What is anti-Zionism?

Why does the sight of a religious Jew praying at his holy site incite so much hatred and violence? Op Ed.

Gary Willig ,

Jews on the Temple Mount
Jews on the Temple Mount
צילום: TPS

The violence perpetrated against Jewish worshippers at the Temple Mount on Tisha B'Av, the day when the Jewish people mourn the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem, was a textbook example of anti-Zionism. So, too, were the denunciations of the simple act of Jews praying or even being at their holiest site from Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and other Arab leaders.

What is anti-Zionism? What were those who pelted stones at Jews who did nothing more offensive than reciting a Psalm expressing?

Put simply, anti-Zionism is the belief that Jews do not deserve equality, either as a nation or as individuals.

On the macro-level, anti-Zionism is the belief that Jews, alone of all national groups, do not deserve the right to self-determination. There is no similar movement or ideology which seeks to end the existence of any other country in the world.

Anti-Zionism posits that things were better before the State of Israel was created, before Zionism ruined the previously cordial relations between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East.

But before the State of Israel, before Zionism, Jews were hardly treated as equals. Far from it - Jews were considered Dhimmis, second-class citizens at best, subject to many discriminatory laws. Like all minorities, Jews living under the Ottoman Empire were forced to pay the jizya tax as well as the Rav Akasi, or 'rabbi tax.' Additional rules prevented Dhimmis such as Jews from riding horses, carrying weapons, building new synagogues, and publicly displaying signs of their religion. Whether these rules were enforced depended on the rulers of the time, but they remained on the books until the mid-1800s, when the Ottoman Empire, now in decline, granted equality to its citizens, an act which was extremely controversial throughout the Middle East.

Jews were historically treated better under Ottoman and Muslim rule than they were in Christian Europe, but they were still subject discrimination, persecution, massacres, and forced conversions. A benevolent and tolerant ruler could be succeeded by a cruel one or be unable to protect his non-Muslim subjects from their Muslim neighbors.

There were massacres of the Jews of Safed in the 1660s and in 1834, of the Jews of Baghdad in 1828, of the Jews of the Iranian city of Barfarush in 1867, to name just a few of the mass killings of Jews. European visitors to Jerusalem in the 1800s described the degradation and humiliation of the Jews living in their ancient capital.

It is this reality which the anti-Zionists wish to restore, a reality in which Jews have no equality under the law, no right to defend themselves, and are dependent on the good graces of those in power. The Jews should have been happy, even grateful, to be Dhimmis.

The anti-Zionist can best be compared to those who opposed desegregation in the southern United States in the 1950s and 60s. The reaction to the sight of Jews exercising the basic right of freedom of religion, of daring to be in close proximity to the holiest site in Judaism, is the same as the reaction of the white racists to Rosa Parks' refusal to move to the back of the bus or to moves to desegregate schools. It is the suggestion that the Jews are equals and deserved to be treated as such that is so offensive to those who oppose the right of Jews to pray or even be on the Temple Mount, just as it was the idea that people of African descent are equal to people of European descent that was so offensive to the racists of the South.

It is this refusal of the Jews to continue to accept their inferiority that drives hatred of the Jewish State. It is why there is no opposition to the idea that Jews should be banned from their holy sites, not only the Temple Mount but throughout the land. It is why those who endorse a 'right of return' for the descendants of Arab refugees insist that areas which were ethnically cleansed of Jews in 1948 remain forever free of any Jewish presence. It is why the torture of and death penalty against Arab landowners who sell property to Jews is so acceptable. It is why the Jewish State must be required to accept an influx of millions of Arabs, turning Jews into a minority in their own nation, while the hypothetical state of Palestine is allowed to be completely Judenfrei. It is why Israel has no right to defend itself when its civilians are attacked. It is why it is suddenly open season on Jews around the world, because all Jews must pay for the failure of the Jews of Israel to know their proper place. It is why the exercise of basic human rights by Jews such as the right to pray provokes so much hatred and violence, from stones to stabbings to rockets.

As long as the sight of a religious Jew saying 'The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want' incites such anger and hatred, no peace is possible.