Zionism — a short note

May 1948: the Jewish state is declared

May 1948: the Jewish state is declared

Someone recently quoted an official of the New Israel Fund (NIF) as saying “NIF is not a Zionist organization.” One might respond “so what else is new?” Although the NIF’s statement of principles begins

The New Israel Fund is dedicated to the vision of the State of Israel as the sovereign expression of the right of self-determination of the Jewish people…

clearly it does not support the idea of Jewish sovereignty — rather, as we can see by examining the causes it supports, it views sovereignty as residing in the will of all of Israel’s citizens.  This is a time-honored position, if not appropriate for a Zionist group. I think the official quoted was being honest and I don’t think there would be much disagreement among them, if NIF leadership would speak openly.

I’m not attacking the NIF today, which I’ve done numerous times in the past. I just want to use this to illustrate a fundamental divide among Jews centering on Israel and Zionism.

Zionism asserts that there is a Jewish people — a nation — and that it ought to have a ‘sovereign expression’, that is, its own country, in its historical homeland.

Nationalism of any kind isn’t popular among those who identify as liberal or progressive. It’s a fundamental part of their official worldview that differences between national groups are inessential, ‘mere’ matters of culture, language, religion, ancestry, etc. As a result, they believe that it is immoral to base political structures on them. So much for any form of nationalism — including Zionism.

That is not to say that they don’t take note of cultural differences. These are the people who like to ‘celebrate diversity’. And they advocate corrective political action when they believe a group has been discriminated against, like affirmative action. But they would justify this only in order to redress an existing imbalance.

The logical extension of this is to post-colonialism, which asserts that existing worldwide political structures are massively unbalanced against ‘people of color’ (which doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with race), and that massive corrective political action, sometimes in the form of violent ‘resistance’ is justified.

This leads to absurd positions, such as the toleration of nationalism and even vicious racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc. on the part of ‘oppressed’ peoples. These behaviors are considered a result of their oppression — post-colonialists blame the ‘oppressor’, never the ‘oppressed’ — and are presumably expected to go away when the oppression is eliminated. Nationalistic aspirations by non-favored groups, like the Jewish people, are rejected. In the event that they conflict with the aspirations of an ‘oppressed’ group — well, I don’t have to draw you the picture.

This explains why the far Left is prepared to tolerate racism, terrorism and the rest when it is directed at Jews by Palestinian Arabs: a supposedly immoral nationalism is being challenged by an ‘oppressed’ group, with all of the special dispensations from normal moral rules that such groups are given.

In an imaginary ‘ideal’ world — one that is impossible given the basic drives of territoriality, tribalism, greed, etc. that characterize the human animal — it would perhaps be possible to give up nations, borders, conscription, security barriers, and many other things that apparently so irk the NIF leadership. But in the real world, the assumption of these ‘ideal’ values — even if they were not accompanied by the pernicious, deliberate tolerance of evil that is post-colonialism — is a form of unilateral disarmament.

Zionism, therefore, is not only an expression of the idea that Jewish culture is best preserved in a Jewish state and an effective response to antisemitism, it is also a response to the incoherent, fundamentally self-contradictory philosophy of post-colonialism.

Happy new year — לשנה טובה תכתבו — to all.

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3 Responses to “Zionism — a short note”

  1. emerald says:

    Actually the Left has historically been fervently in favor of nationalism. Only small factions have opposed it. In the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s the Left was fervently in favor of the national liberation struggles of China, Vietnam, Cuba, African countries, etc. Which goes to show that when the Left supports every struggle for natl liberation EXCEPT that of the Jewish ppl, we can see the the Left is motivated by anti-semitism and displays an astounding ignorance of the history of the Jewish ppl.

  2. Vic Rosenthal says:

    Emerald: The Left hates nationalism in principle. Their ideal is no borders, etc. But then they make exceptions for ‘liberation’ movements because they are a corrective to evil imperialism/colonialism.

    Of course they put the Jews in with the imperialists, so we don’t count as a liberation movement.

  3. emerald says:

    ideologically the only segment of the Left that was historically against nationalism were the Trotksyites. The rest were in favor of national liberation mvmts. That’s why there was such strong support for the National Liberation Front in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s, for example. They would argue the ultimate goal is to go beyond nation states, but in the immediate world, nationalism mainly plays a progressive role. I can’t get into a big debate about this but there are many books that will confirm this.