Facebook is “independently engaging with experts and stakeholders” to discuss the usage of the term “Zionist.” According to The Verge, Facebook allows the term “in political discourse,” but not “when it’s used as a proxy for Jews or Israelis in a dehumanizing or violent way.”

I am not an expert on Zionism though I have a book-shelf of information about it; I am a stakeholder in Facebook, as I participate there in several communities. If Facebook were to engage me in the discussion it is having around the term “Zionist,” I would explain the following:

The term “Zionist” applies to a great many Jews/Israelis and Christians, and it is pejorative, by definition, in the same way the term “Nazi” is pejorative. It should not be levied against all Jews or all Christians to be sure. But there are many times it can and ought to be levied accurately. [See: Why Zionism has always been a racist ideology].

Zionist ideology, a supremacist ideology in both its political and messianic manifestations, is entangled in the popular imagination with both religions — Judaism and Christianity. The words “Jewish” and “Israeli” are routinely used interchangeably in the media, in acceptance of how Israel defines itself, conflating nationality with religion and inventing, through Zionist ideology, a collective Jewish identity as a “nationality” wrapped with religious symbols encompassing Jews worldwide, regardless of their countries of origin. [See: The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand].

Many Jews, but by no means all, have adopted this identity and are therefore Zionists. Many Christians, but by no means all, have adopted the messianic version of Zionism and are supporting, preaching and funding the project of “in-gathering” Jews in illegally-annexed Jerusalem without any regard to Palestinian life, human rights or Israeli oppression. Israeli Jews, minus a tiny minority, are Zionists, inculcated in this ideology in schools and conscripted into the Israeli army to maintain the Jewish state’s dispossession of the Palestinian people (the non-Jews among them) and the expansion of Israel into all of Palestine “from the river to the sea.”

Many Palestinians and their allies on Facebook are swept away by the confusions Israel, American Jews and evangelist Christians have sown around Jewish identity. Attempts to wade through the smoke and mirrors of Israeli propaganda, which is aided and abetted by mainstream media as well as social media, are routinely suppressed, concerns denied, and any reference to “Jewish” coupled with the ideology of supremacy is pounced upon as antisemitic.

American Jews comprise the world’s largest and most powerful Jewish community. No other group in American history, as Melfin I. Urofsky writes in American Zionism from Herzl to the Holocaust, “has had so extensive an involvement with a foreign nation [meaning Israel]. No other nation relies upon a body of private individuals who are neither residents nor citizens of their land to underwrite a major portion of their budget. American Jews buy Israel bonds, give generously to the United Israel Appeal, lobby their governmental representatives to pursue a pro-Israel policy, travel extensively to Israel (where they are greeted with “welcome home” signs), respond immediately to every crisis in that part of the world, and yet maintain passionately that they are Americans first and Jews afterward.”

Urofsky goes on to describe the above phenomenon as “curious, puzzling and yet totally logical.” To Palestinians and their allies, Zionism and this relationship between American Jews and Israel is puzzling, indeed, but hardly logical, no matter how many times the word “Holocaust” is invoked. Zionist plans in Europe to colonize Palestine long preceded the Holocaust.

Zionism Is the Fascism of Today — SSSJ, circa 1984. Source: Yeshiva University Archives (NYC)

False equivalencies between self-determination for “the Jews” (worldwide as a monolith) and self-determination for Palestinians are imposed on us by proponents of the so-called “peace process.” Consider this comment from a discussion on Facebook in a Group called Free Speech on Palestine: “Anyone who calls themself a Zionist but who opposes Palestinian self-determination is a silly hypocrite, in my opinion, just as anyone who works for Palestinian statehood but opposes Zionism is a silly hypocrite. Would you agree?”

I would not and did not. Jews, like any other group, have a right to self-determination in their own countries of origin, not in necessarily in Palestine. Israeli Jews can have self-determination (after decolonization) in a secular democratic state from the river to the sea. No group should be seeking a state, power and privilege by invading the territory of another group to achieve that end. The world should not continue to legitimize Israel, whose territorial ambitions and contempt for international law and the Geneva Conventions are in the news practically on a daily basis. No group of people should be seeking a state in which they are granted permanent power and privilege over any other group — in Palestine or anywhere else in the world.

“Israel, based — as B’tselem has correctly concluded — around ethnic supremacy, is a throwback. An aberration. It is based around an idea that belongs in the dustbin of history,” one writer commented in the Facebook discussion I mention above, only to hear back: “Describing Zionism as a ‘supremacist ideology’ is unhelpful, unproductive and likely to get you banned from Facebook based on this latest news from Facebook. Let’s work for something positive and not sink to name-calling, please!”

Facebook should not be in the business of censoring speech, especially not in the service of a supremacist ideology. Whenever censorship happens the power is wielded against the weaker parties.

Being a Zionist is acceptable in a way being a Fascist is not. When the term “zionist” with a small “z” takes on the negative connotation among Jewish communities and others that the term “fascist,” which is associated with Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, does, then perhaps it’ll be easier for those who have bought into the conflation of “Zionism” with “Jewishness” to understand that, just as not every German was a Nazi, not every Jew outside Israel is a Zionist.

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Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem and whose mother’s side of the family is from Ijzim, south of Haifa. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.


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