Anti-Zionism is to blame

Refuting every anti-Israel slander is a losing game.

Rafael Castro

OpEds 'Palestinian children play 'Zionist jailers' executing 'heroic prisoners
'Palestinian children play 'Zionist jailers' executing 'heroic prisoners

In polite European society it is good manners to regret the existence of Zionism. At best, tolerance for Zionism is viewed as Europe’s guilt offering for the Holocaust. At worst it is seen as heartless abuse of Arab rights. Zionism is rarely appreciated for what it is: a creative and constructive movement for Jewish self-determination.

Elite blindness to the essence of Zionism pollutes media, academic and cultural discourse on Israel and fuels the mainstreaming of antisemitism. As memories of the Holocaust recede, anti-Zionism is seeping through European societies.

European pro-Israel activists face a Sisyphean task in defending and legitimizing Zionism. Every anti-Israel charge and slander they painstakingly dissect and refute. This process is arduous and time-consuming. And it is a losing battle: False charges stick, as centuries of anti-Jewish blood libels amply demonstrate.

Zionists need to go on the offensive. The challenge is finding an approach to defend Israel that is successful. In this regard, attacking Islam as the root of Middle Eastern problems is seductive. However, this approach is not an option for spokespeople of Israel or the Jewish people.

Fifteen million Jews cannot attack 1.6 billion Muslims. Doing so would isolate Israel in the region. Ultimately, it would corroborate Islamist claims that “Zionists” sow strife between Christians and Muslims.

There is a more promising route Zionists can take. Zionists must point out that anti-Zionism, not Zionism, is the key culprit of Arab and Middle Eastern problems.

This approach is promising. Any survey of Arabic and Middle Eastern history during the last century shows that anti-Zionism is the common denominator of all authoritarian, totalitarian and violent movements that have wrought war and misery on the region.

War and misery are not a mere side-effect of military confrontations with Israel. They are the inevitable outcome of Arabs viewing Zionism and what it stands for as an enemy. Since Zionism embraced democracy, democracy had to be rejected by Arab societies; since Zionism embraced freedom of speech, freedom was considered foreign; since Zionism embraced science and technology, Arab development was subordinate to the higher goal of driving Israelis into the sea.

Zionism is not the problem. Anti-Zionism is the problem.
This discourse was never explicit. Historians would be hard-pressed to find quotes by Abdel-Gamal Nasser, Saddam Hussein or Yasser Arafat arguing that their societies should stagnate in order to fight Zionism. However, if one analyzes the rhetoric of political and religious leaders throughout the Middle East, it is clear that citizens who defend democracy, freedom of speech, pacifism, equality for women and respect for minorities are routinely discredited as Zionist agents.

Remarkably, anti-Zionism legitimizes and fuels all the political, social and religious forces that oppose freedom, peace and prosperity in the Middle East. Anti-Zionism is thus the source of Middle Eastern problems that academics and journalists in Europe often attribute to Zionism.

Zionism is not the problem. Anti-Zionism is the problem. Without anti-Zionism there would have never been a Nakba, no Jews would have been expelled from Arab lands, and wars and terrorism would not hinder Arabs and Jews from living peacefully together between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

This is the clear message that pro-Israel activists in Europe must proclaim loudly and proudly. This message is so simple that it is easily understood, yet so profound that it can steer Europe to contribute to peace and prosperity in the Middle East.