"The first is that opposing Zionism is antisemitic because it denies to Jews what every other people enjoys: a state of its own. “The idea that all other peoples can seek and defend their right to self-determination but Jews cannot,” declared US Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer in 2017, “is antisemitism.”As David Harris, head of the American Jewish Committee, put it last year: “To deny the Jewish people, of all the peoples on earth, the right to self-determination surely is discriminatory.”
All the peoples on earth? The Kurds don’t have their own state. Neither do the Basques, Catalans, Scots, Kashmiris, Tibetans, Abkhazians, Ossetians, Lombards, Igbo, Oromo, Uyghurs, Tamils and Québécois, nor dozens of other peoples who have created nationalist movements to seek self-determination but failed to achieve it.
Yet barely anyone suggests that opposing a Kurdish or Catalan state makes you an anti-Kurdish or anti-Catalan bigot. It is widely recognised that states based on ethnic nationalism – states created to represent and protect one particular ethnic group – are not the only legitimate way to ensure public order and individual freedom. Sometimes it is better to foster civic nationalism, a nationalism built around borders rather than heritage: to make Spanish identity more inclusive of Catalans or Iraqi identity more inclusive of Kurds, rather than carving those multiethnic states up.
You’d think Jewish leaders would understand this. You’d think they would understand it because many of the same Jewish leaders who call national self-determination a universal right are quite comfortable denying it to Palestinians."
This is a vital point: Zionism is a political agenda: to be a Jewish Semite (there are other kinds of Semites) and believe in "semitism" is a religious/cultural/social identity. Are there Jews who do not believe in Zionism? Many. They believe in a Jewish state, and the right of it to exist, but not in a lot of the political baggage than can be associated with Zionism, which can include a very anti-Palestinian stance, and often anti-Islamic attitude.
And that's where Ilhan Omar gets caught up: in her staunchly pro-Palestinian stance, she has gotten caught up in the semantics around anti-Zionism and antisemitism. She needs to be clearer that she is opposed to the state of Israel's political agenda, not to it's right to exist. But we in the US have to take into consideration that for perhaps the first time in our country's history we are dealing with on openly Muslim congressperson, and her points of view might diverge from the norm, in presenting an openly pro-Muslim voice. Are there PAC who openly push for Zionist policy in the US? I don't know, but it is hardly a secret that Israel has been the favorite child of US foreign policy for decades, and anyone who dares to criticize this publicly will be taken to task.
So as the Guardian columnist asks, why is it morally offensive to be considered anti-Israel, when being anti-Tibet, anti-Kurdistan, anti-East Turkestan (the proposed Uighur homeland) are not?