Why the Brazilian Jewish Left Is Not Anti-Zionist

The politics of the Zionist Left as Counter-revolutionary Gatekeepers in Brazil

Bruno Huberman

Since June 2013, when a mass movement took to the streets of Brazil, the country has undergone significant political polarisation. This movement has had an impact on the way Brazilian society and the Jewish community have related to the Palestine/Israel issue. On the left, a growing number of social movements and political parties, such as PSOL[1], have committed to a stance of radical solidarity with Palestinians, adopting BDS as part of their platforms. On the right, Israel has come to play a central role in the political agendas of evangelical and neo-fascist groups that make up the base of the Jair Bolsonaro government, elected in 2018.

In 2017, a group of far-right Zionist Jews invited Bolsonaro to hold a lecture at a Jewish recreational club in Rio de Janeiro. Amid laughter and applause from an audience of over three hundred Jews, Bolsonaro openly attacked Brazil's indigenous and quilombola communities.[2] ‘Not one centimetre will be demarcated for an indigenous reserve or quilombola. Where there is indigenous land, there is wealth [to be exploited] underneath’.[3]

Outside the club, a crowd of over a hundred protestors made up mostly of young Jews from left-wing Zionist youth movements, decried Bolsonaro's presence, waved Israeli flags and chanted in Hebrew. The protesters expressed their disapproval not only of Bolsonaro's approach to Brazilian politics but to Israeli politics as well. ‘Zionist Jews don't vote for fascists,’ they shouted. Left-wing Zionist intellectuals considered the event an important milestone that signified an unprecedented crack in the hegemony of the progressive-liberal agenda of the Brazilian Jewish community.[4]

Indeed, the demonstration would lead to a public repositioning of Zionist Jews who are supportive of progressive agendas to join the rest of the Brazilian left in defence of oppressed peoples and in the struggle against fascism.[5] From the point of view of left Zionists, anti-Semitism in the pro-BDS radical left is the reason they are excluded from both the struggle for justice in the Middle East and the battle against the Brazilian far-right. According to them, the Brazilian far-right and far-left both uphold an ‘Imaginary Israel’ that rejects the plurality of Zionism and Israel.[6]

According to this logic, Left Zionism would represent the only viable alternative against ‘extremism’. Left Zionists argue that dialogue alone would be capable of resolving the Palestine/Israel question and the divergences within the Jewish community and the Brazilian left. This neoliberal discourse that claims ‘there is no alternative’ has managed to attract growing support among Brazilian Jews and relevant sectors of the Brazilian left who are in denial about the reality in Palestine/Israel.


This piece is being made available as a preprint edition of the double-volume Marxism and the Critique of Antisemitism special issue of Historical Materialism. Further additions will still be made before then. The final published version of this text will be made available on the Brill website in the coming months. We ask that citations refer to the Brill edition.All Illustrations are by Natalia Podpora.


It is possible to observe a global crisis of Left Zionism, from Israel to Brazil, to the US and the UK.[7] Jewish communities worldwide have undergone transformations in race and class relations after WWII.[8] This explains in part why Brazilian Jews have not completed the polarisation observed in Brazilian society to integrate the anti-Zionist left, instead joining ranks with the new neo-fascist right.

Based on an analysis of the intellectual reflections and actions of this group, we argue that, with the help of Zionist elites and the coercion of the Brazilian state, left-wing Zionists act as a gatekeepers to prevent left-wing Jews and sectors of the moderate left from composing radical movements for the emancipation of oppressed and exploited peoples in Brazil and Palestine. As such, they manage to uphold both Israeli colonial claims of sovereignty over Palestinian territory and the legitimacy of Zionism within the Brazilian left.

We ground our critique in reflections by anti-Zionist Jews, anti-colonial and settler colonial perspectives to demonstrate how Left Zionism functions as a soft, patronizing version of the old colonial chauvinism. To that end, we test the hypothesis put forward by the Jewish American Marxist Alexander Bittelman, writing in 1947, that Zionists align with the reactionary forces of the nation-state in which they reside.[9]

We understand the Zionist Left praxis as a counter-revolutionary strategy to maintain the hegemony of Liberal Zionism based on the exclusion of anti-Zionist alternatives, inside and outside the Jewish community. Historical analysis of the politics of the anti-Zionist Jewish movement disrupts the idea of a harmonious coexistence inside the Jewish community claimed by the Brazilian Zionist Left.

The erasing of the Jewish anti-Zionist left from the history of the Brazilian Jewish community is a direct result of its historical defeat against Zionism.[10] Academia has been an important tool that has helped Liberal Zionism maintain its hegemony in the country. The few Brazilian authors who approach the particularity of the Jewish question from a Marxist point of view[11] are invariably accused falling prey to essentialism when treating the relationship between Jews and anti-Zionist communist movements.[12]

We propose an alternative reflection that examines the anti-Zionist Jewish left, racism and colonialism as key elements to understand the contradictions between actually existing Zionism in Palestine and the progressive-liberal hegemony that prevails in the Jewish community in Brazil. We aim to provide a counter-hegemonic critique for an emancipatory praxis that rejects colonialism and understands the particularity of the Jewish question without subsuming it to class analyses.

First, we present the dominant literature’s understanding of the role played by the Zionist Left in the Jewish community and in Brazilian society at large. Next, we provide a critique of the concept of ‘Imaginary Israel’ and locate it within the counter-revolutionary praxis of the Zionist left. Finally, we point to ways in which the Zionist movement has acted to dismantle Jewish anti-Zionist alternatives in Brazil.  

The crisis of the progressive-liberal hegemony of the Brazilian Jewish-Zionist community

An alignment with the WZO[13] is at the foundation of the Zionist movement in Brazil in the 1910s. It eventually undergoes dynamisation when, in 1927, Russian immigrant Aron Bergman founds the Brazilian headquarters of the Poalei Tzion in Rio de Janeiro.[14] Socialist Zionists constituted a majority of the Jewish community in the late 1930s, and were responsible for building schools, libraries and youth movements, which formed their main social base.

These entities played a fundamental role in the expansion of Zionism, the establishment of Hebrew as the Jewish national language, the support of the Brazilian State to Israel and the mobilization of financial and human resources for the Zionist colonization of Palestine, such as military training in youth camps for the formation of new settlers.[15]

According to Monica Grin, the post-WWII period saw a rise of the progressive-liberal agenda in the Jewish community.[16] The country’s democratisation after 1945, following the end of the Estado Novo,[17] resulted in a new model for institutions representing the Jewish community in a territorial form. These entities were directed by Zionist elites to represent all Jews in Brazilian society, in particular to the national government. Nevertheless, they were open to anti-Zionist groups, which were still numerous then but remained autonomous.

The Jewish community's positions in favour of human rights, social justice, the fight against anti-Semitism and the defence of Israel as a democratic nation among authoritarian countries in the Middle East would form the basis of a new social cohesion. The defence of universal rights and citizenship, in particular, and the expansion of ethnic and religious minority rights, would lead to Jews having their rights respected as individuals and as a group.[18]

This agenda brought about links with other social groups in support of national multiculturalism, religious freedom and the fight against racism. It turned various progressive groups in society, such as sectors of the Catholic Church and the Black Movement, into allies in the fight against anti-Semitism.[19]

Another example includes the alliances of Left Zionist groups with the Brazilian left. According to Michel Gherman, the relation between Zionists and the Brazilian left went from one of empathy in the 1930s to one of hostility at the beginning of the twenty-first century. According to him, even before the recognition of Israel by the USSR, there was proximity between left Zionists and the PCB,[20] the main representative of the Brazilian revolutionary left at the time.[21] There was even sympathy among sectors of the PCB for the collectivist aspects of the Jewish state.[22]

Even at the height of the ‘zionization’ of the Jewish community after the 1967 war, a relative proximity between left Zionism and the Brazilian left endured. This proximity persisted during the re-democratisation of the country in the 1980s when Zionist groups approached the PT[23], the main party of the Brazilian left, which adopted the liberal international consensus of peace, coexistence and two states. Thus, both Jews and the left welcomed the ‘critically Zionist’ position.[24]

However, this Liberal Zionist hegemony would experience a crisis after the Second Intifada (2000-2006), when, according to Gherman, binary interpretations would result in extremist positions on the Brazilian left towards Israel and Zionism. This kind of critique from the left conflated Jewish, Zionist and Israeli identities.

Gherman purposely conflates anti-Zionist critiques of left-wing Zionism with isolated anti-Semitic statements by individuals on the Brazilian left. He claims that the same reasoning underpins texts which accuse ‘minority groups of Jewish origin’ of possessing a ‘hidden power’ that would help them dominate the world[25] and those which point to the structural characteristics of settler colonial Zionism in Palestine, including on the Zionist Left.[26]

Therefore, any critique of Left Zionism and its colonial features could easily be framed as a denial of its possibility to exist. Left anti-Zionism would be a new kind of anti-Semitism.

In this sense, Jews cannot be right or left; they are exclusively Jews. Zionism, here, takes the place of an ‘original Judaism,’ replacing the typical accusations found in traditional forms of political anti-Semitism … Brazilian Jews are seen as ‘representatives’ of an alleged ‘Zionism’ that is determined to defend the interests of Israel. Not exactly the real State of Israel, but an imaginary one, that possesses superpowers and is able to exploit and dominate other countries and economic systems.[27]

Furthermore, according to Gherman, the BDS movement encourages ‘dangerous and generalizing’ confusion between Zionists, Jews and Israel, allowing the anti-Semitic left to reaffirm its position in support of boycott campaigns. BDS Brazil would thus benefit from anti-Semitism on the left.

BDS activists seem to exploit the local confusion between national Jewish and Jewish religious identities, between Jews and Israel, between Israel and the attitudes of specific Israeli governments in order to reinforce their influence and political agenda among specific Brazilian political groups.[28]

On the other hand, Gherman, Grin and Caraciki understand the political growth of conservative evangelical groups in the 2010s, historical champions of Israel, as a factor that pressured Bolsonaro to embrace Israel as an ally in the defence of Western Judeo-Christian values against threats coming from the East, Islam and the left.[29] In 2014, Bolsonaro was baptised by an evangelical leader in order to gain the support of evangelicals. Since his inauguration, Bolsonaro has become one of Israel's foremost partners and Israeli flags have become ubiquitous at Brazilian far-right demonstrations.

As a result, this has ignited a neo-Zionist and ultra-conservative agenda led by previously marginalised far-right groups within the Jewish community. These have sought to break with the progressive-liberal consensus and exclude ‘critically Zionist’ Jews. Far-right Israel apologist groups have replaced leftist movements as the Zionist elites’ main allies.[30]

Therefore, we would be witnessing a ‘de-conversion’ of left-wing Zionists coupled with a symbolic conversion of evangelicals and Bolsonarist supporters of Israel. Far-right Zionist groups, which see themselves as the ‘true’ representatives of Jewish interests in Brazil, would be promoting a ‘cleansing’ within Jewish-Zionist entities. This would be causing a rupture of the solidarity within the Jewish community and a crisis of representation supposedly never seen before.[31]

A novelty underpinning the alignment between evangelical extremism, Bolsonarist fascism and ultra-nationalist Jews is their essentially positive view of Jews, Zionists and Israel as defenders of their moral and political values. In fact, for Liberal Zionist intellectuals, this essentially positive representation would not be a form of anti-Semitism, although many, including Bolsonaro himself, espouse openly anti-Semitic positions.[32] That is, their ultra-Zionist and anti-Semitic positions do not overlap but exist as complementary phenomena. On the left, however, there would be an overlap between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

The depoliticizing “Imaginary Israel” framework

As a way of explaining the crisis of hegemony of Liberal Zionism, Gherman developed the concept of an ‘Imaginary Israel’, which transmutes with that of the ‘imaginary Jew’, elaborated by Alain Finkielkraut for late twentieth century France.[33] For Gherman, as for Finkielkraut, there would exist, both on the left and on the right, social constructions that are responsible for making Jews, and by extension Israel, exceptional and guided by a supposed essentialist nature.[34]

The left would see the Jewish-Zionist-Israel nexus as racist, colonising, imperialist, capitalist and right-wing. The right would interpret this nexus as religiosity, messianism, conservatism and the defence of Western Judeo-Christian society. Neither of these imaginary perspectives would have room for the plurality and diversity of the ‘real Jew’ or the various types of Zionisms and opposing strands in Israeli society.

The new Brazilian right ... seems to attract groups from the new left. And, in a bear hug, this ends up killing both, since the most important thing is to suffocate those who contradict the versions of both sides, in this case, progressive Jews, liberals, left Zionists.[35]

The theoretical elaboration of the ‘Imaginary Israel’ has guided, in particular, the actions of IBI[36], an organization founded in 2017 that advocates for a liberal Zionism that aggregates left and right liberals in defence of a progressive-liberal hegemony. Its actions are aimed at representative entities of the Jewish-Zionist community and important circles of Brazilian society, such as literary festivals, film fairs, political parties, the media and public universities.

IBI’s slogan ‘Zionism is plural’ functions as a veil of multicultural tolerance behind which lies an ambition to antagonise criticism from Palestinians and radical left-wing movements that point to the settler colonial characteristic of actually existing Zionism in Palestine. For Gherman, director of IBI, and Thomaz, pointing out the ways in which colonialism structures reality in Palestine/Israel constitutes a misrepresentation that erases the complexity of the ‘Palestinian-Israeli conflict’ in a similar argumentative vein to those who would wish to erase thecomplexity of Jews.[37]

According to IBI's president, David Diesendruck, the organisation was funded as a reaction to the ‘pain’ caused by polarisation in Brazilian society.[38] In an ethnographic research conducted between 2015 and 2017 with Brazilian Jews who identify as left-wing Zionists, Bianca Marcossi noticed a shared pain among those who claim this identity.[39] This suffering would stem from isolation and marginalisation in Brazilian society as a result of polarisation around the Palestine/Israel issue.

Common ground for Brazilian left-wing Zionists includes a support for the Palestinian State and the end of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, and a Zionism based on Jewish humanist and ethical values. Marcossi notes a common effort of left Zionists to self-define their Zionist identity in an idealistic way that bares no correlation with actually existing Zionism.[40]

Marcossi highlights how this desire to end the occupation is regarded as a priority required to save Israel and the Zionism that they understand to be true: the one that would have existed until 1967, before the ‘deviation’ caused by the Zionist right. This discourse of ‘deviation’ is also observed in the critique of the actions of the Zionist far-right against the liberal consensus in the Brazilian Jewish community.[41]

The intellectuals of Left Zionism wish to redefine this individual suffering as an identity with a privileged perspective that allows for a better understanding of the reality, by standing on two sides: the left and Zionism. They aim to make their political proposal of ‘two states for two peoples’ the rational one because it is founded on a privileged experience of suffering that seeks moderation. While the extreme right defends an apartheid state, resulting from its ambitions to annex the West Bank, the project of a democratic bi-national state is gaining ground on the left.[42]

In the words of IBI's executive coordinator, Rafael Kruchin:

... on the left and on the right in Brazil, there is a clear dichotomy that opposes those who fight against ‘barbarism’ and those who fight against ‘colonialism’ … Each side of this binary reality sees and proclaims itself as the locus of excellence and clarity, and does not seem, at the present moment, willing to rethink its categories of classification … It is necessary to start talking about concrete alternatives to the present conjuncture and, who knows, about the possible solution of two states.[43]

Therefore, ‘Imaginary Israel’ serves as a theory of liberal Zionism to resume the two states project and re-establish a progressive-liberal hegemony in the Brazilian Jewish community through the strategy of dialogue. This framework seems critical, but it is founded on a false polarisation that equates left and right in a ‘horseshoe theory’.

In this paradigm, the political spectrum would be in the shape of a horseshoe that would result in the extreme left being closer to the extreme right than to the centre-left. Therefore, left and right would not have qualitative or teleological differences.

According to Sabrina Fernandes, the “horseshoe theory” can only be observed in an environment of great depoliticisation such as that of Brazil since June 2013.[44] The idea of a plurality against ‘binarisms’ advocated by the Zionist Left’s ‘Imaginary Israel’ paradigm enforces a depoliticisation that demobilises the structural antagonisms resulting from the settler colonial reality at the root of the inequalities of power and the conditions of oppression and exploitation between Jews and Palestinians. Consequently, it constructs a representation in which the conflict ceases to be a settler colonial one and instead becomes one between liberals and extremists. ‘Imaginary Israel’ is an ideology that justifies the role of left Zionists as gatekeepers of the Jewish community and the moderate Left against increasingly ‘extremist’ positions on the radical left. In this false representation of reality, left Zionists are equal in victimhood to Palestinians.

For example, in an article on Jewish fundamentalism, Gherman and Grin state that extremists form ‘violent gangs that fight Palestinians and progressive Jews with equal violence’.[45] As if to imply that progressive Jews are put through equal suffering, following massacres such as the one in Hebron in 1994, as the Palestinians who are submitted to the systematic theft of homes and land, among other acts of violence committed by extremist settlers that end up benefiting the settler population as a whole. 

This distortion of reality is based on fallacies that benefit a right-wing liberal project by limiting the possibility of conciliation exclusively to liberals inscribed within a neoliberal order in Brazil.[46] This can be seen in the claim that Zionist settler colonialism is the fruit of the left's fundamentalist imagination and that the BDS movement benefits from the anti-Semitism of the radical left. Another form of depoliticisation occurs through the discourse strategy, which is presented as the rational and technocratic solution according to neoliberal procedures of conflict resolution and supposedly rises above the ideology of the 'pro-Palestinian' left and the 'pro-Israel’ right.

In this way, the "Imaginary Israel" theory reproduces the old strategy of ‘complexity’ that has historically kept international leftists in fear of being accused of anti-Semitism when criticising Zionism and its colonial praxis[47] — a recurrent practice, as observed in the case of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.[48] Consequently, the settler colonial and racist aspects of Zionism are obscured. Radical forms of criticism by anti-Zionists are portrayed as ‘irrational’, forcing the left to adopt more moderate positions.

The plurality trap: gatekeeping the Brazilian Left

The 2010s have seen the rising impact of new organisations linked to left-wing Zionism on the Brazilian left, thus steering it away from joining the BDS campaign or opposing Bolsonarism in the Jewish community. On some occasions, articulation occurred with non-Zionist Jewish groups that consent to the hegemony of Liberal Zionism, such as ASA in Rio de Janeiro and Casa do Povo in São Paulo.[49]

The main area of activity was the radical left party PSOL, created in 2005 as a socialist alternative to the PT, a party that became more suited to neoliberal hegemony.[50] Several left-wing Zionists joined the PSOL in Rio de Janeiro in the 2010s, such as Guilherme Cohen, leader of Jews for Democracy, trained in the Zionist youth movement and former advisor to former MP Jean Wyllys, an important leader of the LGBTQ cause and ardent opponent of Bolsonaro.

Marcossi notes that the recruitment of allies on the Brazilian left seeks to reinforce belief in Left Zionism among those liberal Jews in crisis. Faced with the suffering they bear, they tend to move towards the anti-Zionist left or the Bolsonarist right. The Israeli Zionist left, Meretz in particular, often sends emissaries to impart the teachings of the ‘motherland’ to those whose beliefs are in doubt so as to prevent their departure.

In the 2016 Rio de Janeiro mayoral election, which pitted evangelical Marcelo Crivella against Marcelo Freixo, from PSOL, the left-wing politician was accused of anti-Semitism because sectors of his party claimed that Israel promoted the genocide of Palestinians. With the support of the Zionist left, Freixo sought to distinguish himself from the anti-Zionist wing and adopted the traditional Zionist Left stance of differentiating the State of Israel from the Netanyahu government: ‘Being against a government is not being against a country.’[51]

It’s important to highlight that PSOL is a party of tendencies without centralism, and that Wyllys and Freixo were independent politicians. The tendencies can have a specific ideology, such as Trotskyism or Ecosocialism, or a more general approach to socialism. As a result, there are divergences between positions taken by some internal tendencies and independent MPs and the official statements adopted by the party’s International Relations Sector on matters such as Palestine/Israel, Venezuela, and Syria. Consequently, PSOL is seen as Zionist and Pro-Palestine at the same time.[52] This kind of contradiction is not seen in minor parties of the radical left that adopt a centralist organization, such as PCB, a Marxist-Leninist party, or PSTU[53], a Trotskyist party. PSTU is particularly involved in the solidarity with the Palestinian cause and rejects any rapprochement with the Zionist left.  

There are also collaborations between different groups for initiatives such as trips to Palestine/Israel for important figures from the Brazilian left. Wyllys went to Palestine/Israel in 2015 on a trip organised by Gherman, Cohen and other members of Progressive Jews, PSOL, CONIB[54] and the Brazilian Embassy in Israel. According to the politician, the goal was ‘to make the connection between the Zionist left and the Palestinian left and advance the debate about the Occupation within the left’.[55]

Wyllys' itinerary followed the script of Left Zionism: meetings with figures such as David Grossmann and Nitzan Horowitz; visits to the Israeli-Palestinian NGO Combatants for Peace, to Yad Vashem and to the Zikim kibbutz, connected to Hashomer Hatzair and built over the Palestinian village of Hirybia;[56] and a lecture on ‘peace’ at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In an orientalist vein, Wyllys wrote about the trip: ‘the rights secured by the Israeli LGBT movement are a beacon in a region dominated by fundamentalism, totalitarianism, misogyny and homophobia’.[57]

According to Wyllys, during his trip, he learned that ‘Zionism is not a synonym for Jew’; that ‘anti-Zionism is used to disguise anti-Semitism’; that ‘there are Zionists who are against the occupation of Palestinian territories, … and in favour of the two-state solution’.[58] Marcossi claims that the politician ‘has come to 'see' through the eyes of his 'hosts', adopting the same hope as them, the same repudiation of the BDS movement ... and the same method, dialogue’.[59]

The case of Jean Wyllys is an example of a successful venture by the Zionist left to ‘teach’ Brazilian society, through the recruitment of non-Jewish intellectuals, how to contest the hegemony at its side. In the view of a militant of Brazilian Left Zionism:

(Wyllys) declared positions that are very close to ours, practically similar. If not for the difference in positionality, which is neither Jewish nor Zionist, but only for the understanding of reality, (it is) very close.[60]

This effort was also aimed at other public figures in an attempt to normalise the left Zionist discourse in the country, such as Gregório Duvivier, an influential comedian with great public influence who is also affiliated with the PSOL;[61] Paulo Abrão, a human rights activist responsible for organising ‘meetings and dialogues between Palestinians and Israelis’ for peace through the Ministry of Justice;[62] and Djamila Ribeiro, an important intellectual of the Black Movement, who was brought closer to the Zionist Left after understanding as a form of racism the criticism that Roger Waters and others in solidarity with the Palestinian cause, including black activists, had levelled against the Brazilian black musician Milton Nascimento for performing in Israel.[63]

Gherman, Wyllys and Ribeiro share a common understanding of anti-Zionist criticism as a form of intolerance against their individual identities, subscribing to a political strategy close to that of the Brazilian moderate left which is based on a pragmatic adaptation to the dominant neoliberal order. From this perspective, the liberating utopia of decolonisation and the BDS movement are portrayed as oppressive because they confront Israeli ‘plurality’ and exclude their supposedly ‘real’ partners: the Zionist Left.

In this way, the Zionist Left rejects the real Palestinian – the one who claims a settler colonial perspective and adheres to a strategy of anti-colonial refusal against the normalization of Israeli colonial racism – in exchange for an imaginary Zionism grounded in misrepresentations of reality that disguise settler colonialism. Much like Finkielkraut does in relation to Europeans, left Zionists assume a stance that poses as universal and sees anti-colonialism not as humanism, but as prejudice and moral relativism.

Zionist settler colonialism and counterrevolutionary praxis

Judith Butler, in Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism, notes that any project of Jewish coexistence in Palestine must begin with a double movement, at once reclaiming and negating the Jewish ethical tradition. Butler points to cohabitation with the non-Jew as the central ethical substance of diasporic Jewry, representing a commitment of the secular, socialist and religious Jewish traditions to equality and justice. These Jewish resources are what enable the construction of cohabitation in Palestine as well as ‘the criticism of state violence, the colonial subjugation of populations, expulsion and dispossession’.[64]

At the same time, Butler posits that it is crucial to reject this Jewish tradition as exclusively Jewish and Jewish ethical values as exceptional. This movement aims to prevent the construction of a privileged Jewish position to understand and act upon reality, even an anti-Zionist one. That is, the Jewish critique of Zionism must question the Jewish framework towards more fundamental and universal democratic values so as to overcome the Jewishness originally claimed as the exclusive framework for thinking about ethics and politics.[65] 

All criticism of Zionism and Israel by the Zionist left contributes to sustain a privileged position of thinking and acting upon the issue of cohabitation between Jews and non-Jews in Palestine and in Brazil and therefore, fails to depart from the framework of Jewishness.[66] By ignoring settler colonialism as a structural dimension in Palestine/Israel, left Zionist intellectuals have disregarded how it structures their own consciousness, identity and action. As Fanon has noted, it is the colonial structure that produces the colonial agents, not their individual practices.[67]

Patrick Wolfe claimed the centrality of the binary cleavage between settler and native as the structural dialectical relationship from which it is possible to understand all the other multiple ramifications in a settler colonial situation such as Palestine/Israel.[68] For indigenous peoples, which is true of Palestinians, positing the colonial relationship in binary terms as settler and native, oppressor and oppressed, still makes sense[69] and is not in the least imaginary: it is how the ordering of populations in that territory was originally produced by the racist imperatives of the Zionist settlers and which continues to ground their material relations.

Identity is not something constructed from discourses and imaginations, but from material processes.[70] Israeli settler colonialism created Palestinian indigeneity, which has recently re-emerged within the debates on Palestine and has become an important aspect of political mobilization – both national and global, constituting connections with other indigenous peoples’ struggles against settler colonialism.[71] However, interaction with the indigenous Palestinian population does not seem to have consequences for the nature and identity of liberal Zionists.

As Gabriel Piterberg notes, ‘what 'we’ have done is actually who 'we’ are’.[72] Liberal Zionists, however, have grounded themselves in idealistic and particularistic interpretations of the material historical process, as in the case of the kibbutzim. By portraying it as a Zionist socialist utopian movement, they ignore the central role it played in securing the forcible colonisation of Palestinian land and building a settler society on the ruins of the indigenous one.[73]

Historically, the radical left has fought against social forms that relied on nationalism to carry out oppressive practices such as colonialism, even those that claimed to be socialist. The rupture with the Second International at the beginning of the twentieth century resulted from disagreements that opposed communist and anti-colonial revolutionaries against European social democracy, which supported colonialism as a necessary step to achieve socialism in the peripheries.[74]

This has been the central element in the historical position of anti-Zionists: the rejection of Zionism as the solution to the Jewish question. Colonialism has been a plural phenomenon in its methods and ideologies, but which are structurally based on the same racist logic of plunder, exploitation and dehumanisation, even when it declares its ‘humanitarian intent to promote the realisation of perpetual peace’.[75] The plurality of Zionists who have had an impact on the material reality in Palestine represents the plurality that colonialism in general, and Zionist settler colonialism in particular, can assume.

Developed as a nationalist project for the "normalization" of Diaspora Jews around the time of their settlement in Palestine and the construction of a sovereign Jewish state in the territory, Zionism was never a movement aimed at the emancipation of anyone other than Jews themselves. Instead of rejecting the national paradigm at the root of their own exclusion in the quest for internationalist emancipation, as communist Jews did, Zionists reclaimed the very weapons of oppression that begat modern anti-Semitism for their national liberation outside of Europe. The subjugation of an indigenous people conferred upon Zionists recognition as equals by their former oppressors, the Europeans.[76] Thus, Zionists merely reversed the game of exploitation of man by man.

The positivist interpretation of socialism was central to building the soft and paternalist strand of Zionist colonialism, as noted in the work of Borockov, a Marxist Zionist intellectual influential in leading socialist Zionist movements responsible for the establishment of Israel. Although Borockov identified somewhat with his Marxist anti-Zionist peers in the early twentieth century, such as Vladimir Medem and the Bund, socialist Zionists have always sought to distinguish themselves from Herzl's bourgeois and liberal Zionism on the one hand and from the anti-Zionism of the Bund and the Bolsheviks on the other.[77]

Despite their differences, Zionists agreed on a territorialist solution to the Jewish question and on the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine based on the destruction of the native society. Borokhov saw the evolution of the productive forces toward a socialism led by the Jewish settlers as beneficial to the native society.[78] Under a Marxist slant, Borockov reproduced the settler colonial ‘civilising’ discourse that was very much present in Herzl's work.

The population of Eretz Israel will adopt the new economic and cultural model of the country. The indigenous people will assimilate economically and culturally to those who will have assumed leadership of the development of the productive forces.[79]

Borokhov's socialist Zionism supported inter-class Jewish solidarity above the international solidarity of the proletariat. As a result, the workers' movement became the spearhead of Zionist settler colonialism.

The Histadrut, the Zionist workers' union, was instrumental in building an exclusive settler economy separated from the native one by expelling Palestinians from the land and the labour market and laying the foundations for a Jewish state founded on the continuous exclusion and segregation of the indigenous population.[80] The Histadrut went so far as to prevent class solidarity between Jewish and Palestinian workers under the auspices of the anti-Zionist Communist Party of Palestine.[81]

Today, despite a weakening of the Zionist Left, the colonial structuring of solidarity was maintained. The focus of actions has remained on the class struggle among the settler community, as revealed in the 2011 demonstrations by liberal Israelis, to the detriment of solidarity with the Palestinians.[82] Meanwhile, new softer and harsher forms of government have alternated in dispossessing the Palestinians, both heavily based on neoliberal relations since Oslo.[83]

Various leftist movements around the world have adapted to new forms of (neo)liberal colonialism, such as the construction of the Belo Monte dam in Brazil by the PT government, which expropriated indigenous populations.[84] Other forms include multicultural projects of socioeconomic inclusion and recognition that did not alter the racial structure of societies.[85]

The Brazilian Zionist Left reproduces the colonial paternalism of Israeli liberals as the benevolent bearers of what would be the best alternative for the Palestinians. They defend an imaginary Zionism, which, in the end, is a fraud that serves as a ruse to combat the anti-Zionism of real Palestinians and Jews to ensure the perpetuation of the hegemony of liberal Zionism.

As such, they are part of what that Brazilian sociologist Florestan Fernandes called a prolonged counter-revolution: a permanent effort by the Brazilian dependent bourgeoisie to mitigate the contradictions stemming from inequality and exclusion that are capable of becoming a revolutionary political force.[86] Although an alignment between the Zionist elites and dependent bourgeoisie in Brazil is quite evident under Bolsonaro’s presidency, their association in the elimination of the Anti-Zionist Communist Left have facilitated the country’s subjection to US imperialism and proximity with Israeli interests since the 1930s. As will be demonstrated below, Zionist leaders did not extend ethnic-religious solidarity to those communist anti-Zionist Jews who were persecuted by the Brazilian State at different moments in history.

The Zionist Left acts elusively within the field of hegemony to co-opt and empty out the political content of the opposing project and thus contribute to the defence of Israeli sovereignty over Palestinian land. This type of action, which Gramsci called transformism,[87] seeks to construct opponents, in other words, Palestinians, according to colonial perspectives.

Instead of anti-colonial revolutionaries who resort to anti-colonial rejection as a form of liberation from the place where colonial racism initially put them, the “Imaginary Israel” paradigm of the Zionist Left reduces Palestinians to (neo)liberal, rational and moderate human rights activists who maintain peaceful dialogue with their Israeli counterparts.[88] This kind of reasoning, characteristic of neoliberal human rights[89], reproduces colonial racism by keeping Palestinians confined to a place established by Zionists.

This counter-revolutionary praxis of the Zionist Left harks back to a historical position of European leftists who rejected the anti-colonial violence of the colonised and supported liberation in the colony merely as a by-product of revolution in the metropolis. In a 1957 article, Fanon condemns the French left for failing to understand how class struggle takes the form of national liberation in the colonial situation. For the Martinican intellectual, this lack of understanding of colonialism is what led the French to reduce the opposite of colonialism to ‘the individual scale of less racist, more open, more liberal behaviour’ and to criticise the ‘excesses’ of anti-colonial violence.[90]

The pseudo-justification for this attitude is that in order to have an influence on French public opinion, certain facts must be condemned, the unexpected excrescences must be rejected, the ‘excesses’ must be disavowed. In these moments of crisis, of face-to-face opposition, the FLN is being asked to direct its violence and to make it selective.[91]

Thus, Butler posits as grounds for cohabitation between Jews and Palestinians, rather than an 'easy multiculturalism … that the vast and violent hegemonic structure of political Zionism must cede its hold on those lands and populations”.[92] Because of their settler colonial rationale, Zionist movements act to eliminate rejectionist anti-Zionist forms in order to maintain exclusivity over Jewish identity and Palestinian land. This is not to say that Zionists act with the same violence against Palestinians and other anti-Zionists, including Jews, but it is important to emphasise that these praxis are interconnected. As Butler notes,

though one needs to contest the hegemonic control Zionism exercises over Jewishness, one needs, equally, to contest the colonial subjugation Zionism has implied for the Palestinian people.[93]

The movement for Palestinian national liberation is the one that currently represents, from the particular, universal emancipation, transcending its existence as part of the anti-imperialist struggle. Therefore, ethical Jewishness demands anti-Zionist practice and radical solidarity with the BDS anti-colonial rejection.

Anti-Zionist Jews and counter-revolution in Brazil

During the formation of the Brazilian Jewish community in the 1920s, politics was an important identity marker among Jews beyond their region of origin, ethnicity and religiosity.[94] Despite a shared sense of fraternity and connections among them, Zionists and anti-Zionists constituted groups with antagonistic political projects and entities. While Zionists mobilized in favour of the Jewish colonization of Palestine and of lobbying the national elites, anti-Zionists favoured an integrationist and internationalist praxis aimed at the assimilation of Jews in Brazil and at their involvement in the workers’ movements.[95]

Socialist Zionists position themselves between Zionist elites and the communist anti-Zionist movements. The socialist Zionists took part both in communist Jewish bodies, such as the BIBSA[96], founded in 1915 by Bund and Marxist-Leninist militants,[97] and in the Brazilian Zionist movement itself, disputing its direction.[98] The anti-Zionist Jewish movement was present in Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Niteroi, and São Paulo.[99]

In Rio de Janeiro, various organisations of communist Jews were established, such as BIBSA, the Abeter Kich popular kitchen, BRAZCOR[100] and the Morris Wintschevsky Brazilian Workers' Centre. Jewish communitarian life had important interactions with other racially oppressed populations, such as Afro-Brazilians, and communist movements, especially the PCB. The PCB reorganisation conference in 1925 took place at the BIBSA building during the Carnival holiday to escape police surveillance.[101]

This proximity resulted in the creation of the Jewish Sector in the PCB, linked to BIBSA. Its main function was to provide financial support and protection to communist Jews persecuted by the state. The Jewish Sector stressed the particularity of Jews in the Brazilian left, albeit as part of the internationalist struggle. There were also several communist Jews involved in the "general struggles" of the PCB, who played an important role in the failed communist uprising of 1935.[102]

Divergences between Zionists and anti-Zionists grew around disputes in the educational field because of the absence of a strong social base for anti-Semitism in Brazil.[103] Black and indigenous populations already functioned as the Other in Brazilian structural racism. Brazilian religious syncretism tolerated Judaism and Jewish immigrants were included in a state project to promote the whitening of Brazilian society in the early twentieth century. Therefore, Jews were not coerced to identify with the ‘homeland’ or with the Jewish community.[104]

The linguistic dispute between Yiddish and Hebrew was the vehicle for conflict between Zionist and anti-Zionist political projects. The WZO conference of 1922 determined that Zionists should promote the hegemony of Hebrew in Jewish education to achieve hegemony over Jewish identity and its political action.[105] In 1925, the JCA[106], involved in the Jewish settlement in southern Brazil, came to support Hebrew teaching and Zionism.[107] This resulted in a fracturing of the communal solidarity.

In 1928, faced with disputes over the direction and ideology of BIBSA, the communists expelled the Zionists.[108] As a result, the Sholem Aleichem School, linked to BIBSA and the PCB, began to teach primarily in Yiddish and based on a materialist perspective.[109]

According to a police report on the actions of Socialist Zionism and its leader, Aron Bergman, in fighting anti-Zionism:

... as for the Polaé Sion Socialist Party in Brazil, it was a socialist branch of the Zionist doctrine with the objective of helping workers in Palestine, limiting its activities in Brazil to a financial campaign Kapai Palestine Arbeiter Fond … It is worth noting, however, that this society was guided by an ideology antagonistic to communism. Aron Bergman … declaring himself a social democrat, having headed in 1929 a public demonstration against adherents of communism who, at the time, were meeting in Scholom Alechem.[110] 

Despite this setback in the dispute with the communists and the rise of anti-Semitism in Brazil, the 1930s witnessed a consolidation of Zionism.[111] The Estado Novo, which began in 1937, had a Nazi at the head of its political police and part of its social base formed by the Brazilian Integralist Movement, the largest fascist group outside Europe. In 1938, the dictatorship ordered the dissolution of all Zionist centres, and made it difficult for Jewish immigrants to enter the country.[112]

However, there was no climate of fear and persecution against Jewish immigrants. Zionists easily adapted to the restrictions imposed by the government, adopting Brazilian names and promoting activities that eluded surveillance. Between 1933 and 1945, 24,000 Jews entered Brazil, which meant an increase of almost a third in the overall Jewish population.[113]

The Estado Novo's main concern was the construction of an authentically Brazilian identity and the preservation of the ‘Brazilian family tradition’. Anti-Jewish hatred was an ideology restricted to small parts of the government and integralism.[114] The dictatorship was mainly conservative, xenophobic and anti-communist. As a result, communist Jews were the most persecuted. That is, anti-Communism was a greater threat to Jews than anti-Semitism.[115]

Communist Jews were arrested, tortured, murdered and deported. Olga Benário Prestes was deported to Europe and murdered in an extermination camp. The police closed BRAZCOR and raided BIBSA. The government mainly worked to stop the immigration of communist Jews, while tolerating that of Zionists.[116] Presented as a nationalism with ambitions to colonise another country, Zionism was not perceived as a threat by the Estado Novo.[117]

There were acts of Jewish solidarity during this period. However, Zionist groups tried to differentiate themselves from anti-Zionists and would lobby Brazilian elites to position themselves as the true representatives of the Jewish community.[118] While building support from Brazil for the Jewish state in Palestine, Zionists sought to weaken anti-Zionist alternatives in the social base.

For example, Horácio Lafer, a prominent businessman and Zionist leader, refused to express his solidarity with persecuted communist Jews when questioned by the police. The Sholem Aleichem school suffered a police raid following the complaints of Zionist parents and at the I.L. Peretz School, Zionists tried to take over, resulting in confrontation and police intervention.[119]

Indeed, Zionist elites started building their hegemony in the Jewish community and in Brazilian society during the repression of communist Jews. As a result, the Brazilian State lobbied and supported the partition plan for Palestine, which created the State of Israel in the UN General Assembly of 1947, presided by the Brazilian diplomat Oswaldo Aranha.

Violence and consent under Liberal Zionist Hegemony

Greater solidarity among Brazilian Jews only resumed when anti-Zionist groups, weakened by state violence, consented to the Zionist project in Palestine after the recognition of Israel by the USSR. Although they did not see Israel as the solution to the Jewish question, communists began to raise money to support the settlement and the Haganah.[120] In the midst of a Zionist surge in the country, many anti-Zionists joined the ranks of Socialist Zionism, and communist organisations became more diffuse.

Amid the formation of the Zionist progressive-liberal hegemony, communists adopted a position better defined as non-Zionist than anti-Zionist. They stopped confronting the Zionist project, understood as unavoidable. For Jacob Gorender, an important PCB member:

Once the State of Israel became a reality and was recognised by the Soviet Union from the start, I never questioned Israel's right to exist as a state. But I have never considered the State of Israel to be the solution to the so-called Jewish question.[121]

Though politically weakened, non-Zionist Jews still represented an important part of the community. They sought to compete for representation in Jewish entities to avoid unconditional support for Israel. At the same time, they organized new Jewish institutions to preserve Yiddish culture and mobilize new generations in national and internationalist struggles. The greatest example was the Casa do Povo[122], founded in 1946 in São Paulo as a space for Jewish anti-fascist struggle.

The institution was an important cultural and political centre that also included another Sholem Aleichem School, a newspaper in Yiddish, a youth club and a theatre. The school became a highly regarded educational project, housing children of Jewish and non-Jewish workers, including members of the clandestine struggle against the military dictatorship (1964-1985).[123]

In the beginning, Casa do Povo was composed of both communists and socialist Zionists. Internally, communists sought to maintain control of the institute to preserve it as non-Zionist; externally, they competed with other left-wing Zionist organizations for the hearts and minds of the Jewish community.

When the USSR took a belligerent stance towards Israel and in support of Arab nationalism in the 1950s, confrontation between communist and Zionist Jews increased in Brazil. Moments of international crisis were opportunities to contest the direction of Jewish organisations. In one such episode, the Zionists took over Casa do Povo under the leadership of Iankel Len.[124]

Later, the communists succeeded in regaining control of the institution, which became directly linked to the Jewish Sector of the PCB. The head of the Jewish Sector was also director of Casa do Povo.[125] This link was fundamental for the activities of communist Jews to continue after the military coup of 1964. Confrontation grew after 1967 when the Jewish Sector publicly accused Israel of acting in an imperialist manner leaving it isolated from the rest of the community and representative bodies, which cut off all political and financial support.

Although socialist Zionists also participated in campaigns against the dictatorship, a large part of them chose to emigrate to Israel during this period.[126] Non-Zionist communists remained in the resistance and once again suffered greater persecution, imprisonment, torture and murder by the regime. Once more, Jewish communists could not count on the support of representative entities in their community as these preferred to maintain good relations with the dictatorship. Left Zionist militants were protected by agreements between Zionist institutions and the military regime.[127] State anti-Communism, supported by the bourgeoise, in the context of the Cold War remained a greater threat to Jews than any form of anti-Semitism.

The Jewish Sector and the PCB took a hard blow in 1975, when the dictatorship targeted ten PCB party leaders for assassination and persecuted dozens of militants, among them ten teachers from the Sholem Aleichem School. Jewish journalist Vladimir Herzog was murdered as a result of being tortured during the persecution of communist Jews. His death was an important turning point that led to popular mobilisation and contributed to the eventual decline of the dictatorship. It was also a moment that attracted solidarity from liberal Zionists, such as Rabbi Henry Sobel. However, it did not put an end to hostilities with organised non-Zionist Jews.

Faced with the persecution of the dictatorship, isolation imposed by Zionist institutions and the socio-economic rise of Jews who, being well integrated into Brazilian whiteness, left their neighbourhoods of origin for upper scale areas, the non-Zionist communist movement lost its social base.[128] As a result, the Sholem Aleichem school closed in 1979. A group of communist Jews under the leadership of Max Altman, who presided over the Casa do Povo between 1965 and 1979, understood that the non-Zionist Jewish cycle had reached its end.[129] It is fair to say that these events were in the interest both of the military regime and the Zionist elites.    

In 1982, during a large demonstration against the massacre of Sabra and Shatila at Casa do Povo, oppositionists set fire to Altman's car amid clashes that took over the streets.[130] Faced with the Zionist siege of Casa do Povo, the communists left the institution, which in turn endorsed a progressive-liberal Zionist hegemony during the Brazilian democratisation process in the 1980s. The institution eventually lost relevance, deteriorated, and ended up closing its doors. Although it reopened in 2011, present day Casa do Povo is made up of docile non-Zionist Jewish institutions that consent to Israeli settler colonial sovereignty over Palestinian territory.

Therefore, it is possible to see how the liberal Zionist hegemony was built and maintained through violent action against the anti-Zionist alternatives that confronted Zionism – from above, by the anti-communist state, and from below by the Zionist movements, including those on the left, through the denunciation, isolation, expulsion and deconversion of communist Jews. That is, a hegemony, as Gramsci understood it, secured in the last instance by coercion when cultural disputes proved insufficient.

It is important to note how the decline of the non-Zionist Jewish movement coincided with the consolidation of the Brazilian Palestinian movement. In 1980 FEPAL[131] is created as the official representation of Palestinians to the PLO. Soon after, the Palestinian movement becomes the main target of Zionists, including progressive ones. Rabbi Sobel declared in 1985 that a meeting of Palestinian youth that took place that year was for "training terrorists".[132]

The resurgence of anti-Zionist movements

The class conciliation and pragmatism that characterised foreign policy under the New Republic (1988-2016), particularly the period when the PT was in power between 2003 and 2016, ensured the hegemony of liberal Zionism until the early 2010s. However, the persistence of grassroots mobilisations by Palestinians and radical left movements during the 1990s and 2000s allowed Brazilians to respond to the Palestinians' call for solidarity and BDS in 2005.

In 2007, leftist activists and members of the Palestinian movement who were part of the radical left opposition to the Lula government formed Mopat.[133] The first campaign by the BDS Brazil movement was against the Free Trade Agreement between Mercosur[134] and Israel signed in the same year.[135] Simultaneously, there was a strengthening of Fepal, an organisation that is closer to the moderate left and the PT administration. In 2010, Brazil recognizes the Palestinian state. 

In 2011, the World Social Forum-Palestine held in Brazil allowed for the transnational meeting of activists in defence of Palestine and served as an opportunity for the creation of new movements in the country, such as the FFIPP-Brazil.[136] This organisation, whose scope in Brazilian society extends beyond ethnic-national identity, has served as an incubator for a new generation of anti-Zionist Jews.

This group promoted an important demonstration in front of the Israeli Consulate in São Paulo against the 2014 Gaza Strip massacre, which marked the return of anti-Zionist Jews to the political scene of the Brazilian left.[137] Organised as a result of the international radicalisation of the Palestinian struggle after the Second Intifada, this new generation of anti-Zionist Jews is a true representation of Brazilian radicalisation after June 2013, as opposed to the counter-revolutionary Zionist left that emerges against Bolsonaro in 2017.

However, the active gatekeeping of the Zionist Left, in alignment with the bourgeoise’s interests in maintaining closer ties with Israel for military-security technology and agriculture trade purposes, has prevented more Jews and Leftist organizations from joining the ranks of the new anti-Zionist pro-Palestine movements.


In this article, we have seen how the Zionist left combats the radicalism of the anti-colonial struggle of the Palestinians and also of Jews and non-Jews on the left. The result is the confinement of the opposition to a docile anti-anti-Zionism that is submitted to the hegemony of liberal Zionist colonialism.

The discursive frauds of the Zionist left find support among liberal Jews and Brazilian left-liberals used to conciliation with the national bourgeoisie and conservatism in foreign policy. In this way, left Zionists ally themselves with the interests of the dependent bourgeoisie and act as gatekeepers, preventing Jews and other militants of the moderate Brazilian left from assuming a more radical anti-Zionist position.

The ‘deconversion’ and exclusion of left Zionists that we are witnessing in the Jewish-Zionist community constitutes the reproduction of the old hegemonic logic of the Zionist movement in Brazil that used to be directed only toward anti-Zionist Jews. Faced with the new configurations of anti-communism under the rise of the new right in 2010, the Zionist left begins to receive the same treatment as the anti-Zionists it helps exclude.

Moreover, Zionists lose sight of the real new anti-Semitism because of the exclusion from their analysis of the dynamics of colonialism and racism. Israelis’ alliance with imperialism and resulting positioning as defenders of Judeo-Christian civilization has rendered Jewish identity racially privileged. The contemporary Brazilian right continues to confine the Jew to a fixed identity, though no longer a negative one. The essentialist positive spin that instrumentalises Jews for the anti-communist and Islamophobic political project of the extreme right serves only to invert the polarity of the racialisation of the Jews but does not break with anti-Semitism.

Therefore, the Zionist Left does not work to dismantle anti-Semitism but mainly to preserve soft colonialism in Palestine and Brazil. Recognizing the centrality of colonialism against Palestinians in the formation of contemporary Jewish identity is an important step in the decolonization of both Palestine and Jewishness.


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[1] Socialism and Liberty Party.

[2]  Quilombolas are black populations descended from former slaves who obtained their freedom and settled in territories throughout the country to form autonomous and self-managed communities called quilombos. The same legal framework that preserves indigenous reserves protects Quilombola territories.

[3] Veja 2017.

[4] Grin, Gherman, and Caraciki 2019.

[5] Gherman 2017.

[6] Ibid

[7] Honig-Parnass 2011; Finkelstein 2012; Kelemen 2012.

[8] Englert 2018.

[9] Balthaser 2020, pp. 462–462.

[10] Neto 2008.

[11] Iokoi 2004; Lowy 2017; Clemesha 1998.

[12] Gherman 2018.

[13] World Zionist Organization.

[14] Bartel 2015.

[15] Ibid

[16] Grin 2017; Grin (ed.) 2008.

[17] Estado Novo, New State, was a dictatorship, which ruled Brazil between 1937 and 1945.

[18] Grin (ed.) 2008.

[19] Grin 2017.

[20] Brazilian Communist Party.

[21] Gherman 2018.

[22] Iokoi 2004.

[23] Workers Party.

[24] Gherman 2018.

[25] Moraes 2014.

[26] Huberman and Hartmann 2017.

[27] Gherman 2018, pp. 9–12.

[28] ibid., p. 12.

[29] Grin, Gherman, and Caraciki 2019.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Carvalho 2021.

[33] Finkielkraut 1997.

[34] Gherman 2017.

[35] ibid.

[36] Brazil-Israel Institute.

[37] Gherman and Thomaz 2018.

[38] Firs 2021.

[39] Marcossi 2018.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Grin, Gherman, and Caraciki 2019.

[42] Halper 2021.

[43] Kruchin 2018.

[44] Fernandes 2019.

[45] Gherman and Grin 2016, p. 48.

[46] Fernandes 2019.

[47] Losurdo 2020.

[48] Nevel 2020.

[49] Amigos Brasileiros do Paz Agora 2011.

[50] Morais and Saad-Filho 2005.

[51] R7 2016.

[52]Fernandes 2019.

[53]United Socialist Workers’ Party.

[54] Israelite Confederation of Brazil.

[55] Wyllys 2015.

[56] Marcossi 2018.

[57] Wyllys 2015, p. 47.

[58] ibid., p. 46.

[59] Marcossi 2018, p. 176.

[60] Quoted in ibid., p. 175.

[61] Huberman and Hartmann 2017.

[62] Justice Ministery 2015.

[63] IBI 2019.

[64] Butler 2012, p. 1.

[65] ibid., p. 2.

[66] It is revealing how Zionist left repeatedly demands the end of the occupation as a way to save Israel and not bring freedom to the Palestinians , very well expressed in the movement Save Israel, Stop the Occupation, of important penetration in the Brazilian Zionist left.  

[67] Fanon 1994.

[68] Wolfe 2013.

[69] Barakat 2018.

[70] Hall 2011.

[71] Amara and Hawari 2019.

[72] Piterberg 2008, p. xvi.

[73] Shafir 1996.

[74] This position, it is important to emphasize, derives from the contradictory reflections of Marx himself concerning colonialism in countries such as India and has been criticized by Edward Said, among others. However, this support for colonialism would later be revised by Marx and Engels, as demonstrated by Kevin Anderson in ‘Marx at the Margins’ 2016.

[75] Losurdo 2020.

[76] Massad 2006.

[77] Traverso 2018.

[78] Ibid.

[79] Borokhov 1920, p. 271 quoted Traverso 2018, p. 125.

[80] Englert 2020; Lockman 1996.

[81] Lockman 1996.

[82] Englert 2020.

[83] Haddad 2016.

[84] Jaichand and Sampaio 2013.

[85] Coulthard 2014.

[86] Fernandes 2020.

[87] Coutinho 2012.

[88] Haddad 2016.

[89] Whyte 2019.

[90] Fanon 1994, p. 83.

[91] ibid., pp. 80–81.

[92] Butler 2012, p. 4.

[93] ibid.

[94] Neto 2008.

[95] Iokoi 2004; Bartel 2015.

[96] Sholem Aleichem Library.

[97] Kuperman 2003.

[98] Bartel 2015.

[99] Ibid.

[100] Jewish Red Help.

[101] Kuperman 2003.

[102] Ibid.

[103] Sorj, Sorj, and Bonder 2010.

[104] Ibid,

[105] Bartel 2015, pp. 207–8.

[106] Jewish Colonization Association

[107] Bartel 2015.

[108] Contributing to this conflict is the growing involvement of the Communists with Stalin's promise to create a Jewish Autonomous Zone in Birobjian (Kuperman 2003).

[109] Kuperman 2003.

[110] Quoted in Iokoi 2004, p. 174.

[111] Cytrynowicz 2002.

[112] Bartel 2015.

[113] Cytrynowicz 2002.

[114] Ibid.

[115] Sorj 2010.

[116] Iokoi 2004.

[117] Bartel 2015.

[118] ibid.; Neto 2008.

[119] Neto 2008.

[120] Bartel 2015.

[121] Quoted in Iokoi 2004, p. 350.

[122]  The “People’s House” official name was ICIB - Brazilian Israelite Cultural Institute and it was filiated to the ICUF - Iídicher Cultur Farband.

[123] Iokoi 2004.

[124] Altman 2021.

[125] Ibid.

[126] Grin (ed.) 2008.

[127]Gherman 2022.

[128] Iokoi 2004; Bahia 2011; Altman 2021.

[129] Altman 2021.

[130] Ibid.

[131] Arab-Palestinian Federation of Brazil.

[132] Oliveira 2018.

[133] Palestine for All Movement. 

[134] Southern Common Market.

[135] Clemesha 2008.

[136] Education Network for Human Rights in Palestine/Israel.

[137] Dichtchekenian 2014.

The World Turned Outside In

Settler Colonial Studies and Political Economy

Jack Davies
This article criticises the political economic analysis of settler colonial studies, which it draws out through an immanent critique of its most famous practitioners. It then offers a critical genealogy of the wider theoretical trend that secures it: the post-Cold War vogue of asserting the ever-increasing centrality of primitive accumulation in global capitalism – what we might term a mode of predation. Finally, it teases out the tensions and confusions in the reliance of settler colonial studies upon Marx’s concept of surplus populations, as well as problems abounding in Patrick Wolfe’s “logic of elimination.” Overall, it argues that the frequent claim that we inhabit a global settler modernity cannot be sustained through these notions, and that this claim is profoundly moral and academic, lacking political and analytical value. The insistence on the durability of settler colonialism amounts, in this literature, to a claim on behalf of settler colonial studies itself.

Judaism, Zionism, and the Nazi Genocide

Jewish Identity Formation in the West between Assimilation and Rejection
Sai Englert


This paper explores contemporary Jewish identity-formation, identity politics, and the centrality of state-sanctioned commemoration of the Nazi genocide and Zionism – understood as the ongoing settler-colonial project aimed at the formation and maintenance of a Jewish-exclusivist state in Palestine – to both. It argues that dominant identity politics within the Jewish community are based on an understanding of identity, one which assumes it to be static and individual.

Firstly, this paper discusses the importance of studying processes of identification rather than assuming identity to be static, a-historical, or immutable. It argues that the state is a central actor in structuring processes of identification from above, and that it is in the contested relationship between the state and the population which it attempts to identify that identities are continuously re-created. It further places these processes within the emergence of European modernity and colonialism.

The paper then moves on to a discussion of modern processes of Jewish identification. It locates their origin within the emergence of the European nation-state. It highlights the different, and often opposing ways in which Jewish communities have historically responded to these state-led processes. The paper moves on to discussing how a political framework focussed on a fixed Jewish identity, and the centrality of Israel to that identity, has become dominant in recent years.

The paper then offers a critique of the classical Marxist approach to the Jewish question before analysing the development of new processes of identification of Jewish people in the West. Central to these are the strategic role of the Israeli state in the Middle East, and the crucial nature of official Holocaust history to Western self-representation.

Finally, the paper argues that contemporary Western states perpetuate antisemitism, albeit under a different guise, through the essentialisation of Jewish communities as an extension of the Zionist project in Palestine and as bearers of official state-sanctioned history. In doing so, the state mobilises these communities as representatives of its policies abroad, and discriminatory policies at home.

The paper’s conclusion is that far from operating as a shield against antisemitism, the state remains the central agent in the reproduction of antisemitism. The identification of many within the Jewish community with Israel and the Zionist project in Palestine, and with an official account of the Nazi genocide that whitewashes Western states, is an outcome of state processes of identification. The paper will focus mainly on Anglo-Saxon realities and examples, especially the UK but also the US, which constitute the largest and the fourth-largest Jewish communities outside of Israel. Additionally, the two states’ historic and contemporary role in supporting the Zionist movement in Palestine warrants this focus. 


Identity, Identification, and the Role of the State

The questions of narratives, history, and structures of power run throughout the literature on identity. In ‘Who Needs Identity?’, Stuart Hall discusses the tension between approaches to identity that favour either innate characteristics or long-term processes of identity-formation. Hall writes: 

In common sense language, identification is constructed on the back of a recognition of some common origin or shared characteristics with another person or group, or with an ideal, and with the natural closure of solidarity and allegiance established on this foundation. In contrast with the ‘naturalism’ of this definition, the discursive approach sees identification as a construction, a process never completed – always ‘in process’. It is not determined in the sense that it can always be ‘won’ or ‘lost’, sustained or abandoned.[1]

Identity, then, appears as a natural, intrinsic reality that is shared by members of the same group. It is experienced as a-historic and innate, a fundamental element at the heart of the individual’s sense of self, which has always been there and through which the experience of society is mediated. However, Hall invites his readers to look further and to reflect on the processes which create and re-create identities. Identities, then, for Hall are neither individual nor pre-existing categories. They are outcomes of contingent processes across society and through time.

If identities are so socially constituted, the question remains of who, or what, generates and shapes them. Lawrence Grossberg argues that ‘the question of identity is one of social power and its articulation to, its anchorage in, the body of the population itself’.[2] He locates the origins of this process within the emergence of modernity – an issue to which this paper returns below.

If Grossberg’s concept of ‘social power’ remains as vague as Hall’s ‘material and symbolic resources’, it points to an important aspect of the identification process: that power is required to generate identities across society, and that it is in the process of articulation of said power in the collective body of the ‘identified’ that identity emerges. Grossberg compares this tension between coercive power and popular consent to Marx’s formulation that people make history but not in conditions of their own choosing.[3] Identity is, then, the outcome of a power struggle between processes of identification from above and collective articulation of those processes from below, which generate and regenerate outcomes, always anew.

The extreme contingency of identity-formation and the fundamentally contradictory ways in which identity is understood, both in society and within the academic literature, has led others to reject the term altogether and focus on the process and its actors instead. Indeed, Roger Brubaker and Frederick Cooper argue in ‘Beyond “Identity”’ that the term itself has lost all explanatory power by being mobilised to denote not only different, but also opposing concepts, and that it should therefore be abandoned altogether. Instead, they propose to separate out the different elements contained within the concept of identity, and to talk about the processes of identification.

Furthermore, Brubaker and Cooper identify the modern state as a critical actor in this process of identification, not because it can create ‘identities’ in the strong sense – in general, it cannot – but because it has the material and symbolic resources to impose the categories, classificatory schemes, and modes of social counting and accounting with which bureaucrats, judges, teachers, and doctors must work and to which non-state actors must refer.[4]

This centrality of the state in the structuring of the categories of identification is also a key aspect of the settler-colonial literature. Indeed, the question of identification – and racialisation more specifically – of the indigenous and enslaved populations by the settler-colonial state is a central aspect of this growing body of work. Furthermore, much like Grossberg above, scholars of settler-colonialism locate the origins of racialisation in the emergence of European modernity and the nation-state.

For example, Paula Chakravarty and Denise Ferreira da Silva have noted that racialisation was central to European colonialism because "[i]n the post-Enlightenment era, once universality and historicity became ethical descriptors of the properly human, then the task of justifying how rights such as life (security) and freedom had not been ensured for all human beings required that human difference … become irresolvable."[5]


In the same vein, Wolfe writes:

Racial identities are constructed in and through the very process of their enactment … [R]ace is colonialism speaking, in idioms whose diversity reflects the variety of unequal relationships into which Europeans have co-opted conquered populations.[6]

Wolfe argues, in Traces of History, that the structuring of different racial characteristics, based on different populations’ role within the colonial system of exploitation and land expropriation, was a central concern of European settler-colonial (and colonial) states.

Processes of identification, including racialisation, operate within categories structured by the state. By mobilising these categories the state is able to exercise control, distribute rights, and facilitate exploitation, expropriation and exclusion. It is in this tension between the attempted imposition by the state of those categories and the response – of rejection or acquiescence – by the identified, that identities emerge.

The analytical task then is to locate the processes of identification, its agents, and the ways in which the identified integrate, subvert, or reject the categories that they are being subjected to. It is to these tasks, in the case of Jewish communities in the West, that this paper now turns.


The European State, the Settler-colony, and Jewish Identity

The emergence of modern antisemitism – as opposed to pre-capitalist Christian judeophobia – can be traced back, much like the processes of racialisation discussed above, to the emergence of the nation-state. Indeed, as Enzo Traverso has pointed out, the emergence of the nation, unlike the multinational and multi-confessional empires that preceded it, ‘viewed every ethnic, linguistic or religious minority as an obstacle that it sought to overcome, by championing policies of assimilation or exclusion’.[7]

The need to unify the nation around a singular history, culture, religion, and/or language placed Jews decisively outside of the new emerging national body. More than that, it categorised the Jew as the enemy of the nation. The ‘international Jew’, always on the move within diasporic networks, neither constrained by the borders of the state nor loyal to the emerging nation, became the central theme of the emerging antisemitic propaganda of the late nineteenth century. It also captured the anxieties of European populations confronted with the rise of capitalism, rapid urbanisation, and the transformation of their livelihood through processes of primitive accumulation that separated them from the land.[8]

Similarly, Wolfe has argued that the emergence of the nation-state in Europe was accompanied by the creation of a ‘monolithic Jewishness’.[9] Whereas, feudal states had relied on so-called court Jews and their networks for finance and trade (see below), the promise of emancipation at the hands of the state that followed the French Revolution homogenised Jewish communities and in the process laid the basis for them to be, collectively, identified as external to the emerging nation. Wolfe places this contradictory process in the continuity of colonial classifications of Black populations in the United States:

In both cases, uniformity would come to be constructed genetically, as an ineradicable hereditary mystique, common to every member of the persecuted community; a collective though not always visible mark of Cain.  

The emergence of the nation-state, which placed the Jew firmly outside of its limits, was accompanied by the application of colonial processes of racialisation to explain this exclusion. The modern state then promised emancipation through assimilation within the nation, while simultaneously barring access to the national body for Jewish communities through their racialisation.

In the face of the emergence of these structures of identification from above, different political responses developed from within the Jewish communities of Western and Eastern Europe. On the one hand, a cultural conflict emerged between the Haskalah (the Jewish Enlightenment), which argued for the full assimilation of Jews within the nation-state, and the orthodoxy that remained faithful to its cultural and religious traditions. On the other hand, political strife developed between the revolutionary traditions associated with Bolshevik, Bundist, Anarchist or reformist currents, which saw in the Jewish exclusion from the nation-state an internationalist potential for its very destruction, and the emerging Zionist movement. The Zionists, on which more below, argued that it was only with the creation of a Jewish nation-state, developed through colonisation, that the so-called Jewish question could be resolved, by ‘normalising’ Jewish life and joining the family of European nation-states.[10]

Much more could be said about these competing movements (see below), but for now it will suffice to point out that modern antisemitism emerged out of the formation of the nation-state, and that in response to the state’s exclusion and racialisation of Jewish populations a plethora of political, cultural and religious responses developed. There were then not one, but a multitude of processes of identification that emerged out of different, often competing, responses to the state’s structural categorisation of Jews.


Contemporary Debates on Jewish Identities and the Modern Monolith

The variety of responses to state-led structures of identification applied to Jewish communities is highly relevant to contemporary debates surrounding Jewishness. Indeed, Jewish identity is increasingly portrayed as monolithic, static and a-temporal within the Jewish community. For example, Mick Davies, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council in the UK, explained to the Home Affairs Committee that

Zionism is so totally identified with how the Jew thinks of himself, and is so associated with the right of the Jewish people to have their own country and to have self-determination within that country, that if you attack Zionism, you attack the very fundamentals of how the Jews believe in themselves.[11]

Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, propounds the same argument, put this time in religious terms:

Zionism has been an integral part of Judaism from the dawn of our faith. … We have prayed towards Israel. Open any prayer book and you will find Israel jumping out at you. It is the centre of what we are. As a result – further to a political development in the latter part of the 19th century through which Zionism gained an added dimension, spelling out the right of the Jewish people to live within secure borders with self-determination in their own country, which they had been absent from for 2,000 years – that is what Zionism is. If you are an anti-Zionist, you are anti everything I have just mentioned.[12]

This approach to Jewish identity, and therefore to antisemitism and the place of Jews within European society, stands in stark contrast to the discussion above about the origins of antisemitism in the European nation-state, and the multitude of different, and often opposed, responses to it from within the Jewish population. Indeed, if this reading of Jewishness and antisemitism is to be taken at face value, the revolutionary, assimilationist, and orthodox religious traditions within European Judaism, all of which rejected the colonial project of Zionist nation-building (for different reasons), should be considered within the realm of antisemitic thought and action. It appears that the approach to the process of identification carries important political significance.

Indeed, in his Judaïsme et Révolution, Ivan Segré argues that there exists a deep tug of war within the history of Jewish thought, both secular and religious. He identifies a tension between a revolutionary, universalist, and dialectical reading of Judaism and a counter-revolutionary, ethno-centrist, and static one. Segré argues that both in the religious and political field, from Maimonides to Benny Levy, there exists a strand of Jewish thought that struggles to fix its identity once and for all in a literal and a-historic space. To this he contrasts a dialectical reading of the Letter, associated with the sages of the Talmud and St Paul, which leads it to always re-invent and regenerate itself through contact with its surroundings. Segré argues for a return to a dialectical and – in his view – revolutionary reading of Jewish identity against the tide of reaction.

Similarly, Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin straddles the religious and the political to challenge the dominant portrayal of Jewish identity. He points out that the view of the Jews as perpetually out of place in their host-societies, and therefore in need of returning to ‘where they came from’, is in fact a judeophobic Christian concept exogenous to Jewish thought. Raz-Krakotzkin argues that before the advent of modern Zionism, exile was an existential claim in Jewish theology that could not be solved physically. Indeed, he points out that ‘[t]he Jewish communities that lived in Palestine before Zionism described themselves as “in exile in the land of Israel”’.[13] In this reading, contrary to Rabbi Mirvis’s view, the history of a people perpetually out of place and the idea of a physical return appear as modern constructs of a Jewish identity shaped by the political necessities of the Zionist project.

However, statistical data collected both in the US and the UK points to the fact that Mirvis and Davies are not alone in positing the centrality of the state of Israel to the formation of Jewish identity. For example, 93% of British Jews feel that ‘Israel plays some role in/is important to/is central to [their] Jewish identity’,[14] and 69% of US Jews feel ‘emotionally attached to Israel’.[15]

This raises a series of questions about Jewish communities in the West: what are the processes of identification, from above and below, that have taken place, which can help explain the emergence of what appears to be the increasingly monolithic understanding of Jewishness? Does the space for conflicting identities still exist or has it truly been narrowed down to an increasingly single one? And what are the political ramifications of these processes for anti-racist political action today?

It is to these questions that the paper now turns, by discussing the development of Jewish identification by Western states and their responses throughout the last century.


Marxism and the Jewish Question

The classical Marxist tradition was the first to develop a materialist framework to analyse what it has called the Jewish question: the reasons behind the survival of Judaism for thousands of years despite its existence as a minority faith in starkly different societies, and the rise of modern antisemitism in the nineteenth century.

Much of the literature on the question had relied on idealist or teleological assumptions about the strength of the Jewish faith, Messianic expectations, or the yearning for an eventual ‘return’ to the Promised Land. At the same time, antisemitism was understood as an a-historical and universal reality, present at all times, and located within competing religious frameworks (see above). In this view, Jews were an essentialised people, always foreign to, and rejected by, the host society, who survived by clinging to their faith or nationhood in the expectation of – secular or miraculous – liberation. An approach, rooted in Christian Judeophobic prejudice, which, as discussed above, remains present to this day.

In stark contrast to this approach, Marx put forward a framework of analysis that understood the Jewish people – like other peoples – as continuously made and re-made by history and the prevailing economic and political structures within which they operate. In his famous essay On the Jewish Question, this approach is summarised in the simple statement that ‘Judaism continues to exist not in spite of history, but owing to history. The Jew is perpetually created by civil society from its own entrails’.[16] The longevity of Judaism, for Marx, is neither an aberration of history nor a miraculous feat; it is the product of specific historical processes.

Through the economic and political roles they played in these societies, based on mercantile activity and money-lending, Jews were preserved as an entity separate from the rest of society. Although widely criticised for the language he used,[17] Marx’s approach to the Jewish question put forward the beginning of a materialist analysis of Jewish history and modern antisemitism, while simultaneously arguing for the need to struggle against it.

Marx’s thesis was developed further by Abram Leon, a young Jewish Marxist writing in hiding in Nazi-occupied Belgium. Leon’s The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation expanded, detailed and developed Marx’s basic insights into the history of the Jewish people and the realities of modernantisemitism. Echoing Marx, Leon argued that

It is not the loyalty of the Jews to their faith which explains their preservation as a distinct social group; on the contrary it is their preservation as a distinct social group which explains their attachment to their faith.[18]

He developed the idea that for the majority of their history, Jewish people constituted a people-class, which reproduced itself through their specific economic roles within the different societies they inhabited. Jews were therefore not a foreign entity within these societies, but an integral part of their socio-economic organisation.

The advent of capitalism was to be, in Leon’s work, the historic period during which the economic tasks previously reserved to the Jewish people-class became universal. Mercantile and financial activity moved from the periphery to the centre of the economy. The economic base for the historic survival of Judaism was disappearing and Jews were being assimilated in Western Europe. In Eastern Europe however, where the decay of feudalism and the rise of capitalism were held in a lasting balance, Jews were trapped between semi-proletarianisation and emigration. As they emigrated to the West, they brought with them a Jewish reality, which had, Leon argued, by and large disappeared in those countries. The new bourgeois order rejected them.[19]

These approaches, by Marx and Leon, as well as by others in the classical Marxist tradition, from Kautsky to Trotsky, have been criticised more recently for their over-emphasis of the economic unity of Jewish communities and the economic nature of the Jewish question. What remains from their contribution, however, is their emphasis on the material basis that generated a Jewish identity as opposed to a set, pre-existing, and naturalised one.

For example, Maxime Rodinson[20] pointed out that there was little evidence for the validity of Leon’s people-class argument before the period of the Crusades. More significantly, in his The Marxists and the Jewish Question, Enzo Traverso argues that the classical Marxist tradition’s economism in addressing the Jewish question led it to develop major blind spots: an over-emphasis on class over people in the people-class formulation, and an exaggeratedly economistic approach to historicising Jewishness andantisemitism.

Classical Marxism therefore also assumed that the elimination of the economic specificity and ghettoisation of Jewish communities would lead both to full assimilation into the surrounding population and the disappearance of antisemitism. Traverso wrote:

Leon remained the prisoner of a vision of assimilation inherited from the Enlightenment, which did not interpret the entry of the Jews into the modern world as a metamorphosis of Judaism, but quite simply as the annulation of Jewish otherness.[21]

Indeed, the economism of the classical Marxists blinded them to the differing political realities of Jewish populations in Europe.

In the East, the tearing-down of the Ghetto walls, the development of economic centres, and the proletarianisation of the Jewish masses in the towns and cities of the Pale of settlements – roughly the area covering modern Lithuania, Poland and the Ukraine, where nearly half of the world’s Jewish population lived at the turn of the twentieth century – did not lead to assimilation.

On the contrary, the Eastern-European Jewish masses developed simultaneously a class and a national consciousness which gave birth to a Yiddish revival as well as to the Bund, a mass Jewish workers’ organisation that would play a central role in the development of Russian Social Democracy.[22]

In the West, where the Enlightenment and the French Revolution had promised emancipation and equal rights as citizens to the Jews, the situation was reversed. Jewish communities tended to try to assimilate. They spoke the national language, and participated in the intellectual, cultural and official institutions of the nation.

Whether atheist or religious, they tended to enact the words of the poet Yehuda Leib Gordon, which became a slogan for the Haskalah: ‘Be a Jew at home and a man in the street.’ However, this process did not lead to the disappearance of antisemitism. In fact, quite the contrary was true and the emerging state played a key role in this process (see above).

Indeed, it was Tsarist antisemitic decrees that concentrated Jews in the Pale. This concentration made the development of a national feeling, based on a shared language, culture and geographical area possible.[23] Similarly, as discussed above, it was the collapse of the old empires and the rise of the nation-state which posed the Jewish question in the West around suspicions of split loyalties, and accusations of a Jewish identity lying beyond the boundaries of newly-constructed national myths of origin. Finally, the barriers to Jewish land-ownership, enforced by the state, concentrated Jews disproportionately in towns and cities, locating them at the heart of the newly-emerging capitalist order.

The classical Marxist tradition then made an important contribution by highlighting the material processes of Jewish identification, and modern antisemitism. It was however unable to reach the full breadth of its own method because of its excessive focus on economic processes and its acceptance of the Enlightenment’s promise of assimilation. These adjustments are crucial to understanding the formation of modern Jewish identification and the resurgence of antisemitism, as discussed below.


The Nazi Genocide, Zionism and Denied Assimilation  

The classical Marxist debates on the Jewish question took place before the two key events that shaped Western Jewish life decisively in the second half of the twentieth century: the Nazi genocide and the creation of the State of Israel. Both these events ushered in monumental changes in the make-up, location, and politics of Jewish communities across the world. In the space of little more than a decade: 6 million Jews were exterminated in the gas chambers; the Israeli state was founded after the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians; the majority of Holocaust survivors moved to Israel; in the 1950s, Jews from across the Middle East and North Africa relocated to Israel, through migration and expulsion.

The centres of Jewish life shifted in this period toward the United States and the newly-formed state. These events, and European, American and Israeli state-responses to them, continue to structure Jewish identification in the West.

Contemporary polls, for example, of Western and Israeli Jews find that both the Holocaust and Israel remain some of the key issues cited as central to the construction of their identity.[24] This, however, as discussed above, has not always been the case.


Jewish Identification and the State of Israel

The creation of Israel, and its future, depended on the so-called ingathering of the world’s Jewish communities. The newly-formed state therefore worked actively to encourage and disseminate its vision of Jewish peoplehood. It did so both legislatively and practically. From its creation, the Israeli state immediately officialised its vision of history. It declared itself the state not of its citizens, but of the Jewish people around the world. The Israeli Declaration of Establishment, approved on 14 May 1948, states:

After being forcibly exiled from their land, the [Jewish] people kept faith … throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom. ... This right [to a Jewish state] is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State. … We appeal to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream – the redemption of Israel.[25]

Two years later, the Knesset approved what it called the ‘Law of Return’, which guaranteed the right of Jews worldwide to settle in the newly-formed state and to enjoy the full rights of citizens. Palestinian refugees who had fled during the Nakba, however, were forbidden to come back to their homes.

The ‘ingathering’ was not only a legal process inside of Israel; it was also a political one across the world. While encouraging Western Jewry to support Israel economically, politically and culturally, the Israeli state worked to encourage the emigration of Jewish communities, from Morocco to Iraq, and from the Soviet Union to Ethiopia.

Often assisted by the antisemitism of the local regimes,[26] the young state did not hesitate to sanction terrorism against Jewish minorities in Iraq to accelerate their departure and convince the reluctant.[27] The European character of the Zionist project and the treatment of Mizrahi (Eastern/Oriental) Jews as second-class citizens by the Israeli state have been widely documented.[28] However, the need to find new Jewish populations to settle the land in the demographic war with the Palestinians went hand-in-hand with the need to validate the state’s claims as the representative of world Jewry.

Interestingly, the settlement of Jewish communities from Asia, Africa and Europe with different languages, traditions and cultures had a contradictory effect on Zionism. If they strengthened the state’s representative claims they also undermined its conception of a singular Jewish ethnicity.

As the Israeli Marxist Akiva Orr has argued, Israel has struggled since its inception to develop a secular Jewish identity, separate from religion.[29] Orr points out that, despite the avowedly atheist (even anti-religious) attitudes of the founding generations of the Zionist movement, the state remains dependent on religion for the construction of a unified Jewish identity.

Orr argues that the central role played by the rabbinate in key state matters, such as the decision concerning who is and isn’t Jewish – and therefore a potential citizen – or in the regulation of marriage, are not pragmatic concessions to religious voting-blocks in Israel but indispensable in the process of constructing a unified Jewish identity.

Others, such as Moshe Machover,[30] echoing certain arguments made by the revisionist Canaanite school in the 1940s, argue for the decoupling of Israel from the rest of world Jewry and the recognition of a Hebrew nationality and identity. Machover sees in this a stepping-stone toward de-Zionification, weakening the settler-colonial project by cutting it off from its source of new arrivals. It would, Machover argues, also lay the foundation for the recognition of Hebrew national rights in a free Palestine.

The identification of Jews as a unified population, in physical exile, in need of ingathering to Israel, plays a crucial ideological role for the Israeli state and the expansion of settler-colonialism in Palestine.

Rodinson argued in the 1960s that the success of Zionism in Palestine had become the defining structural factor in modern Jewish life.[31] Zionism, for Rodinson, was born out of the simultaneous rejection of Jews by the European bourgeois order as well as the integration of its values and norms by the (European) Jewish people themselves. The scale of the Nazi genocide and the destruction of (often revolutionary) European-Jewish alternative movements to Zionism hastened the development of this process among postwar European Jewry.

Rodinson, in an argument which echoes Edward Said’s, identified Zionism as a European colonial movement, which turned the pariahs of the metropolis into a settler-colonial avant-garde. It was in the process of dispossessing the indigenous Palestinian population that the Zionist movement became the representative in the Middle East of the very society that had rejected them and led them to the brink of extermination.

Just as Zionism was the outcome of simultaneous rejection and internalisation, the Jews themselves were both internalised and rejected by the West through Zionist expansion in Palestine.

Rodinson opposed the way in which Zionism generated a political pressure from above in France for the essentialisation of the Jewish community in the West:

A continuous moral and physical blackmail is applied against the Jews who refuse to consider themselves members of a separate community to which they should swear allegiance. They are expected to adhere to options taken on Palestinian lands by organs on which they have no control.[32] 

This, Rodinson argued, started a process of nationalisation of the Jewish people.

However, if, as shown above, the Zionist movement and the Israeli state actively encouraged this attempt at nationalising world Jewry in the service of its settler-colonial project in Palestine, it does not automatically follow that Jewish communities would accept and respond to this new identification.

Here, the role of the state is once again paramount. In his book, Knowing Too Much, Norman Finkelstein details the ways in which the relationship between American Jewish communities and Israel developed. He shows how the leadership of the American Jewish community did not – despite humanitarian or philanthropic monetary donations – support Israel politically before the 1967 war.

Finkelstein quotes, amongst other documents, a study conducted by the American Jewish Committee only a few months before the outbreak of the war, which concluded that American Jewish life and institutions were not connected to Israel, and that only 17% of American Jews were members of avowedly pro-Israel organisations.[33] Finkelstein argues that the main concern of Jewish communities in the US in the direct aftermath of the Second World War was assimilation into American life and that active political support for Israel was considered by the community’s leadership to be a display of ‘dual-loyalty’. This, they feared, would stoke up suspicion and halt the process of integration.

It was in fact in the wake of the 1967 war and the decisive shift of Israel into the US sphere of influence – and of the US’s changing strategy in the Middle East, away from appeasement of Arab Nationalism – that American Jewish organs became outspoken supporters of Zionism. It is, therefore, firstly as loyal American citizens rather than as members of a singular Jewish nationality that the representatives of the American Jewish community became supporters of the Zionist movement and the Israeli state. Finkelstein writes:

Israel came to incarnate for American Jewish intellectuals the high cause of Truth, Justice, and the American Way, to which they could now assert a unique connection by virtue of blood lineage. Joining the Zionist club was a prudent career move for Jewish communal leaders who could then play the role of key interlocutors between the US and its strategic asset. … These gung-ho Zionists didn’t even subscribe to the Zionist tenet that Jews had no future in the gentile world. On the contrary, they converted to Zionism because it facilitated their acceptance in the United States.[34]


Jewish Identification and the Official Memory of the Nazi Genocide 

A similar process took place in terms of the commemoration of the Nazi genocide. In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the remembrance of the gas chambers and the Nazi genocide did not play a central role in Western societies. Different explanations have been given for this. Finkelstein has stressed the postwar US-led drive to ‘de-Nazify’ West Germany and to remobilise former Nazi state-officials in the cold war, as a key reason for the muted nature of official recognition of the genocide.[35]|[36]

Peter Novick in The Holocaust in American Life has stressed the assimilationist strategies of the Jewish community in the 1950s and the fears of stoking the flames ofantisemitism. While Traverso, on the other hand, emphasises that official ceremonies focussed on the national and anti-fascist character of the resistance in the first decades after the war – as such the ‘symbol of Nazi barbarity was not Auschwitz but Buchenwald, where so many antifascists were murdered’.[37]

In Israel itself, Holocaust survivors were often met with animosity.[38] They represented the weakness of the diaspora that had ‘gone like sheep to slaughter’, which the ‘new Jew’, reborn in Israel and strong, would replace. A popular term of derision for those survivors in Hebrew slang was sabonim – soaps – a reference to the Nazis’ experiments to turn Jewish fat into soap.

The Eichmann trial in 1961 was a turning-point in the dominant discourse about the war. Both in Israel and across the Western world, the recognition of the Nazi genocide, as well as the centrality of the remembrance of it in collective ceremonies, finds its roots in that moment. Traverso describes this shift as a crucial one in the collective memory and understanding of History of (and in) the West: ‘Nazi extermination was no longer regarded as the expression of a retreat of civilisation into barbarism, but rather as a barbarism inscribed in modernity itself’.[39]

Never Again became an international watchword against the demons within Western society. Traverso describes the process through which the Nazi genocide became what he terms, using Rousseau, a Civil Religion – a secular form of sacralising certain aspects of history in order to build a collective identity around the state. With its monuments, national museums, laws forbidding its denial, and official ceremonies, the memory of the Holocaust has become a key pillar of Western societies’ projection of self and collective identity.

Traverso argues that this laid the foundation for the recognition of other genocides and massacres across the world, whilst at the same time risking de-politicising the memory of the Holocaust and mobilising it as a shield behind which to mask more contemporary crimes: ‘Institutionalised and neutralised, the memory of the Holocaust thus risks becoming the moral sanction for a Western order that perpetuates oppression and injustice’.[40]

Similarly, Finkelstein describes in The Holocaust Industry an industry that has developed around the memorialisation of the Holocaust, which has depoliticised it by making it an inexplicable and incomparable event, next to which all others pale into insignificance. Finkelstein argues that this process has emptied collective memory of its political lessons, allowed collaborating governments and corporations off the hook, and strengthened the vision of Jewish history as one marked by eternal, a-historic, and incrementally severe persecution.

This version of history, Finkelstein argues, has also facilitated the use of the Holocaust to justify the colonisation of Palestine by allowing Western powers to wash their hands of the past by simply supporting Israel and – by extension – their own interests in the Middle East.

Yitzhak Laor, the Israeli poet and author, also emphasises the role that this official history of the Holocaust plays for the whitewashing of Western states’ racism and crimes – both in the present and in the past:

The Holocaust alone can provide the definition of evil. … But the other evils are still lurking there. The universal dimension of the genocide is projected to overshadow the victims of colonialism and slavery, who have received no compensation remotely comparable to the sums paid to the Israeli state, nor even the fortune of being recognised, precisely because they are still living in devastated countries, or miserable neighbourhoods, under occupation or oppression.[41]

Jewish history and the Nazi genocide are brought to the centre of modern constructions of Western identity and the legitimisation of Western states. However, it is a depoliticised, a-historical, and sterilised version of history, which locks Jews into a specific historic role.

There is once again a trade-off: in order to access the recognition of past wrongs, Jewish communities must relinquish demands for structural justice, and accept that the mass murder of their ancestors be removed from historical and political analysis. Instead, commemoration is turned into a tool behind which Western states can acknowledge and condemn racism, violence, and collaboration, while continuing to mete these out against other communities and countries.

Jews can then become part of a Western hegemonic culture, which has recently discovered itself to be Judeo-Christian only a few decades after the Nazi genocide, on the condition that their history becomes a pillar of the state’s official history, rather than a boulder to bring it tumbling down. Jewish communities must accept the role of guardians of a distorted history, which leaves current power structures untouched and unchallenged, in order to accede to the promise ofNever Again. Assimilation is promised, while effectively denied.

It emerges from this overview that the process of Jewish identification in the second half of the twentieth century has been constructed around the Nazi genocide and Zionism, within a state-led framework that has both placed Jews at the centre of Western hegemony while simultaneously keeping them at arm’s length of full integration. The Jewish community is then pushed into a schizophrenic dance in which it must simultaneously represent key areas of Western identification, while being denied full integration within its structures.

Far from being an intrinsic and a-historic fact, the current identification of Jewish communities with Israel, and the importance accorded to the Holocaust in their sense of self, is in fact the outcome of half a century of Western state policies. Indeed, political support for Israel in the Middle East by European and North Americans states, and the centrality of the Holocaust in their official historical self-representation, have switched the structures of identification for Jews in the West. Once upon a time the ‘Other’ of the European states par excellence, Jewish communities are now being identified as the standard-bearers of two key pillars of Western policies at home and abroad. It is to a discussion of the political consequences of this process, that this paper now turns.


Mobilisation of the Jew against the European ‘Others’ 

Sartre famously wrote that ‘it is not the Jewish character that provokes antisemitism but, on the contrary, the antisemite that creates the Jew’.[42] It then should not be a surprise that a growing proportion of Jewish people understand Zionism and a particular history of the Holocaust as a central part of their identity (see above). Indeed, they are being identified as Jewish through the prism of this binary framework by Western states.

The essentialisation of Jews, at home and abroad, by the state creates a new form of antisemitic rejection. No longer the rootless cosmopolitan, the revolutionary, the internationalist, the Jew today is identified, in the first instance, as – at least potentially – a Zionist, a citizen of Israel, and defender of the ‘West’s values’ in the face of barbarism. No longer the potential destroyer of Western society and bourgeois values but its most fierce protector, antisemitic essentialisation paints the Jew in a seemingly positive light. The underlying logic, however, remains one of a top-down structuring of Jewish identification by the Western state.

Antisemitism in the nineteenth and early twentieth century served to channel class struggle away from the bourgeoisie towards the Jews, while simultaneously making the revolutionary movement suspect and facilitating repression. It was, as the German phrase put it, the socialism of fools.[43] Today, it serves to obscure state policies, while simultaneously reinforcing Islamophobic reaction.

Alain Badiou and Eric Hazan argue:

The aim is to convince people that there is an underlying unity between the support given to the struggle of the Israelis against Arab ‘fundamentalist’ barbarism, and the struggle at home against the young barbarians of the banlieues – whose ‘barbarian’ description is well attested to by the double fact that they are not only Arab or Muslim, but also criticise Israeli government policy.[44]

This process of essentialisation of Jewish people is reinforced from above, through official state policy. For example, the UK HAC report on antisemitism announced:

Those claiming to be ‘anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic’, should do so in the knowledge that 59% of British Jewish people consider themselves to be Zionists. … For the purposes of criminal or disciplinary investigations, use of the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ in an accusatory or abusive context should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic.[45]

The report takes as read that the political movement of Zionism, and the Jewish people, should be considered, in the sphere of law-making, as nearly interchangeable. The 41 per cent of British Jewish people who do not consider themselves to be Zionists, according to the report’s own sources, are not considered relevant to the development of effective policy to combat antisemitism.

Nor is the fact that most data shows that a younger generation of Jews in the West is increasingly critical of Israel.[46] A recent piece of research conducted by the National Union of Students and the Union of Jewish Students in the UK found that 24% of Jewish students supported the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel.[47] Yet, under the guidance of the British state, these positions, held by a considerable proportion of Jews, are dangerously close to antisemitism.

Jews are essentialised by the UK Home Affairs Committee as adherents to the only political movement ascribed to them – Zionism – regardless of the facts. Similarly, when the British government attempted to limit local councils’ right to implement boycott or divestment policies, it justified its actions through concern for ‘international security’ and ‘community cohesion’, and went on to state:

There are wider national and international consequences from imposing such local level boycotts. They can damage integration and community cohesion within the United Kingdom, hinder Britain’s export trade, and harm foreign relations to the detriment of Britain’s economic and international security.[48]

Jewish communities in Britain are being directly mobilised as a shield, behind which the government can hide to defend its own trade and international-policy choices, while also undermining political freedoms in the UK. To complete the picture, the government minister Matthew Hancock announced these measures while on an official visit to Israel.

Furthermore, the British government’s anti-radicalisation strategy, the Prevent agenda, which has made it a legal duty for public-sector workers to report service-users for signs of radicalisation, follows this pattern. The policy sets out a series of indicators of so-called non-violent extremist ideas and behaviours, which the government believes lead to ‘extremism’. The policy has been widely criticised for its ineffectiveness, unsubstantiated assumptions, and disproportionate targeting of the Muslim community.[49] Indeed, Muslims made up 56 per cent of those targeted between 2012 and 2014, despite making up less than 5 per cent of the British population.[50]

Leaked Prevent training materials show that participants are specifically encouraged to target those who criticise UK foreign policy, with a specific emphasis put on Palestine solidarity as an indicator of radicalisation. It states, for example, that ‘as recent stories involving vulnerable pupils have shown, issues around Palestine, Syria and the growth of ISIL/ISIS require careful monitoring’.[51] This approach has led to Palestine activists and students expressing an interest in the question being referred to the authorities.

The case of a 15-year-old Muslim school student in Luton, who was repeatedly interrogated under Prevent for wearing a ‘Free Palestine’ armband and organising a fundraiser for Palestinian children affected by war, is a case in point.[52] Support for Palestine, including from children, is identified as a threat to the state. The state’s support for Zionism abroad becomes a tool for Islamophobic oppression at home, and to undermine civil liberties more generally.

It is, then, interesting in this context that Jewish organisations, publications and leading community figures are putting forward an analysis which holds that contemporary antisemitism, while no longer structural, is the outcome of left-wing and Muslim activism. The Palestine solidarity movement, anti-Zionist politics, and support for the Boycott, Solidarity and Sanctions (BDS) movement are particularly singled out for criticism and accused of actively undermining Jewish self-determination, the right for Jews to self-define their oppression, or Jewish identity itself.

In the UK, for example, when giving evidence to the HAC, discussed above, Rabbi Mirvis declared that:

There was a time when [antisemitism] came from the far right; now increasingly it is coming from the far left. There is an element of radical Islam that is part of this narrative. Events in the Middle East serve as trigger points.[53]  

Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies (BoD), made similar points:

Traditionally antisemitism has come from the far right, and we are not seeing very much far right activity at the moment. Traditionally there has always been prejudice against Jews coming from the far left as well, and I think that with the advent of a more leftward tilt in the leadership of the Labour party, some people feel that a space has opened up for them … A significant part of the incidents come from people who are or who appear to be from areas in Muslim communities. I want to emphasise that the overwhelming majority of British Muslims … are moderate and law abiding, … but there are some quarters who are very prejudiced, and I think they may get information … through mosques, schools, literature or Muslim subscription TV channels of an extreme nature coming from abroad.[54] 

The problem is no longer the far right but Muslims and the left, under foreign influence.

Remarkably, all available information about the UK – including the Annual CST Report on antisemitism[55] and the HAC report itself – demonstrates that the vast majority of antisemitic incidents come from the far-right and fascist groups, or prejudiced white individuals. This points to a high level of identification by leading representatives of the Jewish community with the state’s essentialisation of Jewishness under the banner of Zionism, mobilised against racialised communities and critics of the state’s foreign policy.

The state supports Israeli policies and expansion abroad. It justifies this support not on the basis of its economic and political interests in the Middle East, but through the supposed intrinsic role of Zionism in the religious and cultural identity of Jews. Simultaneously, the state criminalises political action and targets Palestinian solidarity movements. This can then be justified both through equating Judaism and Zionism, and through the baseless position, discussed above, that Muslims are the modern source of antisemitism.

The state then appears not as the oppressor of both Jews and Muslims, identifying both communities through racialised and essentialising structures, but as the defender of the Jews – understood, by official policy, as Zionists – against Muslims and the left. The state erects the Jewish community as a shield behind which it hides the political motives of its foreign and domestic policy.



Starting from the position that identity is not static or primordial, but generated through the relationship between identification processes by state structures from above, and collective responses by the ‘identified’ from below, this paper has discussed the identification of Jewish communities by Western states. It has argued that in the aftermath of the Holocaust, Western Jewish communities have been defined by the state as an extension of its own legitimacy, and the fate of Israeli settler-colonialism in Palestine. This process of essentialisation of the Jewish people is a form of structural antisemitism, which attempts to impose a specific, politicised, identity upon an entire community.

Moreover, this paper has argued that an approach based on processes of identity-formation, rather than monolithic, pre-existing, and a-historical identities, has important consequences. When, for example, polls show that a large majority of UK and US Jews feel connected to Israel, one answer is to consider these feelings as defining an immutable reality. Another is, as this paper has attempted to show, to take these feelings as the starting-point of an analysis which uncovers historical and societal processes of identification, which develop through the tension generated between those people and the state.

These two different approaches also lead to different political consequences. If the politics of identity lead one to consider identity as originating in the individual, one risks fixing as natural the outcomes of specific and historically-contentious processes. This leads, in the case of Jewishness, one to accept that Zionism is no longer a political question, which plays itself out to the detriment of the Palestinian people, but a question of self-defined identity, central to the very essence of Judaism and Jewish people. It similarly leads one to assume that the state, through its official remembering of the Nazi genocide and its laws against antisemitism, is the protector of Jewish communities, rather than the very structure putting them at risk.

It equally leads to the belief that those activists who oppose colonial processes in Palestine, condemn Israeli human-rights violations, and campaign for an end to their states’ and institutions’ complicity with these processes, are the real antisemites despite – or sometimes even because of – their consistent refusal to equate Jewish people worldwide with the actions, politics and realities of Israel and the Zionist movement. Indeed, as discussed above, if Jewish identity is inextricably linked to Israel and Zionism, then any rejection of it has to be, either consciously or unconsciously, an attack on Jewish identity itself.

However, if one starts from the experience of identity in order to initiate a process of uncovering the specific historical, political and economic factors that construct it, it becomes possible to imagine ways to challenge the structures out of which identities emerge. Liberation is then understood as a process of transformation both of structural and individual circumstances.

Identity, when understood as the outcome of discreet social realities, can be studied as a flexible and ever-changing concept. In this case, the materialist approach to the Jewish question, discussed above, leads to an understanding of how the Civil Religion of the Holocaust and Zionism have played a crucial role, both practically and ideologically, in reinforcing Western colonial expansion abroad, and racism at home.

Jews are essentialised under the banner of Zionism and turned into either active participants of colonisation or shields for state-policy at home and abroad. The duo of Zionism and official remembrance of the Nazi genocide is the contemporary form of the rejection of Jewish people from Western states, which has positioned them – once more – in the firing-line.

It follows from this analysis that a modern struggle for the destruction of antisemitism, far from relying on the state, must pass through the struggle against racism, imperialism, and the state structures that champion them.

It is then not useful to declare, as Rodinson did, that ‘[w]e can at least ask the Jews to not place themselves in the wrong camp or halt the struggle [for a society free of oppression and exploitation]’.[56] This approach accepts – despite his own analysis – that Jewish people have become irremediably homogenised under the influence of Zionism, and benefit from its actions. Furthermore, the evidence, as discussed above, is that this is increasingly challenged from within the Jewish community itself.

It must be demonstrated both in theory and practice that the struggle against antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Western intervention abroad are one and the same. Therefore the struggle for Palestinian liberation and against Zionism is indeed related to antisemitism, but not in the way that it is so often presented. Houria Bouteldja makes this point, when she writes, as an invitation to Jewish communities in France: ‘You are still in the ghetto. What if we got out of it together?’[57]



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* I would like to thank Amelia Horgan, Hannah Dee, Yvon Englert, James Eastwood, Malia Bouattia, Ashok Kumar, Noha Abou El Magd, and Karma Nabulsi as well as the anonymous reviewers, for their comments and advice in the drafting of this paper. All remaining shortcomings are, of course, mine and mine alone. 

[1] Hall 1996, pp. 2–3.

[2] Grossberg 1996, p. 99.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Brubaker and Cooper 2000, p. 16.

[5] Chakravarty and Ferreira da Silva 2012, pp. 369–70. [No such reference in bibliography – MC]

[6] Wolfe 2016, p. 5

[7] Traverso 2016, p. 10.

[8] Traverso 2016, pp. 7–19.

[9] Wolfe 2016, p. 86.

[10] For more detail on these conflicts and different movements, see, for example, Jacobs (ed.) 2001; Frankel 2009; Traverso 2016.

[11] House of Commons Home Affairs Committee 2016, Q13.

[12] House of Commons Home Affairs Committee 2016, Q418.

[13] Raz-Krakotzkin 2007, p. 109.

[14] Miller, Harris and Shindler 2015, p. 15.

[15] Pew Research Center 2013.

[16] Marx 1844.

[17] For a detailed historical discussion of the contradiction involved in the use of antisemitic language in the process of arguing against antisemitic politics in Marx, see Hal Draper’s Marx and the Economic-Jew Stereotype (Draper 1977).

[18] Leon 1942.

[19] Others, beyond the Marxist tradition, have adopted a similar outlook on the relationship between the rise of capitalism and Jewish communities. Yuri Slezkine’s The Jewish Century argues, for example, that the advent of capitalism represents the universalisation of historically Jewish socio-economic roles (Slezkine 2006), while, on the other side of the political spectrum, Niall Ferguson argues that the development of modern capitalism cannot be understood without an analysis of the rise of the house of Rothschild and their financial and trade networks across Europe (Ferguson 1999).

[20] Rodinson 1968.

[21] Traverso 1994, p. 224.

[22] For more on the Bund and its approaches to the National Question, see Jacobs (ed.) 2001. For a summary of the Bundist and Austro-Hungarian Marxists’ contribution to the debate on the Jewish question, see Traverso 1994.

[23] Frankel 2009.

[24] Miller, Harris and Shindler 2015; Pew Research Center 2013; Pew Research Center 2016.

[25] Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2013.

[26] Behar 1997.

[27] Shiblack 1986; Giladi 2006.

[28] Ben-Dor Benite 1997; Chitrit 1997 [No such reference in bibliography – MC]; Shohat 1988.

[29] Orr 1983.

[30] Machover 2013.

[31] Rodinson 1968.

[32] Rodinson 1968, p. 179

[33] Finkelstein 2012, pp. 35–44.

[34] Finkelstein 2012, p. 42; emphasis in the original.

[35] In this context, official reparations from the German government paid to Israel allowed for justice to appear as having been served, while avoiding fundamental structural changes, and financing the Western ‘watch-dog’ in the Middle East.

[36] Finkelstein 2000.

[37] Traverso 2016, p. 117.

[38] Laor 2009.

[39] Traverso 2016, p. 118.

[40] Traverso 2016, pp. 126–7.

[41] Laor 2009, pp. 32–3.

[42] Sartre 2011, p. 152.

[43] This phrase is often attributed to August Babel. There is, however, no evidence that this is indeed the case. It appears that it was a common saying within German socialist circles in the late nineteenth century.

[44] Badiou, Hazan and Segré 2013, p. 15.

[45] House of Commons Home Affairs Committee 2016.

[46] Finkelstein 2012; Miller, Harris and Shindler 2015; Pew Research Center 2016.

[47] National Union of Students 2017, p. 26.

[48] Quoted in Stone 2016.

[49] Open Society Foundation 2016.

[50] National Police Chiefs’ Council 2014.

[51] Quoted in Hooper 2016.

[52] Open Society Foundation 2016, pp. 86–9.

[53] House of Commons Home Affairs Committee 2016, Q430.

[54] House of Commons Home Affairs Committee 2016, Q2.

[55] Community Security Trust 2017.

[56] Rodinson 1968, p. 181.

[57] Bouteldja 2016, p. 69.