Will the real Zionists please stand up?

Published: February 8, 2011
We should take care not to paint all Jews, or even all Israelis, as Zionists.

We should take care not to paint all Jews, or even all Israelis, as Zionists.

We should take care not to paint all Jews, or even all Israelis, as Zionists. Modern Zionism was born in 1896 with the publication of a book titled Der Juddenstaadt (the Jewish state) by an Austro-Hungarian journalist named Theodor Herzl.

If I had a hundred rupees for every time I’ve heard the term ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zionist conspiracy’ used in everyday conversation, newspaper articles or political speeches, I’d be a rich man. But despite the term’s widespread use it is bandied about with little understanding of its meaning, origin or implications. In fact, the words ‘Jewish’, ‘Israeli’ and ‘Zionist’ are used interchangeably.  Let’s try to clarify this a bit: Judaism is a religion, Israel is a state and Zionism is an ideology. Dr Alan Sabrovsky, a former US marine of Jewish origin describes modern Zionism as a “witches’ brew of xenophobia, racism, ultra-nationalism, and militarism that places it way outside of a “mere” nationalist context.”

The Road To Zion

So when did this so-called witches’ brew first start to get stirred? For that we have to travel back to 19th century Europe, where nationalistic ferment and movements were beginning to gain strength across the continent. Modern Zionism was born in 1896 with the publication of a book titled Der Juddenstaadt (the Jewish state) by an Austro-Hungarian journalist named Theodor Herzl. Herzl, who spoke no Hebrew and had little understanding of Jewish culture, was so removed from the religious aspects of Zionism that he even proposed Argentina and Uganda as proposed sites for the new Jewish homeland, and once even proposed mass conversion to Catholicism as a remedy to European anti-Semitism. His idea of a Jewish state was that of a secular nationalist one. This was the era when the ideas that would ultimately blossom into the ideologies of Nazism and Fascism first took root and it was in this atmosphere that the political movement of Zionism was born. So it’s no surprise that Zionists saw the Jews much as the Nazis later would: as a race, and not simply the followers of a religion. But where Nazis considered Jews to be the lowest form of humanity, Zionists saw them as the best the human race had to offer.

Right at the outset, the concept of racial superiority was ingrained in Zionist ideology; a concept that would later blossom into the full-blown racism that marks Zionism today.

The ‘other’ Zionists

Not all Jews are Zionists, but interestingly, not all Zionists are Jews either. It was the so-called ‘British Zionists’, who were in fact mostly Christian, who actually played the largest role in the creation of the state of Israel, and their motivation ranged from religious prophecy to imperial ambition. Prominent among them was Lord Balfour, author of the infamous Balfour declaration 0f 1917 which laid the official basis of a Jewish state on Palestinian land. The declaration reads: ‘His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object’. Ironically, a provision for safeguarding the native Arab population was added by an anti-Zionist Jew named Edwin Montagu. Even today, apart from the Jewish diaspora, a large part of the political support for Israel in America comes from the mostly Protestant, ultra-conservative Christian Zionists, who see the establishment of the state of Israel and the rebuilding of the temple of Solomon as a prerequisite to the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. The movement, according to former US ambassador William Dale, “is helping to produce a political juggernaut of such strength that it, together with Jewish organizations, has elevated the US policy of support for Israel almost above public discussion.”

Rise of the Rabbis

While religious Jews initially opposed Zionist plans, they gradually began to gain more power in the state of Israel, giving birth to the religious Zionist movement which mixes the racism of Zionism with the belief that it is God’s will that Jews occupy all the lands of Biblical Israel.

Today, religious Zionists are in ascendance in the state of Israel, using their vote-banks to propel the extreme-right parties into power. Another trend is the rise of orthodox Jews in the Israeli army. According to an ABC news report, between 40 to 50 per cent of front-line units now comprise Orthodox Jews, who only make up a quarter of the Israeli population. The increase is not without consequences, and an Israeli watchdog group composed of former soldiers warned that army rabbis painted the 2009 Gaza attack as a religious war in which the killing of civilians was justified. Israeli political scientist Yagil Levy has even written of the generals possibly “losing control” over troops for whom spiritual leaders and ideology may outrank military hierarchy.

When it comes to the settlements, it is religious Zionists that are at the forefront, with nationalism no longer enough of a driving force for settlers to endure less than ideal living conditions. While successive Israeli governments have cynically used religious sentiments to push settlements, the attempt has also backfired several times. A case in point is when religious settlers refused to evacuate settlements in Gaza. More ominously, an army unit comprised of orthodox Jews also refused to evict the settlers and was disbanded. But for all their differences, religious and secular Zionists are united in the fact that neither have any place for the Palestinians in their respective visions.

Opposing the tide

Interestingly, while today’s Zionists are a mix of religious fundamentalists and secular-nationalists, so are those opposing Israel.  Ultra-orthodox groups like Neturei Karta consider the state of Israel to be against Judaic teachings and have relentlessly campaigned against it. Another Jewish group called ‘Not In Our Name’ opposes Israel’s claim to speak for all Jews and condemns the fascism and racism of Zionists.

Finally, just as we condemn attempts to depict all Muslims as terrorists, we should also take care not to paint all Jews, or even all Israelis, as Zionists. To do so only plays into the hands of those who claim to be representatives of an entire religion, and not just the spokespeople for a dangerously racist ideology.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, February 6th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • imkarachi
    Feb 8, 2011 - 2:55PM

    So, Israelis = Jews = ZionistsRecommend

  • Aisha (mybitforchange.org)
    Feb 8, 2011 - 4:10PM


    A must watch on Zionism and religious extremism, the world is quiet to..Recommend

  • Adnan S. Khan
    Feb 8, 2011 - 4:42PM

    All of them aren’t so bad really!Recommend

  • Just Facts
    Feb 8, 2011 - 4:46PM

    Really, whats going on with Tribune and its sudden Love for the Jews.Recommend

  • Aisha Aijaz
    Feb 8, 2011 - 5:12PM

    Well written. I would suggest an eye-opener on zionism, a religious extremism, the civilised world is quiet about !!

  • Syed
    Feb 8, 2011 - 5:21PM

    @ imkarachi,
    you are truly pathetic!!!!

    @ article,
    brilliantly written, and I love the way you summed up at last line
    “Finally, just as we condemn attempts to depict all Muslims as terrorists, we should also take care not to paint all Jews, or even all Israelis, as Zionists”Recommend

  • Syed
    Feb 8, 2011 - 5:23PM

    I would also like to add up here, according to statistics, America has the largest population of Jews in the world,( Israel and Iran are next in line). Around 50% of American Jews oppose Israel!!Recommend

  • CB Guy
    Feb 8, 2011 - 5:59PM

    Nice read. Has some interesting info that clears a lot of things. Recommend

  • Iqbal + Khan
    Feb 8, 2011 - 7:05PM

    A very informative and unbiased article for many Pakistanis !!!! My applause and admiration for the writer.Recommend

  • unknown
    Feb 8, 2011 - 7:33PM

    may be few rejects but many of them secretly support them.Recommend

  • Genius
    Feb 8, 2011 - 8:56PM

    Oh what a shame. No one remembers the film “Ben Hur”. Why call it Israel when it is indeed a true “Roman Outpost in Asia” as it was 2000 years ago. Can no one see Judas Ben Hur (the Palestinians) suffering imperial tyranny of the Romans? What a parallel in events of 2000 years ago and today? How can anyone miss it? Can those who display all the charachteristics of the Romans in their deeds, be Jews? Judaism in a person dies the very moment that person crucifies any of the Commandments Lord Almighty handed down to Moses. Every Palestinian is in shock and awe wondering as to with what magic the Arriases have become Judas ben Hur?
    By the way did that Roman Outpost in Asia last long? No. So will the current editon of the Roman Outpost in Asia not meet the same end as did the earlier one? Only time will tell.Recommend

  • Feb 8, 2011 - 10:15PM

    Without doubt, they’re all the same, never saw even one protest in Israel against the state terrorism that is so rampant. Every single day, their army kills children and bulldozes houses – and as per the statistics of the above report, more than 40-50% justify that killing??? How weird is that ?
    What about the rest 50% in the army ?? do they oppose or are silent spectators ? Isn’t staying totally silent just as bad ?Recommend

  • Nadir El-Edroos
    Feb 9, 2011 - 12:53AM

    @Ali Adnan: How would you ever see any protests if they took place in Israel? Most of the prominent pro-Palestine activists are jewish! Recommend

  • Henna Khan
    Feb 9, 2011 - 1:20AM

    To me it seems that most of the people, who’ve commented here, have never read Counterpunch or Uri Avnery……….Recommend

  • Ajaya Dutt
    Feb 9, 2011 - 11:19AM

    Well thought, well written and well researched. Kudos.Recommend

  • imkarachi
    Feb 9, 2011 - 5:40PM

    may be i am pathetic for u … but what i wrote is my opinion … and what i wrote is also true !!Recommend

  • Elder
    Feb 9, 2011 - 8:43PM

    Sorry to break it to you, but the author doesn’t know what he is talking about. The number of lies in this piece would take weeks to properly debunk.

    Jews were moving to the Holy Land way before Herzl – and Arabs attacked them before Herzl as well.

    Israel is not racist, as can be attested to the fact that there are Arabs on the Supreme Court, in Knesset and throughout the government – and even in the army.

    Zionism is not racism, but it is a national liberation movement for the Jewish nation. And Jews are not only members of a religion but of a nation – and they were recognized as such by the entire world way before Israel was reborn.

    Early Zionists took great pains to work with and live with the Arabs of Palestine, and they tried to ensure that Arab residents would gain from the revitalization of the country. In fact, hundreds of thousands of Arabs immigrated to Palestine in the decades before 1948 because of the growing economy. (Many of them are called “Palestinian” today even though they came from Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.)

    I know that these truths – which is easily proven for those who care – is not popular in most of the world. That doesn’t make them less true. I invite you to do real research on your own rather than believing everything an anti-Israel has to say.Recommend

  • Keenobserver
    Mar 14, 2011 - 11:03PM

    If Zionism is an ideology, then Muslims are as misrepresented by term “Islamism” as Jews are by “Zionism”.
    Difference is Zionism is not named “Jewism” , so the religion is kept separate but Islamism is coined, so Islam becomes an ideology not a religion.Recommend

  • Keenobserver
    Mar 14, 2011 - 11:05PM

    @Aisha. youtube ref you recommended is taken off.Recommend

  • Mar 15, 2011 - 2:17PM

    @Keen Observer: No problemo! Here’s another link. The world is silent to this form of religious fanaticism. Watch and enjoy..
    (Louis Theroux Ultra Zionists)Recommend

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