It is a curious paradox that despite its many achievements in all fields, Israel has yet to craft a convincing strategy to combat anti-Zionism. One of the reasons for this is that the roots of this phenomenon have been misdiagnosed.
Leftist anti-Zionism is not bred by anti-Semitism. The secular intelligentsia that supports Palestinians abhors Christian anti-Semitism and Nazi racism. Their favorite thinkers are Jewish intellectuals like Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and Noam Chomsky. These anti-Zionists gladly rally against neo-Nazis and have no qualms about socializing with or marrying Jews.
Contrast this to the genuine anti-Semitism of pro-Israel evangelical Christians who believe that Jews are doomed to burn in hell or of xenophobic politicians who court Zionists to wage war against Islam, and we understand why the roots of anti-Zionism are usually not to be found in anti-Semitism. More crucially, the remedy prescribed to anti-Semites must not be prescribed to anti-Zionists.
Anti-Semitism can be effectively fought by showing documentaries and films on the Holocaust. But how do anti-Zionists react to claims that Jews after the Holocaust need a national homeland? They either question why Jews should get a state if the Gypsies did not get one or claim that Nazis – not Arabs – murdered Jews and that therefore a Jewish homeland in Palestine is immoral. Not taking note of these objections only helps Holocaust education fuel the libel that Jews use the Holocaust as a pretext to oppress Arabs.
What about Arab prosperity?
The root of anti-Zionism must be sought elsewhere - in anti-colonialism. The belief that colonialism was an absolute evil is so deeply engrained in the contemporary Western psyche that all enterprises bearing any parallels to it are automatically censored. This explains why people whose heroes are Bolivar and Gandhi instinctively side with the Palestinians.
To these people, claims that God promised the Land of Israel to the Jews reek of religious fanaticism. To make the argument that Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East invites allegations that it pursues apartheid policies. To counter all these claims is time-consuming and requires a taste for nuances. But why should anyone trade nuances for the facile certainty that colonialism is inherently evil?
Zionism will only cease being demonized in the politically correct corners of the West once our schools and film industry cease to demonize colonialism. The politically correct depiction of the colonialist as a racist and covetous brute must give space to the majority of well-meaning administrators that helped build roads, schools, and hospitals for the natives.
It must be shown that colonialists administered law and justice far more fairly than most pre-colonial chieftains or post-colonial despots. It must be taught that human development indicators plummeted in the majority of African and Asian countries following independence.
Once an honest discussion about colonialism is tabled, hostility to Zionism will wane in leftist circles. Not because they will shed the belief that Zionism is a form of colonialism, but because it will be possible for them to appreciate the merits of Zionism.
Indeed, the unprecedented peace and prosperity that Arabs enjoy in Israel and enjoyed in Judea and Samaria prior to the Oslo Accords is perhaps the best evidence of the morality of Zionism. Yet nowadays this reality cannot be trumpeted. Why? Because it might imply that Palestinians flourish wherever they are not ruled by fellow Arabs. And in a world where self-determination is still viewed as the ultimate good, this is a sacrilegious truth.