Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism

To the editors:

I was interested to learn from from an op-ed by Professor J. Lorand Matory ’82, "Israel and Censorship at Harvard" (Sept. 14), something I had never discovered in my life’s experience: that my membership in the "gravely traumatized" Jewish people affects my ability to participate in "critical" discourse. Enough critical ability has survived the trauma, however, for me to realize that Matory is wrong about the nature of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

Matory defines anti-Zionism as "the rejection of the racially-based claim that Jewish people have a collective right to Palestine." Zionism’s supposedly racial nature would surely surprise the German and Yemenite Jews who built the Jewish state together. His claims that Zionism is race-based and "violates Palestinian rights" are strikingly similar to the biased screed that "Zionism is racism."

The author later argues that calling anti-Zionism "anti-Semitism" is a dangerously false parallel that creates anti-Semitism. By Matory’s logic, anti-Zionists will be "required" to hate Jews if "Israel’s defenders convince the world that...Jewish people are uniform in their opinions about Israel and its policies." Of course, no such effort among "Israel’s defenders" exists, and, if it did, there would surely be plenty of Jews—self-professed anti-Zionists among them—to undermine it. More important, to believe something as absurd as the idea that all 13 million Jews agree, one would already need to hold ugly views of Jews as conspiratorial and alien. All of this confirms what everyone but Matory already knows: Bigotry is always the fault of bigots, never of its victims.

The truly dangerous false equation is Matory’s conflation of "criticism of Israeli policy" with anti-Zionism. By encouraging a state to improve its behavior rather than go away, real policy criticism assumes a state’s legitimate existence. But anti-Zionism, by definition, negates the Jewish—and only the Jewish—national right to self-determination. The former is part of a healthy debate in a free society. The latter is usually a coded expression of anti-Semitism, since it denies Jews what it rightly grants to all other nations.


New York

September 17, 2007