Rebranding Zionism: The American Zionist Movement and the Holocaust

Haneen Zoabi: 'The state’s use of the Holocaust is no worse than Holocaust denial.'

By Rima Najjar

Herbert Block, the new executive director of the American Zionist Movement (AZM), says he wants to “rebrand” Zionism. What direction this re-branding will take is anybody’s guess, as he is still talking in the language of the existing brand of Zionism, which equates Zionism with being Jewish.

The days are long gone when, as in the movement’s infancy, Zionism was largely opposed by world Jewry, although we might be now witnessing a resurgence of that opposition.

Whereas he himself has not faced anti-Semitism (i.e., he has not been “the target of discrimination”), living as he does in New York and sending his four children to a Jewish day school – free to worship, free to educate, free to influence power – Block states in an interview:

“I have dealt with many people [meaning Jews] throughout my career who have experienced racism and anti-Semitism. I have also worked closely with many Holocaust survivors and heard their stories of suffering and living under the ultimate discrimination perpetrated by the Nazis.”

The rationale for the existence of the American Zionist Movement and its support of Israel, according to Block, is the unique history and uniqueness of the Jewish people. His “heritage”, he explains in that same interview mentioned above, is not in New York (where I believe he was born and raised) but in Israel, where “his cousins” have emigrated.

The cornerstone of Block’s rationale is, “the ultimate discrimination perpetrated by the Nazis” against Jews.

Zionism has traditionally used the Holocaust to justify its violent takeover of part of historic Palestine (and its current control of the rest) without the slightest nod of awareness to Palestinian Arabs, who certainly ought not to be the ones paying for the consequence of the Holocaust; the US and EU are.

Zionist logic also fails to see the commonalities of different experiences of racism and oppression, such as those ongoing forms of it which the Jewish state exercises daily against Palestinians.

Denying the Nakba, or ignoring it and its consequence, as though Palestinians were a dispensable people, goes hand in hand with Zionist myth-making and renders it hard for Palestinians and their supporters to address the nature of Israel as a settler-colonial Jewish state, because being against the Jewish state in Palestine is often translated as denying the Holocaust.

In Quora, according to one interlocutor, for example, certain language that expresses the goals and sensibilities of Palestinians is impermissible:

“A ‘solution to the problem of the Jewish state’ sounds eerily familiar to ‘the final solution to the Jewish problem.’ Coupled with language about ‘ending the Zionist project,’ and the claim that Israel is illegitimate.”

But Palestinians must be able to declare their political goals. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement addresses Palestinian fundamental human rights. But once these rights are addressed, a political solution in the form of one democratic state presents itself, and that means the end of the Jewish state.

Censoring people from broadcasting the Palestinian condition, because the “Zionist narrative”- i.e., the claim to Palestine Zionism makes for the Jews (more and more of whom are denying such an identity as Jews today) over and above the fundamental rights and sensibility of the Palestinian Arab indigenous population of all religions – is wrong. (See More Than 100 Protest Birthright HQ, Call For Jewish Boycott)

Coopting the Holocaust, as Block does for Zionism, is a disgrace. Haneen Zoabi, Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) for the Balad party, has recently exposed Israeli hypocrisies in the way it does this. Managing to side-step the pitfalls of discussing the Holocaust “inclusively”.

Zoabi writes:

“Poland’s attempt to scrub clean its role in the murder of European Jewry is, at its core, no different from Israel’s attempt to erase the catastrophe that befell the Palestinians in 1948… The Nakba Law (“which would withhold state funds from cultural and educational institutions that commemorate the horrors that befell the Palestinians in 1948”) is the natural result of a process that began long ago. Moreover, the state’s use of the Holocaust is no worse than Holocaust denial. The Holocaust has turned into a political tool to be used against anyone who dares criticize the state. Accusations of anti-Semitism have become a way to defend Israel, which claims to represent world Jewry.”

I doubt that Block has any idea how to re-invent Zionism to make it palatable; Zionism is an ideology that is inherently destructive of the aspirations and dignity of a whole people, and perhaps we can even go as far as saying, on a moral plane, of two.

– Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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8 Comments

  1. I applaud Dr Najjar for her dogged challenge to the manipulative zionist taboo forbidding the calling out the Jews, inside israel and outside, who support israel’s war crimes against the people of Palestine through their antisemitic exploitation of the holocaust, through fatuous religious/racist myths and through prodigal financial backing.

  2. There are many reasons why any informed person would be justified in their criticism and dislike of “Jews”, among the most prominent is the Jewish control and manipulation of all things financial and banking, practically all of the printed word, dissemination of news and amusements media, their infiltration and control of the U.S. Congress and its members, especially obvious in the “Executive” Branch and office of President, and also particularly obvious in the large element of Israeli passport/citizenship holders in Government positions, which is specifically forbidden in the U.S. Constitution.; BUT for me, and hopefully for every sane level headed individual the most important reason for criticising Jews is their horrific and egregious treatment of Palestinian Arabs; Yes, the Jews suffered horrendous treatments under Herr Hitler during five years of war, BUT the “West” stepped in and stopped it. I for one have great difficulty reconciling records of Jewish populations pre-war, the alleged six million deaths, and the millions of Jews that survived the War, none of these records add up to Holocaust.Even so, if all of that amounts to the “Holocaust”, why then does not the Jewish treatment of Palestinians qualify similarly? In terms of magnitude the Palestinian genocide has arguably been in process for at least fifty years; and continues as we speak. Jews have wrought great loss of life and displacements of The Palestinian populations, millions are suffering because of it; and continues as we speak; Millions are adrift with no homes or means to survive, deprived of water, the means to make a living, hospitals and health care, schools for their children; and those not confined to refugee camps are forced to live in Jewish Prisons and are subjected to the daily presence and invigilation of Jewish soldiers and Jewish Government Pogroms when the sole motivation for them is to “Cut the grass”, meaning kill as many as possible. Palestinians are branded as “terrorists” when they lawfully resist; But, the Jewish people conveniently obfuscate the facts of their own Terrorist organisations used among other causes, to quell the Arab/Palestinian resistance. I refuse to accept that These Jewish crimes are the “Will” of God, my conscience just will not accept that explanation; No these crimes against humanity are just too egregiously “evil”. However, both sides of this equation are human beings, and there is only one solution; all Jewish People residing in the area allocated by the U.N. to be the Palestinian State must leave it, by U.N. peacekeeping “force” if necessary. All displaced Palestinians must be returned home. Then the totally autonomous and Sovereign State of Palestine must be developed and re-built as reparations. The Jewish Peoples removed have but a short distance travel to their “homeland”, we know they can do it, they have previously rehearsed the Exodus. Amen.

    • The history books are written by the victor and he who controls the media controls the world. It is surprising and refreshing to read something that makes sense. I agree with you that the treatment of the Palestinian people is unacceptable, Two wrongs do not make a right. Unfortunately it is not just the Jewish state that had allowed and condoned this treatment…the rest of the world has stood by and allowed it to happen. It is up to us to force our leaders to force the issue of equality for all in Israel and Palestine unfortunately our leaders all seem to stand up trying to shout each other down as being the greater supporter of Israel. Why who are they representating?

  3. I think the best answer to the equation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is the question: are Israeli laws and policies the Jewish people?

    The abuse of the Shoah to justify the Nakba also sickens me – the Shoah was the result of policies denying Jews the rights of ordinary people to live and work where they were born; it does not take much to discover that the Nakba was also the result of policies denying the similar rights of ordinary people …

    I would like to suggest that the similarity of Zionism to the other forms of European Nationalism would make a fruitful area of study; likewise other trading ethnicities eg the Chinese in South East Asia, the Indians in Africa, to European Jews.

  4. I have an objection to the term “anti-Semitic” as applied to the Jews. Most Jews are not Semites. They are Europeans who have, over the centuries, converted to Judaism. The claim that they somehow own a land in Arab world does not even rise the level of being wrong; it is ridiculous.

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