Riva Gold asserts that “Zionism is not racism.” Zionism is an ideology of romantic nationalism in which certain individuals have natural ties to a place from which others are naturally excluded. But let’s place Zionism in the context of historical reality and its actual application in the Middle East to determine whether or not it is a racist ideology. The creation of the State of Israel by Zionist forces in 1948 was accomplished through the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Arab population of Palestine. Furthermore, the Zionist movement then created a state that gives Jews a privileged status, ensuring fundamentally undemocratic and racist social and political relations.
An example of such a racist policy would be Israel’s Law of Return, which states that any Jewish person may move to Israel regardless of whether or not they have any actual connection to the land, while millions of Palestinian refugees have been forbidden to return to their homes and properties since their violent expulsion in 1948. Palestinians in Israel are not allowed to own most of the land; are prohibited from using “Jewish-only” highways; have to pass through checkpoints every time they want to go to work, school, or to the hospital; and have had unequal access to jobs and education based on their non-Jewish status. I would go further than to identify these individual policies as racist – I would call it a system of apartheid.
The concluding claim that anti-Zionism is a form of racism is no less foolish, or predictable, than the more regularly heard assertion that criticizing Israeli state policies is anti-Semitism. Apologists for a long history of oppression, colonization, and apartheid in Palestine may use both of these terms, but they become meaningless.
U1 Middle Eastern Studies