran and the anti-Zionist International: Is it antisemitic?

What conclusion can be drawn from the bizarre convergence of anti-Zionists, under the embrace of Iran?

The cover of the writer's book (photo credit: Courtesy)
The cover of the writer's book
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Is each anti-Zionist an island on his own? Is he oblivious to, or even competing with other anti-Zionists who are members of rival ideological groups? Alternatively, could he be in fact coalescing with others and colluding to advance an ‘anti-Zionist International’? If there is a synergy between various anti-Zionist groups, what is the extent of that ‘unholy’ collaboration?
I am a researcher specializing in the phenomenon of anti-Zionism. In my book What is Antizionism?...and is it Antisemitic? I raised the hypothesis that there was such a bizarre collusion and offered some preliminary evidence. But I was eager to find out more and so embarked on a research project, subjected to peer-review, whose findings were published last month in the academic journal Israel Affairs.
There are five main anti-Zionist ideologies embedded in different cultures, communities and political movements around the world: Left, Jewish, Christian, Arab/Muslim and Conspiracy anti-Zionism. I decided to focus my research on one particular case-study by focusing on a series of conferences that have taken place in Iran and attended by Holocaust deniers, conspiracy theorists, Anti-Zionists, BDS activists and others from around the word. In my research of open sources, I examined each of the five main anti-Zionist ideologies through quotes from participants at three of the Iranian conferences that took place in 2006, 2012 and 2014.
Representing Left anti-Zionism in Iran was Medea Benjamin, a cofounder in 2002 of Code Pink: Women for Peace, a feminist anti-war organization with dozens of branches in the US, Canada, Germany and Japan. Amongst their objectives are BDS and bringing down the support for Israel. Code Pink’s hostility to Israel takes the form of attention-grabbing disruptions of major pro-Israel events. Benjamin uses conspiratorial rhetoric to denounce Israel’s American supporters and accuses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee of having “undue influence” and being a ‘de facto agent for a foreign government.’ A core aspect of Code Pink is its connection to the broader left-wing and antiwar movement and its ability to introduce anti-Israel initiatives to these constituencies. 
Benjamin was an active participant at the Iranian conference that took place in 2014. She was a panelist to one of the sessions titled ‘The Gaza War and BDS Movement Strategies against the Zionist Regime’ with a discussion on its economic, political, cultural and academic aspects. In another session she participated in a discussion on ‘Resistance,’ as Palestinian terrorism is often euphemized. 
The mayor of the German city of Beyreuth rejected granting the city’s tolerance prize to Code Pink over allegations of the group’s antisemitism. Following this rejection, Benjamin wrote him a letter in which she attempted to justify her participation in the conference, claiming that when she heard conference speakers voicing over-the-top conspiracy theories and anti-Jewish statements she brought her concerns to these speakers as well as the organizers. She also asserted that some of her issues were addressed by clarifications from the podium by the organizers that the conference was not anti-Jewish or antisemitic and that it was important to make a distinction between Judaism and Zionism. 
Representing Jewish anti-Zionism was Rabbi Aaron Cohen of Neturei Karta, a small, ultra-Orthodox sect living mainly in Jerusalem – the name of Neturei Karta is Aramaic for “Guardians of the City” – who broke away from Agudat Israel in 1935. It has lived in separation from the rest of Israeli society, but has been tolerated as such by the state. 
Its ideology, in addition to the classical religious anti-Zionist arguments, is most radical. It has asserted that it will never accept the State of Israel, even if Arabs do, has expressed willingness to ally itself with the PLO, and has even called, in its resistance to state tax collection, for the killing of the tax collectors as it has claimed that this is sanctioned by religious law. 
Rabbi Aaron Cohen, an Orthodox Jew from Manchester, and a leading member of Neturei Karta who participated in the 2006 Tehran conference, argued in his speech that while the Jews were promised the Holy Land, the bible subjected the promise to certain conditions that, if unfulfilled, would lead to the Jewish People being dispersed across the world. He also claimed that Jews were required to be loyal citizens of the countries in which they lived and were prohibited ‘against the wishes of the All Mighty’ to try to force their way out of the exile by their own hands to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. He accused the Zionists of having cooperated with the Nazis and even cast doubt about the figure of six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust. 
At the 2012 conference, Rabbi Cohen argued that Zionism means apartheid, nationalism and sectarianism. He wanted Zionism exterminated and called for restoration peace and tranquility in the Middle East. 
Flying the flag for Christian anti-Zionism was Reverend Sizer, a Church of England vicar, at the forefront of the Christian opposition to Zionism and the state of Israel. He is particularly up in arms against Christian Zionism, a world movement that supports the State of Israel on theological grounds. He has expanded on this theme in his PhD thesis, various publications and other activities on his website. Reverend Sizer’s views are evident from his choice of links on his website which include the purveyors of antisemitic material including a website claiming that Jews and Israel had a role in the 9/11 terrorist attack, another espousing Holocaust denial and a third featuring an image of a Nazi flag with a swastika superimposed on the Star of David. 
Reverend Sizer was an active participant at the Annual International Conference of Independent Thinkers and Filmmakers that took place in Tehran in 2014. The conference program lists him as part of a panel discussion at the Iranian Foreign Office, as a speaker on “Christian Jihad versus Christian Zionism” at the opening ceremony and as giving a talk on “The Israel Lobby in England” at another session. In a video of one of his conference speeches on YouTube, Sizer articulates the case against the Christian support for Zionism and Israel and asserts that Islam’s interpretation of Jihad is misunderstood. 
Next on this pantheon of visceral hate are conspiracy anti-Zionists. The late Robert Faurisson is perhaps the most well-known Holocaust denier, frequently mocking it unapologetically. A professor of French literature and author, he traveled to various historical revisionist conferences around the world and even managed to get an article published in the prestigious Le Monde. Faurisson has had regular brushes with French justice. He was convicted of Holocaust denial, fined and lost his position at the University of Lyon, but the French legal system was unsuccessful in stymieing his abuses and activities. 
At the Tehran conference of 2012, Faurrison argued that “Hollywood was the one that created the fake image of some myths – like the Holocaust, gas chambers and the massacre of six million Jews during WW2 by Nazi Germany – in people’s minds.” Praising “Revisionism” as a method through which the truth will be uncovered, he said that
The general idea of the west towards [the] holocaust has been Zionism’s sword and shield. But today revisionism has threatened this idea. I, as a revisionist, came through my researches to this idea that those Jews who are claimed to be massacred in fact have died of Typhus and Jewish holocaust is nothing except a big lie. The claim about killing 6 millions Jews in German furnace is not true … The biggest achievement of Hollywood was invention of holocaust. Holocaust is a lie at American scale (sic). 
Last but not least, representing Muslim and Arab anti-Zionism was Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, a French stand-up comedian and aspiring politician of mixed Cameroon and French parentage who espouses a leftist, pro-Palestinian position. He has come to prominence for his provocative stand-up routines, statements and articles that deliberately use antisemitic narratives, puns and gestures disguised as humor such as offensives jokes about Jews and the Holocaust. Amongst his infamous stunts are the “quenelle” gesture, an inverted Nazi salute, as well as the reference to “Shoananas” or Holocaust pineapples. This, perceived as “cocking a snook” (thumbing a nose) at the French establishment and the Jewish community, has garnered interest and support among young people, in particular those identifying themselves as disenfranchised. 
Dieudonné’s idiosyncrasies have in turn lead to considerable interest on the part of the French and international media. He has been the subject of many talk shows, televisions and radio programs, articles and editorials. Claiming the right of freedom of speech, he has flouted laws in France that are meant to represent an effective judicial arsenal available to deal with Dieudonné’s types of outré provocations. And yet, though he has been sued many times and banned in various countries, the French courts have dealt with him leniently, with the authorities seemingly unable to put a stop to his activities. 
At the 2012 conference in Tehran, Dieudonné’s expressed his views in poorly spoken English, reproduced in the conference documents as follows:
I do believe in freedom of speech. And I respect everybody who exercises this right. Under the Zionist lobby pressure they are taking away my right. In Hollywood backstage there are some negative Propaganda underway against other people who are against Israel. All this propaganda are (sic) in line with Israel’s interest…. Hollywood doesn’t like any movie to be produced against Zionism… Discussions against Zionism should be taken serious (sic)… Zionism should be regarded as an illness. That’s why Jews carry most responsibilities to introduce Zionists to the world. Zionism has put man kinds in peril. This illness should be cured by Jews. World public opinion is Zionism. People around the world are determined to abolish Zionism. 
What conclusion can be drawn from this bizarre convergence of anti-Zionists, under the embrace of Iran? It would suggest that anti-Zionism is not fragmented and that it is more significant than the sum of its parts. Awareness of the synergy among representatives of the main ideologies of anti-Zionists that are otherwise in existential struggle with each other might help to focus, redefine and improve the fight against anti-Zionism. One may well turn the age-old accusation of a global conspiracy ascribed by antisemites to Jews and Zionists on its head by showing that such collaboration is in fact a significant feature of the anti-Zionist movement. Perhaps this could suggest a clue of a strategy toward the enemies of Israel, Zionism and Judaism.
The writer is an independent researcher specializing in anti-Zionism. He is the author of ‘What is Anti-Zionism? (...and is it Antisemitic?)’ published by Aspekt and available on Amazon. This article is derived in part from ‘The Coalescence of anti-Zionist Ideologies,’ published in Israel Affairs, Vol. 27, 2021, Issue 1, copyright Taylor and Francis, available online at