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BY-NC 4.0 license Open Access Published by Academic Studies Press January 12, 2022

How the Word “Zionist” Functions in Antisemitic Vocabulary

  • David Hirsh


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 predetermined 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 that define the communities of scholarship and of morality in ways that 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 twentieth century.

Published Online: 2022-01-12
Published in Print: 2021-12-01

© 2021 by Academic Studies Press

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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