We need to talk about anti-Zionism

We need to talk about anti-Zionism
Comment: A vision of Israel as the world's only evil is a blinkered form of anti-Zionism, writes Sam Hamad.
6 min read
21 Dec, 2018
'Zionism has a complex history in the region,' writes Hamad [Getty]

Zionism today for most of the world conjures up an entirely negative meaning. This is partly because of the manner in which Zionism in Israel has come to represent ethnic chauvinism and the domination and oppression of Palestinians, but also because of the manner in which certain discourses on Palestine have turned "Anti-Zionism" into a form of demonology.  

For all the problems that beset the region, there is a core of self-proclaimed "Anti-Zionists" who continue to see Israel as a unique evil.  

To observe this reality, all one must do is look at one of its most egregious examples.

To these people, more often than not, the genocide in Syria, perpetrated so brazenly by Assad, Iran and Russia, has been, at worst, tacitly or openly supported, or, at best, subordinated to an entirely imaginary paradigm of "Anti-Zionism".  

Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd fame, self-defines as an "Anti-Zionist" activist. For years, he has attached to the cause of Palestine a primacy that borders on the obsessive; indeed, he might even be the world's most famous "Anti-Zionist".

In the West, Anti-Zionism has simultaneously become, like so many other ideologies intimately related to the alt-left, an industrial subculture that sells the brand as an identarian obsession, but also a tool for more pointed political exploitation. It's this intermixture that finds us watching videos of Waters, the Anti-Zionist rock star, on stage
denouncing the brave White Helmets as a "fake organisation" that pushes propaganda for "jihadists and terrorists".  

It's through Western "Anti-Zionism" that Waters has become a microphone-wielding, arena-filling mouthpiece for genocide.

And Waters is hardly unique in plunging to these squalid depths via "Anti-Zionism". Since the war in Syria began, a host of "Anti-Zionist"
activists and writers, almost all from the West, have devoted more time to demonising Syrians resisting Assad, or, in the case of the White Helmets, than they have to "resisting Zionism".  

Are they supporting Palestinians or are they hating Israel?

Of course, in their minds, to support the genocide in Syria (not that they'd put it that way), has become a staple of modern "Anti-Zionism". When Max Blumenthal, one of the foremost of the ultra-privileged alt-left "Anti-Zionist" internet trolls who has taken up the cause of genocide denial/support in Syria,
denounces Palestinians for disavowing fascist Assad supporters like Rania Khalek from their cause, one might want to reflect on what exactly it is that forms the basis of their ideology?

Are they supporting Palestinians or are they hating Israel? Are they supporting Palestinians due to an adherence to the principle of national self-determination against oppression, or are they supporting Palestinians due to some mixture of orientalist fetish, racism and political exploitation?  

Even Palestinians who fail to attach the cause of Palestine to support for Assad's genocide in Syria can be demonised, denounced and dismissed by Western "Anti-Zionists". Even Palestinians who resist Assad have been ignored by the so-called "Anti-Zionists" - Assad's genocide has claimed the lives of
thousands of Palestinians in Syria, but the criteria for outrage seems to be the identity not of the victims, but rather of those who kill Palestinians - if it's Jews, you march against it, but if it's Baathists or Russians, you ignore it.

But why?

Do they hate Israel because they hate Jews? Do they hate Israel as a tactical means to "oppose western imperialism"? Western "Anti-Zionism" has posed all of these questions to itself in the era of the Arab Spring.

During the struggle against Apartheid, the movement was never co-opted by narrow subcultures to be exploited to justify other monstrous crimes that were as bad if not worse than the crime of Apartheid. Indeed, the cause was gloriously expanded until it pressed against different demographics across the world until it could no longer be ignored from top to bottom.

And while Palestinians and other regional victims of Israel have their own agency and their own problems with Anti-Zionist discourse, the power imbalance that exists between them and those in the West means that it's the Western form of "Anti-Zionism" that is most often presented as the Anti-Zionism.

In a similar yet more marked way, the form of Zionism that currently reigns supreme in Israel, the one defined ever more by the far-right, is presented as the alpha and omega of Zionism, when the reality is that Zionism has a far more nuanced, complex history within and without the region.

Many of those reading this will conclude that my motives here are some form of apologia for Israel or "Zionism", but, indeed, my main motivation for asking these questions of contemporary "Anti-Zionism" is due to my own lifelong support for the Palestinian cause.

Anti-Zionism, inasmuch as we mean support for Palestinian self-determination against a currently racist and colonialist Israeli state that occupies and annexes Palestinian land, is very much a necessity. It is as much a necessity, but no more of one, as opposing Assad or Sisi or Al-Saud or the Chinese Communist Party or any other great bastion of injustice.
Those who support the fascistic genocide of Syrians - or any other peoples - must be excommunicated from any serious Palestinian solidarity movement

In this sense, those of us who support Palestinians as much as we support all oppressed peoples, must at some point attempt to reclaim "Anti-Zionism" from the Roger Waterses and the Max Blumenthals.  

Those who support the fascistic genocide of Syrians - or any other peoples - must be excommunicated from any serious Palestinian solidarity movement .

For, in the hands of these types, the cause is not only not helping Palestinians in any tangible way, but it becomes tangled up in a worldview that ever more appeals to the very same logic as the form of Zionism that currently grips the Israeli state.

Many will think that I am myself indulging in a fetish of Palestinian or regional Anti-Zionism, as if it's a perfect model that has been entirely travestied by Western "Anti-Zionism".

Anti-Zionism, in its totality, has lost the perspective that once determined it, such as when one of its main slogans was al-Sahayuniyah aduwat al-arab wa al-yahud ("Zionism is the enemy of the Arabs and the Jews"). But this has occurred within the context of genuine oppression and the worsening of that oppression in a world that is ever more ruled by the kind of forces that normalise Israel's brutal occupation.

Western "Anti-Zionism", or any "Anti-Zionism" immediately removed from the day-to-day realities of Israeli domination, is not conditioned by these things and thus ought not to imitate them.  

And perhaps this is the most eye-opening aspect of this question. When you look at the manner in which Zionism has become an ideology defined by current post-truth authoritarian trends and the constant need to justify terror, you see its mirror in its supposed antithesis.  

How else does one explain the reality that the use of
Holocaust denial, Nazi-esque anti-Semitic imagery and racist conspiracy theories have become major components of Western "Anti-Zionism"?  

Thus, when Roger Waters stands on stage accusing the victims of genocidal terror as "jihadis and terrorists", it ought to surprise no-one that he sounds just like Binyamin Netanyahu. Zionism and Western "Anti-Zionism" are becoming two sides of the same coin. They are both determined by the zeitgeist.   

Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer.

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.