Zionists I would want on my side

It's been one of those fortnights. So much so that, in the bookshop at Jewish Book Week last Sunday, I spotted a coffee-table effort with an octopus on the cover and wearily thought "another tome on antisemitism", before closer inspection showed it to be a book on Venetian cookery.

I'd spent two weeks, following a piece for The Times on the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, being subjected to a constant, low level buzz of online innuendo. There had been the chap who, in the online comments, referred darkly to the "real reasons" for the war, and the "people who really decided" that it should happen. He knew and I knew what he meant and I felt very cross about it until I realised that if we were the only two adepts who understood his comments then they probably weren't very effective propaganda.

Most of the low-level Jew-blaming happened, as much does these days, on Twitter. For example, someone linked Iraq to "Zionism", then told me I was a Zionist and almost finally - having carefully cultivated an "I'm talking about Zionists not Jews" stance - suggested that I took payment from Rupert Murdoch in "shekels".

On having it pointed out to him that even writers with Jewish names get paid in Britain in sterling and that it was pretty dubious to suggest otherwise, he then expressed his "disappointment" at being falsely labelled anti-Jewish when he was only (wait for it) anti-Zionist.

Those are two of dozens of examples, but not hundreds, so it's dispiriting rather than threatening. But one thing stands out for me every time it happens. I am always "accused" of being a Zionist. Always. As I have already written here, the sense of this is to move the word from being a neutral noun to being an insult.

As I have also written here, I am not a Zionist. I do not believe in the desirability of Jews to go to Israel, or myself feel any extraordinary affinity with Israel.

But I understand why people do, and that - of course - makes me a Zionist. You must be one, I'm told, because you support Israel's right to exist; you must be one because you deny the Palestinian right of return; you must be one because you refused to condemn Israel's attack on Hizbollah, you must be one because you supported the Iraq war, which of course was in Israel's interests.

Being a non-Zionist who is continually accused of being a Zionist by anti-Zionists, I therefore read of the decision of the Zionist Federation to, in effect, declare Yachad (an organisation that believes itself to be Zionist) as non-Zionist, with something approaching incredulity.

Here are all these anti-Zionists making out that everyone is a Zionist and here are all these Zionists making out that no one can be one - unless you pass Zionist A level, in which question one is: do you think whoever is Prime Minister of Israel is beyond criticism, yes or yes?

I had heard little of Yachad (which like most organisations with Hebrew names sounds like a sneeze) before this contretemps. But I recognised the sectarian impulse behind the ZF's act of denial. You can only be a proper Zionist if you're a Zionist like I'm a Zionist. It's the mirror image of you can only not be a Zionist if you're not a Zionist like I'm an anti-Zionist.

So I looked at Yachad's prospectus, and I thought that, if I were a Zionist, then I would certainly want this lot on my side. They love Israel but think its future is best safeguarded by being far more active and imaginative when it comes to talking to the Palestinians.

That Israel may have to concede a bit to succeed a lot. And if I were a Federation of Zionists I would want to include Zionists who don't conform to anti-Zionists' caricatures of what Zionists are. I'd say "Yachad? Bless you!"

    Last updated: 10:45am, March 8 2013