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Zionism Is Over
It doesn’t delight me to say it, since it’s part of the fallout from a holocaust happening in real time. It would upset my parents if they were alive.
I wrote here about Jewish pre-Zionist history, my own in particular. Zionism was nothing at all until the 19th Century, as elaborated here. It still wasn’t much until after World War II. As cited above, there were other rich Jewish histories occurring outside the Mideast. As for history in the days of the Bible, as far as I’m concerned it’s myth, on the same level as the resurrection of Jesus and the loaves & fishes. It’s true that small communities of Jews lived in Israel for thousands of years, but that hardly grants anybody any special claim to the land.
By the end of World War II, if not earlier, I think it is fair to say the Jews of Europe were an oppressed nation. They were entitled to liberation.
Now the only authentic claims are based on the status quo. Israel isn’t going away. Forcing it to would be unjust and impractical. At the same time, no less unjust would be visions of expelling Palestinians from where they resided last year, and even 75 years ago. To me it’s not a question of rights. It is that blowing up the status quo by forced displacement or worse entails massive suffering. It also happens to pose risks to peace in the wider world, in this case should the U.S. get snookered into a war with Iran.
From a liberal standpoint, a more inviting version of Zionism brewed in the 20th Century, I would say with the inspiration of, or the need to compete with, secular left-wing Jewish activism. It foresaw settlements of the land by collectives founded on Jewish labor. The conflicting impulses were the socialist nature of the settlements, a.k.a. the kibbutz, contrasted with the intention of excluding non-Jewish labor. Socialism plus chauvinism. Even so, there was idealistic Zionism that tended to gloss over what would become of the Arab residents of the land of milk and honey, and there is now really-existing Zionism. The older vision is gone.
The right wing of Zionism did not have the same scruples about employing Arabs to help build the nation. In any case, Israel’s founding leaders were labor Zionists. Several different flavors of their politics dominated the country. That all ended with the rise of Menachem Begin and ascendance of the Zionist right to power.
Not for the first time, liberation has been carried to profoundly immoral extremes. Zionism is now energetically filling out its chauvinist roots by accelerating its efforts to expel non-Jews (Christians too) from its territory. That’s why I say Zionism is over. Its deepest support in the West depended on left-of-center Jews. This support is now being washed away, especially in younger generations.
I’ve been on a liberal/leftish listserv for years that is now in a bit of a crisis. It is claimed that the interpersonal rhetoric on Israel has become too toxic. I would disagree. Maybe that’s because I am a toxic source myself. I don’t think so, and I try not to be. It is rather that events have made dialog difficult, because Israel’s apologists have run out of arguments. Or better to say, the Netanyahu regime has blown up their arguments. It’s hard to accept.
Even as Israel alienates all but the most rabid neo-fascist political constituencies in the West, its crimes in Gaza and the West Bank will echo for hundreds of years, to the detriment of Jews everywhere.
Zionism is over, but antisemitism is forever.
P.S. I felt like adding this while writing the original post but did not. After thinking a bit more, I decided this subject is so hot it pays to eliminate any ambiguity. So: no Jews are responsible for antisemitism. Any such bigotry is the responsibility of whoever upholds it.
It remains the case that the actions of the state of Israel will endanger Jews everywhere for centuries to come. People need scapegoats for all sorts of grievances. Jews are the ready-made, default, go-to scapegoats. Always have been. The associated harm waxes and wanes. Now it is getting much worse, to the point where if I was younger I would worry more about being a victim of it myself.
I would also like to note that the terminology “Jewish state” favored by Israel itself is contestable. The state enjoyed the support of imperial powers at its dawn and certainly flourishes based on its support from the U.S., which began as an elite policy but has come to rest substantially on the depraved views of certain Christians who themselves envision an end to the Jewish people.