Q: Please describe the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.
A: It helps to understand the three pieces of our name: specifically “international,” “Jewish,” and “anti-Zionist.”
We are an international organization with chapters and individuals in many countries around the world.
We are made up of Jews who believe our role in this issue is unique. This is because those of us who believe in human rights, equal rights and justice have always been marginalized among the more vocal Zionist Jews who have convinced people that the Zionist philosophy is a struggle for Jewish self-determination. The Zionists have also convinced people that all Jews think alike and agree with the Zionist ideology. Most damaging, was their ability to convince people that disagreement with this Zionist philosophy was evidence of anti-Jewish hatred. And so we believe we have an obligation to speak out and counter those assertions.
We are anti-Zionist because Zionism, instead of being a liberation movement, as it is portrayed, is a nationalist movement seeking to give a homeland to Jews. In the process of granting a homeland to Jews, the Zionists ethnically cleansed Palestinians from their homes. This is a settler colonial project, similar to other settler colonial projects, which began in the early 20th century and continues today.
Zionism privileges Jews above non-Jews and the state of Israel accomplishes this by use of its legal systems. Privileging one ethnic group over another is the definition of racism. Institutionalizing the racism into a system of laws is the definition of apartheid. So, for example, Israeli laws expressly deny non-Jews rights to own property managed by the Jewish National Fund (93% of the land of Israel), to marry and live with a spouse from the West Bank or Gaza, or live in segregated Jewish-only communities.
Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories are ruled under military order, rather than Israeli civilian law, as illegal Israeli settlers are subject to, even though the settlers live in close proximity to Palestinians.
IJAN opposes Zionism because of the racism and colonialism, which is endemic to its philosophy.
Q: What are the principal objectives of IJAN?
A: As the IJAN charter says, “We are an international network of Jews who are uncompromisingly committed to struggles for human emancipation, of which the liberation of the Palestinian people and land is an indispensable part. Our commitment is to the dismantling of Israeli apartheid, the return of Palestinian refugees, and the ending of the Israeli colonization of historic Palestine.” Towards these commitments we support the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel to force it to comply with international law.
In working towards the goal of liberation and human rights we are involved in specific campaigns such as the “Stop the Jewish National Fund (JNF)” Campaign, which attempts to remove the JNF’s tax exempt status in the U.S.; the Never Again for Anyone Tours, world-wide tours of Holocaust survivor Hajo Meyer; the World Social Forum (to take place in Brazil); and many others.
Q: The political Zionist movement, as envisioned by its founder Theodor Herzl, might be said to have begun officially with the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897. Does anti-Zionism have a long history as well?
A: Yes. In fact some would argue that some of the Biblical prophets were anti-Zionist, or at least anti-nationalist and humanist. In Europe between the World Wars, the Socialist Bund movement was largely anti-Zionist. Many of the remnants of the Bundists who survived the Holocaust were marginalized and worse by Zionists from Palestine who coerced them into immigrating to Palestine when they would have preferred the U.S. or England.
Some Orthodox Jews are anti-Zionist for religious reasons, because they believe that only when the Messiah comes should Jews live in the land of Israel.
In the American Reform movement, the late Rabbi Elmer Berger was very influential, but he also was marginalized and silenced by the Zionist movement. He believed, among other things, that Zionism was bad for Jews, causing rather than relieving anti-Semitism.
Of course anti-Zionism has existed in the Middle East as long as political Zionism, since the Arab peoples understood immediately that the threat they faced was that of colonialism. The anti-Zionism of IJAN is unique among the range of anti-Zionists because it holds this historic understanding of Zionism in relation to the imperialist forces that supported its existence and its premise on systemic forms of racism. We are encouraged by the growth in influence of IJAN around the world. ■