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Anti-zionism vs. Antisemitism: A Bystander’s Inquiry & Where Goucher Falls


* Disclaimer: The Quindecim editorial team has made a rare exemption to allow this writer to publish without their full name, due to fear of academic retaliation and safety concerns, but has verified their status as a student. This piece was published as a student’s op-ed submission. The Quindecim is a space for all students within the Goucher community to express their views and beliefs. These pieces are released in the name of journalistic integrity and not in an attempt to antagonize or reflect the institution of Goucher as a whole.

By A.R.

When I go to class or get together with friends to study, I always seem to hear a comment or joke about the recent Pro-Palestinian actions happening across campus and the resulting discontent from Israel supporters. At first, I thought these comments came from a place of misunderstanding, but as the months progressed, I have come to realize that a majority of the campus–myself included, at one point–do not actually feel the cognitive need to differentiate between history and nuance versus propaganda and semantic wars. 

We all know our campus as “liberal” and left-leaning, but in today’s age of social media and doxxing, no one seems to care to offer an opinion or analysis of what they see and hear. I get it: as a neurodivergent individual, I know that backlash and scrutiny sucks. It’s human nature. Yet, as I have seen the Palestine-Israel war dominate every form of media imaginable and seep into our campus culture, I have realized it’s impossible to avoid learning. Out of genuine interest and a general lack of education (thanks, American public schools), I have spent the last few months reading, watching, and absorbing every resource I could get my hands on before I could conclude an opinion on the topic. 

This is what I have found and have concluded. I implore all of my peers and professors, administrators and alumni, Campus Safety and (the lovely) environmental technicians, or anyone who is/was involved with Goucher College to do the same. Whether you can sense it or not, our world is at an inevitable turning point. If you are human, the happenings of the world do concern you. You can no longer feign ignorance or “lack of free time”–I’m looking at you, student athletes. You make up 51% of our student population and can definitely use your bus rides to away games or daily YouTube-during-lunch time to learn. 

The first glaring area I needed to research was the word “Zionism.” It was (and is) a word that permeates the signs of our student protestors and dots headlines across my Twitter timeline. According to Merriam-Webster, Zionism is “an international movement originally for the establishment of a Jewish national or religious community in Palestine and later for the support of modern Israel.” 

Now, I was raised in a non-denominational Christian household, so the history of Israel and its importance to the Abrahamic religions is not lost on me. However, the overwhelming Evangelical (a Christian denomination) support for Israel seems to be based not on the support for a Jewish nation state, but more on the land’s prophetic significance and corporate interests. It’s no secret that right-wing/conservative politicians (who often identify as Evangelical) have large investments in and contributions from security and defense companies (with the sector being the largest donator in the 2022 election cycle, behind the retired wealthy elite). With billions in profits in the security and defense industry, any type of military conflict that the United States is even tangentially involved in means profits out the wazoo for companies like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, RTX, Boeing, and other defense contractors. And, of course, their stockholders and the politicians they donate to. 

This all seemed quite weird to me–I have my own knowledge and experience of Evangelicals being scummy and self-serving, but this seemed a step beyond that. While trying to dig deeper into the corporate interests in the Middle East/Israel and Palestine, I stumbled across an article written by James Baldwin for The Nation in the late 70s. Titled “Open Letter to the Born Again,” he writes,

The state of Israel was not created for the salvation of the Jews; it was created for the salvation of the Western interests…The Palestinians have been paying for the British colonial policy of ‘divide and rule’ and for Europe’s guilty Christian conscience for more than thirty years.

Now, if there is one thing I believe we can agree on, it is that European colonialism served the purpose of 1) corporate interests and profit and 2) (violent) Christian advancement. Despite the West’s belief (or, rather, propaganda) that European colonialism ended before the 20th/21st centuries, the Mandate for Palestine and Transjordan was erected following World War I, “giving” the land of Palestine to Britain. As far as I know, “Giving land” is when a family member bequeaths their house and/ or land to their loved one(s) in their will, NOT when you transfer a nation with people and culture and history to the will of one of the most infamous colonial powers. Winston Churchill–the British prime minister that helped establish Jewish immigration into their occupied Palestine and Transjordan–was a known racist, and viewed Palestinian Arabs (and people of color in general) as “inferior,” even stating that the Indigenous Peoples in America and Australia displaced by colonization were being replaced with “a higher grade race.” Like many other European leaders at the time, Churchill believed that the establishment of a Jewish nation state via the Zionism project would remove Jews from the European continent altogether.

Read that last sentence again.

European/Western support of Zionism was not for the freedom and safety of the Jewish people. It was to remove them from the continent. Even after the defeat of the Third Reich. Their support of Zionism was–and is–profoundly anti-semitic.

After this disheartening path of research, I began to realize what Zionism was intended to be. Zionism in its creation was to remove Jews from the existence of White individuals in a manner not as violent and disruptive as the Holocaust. It removes the blame from the White man.

But, of course, like any theory or movement, Zionism has evolved. I do believe it is still inherently rooted in anti-semitism: ⅓ of Holocaust survivors in Israel reportedly live in poverty while nearly 20,000 survivors see none of the bureaucratic aid promised to them (while Israeli government representatives liken themselves to these very same survivors in the media to gain sympathy for their cause). I believe that Zionism as we perceive it today includes Islamophobia, colonialism, and capitalism. Of course, the horrors of October 7th should never happen to any person or peoples; that goes without saying. Yet the Palestinian people have faced countless acts similar to and worse than Oct. 7th every day since. As of February of this year the Palestinian death toll has surpassed 30,000 lives lost since Oct. 7th, not including the bodies that still remain buried under rubble created by Israel’s attacks. Some Israeli citizens routinely mock Palestinians through caricatures of Arab cultures posted across social media. The U.S. and Israel have reportedly been coordinating a possible offshore oil drilling operation on Gaza’s coast. 

A common retort I have seen across comment threads and forums during my research is that Israel is a safe space for Jewish people. Every person with a conscience believes that Jews should feel safe and also deserve to live happy, healthy, and free lives. However, the need for this to be secluded to the single area that is Israel yields the idea that the planet is inherently anti-semitic and unsafe for Jews. If Western nations so adamantly support Zionism as an ideology, are they not admitting that their own countries are inherently anti-semitic and unsafe for Jews to live in?

As the protest over Alumni Weekend occurred, I saw bright pastel posters (that also did not abide by the Demonstration and Poster policies, yet were not taken down like Pro-Palestine materials have), reading “Plz stop being antisemitic w/ ur activism plz.” I would like to contest this claim: after hearing the protesters’ chants from my dorm room and seeing their posters and banners in Sam Rose’s article, none of the activism seemed remotely anti-semitic at all; in fact, there seemed to be no mention of Jews at all. The protestors have stuck to their calls from last semester: they want the administration to recognize what is happening and stop ignoring the student population. While many of my friends and peers are resistant to becoming involved, the general viewpoint seems to be for the freedom of Palestine and for the administration to speak up against Zionism.

Goucher’s student and professor population is not anti-semitic, it is anti-Zionist. We want justice, safety, and liberation for all.

So, my friends and peers: I implore you to read. To watch, to listen, to tune in. It is the least you can do as a human.

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