How the word ‘Zionist’ functions in antisemitic vocabulary

Hirsh, David. 2021. How the word ‘Zionist’ functions in antisemitic vocabulary. Journal of Contemporary Antisemitism, 4(2), pp. 1-18. ISSN 2472-9906 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This paper is a partial response to the intuitive claim that hostility to ‘Zionists’ is not hostility to Jews and so is not antisemitic. It examines ways in which the terms ‘Zionist’ and ‘Zionism’ themselves feature in antisemitic text and discourse. It argues that antisemitism should be understood as a complex phenomenon that is observable in the social world only with some difficulty, and that understanding should begin in a consideration of that observation data. This paper is critical of the opposite method, which sees the observable world only through pre-existing a priori concepts; an example of this is the construction of the concept of Zionism as essentially racist. This method treats observable phenomena, like racism, as inevitable manifestations of the pre-determined concept, Zionism. Zionism, and its relationship to racism, should be understood after observing their actuality in the world, not as a priori definitions which then structure what is observed. Much understanding of Zionism therefore adds a methodological double standard to the double standards of judgment which have already been well described. The paper draws on a number of case studies, that is actualizations of Zionism and antisemitism in the existing world: the opposition to David Unterhalter’s nomination to the Constitution Court in South Africa; the antizionist construction of Zionism as racism without the consent or the collaboration of people who self-identify as Zionists; statements circulating in academia which define the communities of scholarship and of morality in ways which exclude most Jews; the designation of Israel as apartheid. The paper concludes with a word on how antizionist nostalgia resists facing the material changes to Jewish life which were enforced during the 20th century.

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anti-Zionism; antizionism; antisemitism; anti-Semitism; Israeli apartheid; Zionism

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23 September 2021Accepted
12 January 2022Published Online
December 2021Published

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24 Nov 2021 09:52

Last Modified:

31 Jan 2022 10:56

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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