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US synagogue declares itself to be 'anti-Zionist' 

Tweet from the Tzedek Chicago Synagogue official account [@RabbiBrant/Twitter]
Tweet from the Tzedek Chicago Synagogue official account [@RabbiBrant/Twitter]

The Tzedek Chicago Synagogue has declares itself to be "anti-Zionist" in a statement decrying the creation of Israel as an "injustice against the Palestinian people". The synagogue was established to cater for Jews disenchanted with Israel and sceptical of Zionism generally. It had previously labelled itself "non-Zionist" but changed that to "anti-Zionist" a few days ago.

"Members of Tzedek Chicago voted to affirm anti-Zionism as a core value of our congregation," the synagogue posted on its twitter account. Prior to holding a vote on the matter, members held a lecture on "Torah Beyond Zionism" with Professor Shaul Magid, Distinguished Fellow of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, who asked, "Is Zionist Hegemony Good for American Jewry?"

Cartoon - Criticisms of Israel labelled as antisemitism

Criticisms of Israel labelled as antisemitism – Cartoon [Carlos Latuff/Twitter]

Explaining its decision, Tzedek Chicago said that Zionism — which it describes is "a movement to establish a sovereign Jewish nation state in historic Palestine" — is dependent upon the maintenance of a demographic Jewish majority in the land. "Since its establishment, Israel has sought to maintain this majority by systematically dispossessing Palestinians from their homes through a variety of means, including military expulsion, home demolition, land expropriation and revocation of residency rights, among others."

Citing the human rights reports labelling Israel as an apartheid state, Tzedek Chicago said: "It is becoming increasingly difficult to deny the fundamental injustice at the core of Zionism. In its 2021 report, the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, concluded that Israel is an 'apartheid state', describing it as 'a regime of Jewish supremacy from the river to the sea'. In the same year, Human Rights Watch released a similar report stating Israel's 'deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.'

"Given the reality of this historic and ongoing injustice, we have concluded that it is not enough to describe ourselves as 'non-Zionist' because this neutral term fails to honour the central anti-racist premise that structures of oppression cannot be simply ignored — on the contrary, they must be transformed."

Dismissing the allegation that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, the group said: "It is disingenuous to claim that opposition to Zionism is fundamentally anti-Semitic. Judaism (a centuries-old religious peoplehood) is not synonymous with Zionism (a modern nationalist ideology that is not exclusively Jewish). Since the founding of the Zionist movement in the 19th century, there has always been active Jewish opposition to Zionism."

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The Chicago synagogue's anti-Zionist declaration comes amidst growing anxiety in Israel over the loss of support for the state within communities in the Jewish diaspora. Israel's Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai is reported as saying that, "The disengagement of Jews from the Diaspora is significant, dangerous and negative. We need to force this issue very hard in order for it to be on the agenda."

Tzedek Chicago is the latest to heed the international human rights consensus that Israel is practicing apartheid. Last July, 160 academics called on the EU to stop funding Israeli universities, citing Israel's racist system of segregation. In November, authors around the world backed writer Sally Rooney's boycott of Israel; Rooney also cited the country's apartheid regime.

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