Zionism and Antisemitism - International Conference

This conference will examine the interaction between Zionism and antisemitism as it has developed from the late nineteenth century through to the present day. We are interested in exploring this interaction as it developed among Zionists and antisemites, and among Jews and non-Jews more broadly. We welcome proposals that consider this theme as it has developed in theory, in practice, and in the manifold domains of cultural representation.

We seek contributions from across the range of disciplines including history, political science, literary and cultural studies, anthropology, sociology and theology. The conference is open to scholars at any stage of their career, from PhD students to established scholars. Proposals from independent scholars are also welcome. Deadline for paper proposals: 14 November 2016


Political Zionism and antisemitism have been connected ever since the late nineteenth century. From the 1870s, self-proclaimed antisemites regarded Jews as an unassimilable element within their nations and states. Many Zionists confirmed this analysis and found their answer to the ‘Jewish problem’ in their project to create a Jewish state or national home in Palestine. ‘We are one people – our enemies have made us one in our despite…. Distress binds us together,’ wrote Theodor Herzl in The Jewish State, in 1896. For Herzl, as well as for other early Zionists such as Leo Pinsker and Max Nordau, the connection between Zionism and antisemitism was axiomatic. However, for antisemites too, the connections between the two movements were significant. Zionism appeared to confirm their worst fears. Zionism, they argued, demonstrated that Jews would be forever a separate nation, a people that could not be integrated as loyal subjects and citizens.

Today, antisemitism and Zionism remained locked together. The threat diasporic Jews feel as they live their communal lives under the watchful protection of security guards is seen by many as confirmation of the necessity of the Jewish state. For others, most recently Yehuda Bauer and Amos Oz, anti-Zionism is regarded as a species of antisemitism. Radical left-wing voices connect antisemitism and Zionism in different ways. They argue that anti-Zionism sits within an anti-racist tradition that encompasses opposition to antisemitism. For their part, radical Jewish groups propose that it is Israel’s policies of occupation and settlement building that endanger Jews and provoke much of the antisemitism in the modern world.

This is a timely moment for our conference. 2017 will witness the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration which enabled the Zionist movement to build a national home in Palestine and set it on the road to statehood achieved three decades later. It will also mark the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War which led to Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and occupation of territory on the Golan Heights and the West Bank. These events and their aftermath have added new dimensions to the relationship between Zionism and antisemitism and, some argue, have provided conditions for the growth of antisemitic anti-Zionism.

Call for Papers

We welcome proposals for papers that deal across disciplines and that address the political, intellectual and cultural and societal dimensions of one or more of the themes listed below.

• The place of antisemitism in Zionist thought

• The relationship of Zionism and antisemitism among Jews who were not Zionists: including other nationalists such as Bundists and Territorialists and anti-nationalists committed to the life in the diaspora

• Responses to antisemitism and Zionism among non-Jews

• Zionists and antisemitic convergences: politics and policy

• The Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel

• Holocaust memory and Zionism

• The representation of Jewish economic life and culture among Zionists and antisemites

• Israel and the idea of the ‘new antisemitism’

• BDS, anti-racism and anti-Zionism

• Zionism and the far right: past and present

• The presence or absence of antisemitism in Arab and Palestinian responses to Zionism

• Christianity and Zionism: philosemitism and antisemitism

A paper proposal of 200-300 words, together with a brief CV or biography, (of no more than one page) should be sent to Elaine Hudson pearsinstitute@bbk.ac.uk by 14 November 2016.

Speakers will be provided with accommodation in London as well as support towards their travel costs.

David Feldman
Professor of History, Director of the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London

24 May 2017 - 26 May 2017