This concept refers to the rejection of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in a Jewish state.


The concept of Anti-Zionism refers to the rejection of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in a sovereign Jewish state.

Asserted Rationales for Anti-Zionism

Several rationales historically have been advanced for Anti-Zionism. Those rationales include:

  1. Religion is not a proper basis for statehood. Under this rationale, Israel, as a Jewish state1, is treated as illegitimate.2 The effect of this position is to deny the Jewish people a right to self-determination. Thus far, the world community has rejected this argument. Most significantly, in November 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (The Partition Plan), recognizing the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. However, this theory of Anti-Zionism has been revived in the Contemporary One-State Argument (see also One-State Threat).
  2. Zionism is a violation of Arab rights. Under this rationale, the State of Israel is improper because its creation and continued existence involve a violation of Arab rights, in the form of asserted dispossession from land and violation of human rights.3 Some proponents of this view contend that a Jewish state outside the Middle East might be proper. The 'Failed Experience' Argument – A variant of the theory that Zionism is a violation of Arab rights contends that the existence of a Jewish state in part of the area of Mandatory Palestine was, at the outset, morally acceptable, but concludes that, in light of the history since its establishment, such a state has proved itself unjust (in essence, treating Zionism as a failed experience).
  3. Jews do not have an historical or religious connection to the Land of Israel.4 Under this theory; there is no basis for a Jewish state in the area of Mandatory Palestine.

Extrinsic Motivators of Anti-Zionism

Extrinsic motivators have played, and continue to play, a significant part in sustaining Anti-Zionism. Those motivators include:

  1. Anti-Semitism. Traditional forms of anti-Semitism – the belief that Jews are responsible for the problems of the world, the myth that Jews are trying to take over the world, etc. – have been an animating force behind Anti-Zionism. Anti-Semitism also manifests itself in new forms that feed Anti-Zionism. In an essay entitled New Anti-Jewishness, Prof. Irwin Cotler has elaborated: “In a word, classical or traditional antisemitism is the discrimination against, or denial of, the right of Jews to live as equal members of a free society; the new antisemitism – incompletely, or incorrectly, as ‘anti-Zionism’ (since not all critiques of Zionism are antisemitic) – involves the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon, the right of the Jewish people to live as an equal member of the family of nations. What is intrinsic to each form of antisemitism – and common to both – is discrimination. All that has happened is that it has moved from discrimination against Jews as individuals – a classical anti-Semitism for which there are indices of measurement (e.g. as discrimination against Jews in education, housing or employment) – to discrimination against Jews as people – a new antisemitism – for which one has yet to develop indices of measurement.”5
  2. Criticism of Israel – Reflects concern, some objective, some biased, against the policies of the Government of Israel. Examples may include criticism of overuse of military force, settlement activity, or the treatment of Arabs within Israel. Criticism of Israel becomes Anti-Zionism when it generalizes to the point of condemning all and any actions by the Government of Israel or adopting the 'Failed Experience' Argument (i.e., claiming that Israel as a state has failed and therefore does not deserve to exist).
  3. Influences of other movements. Various ideological movements may view Israel unfavorably, thereby promoting Anti-Zionism. For example, as a close ally of the United States, Israel is often condemned through the construct of being “guilty by association” of the same wrongs that the United States is accused of committing internationally. Similarly, the anti-globalization movement sees Israel as complicit in globalization, and therefore to be condemned.

Anti-Zionism also is assisted by fading memory of the Holocaust and fading sympathy for the historic plight of the Jews. A central rationale for the creation of the State of Israel was to protect Jews from the atrocities committed against them in other people’s countries. As time passes and memory fades, that rationale is forgotten and advancing Anti-Zionism becomes easier.

Manifestations of Anti-Zionism

Anti-Zionism has manifested itself in a number of ways:

  • Public discourse. Debate by intellectuals, politicians and players in the international arena, not necessarily with immediate real-world effects.
  • Attempt to eliminate Israel by force. Segments of the Moslem world have urged, and continue to urge, the elimination of the State of Israel by force. For example, following Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948, combined Arab armies attacked Israel in an effort to destroy it. In 1974, the Palestine National Council adopted a Phased Plan in the form of a three-phased, ten-point plan for eliminating the State of Israel. Iran continues to urge the elimination of Israel by force. This manifestation of Anti-Zionism has been tested on the battlefields and, thus far, failed.
  • Attempt to eliminate Israel by political means – Promoting the One-State Solution and Undermining the Two-State Solution. This is the most recent manifestation of Anti-Zionism. See Contemporary One-State Argument, One-State Threat and Impact of the Disengagement Plan on the Threat of the One-State Solution.
  • Attempt to eliminate Israel by political means – Palestinian Right of Return. Like the One-State Solution, the proposed Right of Return of Palestinians to the area of Israel-Proper would, in light of demographics, result in the eventual elimination of Israel as a Jewish State.

1 See Israel Declaration of Independence (May 14, 1948) (proclaiming the establishment of the “Jewish State in Palestine, to be called Israel”).

2 See Palestinian National Charter, art. 20 (“Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.”). The Palestine National Council officially revoked Article 20 by actions in April 1996 and January 1998.

3 See, Rubinstein Amnon and Alexander Yakobson, Israel and the Family of Nations, pp.94-113 (in Hebrew).

4 See, e.g., Palestinian National Charter, art. 20 (“Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history . . .”); Koestler Arthur, The Thirteenth Tribe,1976 (claiming that Ashkenazi Jews are descendants of the Khazars of southern Russia, a non-Semitic people that converted to Judaism in the seventh or eighth century; relied on by some to deny a Jewish connection to Israel; see, e.g., (site visited on October 26, 2004)). See also, Rubinstein and Yakobson, Ibid., pp.113-124 (in Hebrew).

5 Cotler Irwin, “New Anti-Jewishness,” Alert Paper No. 1, The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, Nov. 2002, pp. 3-4.

More Sources
  • Cotler Irwin, “New Anti-Jewishness,” Alert Paper No. 1, The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, Nov. 2002.
  • Rubinstein Amnon and Alexander Yakobson, Israel and the Family of Nations – Jewish Nation-State and Human Rights, Tel-Aviv: Schocken, 2003, Chapters 2, 3, pp. 94-149 (in Hebrew).