The excuse is given by the woke Left all the time: “We only are against Zionism, not against Jews. It’s not anti-Semitism; it’s only anti-Zionism.”
The response to that claim often gets into stratospheres of theory and politics that completely miss the point.
Yes, you can oppose policies of the State of Israel without getting into anti-Jewish bigotry. For example, I strongly oppose Israel’s refusal to move forward and finally extend complete and full sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, where 800,000 Jews now live permanently. We all know it is coming, sooner or later, that Judea and Samaria never ever again will be wrested from the Biblical mainland, the patrimony of 3,300 years. So just do it.
For decades, until Benjamin Netanyahu helped steer that country towards free-market capitalism, I opposed Israel’s socialist economy. I opposed Israel’s Labor Party governments — the Marxists and “kibbutzniks” who so enthralled a younger Bernie Sanders. I know the history of Israel too well to buy into the sop that Yitzhak Rabin, Golda Meir, or Moshe Dayan were people of greatness. They were not. Not every Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan who rises to the top belongs there — even if three losers in a row sit at the helm. Rabin was cruel, and he murdered Jews aboard the Altalena, heartlessly giving the order to fire on the ship that brought to Israel the weapons that would have helped secure all of Jerusalem in 1948 for the nascent country. But he sank the ship and a nation’s dreams as part of the kinds of pure internecine political machinations that we wish were reserved solely for the Rhodesian-Zimbabwean disciples of Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe. Golda Meir’s government made a cruel, cold decision to hide from the boys on Israel’s front lines the intelligence briefings she received that Anwar Sadat was planning a sneak attack on Yom Kippur 1973. It was not the surprise that history falsely claims; Israel’s innermost leaders knew — but they kept it secret. She was so determined that “the world” see that Israel did not strike first, that Israel was not seeking war or expansion, that she consciously allowed thousands of her soldiers to die without the benefit of their knowing that an enemy was about to pounce. Moshe Dayan likewise was far more a character of media fiction: more cowardly, far less the brave hero, than the Left media made of him.
I will leave it at that. I prefer not attacking family outside the house. But the point must be made: it certainly is acceptable to love one’s family, one’s country, one’s people — and still to criticize the intestines out of them. Again, America is my country, not only the land of the pilgrims’ pride, but the land where my parents and eight paternal uncles and aunts were born and died. I love America so much. There are few words I can find to say it amply. This country has been so good to me, to Jews who never before could find such a haven. Sure, I can write a book about the anti-Semitism I have encountered. But I could write an encyclopedia — remember them? — about the kindnesses and opportunities that have come my way. No doctor ever refused me treatment upon seeing my yarmulka. No judge ever gave me less justice because I am a Jew. I got to have bank accounts, to borrow and lend, and to go to school. People rented apartments to me. My synagogues never have had to be protected by overwhelming security protocols as they are in Europe.
And yet my readers read my pointed criticisms of things happening in this country. I criticize the breakdown of the democratic electoral process this past November. I criticize the way the president is messing up a golden economy that was escaping COVID on its own. I criticize the mismanagement of our southern border — part of a deliberate plan, I believe, to replace the GOP majority in this country with tens of millions who will be so dependent on government handouts that they will create an artificially imported Democrat majority. I criticize the federal government’s pandering to the lie of “Systemic Racism,” a canard that does not apply to the kindest, most welcoming country that ever existed, a land that even now beckons to people of all races and asks only that they please not just come to suck on our teats but to contribute to our upbuilding the way my grandparents and my readers’ grandparents have done, whether arriving from Poland, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Russia, China, Japan, Vietnam, Armenia, Korea, or wherever. I criticize the mess that my government just made of Afghanistan, where 2,500 remaining soldiers and some land-based air support were more than ample to keep things quiet, but the government instead ended up getting 13 precious service members’ lives wiped out.
So I criticize my country. I certainly stand tall and proud when the national anthem is played, even though this country has disappointed me at times. I was ashamed during the Carter years at our weakness in the face of the Iran hostage crisis. I was and am ashamed that we have had vice presidents as ethically sleazy as Spiro Agnew and as morally repugnant as Kamala Harris, who — rumor has it — soon will be starting her job. But I distinguish between my country’s greatness and its failings and embarrassments like Andrew Cuomo as a governor who killed 10,000 defenseless and helpless seniors, or like the political hacks who conspired to try destroying a fine man of faith and of character, Brett Kavanaugh, while elevating sleazes like Michael Avenatti and Harris to be his prosecutors. It is what it is: shameful. And if you want to hear an hour of me on what became of California, pour yourself a nice Sonoma Valley or San Joaquin Valley pinot or chardonnay, buckle your seat belt, and listen and watch here alongside 170,000 others.
So, yes, just as one can love America deeply and yet criticize her government to pieces, it is very possible and quite reasonable to say “I oppose this or that about Israel’s government” and yet not to be anti-Jewish in the least.
But there is no room to be anti-Zionist and yet to say simultaneously “But I am not anti-Jewish” — and here is why:
Zionism, simply put, in its simplest and most basic essence, is the belief that a Jew has a special connection with the Land of Israel. The mountain in Jerusalem where the Temple of King Solomon was built — and then was rebuilt upon the return of the Babylonian Exiles — is known alternatively as Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount), Har HaMoriah (Mount Moriah), and Har Tzion (Mount Zion). If you relate to the history of the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple), to its historical or religious significance in your life, you yearn for Zion. That is, you are a Zionist. I, for example, am American through and through. This is my country. This is my passport. I even love the English language, and my readers know how joyfully I love to play with it. In my vocabulary, I not only pray but I prey. But, exactly like tens of millions of Christian Zionists, I harbor a special emotional connection to the Land of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. Surely, Italian Americans get that. That is why so many commercials to visit Rome and Florence and Milan tout Perillo Tours of Italy, not Lipshitz-Goldstein Tours. Even the Sicilian deaf and the Venetian blind know that. It is the reason that many Irish Americans try to visit the “Old Sod.” Both John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan expressed a special bond with Ireland. We all get this. For a Jew, assuming you are not a complete apostate like a George Soros, Israel is part of the identity, the package, the mishpacha (family). It is like a “Thanksgiving Day Country” — you hate so many of those whom you will be visiting, but you would have it no other way because they are family.
When someone says “I am anti-Zionist,” that is like his or her self-identifying as ”anti-kosher food.” Look, a person is free to eat all the ham, pork, and bacon she likes. Don’t even soak and salt it. Mix it with lobster, clams, and oysters. Have it with milk on Yom Kippur and don’t even wait six hours. (It’s a long story.) No one says others have to be kosher. But to be anti-kosher? Like, hey, what would that be all about? All because you are not kosher, what’s it to you that the next guy is kosher? It’s none of your danged business, OK. So, although most Americans are non-Jewish and hence are non-kosher-food consumers, we never really meet people who actually are “anti-kosher” — except for Nazi wannabes.
Well, that is what anti-Zionism is. If you don’t want to live in Israel, fine. Don’t live there. Don’t visit. Go take a vacation in Saudi Arabia, and please don’t forget to bring home some sand for the kids. You don’t have to like people who write from right to left, who have emergency medical vehicles with red Stars of David instead of red crescents or red crosses painted on the ambulances. But to be anti-Zionist? That’s like being anti-kosher. Anti-matzo. Anti-Hava Nagila. Because Zionism actually is a core part of the very definition of a Jew.
So anyone who is anti-Zionist is a Jew-hater. It’s that simple.