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June 12, 2012 11:00 am

The Mysterious Power of Anti-Zionism

avatar by George Jochnowitz


FormerIranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Photo:

Which is worse, being trapped under rubble after an earthquake and left to die, or being rescued by Israelis? A horrifying earthquake hit Pakistan on October 8th, 2005. On October 9th, the government of Pakistan still didn’t seem to know whether to accept aid from Israel, according to a news story in the Jerusalem Post’s online edition entitled “Pakistan snubs Israel aid offers” (October 9). Israel had offered to send assistance to help the victims of the most recent earthquake in Kashmir. There was no immediate reply.

Time is of the essence in rescue operations, and Israelis are skilled at digging people out of fallen buildings. Israel has sent large-scale assistance in the past, after earthquakes in northwestern Turkey in 1999 and in western India in 2001. Pakistan, which appealed for help from the nations of the world, agreed to accept aid from American Jews, according to a news story in the New York Times dated October 12th. Finally, on October 15th, Pakistan responded to Israel’s offer by saying the aid would be accepted if it was “channeled through the United Nations, the Red Cross, or donated to a relief fund,” according to a news item in Haaretz entitled “Pakistan welcomes Israeli aid, but through third party.”

Israeli aid has been refused before. In November of 1970, there were floods in what was then East Pakistan and is now Bangladesh. Israel offered to help. Pakistan turned down the offer: “While the Mogen David Adom was preparing a shipment of medicines and first-aid supplies in November for relief of the Pakistani disaster victims, the International Red Cross informed the Israel agency that Pakistan refused to accept any aid from Israel” (reported in Jewish Currents, February 1971, p. 13, by Louis Harap). The story attracted very little attention then and is forgotten today. No one was surprised or even interested in the fact that it was more important to Pakistan to make an anti-Israel gesture than to save the lives of its citizens. Anti-Zionism, particularly in the Islamic world, was taken for granted.

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Perhaps things are changing. The calls for the destruction of Israel made by Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, led U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to cancel a trip to Iran. This is especially interesting in light of the fact that an earlier president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, had made a similar statement in the annual Al-Quds (Jerusalem) sermon given on December 14, 2001. Rafsanjani, then president, said that if one day the world of Islam came to possess nuclear weapons, Israel could be destroyed. He added that the use of a nuclear bomb against Israel would leave nothing standing, but that retaliation, no matter how severe, would merely damage the world of Islam (reported in MEMRI Special Dispatch Series No. 325).

In other words, Rafsanjani was saying that Iran should turn itself into a suicide bomb — a nuclear suicide bomb. No one noticed.

On September 14th, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf shook hands with Israel’s Ariel Sharon. This followed a meeting on September 1, when Pakistan’s foreign minister, Khursheed Kasuri, met with Israel’s foreign minister, Silvan Shalom. Kasuri agreed to be photographed shaking hands with his Israeli counterpart. Both ministers linked the change to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. Pakistani officials, anticipating condemnation from other Islamic nations and from its own citizens, made it clear that full diplomatic relations would have to wait until there was an independent Palestinian state. Would Pakistan have dared to abandon its anti-Zionism merely because of an Israeli action that can be interpreted as a step toward the establishment of a Palestinian state? It seems unlikely. Israeli gestures of generosity have never modified Pakistan’s hostility in the past. Perhaps Israel’s arms deals with India motivated Pakistan to try to establish similar deals.

Why is shaking hands less controversial than accepting aid? Perhaps shaking hands can viewed as simple courtesy; accepting aid, on the other hand, puts one in the embarrassing position of acknowledging that your enemy is strong enough to help you and generous enough to do so. But then, why should Pakistan consider Israel an enemy at all?

The power of anti-Zionism is a great mystery. Why has the separation fence that Israel is building attracted so much condemnation? The world has many walls and other barriers that exist for the sake of security. The most heavily fortified is the border between North and South Korea. Then there are walls within the city of Belfast separating Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. An article by Abigail Cutler in the March 2005 issue of The Atlantic entitled “The List: Security Fences” lists ten such walls. City walls have existed throughout history. A country, China, erected the Great Wall, the longest in the world, in an attempt to defend itself against invaders from the north.

There is only one wall, however, that has ever been condemned by the International Court of Justice as a violation of international law: the barrier Israel is building to defend itself against terrorism. There is only one wall that has been condemned by the Evangelic Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). On August 13, 2005, the national assembly of the ELCA voted 228 to 289 to adopt a resolution entitled “Peace Not Walls: Stand for Justice in the Holy Land.”

The United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. have gone a step beyond the Lutherans. The United Church of Christ voted on July 5th to divest from Israel. The Presbyterians, on August 5th, voted to press American companies not to provide technology to Israel that might be used in the occupation of Palestinian territories, and that if the companies did not comply, the church would take a vote to divest its stock in them. The United Church of Christ, the Presbyterians and the Lutherans don’t have to fear Israel’s sales of arms to India. They have not modified their anti-Zionist resolutions. Their position is more anti-Israel than Pakistan’s. Only the Presbyterians have continued to speak of divestment. The Episcopal Church “stepped back” from actual divestment, as reported in The Jewish Week on October 14th (” ‘Turning Point’ Seen In Divestment Campaign”). Nevertheless, the Episcopal Church continues to condemn Israel’s security fence.

These condemnations took place after Israel had announced its plans to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, in a unilateral concession designed to promote peace. According to a column by Meir Shlomo in the August 19th issue of Metro, the withdrawal means that “5,000 Israeli children would need to find new schools, 10,000 people employed in agriculture would need new jobs, graves would be uprooted, and synagogues would be dismantled—costing Israel about $2 billion.”

North Korea not only has a wall, it is also the most repressive country on earth. Furthermore, North Korea, according to an article by Matthew Quirk entitled “The World in Numbers: The New Opium War” in the same issue of The Atlantic, “has required collective farms to set aside land for growing poppies, despite famines.” The International Court of Justice doesn’t care about the famine or the export of opium. There isn’t a church in the world that objects to North Korea’s policies.

Among North Korea’s policies is anti-Zionism. Since the Korean war ended, North Korea has sent its forces abroad to fight only once, against Israel. According to an interview in the August 15th edition of, Abraham Rabinovich, author of a book entitled The Yom Kippur War, “The Egyptians had a North Korean fighter squadron flying cover over air bases.”

The difference is anti-Zionism, perhaps the most powerful political idea in the world today. It is an irrational hate movement. Some of its adherents go so far as to call for genocide. For example, an editorial in the New York Sun informs us that a Hezbollah statement in 1992 vowed, “It is an open war until the elimination of Israel and until the death of the last Jew on earth” [“Nasrallah’s Nonsense,” March 11, 2005]. More recently, Pranay Gupte reported in the Sun that Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, spits on the ground when he says the word for “Jew” [“Blood Libels In the Sand Of Lebanon,” March 14, 2005]. Few people know about this. Fewer care.

Many academics, especially in Europe, are members of a de facto Marxist-Islamic alliance, a union of people who agree on absolutely nothing except their opposition to Israel and the United States. In fact, Andrei S. Markovits, writing in the Winter 2005 issue of Dissent, says, “A new European (and American) commonality for all lefts — a new litmus test of progressive politics — seems to have developed: anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism (though not anti-Semitism, or at least not yet).” It is, of course, possible to oppose the idea of a Jewish state without hating Jews. Such views seemed to make sense before World War II. But today, anti-Zionism has come to mean acts like the bombing of the Jewish Center in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994, where 85 people died. The people were Argentinians, not Israelis, although many of them were Jewish.

An example of the mysterious power of anti-Zionism occurred in 1972, when the Japanese Red Army sent four of its members to Lod Airport in Israel to die for the sake of killing Jews. They got off the plane and began shooting, not knowing who their victims would be. Three of the Red Army members were shot and killed; the fourth survived. As it turned out, more than half the people they killed were Puerto Rican Christian pilgrims. The Japanese Red Army, if they thought about the question at all, most have known that some of the victims of their random shooting would not be Israelis or Jews. One assumes they didn’t care. One takes the risk of killing innocent Puerto Ricans in order to kill innocent Jews.

Leftists support women’s rights and gay rights. They don’t know that Israel’s Golda Meir was the first woman to be head of government in history who was neither the widow (like Sirimavo Bandarinaike) nor the daughter (like Indira Gandhi) of a previous head of government. They don’t know that Israel has never had restrictions against gays in its armed forces, nor that Tel Aviv has an annual gay rights parade. They don’t seem to know about honor murders of women nor about the imprisonment or even execution of homosexuals in Islamic countries. Ignorance is bliss.

Anti-Semitism is another political movement that is stronger than anyone can explain. Before Hitler, Germany, the land that gave us music and higher education, was arguably the most civilized country on earth. Anti-Semitism changed all that. Anti-Zionism doesn’t have to be anti-Semitism, but it is the child of anti-Semitism. Its mysterious power is inherited from the equally mysterious power of anti-Semitism. Is it possible that Pakistan’s meeting with an Israeli official is evidence that things are changing? Will Pakistan ever acknowledge that it is accepting aid from Israel? Perhaps there is hope.

George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937.  He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.  His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects.  As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at [email protected]

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