TAA Statement on Palestine: “A Call for Palestinian Liberation”

TAA Statement on Palestine: “A Call for Palestinian Liberation”

The following statement was written and approved by the general membership of the TAA on November 15th, 2023.

A Call for Palestinian liberation

WHEREAS The Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA; AFT [American Federation of Teachers] Local 3220) recognizes that the Zionist Israeli state is a reactionary tool of Western imperialism, funded for their own cynical aims. Israel can accurately be described as an apartheid state, as documented by many human rights experts and organizations, including UN officials, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International agree with this description.

WHEREAS Israel’s response to Hamas’ attack has been indiscriminate and disproportionate violence toward Palestinians. As of November 13, 2023, Israel has murdered over 11,000 Palestinians, nearly half being children. Upon his recent resignation, the Director of the New York Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Craig Mokhiber, stated that Israel’s actions are “a textbook case of genocide.”

WHEREAS Israel’s bombing campaign has been carried out without regard for the lives of hostages, further exposing the cynicism of justifications based on the October 7 attack. Similarly, American liberal and progressive politicians continue to cry crocodile tears for the victims of Hamas and remain silent on the victims of Netanyahu.


WHEREAS Israel’s genocidal attacks are exacerbating the inhumane living conditions and mass unemployment in Gaza. The civilians of Palestine deserve fundamental human rights, including, but not limited to, security, freedom from foreign occupation, access to housing, clean water, healthcare, and employment. 

WHEREAS The October 9 press release from AFT National, titled, “US Education Leaders Condemn Hamas Attack, Stand with Israeli People,” and the resolution recently adopted by [American Federation of Teachers]–Wisconsin (AFT–W) inadequately condemn Israel’s colonialist regime and fail to acknowledge colonialism as the root cause of the current conflict. These statements fail to use the terms, “colonialism,” “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “genocide” to characterize Israel and its actions, which is out of step with several human rights experts/organizations and undermines the severity of Israel’s oppression. Furthermore, these statements fail to call on the US government to halt the sale and funding of arms for Israeli forces. Unless we address the core of this conflict and end our support for the Israeli offensive, the US will remain complicit in the occupation and genocide in Palestine. Given the status quo of US support for Israel’s oppression of Palestine, the shortcomings of AFT’s statements make them pro-Israel and anti-Palestine by default. Therefore, be it;

RESOLVED The TAA considers Israeli and Western imperialism ultimately responsible for the recent violence.

RESOLVED The TAA condemns Israel’s settler colonialism, apartheid, occupation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide in Palestine. We condemn Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, which has been a death sentence for thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians and has displaced over a million more. This collective lethal punishment breaks international law and constitutes war crimes.

RESOLVED We call for the collective liberation of the Palestinian people from Israeli oppression. 

RESOLVED We stand in solidarity with the following people:

  1. The people of Palestine, who have suffered at the hands of US, British, and Israeli imperialism for over 100 years;
  2. Palestinian trade unions who have called on the international working class to take action in the face of Israel’s assault on Gaza and the mass killing of the Palestinian people;
  3. Israeli workers and unions who break with their ruling class to stand unconditionally on the side of the oppressed;
  4. The many Jewish workers around the world who condemn Zionism and stand steadfast with Palestinians;
  5. Victims of oppression on the basis of religion or ethnicity around the world including victims of rising islamophobia and antisemitism.

RESOLVED We demand the US government and the Biden administration use all available diplomatic means to end the genocide of Palestinians, including but not limited to ending all funding and arms sales to the Israeli government. We must immediately end our moral and material support for Israel’s human rights abuses and war crimes.

RESOLVED We condemn the US veto of a ceasefire resolution brought forward by Brazil to the UN Security Council to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. We are appalled that the US was the only country to veto the resolution. Although a ceasefire doesn’t go nearly far enough, this is the bare minimum that we expect from the UN.

RESOLVED We call on workers in the US to organize to halt any production and shipment of weapons to Israel. Organized action and the building of mass movements by the international working class will be necessary to end the occupation. We should take inspiration from the two Intifadas, as well as the American workers who have already physically obstructed the shipment of arms to Israel from ports in the Northwest.

RESOLVED We demand that the University of Wisconsin system direct the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) to divest the ~$512 million (as of 2021) that the UW system has invested in BlackRock, the massive US-based asset manager that owns large portions of weapon manufacturers and military contractors such as Boeing ($5.42 billion), Lockheed Martin ($5.13 billion), Northrop Grumman ($3.06 billion), and General Dynamics ($2.47 billion). These US companies manufacture the weapons, jets, and surveillance systems that the Israeli government uses to kill Palestinians.

RESOLVED We demand that AFT retract its endorsement of genocide enabler Joe Biden for US president in 2024 given his administration’s complicity in war crimes. He is a particularly ruthless cheerleader of Israeli war crimes, even among the American ruling class. The same should be done for all endorsements of anti-Palestine politicians.

RESOLVED The TAA action commits to the following actions:

  1. Mobilize our membership to participate in rallies, protests, and marches in support of Palestine, including but not limited to: hosting events, amplifying Palestinian voices (including by supporting SJP events and by supporting the demands of the BDS movement in a reiteration of the TAA’s existing position), and to contact representatives in support of a ceasefire in Gaza and for collective liberation for the Palestinian people.
  2. Continue to recognize that an injury to one is an injury to all, and that the American working class will never be free while Palestine is in chains;
  3. Refuse to support politicians and parties that oppose Palestinian liberation;
  4. Call on the labor movement as a whole to mobilize its resources to fight American imperialism on all fronts.
  5. Protect and support all workers and organizations (such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Madison for Palestine) who face retaliation due to their support for Palestinian liberation.



















November 29, 2023
Die-In for Palestine

Join us this Wednesday as we mourn the loss of our Palestinian brothers and sisters. If you are not familiar with a die-in, people lay on the ground to give a representation of those who have been killed by Israel’s brutal bombardment. We’ll be demonstrating this week to demand:

    1. That the University take the adequate steps towards divestment from the Zionist state.
    2. That the University cut off academic ties with the Zionist state.
    3. That the City of Madison passes the resolution calling for a total ceasefire.


Debunking The Myth That Anti-Zionism Is Anti-Semitic

This article was first published in 2019

Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons WhyPhoto: Gili Getz

Peter BeinartPeter Beinart, The Forward, February 27, 2019

It’s a bewildering and alarming time to be a Jew, both because anti-Semitism is rising and because so many politicians are responding to it not by protecting Jews but by victimizing Palestinians.

On February 16, members of France’s Yellow Vest protest movement hurled anti-Semitic insults at the distinguished French Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut. On February 19, swastikas were found on 80 gravestones in Alsace. Two days later, French President Emmanuel Macron, after announcing that Europe was “facing a resurgence of anti-Semitism unseen since World War II,” unveiled new measures to fight it.

Among them was a new official definition of anti-Semitism. That definition, produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, includes among its “contemporary examples” of anti-Semitism “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.” In other words, anti-Zionism is Jew hatred.

In so doing, Macron joined Germany, Britain, The United States and roughly thirty other governments. And like them, he made a tragic mistake.


Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons Why

People take part in a rally against anti-Semitism on the Republic Square on February 19, 2019 in Paris, France. Image by Getty Images

Anti-Zionism is not inherently anti-Semitic — and claiming it is uses Jewish suffering to erase the Palestinian experience.

Yes, anti-Semitism is growing. Yes, world leaders must fight it fiercely. But in the words of a great Zionist thinker, “This is not the way.”

The argument that anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic rests on three pillars. The first is that opposing Zionism is anti-Semitic because it denies to Jews what every other people enjoys: a state of its own. “The idea that all other peoples can seek and defend their right to self-determination but Jews cannot,” declared Chuck Schumer in 2017, “is anti-Semitism.”

As David Harris, head of the American Jewish Committee, put it last year, “To deny the Jewish people, of all the peoples on earth, the right to self-determination surely is discriminatory.”

All the peoples on earth? The Kurds don’t have their own state. Neither do the Basques, Catalans, Scots, Kashmiris, Tibetans, Abkhazians, Ossetians, Lombards, Igbo, Oromo, Uyghurs, Tamils, Quebecois nor dozens of other peoples who have created nationalist movements to seek self-determination but failed to achieve it.

Yet barely anyone suggests that opposing a Kurdish or Catalan state makes you an anti-Kurdish or anti-Catalan bigot. It’s widely recognized that states based on ethnic nationalism — states created to represent and protect one particular ethnic group — are not the only legitimate way to ensure public order and individual freedom. Sometimes it’s better to foster civic nationalism, a nationalism built around borders rather than heritage: to make Spanish identity more inclusive of Catalans or Iraqi identity more inclusive of Kurds, rather than carving those multi-ethnic states up.

You’d think Jewish leaders would understand this. You’d think they would understand it because many of the same Jewish leaders who call national self-determination a universal right are quite comfortable denying it to Palestinians.

Argument number two is a variation on this theme. Maybe it’s not bigoted to oppose a people’s quest for statehood. But it’s bigoted to take away that statehood once achieved. “It is one thing to argue, in the moot court of historical what-ifs, that Israel should not have come into being,” argued New York Times columnist Bret Stephens earlier this month. However, “Israel is now the home of nearly nine million citizens, with an identity that is as distinctively and proudly Israeli as the Dutch are Dutch or the Danes Danish. Anti-Zionism proposes nothing less than the elimination of that identity and the political dispossession of those who cherish it.”

But it’s not bigoted to try to turn a state based on ethnic nationalism — a state designed to protect and represent one ethnic group — into a state based on civic nationalism, in which no ethnic group enjoys special privileges.

In the nineteenth century, Afrikaners created several countries — among them the Transvaal and the Orange Free State — designed to fulfill their quest for national self-determination. Then, in 1909, those two Afrikaner states merged with two states dominated by English-speaking whites to become the Union of South Africa (later the Republic of South Africa), which offered a kind of national self-determination to white South Africans.

The problem, of course, was that the versions of self-determination upheld by the Transvaal, the Orange Free State and apartheid South Africa excluded millions of blacks living within their borders.

This changed in 1994. By ending apartheid, South Africa replaced an Afrikaner ethnic nationalism and a white racial nationalism with a civic nationalism that encompassed people of all ethnicities and races. It inaugurated a constitution that guaranteed “the right of the South African people as a whole to self-determination.”

That wasn’t bigotry, but it’s opposite.

Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons Why

A BDS protest of the Israeli Philharmonic outside Carnegie Hall today in NYC. Image by Photo: Gili Getz

I don’t consider Israel an apartheid state. But its ethnic nationalism excludes many of the people under its control. Stephens notes that Israel contains almost nine million citizens. What he doesn’t mention is that Israel also contains close to five million non-citizens: Palestinians who live under Israeli control in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (yes, Israel still controls Gaza) without basic rights in the state that dominates their lives.

One reason Israel doesn’t give these Palestinians citizenship is because, as a Jewish state designed to protect and represent Jews, it wants to retain a Jewish majority, and giving five million Palestinians the vote would imperil that.

Even among Israel’s nine million citizens, roughly two million — the so-called “Arab Israelis” — are Palestinian. Stephens says overturning Zionism would mean the “political dispossession” of Israelis. But, according to polls, most of Israel’s Palestinian citizens see it the opposite way. For them, Zionism represents a form of political dispossession. Because they live in a state that privileges Jews, they must endure an immigration policy that allows any Jew in the world to gain instant Israeli citizenship yet makes Palestinian immigration to Israel virtually impossible.

They live in a state whose national anthem speaks of the “Jewish soul,” whose flag features a Star of David and which, by tradition, excludes Israel’s Palestinian parties from its governing coalitions. A commission created in 2003 by the Israeli government itself described Israel’s “handling of the Arab sector” as “discriminatory.”

So long as Israel remains a Jewish state, no Palestinian citizen can credibly tell her son or daughter that they can become prime minister of the country in which they live.

In these ways, Israel’s form of ethnic nationalism—Zionism—denies equality to the non-Jews who live under Israeli control.

My preferred solution would be for the West Bank and Gaza Strip to become a Palestinian state, thus giving Palestinians in those territories citizenship in an ethnically nationalist (though hopefully democratic) country of their own.

I’d also try to make Israel’s ethnic nationalism more inclusive by, among other things, adding a stanza to Israel’s national anthem that acknowledges the aspirations of its Palestinian citizens.

But, in a post-Holocaust world where anti-Semitism remains frighteningly prevalent, I want Israel to remain a state with a special obligation to protect Jews.

To seek to replace Israel’s ethnic nationalism with civic nationalism, however, is not inherently bigoted. Last year, three Palestinian Members of the Knesset introduced a bill to turn Israel from a Jewish state into a “state for all its citizens.” As one of those Knesset members, Jamal Zahalka, explained, “We do not deny Israel or its right to exist as a home for Jews. We are simply saying that we want to base the existence of the state not on the preference of Jews, but on the basics of equality… The state should exist in the framework of equality, and not in the framework of preference and superiority.”

Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons Why

Israeli Arab lawmakers were ejected from parliament as they stood to protest a speech by Vice President Mike Pence. Image by Getty Images

One might object that it’s hypocritical for Palestinians to try to repeal Jewish statehood inside Israel’s original boundaries while promoting Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and Gaza. One might also ask whether Zahalka’s vision of Jewish and Palestinian equality in a post-Zionist state is naïve given that powerful Palestinian movements like Hamas want not equality but Islamic domination.

These are reasonable criticisms. But are Zahalka and his colleagues — who face structural discrimination in a Jewish state — anti-Semites because they want to replace Zionism with a civic nationalism that promises equality to people of all ethnic and religious groups?

Of course not.

There is, finally, a third argument for why anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism. It’s that, as a practical matter, the two animosities simply go together.

“Of course it’s theoretically possible to distinguish anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism, just as it’s theoretically possible to distinguish segregationism from racism,” writes Stephens. In reality, however, just as virtually all segregationists are also racists, virtually all anti-Zionists are also anti-Semites. You rarely find one without the other.

But that claim is empirically false. In the real world, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism don’t always go together. It’s easy to find anti-Semitism among people who, far from opposing Zionism, enthusiastically embrace it.

Before Israel’s creation, some of the world leaders who most ardently promoted Jewish statehood did so because they did not want Jews in their own countries. Before declaring, as Foreign Secretary in 1917, that Britain “view[s] with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” Arthur Balfour had supported the 1905 Aliens Act, which restricted Jewish immigration to the United Kingdom.

And two years after his famous declaration, Balfour explained that Zionism would “mitigate the age-long miseries created for Western civilization by the presence in its midst of a Body [the Jews] which it too long regarded as alien and even hostile, but which it was equally unable to expel or to absorb.”

In the 1930s, the Polish government adopted a similar tack. It’s ruling party, which excluded Jews, trained Zionist fighters from Betar and the Irgun on Polish military bases. Why? Because it wanted Polish Jews to emigrate. And a Jewish state would give them somewhere to go.

You find echoes of this anti-Semitic Zionism among some right-wing American Christians who are far friendlier to the Jews of Israel than the Jews of the United States.

In 1980, Jerry Falwell, a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, quipped that Jews “can make more money accidentally than you can on purpose.”

Benjamin Netanyahu in 2005 said, “we have no greater friend in the whole world than Pat Robertson” — the same Pat Robertson who later called former US Air Force Judge Mikey Weinstein a “little Jewish radical” for promoting religious freedom in the American military.

After being criticized by the Anti-Defamation League in 2010 for calling George Soros a “puppet master” who “wants to bring America to her knees” and “reap obscene profits off us,” Glenn Beck travelled to Jerusalem to hold a pro-Israel rally.

More recently, Donald Trump — who told the Republican Jewish Coalition in 2015 that “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money” — invited Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, who has said Jews are going to hell for not accepting Jesus, to lead a prayer at the ceremony inaugurating the American embassy in Jerusalem.

In 2017, Richard Spencer, who leads crowds in Nazi salutes, called himself a “white Zionist,” who sees Israel as a model for the white homeland he wants in the United States.

Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons Why

Richard Spencer, a white nationalist, calls himself a Zionist. Image by Getty Images

Some of the European leaders who traffic most blatantly in anti-Semitism—Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Heinz-Christian Strache of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party and Beatrix von Storch of the Alternative for Germany, which promotes nostalgia for the Third Reich—publicly champion Zionism too.

If anti-Semitism exists without anti-Zionism, anti-Zionism also clearly exists without anti-Semitism.

Consider the Satmar, the largest Hasidic sect in the world. In 2017, twenty thousand Satmar men — a larger crowd than attended that year’s AIPAC Policy Conference — filled Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for a rally aimed at showing, in the words of one organizer, that “We feel very strongly that there should not be and could not be a State of Israel before the Messiah comes.”

Last year, Satmar Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum told thousands of followers that, “We’ll continue to fight God’s war against Zionism and all its aspects.”

Say what you want about Rebbe Teitelbaum and the Satmar, but they’re not anti-Semites.

Neither is Avrum Burg. Burg, the former speaker of the Knesset, in 2018 declared that settlement growth in the West Bank had rendered the two state solution impossible. Thus, he argued, Israelis must “depart from the Zionist paradigm, and move into a more inclusive paradigm. Israel must belong to all of its residents, including Arabs, not to the Jews alone.”

Other Jewish Israeli progressives, including former deputy Jerusalem mayor Meron Benvenisti, Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy and the activists of the Federation Movement, have followed a similar path.

Can one question their proposals? Of course. Are they anti-Semites? Of course not.

To be sure, some anti-Zionists really are anti-Semites: David Duke, Louis Farrakhan and the authors of the 1988 Hamas Covenant certainly qualify. So do the thugs from France’s Yellow Vest movement who called Finkielkraut a “dirty Zionist shit.”

In some precincts, there’s a growing and reprehensible tendency to use the fact that many Jews are Zionists (or simply assumed to be Zionists) to bar them from progressive spaces. People who care about the moral health of the American left will be fighting this prejudice for years to come.

Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons Why

Pro-Israeli protesters with an Israeli flag confront Ultra-Orthodox Jewish anti-Zionism protesters who joined a pro-Palestinian demonstration. Image by Getty Images

But while anti-Zionist anti-Semitism is likely on the rise, so is Zionist anti-Semitism. And, in the United States, at least, it’s not clear that anti-Zionists are any more likely to harbor anti-Semitic attitudes than people who support the Jewish state.

In 2016, the ADL gauged anti-Semitism by asking Americans whether they agreed with statements like “Jews have too much power” and “Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind.” It found that anti-Semitism was highest among the elderly and poorly educated: “The most well educated Americans are remarkably free of prejudicial views, while less educated Americans are more likely to hold anti-Semitic views. Age is also a strong predictor of anti-Semitic propensities. Younger Americans — under 39 — are also remarkably free of prejudicial views.”

In 2018, however, when the Pew Research Center surveyed Americans’ attitudes about Israel, it discovered the reverse pattern: Americans over the age of 65 — the very cohort that expressed the most anti-Semitism — also expressed the most sympathy for Israel. By contrast, Americans under 30, who according to the ADL harbored the least anti-Semitism, were least sympathetic to Israel.

It was the same with education. Americans who possessed a high school degree or less — the most anti-Semitic educational cohort — was the most pro-Israel. Americans with “postgraduate degrees” — the least anti-Semitic — were the least pro-Israel.

As statistical evidence goes, this is hardly airtight. But it confirms what anyone who listens to progressive and conservative political commentary can grasp: That younger progressives are highly universalistic. They’re suspicious of any form of nationalism that seems exclusive. That universalism makes them suspicious of both Zionism and the white Christian nationalism that in the United States sometimes shades into anti-Semitism.

By contrast, some older Trump supporters, who fear a homogenizing globalism, admire Israel for preserving Jewish identity while yearning to preserve America’s Christian identity in ways that exclude Jews.

If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are both conceptually different and, in practice, often espoused by different people, why are politicians like Macron responding to rising anti-Semitism by calling anti-Zionism a form of bigotry?

Because, in many countries, that’s what communal Jewish leaders want them to do.

It’s an understandable impulse: Let the people threatened by anti-Semitism define anti-Semitism.

The problem is that, in many countries, Jewish leaders serve both as defenders of local Jewish interests and defenders of the Israeli government. And the Israeli government wants to define anti-Zionism as bigotry because doing so helps Israel kill the two state solution with impunity.

For years, Barack Obama and John Kerry warned that if Israel continued the settlement growth in the West Bank that made a Palestinian state impossible, Palestinians would stop demanding a Palestinian state alongside Israel and instead demand one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, neither Jewish nor Palestinian, that replaces Israel.

Defining anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism reduces that threat. It means that if Palestinians and their supporters respond to the demise of the two state solution by demanding one equal state, some of the world’s most powerful governments will declare them bigots.

Which leaves Israel free to entrench its own version of one state, which denies millions of Palestinians basic rights.

Silencing Palestinians isn’t a particularly effective way to fight rising anti-Semitism, much of which comes from people who like neither Palestinians nor Jews.

But, just as importantly, it undermines the moral basis of that fight.

Anti-Semitism isn’t wrong because it’s wrong to denigrate and dehumanize Jews. Anti-Semitism is wrong because it’s wrong to denigrate and dehumanize anyone. Which means, ultimately, that any effort to fight anti-Semitism that contributes to the denigration and dehumanization of Palestinians is no fight against anti-Semitism at all.

Peter Beinart is a Senior Columnist at The Forward and Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York. He is also a Contributor to The Atlantic and a CNN Political Commentator.

The March for Israel Was a Hate Rally

In the incessant calls to keep bombing Gaza, it was a celebration not just of war but of war crimes.


Pro-israel rally in washington, D.C. november 2023
President of Israel Isaac Herzog speaks on video during the March For Israel at the National Mall on November 14, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Noam Galai/Getty)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—“Final estimated headcount at the pro-Israel rally in DC: 290,000 people. Makes this the largest Jewish gathering in history since Mount Sinai.” So chortled Trump’s former ambassador to Israel David Friedman about the March for Israel gathering held Tuesday on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Although Friedman’s numbers appear to be inflated, I saw a massive turnout. It was a political event like nothing I’ve seen in two decades of covering rallies in this town. In the incessant calls to keep bombing Gaza, it was a celebration not just of war but of war crimes. Friedman’s joy over such a showing is not surprising. What turned the stomach was watching the leadership of the Democratic Party—Chuck Schumer, Hakeem Jeffries—join in the revelry just hours before Israel Defense Forces captured Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital, and it came amid another round of killing civilians and targeting journalists trying to show these horrors to the world.

When it comes to supporting the Israeli government, it’s not a shock to see Democratic Party leaders in lockstep with Trumpists like Friedman and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, whose hand they held on stage in honor of Israel. It’s not just that the Democratic leaders said nothing about the evangelical Christian speakers with histories so anti-Semitic that they would give Donald Trump pause. (Make no mistake: People in the anti-Jewish Christian Zionist community made up a significant portion of the crowd.) Or that they failed to remark on the racist handmade signs attendees created for the occasion. It’s that their presence was a slap in the face to the 80 percent of Democratic voters who want a cease-fire. It’s that they are openly hostile to the generation of youth whose support they need to stay in office—a generation that inconveniently believes that Palestinian lives matter. It’s that they are contemptuous of Jews like me who say to Israel that their genocidal attacks must not be pursued in our name. It’s that they are in the process of handing the next election to a fascist anti-Semite who, in the words of The Washington Post, is echoing Hitler by calling their opponents “vermin.”


Schumer and Jeffries would rather stand with a pro-war mob that shouted down an over-his-head Van Jones calling for peace. Speaker after speaker slammed the idea of a cease-fire and slandered the cease-fire protests as “pro Hamas.” C-list celebrities like Debra Messing and Michael Rapaport backed a message whose only logic is bigotry and bombings. But the coup de grâce was when they cheered a video speech by Israeli President Isaac Herzog who has said that civilians in Gaza are legitimate targets, that “it is an entire nation out there that is responsible.” This was not just a rally supporting a war. This was a rally supporting a war crime.

The defenders of yesterday’s shanda will say that it was a mass gathering “against anti-Semitism.” But what kind of rally against “anti-Semitism” features John Hagee, the Christian Zionist evangelical leader who has said Hitler was brought by God on a divine mission to “create” the state of Israel? You bring Hagee out of his crypt only to send a message that this is not about making sure that Jews are safe. It’s about showing solidarity with Israel, no matter the allies.

What kind of rally against anti-Semitism includes racist signs calling for more war, more bombings, and the end of not just Hamas but Palestine itself? Or as one sign held by a masked protester read, “From the river to the sea, Israel is all you will see.”

This is not to say that every single person in attendance was there to celebrate war. The reports of increasing anti-Semitism have many people understandably concerned. But the messaging was far less about anti-Semitism than about “finishing the job” in Gaza.

The march was also not a call to “free the hostages.” Instead, it elevated bigots, trolls, and an Israeli president who has made an open call for genocide. At one point, on Herzog’s urging, the crowd stopped chanting against a cease-fire and instead shouted “never again.” This was a vandalizing of those sacred words. “Never again”—as I was raised—is supposed to mean that never again would Jews remain quiet when anyone on this planet faced genocide. But for Herzog, it means that for the horrid crime of October 7, Israel must declare a total war against the people of Gaza. For Herzog, there are no innocents in Gaza. To chant “never again” in the comfort of sunny D.C. while a trapped ghetto is bombed half a world away in our name shames this rally. Friedman may be thrilled, but Democrats sacrificing their party’s presidential hopes on the altar of a war crime deserve nothing but contempt. If young people don’t turn out to vote, remember this rally, and remember how Schumer and Jeffries locked arms with Johnson, looked at 80 percent of their voters, and spit in their faces.

Dave Zirin

Dave Zirin is the sports editor at The Nation. He is the author of 11 books on the politics of sports. He is also the coproducer and writer of the new documentary Behind the Shield: The Power and Politics of the NFL.

Netanyahu abuses Bible to impress US evangelicals

A religious justification for Israel´s ethnic cleansing of Gaza’s Palestinian men, women, and children.

Two men shake hands
Shaking hands on genocide? Antony Blinken meets Benjamin Netanyahu on 3 November. Ben GershomPolaris

In his press briefing on 27 October, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu cited a biblical reference to “Amalek” in the context of the “destruction of Hamas” and to “eradicate this evil from the world.”

This pseudo-religious spin may have confused all but his ultra-right religious followers, both Jewish and Christian Zionists. Netanyahu continued: “We remember, and we are fighting…..our soldiers are part of a legacy of Jewish warriors that goes back 3,000 years.”

What appeared bizarre to many was a highly intentional religious justification for Israel´s ethnic cleansing of Gaza’s Palestinian men, women, and children.

The “annihilate Amalek” theme invokes support from the divine in this modern crusade to exterminate the Amalekites, interpreted today as every Palestinian. Netanyahu´s base of political support among militant settlers finds inspiration from these violent biblical texts.

Another base of Netanyahu´s support is the international Christian Zionist movement, rising in the Global South, southeast Asia, and North America. Netanyahu can count on these ¨friends¨ to provide political, economic and media support despite a dramatic decline in his popularity at home and abroad.

Shortly after the 7 October attacks, a letter of support for Israel’s war on Gaza was issued by 60 conservative evangelical leaders in the United States, including two former presidents of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission – Russell Moore, now editor of Christianity Today, and Richard Land.

Several pastors from the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest evangelical Christian denomination in the United States, signed the letter. Many of the supporters, but not all, embrace the “annihilate Amalek” war mentality, while others draw on just war theory.


The letter was delivered to the White House and every Congressional office on Capitol Hill, lending support for the Israeli aggression on Gaza.

Eternal enmity

What is the source of the eternal enmity between the Amalekites and the Jewish people?

The first biblical reference to enmity between the Hebrew tribes and the Amalekites, which may be more mythical than historical, is found in the book of Exodus (17:8-16). The passage refers to a clash between the Amalekite tribe and the Hebrew tribes who were leaving the Sinai peninsula and entering Canaan.

Moses told his chief of staff Joshua to lead the battle while Moses stood on a hill lifting up his arms as he did when the waters parted and his people crossed the Red Sea on dry land.

When Moses became tired and lowered his arms, the Amalekites prevailed, clearly a reenactment of the Exodus narrative. When he lifted his arms, the Hebrew tribes prevailed.

The passage ends with this: “the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

A second incident is recorded in 1 Samuel 15:1-35, where the prophet Samuel told Israel´s new king Saul to attack the Amalekites as a test of his loyalty. In this gruesome narrative, Samuel´s instructions are: “Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

However, King Saul did not complete the massacre of every Amalekite. Instead, he spared their king and took some sheep and cattle for himself.

The passage concludes with the Prophet Samuel rejecting Saul because he spared the king and some livestock.

From that moment the divine blessing fell from King Saul. The passage ends with the Prophet Samuel hacking the Amalekite king to death.

It is highly unlikely these primitive, mythic stories are grounded in history. They should be dismissed for their perpetuation of the cycles of violence and what the biblical scholar Walter Wink calls “the myth of redemptive violence.”

While the Zionist movement and its Christian Zionist supporters have utilized the narratives of redemptive violence since Zionism emerged at the end of the 19th century, they are not alone in their embrace of the “annihilate Amalek” tradition.

The first governor of the Puritans in the so-called “new world” used the Amalek theme and applied it to the native Americans who endured a genocidal war of settler colonialism for the next 300 years.

The Tutsis invoked the Amalek mythology in their genocide of the Hutus in Rwanda. And today we find fundamentalist Christians, Jewish Zionists and moderate Democrats embracing various narratives of the myth of redemptive violence when applied to the Palestinian people.

What´s the end game?

Benjamin Netanyahu may be the longest serving prime minister in Israel’s history but his future is fragile and his reign could end as soon as hostilities end.

Prior to 7 October, Netanyahu was already facing massive demonstrations against his leadership in the wake of his move to weaken the Israeli high court. Israel´s image as the only democracy in the Middle East vanished as more moderate Israelis and the Jewish diaspora in the West expressed their opposition.

And while large demonstrations against his takeover of the Israeli judiciary were dissipating, Netanyahu’s popularity continued to decline after the 7 October attacks.

Israel’s security lapses were exposed and Netanyahu’s concern for the captives seemed weak to nonexistent. Political analysts have continued to wonder if Netanyahu had an end game in the Gaza hostilities.

Reports surfaced in late October pointing to a possible end game that was just beginning to see the light after a few weeks of the assault on Gaza. There is nothing new in these reports as the ideas have been discussed for several decades, but the timing is a matter of serious concern.

Israel’s Ministry of Intelligence, an official government institution though not in direct charge of any intelligence agency, produced a report suggesting an end game that could be under discussion with the Netanyahu government and US officials. According to the document, leaked to the online Israeli + 972 Magazine, the current hostilities provide the perfect political cover for the expulsion of Gaza´s Palestinians into the Sinai desert.

The report has credence in as much as the intelligence ministry is headed by Gila Gamaliel, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party. It also suggests some Palestinians can be settled in Canada, Spain, North Africa and Greece.

A report from the Israeli think tank, the Misgav Institute, headed by Amir Weitzmann, a close associate of Netanyahu, had already emerged. The subtitle of the report made its intentions clear: “There is at the moment a unique and rare opportunity to evacuate the whole Gaza Strip in coordination with the Egyptian government.”

The expulsion plan proposes to send the Palestinians of Gaza to new buildings in Egypt for which the Israeli government will pay the Egyptian government. The report estimates the cost of this to be in the billions of dollars, offering an “innovative, cheap and viable solution.”

This comes as the Biden administration is requesting the US Congress for $106 billion to be largely divided between Ukraine and Israel. It includes $9.15 billion for Israeli, Palestinian, and Ukrainian civilians impacted by recent hostilities.

A portion of this package could be used to resettle Palestinians in the Sinai. Various Arab governments will no doubt be solicited to pay for the balance.

The intelligence ministry report has been verified by independent Israeli sources. It recommends three phases to the Gaza campaign, two of which match the war cabinet’s declared strategies – intense bombing and destruction of northern Gaza; an intensive ground war in the north while driving the remaining Palestinians from the north to southern Gaza.

These phases should be understood as ethnic cleansing operations. They constitute genocide and war crimes.

The final stage, which could be the exit strategy for Netanyahu and the Biden administration, is emptying Gaza of all Palestinians and declaring they will never return. The suggested rationale for the horrific genocide is its necessity.

As the report states, an “ immediate, realistic and sustainable plan for the resettlement and humanitarian rehabilitation of the entire Arab population in the Gaza Strip is required which aligns well with the economic and geopolitical interests of Israel, Egypt, the USA and Saudi Arabia.”

While not discussed in this document, one can assume a plan already exists for the violent expulsion of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank into Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria as evidenced by the settler violence against Palestinians that has been ongoing and intensifying for months.

Grassroots hope

The above strategy may appear to be highly speculative and conspiratorial but we need to be reminded that this scenario happened just 75 years ago in the Nakba, the 1947-9 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. When the lessons of history are not learned, history will repeat itself.

Israel seems to have the unqualified military, political, and economic support of the Biden administration and the US Congress, which stand ready to support whatever Netanyahu proposes.

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail in the United States, the European Union, and Israel, but, with a few minor exceptions, we have seen no evidence of this. A regional war involving Hizballah and other militias from Syria, Iraq and Yemen could delay the expulsion of the Gaza Palestinians or it could elevate the plan, depending on how the war plays out.

There is some hope on the horizon, but it may take too long for it to make a difference. I refer to the rising resistance from the grassroots, spreading across cities from New York to London, Paris, Ramallah, Amman, and even to southeast Asia.

The power of mass protests, civil disobedience, and citizens demanding a ceasefire and end to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine has put the Palestine case at center stage, much to the chagrin of Netanyahu, Biden, and the “moderate” Arab regimes. Palestine is once again front and center in the public eye where it belongs.

Will mass protests impact decision makers in Washington and Israel? We are at the crossroads for a response to that question.

If the mobilization of civil society takes more aggressive strategies demanding Israel (and the US) pay a political and financial price for this genocidal war, we may see changes in US policy regarding Palestinian justice. However, it took the movement against the Vietnam War at least seven years to have an impact and the anti-apartheid movement even longer to end the white supremacist South African regime.

In each case, the United States was the last country to change position.

If there is renewed demand for sanctions on Israel, including countries withdrawing financial aid and isolating Israel, then we may see political change begin in the United States. If the emerging coalition of Jewish, Muslim, Christian, secular, Black and brown justice movements increases its demands and impact, including cutting US military aid to Israel, only then will there be meaningful change on the ground in Palestine.

Massive demonstrations must lead to civil disobedience and various forms of nonviolent direct action, including disruption of the supply chains of weapons, tanks, fighter jets and other delivery systems.

Another important political strategy in the United States is to organize Arab and Muslim voters, alongside progressive Jewish and Christian voters, to withhold their vote for Joe Biden and moderate Democrats in 2024, until they (we) see significant policy changes in relation to US military and economic support for Israel.

This too will be a long journey and an increasingly urgent one if the Israeli and US endgame is the genocidal forced expulsion of the Palestinians. If the “annihilate Amalek” vengeance continues to be the guiding vision for the present leadership in Israel and the United States, the world will witness another genocide as it unfolds day by day in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestine case can be a turning point for justice in the Middle East or a lost opportunity for everyone.

A wise sage once said: “Where there is no vision, the people will perish” (Proverbs 29:18).

How long will we put up with leaders who offer no vision while the people of Gaza perish before our very eyes?

Rev. Dr. Don Wagner is a retired member of the Presbyterian clergy, professor and a human rights activist. He is the author of the memoir Glory to God in the Lowest: Journeys to an Unholy Land (Interlink, 2022).


Why we are anti-Zionist Jews


This year on April 26, millions celebrated the 75th anniversary of Israel’s creation on Israel Independence Day. However, we, as anti-Zionist Jews, did not celebrate.

Instead, on May 15, we stood in solidarity with the Palestinian people by commemorating the Nakba, or “catastrophe.” The Nakba was the mass expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians prior to and following the official establishment of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948. It was the direct result of a deliberate campaign by Israel to expel the region’s indigenous people.

During that period, an estimated 13,000 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces or terrorist gangs. More than 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed. In just a few months, according to Israeli historian Benny Morris, 34 massacres of Palestinians occurred. As a result, 731,000 Palestinians fled and were never allowed to return to their homes.

While the Holocaust created an urgent need for a safe haven for Jewish refugees during and after World War II, the establishment of Israel was the culmination of the Zionist movement that began a half-century before. This movement sought an exclusive homeland for the Jewish people, a group that had faced persecution and displacement for much of their history.

Ironically, Palestine had long been a place that accepted Jewish immigrants. In fact, by 1931 Jews were approximately 17% of Palestine’s population. Zionists, however, wanted more. In 1958, Israel Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion told the country’s lawmakers that in just a decade of existence Israel had “redeemed thousands of Jews from poverty and degeneration in exile, and transformed them into proud, creative Jews.”

Sadly, the Zionists’ dream became the Palestinians’ nightmare. Indeed, the Nakba that began 75 years ago has never ended.

The reality is that Zionism is not and never has been a redemption for the Jewish people. Rather, it has been a colonial project of displacement, theft of land and subjugation of one set of people by another. The truth is that Israel is a democracy only for Jews. In January 2021, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem issued its report called “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.” It described Israel as a state that has a different set of rights for Palestinians that is “always inferior to the rights of Jews.”

This year, an extreme right-wing government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has escalated attacks on Palestinians and greenlighted additional illegal Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land. This government has removed even the veneer of democratic discourse in Israel, with some government officials openly espousing racist policies and inciting violence. As of mid-May, Israeli forces had killed at least 123 Palestinians, including at least 27 children.

Even worse, Israel continues to commit its crimes against the Palestinian people with impunity. Instead of being sanctioned for its human rights abuses, Israel receives over $4 billion a year in U.S. tax dollars to help ensure it has one of the world’s most powerful militaries. The U.S. also provides Israel with political cover when its human rights violations come up in the U.N.

One reason for this impunity has to do with the branding of criticism of Israel as “antisemitic.” This lie is designed to silence and shame critics. But criticism of Israel is not antisemitic; it is demanded by Jewish ethical teachings.

As Jews, we applaud new efforts in Congress to condition U.S. aid to Israel on ending its oppression of Palestinians. U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum recently re-introduced the Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. This legislation would prohibit Israel’s government from using U.S taxpayer dollars for the detention or abuse of Palestinian children, or from seizing or destroying Palestinian property.

Americans can act now to be on the side of the oppressed by contacting Congress in support of this bill.

Judith Laitman and Tsela Barr are members of the Madison chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Tsela Barr is a founding member of Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

I saw Israel’s ‘final solution to the Palestinian problem’ in Lebanon 41 years ago, and I see it again today

I witnessed the aftermath of the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, carried out with Zionist complicity as a preview for the “final solution to the Palestinian problem.” With the present Israeli government, this goal is within reach.



Forty-one years ago, I was in Lebanon leading a group of ten U.S. relief and development directors hoping to introduce them to the extensive needs of impoverished Lebanese and Palestinian refugees.  On June 4, 1982, around 3:00 p.m., we were on our way to the crowded Fakhani district of Beirut when a fleet of Israeli warplanes (U.S.-made F-16s) roared in from the Mediterranean Sea, dropping bombs on the area we were about to visit. We took cover in a hotel basement. After the bombing subsided, I phoned our hosts, who proposed we meet them another day as they were busy searching for survivors from the bombing.

We visited a Red Crescent hospital near the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps the next morning. We were taken to a hospital wing that had been struck by the Israeli bombing the previous day.  Suddenly air-raid sirens went off and we were rushed to the basement with the patients and hospital staff. Again, Israeli F-16s were bombing various targets in the area.  About twenty minutes later a series of ambulances arrived at the hospital’s emergency entrance and unloaded stretchers carrying teenage girls — some having lost limbs and others enduring severe burns.  Hospital workers had just unloaded 19 body bags with girls who had died.  As the families of the teenagers began to arrive, learning that their loved ones had been lost,  the cries and wailing of the mothers and sisters pierced our hearts. Everyone in our group wept with them.  Later, we learned that the UN staff had provided the Israeli military with the route of the Palestinian girls’ field trip, but the military commanders chose to ignore the information, and the three clearly marked UN school buses were targeted on the coastal road.

Sickened by this savagery, I felt we had to tell this story to a U.S. media outlet. We found the addresses and phone numbers of the CBS, ABC, and CNN Bureaus but only NBC answered.  Mike Mallory, the NBC Bureau Chief, agreed to interview us.  He warned us that all of their recent dispatches were cut by Israeli censors in the New York studios.   He conducted a twenty-minute interview with our group, based on what we had witnessed.  We learned later our interview was also rejected.

Our Lebanese and Palestinian hosts urged us to return quickly to the U.S. to tell what we had witnessed. We left Beirut on Tuesday, June 8th, and when I landed in Paris, I called my staff, asking them to arrange media interviews the next day.  One memorable interview was scheduled for Wednesday, June 9, with WMAQ, NBC-TV in Chicago. Tim Weigel, normally a sportscaster, was assigned to the interview and called to confirm the time of the interview.   I  was shocked when he said I would be interviewed in Grant Park while an Israeli General would be opposite me in the studio. When I questioned the arrangement which privileged the Israeli General, I was told that one of the NBC staff had confirmed this arrangement with the Israeli Consulate. It could not be changed. 

Israeli General Shromi had been touring the US to offer Israel’s perspective on the Invasion of Lebanon or what the Israelis called “Peace for the Galilee.” He began the interview by stating that Israel was conducting a defensive war with “surgically precise bombings to root out PLO terrorist nests.’”  I challenged his narrative, claiming Israel started the unprovoked war on June 4. I noted that, according to the Red Cross, most of the casualties were civilians. I gave several examples of the casualties,  including the hospital wing hit by Israel on June 4 and the tragic case of the school girls with 19 dead and several wounded on the morning of June 5. The General was clearly upset by my remarks and then he said something that astounded me. “This is our final solution to the Palestinian problem.”

Having pursued extensive studies of the Nazi Holocaust,  I communicated my shock, remarking,  “I can’t believe what you just said, General.  Isn’t this “final solution” language what the Nazis used concerning your people, the Jews? You, sir,  have just endorsed genocide, wiping out an entire people, innocent men, women, and children.   If this is Israel’s plan it is a war crime.” 

The General tried to soften his statement, but I suggested that a proper response would be for him to apologize to the viewing audience and to the Palestinian and Lebanese people. When I returned to the office, Tim Weigel called and said the NBC switchboard lit up with more angry calls and threats than they had ever experienced.  The news director said this was my last appearance on NBC-TV, which seemed a small price to pay for telling the truth.

In mid-September, I returned to Beirut with the Director and the Board President of Mercy Corps International.  Over the summer we drafted three proposals for humanitarian relief and needed to confirm the projects with partner organizations, including the Middle East Council of Churches.  Arriving in Cyprus on Saturday evening on September 18, we caught a taxi to the port of Larnaca for the overnight ferry to Lebanon.  Within ten minutes, our driver turned his radio to the BBC news and we heard the first international broadcast of the massacre underway in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Our driver delivered the obvious news to us — we weren’t going anywhere that evening.  He recommended a hotel and we spent the evening monitoring the tense situation in Beirut.  

By the next evening, the ferries were running again, and we were able to arrive in Beirut on Monday morning, September 20.  After arriving at the office of the Middle East Council of Churches, our host, Gaby Habib, Director of the Council,  urged us to drop our luggage and go directly to the refugee camps. We entered Shatila Camp, walking past a seven-story apartment building filled with Israeli military personnel who were monitoring the movements in the camps.  The sun was bright, and temperatures were in the mid-90s with high humidity.  It was a surreal experience as families were returning to their destroyed homes, and workers were pulling bodies and body parts from the rubble. A Red Crescent worker handed us handkerchiefs saturated in cheap cologne and told us to hold them over our noses as the stench of death would make us sick.

We decided to split up and meet again in an hour.  I walked toward a small group watching Red Crescent and Red Cross workers pull dead bodies from the rubble.  Within a few minutes, I saw them remove what looked like the leg of a child and place it in a body bag.  I assumed it was a mother who cried out to Allah when she learned it was her son. The elderly gentleman beside me translated her cries of grief and invited me to walk over to his destroyed building, which was his home and shop. Jamal began to share his story, noting he was out purchasing supplies for his shop on Thursday of the past week.  When he returned, all the entrances to Sabra and Shatila camps had been sealed off by the Israeli army. He was able to stay with a relative two blocks away. Phone services in the camps were cut and all he could do was watch what transpired from his cousin’s balcony.

On Friday, Lebanese militias began to pour into the camps and Jamal and his relatives could hear the gunshots echoing in the camps.  They could only assume the worst.  On Friday evening, the Israeli army put up flares enabling the militias to continue their savage operations into the evening.  Tears streamed down his cheeks when Jamal said he had lost his wife and two daughters in the massacre as well as his home and small shop.   Fortunately, his son had been visiting a cousin in another part of the city, and now the two of them would need to start over again, having lost everything.  I thanked him and pressed $50 in his hand, wishing I could have given more.

Overcome by my emotional overload,  I found a pile of dirt on which to sit and regain my composure. The woman beside me was sobbing and I asked her if she was okay.  She was a journalist from Paris who had been covering the invasion all summer. The massacre had been too much for her to bear. She pointed to the mass grave we were sitting beside as workers carried body bags, dropping them at the bottom — the final resting place for the victims.

Then the journalist asked me the dreaded question. “Where are you from?”

I hesitated but finally admitted, “I’m from the U.S. and my government is among those responsible for this tragedy since we guaranteed the security of these people.”

She quickly added, “Yes, and France also signed the security agreement.”

Just then a Muslim Sheikh walked by and I excused myself, running to catch up with him. I asked if I could have a few words, and he agreed. He responded with perfect English, saying he was the sheikh at the mosque near Shatila Camp and had seen many of the massacre victims at Friday prayers. I asked for his estimate of how many died in this massacre. Shaking his head, he said, “We will never know. On Friday evening, I saw militias line up men and boys against a wall and shoot them to death. Their bodies were loaded onto trucks. We will  never know where they were buried but I would estimate between 2-3000 were murdered here.”

Then he asked the dreaded question.  “Where are you from, my friend?”

I was about to say Canada but admitted, “I’m from the United States, and the blood of these poor people is on our hands.”

His response surprised me. “Yes, the blood is on your hands, my friend. But I thank Allah that you are here. All we ask is that you go home and tell of what you have seen. Just tell the truth of what you have seen — that’s all we ask.”

I was touched by his gracious spirit and readily responded. “Yes, I will return to the United States and tell this story.”  I’ve spent the better part of my last forty years telling the story of the Palestinian people but it will never be enough.

The Zionist ‘final solution’ today

There is one dimension of what I experienced in Beirut in 1982 that I failed to tell truthfully until I sat down last year to write my memoirGlory to God in the Lowest: Journeys to an Unholy Land. I failed to realize and articulate what now seems to be the obvious lesson from General Shromi and the brutal Sabra and Shatila massacre. That lesson is the central narrative of the Zionist movement from its inception and has been one of the replacement of the Palestinians with Jewish settlers. For this goal to be realized it would necessitate genocide. Today this goal is within reach with the present Israeli government.

Today we see members of Netanyahu’s Cabinet calling for “wiping out” entire Palestinian communities (Huwwara) and militant setters chanting, “We will replace you.” Meanwhile, western governments, led by the United States, refuse to hold Israel accountable for the murder of U.S. citizens (the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh) let alone the daily murder of Palestinians by the army and militant settlers. Gaza is bombed routinely with no accountability for those perpetrating the crimes. The Nakba of 1948 continues daily in multiple forms, and the conditions are ripe for another massive Nakba, echoing General Shromi’s chilling words:  “This is our final solution to the Palestinian problem.”

Today much has changed in relation to the Palestine question, while some challenges remain the same. More of us are ready to criticize Zionism and utilize the analysis of settler colonialism. More of us are convinced that Israel  represents  a vicious apartheid system “from the river to the sea.” Some of us recognize the genocidal dimensions of the Zionist project now in power in Israel and no longer feel obliged to normalize or soften our critique. We still have barely a hearing in the U.S. Congress, the majority of the Democratic Party, the President, or the mainstream media, but there are modest signs that change is underway.

A younger generation of Jews, Christians, and Muslims is rising up in Palestine and globally, applying the above analysis and organizing a global grassroots movement grounded in justice and only justice.  They do not have the patience and timidity of my generation. They have learned from our failures and will not make the same mistakes in abandoning the liberation for the Palestinian people.  They do not support an exclusivist Jewish state in any part of historic Palestine.  Nor will they be intimidated by false accusations of antisemitism, bullying, and even death threats. Some are religious, and many are secular, but this matters little.  They are committed to uniting across all lines of division and will not allow the divisive tactics of racism to thwart their quest for unity.

I know this generation understands both the urgency and utter crisis the Sheikh in Sabra and Shatila expressed in the wake of the Sabra/Shatila massacre: “Just  tell the truth.”  The mask is off.  The impotence of the United Nations regarding Palestine has been exposed clearly by legal scholars and historians. The future will not be easy, nor will Palestine be liberated soon.  The future is not with top-down political and military solutions. The future is with a massive grassroots global movement for justice in Palestine.  A new day has already dawned, and the Zionist leadership knows they are losing credibility worldwide. Everyone is needed to join the global grassroots alternative to the Zionist settler colonial project that will continue the daily genocide of Palestinians.

Today the momentum for injustice seems to be with Israel’s extremists, and it will continue as long as the U.S. finances the extreme Zionist project.  The question for all of us is the following: will the global movement for justice in Palestine have sufficient time to transform Palestine and Israel into a land of justice, respect for the rule of law, full equality, and security for every citizen?

Jewish Voice for Peace: What is Zionism?

Jewish Voice for Peace, April 10, 2023

Person holding a sign that says 'What is Zionism? Zionism breaks every Single Jewish Value! Why are we anti-Zionist? JVP'

We’re proud anti-Zionists at JVP.  But what is Zionism and why are we opposed to it?

Zionism, in the words of its founders, is an explicitly “colonial” ideology.

Zionism is a 19th century political ideology that claimed Jewish safety required a Jewish-only nation-state. The Zionist movement emphasized their ideology as a response to centuries of antisemitic persecution against Jews across Europe.

In 1948, Zionist militias established a Jewish state on Palestinian land, instituted a military occupation over Palestinians, and mandated a system of Jewish legal supremacy — apartheid.

For 75 years, Zionism has been used to justify massacres of Palestinians by the Israeli military, the destruction of villages and olive groves, and a military occupation that separates families with checkpoints and walls.

The Israeli government, and the US Jewish institutions that defend Zionism and the state of Israel, want us to think Zionism was inevitable, and that to be Jewish is to be Zionist.

As anti-Zionists, we know our history of oppression, but we reject Zionism as the answer. We know our safety is — and always has been — in solidarity and a shared future.

Don’t be fooled by claims that Zionism is a movement for Jewish self determination — it never was. Despite hardship, diaspora Jews created thriving communities, cultural practices, and histories.

As long as Zionism has existed, there were Jews standing in opposition to it. From the Jewish Labor Bund, to Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt; from Hajo Meyer to Judith Butler. In 2019, Tzedek Chicago became the first anti-Zionist synagogue in the US.

Not only did these Jews oppose Zionism because of its required dispossession of Palestinian people, they saw Zionism as a false promise. They rejected the idea that Jewish freedom from antisemitism must be confined to finding power in a militarized state. Seeking refuge from oppression through militarism while subjugating others closes all avenues of safety through solidarity.

Anti-Zionism is anti-colonial and anti-imperialist. We must lead with this framing if we wish to dismantle Zionism.

Only by seeing Zionism for what it is can we claim any solidarity with others.

Distorted Definition: Redefining Antisemitism to Silence Advocacy for Palestinian Rights

One of the primary tactics opponents of the movement for Palestinian freedom have used to silence political debate is the branding of all support for Palestinian rights as anti-Jewish. Roughly half of the incidents of suppression Palestine Legal responds to each year include false accusations of antisemitism, totaling 895 incidents from 2014 to 2020.   

In an effort to add legitimacy to this tactic, Israel lobby groups have employed distorted definition of antisemitism that encompasses virtually all criticism of Israel and have attempted to entrench this definition through policy changes and legislation. 

This page tracks the evolution of the cynical ways Israel lobby groups have abused the definition and the definition’s impact on advocates for Palestinian rights.

We invite you to explore the following components:

2004 – 2008

Origins of a Politicized Redefinition

After decades of attempting to smear Palestine advocacy with false antisemitism accusations, Israel lobby groups develop a new Israel-centered definition of antisemitism. It is adopted by an EU body, and the U.S. State Department cites it in a report.

  • The European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) begins working with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and other Jewish and Israel advocacy groups to expand the definition of antisemitism. The AJC encourages inclusion of criticism of Israel in this redefinition.

    At the same time, Israeli politician Natan Sharansky creates the “3Ds Test” which defines “delegitimizing,” “demonizing” or “applying double standards” to Israel as examples of antisemitism.

  • The EUMC publishes a “Working Definition of Antisemitism,” which includes criticism of Israel and the “3Ds Test.” The body posts the definition to its website as a “practical guide for identifying incidents,” but never formally adopts it. After the EUMC, now renamed the Fundamental Rights Agency, quietly drops the definition from the agency website in 2013, a spokesperson explains that the agency never viewed the document as a valid definition.

  • The U.S. State Department uses the EUMC redefinition in a report, but states that some international approaches to defining antisemitism would violate the First Amendment if used in the United States. The report states that the State Department “does not endorse any such measures that prohibit conduct that would be protected under the U.S. Constitution.”

2008 – 2014

Pro-Israel Groups Unsuccessfully Target Students in the U.S.

Lawyers affiliated with pro-Israel groups attempt multiple times to abuse U.S. civil rights law to claim that campus advocacy for Palestine is antisemitic, filing federal complaints against three University of California campuses and Rutgers University.

The complaints use similar language attempting to redefine antisemitism including the “3Ds Test.”

All of the complaints are dismissed.

  • The Department of Education opens an investigation into the
    University of California, Irvine following a complaint by the right-wing Zionist Organization of America that advocacy for Palestinian rights created an antisemitic climate. The complaint alleges among other claims that the university failed to discipline students for “distribut[ing] flyers attributing, allegedly falsely, an anti-Israel statement to Nelson Mandela” and for wearing t-shirts that say “UC Intifada: How You Can Help Palestine.”

  • Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, head of another right-wing Israel advocacy group AMCHA Initiative, files a complaint alleging that the screening of the documentary “Occupation 101” and a teach-in called “Understanding Gaza” created a hostile environment for Jewish students at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The Department of Education opens an investigation into the complaint in 2011.

  • This lawsuit argues that the University of California, Berkeley failed to stop speech and activity for Palestinian rights on campus, such as theatrical mock checkpoints and events critical of Israel’s policies, creating a hostile climate for Jewish students. After the case is dismissed by the court because it targeted First Amendment protected activities, the lawyers file the claims in a complaint to the Department of Education.

  • The Zionist Organization of America files a complaint against Rutgers University alleging that advocacy for Palestinian rights created an antisemitic climate. The complaint focuses primarily on an event sponsored by student groups that featured stories of Holocaust and Nakba survivors.

  • The Department of Education dismisses three complaints against Palestine advocacy at the University of California’s Berkeley, Irvine, and Santa Cruz campuses, emphasizing that this political activity is protected by the First Amendment.

  • The Department of Education dismisses a complaint by the Zionist Organization of America against Rutgers University, finding that the political activity complained of is protected by the First Amendment and that there is no evidence to support the allegations made in the complaint.

  • Despite continued efforts by the Zionist Organization of America and the AMCHA Initiative to push their theory that criticism of Israel is antisemitic, the Department of Education definitively denies two appeals challenging the dismissals of civil rights complaints filed against University of California campuses at Berkeley and Santa Cruz.

2015 – 2018

Efforts to Adopt Distorted Definition Fail in U.S., Gain Steam in Europe

After the Department of Education dismisses complaints against universities, pro-Israel groups seek official endorsement of the redefinition of antisemitism.

These efforts gain little traction with Congress, state governments, and universities.

Student governments, including at Indiana University, San Diego State, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison adopt the redefinition following lobbying by Israel groups.

2018 – 2021

Trump Administration Weaponizes Definition

Trump appoints a key player in efforts to use the redefinition to silence Palestine advocacy as head of civil rights at the Department of Education.

States begin to adopt the redefinition, but efforts in Congress remain stalled.

Trump eventually imposes the definition on federal agencies in a controversial executive order, leading to a rapid uptick in federal complaints and investigations against campus Palestine advocacy.

Following the exit of the Trump administration, advocates for Palestinian freedom and pro-Israel groups face uncertainty as to whether the Biden administration will extend Trump’s adoption of IHRA as a censorship tool.

Various state and local governments adopt the distorted definition, including Texas, Nassau and Suffolk counties in Long Island, and Sharon, Massachusetts.

An Israeli government official tries to pressure a public university to cancel a course on Israel/Palestine using the definition.

A right-wing group seeks to punish Ben & Jerry’s after they announce they will no longer sell their ice cream in settlements, claiming that respecting international law is discriminatory under IHRA.

Student governments, including at CUNY City College, Florida State
University, and Stanford adopt the redefinition following lobbying by Israel groups.

  • Despite opposition from civil rights groups and after months of delay, the Senate approves redefinition lobbyist Kenneth Marcus as head of the Department of Education’s
    Office for Civil Rights

    Within weeks, Marcus reopens a seven-year-old complaint against Palestine advocacy at Rutgers University. In a letter announcing the reopening, Marcus states that the
    redefinition is in use
    by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

  • A provision tacked onto the state’s
    budget bill requires South Carolina public colleges and universities to consider the redefinition when investigating allegations of discrimination. Lawmakers in Tennessee also propose a bill to adopt the redefinition.

  • Florida adopts the redefinition for use in the state’s public schools. Under the new law, applying a “double standard” by, for example, “focusing peace or human rights investigations only on Israel” constitutes antisemitism. Lawmakers in
    Tennessee and New
    also propose bills to adopt the redefinition, but these bills fail to pass.

  • Trump signs an executive order that directs government agencies, including the Department of Education, to consider the distorted definition of antisemitism when investigating civil rights complaints. The order attracts widespread criticism.

  • In the weeks after Trump’s executive order, three federal complaints are filed against Palestine advocacy on campus, all citing the order.

    The Lawfare Project files a federal complaint against Columbia University for allowing Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to hold events, art installations and engage in other speech activity advocating for Palestinian freedom. A second complaint is also filed against Columbia within a week.

    A third complaint is filed against Georgia Tech by the right-wing, Christian evangelical American Center for Law and Justice after a student group successfully appealed a punishment they faced for refusing to allow a Hillel employee to disrupt their event on Palestine.

    In January 2021, the Hillel employee agrees to drop the case in exchange for Georgia Tech recognizing that under Trump’s executive order, the Department of Education considers the IHRA definition of antisemitism when evaluating intent in cases of discriminatory harassment.

  • Bills incorporating the distorted definition are introduced in Arizona, Illinois, and several other states. All of these bills fail to become law. The bills call for adopting the distorted definition, including the examples encompassing criticism of Israel, for use in hate crimes reporting and sentencing (Arizona), by state entities investigating acts of discrimination (Iowa), or by public schools and universities (Illinois, Tennessee, South Carolina). Some of these bills describe investigating Israel’s human rights abuses as an example of antisemitism.

  • Republican members of Congress cite Trump’s executive order when urging the Department of Education to investigate and potentially cut funding to Middle Eastern studies departments at the University of Arizona, University of California, Berkeley, and Yale because students and faculty at these universities support boycotts for Palestinian rights. Another Republican congressman had made a similar demand for investigation of Middle Eastern studies at Georgetown University in late 2019.

  • The student government at Florida State University adopts the IHRA definition following a state-wide
    political witch-hunt
    against FSU Student Senate President Ahmad Daraldik over social media posts Ahmad, a Palestinian-American, made as a child criticizing Israel’s military occupation of Palestine. The IHRA resolution comes after a failed attempt to remove Ahmad from office through a vote of no confidence.

    Following the IHRA resolution, pro-Israel students seek to remove Ahmad from office yet again, claiming his past posts constitute antisemitism under IHRA.

    Another student government leader is accused
    of antisemitism
    after arguing against the adoption of IHRA and explaining that Palestinians talking about their oppression is not antisemitism.

    FSU president John Thrasher later announces that the university would “recognize” the IHRA definition, including its contemporary examples.

  • Over 120 pro-Israel groups lobby Facebook to label criticism of Israel as hate speech under the IHRA definition. The Zachor Legal Institute, a pro-Israel group that engages in legal bullying, also lobbies Twitter and YouTube to use the IHRA definition and remove content critical of Israel.

  • The Department of Education closes an investigation at New York University (NYU) that was launched after the NYU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) received a school award for their on-campus organizing and coalition building. As part of a resolution agreement, NYU commits to prohibiting antisemitism in its policies and anti-discrimination trainings. The agreement refers to the IHRA definition in Trump’s 2019 executive order but excludes the IHRA contemporary examples, including those regarding Israel.

  • The Zionist Organization of America and StopAntisemitism.org file a federal civil rights complaint against CUNY after the latter organization targeted a Palestinian law student and activist with a cyberbullying campaign based on misinformation and false accusations.

    The student was subject to attacks by Zionist groups after she posted an old video of herself waving a lighter as a joke while criticizing a friend for wearing a T-shirt promoting the Israeli military.

    Act.il, an app with deep ties to Israeli intelligence and military, falsely claimed that the video depicted a violent threat against a fellow student on the basis of apparent nationality and provided a script for hundreds of people to call for CUNY to discipline the student.

    The student’s friend was neither Jewish, Israeli, nor a CUNY student and was filmed years before the student enrolled in law school. There was no violent threat involved.

    StopAntisemitism.org later named the student its ‘antisemite of the year’ based on these false and distorted accusations.

  • A spate of IHRA resolutions pass in local governments, including at least five across Florida and at least three in Long Island outside of New York City between 2020 and 2021. The New York measures and some of the Florida measures are driven by the American Jewish Committee, which helped craft the Israel-centric definition in 2004.

  • The State Department reportedly plans to designate three prominent advocacy groups as antisemitic due to their criticism of Israel’s violations of international law, claiming that the human rights activities of Amnesty
    , Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam International meet the IHRA definition of antisemitism. The plan does not materialize before the Trump administration leaves office.

  • Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo releases graphics on social media stating that “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism” and announces plans to identify and target organizations that support BDS. The department does not announce a list prior to the end of the administration.

  • Following Donald Trump’s electoral defeat, pro-Israel groups lobby the Biden administration to continue Trump’s policy of using the IHRA definition. Progressive and liberal Jewish organizations come out against Biden maintaining the policy.

  • Having failed to pass a similar bill in 2020, Illinois lawmakers
    reintroduce a bill to amend the state’s Human Rights Act to adopt the IHRA definition for use in investigating acts of discrimination in public schools and universities. This bill describes investigating Israel’s human rights abuse as an example of antisemitism.

  • Student governments, including at Brooklyn College, Syracuse University, the University of Georgia, and the University of Texas, Austin adopt the IHRA definition.

  • In June, Texas joins Florida and South Carolina in adopting the distorted definition. Texas is the first state to explicitly say it is adopting IHRA, compared to FL and SC which used text similar to IHRA.

    Meanwhile in Arizona, lawmakers actually removed the IHRA definition from a bill on Holocaust education in the state’s public schools, recognizing that it’s possible to educate people on antisemitism without it.

  • Liberal and progressive democrats urge the Biden administration not to use the IHRA definition, including a coalition letter led by Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) to Secretary of State Blinken encouraging use of alternative definitions.

    Responding to the Schakowsky letter in June, a Biden admin rep calls IHRA a “gold standard” and indicates the State Department will continue to use IHRA.

  • Member of Congress Lee Zeldin (R-NY) urges the New York City Department of Education to enforce Trump’s IHRA executive order for the purpose of suppressing growing support for Palestinian rights and freedom following Israel’s May 2021 attacks on the Gaza Strip.

  • An Israeli consul pressures the University of North Carolina to remove a graduate student lecturer from teaching a history course on Israel/Palestine after claiming the instructor’s criticism of Israel was antisemitic under the IHRA definition.

  • Critically acclaimed Irish author Sally Rooney faces false accusations using the distorted definition of antisemitism after she declines to sell translation rights to a publishing house with ties to the Israeli government and announces that she is open to partnering with a Hebrew translator that is compliant with the institutional boycott principles established by Palestinian civil society.

  • Rightwing pro-Israel group StandWithUs accuses Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever of “corporate antisemitism” under the IHRA definition after the ice cream company announced it will no longer sell its products in Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements starting in 2023.

  • Pro-Israel groups launch a campaign to push state governors to adopt and promote the distorted IHRA definition as part of Hanukkah celebrations.

    Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine writes a letter to the state’s 111 college and university presidents urging them to create a culture…that does not tolerate “anti-Israel sentiments.”

2019 – 2021

The Movement Pushes Back Against the Definition

Advocates from North America, Europe and Palestine/Israel begin more coordinated work to pushback against the redefinition as a censorship tool targeting Palestinian freedom.

The definition faces pushback on campuses and defeat by student governments across the country due to the definition’s use as a tool of political suppression.

At Butler University, the IHRA definition is defeated after the only two Palestinians in student government were initially excluded from participating in discussions about the measure.

Fifty thousand people join a global campaign demanding that Facebook stop labeling Palestine advocacy as hate speech.

An explosive Oxford University report reveals that the leadership of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance knowingly misled and neglected to correct the public perception about the scope of the IHRA definition’s adoption in the EU.

  • Independent Jewish Voices in Canada launches a transnational NoIHRA Campaign in 2019 and publishes a report on IHRA’s impact on colleges and universities in 2020.

  • Hundreds of academics in Canada sign an open letter opposing the redefinition.

    Over 150 Jewish Candian scholars issue an additional statement opposed to IHRA.

  • Students at Santa Monica College successfully push to remove Israel-related content from an antisemitism resolution proposed in student government.

  • Dozens of scholars urge Facebook not to adopt the IHRA definition, after the social media company is lobbied by pro-Israel groups.

  • Students at Butler University succeed in defeating a student government measure to adopt the definition as a way of silencing Palestinians and their allies on campus.

    During the initial debate, members of student government exclude the only two Palestinians in student government from participating in discussions.

    The student leaders, both Palestinian women, are unable to share the direct impact the resolutions would have on Palestinians and Palestine activism on campus.

    Butler student groups, Indianapolis community organizers, and Palestine Legal push back against the campaign to vilify and silence student activism.

    After hearing from students and community advocates about the harmful impact these anti-Palestinian measures would have, the student sponsors withdraw the resolution.

  • A coalition of organizers hold an educational panel titled “Israel as a Racist Endeavour: Unpacking IHRA” to directly challenge the redefinition.

  • Over one hundred Palestinian and Arab scholars and intellectuals issue an open letter challenging the legitimacy of the definition.

  • Hundreds of British students sign an open letter opposing efforts by UK Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson to force UK universities to adopt the definition.

  • The academic board at the University College London
    rejects the IHRA definition adopted by UCL in 2019, calling on the university to “retract and replace [the] IHRA working definition with a more precise definition of antisemitism.”

  • A coalition of civil and human rights groups launches a
    campaign against Facebook labeling Palestine advocacy as hate speech. The tech giant is considering a policy that would treat criticism of “Zionists” as attacks against Jewish people, and therefore subject to censorship under their hate speech policies. The campaign’s petition amasses over 50,000 signatures.

  • Several alternatives to IHRA are proposed within the span of one month, further undermining claims that IHRA represents a consensus definition.

    The Jerusalem Declaration rebuts IHRA’s conflation of antisemitism and anti-Zionism, but reinforces the structural problem of policing what Palestinians can say about their oppression.

  • Multiple student governments reject the IHRA definition in the span of a few weeks, including Michigan State University, Foothill College and Santa Clara University in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    At the City University of New York (CUNY), the Student Senate voted down IHRA following a vocal campaign from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Jewish Law Students Association (JSLA).

    The CUNY JSLA is the first explicitly anti-Zionist Jewish law students group in the country and issued an open letter calling IHRA “useless,” “overbroad,” “imprecise,” and “an attempt to silence Palestine-solidarity efforts by equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism.”

  • An explosive Oxford University report reveals that the leadership of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance knowingly misled and neglected to correct the public perception about the scope of the IHRA definition’s adoption in the EU.

    At a May 2016 plenary, IHRA’s decision-making body adopted a two-sentence working definition of antisemitism while excluding contemporary examples of antisemitism, including seven which focused on criticism of Israel, because multiple member states objected to the examples.

    The report finds that “Senior IHRA officials and pro-Israel groups have misrepresented the IHRA Plenary’s decision in order to smuggle into the Working Definition examples that can be used to protect Israel from criticism.”

    Israel and its allies, including US politicians, used the presumed adoption of IHRA’s Israel examples in Europe to promote their usage in the United States.

  • The Canadian Association of University Teachers votes against adopting the IHRA definition.

    The association, which represents 72,000 members, recognizes the “need to safeguard the rights of scholars to critique all states, including Israel.”


An open letter to UW-Madison regarding anti-Zionist chalking

In keeping with the Jewish practice of tokhehah, which could be translated as “calling-in,” we are asking you to recognize and redress the damage that these responses have caused.

This letter also appeared in The Cap Times on November 29, 2022 as Memo to UW: Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same thing.

Photo by Taylor Wolfram | The Daily Cardinal

Stepha Velednitsky , Ri J. Turner , Joshua Garoon , Tsela Barr and Annie Sommer KaufmanThe Daily Cardinal, November 28, 2022

Dear Chancellor Mnookin, Vice Chancellor Reesor, and Chief Diversity Officer Charleston,

We are writing as Jewish members of the UW-Madison community in response to the recent anti-Zionist chalkings on our campus, and especially to the reactions from your offices, UW-Madison Hillel and other campus organizations, and media on and off campus.

As Jews, we care deeply, both about our own experience of “inclusion and belonging” (as Chancellor Mnookin has put it) in the UW-Madison community, and about the well-being of Palestinians on and off campus. The responses in question — including, but not limited, to the blame Chancellor Mnookin and Vice-Chancellor Reesor inappropriately placed on the UW-Madison chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — were harmful to both. In keeping with the Jewish practice of tokhehah, which could be translated as “calling-in,” we are asking you to recognize and redress the damage that these responses have caused.

We understand that past experiences may have inclined you to seek those responsible for this incident among UW student groups. In the recent past, Jews on campus have been upset, justifiably, when members of UW-Madison student groups — including leaders of the undergraduate student government — have not acted with respect for Jewish religious practice when it comes to campus actions on Israel and Palestine.

We agree that “education and accountability” are critical in such situations. The statements from your offices, however, provided neither. Instead, they impatiently and inaptly condemned the small and only recently reconstituted UW-Madison chapter of SJP for actions its members deny conducting — contributing to their scapegoating in the media. Those students deserved more from you.

We agree that it is antisemitic to hold all Jews accountable for the acts of the Israeli government, regardless of their connection or lack thereof to Israel. That treats Jews as a monolith and conflates Jewish identity with blanket support for Israel. But here we must ask: who in this situation truly conflated Jewishness with the political ideology of Zionism?

Two of the organizations called out in the chalkings, the UW-Madison chapters of Hillel and Chabad, are indeed Jewish organizations. The primary function of both is to support the religious life of Jewish students on campus. Simply attending the religious services at those two organizations — the only ones that offer them on campus — does not justify attacking Jewish students, and we urge those carrying out pro-Palestinian actions to respect such religious events and spaces.

At the same time, both the Hillel and Chabad chapters have identified themselves as explicitly pro-Israel. This combination of Zionist politics with Jewish religious practice has become the norm for Jews on campus and across the country. Yet many Jews do not consider support for Israel to be essential to their Jewish identity. On the contrary, for some Jewish students, the perception of being “required” to espouse pro-Israel positions as a precondition for participating in Jewish life on campus dissuades them from participating at all. In fact, Hillel has so constrained Jewish student speech and organizing on Israel and Palestine that Jewish students who felt alienated from Jewish life on campus as a result formed an “Open Hillel” movement, and in particular Open Hillel’s Judaism on Our Own Terms initiative, to try to create more space on campus for diverse Jewish viewpoints.

When organizations explicitly prohibit participation of organizations, groups, or speakers — including Jewish ones — on the basis of their political stance, they can no longer claim that they are apolitical, “big tent” Jewish organizations that define themselves primarily around Jewish identity.  To insist that their critics strictly separate the religious and the political, then, is disingenuous and hypocritical.

What’s more, three of the organizations the chalkings criticized (J Street U at Wisconsin, TAMID, and Badgers for Israel) do not self-describe as Jewish organizations. (In fact, the last of the trio explicitly describes itself as “nonreligious.”) Their primary function is to support Israel. And while criticizing such organizations for being Zionist might be controversial, it is not antisemitic. Nor is it antisemitic to claim that Zionist organizations should be held accountable for Zionism’s ills, or that racist and genocidal acts have been committed in the name of Zionism.

So we must reject UW Hillel’s charges that the chalkings were antisemitic because they were “targeting student organizations because of their connection to Israel” and thus constituted “an attack on the identity of Jewish students.” Similarly, we must reject your offices’ claims that the chalkings were antisemitic because they “attribute broad actions or beliefs to Jewish student groups.” In both cases, it was Hillel’s and the university administration’s statements, not the original chalkings, which conflated Jewish identity and practice with support for Zionism within and beyond Jewish communities.

We call on you to apologize to the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine for scapegoating them for this incident without evidence that they were responsible for it.  We call on you to refrain from conflating Zionist viewpoints with Jewish identity — a move that exacerbates the exclusion of non-Zionist Jews from Jewish life on campus, and normalizes the suppression of free speech about Israel and Palestine within campus or campus-adjacent organizations, including Hillel.  We also ask you to educate yourselves about the distinction between antisemitism and anti-Zionism more generally. The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, which was signed by about 200 scholars of antisemitism and related studies from around the world, including Israel, is a good place to start.

Finally, we call on Jewish individuals and organizations on and off campus who share our perspective to express support by signing on to this letter. 


Ri J. Turner, graduate student, History
Joshua Garoon, Assistant Professor, Community and Environmental Sociology
Tsela Barr, staff, International Division
Annie Sommer Kaufman, alumna, ’01
Stepha Velednitsky, graduate student, Geography

Additional Signatories, UW-Madison-affiliated:
Susan Nossal, UW-Madison academic staff
Zayne Chrysanthemum, student
Cora Segal, graduate student, Gender & Women’s Studies 
Jacqueline Krass, graduate student, English
Daniel Levitin, graduate student
Melissa Marver, PhD Candidate and alumna, Population Health
Heather Rosenfeld, Smith College (PhD from UW, 2019)
Asher Bruskin, alum, ’08
Jeffrey Schiffman, former employee
Esty Dinur, retiree
Elizabeth Conn, alumna, ’07
Ace Lynn-Miller, alum ’08
Paul Cotton, graduate school alum ’73
Lynne Kavin, alum ’89, member of JVP Chicago
Lynne Joyrich, former professor in the UW System
Elaine J. Cohen, daughter of alum
Judith Laitman, alum
Betsy Buczakowski, alum ’19
Liza DiPrima, alum (BS in Elementary Education)
Marc Rosenthal, UW alum, BS in Nursing 

Additional Signatories, Organizations:
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA
Jewish Voice for Peace-Los Angeles
Jewish Voice for Peace-Milwaukee
Ithaca Committee for Justice in  Palestine/Jewish Voice for Peace
Jewish Voice for Peace at UCLA
Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago

Additional Signatories, Individuals:
Rabbi Salem Pearce
Elizabeth Bolton, Reconstructionist Rabbi (RRC ’96)
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, JVP Rabbinic Council
Rabbi Noam Lerman, UW-Milwaukee alum
Rabbi Ariana Katz 
Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg
Rabbi Brant Rosen   
Dr. Benay Blend, retired professor (PhD University of New Mexico)
Sarah Combellick-Bidney, Augsburg University
Elsa Auerbach, University of Massachusetts-Boston
Merry Maisel, UC San Diego
Daniel Segal, Professor at Pitzer College
Alice Rothchild, MD, Harvard University
Mark LeVine, UC Irvine, Dept of History, Global Middle East Studies
Benjamin Kersten, graduate student, UCLA Department of Art History
Charles Manekin, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland
Ivan Huber, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ, Madison, NJ
Emmaia Gelman, Sarah Lawrence College
Hassan Melehy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Jodi melamex, Marquette University
freygl gertsovski, Jewish cultural worker
Ari Pollack, Madison native
Benjamin Ben-Baruch,  Retired Jewish educator
Alan Levien, civil rights lawyer
Elizabeth Ingenthron, Jewish scholar and activist
Judith Utevsky, Jewish resident of Madison 
Barbara Parmet, JVP member
Eve Hershcopf, Member of JVP – Bay Area
Rick Chetoff, JVP Los Angeles member
Bob Herbst, JVP member
Beth Harris, member of Ithaca JVP
Burton Steck, UVP
Rachel Rubin, JVP, Health Advisory Council
Jena doolas, member of JVP Chicago
Carol Muskin, member of JVP Chicago
Jon Moscow, member of Northern New Jersey JVP
Cinda Rubinstein, member of JVP
Shelley Cohen Fudge, member of JVP-DC Metro Chapter
Nicole Cohen, member of JVP NYC
Munk Munk, member of JVP
Alice Golin, member of Northern New Jersey JVP
Harry Soloway, member of JVP Westchester
Rachel Ida Buff, UWM/Milwaukee JVP
Martin Levine, member of JVP – Chicago
Mara Horowitz, member of JVP Westchester 
Lawrence R. Wolf, member of JVP Westchester
Laura Myerson, Educator, member of JVP
Steve Golin, member of JVP
Wendy Fisher, member of Northern New Jersey JVP
Lesley Williams, JVP member
Trude Bennett, JVP member
Sue Saunders, member of JVP – Sacramento, CA
Elizabeth G. Lent, Episcopal Peace & Justice
Sandra Castillo
Mary Fox
David H Slavin, PhD
Oren Maximov
Alan Meyers
Andy Stitt
Sam Friedman 
Seth Morrison 
Estee Chandler
Nina Stoller 
Cindy Shamban
Andrew Courtney
Steve Siegelbaum 
Joe Sokolinsky
Bobbi Siegelbaum
Priscilla Read
Zackary Sholem Berger
Ed Oltman
Stephen R. Shalom 
Lex Rofeberg
Sophia Sobko

Chicago synagogue officially designates itself ‘anti-Zionist’

Protestors In Chicago Rally Against Trump's Jerusalem Decision
Protestors In Chicago Rally Against Trump’s Jerusalem Decision (Getty Images)

Arno Rosenfeld, The Forward, March 31, 2022

Tzedek Chicago was founded seven years ago, in part, to create a Jewish community free from a strong attachment to Israel. The congregation went beyond its original “non-Zionism” this week to become what is likely the first synagogue in the country to be affirmatively “anti-Zionist.”

“I’m so proud of the thoughtful way we engaged with each other in this process,” Scout Bratt, the shul’s president, said in a statement Wednesday announcing the decision. “While we knew individual members would have their own personal opinions, we ultimately treated this as a communal decision, not an ideological litmus test.”

The decision to add a statement decrying the creation of Israel as an “injustice against the Palestinian people – an injustice that continues to this day” was taken by a vote of the congregation’s 200 member families after the board unanimously endorsed it in December. Seventy-three percent of households voted in favor of the motion.

    Even most progressive Jewish congregations are careful
    to avoid staking an explicit anti-Zionist position

There is little data on how many American Jews identify as Zionists, or support Zionism, but many establishment organizations point to proxy questions to argue that the vast majority of the community is sympathetic to the tenets of Jewish nationalism. For example, the Pew Research Center found in May that 82% of Jews said “caring about Israel” was essential or important to being Jewish, and 81% told the American Jewish Committee that it was antisemitic to say that “Israel has no right to exist.”

Some pro-Israel activists assailed Tzedek Chicago’s announcement on social media.

“I don’t think they know what Judaism even is,” Daniel Koren, director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, wrote on Twitter.

Establishment groups have long shunned Tzedek Chicago, with JTA reporting in 2019 that the congregation was not listed in the local Jewish federation’s directory of synagogues.

Others noted that it was an incremental move for a congregation that was established with an explicit eye toward attracting Jews who felt alienated from synagogues and other Jewish institutions that celebrate close ties to Israel. Rabbi Brant Rosen, who founded Tzedek Chicago, has long described it as a community for Jews skeptical of, or opposed to, Zionism.

“There are increasing numbers of Jews out there, particularly young Jews, who don’t identify as Zionist and resent the implication that somehow to be Jewish today one must be Zionist,” Rosen told Religion News Service in 2015. Rosen, who was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, had previously helped found the rabbinical council of Jewish Voice for Peace, which is itself anti-Zionist.

But while Rosen told RNS that he believed Tzedek Chicago was the first congregation to intentionally eschew positive attachment to Israel, the synagogue is in fact one of at least half a dozen congregations to take similar positions, according to a Forward analysis.

And Jewish Voice for Peace lists more than 20 synagogues and minyans that are “friendly” to its members, including Tikkun Olam Chavurah in Philadelphia, which in 2018 endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a campaign that effectively calls for the end of a Jewish-majority in Israel.

Kadima, a Reconstructionist congregation in Seattle that was founded in 2005, describes itself as “a home for Jews and fellow travelers who work to end the Israeli occupation, resist Jewish communal denial of Israel’s need for accountability, and build community with Jews who are excluded from other Jewish institutions because of their criticism of the actions of the Israeli government.”

While some groups of Orthodox Jews are anti-Zionist for religious reasons, most progressive Jewish congregations, including those listed by JVP, are careful to avoid staking the kind of explicit position that Tzedek Chicago took in its vote Sunday. The New Synagogue Project, which is led by a rabbi who previously worked as a lobbyist for JVP, states on its website that “we do not fuse our spiritual practice with any form of political nationalism,” and Hinenu, a Baltimore congregation, says it supports “the liberation of Palestinians,” without taking a stance on Zionism itself.

While many synagogues were divided over the question of Zionism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the organized American Jewish community rallied around the fledging State of Israel after its establishment in 1948 and implicit support for Israel is now a core part of almost all synagogues in the United States, save for a few Orthodox communities.

“We know there are increasing numbers of Jews who seek a Jewish spiritual home that does not require attachment to a political Jewish state,” said Bratt, the president of Tzedek Chicago. “We hope our decision will inspire the Jewish community to begin to imagine a future beyond Zionism.”

Some critics on Twitter questioned whether the vote to become anti-Zionist was a publicity stunt, pointing to a sparse online event calendar for the synagogue, but others chimed in to defend the community.

“I’ve been to Tzedek services both in person and via Zoom, many times,” wrote a user named Ishmael, who said he was a Chicago-based Jew. “I don’t always agree with the politics but can assure you it’s a very warm, progressive, LGBTQ+-friendly, wonderful congregation with a really smart, very thoughtful, compassionate rabbi.”

Arno RosenfeldArno Rosenfeld
Arno Rosenfeld is a staff writer for the Forward, where he covers U.S. politics and American Jewish institutions. You can reach him at arno@forward.com and follow him on Twitter @arnorosenfeld.

Liberal Zionism is joining the Palestinian solidarity movement

Everywhere but Washington



The Foundation for Middle East Peace had a webinar about the state of U.S. politics on Israel/Palestine as the year ends, and here are some of the takeaways.

Peter Beinart — the former liberal Zionist who came out a year ago for one democratic state — said that liberal Zionism is becoming discredited among progressives due to the failure of the two-state solution, so liberal Zionists are joining the broader movement for equal rights. Beinart said there used to be two parallel tracks on the American left, the BDS call from Palestinians of 2005 and the two-state agenda pushed by J Street and other liberal Zionists, but the second discourse is collapsing.

I think what’s happening is that the boundaries between these two movements are starting to collapse. Or another even more provocative way you can say it, is the Palestinian solidarity movement is in some ways becoming broader and taking in. It’s not necessarily an equal marriage. I would say because the movement on the ground has made the two state solution and the idea of liberal Zionism harder and harder and harder to maintain, then I think ultimately what’s happening and ultimately what we have to move towards and I think is happening is a broader Palestinian solidarity movement in which people who used to be liberal Zionist or support two states, and more people inside the Jewish community, and others, find their way into it.

Now it’s not an easy set of relationships always, and I think it involves lots and lots of different kinds of conversations and things that are difficult to figure out in a lot of ways… You don’t see it necessarily manifested in Washington, where a group like J Street is still much, much more influential than the Palestinian solidarity groups, but if you think of where the momentum is coming– I think especially because the Black Lives Matter movement forced a new kind of reckoning in the American public square with the lack of representation from Palestinians, which I don’t think is going to end. So Palestinians are going to become more prominent in these conversations…. We will see a broader Palestinian solidarity movement, in which Jews including Jews who once considered themselves liberal Zionists and maybe even some who still do consider themselves liberal Zionist will find a place. I think that will ultimately be a more powerful opposition to the status quo than what we’ve had before.

Fadi Quran, a leading Palestinian human rights worker formerly of Al-Haq, now with the activist network Avaaz, said he was hopeful about the ways the Palestinian narrative is gaining a global audience.

From a more Palestinian perspective what has dawned more and more, for my generation, is that our narrative, just what’s going on with us– the fact we’re surrounded with cameras that literally flash red, yellow or green based on facial recognition, that there’s a whole system of surveillance, that we’ve had a woman who fought and almost went on hunger strike just for the right not to have to give birth in a prison. The narratives of people in Sheikh Jarrah [occupied Jerusalem] surrounded by one of the most powerful armies in the world, staying strong and standing for their homes and two basically early 20-year-olds [Mohammed and Muna El-Kurd] just kind of carrying the movement on the back… There are people literally who have been buried– mothers were holding on to the graves of their kids who were killed so the graves wouldn’t be razed by the Israeli military.

All the stories– and then the epicness of having 200 kids in prison by Israel right now, and still kids going out in the face of tanks to throw stones. The power of this narrative if we speak to it just factually but also in depth really carries a whole new generation of people. That’s what we saw in May [during Gaza onslaught]… More than at any other time, despite all the strategic efforts… to silence the Palestinian voice, our voice and that narrative at least for a glimmer managed to break through. And then it was silent.

Lara Friedman of Foundation for Middle East Peace said some had hoped that the Biden administration would lead “a breakthrough” on Israel-Palestine, but it has proved to be a great disappointment.

Their performance thus far would suggests that there is really no energy there. The energy there is going to be spent on, Well we managed to delay temporarily one settlement, but by the way we’ve given in on the consulate, we’ve given in on the PLO mission, and we’ve given in on all the other settlements and by the way we’re not going to say a word publicly to defend the NGO sector [the six leading Palestinian groups smeared by Israel as terrorist] even though defending human rights organizations is supposed to be the core identity of this administration. It’s hard to believe that people are still holding out hope…. Pressure is going to matter.

Beinart said that the political reality of Israel Palestine can be characterized by the fact that not even Bernie Sanders can support one democratic state– yet. And by the way that the Israel lobby crushed Omari Hardy, an appealing young Florida state legislator who dared to support BDS and run in the Democratic primary for Congress in Fort Lauderdale.

A guy who has a moral compass woke up one day and said, you know what, Palestinian rights are consistent with everything I believe. And he gets predictably snowplowed. He had to explain 17,000 times why he supports BDS.

No one ever asked Hardy’s many primary opponents why they didn’t support the human rights reports naming Israeli “apartheid,” Beinart said.

That political dynamic seems very far from changing. Politicians will look at [the pushback against Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Jamaal Bowman] and think, Who needs that? Who needs that level of headache? We haven’t changed that political dynamic, sometimes I feel like we’re still very far away.

(Beinart also said that no one came to Hardy’s defense except for Twitter and Jewish Currents, the publication he works for. Our site and others supported Hardy. Our friend Roger Waters was a leading advocate for Hardy. Despite Beinart’s concern about cancel culture, he always cancels us.)

Lara Friedman echoed Beinart’s point by noting the prominence of Rep. Ritchie Torres, a progressive who represents the South Bronx and is relentlessly pro-Israel, and beloved by the party establishment and Israel lobby for that stance.

I always say to people, Look at Ritchie Torres. That’s so much the direction, certainly the energies of those who have power– that’s the direction they are organizing around.

Friedman warned that Democratic Party fear of supporting Palestinians can lead to terrible policies. She said that Arizona Republican Congressman Paul Gosar recently called for the removal of the Al-Aqsa mosque.

He’s dogwhistling to the end time folks. He’s referencing scripture about the abomination and desolation on the site where the temple must be rebuilt so you can have the second coming of Christ. That scares the crap out of me. I really worry that Democrats who by and large don’t want to spend too much political capital on Israel Palestine in defending Palestinian rights and free speech, I worry that they have their heads in the sand as to how bad this can get. And I think that’s going to be tested next year.

On the upside, Friedman said, the discourse is changing and Democrats are being forced to reckon with the “shifting and more honest narrative around the Palestinian experience.” And alluding to the global controversy over the Israeli spyware company, the NSO group, she observed, “Any conversation about weaponized surveillance takes you back to Israel and any conversation about Israeli surveillance takes you back to Palestinians.”

The bottom line is at this point if you’re talking about the erosion of democratic values, and liberal values, worldwide and you’re not talking about Israel, then it’s clear you’re making an exception and you’re a hypocrite. That I think is something that strengthens those of us who say if you care about this worldwide, you have to care about Palestinians.

Quran described his detention by Homeland Security in the U.S. at Israel’s behest two months ago.

If you’re Jewish American, on so many levels, your voice matters more than a Palestinian and at the same time we are going against actors that will go to all ends possible including the worst lies to devastate those of us who have the loudest voices…

I had the experience and I didn’t share this before, but I will share it with you. When I traveled to the U.S. in October to visit my father who is sick, for the first time in my life, I was stopped by Homeland Security in Dallas airport. They stopped me, they interrogated me…Where do you work? Have you been arrested? Etc. Etc. The core question, the last bit, because the lieutenant who was interrogating me really felt for me, and I showed him my phone with my personal messages to members of Congress– ‘Whoever told you I’m an evil person, these senators wouldn’t be messaging me if I actually was.’ He was like ‘We got a report against you from an allied government claiming that you support terrorism. We have been investigating you since May.’ I was surprised that he shared this information. ‘There’s nothing on you, I’m going to let you go.’ But it was, ‘The moment you booked your ticket we have to bring you in and interrogate you on this’…

These actors that want to silence the work that we are all doing are going to go to that level and more. And I think we need to be prepared for it next year. But we also need to remember the sacrifices we make… they literally will benefit all the other struggles we care about.

Beinart and Friedman also had an interesting if coded discussion about rhetorical concessions the left will have to make to broaden the movement for Palestinian rights. Friedman said that the next generation of Palestinian leaders is brilliantly using the idea of “post colonial framing” for understanding the Palestinian issue. But that concept will be very challenging for a lot of people who see themselves as allies. “There is a reservoir of support that can be tapped into that wasn’t there before,” as people see that simply reciting the catechism of two states is not going to do it.

Friedman had this good observation: “Every movement has its assholes. That doesn’t mean a movement is discredited. It’s only this movement that is held to that standard.”

Thanks to Yakov Hirsch — expert on “Hasbara Culture” — for pointing out this dialogue to me.

How the Great Leftist Thinkers of the 20th Century Contended With Zionism

A crowd celebrates in Tel Aviv on Nov. 29, 1947, after the U.N. votes for the partition of Palestine. (Hans Pins/GPO, via Getty Images)

J.J. Goldberg, New York Times, April 11, 2019

Zionism and the Left From Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky
By Susie Linfield

As discouraging as these times may be for fans of liberal democracy, the mood among liberal friends of Israel — including most American Jews — is more like severe heartbreak. Look one way and there’s Israel’s right wing carousing with European despots and Holocaust deniers while fanning racism at home. Look the other way and see the cream of the intersectional left cavorting with the reactionary bigot Louis Farrakhan while young rock-star progressives in Congress set about rebranding the Jewish state from ally into enemy and its supporters — meaning, again, most American Jews — into traitors.

Long gone are the days when Israel was new and appealed to idealists around the world, when Golda Meir was a celebrated deputy chairwoman of the Socialist International and Pete Seeger and the Weavers were singing the Israeli folk tune “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena” on the “Hit Parade.”

Tzena, Tzena, Tzena – The Weavers

How has it come to this? That is the central question Susie Linfield poses in her new book, “The Lions’ Den: Zionism and the Left From Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky.”

How, she asks, did the state of Israel, which “came out of, and was nurtured by, the left,” become anathema to that same left? How did “Zionist,” the name for participants in and sympathizers with the Jewish state-building effort, “become the dirtiest word to the international left — akin, say, to ‘racist,’ ‘pedophile’ or ‘rapist’?”

On the flip side, how did Israel “come to deny the national rights of a neighboring people and to violently suppress them — not for a year or two, but for over a half century?”

Important questions, and achingly timely. Strangely, “The Lions’ Den” does not really address them. The book is described in Linfield’s introduction, in the jacket copy and promotional material as an “intellectual history” tracing the evolution of left-wing thought that brought us from there to here, from, say, Pete Seeger to Ilhan Omar. But the actual book, the one sandwiched in between “Introduction” and “Conclusion,” is something quite different. It is, in fact, something more original, more interesting and probably more important than a standard intellectual history would have been. Why the book so misrepresents itself remains a mystery.

The heart of “The Lions’ Den” is a series of individual portraits of iconic, midcentury left-wing thinkers who wrote extensively on the idea and reality of Jewish statehood. Six of the eight share overlapping biographies and experiences, which makes their very different intellectual journeys through the same historical thicket both instructive to today’s searchers and relevant to today’s crises.

The other two, Noam Chomsky and the British journalist Fred Halliday, seem quite out of place here, yet another oddity in this volume. Both entered the arena in a later era, making their stories irrelevant to the book’s drama, and neither of them — the very Jewish Chomsky or the non-Jewish Halliday — participates visibly in the others’ intensely personal struggles with Jewish identity.

Arthur Koestler, the Hungarian-born British writer, at his home in Alpbach, Austria. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The six overlapping profiles, on the other hand, tell such an intriguing story that the book’s marginal oddities fade in importance. Here they are: the German-born political philosopher Hannah Arendt; the mercurial, Hungarian-born novelist and adventurer Arthur Koestler; the great biographer and Trotsky admirer Isaac Deutscher; the combative American journalist I. F. Stone; the French Arabist journalist Maxime Rodinson; and the Tunisian-French anticolonialist philosopher Albert Memmi.

All six lived through, wrote about and were shaped by the cataclysmic events of the mid-20th century: the rise of fascism, the Moscow show trials, World War II and the Holocaust, Israel’s independence and, significantly, the 1967 Six-Day War. All considered themselves socialists, some episodically, most as a lifelong identifier.

All six were Jewish. All wrote urgently and at length about the Jewish history that was unfolding before their eyes. All wrote about the place of the Jew in the modern world, some dismissively, most with sympathy, all beneath the shadow of the Nazi genocide that was engulfing Europe and their own families.

The six were all independent, unconventional thinkers who often found themselves alone and at odds with their own peers and allies. All produced ideas and phrases that have entered our moral vocabulary, most notably Arendt’s “banality of evil.”

Hannah Arendt in her New York apartment in 1972. (Tyrone Dukes/The New York Times)

And, of course, all six dealt repeatedly and at great length with the question of Jewish statehood, or Zionism. Only two retained their views over time, the lifelong anti-Zionist Rodinson and the lifelong pro-Zionist Memmi. The other four changed positions as history changed, some from pro-Zionist to anti-, others the reverse and some repeatedly back and forth. Koestler, the champion change artist of the group, became a communist in his teens, then joined Vladimir Jabotinsky’s right-wing Zionist Revisionist movement, forerunner of today’s Likud, then returned to communism, then emerged as one of the world’s most influential anticommunists and returned to Revisionism.

Arendt, the most famous and influential of the six, was converted to Zionism by Hitler’s takeover in 1933. Fleeing across Europe, twice escaping Nazi detention, she landed in New York in 1941 and began her long writing career. Initially a militant Zionist, she became less attached after Israeli independence in 1948, suspicious of nation-states and their abuses of power. Her book “The Origins of Totalitarianism” in 1951 established her worldwide reputation as a political philosopher. All of her contradictions came together in 1961 when she covered the Eichmann trial for The New Yorker, describing it as a “show trial” rather than a judicial exercise. Her version remains controversial to this day.

Other profiles are no less dramatic. Deutscher, a Talmud prodigy during his childhood in a Polish shtetl, went on to become a translator of Hebrew and Yiddish poetry, then a communist, then a follower of Leon Trotsky’s heterodox communism and finally a globe-trotting British journalist. He abandoned his doctrinaire anti-Zionism following the Holocaust, was charmed during a 1954 visit by Israel’s revived Hebrew culture and kibbutz socialism, then turned bitterly hostile following Israel’s six-day victory in June 1967, even somehow forgetting his Hebrew and Yiddish. He died that August, unreconciled. I. F. Stone, the fabled Washington journalist, underwent a nearly identical reversal in 1967. Linfield claims uncertainty about how large a role the 1967 war and occupation play in leftists’ antagonism toward Israel. But these individual stories suggest that the legacy of 1967 cannot be overstated.

Linfield is an associate professor of journalism at New York University and her writing combines the storytelling of a journalist with a scholar’s analysis of ideas. She repeatedly jumps in and argues with her subjects, point by point, giving each chapter the feel at times of a “Meet the Press”-type interview occurring across time.

If the book has one problem it’s Linfield’s inability to recognize the significance of the document that she herself has produced. She tries to present it, particularly in her tacked-on introduction and conclusion, as foreshadowing and illuminating the tragic deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. To be blunt, it doesn’t work.

In fact, its success is in foreshadowing and illuminating a different conflict that has been simmering under the surface for a decade and has exploded into the headlines just in the early months of this year. “The Lions’ Den” illustrates the individual struggles of Jewish leftists in the World War II generation to reconcile their conflicting impulses, the particularist pull of Zionism and the universalist pull of socialism. Their stories precisely anticipate the tension today’s Jewish liberals experience trying to reconcile their own pro-Israel particularism and their social-justice universalism.

Linfield could not have foreseen, even a year ago as she was writing, the current predicament of Democrats caught between support of Israel and sympathy for the Palestinians, or — dare we say it? — between the affections of America’s well-established Jewish community and fast-rising Muslim community. Unexpectedly, her book appears just as its stories and lessons become urgent.

J.J. Goldberg is the author of “Jewish Power” and former editor of The Forward.

Zionism and the Left From Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky
By Susie Linfield
389 pp. Yale University Press. $32.50.

Jennifer Loewenstein: Zionism Is ‘A Particularly Pernicious Form Of Nationalism’

Dr. Milena Rampoldi, MintPress News, June 2, 2016

Israeli soldiers and relatives of new Jewish immigrants from the U.S. and Canada, wave Israeli flags to welcome them as they arrive at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, July 23, 2013. (AP)Israeli soldiers and relatives of new Jewish immigrants from the U.S. and Canada, wave Israeli flags to welcome them as they arrive at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, July 23, 2013. (AP)

I interviewed Jennifer Loewenstein, a journalist with years of experience in the Middle East.

Jennifer Loewenstein

Jennifer Loewenstein

About her work, she wrote me:

This year I’ve been working on Iraq and Syria more than anything else. I’ve never stopped following the crises in Gaza and the West Bank, however. There are some ties between the two — not obvious or ‘conspiracy’ oriented.

As you may know, I’ve lived in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Beirut. I’ve traveled in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Israel. I’ve also worked a lot on refugee issues. (I lived in the refugee camp of Bourj al-Barajneh in Lebanon for 3 summers, though that was a while back now — 1999-2002 — but return almost every year to visit friends.)

I haven’t been able to get into Gaza since 2010, but I follow events there closely and keep up with my contacts there. I think an important issue is how the media focus has been taken off Palestine as the Syrian Civil War continues. Both deserve a lot of attention, however. U.S. foreign policy in the region continues to trouble me, to say the least. It deserves a lot of attention and clarification.

Jennifer Loewenstein was Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Last August she moved to Penn State University. She is politically active, and writes as a freelance journalist. Her work has been featured in scholarly publications such as The Journal of Palestine Studies, and she is a regular contributor to CounterPunch.

Loewenstein is a member of the USA board of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and founder of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

Jennifer Loewenstein: The ProMosaik interview

Dr. Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik: You have been a lot in the Middle East. Which is the main peace obstacle there?

Jennifer Loewenstein, journalist: Unrestrained U.S. military involvement in the Middle East and the U.S.’ simultaneous refusal to put pressure on its client states to seek non-military resolutions to their conflicts poses, in my view, the greatest obstacle to regional stability to say nothing of real peace. It is impossible to single out one of the many wars and conflicts raging across the Middle East today as being the ‘worst’ situation in the region (now or in the past). Each is related to the Middle East order created by the colonial powers, Britain and France, at the end of the First World War and, subsequently, exploited by them.

After the end of the Second World War, as the British and French empires receded, the United States filled the void left by these powers with its own imperial influence, economic interests and political objectives, strengthened, I should point out, by the Soviet Union’s equally genuine competition for regional influence.

Cold War politics should not be uncritically deferred to as the guiding framework for superpower competition, however. The fear and propaganda generated domestically in the U.S. against “communism” and an “evil” Soviet empire proved a powerful tool for recruiting people to fight in U.S. wars in the Middle East and elsewhere around the globe. Much of what we were taught about the designs and power of the Soviet Union, however, was overstated or simply false. Much was omitted with regard to our own alleged allies. It is crucial to understand this in the context of Vietnam and U.S. military involvement in southeast Asia as well.

The Middle East was of particular importance, and has been ever since, because of its strategic location, its oil and natural gas reserves, and because of regional instability deliberately cultivated by those powers that had sought to control parts of it in the past. Until 1967, when the U.S.’ “special relationship” with Israel began seriously to be cultivated, no single Middle Eastern nation was allowed to dominate the region — least of all one with close ties to Moscow.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to members of the audience before speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, Monday, March 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to members of the audience before speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, Monday, March 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

MR: How to deal with Zionism? What does Zionism mean to you?

JL: Modern Zionism may end up dealing with itself if it continues along what has become an increasingly self-destructive and globally alienating path. It is widely understood by most people (outside the U.S.) that the only thing keeping Israel from becoming a global pariah state is the unconditional support it receives from the United States and, to a lesser extent, the EU. This is one reason why mobilizing world public opinion is so important where Israel and Zionism are concerned.

The boycott, divestment, and sanctions’ (BDS) movement has had an effect on how Israel is perceived in the West, but it has a long way to go and must navigate some dangerous political waters carefully. Most Americans still view Israel in a more positive light than the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors, thanks in part to the continual demonization of Arabs, Muslims, and Islam in U.S. domestic civil society: schools, universities, civic organizations, churches, synagogues, conservative and liberal “think tanks,” state, local and national governing institutions, the entertainment industry, and, of course, the news media (including social media and the speed with which information can be processed, spun, and disseminated) all play a very large role in manipulating fear, xenophobia, and ignorance.

Political lobbies, primarily AIPAC, have often been blamed for determining America’s “pro-Israel” stance and they do, indeed, play a forceful role. This role is significantly diminished, however, when juxtaposed to the giant oil and natural gas cartels, highly profitable corporate enterprises designed for the benefit of ourselves and our allies, and the overwhelming role of the US armaments industry in selling advanced weaponry and spreading, stoking and assuring war.

Zionism has become one of the most unfortunate manifestations of modern nationalism (in this case Jewish nationalism). Over the years it has become chauvinistic, dangerous, and sadistic — especially toward non-Jews living in Israel or in territories illegally occupied and annexed to Israel over the years. What makes Zionism a particularly pernicious form of nationalism is that it is a form of settler colonialism. In order to create a Jewish state, Zionism (as it has developed) required more and more land, resources, external financial and military subsidization, and Jewish people in order to flourish.

What we are seeing today is a logical conclusion of this project: the need to remove, chase out, terrorize, isolate into densely populated but unconnected islands of territory — including squalid urban settings, torture, or kill off, those people who stand in the way of this project. Were the eyes of a good part of the world not already focused on Israel, it would be frightening to see how its future would unfold. This underscores the need for people to educate and mobilize public opinion around what is happening in Israel and its illegally held territories. Even with broad based activism against Israel’s self-declared “manifest destiny” its political and military leadership continue to act with impunity and to be held unaccountable for repeated acts of aggression, mass murder and destruction against the people and land of Palestine.

Personally I have no stake in Zionism whatsoever. I come from a long line of anti-Zionists (reaching back into the 19th century) and am increasingly appalled by what I’ve seen and experienced in Palestine and in places such as the Palestinian refugee camps of South Beirut as the direct consequences of Israeli state policy. No state — ethnic, religious, or otherwise — can truly be secure until people within and outside its borders learn to accept each other as humans first and as beings whose collective future depends upon extensive cooperation, universal human rights, the need to share the earth’s land and resources, and respect for the earth itself. This may sound idealistic. It is increasingly clear, however, that it is becoming a necessity if human life is to continue.

A boy and his sisters watch graffiti artists spray on a wall, commemorating the victims who were killed in Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, May 18, 2015. Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Yemen's Shiite rebels resumed early on Monday in the southern port city of Aden after a five-day truce expired amid talks on the war-torn country's future that were boycotted by the rebels. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

A boy and his sisters watch graffiti artists spray on a wall, commemorating the victims who were killed in Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, May 18, 2015. Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Yemen’s Shiite rebels resumed early on Monday in the southern port city of Aden after a five-day truce expired amid talks on the war-torn country’s future that were boycotted by the rebels. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

MR: How are all the conflicts in the Middle East connected one with another?

JL: To do this question justice, I would have to write a book. Many of the conflicts (such as in Syria and Iraq) are directly connected to each other. They are also influenced to a large degree by an apparent need for regional hegemony by the strongest military powers. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are heavily involved in the Syrian and Iraqi Civil Wars, as are Turkey and Iran. Other states, such as Yemen, have become the unwitting victims of the treacherous game of chess being played out across the region.

There is no question, however, that the wars and conflicts that have raged and are raging in the Middle East are another direct result of U.S. intervention since, above all, the end of the Second World War. Soviet and Russian power, along with European great power intervention have exacerbated the conflicts within the Middle East but none have done so on the scale of the United States.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be seen as an extension of US meddling in the region, which has done so much to destabilize it already. Israel is an arm of U.S. power and, as such, acts with the knowledge and complicity of its master. That these two countries have differences has not challenged the status quo since the special relationship between Israel and the United States began in the aftermath of the 1967 June War. Right now, that status quo is not in jeopardy, and this should give us all pause to think about ways this can change.

MR: What does it mean to you to be a journalist looking for truth?

JL: It means celebrating when other journalists and people work together with you to seek it, write about it, and to educate people to think for themselves. It also means bracing yourself for the worst possibilities when individuals, institutions, or states begin to find your work threatening.

On a dusty street, a young boy carries a wreathe surrounding a memorial poster.

A boy carries a wreath with posters with a photo of slain Palestinian boy Baha Samir Bader, 13, ahead of his funeral procession at the village of Beit Lykia near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, Oct. 17, 2014. Palestinian police said that the boy has been shot dead by Israeli soldiers during a clash in the village. Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have spiked in recent days amid Palestinian charges that Israel is limiting access to Palestinian worshippers at a sensitive Jerusalem holy site. The poster reads the slain boy’s name in Arabic and “a sacrifice for Palestine and the al-Aqsa mosque.” (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

MR: How can we as writers, journalists, and bloggers help to promote peace in the Middle East?

JL: We have an obligation to inform and educate people without imposing our personal views on them. This can take place in schools, universities, in the arts, in political forums and neighborhood organizations; in churches, mosques, synagogues, in grocery store conversations; at the dinner table; in local or national demonstrations; in letter writing campaigns; in call-ins and sit-ins; in non-violent direct action; in reading world newspapers; in taking the initiative to speak to people in our cities and towns who come from other parts of the world; in initiating activities that we’re all waiting for someone else to do.

We have another obligation to be patient and not to expect to see change overnight. Some of  us may never see the kinds of things we have worked so hard to attain. We have got to learn how to organize effectively without falling victim to petty, divisive infighting among the people working with us. We have to get it across to people that problems do not resolve themselves. On the contrary, left untouched, such major problems will only worsen.

MR: Tell us about your experience in Gaza.

JL: This would take an entire memoir, which I hope to write someday. Suffice to say, it has been the resilience of the people of Gaza, above all, that has kept me going even at my darkest moments.

Originally published by ProMosaik.