The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has urged Gale, a publishing company that is part of Cengage Learning, to remove a chapter on Zionism that Gale included in its publication entitled Encyclopedia of Race and Racism. In a letter to Patrick C. Sommers, Gales president, which was copied to the president and chief executive officer of Cengage Learning, the ZOA said that Zionism is the expression of the Jewish peoples yearning to return to their historical and religious homeland in the Land of Israel. The Jewish people also have a legal right to the land, as recognized by the League of Nations in 1922 . . . and then later by the United Nations. Zionism has nothing to do with race or racism, and thus does not belong in a reference book about those topics. (To read the ZOAs letter, click here.)
Prior to the ZOAs letter, Gales executive vice president and publisher had justified the inclusion of the chapter, relying on explanatory statements by the encyclopedias editor in chief, John Hartwell Moore. The ZOA characterized those comments as uninformed, disturbing, and frankly reek[ing] of anti-Semitism.
According to Mr. Moore, Jews may be considered racist because their Torah describes them as G-ds chosen people and that as a result, they consider themselves superior to other races. The ZOA refuted his claim, emphasizing that any discussion of the concept of Jews being the chosen people cannot include a discussion of race, because Jews are racially diverse. The almost six million Jews, from more than 100 countries, who are Israeli citizens include people of all colors and physical characteristics.
Moreover, the ZOA explained that the concept that the Jews are a chosen people has nothing to do with Jews racial superiority or a belief in their entitlement to special privileges. The ZOA stated, Essentially, the concept means that the Jewish people have pledged to fulfill certain obligations to G-d and to other people . . . the concept of chosenness relates to Jewish responsibilities, not racial superiority. According to the ZOA, Mr. Moore completely twisted this biblical concept, thereby feeding a distasteful, age-old anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews as an arrogant and supremacist people.
In justifying including the chapter on Zionism in the encyclopedia, the editor in chief also stated that Jews themselves widely used the term Jewish race in the years before the rise of Nazism without embarrassment, and that this is still the preferred term among Orthodox Jews, as can be observed by browsing their web sites. The ZOA challenged that claim, noting that many ethnic groups that might be deemed Caucasian today were not thought to be of the same race in the 19th century. Encyclopedias from that time referred to such groups as Swedes, Norwegians, Germans, Greeks, Finns, Italians, Spanish and Russians as members of separate races. Jews were likewise considered a separate race at that time. As to the claim that Orthodox Jews prefer the term Jewish race today, the ZOA described that as nonsense. In fact, Orthodox Jews consider Judaism a religion; race is irrelevant.
Finally, in justifying the chapter on Zionism in the Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, the editor in chief claimed that the Zionists emphasized the chosen people theme to get political support for the founding of a Jewish state in Palestine after World War I. According to the ZOA, this so-called theme was irrelevant to the Jewish peoples desire to return to their historic and religious homeland in the Land of Israel. The ZOA explained in its letter to Gale that over the course of history, when Jews were enslaved or expelled from their homeland, there were always Jews living on the land, especially in Jerusalem, which is a matter of historical record. For those who had been dispersed to other lands, they never gave up their hope of returning to the home of their ancestors, a hope expressed in their daily prayers, as well as on Passover, Yom Kippur, under the wedding canopy, and on Tisha BAv, the annual day of mourning for the destruction of the first and second Temples. Nineteenth century Zionism was an expression of that long-held dream that Jewish sovereignty be re-established in the Land of Israel.
The ZOA also challenged the editor in chiefs erroneous claim that if the Zionists influenced the State of Israel to divide its citizens into racial categories and grant privileges to Jews while discriminating against others . . ., that is a topic that properly belongs in an Encyclopedia of Race and Racism. The ZOA emphasized that Israel is the only established democracy in the Middle East. More than 20 percent of Israels citizenry (amounting to over one million citizens) are not Jewish; almost all of them are Arab Israelis and most are Muslims. They have equal rights with Jewish citizens.
Arabic, like Hebrew, is an official language of the State of Israel. Arab Israelis have the right to vote, and are members of the Knesset, Israels parliament. They are judges (including on the Supreme Court), they have held various government positions, they have their own political parties represented in the Knesset, and they have complete and equal access to the courts and to education. The only legal distinction between Jewish and Arabic citizens of Israel is one of civic duty; Arab citizens are not required to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.
According to the ZOAs letter to Gale, Israel, like other countries, has immigration polices that place restrictions on obtaining citizenship. That it confers an automatic right of citizenship on foreign-born Jews, however, is not racism. To the contrary, it is a feature of immigration policy that exists in many democratic countries whose ethnic groups have been scattered by conquests or migrations or dispersion by force, such as preferential immigration policies for ethnic Germans in Germany, and for ethnic Hungarians in Hungary.
The ZOA explained that [n]on-Jews can become citizens of Israel by complying with procedures that are similar to the procedures used by most democratic countries throughout the world. When at one point, Israel restricted the ability of Palestinian Arabs from Judea, Samaria and Gaza from obtaining Israeli citizenship, this was not a racist policy, but rather a necessity, in order to protect the lives of Israeli citizens who were facing a wave of Palestinian Arab terrorism that broke out in 2000 and claimed almost 2000 innocent Israeli lives and maimed more than 10,000 Israelis.
The ZOA pointed out that our government has recognized that the anti-Zionist rhetoric you are promoting . . . is a manifestation of anti-Semitism. The ZOA referred to the U.S. State Departments report on contemporary global anti-Semitism, which stated that the distinguishing feature of the new anti-Semitism is criticism of Zionism or Israeli policy that whether intentionally or unintentionally has the effect of promoting prejudice against all Jews by demonizing Israel and Israelis and attributing Israelis perceived faults to its Jewish character.
The ZOA also referred to the Findings and Recommendations issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2006, after it studied the problem of anti-Semitism on American college campuses. The Commission found that anti-Israel and anti-Zionist propaganda can be manifestations of anti-Semitism, emphasizing that [a]nti-Semitic bigotry is no less morally deplorable when camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism.
Morton A. Klein, the ZOAs National President, urged Gale to remove the chapter on Zionism from future editions of the Encyclopedia of Race and Racism: Gale claims to be a publisher of accurate and authoritative educational reference materials. But its decision to include a chapter on Zionism in a reference book about race and racism is outrageous and racist itself. Zionism has nothing to do with race or racism. Gale needs to take immediate steps to rectify the harm it is doing by promoting anti-Zionist propaganda based on falsehoods and omissions. Otherwise, Gale puts into question its claim that it values accuracy and scholarship in its publications.