Zionism and Race
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
Jews that lived in Ethiopia are as black as their Christian neighbors. In India, Jews who have lived there for hundreds of years look Indian. Chinese Jews looked Chinese. Jews who come from northern Africa look like Arabs. European Jews look Caucasian. There are many ways to look Jewish. Anyone from any race may convert to Judaism and become a Jew. So are Jews a race?
A dictionary will tell you that a "race" in this context is a variety of the human species characterized by various physical features such as skin color, hair color and texture, body shape and size, eye color, and so on. Anthropologists have divided human beings into several races, such as the Caucasoid, Negroid, Mongoloid, African pygmy, and American Indian. Race is a genetic classification; one is born into a race and is of a certain race or mixed race because of one's ancestors. One can covert into a religion, but one cannot change one's race.
Jews are therefore not a race. Jews are members of a religion, Judaism. There was at one time a Hebrew nation that was an ethnic group, but since ancient times the scattering of Jews throughout the world and intermarriage and conversions have made the Hebrew origin less a genetic and more a spiritual tie. There is also a culture tied to the religion and its laws regarding diet, the Sabbath, and various rituals, along with cultural practices picked up in various locations that are "Jewish" by coincidence. But there is no "Jewish race."
For centuries in Europe, Jews were persecuted on religious pretexts, often because they refused to convert to Christianity. The modern concept of Jews as a race came from the propaganda of the National Socialists of Germany, the Nazis. Their racist ideology classified not just the races but also ethnic groups and nationalities into levels of inferiority. The Nazis treated Jews as a race, basing their persecution not on religion but on origin. A Christian with a Jewish parent was considered a Jew, to be sent to the concentration camps.
This hateful Nazi propaganda was discredited in Europe, but flourished in the Middle East, since many there shared the Nazi desire to eliminate Jews, especially in Palestine. The Nazi concept of Jews as a race became applied to Zionism, the movement to have Israel as a haven for persecuted Jews, and Jewish immigration to the land of the origin of Judaism. Zionism inherently is geared to Jews and not to others, so of course it discriminates by religion, but since Jews are not a race, it is illogical to claim that Zionism is directed for or against any race. Therefore it makes no sense at all to label Zionism as racist.
The World Conference Against Racism, sponsored by the United Nations, is now taking place in Durban, South Africa, a country which truly suffered under the racism of the former Caucasian minority. Its Draft Declaration mentions "racial discrimination against Palestinians" in areas occupied by Israel and the "racist practices of Zionism" and that the "Zionist movement .. is based on racial superiority" (paragraph 68). The leadership of the Palestinian Authority is also accusing the State of Israel of "racist practices."
It is ironic, disgusting, and ridiculous that the members and those attending a conference allegedly aimed at reducing racism should adopt the most extremely racist ideology in history, that of the Nazis. If Zionism is racist, this implies that Jews are a race, and therefore that Judaism is not a religion. The government of Israel can be faulted with violating the rights of the Palestinian Arabs and of religious discrimination. But it is illogical to label Israel's policy racist.
Arabs and many Jews are of the same ethnic family, the Semites. Hebrew and Arabic are both Semitic languages. Many Arab Palestinians and Israeli Jews have common ethnic origins, some Jews in Israel having converted to Islam after the Arab conquest, and some ancient Canaanites having converted to Judaism. Jews and Arabs are ethnic cousins, if not brothers. Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs are suffering from sibling hatred, not racism.
The attempt to label Zionism as racist is at the same time the attempt to discredit Judaism as a religion. To treat people as a race when they are not a race is deeply racist, and it is shameful for the United Nations and participants at an anti-racism conference to do so. The entire conference becomes discredited when it adopts the racist propaganda of the Nazis.
It is understandable, therefore, why the leadership of the United States has chosen not to dignify this anti-Jewish propaganda with high-level participation. This is not just a political disagreement, but one of being associated with the vile Nazi propaganda that led to the holocaust.
Traditionally, hatred of Jews in Europe was labeled "anti-Semitic," but it's now time to junk that anachronistic label. Many Jews are not of Semitic origin, and the Arabs are also Semites. The hatred of Jews and discrimination against Jews should be called simply that, with no reference to the Semitic origins of the Israelites.
Many opponents of Zionism want the Israeli Jewish settlers not just to leave the West Bank and Gaza, but all of Israel. They consider all Jews who immigrated after 1890 to be intruders and colonists. They may feel uncomfortable, however, in killing people, including innocent children, just because of their religion. It is more comforting to think of themselves as killing members of a race. So they label Jews as a race rather than a religion. But this thinking is as racist as can be.
Let us hope that the World Conference will delete all references to Zionism and the policy of the government of Israel as racist. If they include such language, the conference will be morally discredited as just another propaganda platform for Jew-baiters.
-- Fred Foldvary
This work is reproduced by permission of the author. Please do not copy it without direct permission from the author. Copyright 2001 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved
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Labor Zionism - Early History and Critique - Contribution of Labor Zionism to the creation of the Jewish state, and problems of Labor Zionism in a changing reality.
The US Library of congress has a comprehensive and balanced set of articles about Zionism:
Zionist Precursors - US Library of Congress
Political Zionism - US Library of Congress
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Labor Zionism - US Library of Congress
Revisionist Zionism - US Library of Congress
Essential Texts of Zionism
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