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Jews, Israel and Zionism: Zionist/Zionism used as a pejorative substitute for “Jew(ish)“:
As we have explained above, a majority of Jews do regard themselves as Zionist, at least in the basic sense of support for the establishment and existence of the state of Israel. As such, they do not see the words Zionist or Zionism as any form of insult per se. However, it is often wrongly believed that Zionism is synonymous with whole-hearted support of the policies being enacted by the Israeli government at any one time; this is simply incorrect. Zionists can range from having extremely right-wing positions (including approving annexation, occupation and accelerated building of Jewish settlements outside the internationally-agreed borders of Israel), all the way to socialist opposition to annexation and a strong desire for Israel to withdraw back to its pre-1967 borders. Many Zionists are bitter opponents of the present Likud-led administration. To many, indeed, Zionism nowadays means little more than the acceptance of the existence of Israel and a rejection of any notion of abolishing it and starting a new state in the area. Shami Chakrabarti (2016) pointed out that the term ‘Zionist’ should be used ‘advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically or as part of personal abuse’, because of this potential for confusion and offence, https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Chakrabarti-Inquiry-Report-30June16.pdf, see p.12.
Anti-Zionism can also mean a number of different things – condemnation of the original idea of an independent Jewish state, condemnation of the actual historic foundation of Israel and its effect on the Palestinian people, or condemnation of the continued future existence of a Jewish state. Some ‘anti-Zionists’, indeed, condemn the further expansion of Israel into occupied territories and its human rights abuses, while actually supporting the continued existence of Israel alongside an independent Palestinian state. This in fact makes their position identical to that of many ‘Zionists’.
Very often, anti-Zionists on the left and in the Muslim world who support the Palestinian cause employ the terms ‘Zionist’ (or worse, ‘Zio’) or ‘Zionism’ only in the sense of whole-hearted support of current Israeli government policies, and in association with other ‘bad’ words like ‘racist’, ‘apartheid’ and ‘imperialist’. It is hard then for Jews who regard themselves as Zionists, possibly only in the more basic sense of the word, not to hear this usage as insulting. While this rhetoric is sometimes repeated out of ignorance, it can definitely be antisemitic in effect.
Worse, antisemites may cover up their antisemitism by dressing it up more respectably as anti-Zionist politics. We will expand on this in the ‘Conspiracy’ section, where we describe how ‘Zionist’ may be used as a code-word to mean ‘all Jews’. In our first example below, the writer excuses their antisemitic conspiracy theory of Rothschild world control by saying these are not ‘manipulating Jews’ but ‘manipulating Zionists’. Some will deny that they are attacking Jews by pointing out the facts that many Zionists are non-Jews, and that a significant minority of Jews are non-Zionists. Despite this excuse, antisemitic intent is often clear, and demonstrable in the person’s other publications.
In our second example, the writer indulges in Holocaust minimisation but gives a thin excuse for this by saying he is not antisemitic but anti-Zionist. He may be alluding to the common belief that the Holocaust was or is ‘weaponised’ by Zionists or Israel. Regardless of views on this, all Holocaust minimisation is undoubtedly antisemitic.