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.

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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

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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?

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