Anti-Zionism Isn’t Enough.
Reposted from Anarchy or Ceaserism

We Must Oppose Nationalism in All Forms.

In today’s cynical and dishonest political climate every critique of Zionism is smeared as antisemitic by the right wing and moderate liberal media. For instance, no matter how many times US representative Ilhan Omar apologizes or clarifies the intentions of her statements against Israeli war crimes, she is time and again labeled a terrorist sympathizer or antisemite. However, critiquing Israeli nationalism and colonialism is no more inherently antisemitic than critiquing the Chinese Communist Party is inherently anti-Chinese. Believing that to be the case is in itself racist because that belief is rooted in the idea that people and states are the same thing. The people and the state are in fact two distinct phenomena. Consider what Rudolph Rocker had to say on the subject in his book Nationalism and Culture: 

A people is the natural result of social union, a mutual association of men brought about by a certain similarity of external conditions of living, a common language, and special characteristics due to climate and, geographic environment. In this manner arise certain common traits, alive in every member of the union, and forming a most important part of its social existence. This inner relationship can as little be artificially bred as artificially destroyed. The nation, on the other hand, is the artificial result of the struggle for political power, just as nationalism has never been anything but the political religion of the modern state. Belonging to a nation is never determined, as is belonging to a people, by profound natural causes; it is always subject to political considerations and based on those reasons of state behind which the interests of privileged minorities always hide. A small group of diplomats who are simply the business representatives of privileged caste and class decide quite arbitrarily the national membership of certain groups of men, who are not even asked for their consent, but must submit to this exercise of power because they cannot help themselves.

A “people” is quite simply a group of individuals that have associated together and have over time formed cultural similarities. It is an organic network of affinity groups with a culture that developed freely and naturally, and that will change and evolve over time. A people have no innate “essence” that exists out in the ether, and there is no force involved to maintain a people. A nation state on the other hand is a group of elites that has forced many people under one despotic military regime with the goal of creating and maintaining an artificial and unified identity. The more nationalistic the state is, the more it views its subjects as lumps of clay on which it can impose an idealized notion of culture. The nation state does not merely recognize the people as they are, and it does not accept that they will naturally evolve and change over time. It wishes to shape them, mold them, and then prevent them from growing or evolving. It can be secular, or theocratic, the results are similar in either case. It does not inquire about what is with an open and accepting mind, it dictates what should be with a mailed fist. The nation state is then an authoritarian collectivist project by nature. 

We can go yet a step further and separate the individual from the people. While all humans are certainly influenced by their associates, and shaped by their environments we are still at the end of the day all individuals and cannot be reduced to homogenous masses or mere members of a community. Humans are not just cultural artifacts of a particular ethnicity nor are they the biological property of any “race”. All humans have their own thoughts and feelings, and there is much division even within groups that might otherwise appear united from the outside. White nationalists commonly claim that any critique of American colonialism is anti-white, because in their minds the colonial state represents the “will of the people.” Obviously, this is in itself racist nonsense. What many might miss is that this is the same internal logic that is used when proponents of the Israeli state claim that it is antisemitic to critique the Israeli government. Paradoxically this is in itself antisemitic because it implies that all Jews, even those who are not citizens of that state are somehow beholden to it. 

Despite this, I believe that using the label anti-Zionist in the west is ultimately still counterproductive. The usage of that label, however well-intentioned, inadvertently makes the job of the western Zionist much easier than it otherwise should be. Another unfortunate byproduct is that the anti-Zionist label when used in the west can indeed provide cover for actual fascists. It would be more effective and safer to critique Zionism from the point of view of a generalized anti-nationalist stance. Zionism at its core isn’t any different than white nationalism or any other form of ethno-statism. All ethno-nationalist projects are dangerous, aggressive, xenophobic, and oppressive. There are many conflicts all over the world that are erupting as a result of nationalist aggression; the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the attempted ethnic cleansing of Syrian-Kurds in north and east Syria by the Turkish state. Thus, the critique of Israel as a state should fall under the umbrella of a generalized anti-nationalism. We don’t need special labels to oppose specific kinds of nationalism. This approach may be advantageous for several reasons.

Critiquing Zionism from a generalized anti-nationalist stance makes it harder for actual antisemites to infiltrate the left under the guise of anti-Zionism. Consider the bizarre 3rd positionist neo-fascist trend of autonomous nationalism and how it used anti-Zionism and other left-wing symbols to infiltrate, confuse and subvert the left. As Alexander Reid Ross writes in Against the Fascist Creep,

The Autonomous Nationalists still in operation present another imitation, or perverse evolution, of a number of social movement forms developed through prewar, interwar, and postwar Europe. The initial attempts to wed revolutionary syndicalism and ultranationalism, which bred fascism in the 1910s, had mutated into the bizarre conflations of Maoism, anarchism, and fascist terror that characterized the “Third Position” during the Cold War, transforming once again to incorporate contradictory reactionary and autonomous tendencies. Wearing Palestinian kaffiyehs and black-bloc clothing, the Autonomous Nationalists could almost be mistaken for leftists. Yet their Palestinian solidarity has generally signified anti-Semitic sentiment masked as “anti-Zionism,” or the even more padded rhetoric of nationalist differentialism developed by former FAP activist Christian Worch. Their operations tend to take the form of vandalism and “anti-antifascist” campaigns that involve targeting and harassing antifascist activists, while also transforming antifascist symbols into fascist ones.

Unfortunately, I myself have witnessed a fascist infiltrator attempt to use anti-Zionist rhetoric as a cover with my own eyes in the workplace. I once had the displeasure of engaging in a shouting match with a coworker who claimed to be an anti-Zionist while making antisemitic talking points. He was no simple anti-Zionist however, he quickly revealed himself to be a 3rd-positionist, much like those described above. The man claimed that Jews ruled the world, even going so far as to make a reference to the Protocols of The Elders of Zion. This guy was an obvious fascist. He made quasi-socialist talking points in the workplace while also promoting right wing cultural values, such as open bigotry against LGBTQ people. At one point the man suggested utilizing xenophobic sentiments to unite American workers against foreign capital. Unsurprisingly he was fired for pissing too many people off. This strategy, though, is hardly uncommon. Using the label anti-Zionist in the west often inadvertently gives these people a cover. I do not wish to imply that the majority of self described left-wing anti-Zionists are closet antisemites, I do not believe that, but one has to ask; Why make the job of the fascist entryist easier? Especially when it yields no particular strategic advantage. Though no rhetorical strategy or framework can be one hundred percent effective against entryism, a generalized critique of nationalism from the perspective of universal human solidarity and internationalism automatically cuts down on the likelihood of fascist co-optation for the simple reason that fascists are themselves a nationalistic, xenophobic, racist movement. 

It would also be much harder for pro-Israel rightists or liberals to cynically smear sincere critics of Israel as closeted antisemites. If you call yourself an anti-Zionist, it’s pretty easy for a political opponent to say, “well you’re just an antisemite”. The problem of fascist entryism further compounds this issue. To people who are not familiar with the complexities of radical and fringe politics, the accusation looks quite plausible when it’s easy enough to throw a stone into a crowd of self-proclaimed anti-Zionists and hit an actual antisemite that’s using the crowd for cover. This is not to say that western Zionists, especially Christian-Zionists will not continue to use that dishonest tactic, but it’s less likely that people will take it seriously if the critique is part of a generalized anti-nationalist stance. 

Lastly, it needs to be stated that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t much of a conflict at all. It’s more like a slow extermination campaign, however it’s hardly unique in the broad stroke of history. As Ilan Pappé points out in On Palestine; “European settlers coming to a foreign land, settling there, and either committing genocide against or expelling the indigenous people. The Zionists have not invented anything new in this respect.” This is not meant to downplay the extreme nature of what is happening to the Palestinian people. The slow genocide of Palestinians is undoubtedly one of the worst modern crimes against humanity. It is however important to highlight the centuries long history of European colonialism. And what’s more, it is also important to point out that colonialism isn’t a purely European phenomenon, lest our critiques devolve into myopic campism. The Japanese empire famously conquered much of Asia in the 20th century and engaged in a form of imperialism that was at least on par with the barbaric behavior displayed by its western counterparts at the time. Imperialism is not unique to one geopolitical bloc or another, any nation state or alliance of nation states may engage in imperialistic adventures. It is of the utmost importance to keep in mind that one of the primary issues underlying all the aforementioned conflicts and all extermination campaigns is nationalism. Nationalism is one of the greatest threats, not only to human freedom and dignity, but to human survival itself. We must not forget that nationalism as a broad phenomenon is the underlying problem at this crucial hour when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict threatens to drag the whole world into global war. It is imperative to remember that Zionism, however vile it may be, is ultimately one small piece of the unthinkably large, anti-individualist, blood-soaked puzzle that is nationalism.

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