Days after the horrific showcase of American far-right extremism in Charlottesville, America’s leading extremist, white supremacist leader Richard Spencer, appeared on an Israeli television newscast and compared his hate-filled ideology to Jewish nationalism, declaring it “white Zionism.”
Riding the waves of extremism and hate, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) staffer Naomi Dann asserted in The Forward that Spencer was right, that Zionism is akin to white supremacy.
Let’s unpack the strands of outrage and the manipulation of fact to further political agendas:
First Spencer: He seems to be suggesting that in his call for a white state in America, he is articulating an idea that is conceptually similar to the Zionist idea of a Jewish state in the land of Israel. This, of course, is an outrageous comparison and a caricature of what Zionism is. Richard Spencer’s movement is based on hate, racism, negativity and exclusion. Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people in the Jews historic homeland, is based on providing for equal opportunity for the Jewish people, like others, to have sovereignty in their land while still fully protecting the rights of minorities who live within Israel. At its core, Zionism is a positive movement and is not intended to be “against” anyone.
In sharp contrast, the nationalist white groups led by Richard Spencer and his ilk have tried to rebrand themselves as simply standing up for the rights of white people but they are transparently disingenuous in this regard, exposing again and again their hatred of non-whites, Jews and other minorities and their motivation to separate themselves and rise above these elements of American society.
In comes Ms. Dann and JVP, whose raison d’etre is to demonize and tar Zionism and the Jewish State of Israel (this is no mere criticism of policy with an aim to be constructive and improve). To further that agenda, there is no hesitation to piggy-back on Spencer, and try to link his base, hate-filled and exclusionary ideology, with the proactive, affirming and empowering of Jewish nationhood. The goal: to have those unfamiliar with Israel reject and vilify the Jewish state in the same manner they reject white supremacy and racism.
The reality is the Zionist concept has been the target of Jew haters from both the right and the left for years. The infamous Zionism is Racism resolution of the UN General Assembly in 1975 was an initiative of the Soviet Union. Today we see groups and individuals on the left — recently the Chicago Dyke March and Linda Sarsour — defaming and delegitimizing Zionism.
On the far right, there is a long history of ZOG — the accusation that that the US has been captured by the Zionist Occupied Government.
And now Richard Spencer and JVP have added their names to the list of those on both sides of the political spectrum who mischaracterize, distort and blaspheme Zionism and do so to further their own perverted political agenda.
In this heightened political time, we must have zero tolerance for those who seek to divide and vilify the principles which we hold dear which include living proudly and securely as Jews in America and defending the legitimacy of the Jewish State of Israel. There will always be those on both extremes who seek to attack or undermine those core principles. As proud American pro-Israel Jews, we must continue fighting those hateful voices.
Jonathan A. Greenblatt is CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.