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Anti-Zionism not the same as anti-Semitism | READER COMMENTARY

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (L) speaks alongside U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo following a security briefing on Mount Bental in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, near Merom Golan on the border with Syria, on November 19, 2020.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (L) speaks alongside U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo following a security briefing on Mount Bental in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, near Merom Golan on the border with Syria, on November 19, 2020. (PATRICK SEMANSKY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent some of his final days on the world stage in Israel standing on the platform of the disgraced, defeated Trump administration (”Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly met with Saudi Arabian crown prince, the first known encounter between the countries’ senior officials,” Nov. 23).

Days earlier, he had lied through his teeth when he claimed the biggest loser of the 2020 election, his boss, President Donald Trump, had actually won. He must have known it was patently false, just as the claim he made in Israel, that “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism” is false.

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A day after The Sun reported some of Mr. Pompeo’s remarks, the Associated Jewish Charities of Baltimore published a brief commentary in The Sun with embedded links to documents that, to my reading, offer a similarly politicized definition of anti-Semitism that dangerously binds the lifesaving work of combating hatred of Jews with the tangentially related project of the nation-state of Israel (”Anti-Semitic hate crimes rose 14% last year; a Baltimore task force confronts the crisis,” Nov. 20).

Zionism is an ideology that, backed by Western imperialism, led white Ashkenazi Jews to colonize Palestine, ethnically cleanse hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land, and institute apartheid separate and unequal conditions based on religion and ethnicity in the country of Israel and the Occuppied Territories.

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In this context, opposing imperialism is to work to right the injustices of imperialism, just as opposing one particular variant of it, Zionism, is to work for justice for Palestinians.

When some Jewish institutions conflate the defense of our diasporic people with defense of a specific and violent national project, the nation-state of Israel, they mistakenly prioritize the latter over the former. Increasingly, young Jews recognize the danger of these misplaced priorities, derived from intergenerational trauma but inexcusable nonetheless. We understand that, just as safety resides, arms linked, with solidarity in Baltimore — solidarity with our Black, Indigenous, Arab, Latinx and Asian neighbors (categories that overlap with Jewishness) — so too is the safety of our diasporic, long-oppressed people bound globally in solidarity with communities resisting imperialism the world over. And that means Palestinians, especially.

In the wake of a U.S. holiday predicated on the harmful myth of benevolent, manifest settler colonialism, it is important for all of us to reflect on indigeneity, internationalism and anti-imperialism. It is important, in particular, that those of us who identify as members of groups that have survived unspeakable horrors, like genocide, learn and act on these values so as not to do the trauma we have inherited unto others.

Anti-Zionism is opposition to the violent settler-colonial nation-state of Israel. Many anti-Zionists act in solidarity with both Jews and Palestinians. To conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is a strategic and moral error that Jewish institutions and leaders must discontinue if they wish to both remain relevant to future generations of diasporic Jews and commit to consistent racial justice work here in Baltimore.

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Owen Silverman Andrews, Baltimore

The writer is co-chair of the Baltimore City Green Party and a founding member of Hinenu, the Baltimore Justice Shteibl, a pro-Palestinian synagogue.

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