When are comments about “Zionists” not really comments about Zionists? A few tips on working it out.

This post was written by Reuben on October 27, 2011
Posted Under: Uncategorized

A few days ago I saw this rather disturbing video of a man at the Bristol Occupation explaining that “the Rothschilds and Zionists want to build a new world order”, and getting an incredibly warm reception from the crowd. One of my friends commented:

“There’s so much of this about at the moment and otherwise nice, well-meaning people who usually try to be anti-racist don’t see it. Time for a basic ‘what is antisemitism’ FAQ thing?”

Well quite. And while anti-Zionism is sometimes wrongly condemned as anti-Semitism, it is also not unknown for the term zionist to be used as a euphemism for Jew. Working out when that is the case is not exact science, but I suggest that the following checklist might be of use in dissecting some of the rhetoric.

Does Zionism oppress the Palestinians, or does it cause pot-holes in your road and make your milk turn sour?

Zionism obviously does oppress the Palestians, and one would expect Israel to be blamed for their suffering. However when “Zionists” are blamed for things unrelated to the Middle East – like, for example, the financial crisis (1) – one is entitled to wonder what exactly is meant by the term. Is that person really saying that a category of people, dilineated only by their support for Israel, got together to redistribute the world wealth towards financiers. It’s worth taking the sentence, and replacing the word “Zionists” with “Israel supporters”. If the sentence you are left with makes no fucking sense whatsoever, then it’s probably worth thinking carefully about what exactly is being said.

Equally, the right-wing Venezuelan opposition leader Capriles Radonski is not trying to oust the government because he is a “Zionist”. Nor is the opposition lead by the “jewish zionist bourgioesie”.  Indeed, I would speculate that support for, or opposition towards, Israel is not one of the major social and political cleavages in Venezuela.

Do Zionists want to build a “New World Order”?

No. Many of them want to royally screw over the Palestinians and maintain Israel as a Jewish ethnic state. And yes some supporters of Israel, like supporters of other causes, do seek to influence their local government specifically in relation to its policy towards Israel. The idea that “Zionists” have a comprehensive plan for world domination is completely barmy, except from the perspective of longstanding Jewish conspiracy rubbish.

Who is being fingered as a “Zionist”?.

When you hear a bunch of prominent people being described as a “zionist cabal”, it is worth checking who is being talked about. Are  these people particularly known for what they’ve said about Israel? Or has the person speaking or writing just selected a bunch of politicians with Jewish sounding names.

The google test.

This one should be done with care, and with the understanding that it does not yield definitive answers.  But it is sometimes worth googling the formulations you encounter and seeing what turns up. Googling “Zionists + settlements” or “Zionists + occupation” tends to yield a rather different crowd to googling “zionists + new world order”.

CAVEAT:  Coincidences do occur. Over the centuries Jews have been accused quite a range of things, and it is plausible that some criticisms made of Israel may innocently co-incide with pre-existing anti-semitic myths. A case in point is the killing of children. It is an objective fact that, in the course of occupying the west bank and Gaza, Israel does kill children. It is also true that across the world, opponents of oppressive governments highlight their inhumanity, by noting the killing of children – and sometimes people are too ready to represent these accusations against the Israeli government as a kind of reborn blood libel.
And finally….

The moron test:
If somebody objects to the term “anti-Semite” because “Arabs are semites too”, this might not indicate anything about their political beliefs, but it does suggest that they are a fucking moron. The meaning of words is established culturally and historically. If all words were interpretted by stripping them down to their etymological routes, the english language would sound very strange indeed.

(1) “The Credit Crunch: A Zionist Accident” was the title of a chapter in book recently put out by  ”progressive publisher”. Zero books = scum.

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To contact Reuben email reuben@thethirdestate.net


Reader Comments

Brian Goldfarb

“If somebody objects to the term “anti-Semite” because “Arabs are semites too”, this might not indicate anything about their political beliefs, but suggest they are a fucking moron.”
It might also usefully be pointed out that (a) the term ‘semite’ or ‘semitic’ in this case refers to language groups and not ‘peoples’, and (b) that the term “anti-Semite” was coined by a rabid anti-Jewish person called Wilhelm Marr (suggest they google him) in 1879 to mean Jews, and only Jews.
This won’t shut them up, but it will really show them up for the morons that they are.

Written By Brian Goldfarb on October 27th, 2011 @ 11:29 pm

Yeah someone I saw recently responded to a comment with “who are this semites you speak of” lolol. It is the ultimate stupid person’s ‘clever comment’.

Written By Reuben on October 27th, 2011 @ 11:37 pm
David Hart

It strikes me that this ‘anti-semite’ thing can be got rid of if we were able to institute a replacement word that meant specifically anti-Jew. In fact, ‘anti-Jew’ might be all we need (with the proviso that since ‘Jew’ can refer to a member of an ethnic group, or a member of a religion, with no guarantee that the person is both, even if there is a strong statistical overlap, one would need to be careful to define ‘anti-Jew’ as specifically a racist position, as opposed to a stand against the tenets of a religion, regardless of the ethnic origins of the person who practices it. I suggest ‘anti-Judaist’ for this latter position).

Written By David Hart on October 28th, 2011 @ 10:08 am

Great post.

I’ve used ‘anti-Jew’ and ‘racism against Jews’ sometimes as a substitute to avoid these ridiculous conversations about what/who a semite is and actually talk about the issue in hand.

However, I resent doing it because, quite frankly, if someone doesn’t know what the term anti-semitism means they clearly don’t want to know.

Written By jim jepps on October 28th, 2011 @ 12:09 pm
Roland Rance

I think that the term “antisemitism” can be misleading and unhelpful. Not because “Arabs are Semites too” — I agree with Reuben’s “moron test” — but because it tends to imply that racism against Jews is a different category than other forms of racism. Ultimately, it can even result in “blaming the victim”, suggesting that the reason for anti-Jewish racism is to be sought in Jews themselves, rather than in racist society. We need to recognise antisemitism as an aspect of racism, not as a separate phenomenon, or we risk promoting all sorts of essentialist nonsense.

We should also recognise that this illiterate conflation of Jews and Israel (promoted, it must be noted, by the Israeli government and the Zionist movement) is profoundly damaging to the Palestinian cause. It aids the dishonest Zionist propaganda campaign, and it can even dissuade people from supporting Palestinian rights, through fear of being labelled “antisemitic”. The struggle against all forms of racism is indivisible; this includes both Zionism and antisemitism.

Written By Roland Rance on October 28th, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

The reason, in my opinion, why there is a different term for discrimination against jews, rather than simply saying racism is:

1) because they form a special case. No other group of people has such a history of discrimination (except, arguably, women)
2) they are not, strictly speaking, a race.

Written By Paddy on October 28th, 2011 @ 4:14 pm
Roland Rance

Jews are not a race; but then, no-one else is, either. Race is a social construct, and racism does not depend on the real, but on the perceived, nature of the target. There has been much discussion of the absence of any objective difference between Hutu and Tutsi in central Africa; but no one would deny that both have, at different times, been the victims of vicious racism. Nor is it necessary to painstakingly analyse whether the travellers at Dale Farm were or were not members of a distinct racial community, in order to recognise that they were indeed the target of both official and unofficial racism.

Written By Roland Rance on October 28th, 2011 @ 6:36 pm

This was really helpful. As an antizionist secular Jew, I am often left to defend Palestine solidarity activists, of the non Jewish variety, from being called anti Semites when they are really just defenders of justice. This gve people some tools to look at their own language and then feel able to stand up to the bullying of the pro Isreal right wing notice.

Written By Marsha on October 29th, 2011 @ 4:48 am

Reuben – As one of the few people out there with a Jewish Venezuelan family, I can honestly say that the Israel topic is one frequently used by Chavez and Chavistas to demonise and persecute the mostly secular – but until now highly successful – Jewish business class. If it had anything genuinely to do with Israeli government policy, they wouldn’t be firebombing synagogues in Caracas. Further, I’d like to point out that the current Labour candidate for London mayor, KL, totally buys into this way of thinking, and had the temerity to negotiate a cheap petrol deal for London with Venezuela last time he was in power: while people in Caracas can’t feed themselves. Scum.

Written By Fran on October 29th, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

Fran: Reuben when was saying that “I would speculate that support for, or opposition towards, Israel is not one of the major social and political cleavages in Venezuela.” he’s saying that these are actually worrying instances of anti-semitism not concerns about Israel – which I’m sure you’d agree with.

However the deal with London was good for the Venezuelan people providing for them skills in city planning etc. that they did not have access to. It was also good for London too – but there’s nothing wrong with a mutually beneficial arrangement and it certainly does not make Livingstone responsible for poverty in Venezuela nor does it make him ‘scum’.

Written By jim jepps on October 29th, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

THank you Jim! THat is indeed what I was saying – and glad you liked the post. Fran, cold you offer some evidence that Livingstone “totally buys into this way of thinking”, with regard to using israel to collectively berate the jews?

Written By Reuben on October 30th, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

Good article, but the link at the top is to a song
“Immortal Technique – Civil War ft. Chuck D, Brother Ali & Killer Mike,” not antisemitism in a speach at an occupation. Do you have a link to the video?

Not entirely surprised at someone saying it, though crowd reaction more surprising. There are usually fringe weirdos at demonstations – religious nutjobs, crazed conspiracy theorists and the occasional racist in disguise. We need to call be vocal when this shit comes up.

Written By James on October 30th, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

the term is used as the speaker won’t use the word Jew

There is merit in what they say

Ben Gurion stated as much

Written By alan on November 2nd, 2011 @ 11:17 am

Something I find very insulting is when people accuse the Palestinian Jews of conducting genocide against the Palestinian Muslims dispute the fact that since partition of the British mandate of Palestine the population of Palestinian Muslims in the region has gone up, with this information I can only concede that either

A) genocide against the Palestinian Muslims is not happening


B) the Palestinian Jews are so terrible at carry out genocide that there efforts have resulted in a population boom for there intended victims.

As for all the NWO stuff and wanting to control the world, there is one group of people who openly state they wish to control the whole world and rule it under there way of thinking, and strangely they have many sypathisers in the west who also believe that the Jews are at the top of the NWO. Why do you think anti capatislist hate Jews for being behind capatlisum and and communists hate Jews for being behind communism? Seems to me someone is try to use the enmey of my emery is my friend to unit the far left and far right against Jews for there own world domination plans.

Written By Andy on November 6th, 2011 @ 11:48 am


A good post.

More’s the pity that this wasn’t written a decade or so ago.

Most antiracists realise that quasi-bigots, bigots, genteel racists, occasional racists, persistent racists, constant racists and hardcore racists often use euphemisms.

Racists and those that indulge in it will frequently hide the sharp edge of their words with seemingly softer expressions.

Most antiracists had gathered that years ago, but what is strange, and I’m not going to say I told you so, is that the penny has finally dropped with some antizionists.

Had people taken the trouble to study anti-Jewish racism with any finesse or familiarise themselves with the language and goings-on of the Far Right then this would have been self-evident decades ago.

And those, er, mistakes, by antizionists of politically getting in bed with people that turn out to have a pointed animosity towards Jews, probably wouldn’t have occurred.

It’s rather late on in the day, but it is most welcome that *some* antizionists are finally making an effort in this area. Good post.

Written By Modernity on November 17th, 2011 @ 11:19 pm
Roland Rance

Modernity, if you look into it, you will see that some anti-Zionists were indeed making these points a decade and more ago. For our pains, we have been a central target of the racist coterie around Shamir, Eisen and Atzmon; and we don’t need any lectures from you on “finally making an effort”. ~~~~

Written By Roland Rance on November 17th, 2011 @ 11:45 pm


Spare me the bleeding obvious, and I would completely agree that *some* have been doing something.

It is just a pity that it hasn’t managed to win over the majority of “antizionists”, seemingly.

And before you are tempted to employ your usual condescending manner, evidence of this problem was four years plus of the SWP hosting Atzmon, in spite of your fine efforts.

But the real problem was not just hosting Atzmon, it *afterwards* it.

Even to this day the “antizionists” in the SWP can’t officially admit that Atzmon spouted racism, or more crucially why it fooled them in the first place.

And this is the political point, it is not just allowing racism in, ignoring it and when it’s proven, not learning one bleeding lesson from it.

Another example would be Jenna Delch’s case.

Instead of admitting that the material was racist *AND* then answering the critical question why she found it agreeable so much defensiveness took place.

A third example would be attitudes towards Steve Cohen’s work, That’s Funny You Don’t Look Anti-Semitic.

Instead of welcoming it as a contribution towards educate, it is often shunned as a bit too sharp, a bit too close to the bone.

Said the questions, the political questions come down to, *why* do “antizionists” sometimes find themselves in the company of anti-Jewish racists?

Why are “antizionists” often blind to anti-Jewish racism?

And having acknowledged it, once or twice, why aren’t the lessons learnt.

Again, it’s very easy to say I told you so. I do it frequently, but opposition to racism, particularly anti-Jewish racism gets too confused, and when it’s untangle the problem is that people don’t ask the obvious question “how did we get into this position, what political lessons can we learn from? ”

That’s where we should be focusing our intellectual efforts, trying to work out, why it happens…

Written By modernity on November 18th, 2011 @ 12:14 am

Hi Modernity, “More’s the pity that this wasn’t written a decade or so ago.”

Well I seem to remember Reuben writing a post very much like this around eight years ago – very useful it was too in making my mind up about Atzmon.

Written By Jim Jepps on November 18th, 2011 @ 11:01 am


Please, stop being literalistic.

I remember pointing out on your past blog how the euphemism “Zionist” can often be employed to mean “Jew” by those with a particular animosity towards Israelis.

I remember pointing out the root of this problem on your blog, the decline in anti-racism and the inability of parts of the Left to analyse the phenomena of anti-Jewish racism with any competence.

I remember commenting on the low level of the discussion when it comes to anti-Jewish racism at your very blog.

Those are the issues that need taking up.

Saying “oh yeah, I read/wrote a post about it 8 years ago” doesn’t really cut it.

Again, there needs to be a **wider** acceptance of this problem, why it occurs and where it comes from.

Written By modernity on November 18th, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

I agree with Moddy. Jim and Roland have been very remiss in taking Moddy literally or even seriously. He clearly means that the racist war criminals of the State of Israel should never be criticised in any serious way and that the EUMC dodgy definition of antisemitism should be adopted and backdated by ten years in order to smear, harass, hinder or silence anyone who has ever uttered any serious criticism of zionism over that period or who might do so in future.

Written By levi9909 on November 19th, 2011 @ 11:43 am


I am mystified as to why British based anti-Zionists find it so hard to directly engage with the issue coming out of your post? Racism.

Why is there such a reluctance to deal with that issue?

Written By modernity on November 21st, 2011 @ 11:18 am

Or put another way

a) you trolled a good post and thread with a bogus claim
b) you got rumbled
c) you’re sulking.

Written By levi9909 on November 22nd, 2011 @ 9:58 am

By coincidence, yet another bunch of suppose “anti-Zionists” are hosting Gilad Atzmon.
Who would have thought it?

Written By modernitty on November 22nd, 2011 @ 10:25 pm

Even if you did not use the term Anti Semite, but used the term Anti Jew, then people just get around it by saying they are not real Jews, but instead a Tribe of Noamdic Kazaks Freemason converts to a dead religion.

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Written By chaim on July 10th, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

Children may indeed have been killed in Israel’s wars against its arab neighbours but you fail to make clear that unlike its Islamist enemies it does not deliberately or routinely target children or civilians. Hamas on the other hand waxes lyrical about how women, children and the elderly make the best human shields and how it loves death more than Jews love life, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTu-AUE9ycs

The ranter on this video was, of course, safe and sound under the Shifa Hospital in Gaza alongside his ignominious fellows because he knew very well that Israel would not shell hospitals

Written By Babs on March 29th, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

I fail to see what all the fuss is about – another navel-gazing exercise by the earnestly anti-Israel bloc.

At least the Palestinians are honest in one respect – when they preach hatred of their neighbour in mosques, it is hatred of JEWS not Zionists.

Written By Adina on March 29th, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

The “anti-Israel bloc” consists of humanists against a state. You are a racist against a people. See the difference?

Written By levi9909 on March 29th, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

Thanks you Levi9909, what no one on this string has acknowledged is that it is the Israelis who foster conflating Jews with Israel, hence with Zionism. Zionism is a 19 th century nationalist ideology which was historically secular. But now it has become a religiously intolerant occupier insisting that non jews not be allowed to have full citizenship rights, and continues to appropriate for itself all the land they can by making it impossible for Palestinians to live freely, have water and travel in the land where their people have lived for centuries.

It has gotten to the point where any opposition by jews results in being called a self hater at best, or even worse subject to the allegation that no jew would oppose israel, hence to do so makes you not a Jew. And what continues to amaze me is how little of the actual history or facts on the ground today. is known by these name callers. A kind of know nothing anti intellectualism has overtaken the Jewish tradition of standing for justice for all impoverishing our culture.

Written By Marsha on March 29th, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

You are generalising and seem not to apprehend that much depends upon how that criticism is made.

Israel IS a Jewish country, just as Saudi and Israel’s neighbours are Muslim. That is at the root of the latters’ crazed animus towards Israel.

Muslims/Arabs cannot and do not distinguish between “Jew” and “Israeli” except when they are trying to pretend that they don’t hate Jews, but Zionists. A prime example of a prominent Muslim putting both his feet in it is the (ig)noble Lord Ahmed, one of whose excuses for having been caught out in Jew-hatred, said he had used the word “Jew” because there was no word for “Israeli” in Urdu!

Many Palestinians do live freely, but not under the Hamas and the PA. I know many Israeli Arabs who would rather be in Israel than in a Muslim Palestinian state.

Why do you make yourself look foolish by making absurd generalisations and spouting propaganda without checking things out? Nothing you wrote is new and all of it can be found in any anti-Zionist leaflet

Written By Freya on March 30th, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

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