Zionism and AntiZionism Are Not The Point

Matthew Gindin
4 min readApr 28, 2024


Nonviolence Is

In my lifetime I was raised as a Zionist and remained one until as a journalist I learned things that shifted me into a critical relationship with Zionism- not with theoretical Zionism so much as the actual Zionist policies of the mainstream Zionist movement pre-state and of the actual Israeli state since 1947.

Since then I could be called a non-Zionist, a post-Zionist, an anti-Zionist. Yet I could also be called a Cultural Zionist, since I affirm the vision of Zionism that was not taken, the one espoused by Martin Buber and Echad Ha’am and Hannah Arendt and Albert Einstein and other early Zionists who wanted a safe community for Jews in Palestine where Jewish life could flourish, and one which lived in true cooperation with Palestinian Arabs.

Over the last few years, in the face of increasingly violent and unjust Israeli government policies and a rise of extremist Zionism in Israeli culture, I had come to think that it was finally time for Jews to repudiate Zionism as it exists today and begin thinking of a different way forward both in Israel and for Jewish culture outside Israel.

Yet in the discourse here in North America arguments about “Zionism” and “anti-Zionism” very quickly become extremely polarizing and begin throwing up more heat than light, obfuscating the real issues. I have read warnings about this from older Jewish colleagues, and have come recently to wonder if I should have been approaching the crisis of the last six months differently in my writing.

What do I think are the real issues? Well, I think that Israel needs to end the Occupation, do justice to its Palestinian victims, and pursue truth and reconciliation with them as in South Africa. I think that Israel should reform its policies to become an egalitarian multi-cultural society, one guided by its recent Jewish history but truly fair to all its citizens (which would include those Palestinians who wish to return) and would embrace the recognition of their equally valid historical claims in Palestine.

Most importantly, I think that Israel needs to abandon the false idea that there are military solutions to the endless crisis with the Palestinians. The evidence directly, and repeatedly, shows this is not the case, and will continue to do so. With this last assertion I would also add that it’s not just waking up from false dreams of military redemption, it’s also about confronting the fact that Israeli military operations are currently brutal and unethical, and destructive of the futures of both Palestinians and Israelis.

Is it possible to imagine Israel becoming a country which is truly just to Palestinians, and still calling itself Zionist? One that is still a safe refuge for Jews, even if that character of safe refuge is founded in it being a safe country for all of its peoples, as opposed to an ethno-state which gives Jews more power than anyone else? Yes, I think it is. There are several examples of successful multicultural democracies in the world which function in just this way. At a time when many peoples around the world are retreating into false visions of tribal isolation, racism and warfare, it’s more important than ever to hold into this vision.

Such societies are work, but so is endless war, and if we allow ourselves to slide from the more enlightened internationalist, multicultural ethic that came to the fore in the 20th century, we will likely be forced to learn that lesson again as humanity did in World War 2.

Yet again, debates about how Israel should function, and what the relationship of Jews in the diaspora should be to it- we who are so institutionally and culturally entangled with Israel now, are secondary to the simple truths of this moment.

These truths are that war does not equal peace. Bombing civilians, hospitals, mosques, universities, medics, children, is wrong. Peace, security, and a flourishing society in Israel cannot come from this, and we Jews in North America, whether we call ourselves Zionists or not — and I, for one, don’t actually care whether or not people understand themselves as Zionists or support some version of it, despite the critiques of Zionism I’ve written — we Jews in North America, like all human beings, should stand opposed to war crimes and brutality in the name of anything.

The last century — or maybe the last two, or three millennia — have demonstrated that war rarely solves anything. The cases in which one can make a good argument on its behalf — as against the Nazis — are few. In the case of Israel, over 75 years of war have solved nothing, but continually made matters worse. Taking another path is difficult, opaque, risky, yes — but not as difficult and risky as more war, occupation, and violence against a captive population of millions of sacred human beings.

I believe we Jews- anti-Zionists and Zionists alike, need to do everything to support those Israelis and Palestinians seeking another way — and yes, they do exist — as well as putting our energy, political activity, and financial support behind only those who defend the dignity of all life and seek true, just co-existence.