By Dennis Prager, May 30, 2006.
Imagine someone saying that he seeks the destruction of Italy because he
regards Italian national identity as racist. Further, imagine that this person
constantly denies being anti-Italian, because he does not hate all Italians, only
Italy and all those who believe Italy should exist.
Now substitute “Jewish” for “Italian” and “Israel” for “Italy” and you
understand the absurdity of the argument that one can be anti-Zionist but not
Among the many lies that permeate the modern world, none is greater – or
easier to refute – than the claim that Zionism is not an integral part of Judaism
or the claim that anti-Zionism is unrelated to anti-Semitism.
In order to understand why, it is first necessary to explain Zionism and
A modern secular movement called Zionism was founded in the 19th century,
but the belief that Jews belong in Zion (the biblical term for Jerusalem) is as old
as the Jewish people. (See “So many types of Jews, so little clarity” for a
discussion of why Jews are a people and not only a religion.)
Starting with the destruction of the first Jewish state, Jews were already
Zionists in that they fervently prayed to return to Zion. While the movement
known by the specific name “Zionism” is modern, the movement of Jews
returning to Zion is more than 2,500 years old. That is why the claim that
Zionism – the return of the Jewish people to Zion – is not part of Judaism is a
theological and historical lie.
Judaism has always consisted of three components: G-d, Torah and Israel,
roughly translated as faith, practice and peoplehood. And this Jewish people
was conceived of as living in the Jewish country called Israel.
One can argue that the modern state of Israel was founded at the
expense of Arabs living in the geographic area known as Palestine (there was
never a country or a nation called Palestine); but that in no way negates the
indisputable fact that Zionism is an integral part of Judaism.
Nor does the fact that some Jews who have abandoned Judaism are
opposed to Zionism, nor that a tiny sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews (Neturei Karta)
believe that only the Messiah can found a Jewish state in Israel.
When anti-Israel Muslim students demonstrate on campus chanting, “Yes to
Judaism, No to Zionism,” they are inventing a new Judaism out of their hatred
It would be as if anti-Muslims marched around chanting, “Yes to Allah,
No to the Quran.” Just as Allah, Muhammad and the Quran are inextricable
components of Islam, so G-d, Torah and Israel are of Judaism.
But, one might argue, even if Zionism is as much a part of Judaism as any other
part of the Hebrew Bible, the modern Jewish state of Israel has no right to exist
because it displaced many indigenous Arabs, known later as Palestinians.
Before responding to this, it is crucial to understand that this argument – that
Israel’s founding was illegitimate – is completely unrelated to anti-Zionism. An
intellectually honest person who believes Israel’s founding is illegitimate would
still have to acknowledge that Zionism is an inseparable part of Judaism.
But the argument that Israel is illegitimate because its founding led to 600,000
to 700,000 Arab refugees is as anti-Jewish as is anti-Zionism. Virtually every
country in the world was founded by displacing some of the people who had
lived there, and many of those countries did far worse to far more people than
Therefore, anyone who calls only for Israel’s destruction had better
explain why, of all the states on earth whose founding was accompanied by the
displacement of others, only the Jewish state is illegitimate.
Take Pakistan, for example. Unlike the Jewish state of Israel, which had existed
twice before in history, there was never a country called Pakistan, nor was
there ever any other independent Muslim country in the part of India that was
carved out to create Pakistan.
Moreover, if the Jewish state of Israel is illegitimate because it created
700,000 Arab refugees, why isn’t the Muslim state of Pakistan, which created
more than eight million Hindu refugees, illegitimate?
The answer is obvious. When people isolate the one Jewish state in the world
for sanctions, opprobrium and delegitimizing, they are doing so because it is the
Jewish state. And that, quite simply, is why anti-Zionism is simply another form
You can criticize Israel all you want. That does not make you an antisemite. But
if you are an anti-Zionist or advocate the destruction of the Jewish state, then
let’s be clear: You are an enemy of the Jews and of Judaism, and the word for
such a person is anti-Semite.