The origins of Zionism and antisemitism

Workers World has a history of distinguishing Zionism from antisemitism in relation to defending the Palestinians’ right to return and especially their right to armed resistance. The following excerpts are from articles written by Monica Moorehead in April 2022 and Shelley Ettinger in December 2018. These articles are published online at and

The roots of Zionism

The U.S. ruling class has always been united in its support for Israel. That military garrison state defends lucrative profits for capitalist interests in this oil-rich region — under the guise of being a safe haven for Jewish people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Consider the fact that Theodor Herzl, known as the founder of Zionism, was an imperialist who greatly admired the despicable British colonizer of Africa, Cecil Rhodes. Herzl strived to become a member of the ruling class rather than identifying with poor Jewish people. Herzl was, in essence, a class collaborationist and a vehement racist.

Herzl’s “dream” of a Jewish homeland was elaborated on by Chaim Weizmann and backed by British imperialists, including “Christian Zionist” A. J. Balfour, who wanted a permanent European wedge in the region of Islamic nations. The 1917 Balfour Declaration, signed by British imperialists, declared Palestine a “national homeland” for Jewish people. This was a cover to bring in Zionist settlers to set up an armed state and forcibly displace hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

The U.S. ruling class has always been one of the biggest promoters of antisemitism. Many, like Henry Ford, were not-so-secret supporters of Adolph Hitler. As Jewish people were attempting to escape the horrors of Nazism during World War II, the U.S. issued a strict quota on how many Jewish people would be allowed to come into the U.S., turning thousands away.

In 1975, the United Nations General Assembly approved Resolution 3379 that stated: “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” With the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries, the U.N. voted to repeal this resolution in 1991.

Real source of antisemitism

Antisemitism is a very old, very effective strategy to direct the working class’s rage away from the true source of its problems: the ruling class, which is overwhelmingly made up of white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants. It instead portrays Jewish people, a tiny group — only 0.2% of the world’s population — as somehow owning and controlling the world’s wealth by being devious, evil schemers bent on driving workers and the poor into poverty and misery.

While its roots are deep and wide and go back millennia, antisemitism flourished during the rise of capitalism in Europe. From 19th-century czarism in Russia through the Nazi genocide, it was skillfully crafted as a tactic to break up revolutionary movements.

To this day, with resurgent fascist organizing again casting caricatured Jewish bankers as the culprit behind workers’ worsening standard of living in Germany, France and other countries, the capitalists wield antisemitism as a favored tool.

In this context, the absurdity of portraying oppressed communities as purveyors of antisemitism should be clear. Who has the motive and the power to foment attacks against Jewish people? Who poses an actual threat to Jewish people?

Of course it is not, and can never be, the oppressed. Of course it is only, and will always be, the bosses.

The threat is real, as evidenced by the Oct. 27 [2018] massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Emboldened under Trump, previously suppressed elements, the worst violent, antisemitic scum, are surfacing and acting in a way that has not been seen in this country for decades. At the same time, racist attacks, already epidemic, are on the rise, whether against Latinx migrants, Black youth or other oppressed people.

The only effective response is unity, first and foremost against racism and against all forms of bias and division, from antisemitism to sexism to LGBTQ2S+ oppression. It’s this unity, rejecting the bosses’ attempts to divert anger away from themselves, that will move the struggle of the workers and oppressed forward against capitalism itself.

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