Home NewsAsia ‘Zionism is anti-Semitic’ – Jewish activist

‘Zionism is anti-Semitic’ – Jewish activist

by Zahid Jadwat

South African Jews for Free Palestine (SAJFP) called for a ceasefire in Gaza during a picket in Rosebank, Johannesburg, recently. They say being anti-Zionist is not the same as being anti-Semitic. [Picture: Cebelihle Bhengu/News24]


Packaged as the plan to create a homeland for Jewish people, the Zionist project that is Apartheid Israel is nothing short of anti-Semitic itself. Those were the words of a South African Jewish activist on Tuesday.

Speaking in an interview on Salaamedia, Jo Bluen picked apart the narrative that the Zionist project was a noble endeavour to heal Jews after the Holocaust. Reading the work of Theodor Herzl, she said there was no doubt Zionism itself was racist.

“The idea of Zionism itself is a deeply anti-Semitic idea,” said Bluen, an activist at the South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP).

“Much of the early Zionist thinking came from really anti-Semitic Christian Zionism, and very much a part of trying to push the Jews out of Europe, and indeed out of South Africa.”


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The SAJFP has been working hard to dispel the myth that sympathising with the Palestinian cause is tantamount to “anti-Semitism”. In fact, she said, the outdated term served no good purpose.

“The term ‘anti-Semitic’ is actually an anti-Semitic term. The idea of the semite is a bit of an outdated way of talking about Jews, Muslims and Arabs. We use Judeauphobia,” she said, clarifying the meaning of ‘anti-Semitism’ at a time when it is carelessly thrown about.

The term ‘Semite’ is an obsolete term previously used to denote people associated with the Middle East, particularly Jews and Arabs. ‘Anti-Semite’, then, refers to antipathy towards both Jews and Arabs – which is incongruent with the narrative.

Genocide enablers and sympathisers have frequently used “anti-Semite” to attack Palestinian backers. Israeli officials have bemoaned a scourge of “anti-Semitism”, while the United States House of Representatives in December equated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

But, Bluen warned, using such a term could be severely damaging. “It’s dangerous to Jews, it’s dangerous to Muslims, it’s dangerous to the Palestinian struggle,” she said.


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Jews for an unoccupied Palestine

Working in solidarity with the people of Palestine, whose homes have been occupied and territory undermined for decades, is not easy as a Jew. There are rape threats, accusations of being a self-hating Jew and more. But the cause is important.

“You get one rape threat, you get one solidarity moment. We just have to keep it moving,” she said.

Her colleague, Rina King, agreed it was necessary to stand up, or else the world may become a place where human rights abuses are the norm.

The death toll in Gaza – now well over 30 000 – and segregation in Apartheid Israel should not be allowed to exacerbate, she said.

“The genocide is basically pushing aside all human rights laws. Israel has violated practically every single human rights law; in war, in peace, in every single respect. Unless we’re prepared to accept a world with a new norm, we have to protest [and] we have to object to what is happening in Gaza, in the West Bank and Apartheid Israel generally.”

Since 7 October, Israel has waged a relentless War of Extermination against the people of Gaza, Palestine. Frequent raids in the West Bank have also killed civilians, and occupation since 1948 has splintered what was once a united country with rich, diverse heritage.

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