Anti-Zionism is not Anti-Semitism: A Confusion Stifling South African Media Freedom


Terrorism of media journalists surfaced recently with the screening of John Pilger’s documentary Palestine is still the Issue on eTV. The anchor of 3rd Degree Deborah Patta was inundated with threats and intimadatory e-mails and calls in an attempt to silence legitimate criticism of Israel .Tainting Israel’s critics with spurious allegations as “anti-Semite” and “Nazi-lover” has been a dirty tactic well hidden from the general public.

In order that decent people not be cowed into silence, it is crucial to differentiate between the terms anti- Semitism, Zionism and Judaism. As the Jewish author Alfred Lilienthal noted that ” many Jews themselves confuse their allegiances to religion and state and hence the word “Jew” has become widely used to denote simultaneously a universal faith and a particular nationality.”

Semites were a group of people of Caucasian stock along the coast of ancient Canaan who spoke languages related to modern Arabic and Hebrew. The 300 million plus Arabs are the overwhelming number of Semites, with Jews constituting no more than 10%. Hence the words “anti-Semitism and “anti-Semitic” are semantic misnomers. Is it not possible that what may be growing in the world is anti-Zionism and not anti-Semitism?

Most Jews today cannot trace their ancestry back to the Holy Land and therefore, are not true Semites at all. The majority of the Jewish population are descendants of converts to Judaism, mostly from the Khazars in Southern Russia, who accepted Judaism as their monotheistic faith. They did not have the remotest connection with the Semites of the Holy Land.

Zionism was a political movement established by Theodore Herzl in 1897 with the aim to secure for European Jewry an ethnic and racially exclusive state. This resulted in the forceful imposition of what is known as Israel, causing the dismemberment of Palestine and which remains the root cause of the curre nt intifada. It was essentially a colonialist and nationalist phenomenon that was denounced by almost all the rabbis as a betrayal of Judaism. The racism of political Zionism is a perfectly coherent system which inspires all the laws and all the practices of the State of Israel.

Thus, Lilienthal states, that “anti-Zionism should not be equated with anti-Semitism, which is a racist ideology directed against Jews as Jews. Nor should Zionism be equated with Judaism, the universal faith which knows no national boundaries and constitutes a relationship between man and God, requiring no political loyalty to any country.”

The fulminations of the South African Jewish community, at even the mildest criticism of Israel, is evident on radio talk-shows. This hysteria at the screening of Palestine is still the issue exposed the extent the Zionists will go to in smearing even the Minister of Water Affairs, Ronnie Kasrils, describing him as a “self-hating” Jew. In the preamble before the documentary, both Pilger and Patta decried the scandalous mudslinging, expressing serious concern that threats and intimidation will silence younger and less experienced journalists from articulating the truth.

Israel is singled out for opprobrium because it remains as the last outpost of apartheid in the world. The Israeli academic and author Dr Uri Davis explained the difference between racism and racial discrimination versus apartheid in his book “Israel, an Apartheid State”.

‘The term “racial discrimination” is defined in Article 1(1) of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1966 (any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impaisring the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms on the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.)

Apartheid, however, is not racism. Apartheid is an exceptional form of racial discrimination predicated upon the enforcement of racism in law through Acts of Parliament. Israel is precisely such a state- a state that legislates racism through Acts of Parliament and enforces racialist behaviour upon its citizens by exercising the might of the law.

In apartheid South Africa the apartheid divide was between people classified as ‘whites’ versus people classified as ‘non-whites’. In apartheid Israel the apartheid divide is between people classified as ‘Jews’ versus people classified as ‘non-Jews’- the Palestinian Arab Christian and Muslim people.

Linking Israel and Zionism with Judaism is disingenuous. Apologists claim that in order to be a good Jew you ought to be a good Zionist or Israeli and therefore, by implication, that to be anti-zionist or anti-Israeli you are anti-Jewish, that is, anti-Semite, and possibly even Nazi.

To be a good Jew one has to be critical of Zionism. In fact, to be a decent Jew one has to be opposed to the political programme of zionism and be therefore anti-zionist precisely in the sense that in order to be a decent South African Christian one had to be anti-apartheid and that being anti-apartheid did not mean being anti-Christian or pro-devil or anti-White.

This conjunction between Israel/zionism and Judaism/Jew is mendacious, just as South Africa/Apartheid and Christianity/White superiority was. Zionism must be challenged and dismantled, as Apartheid was. Zionism is not an integral part of Judaism.

The late Professor Israel Shahak, a Jew and Chairperson of the Israeli League for Civil and Human Rights has been equally explicit about Israel’s and Zionism’s racism. He said:

“It is my considered opinion that the State of Israel is a racist state in the full meaning of the term. In this state people are discriminated against, in the most permanent and legal way and in the most important ares of life, only because of their origin. This racist discrimination began in Zionism and is carried out today mainly in co-operation with the institutions of the Zionist Movement.”

It is essential that spin doctoring, threats and character assassination does not stifle or prevent vigorous debate on the Zionist experiment known as Israel. Resentment caused by such slander sows the seeds of dislike, at the least, or anti-Jewish racism, at the worst, where none existed before.

(Mr. Firoz Osman is Secretary of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)