Activism Changes Encyclopedia

Activists' campaign to remove an extremist definition of Zionism as racism from an encyclopedia has succeeded.

Maayana Miskin , | updated: 8:24 AM

Pro-Israel activists (illustrative)
Pro-Israel activists (illustrative)
Israel news photo: Wikimedia Commons

An encyclopedia on racism has removed an entry defining Zionism as racism following a campaign by Israel activists. The controversial entry was written by Noel Ignatiev, a professor with radical anti-Israel views who has termed Israel “Hitlerite” and called for its elimination.

In his entry, Ignatiev wrongly claimed that Israel's Law of Return provides citizenship based on race, failing to note that the term is inapplicable because the law grants citizenship also to those who convert to Judaism, and denies citizenship to Jews who convert to a different religion.

He also pointed to the Absentee Property Law as evidence of racism, despite the fact that it applies only to Arabs who fled to enemy nations, and not to Arab citizens of Israel.

His entry claimed that Judea and Samaria are “close to” being empty of Arabs, when in fact the Arab population of the region has grown exponentially.

In perhaps his most egregious error, Ignatiev wrote that Jordan, Egypt, and four other Arab states “had already accepted the partition of Palestine” during the 1948 War of Independence, when in fact all Arab states had voted against the partition and attacked Israel as a result.

In yet another bizarre claim, Ignatiev used statistical data on Jewish immigration to British Mandatory Palestine to prove that Jews “did not choose Palestine” and were more likely to move to the Soviet Union – ignoring the fact that Britain had imposed harsh restrictions preventing Jewish immigration to pre-state Israel.

Organizations including CAMERA (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), the American Jewish Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League contacted publisher Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, with their concerns.

Many private individuals sent letters to Gale as well.

In response, Gale established an independent board to examine each article in its Encyclopedia of Race and Racism for accuracy, scope and balance. As an interim measure, it commissioned an article, “Nationalism and Ethnicity,” that included a new article on Zionism as well as articles on cultural nationalism elsewhere in the world.

The board suggested that the encyclopedia expand its coverage of various regions and time periods, and that some articles be removed – including Ignatiev's piece.

CAMERA called the decision, “good news for anyone who cares about factual accuracy, scholarship, and defending Israel against defamation.”