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When Palestinian nationalism becomes antisemitism

It’s time for anti-Zionism to come to an end.

Protesters in Berlin hold a Palestinian flag and the initials of the anti-Israel BDS movement while then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was visiting Germany in August 2019. Credit: Israel Hayom.
Protesters in Berlin hold a Palestinian flag and the initials of the anti-Israel BDS movement while then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was visiting Germany in August 2019. Credit: Israel Hayom.
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is a senior educator at numerous educational institutions. The author of three books, he teaches Torah, Zionism and Israel studies around the world.

Article 9 of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s charter couldn’t be more nefarious. It states: “Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinian Arab people assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle and to work for an armed popular revolution for the liberation of their country and their return to it.”

It adds, “The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine.”

These words are poison to a Zionist. To call Zionism an “imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland” and advocate for its elimination rejects Jewish national rights and the only Jewish state, which are the essence of Zionism.

Some interpret the PLO charter, written in 1964 and revised in 1968, as a nationalist document that expresses the Palestinian desire for a liberated homeland. Thus, the Palestinian “national duty” of eliminating Zionism from the “Arab homeland” is simply the expression of a people’s desire for freedom and self-determination. The charter’s many clauses opposing Zionism are thus comparable to the principles of the early Zionists themselves: They were not aiming to eliminate Palestinian national hopes, but rather to create their own national homeland. The Palestinians, some claim, are merely pursuing the same objective.

Palestinian claims that the PLO charter has been amended to revoke all clauses that are hostile to Israel are the subject of debate. Even though former President Bill Clinton publicly thanked the Palestinians for revoking these clauses in the 1990s, many Palestinian leaders claim they were never actually revoked. This means that today’s Palestinian Authority stands with its PLO founders in opposition to Zionism. It also means that Palestinian leaders see “armed struggle” as not only acceptable but commendable— “the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase.”

This prompts a question: Is opposition to Zionism and the Jewish state an expression of Palestinian nationalism or a form of antisemitism? Is Palestinian terrorism an “armed struggle” based not in hate, but rather the desire for liberation?

Do anti-Zionists object “only” to Jewish national aspirations in their own land, especially if that land is seen as “Palestinian,” or do they harbor a perverse hatred of the Jewish people and only the Jewish people?

Today, many people around the world believe there is nothing wrong with denying the tenets of Zionism and thus denying the Jewish people the rights that all other peoples enjoy. When confronted with charges of antisemitism, they vehemently object and defend their anti-Zionism by claiming it is about Palestinian liberation, not the Jews.

However, recent polling has shown that 93% of Palestinians maintain antisemitic views and over 80% support “violent resistance” against Israelis. The Palestinian Authority leadership incentivizes Palestinian terrorism through its “pay-to-slay” program and its educational system.

Moreover, Palestinian terrorism is often directed not only against Israelis but Jews in general. When such hatred and violence extends to entire groups of people, not just nations with specific policies, it is simply classic racism—in this case, antisemitism. When Palestinians claim to oppose the Israeli “occupation” of Judea and Samaria, but have no problem with attacking Jews around the world, they’ve crossed the line between Palestinian nationalism and Jew-hatred.

There is nothing inherently insidious about Palestinian nationalism, but the ideologies and methods it has adopted over the past century—including outright collaboration with Nazism—have been more antisemitic than nationalist. When Palestinians define their movement’s objective as the destruction of the State of Israel and its millions of Jews, rather than the founding of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, it becomes clear that they are more interested in hurting and killing Jews than realizing their national aspirations.

There is nothing in Zionism that negates the idea of a Palestinian state. Some of Israel’s greatest Zionists, including various prime ministers, have endorsed the idea of a such a state. There is no compelling reason for Palestinian nationalists to demand the replacement or destruction of the Jewish state rather than agree to peaceful coexistence.

Clearly, it is time for the anti-Zionism that masquerades as Palestinian nationalism to stop pretending it is anything other than antisemitism. It must come to an end.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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