Language as a Tool Against Jews and Israel

Dr. Gerstenfeld interviews Prof. Georges-Elia Sarfati: "Anti-Zionism’s major ‘canonic’ texts are first and foremost Soviet fabrications".

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld

OpEds Manfred Gerstenfeld
Manfred Gerstenfeld
Manfred Gerstenfeld

“Most people think that language, and in particular speech, is transparent and that it serves to transmit information. All words have a history, which have an impact on their use, even if people are not aware of this. Rather than words being neutral, they serve to introduce a certain vision of the question one addresses.

“This is particularly clear in the case of anti-Semitism and its manifestations, including anti-Zionism. When analyzing the various phenomena of Judeophobia, one discovers an archive of words used against the Jews over the centuries. It aims to criminalize all forms of Jewish identity: spiritually as religious anti-Judaism; culturally as anti-Semitism, and socio-politically as anti-Zionism.”

Professor Georges-Elia Sarfati, Professor of Linguistics at the Sorbonne in Paris, has researched this relationship between opinion and discourse. He demonstrates how loaded language can be, by examining the expression “anti-Zionism” as an example. In his book The Captive Nation,[i] he devotes many pages to how anti-Zionism emerged in the Soviet Union.

Sarfati explains, “It was the Soviet Union’s Ministry of Information which began to use the expression ‘anti-Zionism’ systematically after the Six Day War. From the Soviet press, it migrated to the media of the French extreme Left. Prior to that, the word’s use was sporadic at most. It did not appear in dictionaries until the 1970’s.

"One has to recall however, that Hitler claimed in Mein Kampf  that Zionism was the bridgehead of the ‘Jewish conspiracy.’ Anti-Zionism’s major ‘canonic’ texts are first and foremost Soviet fabrications. One of the Supreme Soviet ideologists, Trofim Kitchko published several anti-Semitic books between 1963 and the beginning of the 1980’s. His first one, Judaism Unembellished, was sponsored by the Academy of Sciences.

“Marxism had negated the idea of Jewish sovereignty; Stalinism radicalized this view. Propaganda techniques of the Nazis were recycled by the Soviets. When parts of the Arab world were influenced by the Soviet Union, their propaganda apparatus appropriated itself of the anti-Zionist discourse.

"Third Worldism has also appropriated itself of the anti-Zionist discourse. This movement is characterized by an ideological and political commitment toward the world’s poorer countries and also supports revolutionary action. Third Worldism has developed its own linguistic arms, deriving from Marxist ideology.

“They enabled Marxists to resuscitate claims no longer fashionable and to find a new echo for them in Europe, where they are promoted by so-called progressives, i.e., Maoists and Trotskyites. In another linguistic construction, Palestinian claims against Israel were redefined in the terminology of Third Worldism.

“From the point of view of language, anti-Zionism thus becomes a tool to federate and create coalitions of extremely diverging opinions. This sociological phenomenon, which developed over half a century, has by now become an ‘ideology’ – a system of ideas -- which has permeated various specific groups in society.”

Sarfati develops this concept in detail in his book Anti-Zionism.[ii]  He says: “A number of key equations dominate the anti-Zionist discourse. The master one – which transversally commands all others – is ‘Zionism equals Nazism.’ The various types of anti-Israel propaganda have been circulated and repeated endlessly. It could only permeate society because of the latter’s anti-Semitic infrastructure. It then further developed into other falsifications such as ‘Israel uses “the final solution” in the Middle East toward the Palestinians, which was applied against the Jews in Europe; or ‘Israel has invented Auschwitz to receive its dividends.’ 

“A second equation was derived from the first: ‘Israel equals racism.’ This is based on historical notions about racism. One only has to replace the word ‘blacks’ with ‘Palestinians’ in the statement: ‘Blacks are second class citizens in their own country.’ Other variants are ‘Israel practices segregation,’ ‘Israel conducts an Apartheid policy’ or ‘The territories are Bantustans.’

“The American linguist Noam Chomsky – a Jewish Israel-defamer – has played a major role in the development of this terminology. He wishes to dissolve Israel into a bi-national state. His anti-Zionism is part and parcel of his anti-Americanism. For half a century, he has maintained that Israel is an instrument of American politics. His pseudo-radical theories are based on the ‘victimology’ concept, claiming that non-Westerners are eternal victims of imperialism.

“A third equation, which is also derived from the first one, is ‘Zionism is colonialism.’ It is accompanied by a fourth one: ‘Zionism is imperialism.’ Thereafter, these equations can be synthesized into one: The ‘Zionist, fascist, racist and colonial state.’”

Sarfati says that one has to realize the strategic effectiveness of this attack. “These equivalencies are so evil because they attach the four major negative characteristics of Western history in the last century – Nazism, racism, colonialism and imperialism – to the State of Israel.

“The anti-Zionist propaganda conveys that you only have to be, for instance, against Nazism – and who is not? – to be an anti-Zionist. The language of these pseudo-equations and pseudo-equivalences supports every initiative hostile to Zionism and turns it into an act of progressiveness and humanism. Many people who support this do not realize that they join the millennia-old list of anti-Semites.”

 [i] Georges-Elia Sarfati, La Nation Captive, sur la question juive en URSS  (Paris: Nouvelle Cité, 1985) [French]

[ii] Georges-Elia Sarfati, L’antisionisme, Israel/Palestine aux miroirs d’Occident (Paris: Berg International, 2002) [French]