How Anti-Zionism Became Anti-Semitism: A Historical Overview

After the defeat of Nazism in World War II, the Soviet Union and its satellites became the main European incubators of anti-Semitism, a doctrine they soon repackaged, with great success, as anti-Zionism. Asael Abelman tells this story in a sweeping and penetrating essay that can be read in its original Hebrew here or in a rough English translation at the link below:

After 1945, and even more so after 1948, the war against the Jews ceased to be one against a people scattered and dispersed among the nations but instead against a people who had returned to their land. The banner of this war against the Jews was now borne by the Arab peoples as well as Muslims throughout the world, and even though a wide chasm separated most of them from the European left, all parties found in this struggle a common denominator. . . .

Take Poland, for example, in the late 1960s. During this period, Polish students were expressing their resentment of the Communist regime in their country. When the regime sought a way to rally its ranks and divert attention from its critics, it found it in anti-Semitism. By then, most of the Jews of Poland had been exterminated [in World War II]; many others had left for Israel and other countries; and many of the remaining Jews in Poland did not see themselves as Jews, were themselves unaware that they were Jews, or were completely indifferent to their Jewish identity. But none of this prevented the leader of Poland, Wladyslaw Gomulka, from looking for a way to use anti-Semitism to serve his political needs.

His opportunity arrived with Israel’s victory over the Arab states in the Six-Day War. Immediately thereafter, Gomulka publicly announced that “Polish citizens of the Jewish nation are not prevented from returning to Israel if they wish. Our position is that every Polish citizen should have one state: the Polish People’s Republic; . . . we do not want a fifth column.” Thus, parallel to the Arab desire to destroy the state of Israel, anti-Semitism came out of the mouth of the leader of the Polish Communist regime, a man who no doubt considered racist Nazism to be the absolute evil, [who was himself married to a Jewish woman], and who subscribed to an ideological doctrine strongly opposed to national hatred.

Thereafter, Gomulka’s Poland became flooded with anti-Semitism. Persistent rumors claimed that the economic shortage in Poland was caused by unfaithful Jewish Communists; Jewish lecturers and students were expelled from the academy; and anti-Jewish notions straight out of Nazi Germany appeared in the official press. . . .

This recruitment of the hatred of Israel for political purposes in Poland . . . was conducted in parallel with Soviet oppression of Poland itself, and the Soviet authorities likewise used anti-Semitism for their own ends. . . . One incident illustrates perfectly the cooperation engendered by the war against the Jews: the doctoral dissertation written by Mahmoud Abbas at a Soviet university on the supposed cooperation between Zionists and Nazis. This work by a current Palestinian leader is particularly striking in light of the fact that one of the first Palestinian leaders, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, had promoted the extermination of European Jews in cooperation with the Nazis.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Mida

More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Communism, Mahmoud Abbas, Polish Jewry

Islamic Jihad Wants a Fight with Israel. Hamas Does Not

Nov. 14 2019

Since Tuesday, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Hamas, which rules Gaza, seems to have avoided joining in, adhering to the strategy of low-level conflict it has pursued since autumn 2014. To Hillel Frisch, the current round highlights the differences between the two terrorist groups:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month

Register

Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israeli Security