T Nation

Zionism is the Problem?


First of all, let me say that Washington's attitude towards the Israelis and Palestinians has been refreshing lately. For all his faults, Obama seems to be putting peace before of the Florida votes he'll be fighting for in a couple of years. Kudos to the US on its position on the issue of settlements.

With that out of the way, here's a nice article by yet-another self-hating Jew.


[i]It's hard to imagine now, but in 1944, six years after Kristallnacht, Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, felt comfortable equating the Zionist ideal of Jewish statehood with "the concept of a racial state -- the Hitlerian concept." For most of the last century, a principled opposition to Zionism was a mainstream stance within American Judaism.

Even after the foundation of Israel, anti-Zionism was not a particularly heretical position. Assimilated Reform Jews like Rosenwald believed that Judaism should remain a matter of religious rather than political allegiance; the ultra-Orthodox saw Jewish statehood as an impious attempt to "push the hand of God"; and Marxist Jews -- my grandparents among them -- tended to see Zionism, and all nationalisms, as a distraction from the more essential struggle between classes.

To be Jewish, I was raised to believe, meant understanding oneself as a member of a tribe that over and over had been cast out, mistreated, slaughtered. Millenniums of oppression that preceded it did not entitle us to a homeland or a right to self-defense that superseded anyone else's. If they offered us anything exceptional, it was a perspective on oppression and an obligation born of the prophetic tradition: to act on behalf of the oppressed and to cry out at the oppressor.

For the last several decades, though, it has been all but impossible to cry out against the Israeli state without being smeared as an anti-Semite, or worse. To question not just Israel's actions, but the Zionist tenets on which the state is founded, has for too long been regarded an almost unspeakable blasphemy.

Yet it is no longer possible to believe with an honest conscience that the deplorable conditions in which Palestinians live and die in Gaza and the West Bank come as the result of specific policies, leaders or parties on either side of the impasse. The problem is fundamental: Founding a modern state on a single ethnic or religious identity in a territory that is ethnically and religiously diverse leads inexorably either to politics of exclusion (think of the 139-square-mile prison camp that Gaza has become) or to wholesale ethnic cleansing. Put simply, the problem is Zionism.

It has been argued that Zionism is an anachronism, a leftover ideology from the era of 19th century romantic nationalisms wedged uncomfortably into 21st century geopolitics. But Zionism is not merely outdated. Even before 1948, one of its basic oversights was readily apparent: the presence of Palestinians in Palestine. That led some of the most prominent Jewish thinkers of the last century, many of them Zionists, to balk at the idea of Jewish statehood. The Brit Shalom movement -- founded in 1925 and supported at various times by Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt and Gershom Scholem -- argued for a secular, binational state in Palestine in which Jews and Arabs would be accorded equal status. Their concerns were both moral and pragmatic. The establishment of a Jewish state, Buber feared, would mean "premeditated national suicide."

The fate Buber foresaw is upon us: a nation that has lived in a state of war for decades, a quarter-million Arab citizens with second-class status and more than 5 million Palestinians deprived of the most basic political and human rights. If two decades ago comparisons to the South African apartheid system felt like hyperbole, they now feel charitable. The white South African regime, for all its crimes, never attacked the Bantustans with anything like the destructive power Israel visited on Gaza in December and January, when nearly1,300 Palestinians were killed, one-third of them children.

Israeli policies have rendered the once apparently inevitable two-state solution less and less feasible. Years of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have methodically diminished the viability of a Palestinian state. Israel's new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has even refused to endorse the idea of an independent Palestinian state, which suggests an immediate future of more of the same: more settlements, more punitive assaults.

All of this has led to a revival of the Brit Shalom idea of a single, secular binational state in which Jews and Arabs have equal political rights. The obstacles are, of course, enormous. They include not just a powerful Israeli attachment to the idea of an exclusively Jewish state, but its Palestinian analogue: Hamas' ideal of Islamic rule. Both sides would have to find assurance that their security was guaranteed. What precise shape such a state would take -- a strict, vote-by-vote democracy or a more complex federalist system -- would involve years of painful negotiation, wiser leaders than now exist and an uncompromising commitment from the rest of the world, particularly from the United States.

Meanwhile, the characterization of anti-Zionism as an "epidemic" more dangerous than anti-Semitism reveals only the unsustainability of the position into which Israel's apologists have been forced. Faced with international condemnation, they seek to limit the discourse, to erect walls that delineate what can and can't be said.

It's not working. Opposing Zionism is neither anti-Semitic nor particularly radical. It requires only that we take our own values seriously and no longer, as the book of Amos has it, "turn justice into wormwood and hurl righteousness to the ground."

Establishing a secular, pluralist, democratic government in Israel and Palestine would of course mean the abandonment of the Zionist dream. It might also mean the only salvation for the Jewish ideals of justice that date back to Jeremiah.[/i]



No thanks. Israel, Palestine, same heavily policed fantasy secular state...None of them are of any real interest to US security, in my opinion. Personally, I have no emotional attachment, and would rather we walk away completely. Completely. And, let winner take all.

However, I find it funny that the smallest example of this political-religious fusion (here, zionism) is consistently singled out by you and others. What, with that great big region of Islamism sitting next door.


LOL at this coming from a Muslim Arab. The reason he hates Zionists so much is that he's so much like them.


I am no great fan of Israel, but they are useful to us in that region. Of course if you don't believe anything that happens in that region has any effect on us then you will disagree.

I also am no great detractor of Israel either. I admire the utterly self interested way with which they conduct their international affairs. They are shrewd and wise and do not suffer from the idiotic global love in that so many modern Americans suffer from. We're useful to them as well. A thing they take full advantage of. It's an alliance I support as long we watch our backs.


When Lixy likes our president, we are fucked.


Let's take Islam and Judaism out of the picture. How do they know who to kill?


By who is sitting on which piece of land?

Edit: After all, the land would still be a limited resource.


Rubbish. If warmongering (Islam) and a sense of undeserved ownership (Judaism) weren't there, it wouldn't be an issue.


Never stopped atheistic communists from killing.

Like I said, land is a scarce resource.


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Obama did manage to get King Abdullah's balls pretty far down his throat. He stopped short of offering himself for sale in the Arab slave markets, fortunately.


But I'm not talking about atheistic communists, I'm talking about Israel. Land may be a scarce resource, but there was no need to take a piece and declare it a new country.


Man, you gotta do stand-up! That, or write a book of humorous anecdotes...especially like the one where a guy commits suicide by fighting zoo animals. Still chuckle about that one.


New country? That piece of land has been in and out of Jewish control for several thousand years.


Well, ok...


Let's see, all the palestinians have to do, it renounce violence against Israel, recognize Israel's right to exist and accept 1967 borders and the problem is solved. There will be a nationally recognized country called Palestine.
It's so hard for them to do something so simple. They don't even have to like Israel, just quit fucking bombing them and it's finished. Sorry, the problem isn't zionism. It's stubbornness, hate and flat stupidity....The palestinian situation, however tragic is self imposed....I feel bad for those who don't agree and are stuck. Those who think that hate and violence against Israel and Jews is fine and necessary get no pity; fuck 'em, go on an starve, just don't do that to your neighbor.


The browns will kill the slightly less browns who will kill the slightly more browns.


Why does there have to be a Jewish state? Most "modern", non-ass-backwards states are not based on religion. Despite a couple whackjobs' narcissistic revision of history, the US was not founded as a religious nations, and certainly not founded/operated as the apparatus of a specific religion... And neither are most countries that are doing "ok". There are exceptions. There are some ass-backwards places that got lucky, and have the resources (for now) to continue to be ass-backwards without being broke. But for the most part, modern, democratic, functional states are not religion specific... and then there is Israel...

Why does Israel need to be a Jewish state? Couldn't it just be a secular-democratic state? It's at that point where Zionism becomes the same type of problem as radical Islam, where something like that is totally unacceptable.

When we act like it's legit for one group to cite their crazy mythology against another group's... that's just crazy. Yeah, there were Jews there thousands of years ago... yeah, there was a Jewish majority... then those same people became mostly Christian for about six hundred years. Then most of those people became Muslim... it's not like the actual makeup of the people in the area has changed that dramatically. It's still basically the sane Semitic tribes (actually it's changed more since 1947 with all those non-Semitic Jews from the States and Europe moving in) that have been there for five thousand years.

Time to stop fighting and grow up.


so by the that logic New Zealanders ought to abandon new Zealand unless your MÄ?ori. same for the United States too.

"If every Palestinian laid down their weapons, there would be peace. If every Israeli lay down their weapons, there would be a massacre." I cant remember who said that, but I absolutely believe it to be true. If you donâ??t believe that Palestinians are in absence of a state due to their own hate filled hearts, I suggest you read up on the Clinton Parameters. Prime Minister Barak agreed to them, Yasser Arafat walked away. I had hoped that once Yasser Arafat had died, there would be peace soon. But any hope of that dwindled the moment hamas forcefully took control.

"Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us", prime minister Golda Meir. And as they send there children out to be suicide bombers, this statement rings more true each day.


actually israel is a secular democratic state. Within israel there are christians and muslims who all live in peace with each other. Approximately 20% of the israeli state is muslim (and no this does not include palestenians). There are also muslims within parliment for that matter. Israel sees its jewish extremists groups as every bit of a problem as they see hamas, and they give them identical jail sentences for identical acts of violence.

Jews are more of an ethnic group, and the vast majority of Jews claim to be atheist. Until 1948 they were the second largest ethnic group to not have its own country. the Kurds are the largest ethnic group to not have its own country.