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Rob Berg: It is anti-semitic to oppose Israel's right to exist

Criticism of Israeli Government policy and actions is not only legitimate but is a vital and important aspect of any democracy. Israel should be challenged and scrutinised in the same way as any other country, yet too often this is not the case. Other countries, no matter how they came into being or how they behave, do not have their legitimacy or right to exist questioned or their outright destruction called for.

Anti-Zionism should not be conflated with mere criticism of Israeli policy. Anti-Zionism rejects the very idea of a Jewish state.

Zionism is the belief in the right to self-determination of the Jewish people (a right guaranteed to them by international law) in their historical and spiritual homeland, Israel.

It acknowledges the Jewish people as indigenous to the land and Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, although all citizens, including Israel's 20 per cent Arab population, have equal civil rights. There are some people who identify as Jews who are anti-Zionist, but they are a tiny fringe. For most Jews, Zionism is core to their identity.

Zionism is often deliberately and falsely labelled by its opponents as a colonialist, racist ideology. Had a Jewish homeland been set up anywhere else, for example in Uganda which was "offered" to the Jewish people, then the accusation of colonialism would have legitimacy. But in the land of Israel, where Jewish people are the Tangata Whenua, accusations of colonialism are made to delegitimise the Jewish presence in their ancestral homeland.

Anti-Zionism has become the new form of antisemitism. The state of the Jews has become the Jew of the states. The same canards and conspiracy theories are applied to the Jewish state and Zionists, as have been applied to Jews for millennia.

Accusations are plenty, such as controlling governments, global banks and media, harvesting organs for sale on the black market - the equivalent of a modern day blood libel - creating world wars and controlling Isis. The Jewish State (instead of the Jewish people) is blamed for all the world's ills and must be eliminated for the good of humanity.

Yet Zionism is not just an idea but a reality whose elimination would mean 6.5 million Jews facing the prospect of ethnic cleansing and a return to homelessness unless the Palestinian leadership and other Arab states suddenly decide to embrace the legitimacy of a Jewish presence in their midst and democratic ideals.

Antisemitism under cover of anti-Zionism can be illustrated by responses to two New Zealand politicians' interaction with the Jewish Community.

This article first appeared in the New Zealand Herald on 13 February 2019


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