Narrate and understand Soviet antizionism in today’s context
It is a premise of the London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism that the rise of antizionism in left and liberal spaces is significant and troubling. It is antizionism as an ideology that concerns us, antizionism as a phenomenon that cannot be understood even as overzealous or one-sided criticism of Israel. It is an antizionism that constructs a worldview which puts Israel at the centre of all that is bad in the world, which portrays Israel as a symbolic or universal evil, that our research agenda aims to understand and to critique.
Contemporary antizionism of this kind has striking similarities to the antizionism of the propaganda campaigns that were conducted by the USSR, and its satellites at home and abroad from 1967 through to 1989. This similarity is not recognised within the contemporary antizionist movement, it is not often treated as significant, and is not widely understood.
The research agenda of this project is to understand this relationship.
To what extent was today’s antizionism invented in the USSR?
To what extent was it built upon on pre-existing Russian antisemitism? To what extent did it draw upon older left-wing and Bolshevik antisemitism? Is there a left-wing or a Marxist openness to conspiracy fantasy that relates to the way that the left is always having to resist the temptations of antisemitism?
If Soviet antisemitism was a factor in the construction of Soviet antizionism, then what light might that shed upon the relationship of contemporary antizionism with antisemitism?
It is easy to see how antizionism can feed into antisemitic thinking, but to what extent does antizionism require pre-existing antisemitism in its construction?
What is the relationship between Soviet antizionism with the antisemitism of other 20th and 21st century totalitarian movements, in particular Nazism and also those traditions of political Islam that may be understood as totalitarian?
Does antizionism precede the significant material transformations of Jewish life in the 20th century, specifically antisemitism in Russia and Eastern Europe, the Holocaust and the movements of Jews inside the Middle East and the creation of the state of Israel?
Can the roots of Soviet antizionism be traced all the way back to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and beyond? Perhaps it can if the Protocols are understood as a response to the Basel Congresses and to Jewish political self-organisation.
Is there a legacy from pre-Soviet antisemitism and Soviet antizionism into the present, via the antizionism of the Durban conference, via post Soviet Russian efforts to influence global public opinion in the age of social media?
Is there a similarity between the designation of Israel as fundamentally inauthentic – a tool of imperialism, an essentially fascist entity, deserving only of being defeated and dismantled – and today’s designation of Ukraine in a similar way?
Addressing these questions may help shed light on some of the key questions facing us today:
Why does antizionism in progressive spaces so easily shift into classic antisemitism?
What are the sources of the conspiracism that so often characterises contemporary antizionist discourse?
Why has this discourse gained such ground in recent years?
What are the links between left-wing antizionism and neo-Nazi and Arab antisemitism?
The project seeks to answer these contemporary questions by deepening academic knowledge and analysis of Soviet antizionist propaganda.