Soccer Dad currently has a good post
on Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism, and I would like to use it as a springboard for some thoughts of my own. He writes, "Zionism means believing that there is a historical connection between Jews and Israel." He is right that the word is often used in this sense and that the kind of extreme anti-Zionism espoused by the Palestinians usually means to deny this historical connection, one which is obvious to any educated person.
However, Zionism in its historically conscious sense means the political movement that sought to establish a modern nation-state in Israel. This has now been achieved and the original immediate aim of Zionism has now become a moot point. Partially because of this, the word Zionism is often used now, especially by anti-Zionists, to designate any support at all for the state of Israel. Since there is a spectrum of possible meanings for the word Zionism, there is also a spectrum of possible anti-Zionisms.
I think it makes sense to separate the word "Anti-Zionism" from the word "Anti-Semitism." The latter term refers to hostility or prejudice directed at the Jewish people. We tend often to identify "Anti-Zionism" with "Anti-Semitism" because the extreme forms of Anti-Zionism carry bias to the point of bigotry and clearly involve a desire to harm the interests of the state of Israel, a desire that can hardly be said to coexist with a neutral or benevolent attitude towards the Jews that live there--and indeed all Jews (since all Jews have a stake in the connection between the People of Israel and the Land of Israel).
Nevertheless, the Jewish People and the State of Israel are not identical entities. Bigotry towards one, at least theoretically, is not automatically bigotry towards the other. What is clearly needed is a recognition that Anti-Zionism is often a kind of bigotry in its own right. Even extreme anti-Zionists may take pains to avoid anti-Semitism, but that does not exonerate them, it merely means that they exemplify a different sort of bigotry. The notion, for instance, that Modern Israel is a "European" country whose residents all have European "homelands" is a bizarre distortion which in practice is paired with the intent of harming the interests of millions of Jews. Is it Anti-Semitic? This may depend on what you mean by the word "Anti-Semitism," and perhaps the best way to avoid semantic quibbles is simply to affirm that it is a bigoted belief no matter what it is labeled.
So I think that maintaining the distinction bewteen anti-Zionism and anti-Semtiism may actually provide some clarity in the face of people who claim that they are being labeled "Anti-Semites" for mere criticism of Israel. The answer to such poeple is that they if are entertaining beliefs about Israel that no informed objective person can entertain or exhibiting an extreme tendency to single out Israel, they may not be "Anti-Semites" per se, but they are bigots all the same.
Related Earlier Post: Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism