Samidoun is republishing the following interview, originally published in Spanish, with Liliana Córdova Kaczerginski, co-founder of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), anti-imperialist activist and member of Samidoun Spain. The interview was conducted when she spoke before the Spanish Congress of Deputies on Palestine and the instrumentalization of anti-Semitism allegations to suppress Palestine solidarity, at an event in November 2022 organized by Podemos Unidos.
Liliana Córdova Kaczerginski is the co-founder of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN). Currently residing in Madrid, the Argentinian activist is the daughter of a Jewish Communist who fought in the Vilnius ghetto in Lithuania during World War II in resistance to the Nazis. She was born in Paris as her family struggled to survive, and later lived in occupied Palestine for 14 years. She knows what Judaism, persecution and Zionism entail and has chosen to become a committed activist, opposing the existence of the State of Israel as we know it and supporting the Arab liberation cause. Today, her voice was heard at a conference organized by Unidas Podemos at the Spanish Congress of Deputies on the situation of the Palestinian people.
Q: “Anti-Semitism as an excuse to undermine solidarity with the Palestinian people”. From the title, the discussion seems sensitive…
The fact is that the Israeli state has a very large propaganda apparatus, like many governments and countries, and it is very easy to label as anti-Semitic, or, in other words, racist, the organizations or people who speak out against its policies. This is intended to always disqualify you from the outset as an interlocutor. You have to prove first that you are not an anti-Semite. If you are not a famous politician, an author who has written things and spoken out, how do you prove that you are not racist? This is why we must talk about this issue. Under this mechanism, the mere fact that you criticize the Israeli governments or the Zionist project is reason enough for them to label you and silence you. People are afraid to face this label. And because you are afraid of this, including being called an anti-Jewish racist, you shut up, and that’s how they prevent the public from voicing their criticism. This is the simplest device there is.
In your case, there is also the fact that you yourself are Jewish. To be a Jew and not to defend the State of Israel and its policies is a sin for many.
For them, we are their Achilles’ heel, because they consider that being Jewish means being completely submissive to the Israeli state and its policies and accepting everything of your own free will. Well, yes, one can criticize a little, but not the very essence of the state, which, let us remember, is a state that practices apartheid, as is already well documented today, a state that practices settler colonialism and treats Palestinians who live inside the Israeli state, within the ’48 borders, as second-class citizens who are heavily discriminated against. The fact that we criticize these things, which address the very nature of the regime, is for them a sign that we are traitors or, as some say, a sign of self-hatred. There are also many Jews who dare not speak out.
Internal critiques of Zionism from within are more unrecognized than new, aren’t they?
It’s true, you must see that criticism of Zionism is not a new thing, an original or exotic invention, but that it was born with the creation of the Zionist movement, within Jewish communities which did not want to be drawn into this nationalist project. In Germany or the United Kingdom, where the movement was particularly strong, from 1880 to 1945, these people expressed themselves as Germans or British, with the addition of a Jewish faith or identity. But rejecting a Jewish national project.
For the propaganda apparatus, this is total heresy, it makes us bad Jews, which is almost funny because, for example, there is a group of very, very religious Jews, the Neturei Karta (ultra-Orthodox ), who really practice all the precepts of Judaism, and who are anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian activists. Anti-Zionism can be of all kinds: liberal, religious, leftist, revolutionary… but it is a common critique and it is not new.
Beyond the current crisis, you denounce the origin and the creation of the State of Israel. Why ?
I consider that we are not a people, in the sense of a nation. We are a group of people in many countries, like others, just as there are Protestants in many parts of the world, with many currents, and that does not mean that they will ask for a state, is this not the case? In the U.S. too. Judaism is a religion, but not only a religion, because there are many secular Jews for more than 200 years, including almost half of the Jews today. It is an identity which, of course, can be religious, but also cultural or familial. And each Jewish, human, group living in different countries has its own characteristics and tastes, even from the point of view of religious rites. What Jews in Poland and those in Morocco do and how they live is often very different and don’t have much to do with each other,
It is not written anywhere that each human group must have its own state, otherwise imagine what this world would be like! From the first principle, we consider that the Zionist movement has no basis. Finally, it is based on the same framework as anti-Semitism itself. They insist that non-Jews will always be Judeophobic, because it’s already in the DNA of non-Jews and that’s why Jews must concentrate in one place, to have their army, to defend themselves. We say no, we say that racism is a terrible evil, shared by many human groups, and that the solution is to fight against discrimination and not for each group to create its own small state to protect itself. Protection also lies in having another kind of vision of what humanity is.
It is to fight against Israel and against powerful allies, like the United States…
Everything is not uniform. It is precisely in the United States that people are also very divided. Until 1948 – the year of Israel’s creation – a significant number of Jews did not agree at all with the Zionist project. Then there was the creation of the state and, above all, the 1967 war, which brought the Jews into the Western sphere, because before they were considered a little Western, a little Eastern, they were not admitted with full strength to Western identity… Until 1800, it was very rare for Jews to enjoy equal rights in European countries, for example. But from that time, from 1967 and the war, the West began to look at the [Zionist] Jew in a different way. “He’s strong, he’s smart, he knows how to defend himself, he’s technologically advanced…” they said. This new deal allowed Jews to be seen as equals to other whites, it allowed many Jews who were not interested in Israel or who were clearly anti-Zionists to change their coats and join, alongside a state which was clearly associated with international capitalism. The propaganda aimed to make Zionism hegemonic in all Jewish communities. They succeeded.
How do you see the label “Jewish state” applied to Israel today?
It’s always been like that, a form of sectarianism; I think it’s better that it’s made clear, because it was already this reality; the fact is that since it didn’t have that much influence yet, Israel had to hide a bit, but it was never anything else [than exclusive]. It has always seen itself as a Jewish state. They said there was a difference between being an Israeli Jew or not being one. They had all the privileges and non-Jews, especially Palestinians, were deprived of those privileges. The most terrible is all the policies that relate to land. Not only did they confiscate all the land, but the Palestinian population within the ‘48 borders, the Israeli state, increased dramatically, and at the same time, the Israeli state stole more and more land from them. The forced crowding of the Palestinian Arab population into small areas of land in the Israeli state is appalling (they represent today a little more than 20% of the total.)
What do you think the state that should now exist in the region should look like?
I think there is no other way than to put an end to the Zionist project. This in no way means that the Jews living there should leave or be second-class citizens, full respect for Jewish people who want to stay there and live in a state that will normally be a Palestinian state, because the Palestinians are the majority, especially if the refugees return. A country with collective and individual rights for Jews who want to stay there, without any form of hegemony or supremacy over the Palestinians. I don’t see how you can live with a Zionist state that will always be militarist, expansionist, racist, colonialist…
You can’t imagine a Jewish state that isn’t Zionist, it has no reason to exist otherwise, because even before 1948, it was absolutely acceptable that some Jews wanted to live there, because for some of them it is the Holy Land. But it’s one thing to live like inhabitants and to have rights, obviously, it’s another thing to have a national project. It made sense, from a humanitarian point of view, that Jews persecuted from 1933 and in need of refuge would go there, and it was very good that the Palestinians took in many of them, but again, as residents. There is no reason, if they agree to stay there, as inhabitants, with their rights to religion, culture or language, there should be any problems, because the Palestinian population is very diverse, there are all kinds of communities, not only Muslim or Christian, but also Circassian,
Why do you support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign?
During the first initiative of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, in San Francisco, in 2006, we had already organized an event to support the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign. We have fully subscribed to this vision and these demands and goals, but these remain very basic, and we must go further with Israel. There are two things that are essential conditions, let’s say, to weaken its aggressive policies: one is boycott, divestment and sanctions, a popular blockade carried out by people, institutions, parties and states, from the cultural field to sports, and obviously economic , as was done with South Africa.
And the other is the military weakening of the state, which is more difficult, but which happened in Lebanon in the confrontation with Hezbollah. Now, they do not dare to enter on the ground and hardly by plane. The strength it has in terms of security, defense and intelligence gives it a sort of supremacy that some people themselves fear.
What do you think Spain should do about Israel? Congress, for example, has called for recognition of the Palestinian state.
Most important is imposing sanctions at the governmental level, and not to support any project that could benefit the Israeli economy, including the army. No exchange or trade whatsoever should be encouraged. In international institutions where sanctions are proposed, we must demand from Spain proactive support for this path.
Israel has projects with enormous privileges vis-à-vis Europe, it has arms exchanges. Ending these would be a very important way to show support for the Palestinians and international law, ultimately. It would be anti-colonial support, these are important words, to take the side of the peoples who are struggling. Today, the president, Pedro Sánchez, says that he is doing this with Ukraine. I hear him at the G20, speaking for five minutes about his unconditional support…