Letters | August 3, 2022


History and Zionism

In “Banning Anti-Zionism: Feasible? Desirable?” (Opinion, July 14), Ben Cohen suggests, as has the Anti-Defamation League and others, that anti-Zionism equals antisemitism.

Zionism, many forget, has always been a minority view among Jews. Most Jews believe that their Jewish identity rests on their religious faith, not any “national” identification. Jews in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and other countries do not view themselves as living in “exile,” as Zionist philosophy holds. Instead, they believe that religion and nationality are separate and distinct. The God they believe in is a universal God, not tied to a particular geographic site in the Middle East.

To label opposition to Zionism a form of antisemitism is to ignore the long history of anti-Zionism within the Jewish community. It is an effort to silence criticism of Israel and trivializes the real antisemitism which is to be found in our society and elsewhere in the world. Sadly, it is a form of idolatry to make a sovereign state, Israel, the virtual object of worship, replacing God and the Jewish moral and ethical tradition. The American Jewish community should welcome diverse opinions and points of view rather than use the term antisemitism to enforce a false conformity.



The writer is editor of Issues, the quarterly journal of the American Council for Judaism.

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  1. This is not the first time Allan Brownfield has made the outlandish and unsubstantiated claim in the pages of the WJW that Zionism “has always been a minority view among Jews.” A quick review of the latest WJW “Guide to Jewish Life” reveals that there are a vast variety of major Jewish community organizations that promote and defend Zionism — a veritable alphabet soup of Zionist organizations: AIPAC, AJCommittee, Amit, B’nai Brith International, Hadassah, JCRC, JINSA, JNF, ZOA, etc.
    If more proof were needed that Zionism is a fundamental and essential component of Judaism, the fact is that the most celebrated Jewish holidays in America and around the world are Passover and Chanukah, and both feature the triumph of Zionism and Zionist values over persecution and oppression by foreign forces.
    Brownfield’s remarks to the contrary notwithstanding, explicit opposition to Zionism is a form of antisemitism according to the IHRA working definition of antisemitism — a definition that has been accepted by numerous nations, including the U.S., and NGO’s around the world. This definition does not silence criticism of specific Israeli government policies in any way. However, any statement or proposal that calls for the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state is antisemitic by definition, as it should be.


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