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Zionism and Israel- Issues and Answers (FAQ)

Questions and answers about Zionism, Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian (Palestine-Israel, Middle East) Conflict

 In French: Sionisme et l'Israel : Questions et réponses (FAQ)  

This page is a summary. Click here for a detailed, enlarged and updated Zionism and Israel FAQ

 Israeli personality Mehereta Baruch and American-Israeli basketball star LaVon Mercer tell us Zionism is not racism.

See Also - Zionist Quotes  Be Proud-Presenting Zionism   Explaining Zionism   The Truth about the Zionist Threat  Zionism and its Impact The Myth of the Israeli Bantustan offer at Taba and other myths

Zionism and Israel -  Issues and Answers

Does the Flight and Expulsion of Palestinian Refugees prove that Zionism is Racism?

The Palestinian refugee problem was created because the Arabs of Palestine refused to live in a Jewish state and Arab states refused to accept U.N. Resolution 181, which partitioned Palestine. The refugees were not created by Zionism. The Arab side instigated a war, driven by Nazi-collaborator Haj Amin El-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Husseini told the British that his solution for the "Jewish Question" in Palestine was the same as "the solution that had been adopted in Europe," namely extermination. Had there been no war, there would have been no refugees. The Jews of Palestine defended themselves, as any people would, regardless of ideology. After the war, they were reluctant to admit a large body of people who were belligerents by definition, because they had refused to live in a Jewish state. After World War II, Czechoslovakia expelled ethnic Germans who had been Czech citizens living in the Sudetensland, because they proved to be a threat to the national existence of Czechoslovakia. Nobody claimed that Czechoslovakia is racist for that reason. 

If Zionists are not racists, why do they oppose the "legitimate right" of return of the Palestinian Refugees

Palestinian advocates claim that the refugees of 1948 have a right guaranteed in international law to return to Israel. In fact, there is no such law. The Fourth Geneva Convention, often cited in this context, does not stipulate a right of return for refugees. UN Resolution 194, also cited as the basis for this "right" is a resolution of the UN General Assembly. Such resolutions are not binding in international law. No nation has the obligation to admit enemy belligerents. Moreover, Resolution 194 does not insist on a Right of Return. It says that "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so." 

The refugees were not Israeli citizens. They did not want Israeli citizenship. Beyond the dry provisions of the law, in this case admission of several million refugees would soon create an Arab majority in Israel. The people who advocate "Right of Return" also favor abolishing the Israeli Law of Return that permits Jews to immigrate to Israel freely. Israel would cease to be the national home of the Jews, and the Jewish people would lose the right to self-determination. Clearly "Right of Return" cannot be implemented in any case if it contradicts a different fundamental right that is anchored in international law.

Is the Israeli "Law of Return" Racist?

The Law of return stipulates that any Jew may come to Israel and become a citizen without undergoing naturalization. Other applicants must undergo a naturalization process. The Law of Return embodies  a major  purpose of the state of Israel, which is to provide a safe haven for Jews from every country and to make possible the restoration of the Jewish people. The need for a haven, foreseen as important by the founders of Zionism, assumed tragic significance during the Holocaust, when every country in the world closed its doors to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. Abolishing the Law of Return, as anti-Zionists demand, would destroy the purpose of Israel as a national home for the Jews.

Is all criticism of Israel anti-Semitism?

Many people, including Israeli Jews, criticize the Israeli government and other governments because they disagree with specific policies. That criticism is usually not racist. The Zionist Organization of America opposes the Israeli disengagement policy, for example. That is not anti-Semitic or racist criticism. Many Israelis and others speak out against the occupation of Palestinian territory, or Israeli religious laws, or brutality of soldiers at checkpoints. That is not anti-Semitic or racist criticism. However, "criticisms" such as charges that "the Zionists" control the United States, arguments that the Talmud is the secret Jewish blueprint for taking over the world, allegations that "the Jews" instigated the war in Iraq for the benefit of Israel,  and diabolical comparisons between the extermination of European Jewry in the Holocaust and Israeli treatment of Palestinians appear very often in anti-Zionist "criticisms" of Israel. They are often accompanied by excerpts from Hitler's Mein Kampf, articles written by Holocaust - deniers and excerpts from the forged "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." These are not legitimate criticisms of Israel, but racist propaganda.

If Jews have always been yearning for return to their homeland, why didn't they begin to return until the 19th century?

This challenge, probably first formulated by Marxist critics, betrays either boundless cynicism or ignorance of history. Jews did try to return to Zion throughout the 2,000 year exile, and many did settle in Jerusalem, Safed, Hebron and other towns, despite enormous hardships.. However, given the lowly political status of the Jews, any international movement would have been doomed to failure, as were the numerous false messiahs like Shabbetai Tzvi, who promised to rebuild Jerusalem. It is like asking, "If workers and peasants didn't like being downtrodden, why didn't they make a Bolshevik revolution in the Middle Ages?" 

Did Zionists displace the Arabs of Palestine?

Beginning in 1920, anti-Zionist propaganda insisted that Zionists were going to dispossess and expel the Arabs of Palestine. In 1922, at the beginning of the British Mandate, there were about 660,000 Arabs in Palestine, while at the end of the British mandate there were about 1.3 Million Arabs. About 735,000 lived in the areas that would become Israel after the War of Independence. There were more Arabs in Palestine than had ever lived there before in all of recorded history, and their standard of living, which had been considerably below that of Arabs in neighboring countries, was well above it. The Arab claim of dispossession, repeated so often in Mandatory Palestine, was an invention.  See Zionism and its Impact

Do Israeli Arabs live under an Apartheid Regime?

Anti-Zionists charge that the Arabs of Israel live under an "Apartheid" regime similar to that practiced in South Africa. South African Apartheid was practiced against native Africans who wanted an equal say in South African affairs. Regulations prevented marriage between races, enforced unequal pay and discriminatory employment and denied Black Africans equal representation in the government. Israeli treatment of Arab minorities is not perfect, but it is improving. It is not "Apartheid." Israeli Arab citizens vote and participate in the government along with Jewish citizens, can own and buy land, and are legally protected against discrimination in government services and the work place. They enjoy a far higher standard of living and better health care and educational opportunities than their neighbors in Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Arabs can serve in the Israeli army and many do, especially Bedouin and Druze.

Isn't Israel an Expansionist Country?

Anti-Zionists charge that Israel has "expansionist" aims, because it has not set its borders, it conquered territories in wars and it has a "secret plan" to expand over the entire Middle East. The truth is that Israel didn't set its borders because none of the Arab countries would recognize any borders at all for Israel. Of the original territory of the Palestine Mandate given to Britain in 1922 as a national home for the Jewish people, over 70% was removed in 1922 and became Jordan. In 1947, the UN partitioned the remainder of the territory between the Arabs and Jews of Palestine. The Arabs did not agree to the partition plan and started a war. Israel won the war and conquered territory originally allotted to a Palestinian state. No Arab state recognized the borders of the 1949 cease fire lines and none was ready to sign a peace treaty with Israel. In 1967 Israel fought the 6-day war after Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser closed the straits of Tiran and the Suez canal to Israeli shipping, and threatened to destroy Israel.  Israel conquered the Golan Heights,  West Bank, and Sinai peninsula, a vast area several times the size of Israel. All this land was to be returned in peace settlements, but no offer for peace came until 1977. Israel then made peace with Egypt and returned the entire Sinai peninsula. In negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel offered to give them  about 97% of the West Bank in return for peace, but they refused. Likewise, Israel offered to return virtually the entire Golan heights in return for peace with Syria, but Syria's President Asad insisted that Syria has sovereignty over the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan river.  Israel has a territory of less than 8,000 square miles. It is absurd to claim that Israel is an expansionist state that poses a danger to its neighbors. ( See Maps)

Are Ashkenazi Jews descended from Khazars and does it matter?

An article by Arthur Koestler many years ago speculated that Ashkenazy Jews are descended from the Khazars, a Central Asian kingdom that converted to Judaism and eventually vanished. This claim has been used by anti-Zionists to argue that the Jews are not a nation, and that Ashkenazy Jews have no rights to Israel. The best evidence indicates that Jews dispersed throughout Europe from Rome. There were Jewish communities in France in the dark ages evidently. Other Ashkenazy Jews are descended from Spanish (Sephardic) Jews who were forced to leave Spain in 1492. Genetic evidence indicates that European Jews are probably closer to Palestinian and Syrian Arabs than to central Asians who are partly descended from the Khazars; see articles here and here for example. In any case, the claims of a people to nationhood are almost never based on genetics or "race." Nobody claims that all the French are descended from ancient Gauls, or that all the British are descended from the Celts and Picts. When Americans talk about "'our' forefathers," the 'our' doesn't usually exclude the generations of immigrants who came after the Mayflower settlers. Today's Palestinians are not all descended from ancient Canaanites and Philistines. Some are converted Jews. Some are descended from Arab families who arrived with various conquerors. Whatever the merits of the genetic arguments, claims that anyone has no right to a country because they are not racially "pure" are racist claims, and identify the people making those claims as racists.

Was Israel created because of the Holocaust?

Anti-Zionists argue that Israel was created because the nations of Europe took pity on the Jews after World War II, and that the right to a Jewish state can be rescinded if Israel doesn't "behave." Actually, Israel was created as a result of the League of Nations Mandate of 1922, which granted a mandate to Great Britain to create a "National Home" for the Jews in Palestine. This right was based on the right to self determination, a right shared by all peoples.

Why can't there be peace in a single democratic state for Arabs and Jews?

Every people has the right of self-determination - the right to develop their own culture, customs and language, and to defend themselves from foreign domination. If it is logical and just to support a state for the Palestinian Arabs, then certainly it is logical and just to support a state for the Jewish people, who do not have twenty two other states that speak their language and have similar customs.  Historically, the "one state" solution is not a peace settlement, but rather a vehicle for expelling the Jews from the country.  In 1948, the Arab countries offered a "Single State" solution.  Haj Amin El Husseini, made it clear that the first act of such a state would be to annihilate the Jews of Palestine. No "peace" solution can be based on destroying a state and denying self-determination to its people.

Why should there be a state for a religion?

Judaism is not just a religion, though anti-Zionists may claim that it is. A large percentage of Jews are atheists or agnostic, including most of the founders of Israel and many of the founders of the Zionist movement. The identity of each person and each group is determined by the people in that group. It is not the prerogative of anti-Zionists and racists to determine the definition of Judaism. It is up to members of the Jewish nation.

Israel was supposed to be a safe haven for Jews, but Jews are not safe there. Isn't this a failure of Zionism?

No place on Earth is completely safe for anyone. Israel has lost upwards of 20,000 citizens in wars and terrorist incidents since 1948. However, the Jewish people lost six million members in the Holocaust of World War II; hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed in pogroms in the Ukraine and Russia. Over the years many more were killed in pogroms of the Middle Ages, especially the crusades. Israel cannot make the world safe for the Jews, any more than the United States can guarantee the perfect safety of every American citizen. However, Israel can give the Jewish people the same fundamental safeguard that every other nation has - the right to self defense.

Doesn't the occupation prove that Zionism is Evil and Expansionist?

No country has ever had its legitimacy called into question because it ran an occupation. Nobody believes the United States should be destroyed because it is occupying Iraq, or that Iraq should be destroyed because it occupied Kuwait. This argument is applied only to Israel.

Nobody should live under occupation. The current occupation is not the result of "Zionism" but of the refusal of Arab Palestinians to live in peace with Israel. It is complicated by the beliefs of some Israelis in "Greater Israel," which was not a part of mainstream historical  Zionist ideology and does not have consensus support of all Zionists. 

The occupation is a result of of the vicissitudes of history. In the view of most Israeli Zionists, it is not a part of Zionist ideology. This became quite evident during the recent disengagement - withdrawal from Gaza. Anti-Zionists simply couldn't fit the disengagement into their diabolical picture of Zionism, so they invented "explanations" for it. More

Isn't Israel doing to Palestinians what the Germans did do the Jews - Another "Holocaust"?

One of the most diabolical claims of anti-Zionists is that Israelis are like Nazis, and are perpetrating an Holocaust in the Palestinians. Israelis are not putting Palestinians in gas chambers or starving them to death. Israel is fighting a war, against a vicious and implacable enemy. The Jews of Europe were innocent citizens who were selected by the Nazis for extermination solely because of their religion. Israel has instituted security measures that are cause hardships for the Palestinians and are sometimes harsh. Occasional excesses, committed by Jewish and Muslim and Druze IDF soldiers alike are not the result of evil conspiracies or racist ideology, but errors of individuals that are the sad and inevitable result of a war that has been forced on Israel. 

If Israel wants peace, why doesn't it withdraw to 1967 borders?

 Israel offered virtually all of the territories and Arab Jerusalem to Arafat at Taba  in 2001, but he rejected the offer and the Palestinians went on with the second intifada instead. The offer included about 95% of the territory of the West Bank in a contiguous area, not Bantustans as Palestinians claim. See The Myth of the Israeli Bantustan offer at Taba and other myths

The second intifada was made possible by the withdrawal of the Israeli army in the previous years from virtually all Palestinian towns. Arafat's active role in funding and promoting terror, and his double-speak regarding this and Israel's right to exist resulted in Israel's rejection to view him as a partner in further negotiations. At that time, the ideas of the fence and the disengagement as unilateral plans were born. Despite official declarations, many Palestinians still don't accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. The charters of both Hamas   and Fatah  call for the destruction of Israel and all Zionist activity. The Hamas charter states:

"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."

"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. "

The Fatah Constitution states:

Article (7) The Zionist Movement is racial, colonial and aggressive in ideology, goals, organisation and method.  

Article (8) The Israeli existence in Palestine is a Zionist invasion with a colonial expansive base, and it is a natural ally to colonialism and international imperialism.

It is worth remembering that the Fatah was founded before the 1967 war, and the constitution dates from approximately 1964. The desire to destroy Israel did not begin with the occupation.

The leader of Fatah, Farouk Kaddoumi, said not long ago that a Palestinian state in 1967 borders is only the first stage to liberating all of historical Palestine. About half of the Palestinians (the numbers vary in different polls) support 'armed resistance' against Israel, including suicide attacks on civilians. PA TV regularly broadcasts hate-sermons or clips that glorify violence against Israel and Jews. Since Abbas came to power, this has changed a bit but far from stopped.

No country would welcome the creation of  a hostile country that seeks its destruction at its doorstep. Therefore a Palestinian state can only come into being if  the Palestinians too work hard for peace. Confidence building measures or other concessions like the disengagement, removal of checkpoints, release of prisoners, should be answered by concessions from the Palestinians. The Palestinians were powerful enough to kill over 1000 Israelis during the second intifada, they get a lot of international aid and support from the international community and have all the Islamic countries on their side. They are not powerless and helpless victims.

A full withdrawal to 1967 borders means Israel would have to give up the Old city of Jerusalem, including the Wailing Wall and the Jewish Quarter, as well as the Hebrew University. Moreover, as the occupation is the result of a war forced on Israel, and the settlement policy a reaction to the Arab refusal to make peace, it is unfair to demand from Israel that it alone bears the burden of solving the situation. Contrary to anti-Zionist rhetoric, a contiguous Palestinian state is possible also if Israel keeps the large settlement blocs. The Taba proposal as well as Geneva are based on that premise, with a land swap to compensate the Palestinians. The exact borders are issues however that have to be negotiated in a final peace agreement between both parties.

 If a people is downtrodden and oppressed, it fights back. People have the right to resist against injustice and occupation. You expect them to resign to Israel's whims.

As explained above, the conflict is older than the occupation, and there was unprovoked Palestinian violence against civilians even before the creation of Israel. Examples include the 1929 riots  in Hebron  and Jerusalem. Most people under occupation don't blow up civilians in supermarkets or busses. Most 'resistance' of other peoples was and is focused on soldiers, sometimes politicians, but seldom at killing as many civilians as possible. Often people resist oppression in non-violent ways. What is also quite unique is the extremist anti-Semitic propaganda (Mein Kampf is a best seller among the Palestinians). Nobody likes his oppressor, but such propaganda is unprecedented. However, the heart of the problem is, again, that most Palestinians do not accept Israel and their resistance is directed at its very existence. Palestinian violence increased at moments that Israel made concessions and handed over territory, because these 'resistance groups' are opposed to peace. Every country has the right and also the duty to protect its civilians. It is strange that Israel is often denied this right. It is true that not everything that Israel does in the territories is related to security, and we do not approve of everything happening there. However,  Israel doesn't celebrate after it has killed Palestinian civilians, and often there is an outcry in Israel if a military operation leads to innocent deaths. Recently a female Palestinian tried to blow up herself in an Israeli hospital where she was treated for burns caused by a cooking accident. She was caught at a checkpoint. There was no outcry and no official condemnations in the Palestinian media.

Why shouldn't churches, universities and others boycott Israel, Israeli products, firms that do business with Israel or the occupation  and Israeli academics? This tactic worked in righting injustices in South Africa.

The assumption that Israel is like South Africa is inherently anti-Zionist and racist (see above). It assumes that the Jewish people have no right to self-determination. Initiatives that single out Israel assume that all the fault in the conflict is on one side, and ignore terrorism. Those who sponsor these initiatives admit that their goal is the destruction of Israel.

Is anti-Zionism anti-Semitism?

Ideologically, anti-Zionist ideas, including Jewish religious and Marxist anti-Zionism are tinged with racism. The basic tenet that anti-Zionists hold in common is that Jews are somehow different from all other peoples, and therefore do not deserve or should not have a state of their own. That is a racist idea in itself. Ultraorthodox Jewish anti-Zionists believe that Jews are special, "chosen people." Sects like the Satmar Hassidim and Neturei Karteh believe that Jews should not engage in "vulgar occupations" or have an army, because these are occupations for contemptible gentiles. The Messiah must come and redeem the chosen people. The Messiah, according to ultraorthodox  anti-Zionists, will then smite the gentiles and punish them as they deserve, and re-establish the Kingdom of the Jews to rule over the world. Surely, this is a racist notion.

Most other anti-Zionist positions are based on anti-Semitic ideas and assumptions, and often substitute "Zionists" for "Jews" in propaganda that is otherwise identical to anti-Semitic propaganda. Typical claims include:

"Zionists" control the government.

"Zionists" control the media

"International Zionism" is out to control the world.

"Zionists" are disloyal.

"Zionists" start wars (compare the claims about "Zionist" involvement in the Iraq war with Hitler's claims that international  finance Jews were starting World War II).

Is anti-Zionism anti-Semitism? You be the judge. Here is a sample of "anti-Zionist" propaganda from some Web sites:

What Zionism is -- and its pernicious influence upon the USA

... Jewish Persecution - A Primary Tool Of International Zionism.

 Zionism is cause of instability in the world

The Roots of International Zionism are Spreading

Jewlicious » Why Zionism rules

from radioislam.org/zionism/

The situation only changed after the purges of 1937 and 1938. But even then Stalin was unable to state openly that those whom he opposed were of course not counter-revolutionaries, spies, saboteurs, conspirators, or the like, but were Zionists pursuing their methods and objectives, and were quite simply enemies of the people. Despite the falseness of the accusations, the term "enemies of the people" is, however surprising this might appear, true only of Zionists! He was compelled to resort to false accusations in order to rid the peoples of the Soviet Union of a very great danger and save them from their most vicious enemies.

... The chief power of Zionism lies in being silent. The main point is that, whatever may happen, the whole truth about Zionism cannot be permitted to become widely known. That would mean the failure of the whole affair. An agreement to keep quiet is reached not only with their own people, but also with the most furious opponent of Zionism: they must keep quiet.

Here is what others have said about anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism:

"Anti-Zionism, the denial of Jews the basic right to a home, is nothing but Anti-Semitism, pure and simple."
09/03/01 Michael Melchior

"When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism."
Dec. 1969. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

.... the fact is that critiques of Israel often do morph into more old-fashioned anti-Semitism, partly because of the equation of Israeli and Jew. Schoenfeld quotes the British writer Petronella Wyatt, who has written that conversation about the Middle East in educated British circles often abounds in such comments as, "Well, the Jews have been asking for it, and now, thank God, we can say what we think at last." A columnist for the London Observer has publicly declared that he refused to read pro-Israel letters signed with Jewish-sounding names.

There are also many instances of anti-Israel posters and cartoons employing shockingly anti-Semitic language and imagery, including the old "Christ killer" label. A cartoon in the respectable Italian newspaper La Stampa showed an infant Jesus lying in front of an Israeli tank, the caption saying, "Don’t tell me they want to kill me again."

Cathy Young, 

“There is no difference whatever between anti-Semitism and the denial of Israel's statehood. Classical anti-Semitism denies the equal right of Jews as citizens within society. Anti-Zionism denies the equal rights of the Jewish people its lawful sovereignty within the community of nations. The common principle in the two cases is discrimination”
New York Times, November 3, 1975 Abba Eban

While there are honorable Anti-Zionist positions they are few. On the whole Ant-Zionism is close to, or a mask for, Anti-Semitism. John L. Strawson, Proponent of Palestinian Rights.

The eminent linguist Georges Sarfati examined in detail how anti-Zionists and anti-Semites use language to delegitimize Israel, Zionism and Judaism, as explained in this interview on language as a tool against Jews and Israel

Isn't the Marxist view of Zionism the correct view for Progressive People?

The Marxist view of Jews was racist, and incorporated the stereotypes of 19th century anti-Semitism. Marxists maintain that Jews are an aberration of European society, who have developed objectionable social characteristics. These will be corrected when the socialist revolution makes everyone equal, and Jews will become citizens of the world. Most of these "Jewish characteristics" noted by Marxism are familiar to us from the stereotypes of anti-Semitic writing.  Here is a sample of quotes from Marx's "A World Without Jews:"

The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange.

The Jew is perpetually created by civil society from its own entrails.

The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of of the merchant, of the man of money in general.

Contempt for theory, art, history, and for man as an end in himself, which is contained in an abstract form in the Jewish religion

We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time, an element which through historical development -- to which in this harmful respect the Jews have zealously contributed

In its perfected practice, Christian egoism of heavenly bliss is necessarily transformed into the corporal egoism of the Jew, heavenly need is turned into world need, subjectivism into self-interest

Christianity had only in semblance overcome real Judaism. It was too noble-minded, too spiritualistic to eliminate the crudity of practical need in any other way than by elevation to the skies.

Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade, and the bankrupt trader deals in the Gospel just as the Gospel preacher who has become rich goes in for business deals.

Only then could Judaism achieve universal dominance and make alienated man and alienated nature into alienable, vendible objects subjected to the slavery of egoistic need and to trading.

The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism.

Once society has succeeded in abolishing the empirical essence of Judaism -- huckstering and its preconditions -- the Jew will have become impossible

Marx, himself of Jewish ancestry, absorbed nineteenth century German attitudes to Judaism and made them part of the worst aspects of Marxism. The fruit of these racist ideas is now packaged by some latter-day Marxists as enlightened humanism and internationalism, which supposedly rejects Zionism because it is racist. However, it is manifestly this part of the Marxist philosophy that is racist.

Ami Isseroff

More About Zionism:

Zionism and the Creation of Israel

More Commentary about Zionism

Zionism and its Impact Zionist Quotes

Not in My Name - Don't Let Extremists Hijack Zionism

Was Israel Founded Because of the Holocaust??

The Two State Solution is the only solution for peace

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