Ari Shavit sees himself as the conscience of Israel – as he would like it to have been, the Israel of its early years. Jerry Haber and Avram Burg take him to task for this refusal to see that the ‘Palestine problem’ began not in ’67 but in 1948 (at the very latest). Those who love Shavit for his writing love him for the illusions he peddles and in which he immures himself. His ‘Promised Land’ was never a promise that zionism could fulfil.
Here Ilan Pappe adds to the growing body of Jewish thinkers who are wrenching their Jewishness away from the dominant voices of Jewish and Christian Zionists. That Zionism has merged with religious nationalism and a militarily powerful state – offensive to religious Jews who believe Judaism is about God and not state-building and to Jews who believe their tradition centres on justice and kindness to strangers and neighbours.
‘There needs to be a mass and peaceful movement for Palestinian freedom for unless it is peaceful the justification by the Israelis for the activities of the IDF will always be made’ wrote David Ward during his 2012 visit to the West Bank. The rebukes he has since delivered about Israeli treatment of Palestinians are the same as those made by Palestinians and Jews, in and outside Israel. His tweet, naively or wilfully fails to make clear that is it is an apartheid system in, not the existence of, Israel which he questions. His judgment of an imminent demise is questionable.
For decades after antisemitism became a murderous project (a time when the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ was coined in reaction) Christians and Jews have engaged in serious inter-faith discussion. Now, warns Robert Cohen, this has taken a new form. Instead of Christians abominating Jews as ‘Christ-killers’ some declare that Christianity superseded Judaism 2000 years ago.The integrity of Judaism is also threatened by Zionism which gives the religion a teleological deviation: that the purpose of Judaism has ever been the founding of the Jewish state.
In this powerful article, Idan Landau writes that the soundtrack to the building of zionism is the rumble of destruction. Since its creation, the state of Israel has routinely smashed down the homes of Palestinians, leaving the families homeless, their belongings either broken or scattered. How is it that Israelis take this sound of the devastation of human life to be ‘normal’, not deserving a second look or a first question?
If Jews are defined as a separate ‘race’ there is little to choose between antisemitists and zionists in their desire to get Jews out of Europe, argues Joseph Massad in a patchy survey of beliefs about race and Jews. (He ignores the distinctive zionist fanaticism for state-building). He mourns the defeat of the Jewish ‘Haskalah’ (enlightenment’) which sought to integrate Jews in European modernity and, in the cold war, as ‘white’ people – news to the Rosenbergs’ family. Mira Sucharov takes issue with the omission of Liberal Zionism which defines the Daily Beast for which she writes.
Two takes published in Ha’aretz on a conflict rocking the Zionist establishment in the UK. 1) from Hannah Weisfeld director of Yachad, a pro-peace organisation – Zionist but not Zionist enough for the Zionist Federation and 2) from Anshel Pfeffer who can’t believe that Zionism should be defined by the ‘Jerusalem programme’ which most Zionists, in Israel and out, have never heard of. So read two of its versions, 4).
Shlomo Sand is a history professor at Tel Aviv University. His charismatic, readable style was evident in his previous book The Invention of the Jewish People, the English edition of which kicked up quite a controversy in 2009. The title alone seemed designed to shock. Sand’s new book, The Invention of the Land of Israel, is essentially a direct sequel, focusing on the nature of an idea central to Zionism: the “Land of Israel”…
Matthew Graber interviews Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions about his views on one state. In the excerpt here, Halper draws a clear distinction between the early desire of Jews to settle safely in Palestine and what then became the ethnocratic system in full denial of Palestinians. It is not colonial, he says, because colonists, unlike Israeli Jews, had a ‘home’ they could and did return to.
Despite its origin as a secular state, modern Israel has increasingly relied on fervent religious Jews to expand its boundaries and justify their seizure of land. Palestinians have lost the most but Israeli women also find their boundaries have shrunk as orthodox Jews venture into the public realm to lay down the rules on how women should behave and dress. Nira Yuval-Davis talks to Deniz Kandiyoti.
The hardline minister of the interior, Eli Yishai, has given Sudanese immigrants (who cannot get legal Israeli status) until October 15 to leave Israel. If they don’t, they will be transported to the vast new detention centre the government is building in the Negev before expulsion. This is to “to preserve the Jewish and Zionist character of the state for our children”. An estimated 60,000 East Africans live in Israel.
A myth is a story people tell themselves. It has elements of truth and of untruth, reality and fantasy. Joel Beinin reviews three authors whose subject matter is the reality and the myths of antisemitism , of Israel as a progressive country, and how through history the left and the right have adopted or resisted these.
Israel’s education ministry has ordered schools to ‘educate’ children in Zionist values, Jewish practices and national state symbols. The aim is to produce a unified national culture – excluding those who are neither Jewish nor Zionist. The narrowness of what Zionism means here is apparent in the dismissal of the national civics supervisor who approved a textbook highlighting ‘post-Zionism’ and the ethnic rifts in Israel.
Most of what is done in the name of Zionism is abhorrent to progressive Jews. Here Jerry Haber traces the hidden current of thought, based on Judaic religious teachings, which puts first the principles of truth, love, peace, justice. If practised, the expropriation of Palestinian land and human rights would, at least, be challenged by religious Jews. This is the second part of a 2-part posting on Orthodox Judaism.
Uri Avnery examines the ways in which the meanings of Zionism have changed since the 1890s and especially since the founding of Israel. He recounts how and why he coined the term ‘post-Zionism’ – as a word for the redundancy of this ideology which is thus still useful.
The term Islamophobia has been used since the 1920s, but only became widespread after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Since then of course there have been many books about it asking what is new about it, why, and is it a form of racism. Here, Alex Kane of Mondoweiss interviews Deepa Kumar about her forthcoming book, ‘Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire’, in which she adds Zionism as a new ingredient.
In a slow and painful account Rabbi Brian Walt describes his journey from being a keen zionist in apartheid South Africa to understanding, via a visit to the West Bank, that the democratic Jewish state is an illusion and zionism – the ‘religion of American Jews’ – a discriminatory ethno-nationalist system. Now he works to separate Judaism, with its central tenet of justice, from zionism.
The ideal of Zionism was realised through military power and since Israel’s foundation, writes Uri Yaakobi Keller, the country’s rulers have been obsessed with maintaining their military power, including with the nuclear bomb, at the expense of any thought about the consequences. This period of an American presidential election is particularly dangerous.
Jerry Haber takes up the new myths about Israel — that it is a nest, a safe place for Jews and the nursery of Jewish culture – and finds they are without merit. The revival of Hebrew predates Zionism and if Israel is under existential threat, nowhere is less safe for Jews. The myth does not justify the refusal of Palestinians’ right of return to their homeland.
Now widely seen as the ideology of Jewish domination in Israel/Palestine, Zionism has not been in such bad odour since the term was coined in the 1880s. Does the qualification of ‘Liberal’ make Zionism an acceptable aspiration for Jews seeking a safe, self-determining, homeland? Or are the conflicts between Jewish supremacy and democracy too great? Rebecca Steinfeld and Hannah Weisfeld debate.