On Zionism and Antisemitism – Maura Finkelstein shares her views

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On this week’s episode of TrueTalk, our hosts Samar  and Ahmed discuss the ongoing genocidal war on Gaza seven months in, and the Biden administration’s continued blind eye to the Israeli crimes. Samar and Ahmed talk to Jewish author and anthropologist Maura Finkelstein, who wrote an article about Zionism, titled “Don’t be fooled – Biden is the real antisemite”.

 

In her article, Finkelstein criticizes President Joe Biden’s stance on antisemitism, arguing that his support is limited to Zionist Jews while marginalizing anti-Zionist Jews. Finkelstein contends that Biden conflates Judaism with Zionism to silence dissent against Israel’s policies, accusing him of upholding white supremacist and colonialist agendas. She highlights her personal experiences of professional repercussions due to her anti-Zionist views and underscores the need to differentiate between antisemitism and legitimate political critique of Israel.

 

Speaking to Samar and Ahmed, Finkelstein argues that Biden’s identification as a Zionist and his focus on Zionism, rather than Judaism as a whole, contributes to anti-Semitism. She sayss that Biden’s rhetoric and policies prioritize Zionist Jews, thereby excluding and endangering Jews who do not identify as Zionist. She expresses concern over Biden’s consistent pro-Zionist stance throughout his career, which she believes aligns with white supremacy and detracts from addressing real anti-Semitism. She criticizes the idea that Israel’s existence absolves other countries from confronting their own anti-Semitism, suggesting this perspective undermines the safety of global Jewry.

 

The discussion also touches on the prevalence of Zionism among Jews in the U.S. Finkelstein notes that while specific statistics are lacking, the conflation of Judaism and Zionism in American Jewish education likely results in a majority of Jews being Zionist. She highlights the pervasive influence of pro-Zionist indoctrination from a young age through religious schools and organizations like Hillel International. She also emphasizes that anti-Zionism is a significant, albeit suppressed, aspect of Jewish history and thought, drawing attention to recent scholarly work on the subject.

 

Finkelstein shares her own experience of growing up in a Jewish community that was staunchly Zionist, describing how Jewish education often focuses heavily on the Holocaust and the need for Israel as a safe haven for Jews. This, she argues, can be traumatizing and limiting, as it ties Jewish identity to a specific political stance. She references the book “Our Palestine Question” by Jeffrey Levin, which examines how anti-Zionist Jewish activities have been historically silenced. This highlights that anti-Zionism is a significant part of Jewish thought and history that has often been marginalized both in the United States and Israel.

 

She describes how her own skepticism of the conflation between Judaism and Zionism developed over time, particularly influenced by educational experiences that encouraged critical thinking and engagement with diverse perspectives.

Listen to the show here 

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