Recently a few of us decided to attend a weekly protest that take place on Oxford street every Thursday evening organised by the BDS organisation “Victory to the Intifada,” known as the Picket.
We spoke to a number of people who were in attendance who were willing to be interviewed by us and share their views on why they were boycotting Marks and Spencer for trading with Israel and against Zionism.
There is an ongoing argument as to whether or not anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism, and ones freedom to voice legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies. This is very vague, so we wanted to know what these people believe, what their criticisms are and here we will explore their claims and ascertain how legitimate such voices are.
You may view our interview below in this post as well as the short video refutations of the arguments made.
We asked one of the members of the group we interviewed to explain what Zionism was. She responded:
The objective of Zionism is to spread Islamophobia throughout the world. Zionists are against everyone, against humanity and against peace and only for the Zionist people.
I find it quite hard to believe that I am actually writing in response to the above claims, however, it is clear that many people out there are accepting such views. So we will have to break it down and address how illogical such views really are.
The objective of Zionism is to spread Islamaphobia throughout the world.
I do not know what this view is based on but lets begin with a little bit of history.
Many attribute the rise of modern Zionism to the problem of anti-Semitism in Europe in the 1800’s. In 1894 A Jewish Austrian Journalist named Theodor Herzl covering the Dreyfus affair in France where Captain Alfred Dreyfus had been wrongly convicted of treason. It just so happened that Dreyfus was an assimilated Jew and Herzl himself too a rather assimilated Jew came to conclude from the anti-Semitic chanting in the crowds and the outcome of the case that the Jews could not assimilate in spite of their efforts. Herzl had been a member of the assimilationist camp, and advocated that the solution to the Jewish question was for all the Jews to assimilate into the countries they lived in. This event changed his view drastically, Herzl now believed that assimilation would not solve the problem of anti-Semitism and that neither would remaining Jewish in Europe.
In 1896 Herzl published a small Pamphlet titled The Jewish State – An attempt at a modern solution of the Jewish question. Herzl believed that the problem of anti-Semitism was the fact that the Jews were a nation themselves, who had lost their homeland nearly 2000 years ago when the Romans destroyed their temple and exiled a large percentage of its population, since then the Jews had been living as a nation among other nations. Herzl believed this to be the cause of anti-Semitism. Anti Semites hate Jews because they are an ‘abnormal’ people, and that if they had lived in their own land, with their own government, their own police force, army and everything else that every other nation has, then the Jews would be normalised and then anti-Semitism would cease to exist.
Herzl soon became known as the founder of modern political Zionism, founded the World Zionist Organisation and became its first president. The aims of Zionism laid out in the first World Zionist congress in 1897, were that “Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Eretz Israel secured under public law.”
Zionists were Jews fleeing persecution in Europe, from Russian pogroms in the Pale of Settlement in Russia looking to return and find refuge from persecution in their ancestral homeland. Some came from Ghettos or Shtetls in places like Poland or Russia, these were mostly from religious backgrounds, motivated by the ideas of Socialism to join the Kibbutz movement living in collectivist communes, working in agriculture. Others were more assimilated Jews living in Western Europe like Herzl, they were returning to their roots after experiencing anti-Semitism in spite of having very little to do with Judaism. There are a number of schools of thought within the Zionist movement, that differ on a number of points, but all agreed that the goal of Zionism above set out in the first World Zionist congress.
There is simply no evidence or reason to believe that the motivating factor driving hundreds of thousands of Jews from Europe to leave cosy European countries like France and Germany, to move to a Kibbutz in Palestine was a result of shared hatred of Islam, rather than looking for a safe haven in their homeland for the Jewish people from 2000 years of persecution.
These were not the objectives set out by the World Zionist Organisation, nor is there any mention of anything to that effect within Israel’s Declaration of Independence which can be read here.
Zionists are against everyone, against humanity and against peace.
There are many people who defined themselves as Zionists, these people include Martin Buber, Albert Einstein or Amos Oz for example. As well as those who are on the far right such as Rabbi Meir Kahane or Yigal Amir who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin, who also regarded themselves as Zionists. All the above names from the far right to the far left and everyone in between such as David Ben Gurion, Abba Eban, Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon, Menachem Begin or Golda Meir all regarded themselves as Zionists. It really means nothing to suggest that Zionists don’t want peace, when it is completely clear that some do want to achieve peace through a settlement with the Arabs and there are some who don’t, and of those who don’t it is not necessarily due to a hatred of Arabs but could be due to legitimate security concerns. Opinion is very diverse.
It is not clear what is meant by this statement, but if we assume she means Israel is against peace in general then we can address that, seeing as she refers to Israel as the Zionist entity.
I refer you to a short video by Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Danny Ayalon, Israel Palestinian Conflict: The Truth About the Peace Process.
Zionists are in favour of only the Zionist people
I can only infer from this statement that Zionist people means Israeli Jews. Again there were no examples given, however the evidence shows that Israel is one of the first countries to offer and send aid to countries victim to natural disasters, including to states that are hostile to her. See the blog post When Humanitarian Aid Is Condemned.
Israel has been one of the leading countries in exporting its expertise in agriculture to helping develop third world countries. Israel succeeded through the early Zionist pioneers of the Kibbutz movement of drying up swamps and inhabitable land and making the soil fertile. To learn more about these efforts see Israel to aid developing countries an article reported in Ynet in 2008.
In fact it is usually in response to those who wish to boycott Israel that one points out exactly how much Israel has contributed to the world in so many different ways. Here is a very famous video against boycotts that highlights how much everyone of us benefits from Israeli exports that enrich our lives So you want to boycott Israel.
None of these claims were substantiated. However, we have tried to present the facts and evidence from the Zionist movement itself for what its goals were. To demonstrate that Israel has from the beginning sought peace with its Arab neighbours. Israel is far from an enemy to all humanity against peace, but has in fact a very good track record of helping countries in need when it can, even though Israel itself is a small country in need of assistance itself in many areas.