Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

Skip to 0 minutes and 0 secondsAntisemitism in the contemporary Far-left is rarely expressed in the explicit and direct anti-Jewish manner that characterizes antisemitism in the Far-right. It also differs from the more blatant forms that emanated from certain circles of the Left prior to the Holocaust. That being said, the antisemitism found in this political sphere does build on many of the pre-Holocaust anti-Jewish tropes and perceptions, particularly those viewing the Jews as an omnipotent, powerful, world-dominating, conspiratorial force. When discussing antisemitism in the contemporary Far-left, we must first acquaint ourselves with an important term - anti-Zionism. Used today to describe various religious, moral and political points of view, both past and current, anti-Zionism has taken on different meanings and definitions, which consequently makes it complicated to pinpoint and define.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 secondsFollowing the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the political tensions that arose during the Cold War, anti-Zionism has become increasingly converged with antisemitism in the West, particularly in the Far-left. Let's now turn to hear more about the history of anti-Zionism, its changing nature, and how it relates to contemporary antisemitism. Before 1948, the objection to Zionism came naturally from the Arab population in Palestine, but it was also a very prominent trend among Jews. Zionism was not the only movement that wanted to change the future of the Jews in Europe.

Skip to 1 minute and 54 secondsThere was opposition from religious anti-Zionists, who opposed it on theological grounds, from Marxist anti-Zionists who argued that Jews should seek their emancipation and their liberation along with the whole of humanity; from assimilationists

Skip to 2 minutes and 12 secondswho in the late 19th century and early 20th century said: "Hang on, Jews in Europe have achieved a whole range of civil and political rights by finally convincing people that we are not a separate nation and now we're telling them we are? It's going to ruin everything." Of course things changed. Political conditions changed. The Shoah happened and Israel was created and those two events revolutionized Jewish politics. So now a belief in the essential existence of Israel - that Israel is the Jewish homeland - is the view of the widespread majority of Jewish people, certainly in Britain. And anti-Zionism in Jewish politics is a very small fringe. But on the left, on the broader left, it's much wider.

Skip to 3 minutes and 0 secondsMost people in fact who subscribe to what they call anti-Zionism know almost nothing about Zionism or Zionisms in the plural. They're not acquainted with the history of Zionism. Anti-Zionism becomes a camouflage term for hostility to the State of Israel and often to the Jewish people as such. It goes well beyond what one might call legitimate differences with particular Israeli policies or particular Israeli actions. Those things need not in fact be antisemitic whatsoever. But when the existence of the state itself, Israel among all the world states, is brought into question, when the future of Israel is denied, when Israel is compared to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany, we've crossed the line into another realm altogether.

Skip to 4 minutes and 0 secondsAnti-Zionism is not a good term for it. I'm not sure that anti-Israelism, which is sometimes used, is a good term either. What I see is extreme, fervent, passionately-driven hostility to the existence of the Jewish nation-state. It's an anti Zionism that is based on conspiracy theory, that is allied to openly antisemitic, violently antisemitic movements in the Middle East and that draws on more antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism that really grew out of the Soviet Union and Soviet propaganda in the 1960s and 1970s. And unfortunately this is the kind of anti-Zionism that is more prevalent now in that political space.

Anti-Zionism

Prof. Anita Shapira, Dr. Dave Rich, Prof. Alvin H. Rosenfeld

When discussing antisemitism in the contemporary Far-left, we must first acquaint ourselves with an important term - anti-Zionism. Used today to describe various religious, moral and political points of view, both past and current, anti-Zionism has taken on different meanings and definitions, which consequently makes it complicated to pinpoint and define.

What are origins of anti-Zionism? How has it changed following the Holocaust? How does it relate to contemporary antisemitism?


References

  • Bauer, Yehuda, “Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism, New and Old,” in Robert S. Wistrich, ed., Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism in the Contemporary World (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1990), pp. 195 - 207.

  • Hirsh, David, “Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: Cosmopolitan Reflections,” in Charles Asher Small, ed., The Yale Papers: Antisemitism in Comparative Perspective (New York: ISGAP, 2015), pp. 57 - 174.

  • Herf, Jeffrey, ed., Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in Historical Perspective: Convergence and Divergence (London: Routledge, 2007).

  • Rosenfeld, Alvin H., Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: The Dynamics of Delegitimization (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018).

  • Shapira, Anita, “Israeli Perceptions of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism,” Journal of Israeli History, vol. 25, vol. 1 (2006), 245 - 266.

  • Wistrich, Robert S., Anti-Judaism, Antisemitism, and Delegitimizing Israel (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016).

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

Yad Vashem

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

Contact FutureLearn for Support