“Anti-Zionist” activism: then and now

I take Saul O’s point that the BDS campaign against Israel is in some ways disturbingly reminiscent of Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses in the 1930s. But I think it’s more accurate to compare most of today’s anti-Israel activism to the Soviet Union’s campaign against Zionism, which began in earnest after the 1967 war and continued into the 1980s. One focus of that campaign was contrasting “good” Jews (the supposed majority who rejected “Zionist imperialism”) with “bad” Jews (those who supported Israel, or wanted to emigrate there).

In 1983 the Soviet government established the “Anti-Zionist Committee of the Soviet Public,” with carefully-chosen Jewish members. The Los Angeles Times reported on June 7, 1983:

A Soviet organization called the Anti-Zionist Committee of the Soviet Public launched a propaganda campaign yesterday designed to counter Western influence on Soviet Jews and discourage them from trying to emigrate.

The committee, led by David Dragunsky, a retired Jewish general, purports to speak on behalf of Soviet Jewry. Its members told a news conference that most of the Soviet Jews who wanted to emigrate have already left. They said their goal was to protect those who remained from the unhealthy effects of “Zionist propaganda.”

“The time is now for us to make more concerted efforts to counter international Zionism and rebuff the anti-Soviet campaign it mounts,” said Mr. Dragunsky, who appeared at the Government Press center with seven other Jewish members of the officially sanctioned committee.

“We will use every method to save Soviet citizens from these pernicious ideas,” said Mr. Dragunsky, who wore the uniform of a three-star general.

Meanwhile the Soviet Union was suppressing Jewish cultural and religious life, and Jews were subject to arrest for teaching or studying Hebrew.

It turned out Dragunsky and the others were, like Rick in “Casablanca,” misinformed when they said most of the Jews who wanted to emigrate from the Soviet Union had done so. When they finally got the chance, 1.6 million Jews and their family members departed— almost a million of them for the Zionist state.

As for Dragunsky, he died in Moscow in 1992– but not, I hope, before realizing how he had been played for a fool.

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