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Is Zionism patriotism or racism? Big disagreements over a word in use for 125 years

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Is Zionism patriotism or racism? Big disagreements over a word in use for 125 years

In the many debates over language surrounding the war in Gaza, few words are as controversial as “Zionism.”

Its original, most basic definition is Jewish nationalism.

For many, that equates to the right of the Jewish people to have their own state and self-determination in an ancestral homeland after centuries of oppression and ostracism in much of the world. They view anti-Zionism as a fig leaf for bigotry and antisemitism.

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For others, Zionism is a form of modern-day colonialism or racist manifest destiny — the attempt to justify the seizure of contested land in the name of God.

Here’s a review of the history of the word and how competing definitions are inflaming the debate over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

Where did the term come from?

The term “Zionism” first came into use in the late 1800s. It built upon “Zion,” a biblical term for Israel and Jerusalem, and the name of a site in Jerusalem where the temple most historically revered in Judaism was constructed millennia ago.

Its use was championed by a Jewish Austro-Hungarian journalist, Theodor Herzl, at the turn of the 19th century. He made it the label of a movement to send European Jews to an area eventually known as British Mandate Palestine so they could begin forming a Jewish homeland.

Outraged by what he considered the dangerous and prejudicial treatment of fellow Jews in Vienna in the late 19th century, Herzl, trained as a lawyer and a prolific writer, established the Zionist Organization, which explored the mission of creating a Jewish state. The organization eventually had branches in several European cities and attempted to lobby the mostly royal rulers of the day to make the dream of statehood come true.

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“Perhaps our ambitious young men, to whom every road of advancement is now closed, and for whom the Jewish state throws open a bright prospect of freedom, happiness, and honor, perhaps they will see to it that this idea is spread,” Herzl wrote in a pamphlet called “Der Judenstaat” (the Jewish State), which outlined his vision and led to his Zionist movement. It was published in 1896.

Considered the father of political Zionism, Herzl did not live to see a Jewish state. He died of heart disease in 1904.

Did Zionism always envision statehood for Jews in what is now Israel?

In the hearts of most early-day Zionists like Herzl, the ideal was to create their Jewish state in the land between what is now Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. Yet there were other ideas.

In 1903, British colonial rulers in Africa floated the so-called Uganda plan, which would have offered a section of the East Africa Protectorate as a homeland for Jews. (The land would eventually become part of modern-day Kenya.) Some of Herzl’s followers were willing to consider this, but a visit to survey the land found it to be inhospitable.

The Soviet Union proposed a Soviet Jewish Republic in Crimea, Ukraine; Italian fascists proposed a settlement in Italian East Africa. The Nazis at one point proposed shipping Jews to Madagascar. All of those plans were rooted more in ridding the continent of Jews than in giving them a homeland.

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In 1947, after World War II, the United Nations General Assembly officially partitioned British Mandate Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab one; the latter was never established. Arab powers in the region rejected the decision and not long after were at war with the new state of Israel.

How did the concept of anti-Zionism evolve in Soviet Russia?

In the years after Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, many Russian Jews supported and participated in the country that became known as the Soviet Union. Initially, the Soviet Union was favorable to Zionism and the creation of an Israeli state.

But strains of anti-Jewish hatred that had long raged in Imperial Russia and led to waves of pogroms in the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as discriminatory residency and employment laws from Moscow to St. Petersburg, continued to permeate sectors of Soviet society.

As the years went on, and it became clear after World War II that the emerging Israel was going to hitch its wagon to the United States and the West, anti-Zionism became a more formal policy in the Soviet Union.

(The U.S. under President Truman was the first major power to recognize Israel, in 1948; Russia did the same, but Stalin reversed the decision within a year.)

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Russia was home to tens of thousands of Jews, and for decades Soviet authorities refused to permit them to emigrate to Israel.

What was ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’?

One of the most notorious pieces of writing aimed at spreading hate and fear of Jews, “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” was published in Russia in the early 1900s.

It was a fake document that purported to prove that Jews were a cabal sneakily trying to control the world through financial institutions, media and other centers of power. Though the text has been soundly and repeatedly discredited, copies still exist, and some of its portrayals of Jews remain frequent antisemitic tropes today.

What did Zionism come to mean for Jewish people — then and now?

Zionism to many Jewish people means, essentially, patriotism: a political ideology rooted in the establishment — and, later, promotion — of a refuge for Jews who throughout history had to escape pogroms, then a Holocaust aimed at wiping them out.

The Anti-Defamation League defines the concept this way: “Zionism is the movement for the self-determination and statehood for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland, the land of Israel. The vast majority of Jews around the world feel a connection or kinship with Israel, whether or not they explicitly identify as Zionists, and regardless of their opinions on the policies of the Israeli government.”

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There is not consensus, however, among Jews today over the precise definition of Zionism.

For many, it underpins Israel’s right to exist. For the more extreme, such as settlers occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem land claimed by Palestinians, it is used to justify Jewish control of all the land, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

How do others view Zionism?

Over time, the definition and use of the word evolved and took on negative tones among critics of Israel. The U.N. formally declared Zionism a form of racism in a 1975 resolution, which it revoked 16 years later.

To Palestinians displaced by an emerging Israel, Zionism came to symbolize racism and exclusion from what they viewed as their homeland.

Is being anti-Zionist antisemitic?

On this question, there is abundant disagreement.

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Many critics of Israel or Israeli government policy say opposing the expansion of the country’s control over land claimed by Palestinians is not an anti-Jewish or antisemitic position but one of fairness.

Yet many Jews would say denying their right to an unfettered homeland is indeed antisemitic. They say it is clear that the term “anti-Zionist” is being embraced by some anti-Israel demonstrators at U.S. college campuses as a politically correct cover for antisemitic intent.

How has the term been used at campus protests?

At hundreds of pro-Palestinian protests on university campuses in recent weeks, the terms “Zionism” or “Zionist” have been hurled disparagingly against Jewish students and pro-Israel demonstrators.

At UCLA this month, demonstrators stopped Jewish students at checkpoints and demanded menacingly: “Are you a Zionist?” Some said protesters of any faith were welcome but not “Zionists”; one told The Times the word refers to those who adhere to “a very violent, genocidal political ideology that is actively endangering people in Gaza.”

A group of Jewish students at Columbia University — where demonstrations were intense and led to police being called onto the Manhattan campus to break up pro-Palestinian encampments — wrote an open letter this month expressing dismay at the way the term was being bandied about.

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“We proudly believe in the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in our historic homeland as a fundamental tenet of our Jewish identity,” the letter, signed by several hundred students, stated. “Contrary to what many have tried to sell you — no, Judaism cannot be separated from Israel. Zionism is, simply put, the manifestation of that belief.

“We are proud to be Jews, and we are proud to be Zionists,” the students wrote.

In many cases, it seems that the competing definitions have made use of such a misunderstood word problematic.

Ned Lazarus, an international affairs professor at George Washington University in the nation’s capital, said “Zionism” is now used as a litmus test by both sides with an array of sometimes contradictory criteria and components, erupting into a war of narratives and becoming weaponized.

“It should be a question to open a conversation,” Lazarus said, “not shut it down.”

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Trump has 'sort of a pretty good idea' of VP pick, will probably announce during RNC convention

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Trump has 'sort of a pretty good idea' of VP pick, will probably announce during RNC convention

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Former President Trump said he has “sort of a pretty good idea” of who his vice presidential running mate will be but will probably announce his selection during this summer’s Republican National Convention. 

Trump spoke with Fox News’ Aishah Hasnie at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Republican National Committee on Thursday following meetings with the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

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He was asked if his pick was present at any of the meetings.

TRUMP RILES UP FIERY SWING STATE CROWD IN FIRST RALLY SINCE NEW YORK CONVICTION

Aishah Hasnie spoke with President Trump at the Republican National Convention headquarters in Washington, D.C., following his meetings at the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Thursday. (Fox News)

“Probably. I don’t want to go, but I think (it) will probably get announced during the convention,” Trump said. “During the convention. There were some good people and, we have some very good people.”

The convention will be held from July 15-18 in Milwaukee. Trump said that Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, could be on the short list. 

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“And I think I could consider that,” he said. “Yes. I haven’t been asked that question, but he would be on that list.”

Hasnie also asked Trump about his thoughts on President Biden as a father following Hunter Biden’s conviction on federal gun charges. 

“Well, I think it’s a very serious thing,” Trump said. “I understand that whole subject. I understand it pretty well because I’ve had it with people who have it in their family,” referring to the younger Biden’s history of drug addiction. 

BIDEN CAMP JABS AT TRUMP’S ‘FAILED’ BUSINESS RECORD AS FORMER PRESIDENT LOOKS TO SWAY NATION’S TOP CEOS

President Biden says he won't pardon Hunter

President Biden, left, and his son Hunter Biden. (Getty Images)

“It’s a very tough thing. It’s a very tough situation for a father,” he added. “It’s a very tough situation for a brother or sister. And it goes on and it’s not stopping. Whether it’s alcohol or drugs or whatever it may be. It’s a tough thing. And so that’s a tough moment for the family. It’s a tough moment for any family involved in that.”

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Hunter Biden was convicted last week of three felony charges related to the purchase of a revolver in 2018 when he lied on a federal gun-purchase form by saying he was not illegally using or addicted to drugs.

Biden has said he will not use his presidential powers to appeal his son’s conviction. He’s also said in the past that he was proud of his son and that he believes he did nothing wrong. 

Hogan Maryland

Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas on Nov. 18, 2022.  (AP Photo/John Locher)

“As I said last week, I am the President, but I am also a Dad. Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today,” Biden said after the verdict. “So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery.”

Later in his interview, Trump said he hadn’t been asked to endorse former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, for the U.S. Senate. Hogan endorsed Nikki Haley over Trump and did not endorse him during the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. 

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“Yeah, I’d like to see him win,” Trump said. “I think he has a good chance to win. I would like to see him win.”

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Opinion: What a relief. The Supreme Court did the right thing on mifepristone

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Opinion: What a relief. The Supreme Court did the right thing on mifepristone

The same Supreme Court that overruled Roe vs. Wade two years ago on Thursday followed well-established constitutional principles to dismiss a lawsuit that sought to restrict the availability of mifepristone, a drug used to medically induce abortions. The bottom line is that the decision upholds the Food and Drug Administration’s rules for mifepristone. This is crucial for reproductive rights; it is estimated that 63% of all U.S. abortions are now medically induced rather than being performed surgically.

The mifepristone case never should have gotten this far. The challenge to the drug should have been dismissed by lower courts, but the staunchly conservative judges on those courts, out of their desire to restrict abortions, ignored basic rules about who can sue in federal court. We should be thankful that the ultraconservative Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. recognized the error made by the lower courts and unanimously dismissed the case because the plaintiffs had no standing to bring the suit.

The Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone as part of a two-drug protocol to induce abortions in 2000. In 2016, the FDA made the drug more easily available, saying it could be used until the 10th week of pregnancy rather than just to the seventh week. The agency also reduced the number of required in-person clinical visits from three to one, and allowed nurse practitioners to prescribe and dispense mifepristone. Five years later, the FDA eliminated the requirement that mifepristone be administered in person; it had been the only drug with such a restriction.

In 2022, four antiabortion groups and several doctors who opposed abortion brought a lawsuit challenging the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. They filed their lawsuit in the Amarillo division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas where there is only one federal judge. The filing was not accidental. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who was appointed by President Trump, is a well-known foe of abortion rights. He wrote a stunning opinion overturning the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. It was the first time in history any judge had overturned the FDA’s approval of a drug.

A conservative panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit said that Kacsmaryk erred in overturning the FDA’s 2000 approval of mifepristone, but it called the FDA’s actions making mifepristone more available “arbitrary and capricious.” If the Supreme Court had agreed, it would have been much more difficult for those wishing to terminate abortions to have access to mifepristone.

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What both the district court and the court of appeals ignored was the issue of standing. In order to sue in federal court, a plaintiff must show that he or she is personally injured by the action being challenged, as well as showing that the harm is caused by the defendant, and that a favorable federal court decision would remedy the injury. The Supreme Court’s decision Thursday exactly underlined that understanding of standing.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote the opinion for the court, plainly declaring: “Under Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff’s desire to make a drug less available for others does not establish standing to sue.”

At the oral arguments in the case in March, the attorney for the plaintiffs, Erin Hawley, suggested that doctors opposed to abortion could be harmed by the FDA’s mifepristone decisions because they might have to perform one if a woman who took the drug arrived in an emergency room with complications. The justices asked if that had ever happened. She couldn’t point to a single example. As Kavanaugh wrote in his opinion: “The FDA is not requiring [doctors] to do or refrain from doing anything.” Moreover, he noted that federal law protects doctors from having to perform procedures that violate their conscience. “Plaintiffs have not shown — and cannot show — that the FDA’s actions will cause them to suffer any conscience injury.”

The court’s decision is a relief for those who support abortion rights, but it does not change the reality that overruling Roe vs. Wade has led to laws severely restricting reproductive healthcare, including medically induced abortions, in two dozen states. And there is no doubt that antiabortion forces will continue to look for ways to try to restrict the availability of mifepristone, including in lawsuits brought by state governments that already are pending.

Erwin Chemerinsky is a contributing writer to Opinion and the dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law. His latest book is “Worse Than Nothing : The Dangerous Fallacy of Originalism.”

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Biden’s ’pre-9/11 posture’ to blame for ISIS migrants slipping through cracks: expert

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Biden’s ’pre-9/11 posture’ to blame for ISIS migrants slipping through cracks: expert

The Biden administration has put the country on a dangerous “pre-9/11” footing on terrorism, says one expert in the wake of the arrests of eight migrants with alleged ties to ISIS.

“The Biden Administration has done grave damage to information sharing among agencies, with state and local law enforcement, and enforcing travel and immigration consequences against foreign governments that refuse to share information with the U.S.,” Lora Ries, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Border Security and Immigration Center, told Fox News Digital.

The comments come after eight Tajikistan nationals were arrested in a joint operation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force earlier this week. 

While the arrests occurred in New York City, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, a federal source familiar with the sting told Fox News they had gained entry to the U.S. by crossing the southern border illegally.

AUTHORITIES NAB 8 SUSPECTED TERRORISTS WITH TIES TO ISIS IN MULTI-CITY STING OPERATION

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President Biden speaks with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers as he visits the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, on Jan. 8, 2023. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

The source told Fox News the suspected terrorists were “fully vetted” and that nothing was flagged when the eight suspects originally crossed the border, but derogatory information with national security concerns was later flagged, including the individual’s suspected ties to ISIS.

According to a report from the New York Post, at least one of the individuals arrested in the sting had been caught on wiretap discussing how to make a bomb.

“Remember the Boston marathon [bombing]? I’m afraid something like that might happen again or worse,” a source familiar with the arrests told the New York Post.

The illegal entry of the individuals and subsequent release into the country highlighted growing fears about the threat of terrorism emanating from the southern border. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., has been sounding the alarm about such a threat for months, even going so far as to point to Central Asia, where Tajikistan is located, as a potential origin for terrorist attempting to slip into the U.S. during a February press conference.

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ARRESTS OF EIGHT ISIS-TIED MIGRANTS SHOULD BE WAKE-UP CALL FOR BIDEN ON BORDER CRISIS, SENATOR SAYS

During those February remarks, Daines noted that a “high-level individual” warned him that over 50,000 Central Asians had crossed into the U.S. illegally in 2023, with the senator expressing concerns that some of those people could be “part of sleeper cells for a possible terror attack on our soil.”

Daines doubled down on those concerns after the latest arrests, telling Fox News Digital he hopes the news serves as a “wake-up call” to President Biden.

“I’ve been sounding the alarm for months that Joe Biden’s wide-open southern border is leaving our homeland wide open to potential terrorists,” Daines said. “This news is not surprising – but if it’s not a wake-up call to Biden and the Democrats, I don’t know what will be.”

Those concerns have also been echoed by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who warned the Senate Appropriations subcommittee last week about the threat of a coordinated attack in the U.S. similar to the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) attack at a Russian concert hall earlier this year.

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Ries believes some of that wake-up call should be to encourage better information sharing among agencies when it comes to vetting individuals crossing the border, arguing that some individuals like those arrested this week are able to slip through the cracks.

Christopher Wray testifying before Congress closeup shot

Christopher Wray, director of the FBI. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“A person can cross the border with a clean background or be from a country that doesn’t share criminal and terrorism information with our government,” Ries said. “That person can then subsequently come under U.S. investigation and trigger terrorism concerns.”

 That type of information sharing has yet to happen, Ries said, noting that such issues were also flagged as a reason the 9/11 attacks went on undetected.

“The 9/11 Commission called out some of these very same issues as reasons that led to the 9/11 terror attacks,” Ries said. “Biden has returned the U.S. to a pre-9/11 posture.”

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The White House did not immediately respond to a Fox News Digital request for comment.

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