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Zionism and racism

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Supporters of Zionism regard it as an exemplary combination of religiously-inspired nationalism and democratic plurality.

Critics of Zionism condemn it as racist, saying in particular that its nationalism unfairly treads on the nationalistic endeavors of Palestinian Arabs.

The UN labelled Zionism as racism between 1975 and 1991, many Arab states hold this position and it is the main argument Anti-Zionists criticize Zionism for.

Israel is a state with a predominately Jewish ethnicity. Some state laws treat non-Jews differently from the Jewish inhabitants. Particularly the jus sanguinis law Right of Return which, despite Israel's in other circumstances very restricted immigration policies, grant every Jew in the world the right to settle in Israel. This is especially agitating for the many Palestinian refugees who used to live in the territory that is today's Israel but are denied the right to return. Many Arabs believe that Zionism is racism.

Zionism then, despite its origins pre-Israel, as a "homeland movement" is now, according to people against Zionism, essentially synonymous with Jewish nationalism, and the ideology has similar characteristics to many other European nationalisms developed at the same time-- like German nationalism, Irish nationalism and so on. Many Zionists dispute this, saying that it still is about the same "homeland movement" that started Zionism. Some say that, in a sense, all nationalisms are racist because they privilege one ethnicity above all others.

Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, wanted a Jewish homeland but he did not specify where. Later on, in the beginning of the 20th century, the decision that a Jewish homeland should be established in the Middle East was agreed upon. At this time, Palestine was part of the large Ottoman Empire. Some claim that this decision made Zionism different from other nationalisms as it claimed territory for an ethnicity that did not yet inhabit it.

If the decision forced current inhabitants to leave, Zionism was responsible for denying right to self-determination to those inhabitants. The Anti-Zionist view goes further: that Zionism led to forced relocation of an indigenous population and replacement by another.

Though the modern incarnation of the Zionist ideology is the state of Israel, this itself is a source of debate among some Zionists, who believe in Israel as a conceptual homeland, not as a state--though now the distinction is largely academic. Some Zionist intellectuals still make a careful distinction between advocacy for a Jewish ethic homeland and a Jewish state, which is perhaps similar to the difference between patriotism and nationalism.

Israel and Zionism

People who disagree with the identification of Zionism with racism point out that there is no one Zionist ideology that all Zionists agree on; the views of one Zionist group can differ widely from another such group. As such, accusing "Zionism" of racism is just as inaccurate as a blanket accusation of "socialism" as being racist. Further, Zionism as an ideology existed before the existence of the State of Israel, and would most likely continue to exist even if the State of Israel ceased to exist.

Many Israelis, both Jewish and non-Jewish, think that Israel should not differentiate between its Jewish and non-Jewish ethnicities. Paradoxially many Jews do not want Israel to drop its "Jewishness" and therefore in effect becoming a non-Zionist state.


In the 1700s and 1800s many Europeans and Russians believed in a variety of competing conspiracy theories about Jews, and their power and desire to control the world. These theories had as a common theme the idea that all Jews believed themselves superior to all other peoples, i.e. Judaism was racist. These beliefs first gained wide acceptance shortly after the French revolution, and then slowly declined in popular acceptance; however, for a variety of reasons these beliefs again gained wide acceptance after World War I and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Through the publication of the infamous forgery, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", many people took these conspiracies as fact.

Attitudes against any form of Jewish nationalism took on a stronger form during the reign of Joseph Stalin. Stalin was initially supportive of Zionism, but when Stalin realized that Israel would not become a communist nation, he became staunchly anti-Zionist. By the 1950s the Soviet Union was funding the publication of many anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. By the 1960s the official position of the Soviet Union and its satellite states was that Zionism was a tool used by the Jews and Americans for racist imperialism. It was only with the death of Stalin in 1953 that anti-Zionist propaganda went into a temporary eclipse.

In the 1967 Six Day War, Israel emerged victorious and the Soviet Union's Arab allies lost. In response, the Soviet Union exhumed its anti-Zionist campaign. Soviet television stations, radio stations and newspapers ran hundreds of editorials and articles stating that "Zionism is racism"; these ideas were pushed in all Soviet client states, including many third world nations and Arab nations, and even the United Nations (see below).

Viewed as anti-Semitism

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) describes the assertion that Zionism is racism as "discredited", saying that "This divisive, offensive equation is based on hatred and misunderstanding", and is "anti-Jewish".

UN Resolution 3379

Main article: United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379

The Soviet Union began the "Zionism is racism" campaign in the United Nations in response to United States proposals for UN resolutions against bigotry, which criticised the Soviet Union.

On November 10, 1975 the United Nations General Assembly adopted, by a vote of 72 to 35 (with 32 abstentions), Resolution 3379, which stated that "Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination". The resolution was revoked on 16 December 1991, with a vote of 111 to 25 (with 13 abstentions).

See also: Anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism,