As the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), we would like to thank the Berkeley Daily Planet for publishing commentaries such as Marc Sapir’s that expose the violence of the Israeli occupation and challenge the notion that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. IJAN is a growing international network of Jews whose Jewish identities are not based on Zionism but on a plurality of histories and experiences. We share a commitment to participation in struggles against colonization and imperialism. As such, we struggle against Zionism and its manifestation in the State of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people and the confiscation of their land. We strongly support efforts to end the war and occupation in Iraq. However, the war waged upon Iraqis is intimately linked to the 60-year occupation of Palestine. Within this context, we ask:
Why is it that people of conscience can protest the occupation of Iraq, yet celebrate the 60-year occupation of Palestine? How can so many on the left criticize US aid to abusive regimes, but accept US funding to Israel as it steals land and agricultural resources and bulldozes the homes of Palestinians? It is time that people who stand for social justice stop exceptionalizing Israel and expose it as a racist state that is creating violence and instability in the region.
For many, this defense of Israel comes from the desire to support the Jewish community and from the perception that criticism of Israel amounts to anti-Semitism. Yet the notion that anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism is ahistorical. And while purporting to speak for all Jews, Zionism has been responsible for the displacement and alienation of Mizrahi Jews (Jews of African and Asian descent) from their diverse histories, languages, traditions and cultures. Zionism also obscures other (non-Zionist) Jewish visions of collective liberation and resistance to political, economic, and/or social domination.
Conveniently, the equation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is often invoked to justify the targeting and harassment of Palestine solidarity organizations, as we are seeing with the UC Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine (see https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/10/18/18545326.php). While at times anti-Zionism has been used as a veil for anti-Jewish bigotry, this is not what lies at the heart of anti-Zionist politics. We stand with movements for social justice around the world that see Zionism as colonialism and racism. We stand in solidarity with organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine who support Palestinian liberation, while challenging anti-Jewish prejudice.
Jews, like any other group, are entitled to safety and self-determination. Yet no group is entitled to its freedom at the expense of another. As anti-Zionist Jews, we seek liberation through joint struggle and solidarity with Palestinians, not through isolation. We envision a world based not upon colonization and apartheid, but upon collective liberation.