Modern Zionism and white supremacy

A new design for the flag of the state of Israel. Image: Shimon Tzabar

JVL Introduction

When Gershon Baskin says “I no longer call myself a Zionist, I don’t know what it means to be a Zionist anymore” it is time for liberal Zionists to sit up and take notice.

There has been no-one more committed to  the Jewish and democratic dream, no-one who has worked harder for a two-state outcome, since he made aliyah in 1978.

No more. The conflict with reality has become too great.

As Baskin says, “I have to ask: What is the difference between white supremacy as expressed by outgoing US President Trump and his base of supporters and Jewish supremacy in the State of Israel?”

And his painful answer: “Nothing really.”

[PS: 7 Jan – The title of the article as published in the Jerusalem Post has been altered to a somewhat less assertive “You can’t be democratic for Jews and less democratic for Arabs – opinion”]

This article was originally published by the Jerusalem Post on Wed 6 Jan 2021. Read the original here.

What's the difference between modern Zionism and white supremacy?

I no longer call myself a Zionist. I don’t know what it means to be a Zionist anymore. Is building settlements in the West Bank Zionism? Is building more homes in settlements a Zionist response to Palestinian violence?

Is evacuating Palestinians from their homes in area C of the West Bank the ultimate goal of Zionism? Is destroying the water wells of Palestinian shepherds in the Jordan Valley what Zionists do? Is throwing stones at Palestinian vehicles done in the name of Zionism? Can chopping down olive trees or preventing Palestinians from picking their olives be a Zionist mission? Is playing the demographic card (too many Arabs) the ultimate expression of modern Zionism and a way for Zionist political parties and organizations to gain support? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then I am most definitely not a Zionist anymore.

All of the above are clear expression of Jewish supremacy in the reality of Israel 2021. Of course, it is not new; it has been this way since the birth of Israel in 1948. I have to ask: What is the difference between white supremacy as expressed by outgoing US President Trump and his base of supporters and Jewish supremacy in the State of Israel?

Nothing really. They are both part of the same phenomenon known as discrimination and racism. Twenty-one percent of Israelis are Arabs and they are discriminated against systemically by the state and socially by the public.

They are told every day that this is not their state, that they don’t really belong here, that they are second- or third-class citizens. This is not new, nor is this my realization of reality. What is new for me is my refusal to continue to hide behind the definition of being a liberal Zionist or believing that the Zionist Left is something of value to which we must continue to cling.

Let’s take a liberal Zionist or Zionist Left organization to task. “Commanders for Israel’s Security.” This is how they define themselves: “The members of the movement are united around the Zionist vision: Israel as a safe and democratic state with a solid Jewish majority for generations, in the spirit of the values of the Declaration of Independence.” They define their goals as the following: “Israel will initiate moves to formulate security-political arrangements with the Palestinians and with the pragmatic countries of the region that will grant Israel recognized and final borders. The agreement with the Palestinians will be based on the principle of “two states for both peoples” and will be based on arrangements and adjustments required by the security and demographic needs of the State of Israel.”

These are the “good guys.” Hundreds of former high-level officers from the Mossad, Shin Bet, IDF and the Israel Police. What are the “demographic needs” of the State of Israel? This is one of their major slogans on full page ads that they place in good leftist newspapers like Haaretz.

“DEMOGRAPHIC NEEDS” are code words for a clear and strong Jewish majority. What is the difference between these coded words and those of Trump’s base who talk openly about their fears of losing the white majority in the US? What are they willing to do to make sure that Israel maintains it solid Jewish majority? They intend it to mean that Israel should withdraw from the West Bank. They don’t consider within their demographic score card Gaza with its 2.3 million Palestinians. But what if the binational reality that has existed since 1967 continues? Or, what happens when the Palestinian citizens of Israel become 25% or 35% or more? What are they willing to do to ensure that solid majority?

They do what the past governments of Israel have been doing and in what Blue & White (e.g. the good guys) fully takes part. They have been working day and night to force Palestinians from their land in area C of the West Bank to prepare for annexation and doing everything possible to encourage every Palestinian to “voluntarily” leave their homeland.The good guys on Israel’s Left use carefully coded language. They don’t outwardly express the sentiments of Israel’s right-wing who falsely accuse the Left of being “Arab Lovers. ” OMG – how could they say something so horrible?

The white supremacists’ response to “Black Lives Matter” is “All Lives Matter” hiding the blatant racism in America, particularly amongst the ranks of law enforcement. The Israeli Jewish supremacists hide their racism behind hollow statements which they honestly believe about Israel being both a Jewish and a democratic state. Israel cannot be democratic while it holds millions of people under military occupation. Israel cannot be defined as a democracy when it has a constitutional law defining itself solely as the nation-state of the Jewish people and not the state of all of its citizens and without explicit guarantees of equality for all citizens without prejudice to race, color, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual preference.

The only way for Israel to uphold the values that these leftist Zionists think they believe in is for Israel to become the nation-state of the Jewish people and all of its citizens and to end the occupation over the Palestinian people. The other option is to become a non-nation-state democracy or to create some form of equitable confederative solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

You cannot be sort of democratic, or democratic for Jews and less democratic for Arabs. It doesn’t work like that – it is much more like pregnancy – either you are or you are not. So, let’s stop lying to ourselves about being Jewish and democratic – it simply does not work anymore.


The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. His latest book In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine was published by Vanderbilt University Press and is now available in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It is now out in Arabic as well.

Comments (3)

  • DJ says:

    The analogy between white supremacism in the US and Jewish supremacism in Israel and the occupied territories is undeniable. Too many people are in denial on this issue. When people come to terms with this truth there is a chance of dismantling the racist state of Israel and replacing it with an inclusive secular state based on genuine democracy and equality. This must be our strategic goal. It will require international solidarity and an alliance between progressive Palestinians and Israeli Jews.

  • Jacob Ecclestone says:

    On Channel 4 news this evening (7 January), Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale felt no qualms about using the word “fascist” to describe Donald Trump. If – as I hope – that is going to become the norm, I wonder how Trump’s many admirers in Israel will cope with this difficult new reality. And what of all the many wonderful agreements brokered by young Mr Kushner on behalf of his fascist father-in-law?

  • David McNiven says:

    False accusations of antisemitism against Corbyn and Labour by the right have been effective to date but it was always a risky strategy in the longer term.
    The first definitive legal finding against any one of our accusers will open the door to other cases, which ought eventually to settle the issue in our favour – legal findings being less open to “interpretation” or amplification by the media than all those entirely evidence-free accusations.
    I wonder what history’s shorthand for this UK equivalent of ‘McCarthyism’ will be?
    The left must work hard and long to ensure the inevitable backlash stays within the political sphere where it belongs, and that blame for the lies goes where it belongs – to the right wing perpetrators of the scam.
    Some Jews were certainly complicit, some will have been prime movers – but such crimes are inherent to right wing politics, not Jewishness – just as in Israel.

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