Opinion

The rise of the anti-Zionist Jews

Against those who pervert Jewish tradition, history is our most powerful weapon.

Jewish Voice for Peace. Photo courtesy of NGO Monitor.
Jewish Voice for Peace. Photo courtesy of NGO Monitor.
Rachel Zaslavsky
Rachel Zaslavsky is a 2022-2023 CAMERA on Campus fellow. She completed her BA in government and history at the College of William & Mary.

There is a troubling trend among young American Jews: More and more of them are turning their backs on Israel and actively participating in anti-Zionist activism.

A 2020 study by the Pew Research Center revealed that U.S. Jews under the age of 30 are less emotionally attached to Israel than those aged 65 and above. The same study found that only 27% of American Jews between the ages of 18 and 29 strongly oppose the BDS movement. 

All over the U.S., Jewish anti-Zionist organizations have sprung up on college campuses. Consider the organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which claims to “unequivocally oppose Zionism because it is counter to ideals” of “justice, equality and freedom for all.” JVP has chapters in over 25 states and Washington, D.C. 

Jewish students are also establishing new local and campus-specific anti-Zionist groups. The Anti-Zionist Jewish Coalition at the City University of New York (CUNY), for example, calls Israel an “illegitimate state.” 

JVP proclaims that Zionism is a “false and failed answer to the desperately real question that many of our ancestors faced of how to protect Jewish lives from murderous antisemitism in Europe.”

But Zionism has not failed. In fact, it has provided the only practical answer to the plight of Jews everywhere.

When over 800,000 Jews were expelled from Arab and Muslim lands in 1948, the majority fled to Israel. Soviet Jews spent decades struggling to escape antisemitism and make aliyah to the Jewish state. The Russian aliyah reached its peak in 1990-1996, when over 600,000 Jews left the USSR for Israel.

This history continues today. France is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, but its Jews are leaving by the thousands for Israel. A third of French Jews who have made aliyah since 1948 did so over the last decade

Extensive surveys conducted by polling firm IFOP, the American Jewish Committee and think-tank Fondapol found that 74% of French Jews have been victims of antisemitic acts. Both the French interior minister and President Emmanuel Macron have acknowledged that France is witnessing a dangerous rise in antisemitism. French olim cite antisemitism as the main reason for their decision to make aliyah.

The Anti-Zionist Jewish Coalition claims Zionism was “built with inspiration from European colonialism, ethnic nationalism and white supremacy since its conception.”

This is a lie. Zionism was inspired by something quite different. In the 19th century, Jews from all over the world—who were excluded from mainstream society—saw a Jewish state as necessary for the revival of the Jewish people. Political Zionism, cultural Zionism, labor Zionism and religious Zionism all agreed that a Jewish state could heal the Jewish people after centuries of antisemitism and subjugation. This has been proven true time and time again.

J Street U is the student arm of J Street, a Jewish organization that claims to be both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine, but is routinely criticized for failing to maintain a pro-Israel stance. 

J Street and J Street U misrepresent Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria. J Street claims Israel’s “occupation” of these territories is “de jure unilateral Israeli annexation” designed “to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state” and “an obstacle to peace.” In fact, J Street asserts, the “occupation” makes “peaceful resolution” impossible. J Street U’s campaign No Aid to Occupation promotes restrictions on U.S. aid to Israel because the aid may be used to fund “destructive policies” such as “creeping annexation.”

Calling Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria an “illegal occupation” disregards the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Prior to 1967, these territories were under Jordanian rule. In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel legally captured Judea and Samaria in a defensive war against Arab armies intent on its destruction. In 1988, Jordan revoked its claim to these territories, essentially leaving them in Israel’s hands. 

Moreover, the claim that Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is an obstacle to peace is based on the land-for-peace myth. Since 1948, Israel has made numerous land-for-peace offers to the Palestinians. These offers included ceding almost all of Judea and Samaria and redividing Jerusalem. All of these offers have been rejected by the Palestinians.

No matter what concessions Israel makes, many Palestinians do not want peace because they are against the existence of a Jewish state in any form. Moreover, Palestinian support for the two-state solution is declining, with some Palestinian leaders now rejecting Israel’s right to exist altogether. J Street and J Street U say nothing about all of this. 

Another Jewish organization, IfNotNow, claims to work for a “thriving future for all Israelis and Palestinians.” In fact, the group perverts Jewish tradition and spreads the false apartheid libel. 

The claim that Israel is an apartheid state has been disproven time and time again. Even Mansour Abbas, leader of the Israeli-Arab Ra’am party, has rejected the apartheid libel.

IfNotNow appropriates the language of teshuva, the Jewish concept of repentance; the imagery of the burning bush, a sign from God to Moses; Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest; and Passover, the Jewish celebration of the Exodus from Egypt in order to promote an anti-Israel message. This is an abuse of Jewish tradition, which supports Jewish self-determination in the Jewish people’s historic homeland. Part of the Passover meal itself is a prayer for a return to Jerusalem. 

A new young American Jew is being created, one who is proud to be anti-Zionist. To counter this, we must educate and empower young Jews through our shared history. A historically literate generation would understand the necessity of the State of Israel and the Jewish connection to the land. It would not be fooled by inaccurate portrayals of the Arab-Israeli conflict. For the Jewish community, history is our most powerful tool. It is time to use it.

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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