Zionism is a broad and diverse movement, encompassing a wide array of philosophies and solutions to the ongoing conflict. Included under the vast constituency of Zionist thought are progressives and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, war hawks and peace activists, Christians and Muslims, Naftali Bennett and David Ben-Gurion.
In the spirit of good natured discourse, I thought I’d go over this article, show what’s wrong with it, and what’s missing from it. The idea of there being a progressive case for Israel might seem a tad oxymoronic, but anyway…
Let’s start with the opening gambit:
The nucleus of Zionism, the underlying ideology that binds all of these disparate groups together, is the simple acknowledgement that Jews are a people, and the recognition of their inalienable right to self-governance in at least part of their homeland.
There are a few things going on here. Firstly, it’s not an acknowledgement, it’s an assertion, and an assertion that was vehemently opposed by the majority of European Jewry 100 years ago. Further, at the beginning of the 20th century, the only people wanting to describe Jews as a separate people were the antisemites, and the tiny number of Zionist Jews. European Jews, for the most part, viewed Zionism as a tool of the antisemite.
And the question of homeland is also problematic. It only became the homeland after Herzl had considered and dismissed alternative locations for his Judenstaat. Doubly problematic since European Jews, of course, were indigenous to Europe, and Arab Jews were indigenous to the Arab countries they lived in. There were of course a tiny number of Jews indigenous to Palestine, but the vast majority were not.
This inimical typecasting of the Jewish liberation project as an extremist credo denoting fascism and religious fundamentalism has caused great harm to Zionism and, in a less direct sense, to Jews worldwide.
Its not the typecasting that has caused harm. The most dominant Zionist doctrine sets Israel up as the engine of antisemitic bigotry. This is the thinking:
- There is but one Jewish people, and Jews all over the world, regardless of their views, their ethnicity or nationality, are part of this people.
- There is but one Jewish State, and Israel is the home of all Jews everywhere.
So when King Bibi declares this, when he dares to speak for Jews who aren’t Israeli, he is tainting all Jews across the world with the crimes of Israel’s ultranationalist regime and its brand of Zionism. And when this predictably results in generalisations and antisemitism, this feeds back into the the Zionist psyche as a justification for their thinking.
There’s a simple cure for this. Stop referring to Jews as a single people. Jews aren’t a single people. Jews are followers of a faith. Many share an ethnicity, many do not. A Nigerian Jew would not share an ethnicity with a Russian Jew, for instance. And let’s also stop referring to Israel as The Jewish State™, let’s call it the state of Israel, democratic home to all its citizens. It is fundamentally anti-democratic to define the ethnic characteristics of a state independent of its constituency. But Israel’s supporters can’t argue for this until they have recovered from nationalism.
Israel is the first (and probably only) nation state built by a historically dispossessed native people on their ancestral soil.
Except that’s not exactly true. Very few Jews were actually expelled from the region, contrary to Jewish mythology. Mass expulsions simply were not possible at that time. Yes, some Jews will have left the region, but the vast majority did not. The problem with the author’s argument is that many of the ancient Hebrews of course were culturally Arabised over the centuries, and Islamised following the Islamic conquest – so the Zionist conquest of Palestine would undoubtedly have dislodged many people descended from the very bloodline he claims to speak for.
…a comprehensive look at the history behind the conflict paints a…picture…of Arab/Muslim subjugation of indigenous minorities, antisemitic pogroms, Nazi-inspired incitement, collaboration with Hitler, Arab waged wars of genocide (including Israel’s War of Independence), and the resulting refugee crisis on both sides.
Let’s tackle these in order:
Arab/Muslim subjugation of indigenous minorities – Yes, without a doubt. In pre-Zionist Palestine, non-Muslims had dhimmi status, which was essentially a ‘protected non-Muslim’, and paid a tax. Yes, with 21st century eyes it certainly seems a little odd, but considering what else was going on in the world in the eve of empire, it’s pretty tame.
antisemitic pogroms – Not in pre-Zionist Palestine.
Nazi-inspired incitement – Not that I can think of.
collaboration with Hitler – Anti-Palestinian blood libel. Zionists often parade the discredited Grand Mufti to back this point up, who represented no one but himself. The vast majority of Arabs were opposed to both Zionism AND Nazism.
Arab waged wars of genocide (including Israel’s War of Independence) – Based on nothing but air. Even in 1948, surrounding Arab armies tried to intervene in the ethnic cleansing that Zionist terror groups had been conducting for months. If you look closely at the historical record, you will see that Israel has started every single war it has been involved in.
It is equally important to consider how the existence of an autonomous Jewish state ensures us sanctuary in times of need. As a globally oppressed, dominated ethnic minority, the State of Israel is essential to our survival.
A nonsense point. Are Jews safer in Israel than in the US, where they are the most privileged demographic? That’s not an argument, it’s nationalistic wishful thinking.
It stands to reason that if the State of Israel existed just 10 years prior to 1948, the Holocaust would never have happened.
Possibly, but not for the reason the author thinks. Even as late as 1939, Zionism had failed to convince Jews they were part of a single people whose home was in Palestine. The vast majority of Jews fleeing Europe were heading to the Americas, not to Palestine.
Furthermore, antisemites like Lord Balfour were acutely aware that his famous declaration of 1917 had the potential to inflame antisemitic sentiment because it echoed the message of the antisemites; namely Jews are alien, Jews are other, Jews are a separate people who belong somewhere else. That’s why added into the Balfour Declaration was a line about negatively affecting the “the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”. Considering what happened in 1948 to Jews in other countries, his caution was prescient.
Further, Jewish self-determination is a legally recognized right and a fact of international law.
No, it isn’t. At all. All individuals have an undeniable right to self determination. International law has nothing to say on the subject of religious groupings and collective rights in this regard. Doubly rich since Israel is systematically denying the Palestinians the same right he claims for Israel, or specifically for Jews. The very essence of racism.
International law also strictly prohibits the acquisition of territory by war. Any word from the author on this?
International law strictly prohibits the colonisation of occupied territory. Any word from the author on this?
No. Pseudo legal arguments are deployed only to ease the cognitive dissonance of Israel’s so-called progressive supporters. The actual, uncontroversial positions of every single institution of international law are seldom mentioned, sadly.