Home Perspectives Opinions Lieblein: There’s a difference between Jewish nationalism and ‘white nationalism’

Lieblein: There’s a difference between Jewish nationalism and ‘white nationalism’


White nationalists and people sympathetic to white nationalism are increasingly complaining that they’re being treated unfairly. They don’t understand what’s wrong with wanting to secure a future for themselves and their children. They don’t understand what’s wrong with saying “It’s OK to be white.” They want to know why other groups – let’s say Jews – are allowed to have Jewish identities and (nominally) Jewish states, but they’re not allowed to have a “white identity movement” and a white “ethnostate.”

Ask them to explain what “white identity” is, though, and they won’t be able to tell you.

Intentionally or unintentionally, the “white identity movement” pays a striking lack of attention to defining what “whiteness” and “white identity” actually mean. Beyond preoccupations with “white genocide” and “replacement” through “mass immigration,” it is difficult to determine what the actual priorities of the “white identity movement” are, or how its existence benefits white people in any way.

By contrast, the question of “Who Is A Jew?” and discussions about Jewish identity centre around different expressions of culture, religion, history and tradition as much as the need to band together and fight external enemies. Indeed, you can find parallel conversations in every religious and ethnic community. Some of these debates lead nowhere, and some are even violent. But their presence indicates that the particular community is engaged in a process of self-definition – one that the “white identity movement” ignores.

It is true that the State of Israel was formed in response to anti-Semitism, and that Jewish nationalism played no small role in its establishment. Israel was born in, and through, violence. But Israel was never intended to be a mere “ethnostate,” solely for the protection and perpetuation of the Jewish race, and ever since its establishment Jews have been questioning the circumstances of its creation.

So, just in case it wasn’t completely obvious before, we have established that there is a difference between Jewish identity and Jewish nationalism on the one hand, and “white identity” and “white nationalism” on the other. It is because of this difference that attempts to argue that “Zionism is racism” or that Israel is a white supremacist project have failed. (Indeed, Israel’s most effective critics allege that Israel is acting like, or sounding like, white nationalists, thereby implicitly acknowledging that there is a difference between the two.)

But more than that: the white identity movement’s refusal to define what, specifically, is positive about being white is what prevents it from being anything more than a hate movement.

Given the choice, I’m sure most of us would be fine with a movement that didn’t try to build white people up by tearing other groups down. This is a big part of what Jewish communities do: defining Jewish identity in terms of holidays, food, religious study, humour, and through the examples of Jews that have achieved success in politics, art, science and sports. This isn’t just PR — it is done to ensure the failure of the white identity movement’s campaign to define Jews as malicious parasites that try to undermine the societies in which they live. If Jewish communities were to prioritize criticism of white people, or any other group, then it would be easy to define them by their worst attributes.


The not-very-convincing reply to all this is that Jews exert such total control of the discourse that white people must assert themselves through violence. There is much to criticize about this argument, but perhaps the most mind-boggling thing is the implication that, somehow, white people have consented to an arrangement where they are unable to express themselves.

And here we see, finally, what the “white identity movement” is really all about: hopelessness, nihilism and despair. It doesn’t give white people anything tangible to be proud of because it doesn’t actually want white people to be well-adjusted and contributing members of society. It wants to convince members that they are at the mercy of all-powerful forces so that they will be easier to control — and so that they will be more open to committing acts of violence against Jews and other minority groups.