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Zionism is not racism

IC Columnist

Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 04:10


Recently there was an event sponsored by a student organization on campus that hosted a prominent, in my opinion Anti-Zionist and Anti-Israel, speaker. Dr. Mark Braverman, who recently wrote a book, entitled “Fatal Embrace,” which claims anti-Semitism as merely an excuse Jewish people use. 

Before I continue any further I’m going to cite a portion of text from his own website that states his view on anti-Semitism: “To our Christian sisters and brothers I say — do not, out of a sense of guilt for anti-Semitism, give the Jewish people a free pass.”

The struggle of the Jewish people is great and still continues. The threat of anti-Semitism is alive and well. Just because we don’t see it overtly doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. 

In my opinion, Braverman’s writings in reference to his background are startling and shocking.  As a Jewish student here at the University of Toledo, I’m even more uncomfortable now, knowing these kinds of hate-filled thoughts are being spread to our students. 

He continues on in his theories and writings and pushes the bar even further to say that “to make this mistake, to allow yourselves to be – I will use the word – bullied by the threat of the charge of anti-Semitism, is to commit a pernicious fallacy. As Jews we sought political self-determination, and we got it. Now we must behave in accordance with principles of justice.”

This just further illustrates that Braverman’s mad philosophy desecrates the importance and the nature of anti-Semitic ideology and its impacts. Trivializing the consequences of anti-Semitic policies and philosophy only makes it a more prevalent voice of hatred. 

I will attempt to understand why Braverman and supporters of his thinking would make such wild assertions. 

The Central Zionist Archives, a sub-organization of the World Zionist Organization, affirms that in the late 19th century, the Zionist movement was a response to the rising anti-Semitism in Europe, particularly against Ashkenazi Jews. The Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl formalized the political movement in 1897 with the First Zionist Congress (WZO). 

At that time, the movement sought to encourage Jewish migration to a Jewish homeland. It’s become widely agreed upon that Zionism is the movement of the Jewish people and the Jewish culture to return to its roots back in Israel.  

This is a very condensed version of Zionism. Arguably — and this point is used many times by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic scholars — the Holocaust was the driving force for the creation of Israel. 

Braverman makes the argument that Jewish organizations as well as the culture itself merely “uses” the Holocaust as a justification of Jewish influence. He said that “the Nazi Holocaust in particular casts its shadow over our modern history and the history of the State of Israel. The Nazi’s campaign to eradicate world Jewry has become part of our uniquely Jewish ‘Liturgy of Destruction,’ the way we Jews throughout the ages have made sense of our suffering by turning to the broader context of Jewish history. 

From this matrix of vulnerability, victimization and meaning-making comes the Zionist cry, ‘Never again!’”

The good doctor must have forgotten his heritage in that he seems to assume the Holocaust was the only tragedy that befell the Jewish people. This isn’t the first time the Jewish people have been killed or singled out for what they believe in or just because they’re Jewish; I can cite historical events from the Spanish Inquisition to the Crusades.  

The trivialization of the Holocaust as well as other traumatic events in Jewish history not only allows for the spread of anti-Semitic philosophies around the world, but also here at home and at UT. 

It worries and frightens me that there are people who take his work as meaningful. As a Jewish student, I’m frightened. I’m frightened not only for the future of the Jewish people, but for other marginalized groups. 

If Braverman is so passionate about his cause, then his trivialization of such a tragedy in human history would make me doubt any semblance of his intentions for a meaningful sense of reason.

Maxwell Gold is a senior studying philosophy.

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2 comments Log in to Comment

SJP Member
Fri Nov 2 2012 11:30
Hi Max,

Did you actually attend the event and listen to his lecture?

No one saw you there!

Thu Nov 1 2012 18:53
I think you're misunderstanding the speaker and are in need of some critical thinking skills, buddy. I take the speaker to mean that people shouldn't be afraid of being called anti-Semites if they stand against the injustice the State of Israel wages on Palestinians every day. That's mainly because the claims of anti-Semitism waged against them are unfounded. He's not diminishing acts of anti-Semitism. You, on the other hand, are doing exactly as he described: diminishing the horrendous occupation of the Palestinian people. What irony!

He's just saying, when people speak about the occupation of the Palestinian people that it's unjust to deflect and disregard their claims on the false basis that they are being anti-Semitic, when really their issues are the offenses committed against the Palestinians on a daily basis. No one is saying they are OK with anti-Semitism.

And about the Zionist movement being started as a response to anti-Semitism. That's true. But it doesn't mean that a race-based movement that began in response to racism hurled against them precludes them from holding racist outlooks and policies themselves. The Nation of Islam is one example. It is all about returning the black race to their roots and standing up against racism and segregation, and it has many overtly racist aspects toward whites. Also, zionism is a European movement, meaning it has its roots in an orientalist environment that sees the Middle East as the exotic property of the West. Therefore, the zionists were influenced by the Anglo and Western European's views of the Middle East being a playground filled with barbaric, inferior people in need of constant European presence. Therefore, the Palestinians were seen as a non-people that were of no consequence.

No one is minimizing the Holocaust or saying it was the only tragedy of the Jewish people. The speaker's point was that one tragedy doesn't justify another tragedy. Other people have tragedy's as well. Armenian genocide. Black chattel slavery. The ethnic cleansing of Native tribes. These are all enormous, sometimes century-long tragedies, and these groups shouldn't be able to hide behind their tragedies if they are accused of committing tragedies against other people themselves.

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