Adam Milstein on the Danger of Anti-Zionist Jewish Groups

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Debate and difference of opinion is a fundamental part of our Jewish DNA. Since ancient times, Jews have disagreed about how to govern ourselves, and even how to be Jewish. During the Hellenistic age in the 2nd century BCE, Jews in Judea attempted to avoid persecution by assimilating more deeply into Hellenistic culture. Other Jews refused to assimilate, starting the Maccabean revolt against both the ruling Seleucid empire and Hellenistic Jews. Two thousand years later at the founding of modern Zionism, there were opposing views about what Zionism should be. Theodor Herzl’s Political Zionism envisioned Jews living peacefully alongside Arabs in the land of Palestine. Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Revisionist Zionism advocated for a more aggressive approach to securing our homeland.

These tensions have carried over into the modern state of Israel, embodied in the constant push and pull between the left-wing labor parties, historically pro-peace, and the right-wing conservative parties, historically against a peace settlement that might threaten security. This debate animates conversations all across the Jewish diaspora, especially in the United States. No matter where they fall on the political spectrum, the vast majority of American Jews do agree on one thing: that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination in our ancient homeland, and that Israel has an unequivocal right to exist. That is the definition of a Zionist, a label most American Jews wear proudly. But nowhere has there been such a stark turn among a particular sect of Jews toward anti-Zionism than in the U.S.

In a recent article for The Jerusalem Post, Israeli-American philanthropist Adam Milstein discusses the virulent strain of anti-Zionism that has developed in far-left circles over the last few decades. Milstein is uniquely positioned to assess why such an issue is plaguing American Jewish society today. He’s made a name for himself as a businessman and philanthropist who supports causes that combat antisemitism, advocate for a vibrant Jewish community, and strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship. The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation is laser-focused on strengthening American values, supporting the U.S.-Israel alliance, and combating bigotry and hatred in all forms.

Milstein acknowledges that while most Jews put Zionism somewhere at the center of their Jewish identity, “there is a loud minority of radical anti-Israel Jewish voices.” This minority “harbor[s] views that not only fail to represent the broad Jewish consensus, but they also directly endanger the Jewish people” – not just because of what they say, but because of how their views are weaponized by antisemites.

Two of the loudest Jewish anti-Zionist organizations that he identifies are Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and IfNotNow (INN). On its website, JVP hails itself as the “largest progressive Jewish anti-Zionist organization in the world,” laying out its vague vision for a “world where all people — from the U.S. to Palestine — live in freedom, justice, equality, and dignity,” with a particular emphasis on Palestinian freedom and the global fight against racism. Those who don’t know better might think JVP is simply fighting for Palestinian rights. But implied in its messaging is an opposition to the very existence of the state of Israel. INN is also vague in its vision, demanding an end to “U.S. support for Israel’s apartheid system” with no alternative solution presented. Again, the messaging implies that the only way to achieve “[e]quality, justice, and a thriving future for all Palestinians and Israelis” is for the state of Israel and its so-called “apartheid system” to cease to exist in its current form.

Milstein explains why groups like JVP and INN are so dangerous for Jews: “Our detractors and the media weaponize them, turning them into ‘token Jews’ used to attack Israel and sow division within the Jewish community.” Jewish advocacy for an end to Israel as we know it makes anti-Zionism “politically acceptable,” and these groups become a shield behind which “antisemites attempt to hide their anti-Jewish bigotry.” In essence, Milstein says that JVP and INN make it infinitely easier for antisemites to be antisemitic with impunity, using these Jews as a convenient cover.

This isn’t just dangerous for the Jewish community at large. Milstein believes JVP and INN endanger themselves. “If Israel ceases to exist, as JVP and INN desire, where will these Jews turn when antisemites inevitably turn on them? By normalizing and validating the progressive movement’s exclusion of Zionist Jews (most Jews) they are essentially digging their own graves.”

Worse, Milstein argues, JVP and INN are obstacles to peace. These groups align themselves with the most prevalent anti-Zionist group active today: the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS). The founder of BDS, Omar Barghouti, “hails JVP as a ‘key partner in the BDS network,’” reports Milstein, reminding us of Barghouti’s very clear words: “‘Most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.’” By publicly espousing anti-Israel rhetoric which is then weaponized by groups like BDS that want an end to Israel as we know it, these Jewish groups create far more problems for Jews than they seek to solve.

There are legitimate moral debates to be had about Israeli policies and politics, about how Israel conducts wars and treats Palestinian Arabs on either side of the green line. Jews have been engaging in good-faith arguments about our complex reality for centuries, even millennia. But Jewish anti-Zionist groups like JVP and INN only distract from the substantive discussions we need to be having.

That’s why Milstein advises that the best course of action is to simply “ignore them.” These voices are still relegated to the fringe, and with sustained and effective pro-Israel advocacy like the kind Milstein engages in, that’s where they will stay.

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