The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

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.





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