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Critique History Humanities Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

TERFism, Zionism, and Right-Wing Annihilationism: Toward an Internationalist Genealogy of Extinction Phobia

By C. Heike Schotten, 2022

This article traces the emergence of what the author calls predation TERFism to the development of US Jewish-identified feminism and, in particular, Zionist lesbian separatism. This historical connection is reflected in the rhetorical and ideological similarities between predation TERFism and Zionism, both of which are defined by an “extinction phobia” that confuses oppressor and oppressed, presenting the subordinate party as capable of eliminating the dominant one. This extinction phobia transforms into “right-wing annihilationism” via a dehumanization of the subordinate party as innately harmful and therefore requiring elimination; hence the hallmark predation TERF abjection of trans women as rapists of cis women and the Zionist abjection of Palestinians as “savage” and/or “terrorist.” These connections can be obscured by the siloization of social justice movement work in the United States, wherein anti-colonial and anti-imperial organizing is often separated from organizing for gender and reproductive justice and sexual freedom. Recognizing the continuities, however—whether historical, material, or ideological—between predation TERFism and Zionism offers useful lessons for understanding not only the power of the contemporary global anti-trans resurgence, but also how we might build solidaristic, anti-colonial movements to defeat it.

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