Antizionism as an ideology and its relationship to antisemitisms
David Seymour draws on Robert Fine and Philip Spencer’s argument about the so-called ‘Jewish Question’. They interrogate the extent to which it was ever a question about what Jews do, or do not do, that makes it difficult for them to be emancipated as ordinary citizens. For them, the Jewish Question was always really a question about antisemites. Classically, it was an antisemitic reaction to Jewish emancipation, holding Jews responsible, in one way or another, for their own exclusion. Our research agenda then, is about what it is that antizionism is a response to. How does antizionism emerge as a response to Jewish national self-determination, and how is it inverted and posed as a new ‘Jewish Question’ that asks: ‘what is it that Israel does that sets it apart, that makes it unique, that makes it incapable of “assimilating” in the community of nations?’ Our research agenda is more about making sense of this question than attempting to answer it.
If there is not one antisemitism, but many distinct anti-Jewish movements, then we are interested in understanding how antizionism, an ideology, fits into that history.
And another key research question about antizionism relates to agency and responsibility. Arendt’s critique of an ahistorical understanding of antisemitism as an ever-present fact of human history enables us to ask questions about the specificities of this or that anti-Jewish movement. Who is embracing it and pushing it? What do they want to do with it? What is so important to them that it readies them to pick up those old tropes and stick them together into new phenomena? If antisemitism is nurtured deliberately by 21st century people to fulfil 21st century functions, which relate to 21st century society, then what are they? If 20th century totalitarian antisemitism portrayed the ‘enemy of the people’ as having a Jewish face, how did antizionism develop to portray racism, and in the end oppression itself, universally, as having an Israeli face?