Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Sherene Seikaly


Anti-Zionism Can and Should Be Anti-Racism

Sherene Seikaly

Sherene Seikaly is an assistant professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the author of “Men of Capital: Scarcity and Economy in Mandate Palestine,” the editor of Arab Studies Journal and co-editor of Jadaliyya.

Updated April 4, 2016, 3:20 AM

To equate opposition to Zionism with anti-Semitism is to deny the history of both.

Anti-Semitism is a 19th century outgrowth of Judeophobia, (one of all kinds of phobias that colonialism had to invent) which has existed for as long as there have been Jews.

During the Middle Ages it became the constitutive underbelly of the Catholic Church’s claim to be a “civilizing force.”

The precariousness of Jewish life began to recede in the 1700s with the Enlightenment, as Jews began to gain equal legal rights, at least in theory. But the majority of the world’s Jewish population lived in Russia, where an autocratic monarchy not only continued to deny them civic equality, but incited deadly pogroms against them.

Zionism continues the oppressive hierarchical categorization of humanity that helped breed anti-Semitism.

Even in the lands of Enlightenment and political emancipation, Jews were one of a series of “others,” groups to be transformed and redeemed. Indeed, much Enlightenment thought was premised on hierarchical understandings of humanity.

During the 19th century, with a shifting world order, the category of race became a dominant way to establish this hierarchy, through exclusion and scapegoating.

Jews became a racialized, biologically irredeemable, unassimilable other.

This racialization paralleled and built on the racialization and violent exclusion of black, brown and colonized bodies. For Jews it would lead to genocide.

Zionism is a national political movement that began in the late 19th century as a response to anti-Semitism.

Zionism was neither the only Jewish response to anti-Semitism nor the most popular until the Nazi persecution of Jews began in the 1930s.

Zionism continued the Enlightenment’s idealization of the nation-state and its hierarchical understanding of humanity. It promised Jews that they could finally become European but only by leaving Europe.

For Zionists, Jews’ claims to a piece of land are more legitimate than and outweigh those of the Palestinians, who have resided on that land for thousands of years. This logic has been used to justify more than 100 years of dispossession and denial of Palestinians’ basic civil and political rights.

Palestinian self-determination is a crucial step in ending the logic of racialization and civilizational hierarchy that produced anti-Semitism and genocide.

This logic measures Palestinian life as less valuable than Israeli life.

To say otherwise is to suggest that standing up for Palestinian rights is somehow anti-Jewish. Critiquing this logic is a moral responsibility.




November 2021

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