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.