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