Your Anti-Zionism is quite possibly Anti-Semitic
High on the list of ironies surrounding anti-Israel organizations is their vocal criticism of the way that Israel has historically treated the influx of Mizrahi Jews into the country.
Now don’t get me wrong this is a completely valid criticism of Israel.
Starting in the early years of the Jewish state there were hundreds of cases of kidnappings of Yemenite babies in what many Yemities deem as their own holocaust. Other Mizrachi communities were given suboptimal housing in tent cities while their Ashkenazi immigrant counterparts enjoyed new apartments. Today there is undoubtedly racism throughout Israel (similar to any other country) with issues such as police brutality, incarceration, and other forms of systemic oppression ubiquitous throughout society.
But whenever I see these issues being highlighted as a part of a larger coordinated effort to undermine and demonize the entire country I can’t help but laugh.
See many western anti-Zionists operate under the assumption that there is a complete separation between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Especially in many progressive circles, people claim to be champions of anti-racism and anti-semitism while simultaneously being extremely anti-Israel. All is well if it is legitimate and possible to make a full separation between the two.
However there is just one problem: Mizrahi Jews and their recent history undermines the entire idea that Zionism and Judaism can be separated.
Let’s start with Iraq, possibly the oldest diasporic Jewish community in the world. In a 1947 speech Iraq’s Prime minister, Nuri al-Said stated that if the UN’s solution dealing with British Mandate Palestine was unsatisfactory then "severe measures would be taken against all Jews in Arab countries."
All Jews, huh.
But in 1947 many Arab Jews had no connection to Zionism or desire to go to Israel whatsoever! Yes there was an outbreak of Nazi inspired programs in Iraq in the 1930’s and 40’s culminating in the Farhud causing many Jews to flee to Israel - but by 1947 there were still at least 150,000 Jews living in Iraq that had declined to leave since they figured Iraqi Jewish life was still reasonably good enough.
Sadly, they were wrong. In 1948 Iraq joined the majority of Arab countries in completely forbidding any of their Jews to emigrate anywhere. Why? They were afraid that these Jews might go to Israel and strengthen the nascent Jewish state. Not because they had expressed any interest, of course. Rather because these Arab countries must have realized an inherent connection between Judaism and Israel, even when their Jews expressed openly anti-Zionist sentiments.
Don’t believe me? Just look up the case of Shafiq Ades, a rich Iraqi, anti-Zionist Jew who was hung in 1948 due to an unproven charge that he was selling weapons to Israel. A few months later all Iraqi Jews, regardless of their views on Zionism, were stripped from any government position. 1,500 people lost their jobs. A few years after that the Iraqi government switched course and pushed out the entire Jewish population. Only then did many of these homeless and previously anti-Zionist Jews come to Israel.
Or maybe we should talk about Jews in Egypt. Jews have been living in Egypt for over 2,300 years with many others immigrating to Egypt in the early 20th century. Like their Iraqi counterpart, the head of Egypt's UN delegation stated in 1947 that "the lives of 1,000,000 Jews in Moslem countries would be jeopardized by the establishment of a Jewish state." But why? Many of these one million Jews didn’t even consider moving to or supporting the birth of a Jewish state in 1947.
Maybe we should trust the words of Egypt's prime minister during this time: “All Jews are potential Zionists.”
Just as in Iraq, the Muslim equation of Judaism=Zionist led to the destruction of this ancient Jewish community. First with pogroms, then a series of bombings, home confiscation, torture, all egged on by multiple public statements branding all Jews as “Zionists and enemies of the state.” In 1948 there were around 75,000 Jews in Egypt who wanted to remain even once the Jewish state was founded, by 1967 a couple dozen Jews remained.
We can tell similar stories about Syria with the riots that broke out in 1947 and the anti-Jewish boycotts that popped up after Israel’s founding. Same with Jordan, Yemen, and Baharin. All in all about 856,000 Jews were estimated to have been expelled or chased out of Arab countries in the mid-20th century.
So after my quick silent chuckle when I see anti-Israel groups suddenly care about Mizrahi Jews I go up to them and thank them. Yes, I say, there is a lot of work and fixing that Israel must do when it comes to Arab Jews in Israel and I am glad you guys want to help...
But if you really think that anti-Zionism and anti-Israelism are completely distinct entities, then how do you explain the dire need for almost a million of them to have immigrated to Israel in the first place?
Moshe Daniel Levine is a regular contributor of blog postings on Jewish Values Online.
Please note: All opinions expressed in Blog Postings and comments on the Jewish Values Online site and through Jewish Values Online are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, beliefs, or position of Jewish Values Online, or those associated with it.
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