Nationally relevant

The Danger of Tying Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism

Gate to Aida refugee camp. (Photo: Jackie Goldman)

Since October 7, I have been glued to my phone watching video after video depicting the ongoing genocide in Gaza. Doctors are operating with sewing needles and without anesthetic, babies are dying because there is no electricity to run incubators. Journalists covering Gaza have been targeted and killed, and civilians are being bombed with white phosphorus. As of November 23, over 14,500 Palestinians have been murdered in Gaza and over 200 have been murdered in the West Bank (and the number is likely higher now). As a Jewish person, I am horrified to see that a country that claims to represent my values wants to destroy Palestinian lives and then occupy Palestinian land.


Supporters of this current round of ethnic cleansing often invoke Jewish safety as the motivator behind the Israeli government’s and Israeli Occupation Force’s (IOF) actions. Israeli government officials have falsely compared October 7 to Nazi persecution of Jews. In a move highly criticized by Holocaust scholars, Israel’s UN ambassador Gilad Erdan wore a yellow star that said “never again” to try and force a connection between Hamas’ action and Jewish genocide. However, as Israel continues its assault on Palestine, and as the Israeli government and organizations like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, Jews around the world will face increasing threats to our safety.

It is hard to understand the exact number of anti-Semitic attacks that have happened since October 7. The ADL, which bills itself as the reporter on anti-Semitism, claims there has been a 400% rise in anti-Semitism over the past seven weeks. However, this number is misleadingly over-inflated as the ADL has explicitly stated that they consider Palestinian solidarity actions to be anti-Semitic, despite many of the actions being led by Jewish organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now. This conflation was further entrenched with the passing of House Resolution 894 on December 5, which changes the definition of anti-Semitism to include anti-Zionism. Though unenforceable, this resolution will certainly be used to press people with hate crime charges, or criminalize divestment legislation in the name of Jewish protection. This resolution distills thousands of years of Jewish identity, ritual, and tradition into whether someone supports Israel or not. This legislation is reductive to its core and imposes safety risks to anti-Zionist Jews.

Though we may not know the true extent of the recent rise in anti-Semitic violence, it is true that the Israeli government’s brutality has resulted in real violence directed at Jews. There have been numerous attacks on synagogues and other Jewish spaces around the world – Montreal, New York City, Berlin, Seattle, and the list goes on. It is clear that some hold Jews collectively responsible for the acts of the state of Israel. While many understand that Israel does not represent all Jews, organizations like the ADL and AIPAC use their large platforms to conflate the two.

To me, it is very clear how the fights for Jewish safety and Palestinian safety are inextricably linked now and historically. In 1917, Arthur Balfour announced that the British government would support a state for Jewish people in Palestine. Jews still herald this as a cornerstone moment in the fight for Jewish liberation. However, it is clear to me, and to Middle East scholars, that Balfour was not a Jewish ally; his declaration came as part of a response to an increase in British anti-immigrant racism and outright anti-Semitism. Balfour, like others, wanted to create a “Jewish homeland” so that he and his government could limit Jewish immigration. Anti-Semitic Christian Zionists still play a large role in fighting for a Jewish ethnostate. John Hagee, a televangelist who said that Hitler carried out the Holocaust so that the Jews could return to Israel, was a speaker at the November DC March for Israel.

The call for a Jewish homeland was renewed and realized in 1948 with the mass expulsion of Palestinians and destruction of Palestinian history and memory, something that continues on today. In May, I visited the West Bank with a friend who had lived there for two years. We ended up talking with someone from the Aida refugee camp, the single most teargassed place in the world. It was there that I learned that Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, was built on top of Ayn Kerem, a village that had been destroyed during the Nakba, and is steps away from where a large massacre of Palestinians took place. Fast forward almost a century, we are seeing the continuation of this violence as Palestinians in Gaza are forced to evacuate and the landscape is being destroyed.

From its conceit, the creation of Israel was never about Jewish safety and continues to be a hurdle in the fight for Jewish liberation. Instead of trying to drive out anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-Semitism, or White Supremacy in the places where we all live, many Jews and non-Jews have abdicated the responsibility of creating safety where we live. Instead, there has been a conscious decision to remove Palestinians from their homeland and allow anti-Jewish, anti-Arab, and anti-Muslim hate to prosper globally. Further, anti-Jewish violence will intensify as Israel continues its assault on Palestine.

As someone who cares about safety and self-determination for all, I feel that it is important to fight for Palestinian liberation alongside Jewish liberation. My struggle as a Jewish person is intertwined with those in Palestine. My orientation toward justice is something rooted in Jewish faith, which I think many have forgotten. I keep coming back to a verse from Psalms that my congregation would read each week: “Nation will not threaten nation, and humanity will not again know war. For all who live on earth shall realize we have not come into being to hate or to destroy.” With this in mind, I hope that we see a permanent ceasefire soon and that we see a free Palestine and Jewish safety in my lifetime.

Jackie Goldman (they/them) is a PVD resident, public health researcher and organizer with Jewish Voices for Peace – Rhode Island.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Motif.