Diagnosing Zionophobia and curing it
By Gil Troy
February 24, 2008
In 1882, a Russian Jewish physician named Leon Pinsker diagnosed "Judeophobia," the irrational Jew-hatred, blighting enlightened Europeans. On February 24th and 25th, 126 years later, delegates from 45 countries will convene in Jerusalem to attend the International Conference for the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, organized by the Israeli Foreign Ministry's Department of Combating Antisemitism headed by Aviva Raz-Shechter. The Forum's venue proves that Jews' statelessness, which Dr. Pinsker blamed for causing anti-Semitism, has ended. Tragically, an irrational hatred of that Jewish state has morphed this ancient disease into a new affliction: Zionophobia.
Zionophobia is the irrational hatred of Israel and Jewish nationalism, meaning Zionism. Rooted in traditional Judeophobia - and in genuine sympathy for the Palestinian predicament -- it masks this antisemitism by demonizing Israel in the guise of defending the downtrodden. By treating Israel as the world's only pariah state it assails the essence of Zionism, which demanded equal treatment for the Jewish nation.
Zionophobia singles out the Jews, holding Israel to an artificially high standard, while ignoring Israel's unique blend of liberal, democratic, and Jewish values. Only Israel remains on probation 60 years after its founding, with its legitimacy seemingly contingent on good behavior. No one questions the legitimacy of, say, Pakistan, despite being artificially carved out of the British Raj - and rarely a constructive force in the world. This double standard marks Zionophobia as a strain of a broader disease, the modern tendency to judge all Western nations harshly, but especially the United States and its allies, while absolving Third World nations of wrongdoing. This inconsistency reflects a bigotry of low expectations regarding non-Western countries camouflaged by a vicious, self-righteous storm of fury whenever America, England, or Israel stumbles.
Zionophobia festers in the fetid springs of modern Arab nationalism and Islamism, culminating a systematic decades-long campaign that has metastasized from rejecting Zionism to demonizing Jews. This fanatic wave of hatred combines traditionally anti-Semitic, Nazi and Soviet tropes with Islamic fundamentalism, the cult of state dictatorships, and Arab pride.
Surprisingly, this anti-modern, anti-democratic, deeply illiberal ideology has influenced academics, intellectuals, NGO-activists, and United Nations bureaucrats who believe they champion modernity, universalism and human rights. Massive doses of identity politics and political correctness calm the cognitive dissonance that should result from this unholy alliance.
Zionophobia explains how an anti-racism conference in Durban in 2001 became an anti-Israel pile-on, and why the UN is planning a repeat in 2009. Thanks to Zionophobia, suicide bombings against Israelis, Kassam rockets raining on Sderot's citizens, and many pro-Palestinian forces' worldwide campaign of hate against Jews not just Israel are rationalized as part of the morally neutral "cycle of violence." Zionophobia exploits modern political divisions, fooling too many liberals into thinking that supporting Israel or opposing Islamist terrorism is somehow illiberal, when Zionism remains shaped by progressivism and Islamist fundamentalism is anathema to liberalism.
Zionophobes -- who today are occasionally Jewish or Israeli -- suffer from five major manifestations of disease:
Myopia: the one-sided, biased view of Israel, exaggerating Israel's imperfections into crimes against humanity while ignoring more serious abuses elsewhere. How else can we explain the libel that Israel is practicing South-African style apartheid or the lopsided number of UN resolutions against Israel?
Dyspepsia: the constant tension attending even benign recognitions of the Jewish state. How else can we explain the furor surrounding the Turin International Book Fair's decision to honor Israel this year?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder: the exaggerated worldview blaming Israel for so much of the world's woes. How else can we explain the worldwide surveys identifying Israel as a greater threat to world peace than Iran with its nuclear ambitions and genocidal threats against a fellow UN member?
Schizophrenia: the split personality among progressives who caricature Israel as a military dictatorship while ignoring the sins of Israel's undemocratic neighbors. How else can we explain the free pass so many liberals give to Arab sexism, homophobia, suppression of dissent, and political strong-arming?
Paranoia: the false claim that the anti-Zionists are victims, demonized, marginalized, delegitimized on campus, in the media. How else can we explain the best-sellers darkly warning about "the Jewish Lobby," and the "Ad Hoc Committee to Defend the University" consisting of over 600 leading scholars only singling out "groups portraying themselves as defenders of Israel" as today's threats to academic freedom?
We cannot lose our sense of outrage. Annual conferences and myriad self-defense organizations risk making us too used to battle, inured to just how disgraceful the situation has become.
We also cannot lose our sense of proportion. It is too easy to mimic our enemies' ailments by becoming the world's hypochondriacs and hysterics, always feeling beleaguered, always fighting the latest scourge in full fury, no matter how insignificant.
The best response to all this ugliness is to foster as much beauty as possible in the modern Jewish state. Better to spend more time building an enlightened, just, democratic, fair, prosperous and fun country than fighting calumnies. This month, Israel Musicals produced "The Man of La Mancha" in English in Israel, for the first time. Don Quixote fights vulgarity with nobility, hatred with love. His "Impossible Dream" amuses the cynics but sweeps up his beloved Dulcinea and his loyal friend Sancho Panza.
The Zionist dream remains compelling yet somewhat impossible, entrancing a committed minority to envision the good in a world with too much evil. Tilting at windmills is futile.
Carefully choosing our battles, applying the right mix of indignation and imagination, realism and idealism, anger and insight, we will learn "to right, the unrightable wrong, to love, pure and chaste from afar." Then maybe, someday soon, we will reach that "unreachable star," not to disarm the anti-Semites but to live in peace, freedom and dignity, "ba'eretz Tzion, Yerushalayim," in the land of Zion, Jerusalem.
Views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of israelinsider.
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