When anti-Zionist criticism is not actual criticism of Zionism

With ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, which started on October 7 with the latter’s attacking on the former, a new online critique of Zionism has exploded, and the term “anti-Zionist” is being used by a vast group of people to describe their opposition to Israel. However, often this term, “anti-Zionist”, seems to be used incorrectly, either as a position against Israel (whether their policies or the existence of the state itself) or as a more political acceptable opposition against Jews – though obviously, the people who do hold this position will refuse to acknowledge this, since they use the term “anti-Zionist” exactly to avoid being called out for their oppositions to Jews. 

Both positions are incorrect. While the former, the opposition against Israel in one form or another, surely can be legit and should in cases be taken seriously, at least when it comes to the criticism of Israeli policies, less so when it comes to the existence of the state itself, the latter should obviously be called out and condemned at any moment. 

But even in the case of criticism of Israeli policies, often the critique is not against Zionism, but rather against policies which might or might not be informed by Zionist convictions. The problem is that the criticism does not refer to the Zionist ideology (or ideologies), but the consequences of the policies taken. And in these cases, the criticism, as far as it is concerned with Zionism, is uninformed. 

If one wishes to present him- or herself as an “anti-Zionist,” then the criticism must be directed against Zionism, which in turn requires the person to be informed about what Zionism claims. Simply using the term “anti-Zionist” about oneself, as to identify one’s political position, is lazy and uninformed.  

Please do not misunderstand what is being said. One does not have to be informed on Zionism to criticize Israeli policies, though one should be informed on other issues connected to this (for example warfare under international law), but this is not “anti-Zionism,” and the criticism therefore should be disregarded completely.  

One can obviously be anti-Israel without having any knowledge of Zionism. One can be anti-Israel based on an informed or uninformed basis, but this still is not anti-Zionism. One can be either informed, thought possible hypocritically so, anti-Israel (depending on one’s positions and how they are applied broadly) or one can be uninformed and therefore ignorant, when it comes to being anti-Israel.  

To be clear, I am not a Zionist myself, and when I do criticize Zionism, I do it while engaged with Zionism, which is the only way one can be truly critical of the ideology. One must understand how the Zionist thinkers think, to give an informed criticism. And that understanding only comes from an honest engagement with the Zionist thinkers. Not merely reading sources which are clearly biased against those thinkers, but to create a dialogue with them. 

And to add, while the critical engagement with the Zionist thinkers might make one an anti-Zionist, it does not necessarily make one an anti-Zionist. Being anti-Zionist is to single out one specific ideology, not acknowledging the chance that what one critiques can be found in many other similar ideologies and include them in one’s critique as well. And at that point one would be anti-something broader than just Zionism.