Anti-Zionism vs. Antisemitism

The Difference Between Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism

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1) What is antisemitism?

It is hostility and prejudice against Jewish people, in rhetoric or practice. As Jews are an ethnoreligious group, antisemitism can be based in racism and religious prejudice.

Antisemitism can be traced back to the ancient world. The most notable example of antisemitism in history is the Holocaust, the genocide of European Jews during World War II. Between 1941 and 1945, Nazi Germany carried out the systematic murder of approximately six million Jews, two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population, on its ideology of, in part, racial antisemitism.

Today, a common manifestation of antisemitism is the conspiracy that Jews exercise outsized control of government or media. Other contemporary examples of antisemitism in personal, public, academic, professional, religious, or other settings include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for the harming or killing of Jews
  • Using negative stereotypes to categorize a Jew or a behavior of a Jew
  • Denying the existence of the Holocaust 
  • Accusing Jews or others of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust
  • Using or writing symbols that reference the harming of Jews (i.e. a swastika)
  • Holding non-Israeli Jews responsible for the actions of the Israeli government

2) What is anti-Zionism?

Anti-Zionism is the opposition to the modern-day State of Israel. 

Zionism was originally the movement to create a state for the Jewish people. For centuries, Jews were persecuted against and ostracized from societies across Europe. Oftentimes, this persecution turned violent, such as the decades of pogroms in the Russian Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. Such oppression led Jews, in Russia and beyond, to become increasingly politically active, giving birth to the Zionist movement at the end of the 19th century.  

In the modern day, Zionism has been defined as support of the creation of a Jewish state in the Middle East called Israel, with borders that correspond roughly with the historical and biblical land of Israel. Israel was created and established as an independent state in 1948.

Why do people oppose the State of Israel?

Many global leaders, following the Holocaust, promoted the creation of Israel as “a land without people for a people without a land.” 

However, many who oppose the State of Israel claim that, when it was created, the international community at the time did not take into account the existing population living in what is present-day Israel, then termed Palestine under the British mandate.

In the mid-1940s, there were millions of existing inhabitants living in the area, mostly Palestinian Christians and Muslims, as well as Jews who fled to the region during World War II. As a result of the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, hundreds of thousands of these Palestinians were forcibly removed from and dispossessed of their homes and land; this event is known as the Nakba.


Some argue that the term “Zionist” can be used as a derogatory term against Jewish people.

However, others contend the Israeli government and leaders are deliberately using “anti-Zionism” and “antisemitism” interchangeably to co-opt and confuse the meaning of both to avert criticism. 

Specifically, the main criticism of the State of Israel is the historical and ongoing displacement and persecution of Palestinians to remove them from the land to create and expand Israeli settlements and, by extension, the state itself.

4) Distinctions:

  1. Being a Zionist and being Jewish are not equivalent.
  2. One can be Jewish and anti-Zionist. 
  3. One can be a Zionist and not a Jew. One can be a Zionist and antisemitic. 

The most notable group under the second category in the United States is Jewish Voice for Peace, composed mainly of anti-Zionist Jewish people.

Fundamentally, antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same.

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It is important to understand and learn about the difficult past and present of antisemitism. Reliable authorities for further resources include organizations such as:

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