We are a community for the growing number of people who identify as Jewish — ethnically, culturally, or religiously — and oppose Zionism. We work together to ensure that there is a specifically Jewish voice in the wider Scottish movement for Palestinian rights and against Zionism. We are Jews who feel compelled to speak out, and to demonstrate that opposition to Zionism is not inherently anti-Semitic; and we believe we have a particular right to speak out when injustice and oppression are perpetrated in the name of all Jews.
We understand how historical circumstances persuaded the post-War generation that Jewish survival needed Zionism – the movement for the establishment and then the development and protection of a Jewish nation in the historic land of Israel. But we are painfully aware of the fundamental fallacies in the belief that this would in fact create a better or safer society. The concept of a ‘Jewish state’, or any state defined by ethnicity or religion, is inherently discriminatory and racist. And when that state is established in a land that is already inhabited by others, and can only be manifested through settler colonialism, this discrimination is magnified.
The seeds for the escalating state violence and discrimination in Israel today, which has been likened to a new apartheid, were already planted in the underlying logic of Zionism. While some Israeli governments have proved more aggressive than others, we cannot stop at criticising individual politicians and political actions. There can be no genuine peace and security so long as the state maintains an ideology that privileges Jews; and the belief that it is possible to call for peace without opposing Zionism, is a dangerous delusion. Zionism has been a catastrophe for the Palestinians, and a constant threat to political stability in the Middle East and beyond. It has eroded the empathy of all those who support it, and far from making it safer to be a Jew, the actions of the state that claims to represent all Jews have only fuelled a new anti-Semitism.
There have been Jews without Zionism for millennia. While traditional Judaism looks forward to a return to Jerusalem in a future messianic age, Zionism is a modern (19th century) nationalist movement that became the subject of intense argument among Jews, and that only gained dominance after the horror of the Holocaust. Not all Jews support Zionism, and not all Zionists are Jewish. However, Zionism seeks to hold itself above criticism by portraying its political nationalism as integral to Jewishness, so that opposition to Zionism becomes tantamount to anti-Semitism. We argue that this presumption that all Jews share the same political position is actually racist; and that wrongly accusing people of anti-Semitism can be intensely damaging to those accused, as well as serving to obscure genuinely anti-Semitic acts. We are deeply concerned when we see unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism being used as a tool for slurring left politicians and activists, whose commitment to justice leads them to advocate for Palestinian rights.
Almost no-one likes to feel rootless, and all of us want to be able to celebrate and enjoy our Jewishness – whether that be religious, ethnic or cultural; a belief system, a way of life, or a historical legacy. We cannot accept a Zionist veto on who or what counts as Jewish. We want to be able to look back at earlier centuries of Jewish life and say that we’ve not forgotten their struggles and hopes, and their dogged determination to maintain a culture that cannot be reduced to a narrow Jewish nationalism; and we want to enjoy our heritage and tradition without making claims for Jewish exceptionalism of any kind.
Centuries of oppression ensured that there is a long history of Jewish involvement in progressive struggle, but, as Israel has demonstrated, Jews, like any other group, can also be oppressors. We want to be part of that progressive tradition – to feel a bond with Rosa Luxemburg and Morris Winchevsky, as well as with John McLean and Mary Brooksbank – but we recognise that we can no more take credit for this part of Jewish history than we can be blamed for Israeli oppression. We have to take responsibility for our own actions.
Progressive struggle must uncompromisingly embrace full human rights for everyone regardless of ethnicity, and the Zionist project has endowed us with a special duty to stand up for the Palestinians. We will work with others to fight for equal rights for all in Israel/Palestine, to which purpose we support the Palestinians’ non-violent popular struggle, including demands for the end of the occupation as a first stage in any settlement and for the right of return for Palestinian refugee families, and the call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions made by Palestinian civil society.
We have founded this community so that we can provide each other with mutual support and combine our voices to greater impact – as Jews who uncompromisingly embrace full human rights for everyone.
We are an open and friendly group and aim to ensure that no-one is made uncomfortable in our spaces through any form of oppressive behaviour, such as attacking people on the basis of their gender, sexuality, ‘race’, religious beliefs, age, level of ability or because they are trans. We are all learning how to be better people and welcome those who are happy to learn with us.