a difference between
anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism
December 20, 2001
December 9, Whitehall. The annual Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day demonstration
is coming to a rowdy climax. Unusually, it is highly charged this
year, but it's another difference that catches the eye.
From atop some steps a tremulous voice rises above the rallying
crowd. The root cause of the Middle East conflict, it is saying,
is Zionism. Without an end to this racist ideology and the dismantling
of Israel, there will never be any peace. There are roars of approval.
Somebody initiates a round of "Allahu-Akbar". The yellow
and green flags of Hezbollah fly once again.
But here's the rub. The man they're cheering is Rabbi Goldstein,
an orthodox Jew of the Neturei Karta. As he speaks, a clutch of
photographers vie to capture the same image: another rabbi, pig-tailed
and in his bekisch, standing in front of an animated young Muslim,
punching the air, his head draped in a kefiyeh. "Judaism yes,
Zionism no," chants the crowd.
It's iconoclasm in motion. Hezbollah and the Homburg, Muslim and
Jews, standing shoulder to shoulder to demolish a great myth of
our time: that anti-Zionism and anti-semitism are the same thing.
Rabbis of the New York branch of the same order, numbering hundreds
of thousands of Jews worldwide, also relayed their message to this
summer's UN conference on racism in Durban, which, unlike Linda
Grant, I observed first hand.
Travelling there in a joint delegation with the Islamic Human Rights
Commission, they took the event by storm. For decades Zionists have
been slurring Jewish opponents of Zionism, such as Noam Chomsky
and Norman Finkelstein, as self-hating Jews, and their gentile allies
as anti-semites. Since the rabbis cannot be accused of either, they
are the perfect myth-busters.
Before Zionism reared its ugly head, Muslims and Jews enjoyed amicable
relations. The prophet Mohammed kept a Jewish wife, Safiya. The
great 12th-century Jewish physician-philosopher Maimonides was physician
to Saladin. In 1492, when the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella
forced Jews to renounce their religion, they went to Morocco, where
Emerging in 19th-century Europe, out of nationalist sentiment and
a reaction to anti-semitism, Zionism poisoned this congenial atmosphere.
Indeed, until the colonial state materialised in 1948, and reprisal
attacks for the expulsion and massacres of Palestinians drove them
out, large, thriving Jewish communities were a feature of Arab and
north African cities.
Israel killed peaceful coexistence. And in order to immunise itself,
and its founding myths, it soon found a convenient device in the
stain of anti-semitism. For any potential critic, the fear of being
charged with the crimes of the Nazis was the ultimate deterrent,
an act of professional suicide.
The mud is slung at anyone who dares attack the law of return,
the de facto ban on Arabs acquiring land, the continued confiscation
of their soil, Israel's refusal to let the 1948 and 1967 refugees
return, and its politicians' claims to the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque.
In Israel, the state's raison d'être is above questioning,
and anyone violating that sacred cow faces jail. It is OK, though,
for Zionist Israelis to call Arabs "cockroaches", deny
their right to statehood, and demand their "transfer".
Now Zionists want to include in the infinitely elastic definition
of anti-semite those who oppose a two-state solution. This is almost
too absurd to dignify. Will they label anti-white all those black
people in South Africa who wanted the dismantling of apartheid?
Anti-semitism and Islamaphobia are related hatreds. But a growing
source for the latter is the Israel-first lobby among the Jewish
community in this country. The far right's change of strategy to
target "the Muslim problem" has barely excited a whimper
from the Zionist Jewish Board of Deputies.
Other Zionists, such as Melanie Phillips, have used September 11
as a platform to attack the loyalty of British Muslims. Memorably,
Phillips came to grief on Question Time at the hands of Will Self,
who reminded her that British Jews also serve in foreign armies.
Thank God for the rabbis. Their new alliance with Muslims exposes
the fallacy that Muslims who are anti-Israel are, ipso facto, anti-semitic.
Grant didn't mention them at all in her piece. But then again, neither
have most journalists for the past 50 years.
· Faisal Bodi is a writer on Muslim affairs and editor of
See our photo coverage of the Quds Day Rally
including Rabbi Goldstein's speech (real audio):
Letters to The Guardian:
Saturday December 22, 2001
Faisal Bodi berates the Jewish community in Britain for having
"barely excited a whimper" against the anti-Muslim
strategy adopted by the far-right (There's a difference between
anti-semitism and anti-Zionism, December 20). The Jewish community
in Britain have long been at the forefront of the fight against
neo-Nazism and our security team work closely with the police
at all levels in combating racist groups such as the BNP and
Combat 18. The former's opportunistic embrace of Islamaphobia
following September 11 is condemned along with the other forms
of racism they so contemptibly peddle.
Equally erroneous is Mr Bodi's assertion that the extreme
Jewish sect Neturei Karta numbers "hundreds of thousands".
They are about as representative of world Jewry as al-Qaida
is of mainstream Islam. Mr Bodi seemed unwilling to address
the question of why, if anti-semitism and anti-Zionism are
so separate, do so-called anti-Zionists in the Arab world
indulge in Holocaust denial and Hitler worship. The appearance
of Mein Kampf on the Palestinian best-seller list and the
popularity of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in some
Muslim countries cannot be explained away by a hatred of Israel;
it signifies a hatred of Jews.
Board of Deputies of British Jews
Friday January 4, 2002
Neville Nagler, director general of the Board of Deputies
of British Jews, claims that Neturei Karta, an international
orthodox Jewish group opposed to Zionism, is atypical of Torah-believing
Jews worldwide (Letters, December 22). As any Jewish historian
can validate, the vast majority of orthodoxy was passionately
opposed to the Zionist movement from the time of its inception.
This position has continued unbroken and is represented by
the large Satmar and Toldos Aharon Hasidic groups and is the
consensus of Jerusalem's orthodox Jews descended from the
Yishuv hayashan (the old settlement, who arrived in Jerusalem
long before Zionism had ever been dreamed of). These and other
groups number in the hundreds of thousands. In fact, other
segments of orthodoxy are as unsympathetic to the state, but,
have chosen to participate in its current affairs as a worst-case
This opposition is the logical outgrowth of a sincere devotion
to the Jewish faith. It is unthinkable that believing Jews
should en masse make their peace with a state which proclaims
that it has severed its links with our ancient faith and seeks
to define Jewish identity in an utterly secular fashion. Faisal
Bodi's original analysis (There's a difference between anti-semitism
and anti-Zionism, G2, December 20) is in accord with the historical
In addition, Mr Nagler makes reference to some anti-Semitic
currents in contemporary Arab society as a validation of his
aggressive, pro-Zionist stance. Perhaps some honest introspection
would yield just the opposite conclusion. After a century
of indifference and persecution, of having been told that
Judaism and Zionism are identical, some Arabs have taken this
false representation at face value. It is precisely the resultant
animosity (new in Islamic-Jewish relations), nurtured by Mr
Nagler's fables, that Neturei Karta works hard to alleviate.
Rabbi Yisroel David Weiss
Neturei Karta International
Monsey NY, USA