Commentary | Misrepresenting Zionism


In the article “Not in my name” (October 16, Features, page 11), Anna Tv describes how her recent experience on Birthright led her to “uncover the truth” that Zionism is a white colonial movement.

She attempts to put Zionism in a historical “context of colonialism” by quoting Theodor Herzl’s reference to locals as “dirty Arabs and Jews, and beggars.” This statement is not only taken out of context, but is also a misquote. In Herzl’s novel Altneuland, as two characters enter a Jaffa alleyway, it is remarked, “poor Turks, dirty Arabs, and timid Jews lounged around – indolent, beggarly, and hopeless.” “Dirty” (schmutzige) is not used pejoratively. Rather, Herzl is describing the disenfranchisement of the local population at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.

The article goes on to show how “power and privilege” in Israel is reserved for “white Europeans.” Yet the current ramatkal (the highest position in the Israeli military), Gadi Eizenkot, is Mizrahi, as is Silvan Shalom, the current vice prime minister.

Using the examples of Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) and Neturei Karta, the author attempts to show that Judaism calls for “the dismantling” of Israel. RHR, however, though critical of Israeli policy, has never called for the state’s dismantlement. On the other hand, Neturei Karta, with its overt misogyny, homophobia, and endorsement of Holocaust denial (famously attending the 2006 International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust in Tehran), is hardly a group to be emulated.

The article is fraught with misquotes and factual errors (listing the building of settlements in Gaza as one of Israel’s current “atrocities,” when Israel evacuated all Gaza settlements in 2005; blaming “mainstream Jewish education institutions in the U.S. and Canada” for falsely perpetuating “the idea that most Jews in the world are white or European,” when 75 per cent of world Jewry is in fact Ashkenazi). One wonders how such an article was published unreviewed in The McGill Daily, let alone as a feature article.

—Daniel Zackon, U2 Mathematics and Philosophy

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