I have a particular hobby, some might call it a morbid hobby: I collect and analyze expressions of hostility to Zionism and the state of Israel. Many summers ago, I embarked on a doctoral research on the ideologies of Antizionism, the first of its kind as far as I know. My book, What is Antizionism?...and is it Antisemitic? A Short Handbook for Activists and Analysts, is the culmination of this fascination.
It is true that various high-quality studies have been published but a long road still lies ahead towards a more comprehensive and systematic research into the subject as a global phenomenon. The body of research focuses on specific aspects of antizionism but the general picture has been overlooked. To use the well-known metaphor, there is a failure to see the forest for the tress.
With the danger that it represents to Israel and the Jewish people, I am mystified why the study of antizionism remains in its infancy, why university chairs, institutes and learned journals dedicated to this phenomenon have not been created and why a study such as mine, have never been undertaken until now.
I start my study by defining antizionism and argue that there are two variations, although each can appear in combination with the other: the aim to bring an end to the existence of the State of Israel and the aim to delegitimize, dehumanize and demonize the State of Israel. I define delegitimization as the attempt to take away the acceptance of Israel by the international community of nations. Dehumanization is the attempt to deprive Israel and its inhabitants of positive human qualities. Demonization is the attempt to portray Israel as wicked.
In the first pages I also try to imagine why individuals might have chosen their antizionist stance. Since man’s mind is unfathomable, often we do not know whether the expressed motivation is the real one. Unexpressed reasons might be geo-political and commercial considerations of “real-politik,” psychological factors, political correctness and of course antisemitism.
In the first part of my book, I analyse five antizionist ideologies: Left, Conspiracy, Christian, Jewish and Arab/Muslim. I present the explanation and justification of the main antizionist protagonists of each of these ideologies.
On the Left, my compendium includes the views from Karl Kaustky, The Bund, Lenin, Trotsky to contemporary themes. Karl Marx, ironically, never expressed any views on Zionism (but was not shy to utter insulting remarks of the worst kind against Jews). In “Conspiracy Antizionism,” I researched the views of Nazis, neo-Nazis and Holocaust Deniers. Amongst Christian antizionists, the view that Jews had killed Jesus and that they stubbornly refused to embrace Christianity where some of the reasons for the rejection of Jewish self-determination.
Amongst Jewish antizionists I found an eclectic group comprising those who wanted to assimilate in their environment and Orthodox Jews. Finally, in Arab and Muslim antizionism I describe the proponents of scurrilous libels amongst whose arguments are the depiction of Israel as a cancer or spreading aids, stealing organs from Palestinians, using blood from non-Jews for ritual purposes and, of cause, conspiring to dominate the world.
Perhaps the most surprising conclusion of my research is that there is a coalescence of antizionist ideologies. Every ideology that is seeking to transform the world and replace it with a new order is in existential struggle with other ideologies seeking likewise to bring about their alternative new order. However, when it comes to Zionism and Israel, competing ideologies have lowered their barricades and come together. In the book I develop the idea of an “Antizionist International,” a collusion of various antizionist ideologies. In effect, I am turning the age-old antisemitic accusation of conspiracy on its head by showing that, in fact, it is a significant feature of the antizionists movement.
First, many antizionists use the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, otherwise known as BDS, as a common cause that transcends their competing ideologies.
Secondly, antizionist ideologies borrow ideological elements from each other. Many antizionists have frequently relied on ideological themes that are intrinsic and even antithetical to the particular ideology to which they subscribe. Right-wing conspiracy theories have found fertile terrain amongst Muslim, Arab, Christian and left-wing antizionist. Muslim, Arab, Christian and right-wing antizionists attack Israel/Zionism as being “capitalist,” “colonialist” and “imperialist,“ which is clearly left-wing in origin. The most recent example of this hybrid is the unlikely alliance that has been developed in France in the wake of the yellow-vest movement that has brought together antizionists of the Left, Islamists and Neo-nazis.
Finally, there is ample evidence of representatives of the various conflicting ideologies meeting at various forums to coordinate their Antizionist activities.
What was of particular interest to me in my research, especially in view of the numerous discussions taking place on the subject, was to look at the anti-Jewish dimension of Antizionism. Apart from the antisemitic element of the five above-mentioned ideologies, I identify nine other ways to show the antisemitism of the enemies of Zionism and Israel. Amongst those, most remarkably, is the actual confession by various Antizionists of the existence of anti-Jewish tropes in their visceral hate of Israel, with leaders of the British Labour party being the latest in line to do so. Equally surprising is the so-called feature of “unintentional” antisemitism in antizionism.
In the next section, I examine the means used by antizionists. I include amongst those, omission of facts and misrepresentation, falsification, exaggeration, double standards and, last but not least, decontextualization. Whilst an awareness of context is essential for those examining, assessing and judging a country’s behaviour, antizionist critics of Israel often see it acting in a vacuum and refuse to consider external events that explain why Israel has acted or not acted in a certain way.
The last part of my study is entitled “Tools for Activists and Analysts.” I am very concerned with the younger Jewish generation on various campuses and elsewhere around the world, vulnerable, isolated, intimidated and harassed by the antizionist phobia. This section has a short list of resources for those who want to expand their interest, revision questions and discussion points.
The study is developed as a handbook – as compact as possible – that can be used when and where required by circumstances. My aim was to analyse effectively a difficult and emotionally laden subject and help those encountering and willing to confront the debunkers of Zionism and Israel. In order to achieve this aim, I followed a number of rules: use where possible easy language, provide a clear and attractive layout and classification, substantiate every assertion with quotes and where possible examples and provide carefully the several hundreds of sources used in my research.
I also took great care to differentiate between antizionism and criticism of Israel’s policies. One can legitimately disapprove of Israel’s policies in the same way that one can legitimately disapprove of any other country’s policies.
I hope that in time some well-wishers will come forward to finance the cost of making this small handbook available to those in the firing line.
Time will tell if I have been able to make a contribution, however small, to the fight against antizionism.
‘What is Antizionism?...and is it Antisemitic? A Short Handbook for Activists and Analysts’ by Henri Stellman is published by Aspekt and is available on Amazon.