The paradox of Zionism

May 7, 2017

by Martin Odoni

I do not discuss the matter of Israel/Palestine on this blog as much as perhaps I should. Events this week however are forcing me to state my position quite explicitly.

The events in question are the smears against Vox Political writer, Mike Sivier. He was standing as a Labour candidate in the Local Elections this week, when he was targeted by activists for the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, who accused him of a history of anti-Semitic writing. Now Mike has addressed the accusations in detail himself, and so there is no need for me to join in with the deconstructions – although I do feel compelled to point out how hilariously silly one of the accusations was; –

'Anti-Semtic punctuation' is now a thing.

Zionists are now becoming such uncompromising censorship-trolls, they have now invented ‘anti-Semitic punctuation’. (See here for more info.)

However, I did post a declaration of support for Mike in mid-week. I also got caught up in a social media discussion of the matter on Facebook, one that CAA members targeted in an apparent attempt to maximise the damage caused by the smears. Sadly, they appear to have succeeded, as Mike lost the constituency vote.

During this online argument, one of the CAA members insinuated that I am not really a Jew and that I have made up my ancestry. (Just for the record, that accusation is not only untrue – I am a non-practising Jew in religious terms as I am an atheist, but I can no more cease to be a Jew by that than Morgan Freeman can cease to be a black man simply by voting for the Republican Party. The charge is also offensive, and another attempt to discredit an opponent by means of a smear. As a matter of historical clarity, my ancestors were Lithuanian Jews who were forced to flee the old Russian Empire during the Pogroms of the late-19th Century; if you have ever seen the movie Fiddler On The Roof, well, my family’s story is essentially the same as that, minus the singing of course.) This is always a difficulty for Jews like me who oppose Zionism. We are treated as either treacherous or ‘fake’, and these stubborn accusations are frequently used by Zionists as a substitute for reasoned argument.

I responded by pointing out that the general stance of British Zionist activists is in fact anti-Semitic, and I stand by that; as I wrote the other day, to use anti-Semitism claims as a means of silencing honest debate of Israel is to reduce Jews to a tool, and therefore make them less than people. It is also, if not anti-Semitic, then certainly bullying and repressive behaviour to tell a Jew that he or she does not ‘count’ as a ‘real’ Jewish specimen unless he or she is an unquestioning supporter of Israel.

(I have been accused on Twitter, by the way, of saying one of the CAA people has a “Jewish vulpine nose”. This was a characteristic verbal sleight-of-hand for a Zionist.


I did indeed say the individual in question had a vulpine nose, by which I meant he is always sniffing around like a feral canine for any pretext for making trouble and for assassinating the characters of perceived opponents*. It was not a reference to the supposed ‘Jewishness’ of his appearance, and I did not use the word ‘Jewish’ in the sentence at all. That would be quite ridiculous, not least because my own nose, with its prominent bridge, has typical Jewish qualities too.)

The CAA members have told me they have reported me to the Labour Party’s compliance unit, so I imagine I may join Mike in getting suspended by the party. I expect it, given the pusillanimous way the party panics and does whatever Zionists tell it to do whenever they cry out about supposed ‘anti-Semitism’.

Like the wider and wildly exaggerated ‘anti-Semitism in Labour‘ controversy over the last year and more, the whole attack on Mike was really about forcing supporters of Jeremy Corbyn out of the party. This is because Zionists are terrified of any possibility of Corbyn becoming Prime Minister, as he is a consistent critic of Israeli policy.

But I suppose the question must be asked why I, as a Jew, do not support Israel, or even the founding principle of Zionism. This week’s argument has led me to realise that I have never really articulated this in any fully coherent way. So now is as good a time as any; –

As a young Jew being brought up in Exeter in the 1980s, I never really understood the origins of modern Israel and so I blindly followed the lead. I was well aware of the horrors of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, and I understood the stated aim of giving the Jewish diaspora – forever ostracised and resented in other countries – a nation of their own. After all, if the Jewish people were never going to be fully tolerated in other countries, what alternative was there but to give them a country of their own? Everyone has to be somewhere. And as there was an ancient historical ‘Israel’ in the region around Jerusalem, it sounded to my young ears like that was where the new Israel was meant to be.

But as I entered my teenage years, I ceased to believe in God, which led me to drift away from the Jewish community in Exeter – I had never taken religion all that seriously in the first place. My family then moved to Glasgow in 1989, which essentially broke all contact with Exeter’s Jewish community, and disconnected me from the Israel-only perspective by which I had previously been surrounded. In its place, through the Scottish school curriculum’s subject of ‘Modern Studies’ (probably nearest equivalent subject elsewhere would be ‘political science’), I finally began to learn the other side of the story. I learned through one teacher in particular – her name was Mrs Bauld – of how hundreds of thousands of Arabs in the ‘British Mandate of Palestine’ had been forced off their lands to make room for Jewish settlers. Moreover, I learned about the murky reality of the ‘Occupied Territories‘, and the illegal settlements that Israel was establishing and expanding within them. I was still young and felt an instinctive, tribal wish to defend Israel, but as the 1990s wore on, this gradually receded. By the time I had moved in 1996 to Manchester, with its very large Jewish community, I had been completely disabused of the simplistic notion of the Israelis being ‘the good guys’ and the Palestinians being ‘the bad guys’.

While I can still accept – or at least tolerate – the notion that the Jews should have a land of their own, somewhere to which the diaspora should be allowed to retreat when they face persecution in other lands, I do not accept that it was right founding it in ‘The Holy Land’. I further consider the implementation of the Zionist project to be the epitome of British post-colonialism; an arrogant, cack-handed mis-step in dismantling an Empire that the country no longer had the resources to control. The familiar pattern in other places such as Ireland and India applied just as firmly in Palestine. High-handed partitioning of land between two antagonistic populations, ignorance of historical rights and wishes of the local peoples, forced re-settlement of very large numbers of people, and a patronising insistence on British convenience taking priority over the realities of the foreign maps they were redrawing.

Naz Shah MP notoriously shared a joke map – originated by that most Jewish of anti-Zionists Norman Finkelstein – implying that Israel could have been located in the United States of America instead of the Middle East. In the process, Shah inadvertently started up the ‘Anti-Semitism In The Labour Party’ controversy, but she was not being as offensive or silly as one might imagine. Indeed, I have long-since concluded that establishing Israel somewhere like North America would have been a far better approach than the one that was adopted in the 1940s. Yes, a lot of Jews who had fled the threat of Lebensraum in Europe had settled in Palestine, and yes, the most devout and Orthodox among them wanted quick and easy access to Jerusalem. But the number one raison d’etre of the resurrected Israel was to be a homeland and safe haven for any and every Jew who wanted one. This is precisely why it was not only immoral but also impractical that Israel was founded around Jerusalem.

Israel’s justification for its policies is that it is surrounded by enemy countries populated in large part by people who feel they have a right to kill Jews. Whether one agrees with that perspective, or sees it as exaggerated and even a little paranoid, the inference from it that is impossible to avoid is that Jews in Israel are not safe.

That Israel has hostile neighbours is an unmistakeable fact. The reasons for that hostility are varied. Some are justified e.g. resentment that Arab/Islamic land has been confiscated and given to mainly Europeans, a perception that the Arab world has been punished for the crimes of Nazi Germany, deep anger at the very harsh treatment of people in the remaining Palestinian territories, the ongoing encroachment of Israeli settlements into territories over which Israel has doubtful right of sovereignty, and the Israeli control over Jerusalem, a city that is as sacred to Islam as it is to Judaism and Christianity. Other reasons for hostility to Israel are thoroughly offensive, and all of these ones boil down to genuine anti-Semitism i.e. a distaste felt by many at sharing what they see as ‘their’ lands with Jews.

But quite simply, that is my main point. What the blazes were the British thinking in the immediate post-war period, establishing Israel in a part of the world where it was bound to be met with enormous resentment, and in a fashion that was certain to increase it?

There is so much land in the USA, just for instance, that is surplus to its Government’s requirements. While no one should be under any illusion that there was not a serious anti-Semitism problem in the USA then, and indeed it is still far from ended there today, it would surely have been better to establish a new Israel somewhere like North America. As much as anything else, the reason Israel keeps encroaching into the Occupied Territories is because its heartlands are tiny and narrow but with long borders and minimal natural defences. By contrast, there are parts of North America where the natural defences, such as mountains and large bodies of water, are formidable, and yet are sparsely-populated. If the Jews need a land of their own where they can be safe – and as I say I can understand the argument why they (oh all right, we) do – surely there could have been a better place to establish it in North America? Surely the USA, given the size of the Jewish lobby there even back in the 1940s, would have at least considered co-operating with the idea. Sure, large numbers of Jews had already settled in Palestine by 1948, but then I am not saying they should have been forced to move to North America. It would simply have been better to give them the option of moving there, instead of destroying Palestinian society.

Both practically and morally, Zionism’s insistence on having a Jewish homeland actually in the Holy Land was and remains wrong. It forcibly dispossessed huge numbers of people who had had nothing to do with the suffering of the Jews, while also defeating the object of the exercise, because it did not make the Jewish people safe. Jews in Israel still feel threatened. That was not supposed to happen. That perception of danger has led Israel to commit a lot of aggressive acts – be they extenuated or otherwise – against neighbouring countries, and to mistreat Arabs within its own borders. Atrocities like the ‘51-Day War‘ against the Gaza Strip in 2014 make Israel look increasingly like a monster. One can criticise Palestinian terrorism as well, but, firstly, it is quite evident that Israel exaggerates the extent of it, and secondly, we must recognise that, as a people who feel occupied and second-class within their own land, the Palestinians feel that they are defending their home. (If what happened to the Palestinians ever happens to the British, I have no doubt the British would feel the same way and respond the same way; just look at the xenophobia and animosity uncovered by Brexit.) In any event, the harshness of Israel’s attempts to suppress Palestinian uprisings is so severe that it only invites more attacks.

Had the Zionist movement accepted the idea of a homeland for the Jews elsewhere, I would probably support it. But it did not. I recognise that it is much too late to go back and change what happened now, but there is a refusal among Zionists to accept that the chosen location for their country has created problems that still show no signs of being resolved today.

(There is also an unsavoury ‘if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em’ defeatist aspect to Zionism that I find unsettling. It implictly accepts the anti-Semitic notion that Jews and non-Jews cannot co-exist. For Jewish Zionists living outside Israel in particular, there is a clear contradiction in this; how can a Jew living outside Israel hold a Zionist stance, when the very fact he/she lives outside Israel demonstrates that Jews and non-Jews can co-exist?)

The paradox of Zionism is that it was meant to make the Jewish people safe, and yet it has led the Israelis to seventy years of paranoia instead. And while I am also a Jew, paranoia is something I can never endorse, even when I understand it. This paranoia leads not only Israel, but the Zionist movement, to behave with great aggression and dishonesty; hence the attack on Mike Sivier on absurd grounds. Hence also the Zionists’ never-ending expansion of the definition of ‘anti-Semitism’**.

That is why I am not, and never will be, a Zionist.


*It is further worth noting that the individual I accused of having a vulpine nose took further offence at me calling him an anti-Semite, on the basis of his habitual exploitation of anti-Semitism to stifle debate. What is interesting is that he voiced his outrage at this, but did not see anything objectionable in his fellow CAA supporters accusing me of faking my ancestry on the basis of no information whatsoever. This alone demonstrates that the CAA are quite partizan, tribal, and arbitrary about what they consider offensive, and what they consider fair.

**During the row over Mike Sivier’s written work, one of the CAA supporters explicitly stated that anti-Semitism is now whatever the Jewish community finds offensive. The implication of this is scary enough in itself, but is made all the more unsettling in the way that the ‘Jewish community’ is not really defined. What if not all Jews agree what is offensive and what is not? I am a Jew and I, among others, do not agree with the recently-affirmed International definition of anti-Semitism, as it extends further the dangerous conflation of Jews with Israel. But other Jews do agree with it. Does this division of opinion not mean that the ‘Jewish community’ cannot be said to accept the definition? Well, it seems that the CAA insist that it still does accept it. My worry therefore is that when the CAA talk about the ‘Jewish community’, they are pulling the same transparent trick British and American politicians pull when talking about ‘The International community’. In other words, what the CAA really mean by the ‘Jewish community’ is the CAA itself.


4 Responses to “The paradox of Zionism”

  1. Sophia.George 💋 Says:

    Reblogged this on Site Title and commented:
    Wow xxx I had no idea the ins and outs. It’s one of the many subjects I haven’t studied. As to your real Jewish heritage, there is no questioning it. I feel that the term anti-Semitic has got seriously out of hand. Many of us incur some level of abuse particularly where religion and culture are involved. This argument just seems to be the only one that is going on within the Labour Party and truthfully it’s gone on only since Jeremy. I could accuse him of being anti-catholic; but the man does not believe in a diety so it’s merely an opinion and as far as I’m aware nobody in the Labour Party has been suspended for a serious length of time because it’s an absurd argument.

    Designed purely to keep Corbyn out of office: in fear he may actually be able to resolve this issue quietly xxxx

  2. tiggysagar Says:

    The Rabbi I talk to on Facebook says he’s a Magnus zionist. Not sure of the spelling but apparently Mr M was a zionist with a fairer concept of sharing the land as the Rabbi regularly sticks up for Palestinians. I have learned s lot about the injustices via liberal Christians st the Greenbelt Festival. I’m Mewish by birth but was adopted and my birth father was a Yemeni Muslim. I don’t agree thst the Jewish homeland could have been in America because Jewish religion has always looked to a return to Jerusalem. The Jews do not control the Temple Mount as they are not allowed even to pray there and the mosque dominates it. The British pretended there was no one living in Israel and I’ve heard that clsim from Jewish people too, but it’s plainly not true as photos and accounts show.

  3. […] troll Zionbat is upset after being accused by a fellow Jew of being associated with the Campaign Against Antisemitism […]

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