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National identities have consequences

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Newishlawyer, in the comments to my previous post:

I think there is an unwarranted assumption that Zionist=Likkuidnik in general.

I consider myself a Zionist. I have never been a fan of Likkuid or Hamas. I’m absolutely on the side of people like Rabin. Yet sometimes it feels like when I say I support the idea and right of a Jewish state to exist, people think of me as a Likuidnik.

I would say that Israel should do a unilateral withdrawal and still people in settlements “best of luck” unless it is with help to move back to Israel proper.

On one level this is a fair point. There is no reason to assume that all Zionists support Likud’s policies.

That said: if you support creating a religiously ethno-nationalist and democratic state, you can’t simply disavow any responsibility for the conduct of a right wing nationalist party. In democracies, one faction never retains control forever. The ideology, conduct, and treatment of perceived enemies of the nation we find in Likud seem pretty typical of right wing nationalism generally (they seem worse because the occupied territories and Hamas belligerence provide some unique opportunities for bad behavior). You simply can’t count on a state with a religious ethnonationalist identity that isn’t going to have a belligerent conservative faction in charge occasionally.

Furthermore: Likud’s current policies reflect the composition of the political coalition they lead, which includes a parties that represent a fast-growing and influential anti-modern ultra-orthodox population*, and a recent immigrant group who came from political cultures without a the liberal traditions that promote treating members of the outgroup with equality and respect. The increasing size and power of both of these populations is hard to divorce from Zionism, and they also make the likelihood of a political coalition for the kind of liberal Zionism newishlawyer would like to support increasingly unlikely to emerge. A Jewish Israeli state as part of a two state solution once seemed the best and most reasonable path to peace to me, along with most of the world. That, along with newishlawyer’s policy preference of unilateral settlement withdrawal, are all but dead now, and demographic changes that follow directly from the commitments, policies and priorities of Zionism are a non-trivial part of the reason why.

 

*Thanks to rewenzo below; this is not the untra-orthodox political party; that is Shas, which is not currently part of the governing coalition. Insofar as their growing presence makes a governing liberal political coalition less likely to emerge a weaker version of my initial point stands.

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  • MPAVictoria

    “You simply can’t count on a state with a religious ethnonationalist identity that isn’t going to have a belligerent conservative faction in charge occasionally.”

    Cough *United States Republican Party* Cough.

    I mean why not hold democrats responsible for what the Republicans do if we are going to hold liberal Zionists responsible for what Likud does?

    • djw

      The analogy doesn’t work at all. Yes, white supremacy was tied up in American identity politics and law from the origin of our country, and yes, that helps explain the ugliness of the current Republican party. That would be a problem for people who say “I support white supremacy as a foundational component of American national identity, but a kinder, gentler version of white supremacy than the current Republican party represents.” Insofar as those people exist, the analogy indicts them.

      • Fearless Navigator of the New LGM Comment System

        That would be a problem for people who say “I support white supremacy as a foundational component of American national identity, but a kinder, gentler version of white supremacy than the current Republican party represents.” Insofar as those people exist, the analogy indicts them.

        Call me a pessimist, but I’d suspect there are a fair number of them out there. Like maybe a majority of the white people over 50.

        • Mo Brooks

          We need have nothing to do with “kinder or gentler,” we white folks are under attack!

          • dl

            With registration, I am assured that this is the real Mo Brooks.

        • UserGoogol

          There’s definitely more than a few people like that, anyway. But I’d say there’s a political difference between the things people very explicitly and regularly say, and the things people think but realize they need to self-censor.

        • djw

          A majority of white people over 50 support the Republican party.

          • DrDick
            • djw

              Where “support” means “vote for.” Over 60% of white people over 50 voted for Mitt Romney. Your link doesn’t say anything about race.

            • John F

              That’s a tracking poll from 1st quarter 2009 you could have not picked any period of time the last 30 years more favorable to Dems…

              If you look at one from July 10, 2014
              you see that from ages 19 to 43 more people identify as Dem than Rep. From age 43-56 is evenly split, from ages 56 to 68 they skew Dem and from 68 to 83 more people identify as Reps than Dems
              Basically the most favorable age cohorts for Reps are those people who came of age when Carter/Reagan were Presidents, and those who came of age in the 50s/early 60s- that cohort is very freaked out that a black man is in the Whitehouse- that age cohort is also nearly 90% white

          • Fearless Navigator of the New LGM Comment System

            You can vote Republican and yet have reservations about its general views on race. Now I’m probably being pollyannish, but I’d hope that most GOP voters do.

            • Pat

              I voted Republican twice, I think. Regretted it both times. So some people, maybe, just not me.

              • Fearless Navigator of the New LGM Comment System

                The only times I’ve ever voted Republican are (1) when I was acquaintances with the candidate [statewide downballot race] or (2) when I couldn’t vote for the Democrat in good conscience because he was a miserable idiot and unlike the first time he ran there wasn’t a third party candidate in the race. (This particular politician is now serving prison time; yes, I could have written someone in, but I was lazy.)

                • GeoX

                  I’d vote for a criminal over a republican every time.

              • DrDick

                I have never done so.

                • Jordan

                  I have, but just when there was no one running against them.

                  In hindsight, I should have written someone in.

            • Manny Kant

              The GOP’s general views on race are the attraction for most GOP voters, I think. Have you ever read a newspaper comments section?

        • DrDick

          While they are certainly more common among older Americans, I do not think it is a majority, except perhaps in the South.

          • Fearless Navigator of the New LGM Comment System

            I’d actually think that in the South the median older white voter is at least as far to the right as the mainstream GOP on race issues, if not farther.

            … adding that I realize it’s hard to reconcile this comment with the one immediately above.

      • sean_p

        The analogy doesn’t work, because… Zionism is the same thing as white supremacy? Sorry, still not getting it. I do not at all see how liberal Israelis are responsible for the acts of their political opponents.

    • njorl

      “I mean why not hold democrats responsible for what the Republicans do if we are going to hold liberal Zionists responsible for what Likud does?”

      We are responsible for what Republicans do. That’s democracy. All of the people are responsible for the actions of their government. Each participant agrees to respect the result of elections so that the winners are representatives of all the people, and not just the winning side.

      It sucks sometimes, like when George Bush makes us all torturers.

  • Gator90

    I believe that Zionism (the basically good intentions of many self-described Zionists notwithstanding) has become inseparable from the racism and savagery of its expression in modern Israel. There is only the Jewish state we have; the one we wish we had is not likely to materialize in the foreseeable future.

    • CP

      Not become, so much as always was, as the OP points out.

      I’ve heard the notion that Zionism started out nobly and then deteriorated before, but I’ve never understood how the things Likudnik right wing extremists of today are advocating for the West Bank are any different from what the original, supposedly better Zionism advocated for the land in the west that is now unambiguously considered Israel. People move to a new land, and force the people who were already living there out using either violence or the threat of it. Different land, slightly different flavored justification, same basic story.

      For Israeli Jews, I’m sure Labour Zionism is far healthier than the modern, right wing and religious version on all kinds of levels – women’s rights, gay rights, economics – but as far as Palestinians are concerned, Zionism has only ever meant one thing.

      • Gator90

        Fair enough.

      • djw

        I’m not sure I completely agree. Had Labor’s better angels managed to remain in political power in perpetuity, it’s at least possible progress toward a two state solution might have eventually succeeded. (I may be overly optimistic here). But of course labor losing power, partly as a response to that progress, was, if not inevitable, an unsurprising and predictable turn of events, made more likely by Israel’s explicit national identity and the policies it entails.

        • Happy Jack

          I’m not sure I completely agree. Had Labor’s better angels managed to remain in political power in perpetuity, it’s at least possible progress toward a two state solution might have eventually succeeded.

          That’s what I call optimism. Considering that Labor Zionism was in charge during the Nabka and the start of settlements in the Occupied Territories post-1967, I have to ask what is this based on?

          Barak, who’s considered the great white hope, offered nothing approaching a viable sovereign state. No Palestinian could have accepted it.

          • Manny Kant

            Rabin, likewise, did not really support a Palestinian state, and Peres is probably worst of all. I think Olmert, the long-time Likudnik, has probably come closer to supporting a real Palestinian state than any other Israeli prime minister.

  • rewenzo

    Just to nitpick on something I’ve been seeing a lot. The Jewish Home Party (Bayit Yehudi) is not ultra orthodox. They are Religious Zionists, and the Jewish Orthodoxy they follow is called “modern orthodoxy” as the wikipedia link djw provides confirms. They do not believe in confronting or avoiding modernity. They are not anti-modern. They are civically engaged, listen to the radio, watch TV, use the internet, etc. They have women in leadership positions and in the Knesset. These guys are in favor of Greater Israel.

    The term “ultra-orthodox” refers to real anti-modern types who are usually Hasidim or Ashkenazi Jews of the Lithuanian tradition. They are, in the vast majority of cases, not Zionists, and are usually anti-Zionists. The ultra-orthodox parties in Israel will collaborate in governments but they will support Labor or Likud governments, so long as they get subsidies for their yeshivot, and are not ideologically committed to Greater Israel or settlements or the State at all. They tend not to read newspapers, own TVs, or listen to the radio. Internet is typically forbidden. They keep their women invisible and you will never see a female ultra-orthodox member of knesset.

    • djw

      You’re right, of course, I’ve updated the post to note this.

      • Manny Kant

        Perhaps worth clarifying further: Shas is the party of the ultra-Orthodox Mizrahi Jews. The Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox vote for United Torah Judaism.

        • Whiskers

          I’d also add that the people that we refer to as ultra-Orthodox generally do not refer to themselves as ultra-Orthodox. They either call themselves Jewish or Orthodox. Some people find ultra-Orthodox to be pejorative, but I don’t think we’re at the point where it is widely accepted that it is pejorative.

          • Manny Kant

            Haredi is the other usual term. “Jewish” and “Orthodox” are obviously not useful terms for them, since they doesn’t distinguish them from non-Haredi Jews (in the former case) or modern Orthodox (in the latter).

  • rewenzo

    Are we saying there’s no version of Zionism that would not devolve into racism? Like if all Zionism was just an endorsement of Israel being “a state for all its citizens,” but Jews are automatically eligible for citizenship alongside a fully sovereign Palestinian state, would that be so terrible?

    • djw

      alongside a fully sovereign Palestinian state

      Yes, of course if we assume that particular can opener, the dangers associated with religious ethnonationalism in Israel would be considerably substantially diminished. I’m not sure why that’s relevant to thinking about the consequences of Zionism in the world we live in.

      • joe from Lowell

        I’m not sure that an advocate of a one-state solution gets to play the political-realism card.

        We’re all assuming can openers here.

    • Lamont Cranston

      As a thought experiment, what would happen if Jews were outnumbered by Muslims in Israel? Take a look at this graph of the population of Israel.

      ETA – sorry meant to reply to the main thread.

  • jeer9

    The increasing size and power of both of these populations is hard to divorce from Zionism, and they also make the likelihood of a political coalition for the kind of liberal Zionism newishlawyer would like to support increasingly unlikely to emerge.

    All well and good in hindsight – but where were the Jews supposed to emigrate to in the 1930s? To say now seventy-five years down the road that the experiment failed doesn’t really say much to the non-trivial reasons why they arrived.

    There were opportunities near the outset for some equitable arrangement to be reached but when your cohabitant in the region declares that the Jews are “a more usorious people than any other, and if six million Germans, who are cultured and civilized (how’s that look in hindsight?), could not bear the presence of six hundred thousand Jews, how could the Arabs (not Palestinians yet) be expected to put up with the presence of four hundred thousand already there?”

    The Jews must leave. We don’t care where.

    Herzl and Weizmann should have foreseen the consequences. And God should have known what Adam and Eve would do with free will.

    • djw

      As I said in the other thread, I probably would have been a Zionist in 1948, despite the obvious dangers. There weren’t really any good answers at that moment (or, rather, there were, but they were undermined by widespread anti-semitism and nationalism). That there were no good answers to a problem 70 years ago is important, but no reason to not look at the political consequences of Zionism with open eyes today.

      • mpowell

        I don’t understand your position. If zionism is wrong today because of the actions of rightwing nationalist, it was wrong in 1948 as well. But this reflects a fundamental problem with your argument that an ideological movement is responsible for all the possible or moderately likely long term political consequences of that ideological movement achieving a moderate level of success (but not close to 100% success mind you). One ill-timed assassination aside, Israel could be in a very different position today.

        You could just as easily argue that not being a zionist leads to anti-semitic prosecution in the middle east in the alternative universe where Israel doesn’t exist. Because it really sounds like you’re asking us to choose between israeli nationalists or the arab/muslim right. And wouldn’t you lose the argument if you put it that way?

        • djw

          I don’t have a position of the sort you’re looking for. Impossible situation, no good options, etc. I’m suggesting a particular strategy for non-likudnik Zionists to evade any responsibility for the current status quo doesn’t work. Beyond that I don’t have any good plans or answers, at least not ones grounded in political reality.

          • jeer9

            I’m suggesting a particular strategy for non-likudnik Zionists to evade any responsibility for the current status quo doesn’t work.

            Could you explain what the word responsibility means in that sentence?

            Most leftwing supporters of Israel and Labor Zionism view the government’s actions as reprehensible and barbaric.

            Perhaps non-conservative responsibility means something like this – from a recent press conference.

            We tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.

            I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this. And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.

            A fairly pathetic response.

            But given such existential threats (whether real or imagined), how would such a political reaction be essentially Zionist (remembering that you’ve admitted sympathy for the troubled nature of the state’s origin) and not nationalist?

            • Manny Kant

              The actually existing Labor Party doesn’t seem to particularly view the government’s actions as reprehensible and barbaric.

              • djw

                It would appear their voters don’t really feel that way either.

              • jeer9

                Yes, I definitely assumed something not in evidence. Labor (and its supporters) have adopted the Obama approach, that during times of national crisis and insecurity, patriotism and solidarity with the Right take precedence over merely legal or humane concerns.

                Meretz has been more vocal in their criticism. Leftist rallies opposed to the military campaign have been held but are small in number.

                Identity should validate a person’s way of being. While others may describe that state as an illness carried from the womb, a flawed condition fit only for disparagement, or a choice mistakenly selected, politics generally sides with identity because of the sense of empowerment it entails.

                The illness diagnosis may not seem like much to the casual observer, but it appears to be just a continuation of the rejection and scorn already experienced by the “patient” innumerable times in the past, a treatment which has fiercely radicalized many of his similarly diagnosed peers. If only the “patient” could find acceptance, and not just with like-minded or like-constituted individuals. How would this process begin?

          • xq

            What does this actually mean other than in personal identity terms? Do you just want people to stop calling themselves Zionists? Is your notion of “responsibility” a non-consequentialist one? What if liberal Zionism were the most effective weapon against RW Zionism?

            • djw

              What does this actually mean other than in personal identity terms?

              Not much.

              What if liberal Zionism were the most effective weapon against RW Zionism?

              That would be awesome, if true. Unfortunately the era when the demographics of Israel made it remotely plausible is in the rear view mirror.

        • Pat

          Your argument isn’t logical. A position can be correct, and implemented poorly. It can also be correct at one time, but as circumstances change it can cease to be correct. Rational people continue to think through the consequences of their actions, and alter their course based on such meditation.

          One example might be Israel’s open door policy, where they permit immigration of many poor Jews into their country. At some point, it becomes difficult to house, employ and feed these new citizens, that policies that disadvantage the old for the sake of the new become enacted. At what point does the old rationale need to be changed?

      • observer14

        Excuse me djw but I’d like to clarify your point. Are you saying that you would have sided, in 1948, with those who were ethnically cleansing 750,000 or so people from their homes (this being the long-stated deliberate aim of Ben-Gurion and his comrades), and that this was the the best option because there were no other good answers?

        This is not an outlandish view among Zionists, I think it is for example Benny Morris’ position (i.e. “there was no other way”). I just want to clarify what you are saying.

  • JL

    While I think this post is right about the consequences of nationalism, it’s also true that a lot of rhetoric has conflated Zionists and Likudniks (a party which grew out of a particular form of Zionism, Revisionist Zionism) in ways that are both really unfortunate and incorrect. Someone like, say, Emily Hauser, is absolutely not a Likudnik. Peter Beinart is not a Likudnik. The New Israel Fund people are not Likudniks. NewishLawyer is not a Likudnik. I understand where the confusion comes from, but it would also be nice if people would use words correctly.

  • IM

    God, these perfidious jews really sabotage the commenting system!

    (This comment will of course pass….

  • NewishLawyer

    I suppose I should comment,

    1. I don’t disagree in general with your point but I think this cuts both ways. I could probably say the same to my friend who keeps on insisting he is “no friend of Hamas but…..” One of the more ridiculous sentiments in the whole debate is the Judith Butler observation that Hamas and Hezbollah are part of the global left. BS, they are right-wing organizations by any reasonable definition of the word.

    2. I support the people who are saying that a lot of the backlash against Zionism is 20/20 hindsight but there were real issues for European Jews from Dreyfus to post-Shoah which made Zionism a sympathetic goal and worthy cause. The US has undoubtably become a very friendly country towards Jewish people and so have other Anglo countries but this was not true until post-WWII. I’ve spoken to enough boomers to know that it was not really true until the late 1960s.

    3. I don’t necessarily think that anti-Zionism=anti-Semitism but using Israeli and Jew as interchangeable terms is going to raise suspicions in me.

    4. There are also a lot of bad-faith arguments done against Israel and Israelis. A good example is the whole pink-washing debate which argues that Israeli’s relatively good gay rights laws and stance are only for PR purposes and not out of any sincere belief. Now it is perfectly possible to be pro-gay rights and anti-Palestinian and this would not be good but the “pink washing” accusation is in bad faith. There is no way to disprove such a claim. There are consequences to this form of argumentation as well.

    • djw

      I could probably say the same to my friend who keeps on insisting he is “no friend of Hamas but…..”

      What is left out is important. “I’m no fan of Hamas, but I still think bombing civilian areas in Gaza is wrong.” “I’m no fan of Hamas, but the rocket attacks are the only form of self-defense available to them, so who can blame them?” The first is fine, the second bullshit. I’m honestly not sure what your point is meant to be here. The current political power of Hamas in Gaza isn’t a logical consequence of some Palestinian national identity, it’s a logical consequence of a series of events in which Israel is a more than equal co-author. There’s no parallel on this point that I can see.

      Point 2 I largely agree with; 3 and 4 seem like non sequiturs to me. The pink washing argument is absurd on its face. I’m sure someone somewhere makes it. But what relevance does that have to to the topic under discussion?

    • Ronan

      I think the point about Hamas/Hizbollah is to recognise that at this point they have become pretty popular soci-political movements quite deeply embedded in their respective societies(particularly Hizballah) both as a result of the security situations they grew out off and ethnic/political tensions within the country.
      You can recognise this fact(and find the way they evolved and the roles they fulfil societally interesting) while also acknoweldging their war crimes, failures and the fact that they are doctrinaire religious movements who’s political positions (I, liberal) find abhorrent. Who cares what Judith Butler said once?

      Pink washing doesnt claim that Israel passes gay rights legislation for PR purposes, but that it uses Israeli liberalism for PR purposes, ie look how much better we are than the anti gay muslims (It’s largely true, and well documented, that this is a PR tactic but also (IMO) not something I personally see worth making the case against Israel with)

      • Ronan

        ‘pinkwashing’ might be used a lot of the time as an ad homenin or to shut down debate, I dont know (i dont spend enough time with people engaged on this topic to know)In that case, I could see it being annoying.

        • NewishLawyer

          I think of pinkwashing as you are describing it and it seems to be a common charge in debates about Israel in academia.

      • JL

        Pink washing doesnt claim that Israel passes gay rights legislation for PR purposes, but that it uses Israeli liberalism for PR purposes, ie look how much better we are than the anti gay muslims (It’s largely true, and well documented, that this is a PR tactic…

        Yes, thank you, this is exactly what pinkwashing is about.

        but also (IMO) not something I personally see worth making the case against Israel with)

        I don’t think it’s any particular basis for making a claim against Israel, it’s just an obnoxious propaganda technique that deserves to be called out. As a queer person who does Palestine solidarity work, it gets used by people trying to distract or shame me. It’s a deeply insulting, offensive tactic from the hasbara people.

    • John F

      but there were real issues for European Jews from Dreyfus to post-Shoah w

      long before Dreyfus…

      20/20 hindsight the 1945-48 solution would have been emigration to the US rather than Palestine.

      There may have been a single state solution in 1948, and best case scenario I suppose it would have worked out no worse than it did in Lebanon.

      I do not see a single state solution now or in the foreseeable future. I think unfortunately options have progressively narrowed from 1948, and all the likely outcomes/solutions range from bad to genocidally horrific. The possibility that the Levant will avoid the type of ethnic cleansing that occurred in Europe in the 1940s is shrinking day by day, month by month, that the people of Israel (or supporters of Hamas) can’t see that is distressing. That the leaders of both sides know full well that is the ultimate outcome and look forward to it is terrifying

      • Gregor Sansa

        If we’re going to run the clock back to 1948, why not go a bit further? I think it’s important not to forget to give the British their share of guilt. The Balfour declaration was largely driven by a “divide and conquer”/”good darkies” logic, and to a lesser but significant degree by a childish attitude towards Biblical myths.

      • NewishLawyer

        How good was US policy about admitting survivors in the years after the Holocaust?

        According to this article, the Answer is better than other Anglo countries but not that great:

        http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007094

        Some basic research via google shows me that post Holocaust immigration was still purposefully limited because of anti-Semitism. The immigration head of Australia said this to the American Distribution Committee:

        “We have never wanted these people in Australia and we still don’t want them. We will issue a few visas to those who have relations there as a gesture”

    • JL

      There are also a lot of bad-faith arguments done against Israel and Israelis. A good example is the whole pink-washing debate which argues that Israeli’s relatively good gay rights laws and stance are only for PR purposes and not out of any sincere belief.

      I have had this argument with you before, I think, but no, this is not what pinkwashing means. Pinkwashing means that Israel uses its relatively good LGBTQ rights laws, which I have no reason to think are anything but sincere, to try to distract from or derail criticism of how it treats the Palestinians. “Why do you criticize us so much? Look at how well we treat gay people! The Arab countries don’t treat gay people that well. You should love us!”

      Pinkwashing is when counterprotesters tell queer protesters against the Gaza war – as I have seen them do, with my own eyes and ears, and have had done to me – that they should be supporting Israel’s position because Israel supports their identities but the Palestinians would kill them.

    • Lurker

      On point 3: currently, Israeli Jews are the dominant group of their country, and the government pursues aggressive politics to retain the situation. Some parties of the coalition have actually called for stripping Israeli Arabs of their citizenship, perhaps even for deporting them to the future Palestinian “state”.

      In such case, it is quite correct to speak of Israeli actions as actions of Israeli Jews. The situation is the same as in former Yugoslavia, where “Serbs” and Yugoslav government were usually used as synonyms. It is pretty clear that the policies of Israeli government are defined by the dominant ethnicity, not by some non-sectarian, non-ethnic “Israeli” or even “Hebrew” population.

  • Whiskers

    The religious ethno-nationalist state aspect is the whole point of Israel. Without it, Israel is just another country, and a completely unnecessary one. Now, some would say that as long as non-Jews living there have full civil rights and full participation in the democracy than its not a problem. Others would say that that is impossible and if you’re going to take one group and exalt them over the other, in any way at all, then you’re just setting up an apartheid system where one group will oppress the other. I don’t know why that has to be, but I’m not so blind as to think that it couldn’t happen. It could. But to just say that there can’t be a state with a Jewish identity is to ignore the reality of world history- that the Jews need a place to live, unmolested and independent of the temporary hospitality of a host. If the answer is that they should just roll the dice in the U.S. or Canada, fine, that’s your answer, but it didn’t work the last time around.

    • Porkman

      It did work the last time around…

      There was some antisemitism in North America but Jewish people in North America avoided the calamities that afflicted Jews in Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

      • Whiskers

        When they came knocking in the ’30’s, the door was closed.

    • JL

      The Romani have also been shat on most places that they’ve lived, been past victims of genocide. Should we set up a “Romani state” in Northern India, in which the Romani get to go kick out a bunch of the people currently living there and then prohibit them and their descendents from coming back, and in which the Romani get to be enshrined as a permanent dominant majority forever?

      • observer14

        This is an excellent point. Why, of all the persecuted minorities in the world, must one deserve its own state on stolen land? I ask this as a Jew. I am interested in the Zionist response.

        • rewenzo

          1. I think it might be useful to distinguish between “should we set up a state for this persecuted minority on stolen land” and “given that a state for this persecuted minority exists, and over time, in entailed the stealing of land, should we allow it to continue to exist.”

          2. I don’t think it was obvious to Zionist leaders in 1882 or 1897 that a Jewish nationalist project in the Palestinian province of the Ottoman Empire was necessarily going to result in an actual Jewish sovereign state which would result in a war which would result in the dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948 and further in 1967. Many Zionist leaders did soon come to see that the quest for a Jewish national home was going to run up against strong Palestinian antipathy but I don’t think it was obvious that this was going to result in a zero sum outcome where the Jews would have a state and the Palestinians would not.

          3. I guess we could say that the act of Jews immigrating to Palestine is itself an act of stealing but I would be hesitant to say this. I don’t think there’s any principle that the native inhabitants of a given territory, absent the legal mechanisms of a state, have the right to prevent other ethnic groups from moving there and politically organizing for their interests. Obviously whatever Jewish violence or land-stealing that was going on would be criminal, but a lot of Zionism was just moving to Palestine, buying land (from either the government or Palestinians), and starting farms.

          • observer14

            At some point Zionism may have involved buying land and starting farms, but ethnically cleansing 750,000 people is going a bit beyond that.

            • rewenzo

              Sure, I was just answering the question.

  • shah8

    I’m glad I have a simpler outlook on Israel.

    Should be gone with Greater Rhodesia, for everyone’s benefit.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Two points:

    That said: if you support creating a religiously ethno-nationalist and democratic state, you can’t simply disavow any responsibility for the conduct of a right wing nationalist party.

    The question of the creation of such a state was resolved, for better or worse, in 1948. That die has been cast. And even if one concludes that the Zionist project was an enormous mistake (as many Jews, in fact, felt up until 1948), one cannot now undo that state without a substantial human cost. That doesn’t mean it can’t or even shouldn’t be done. But pretending that the current argument concerns the creation or non-creation of such a state is to live in the past.

    A Jewish Israeli state as part of a two state solution once seemed the best and most reasonable path to peace to me, along with most of the world. That, along with newishlawyer’s policy preference of unilateral settlement withdrawal, are all but dead now, and demographic changes that follow directly from the commitments, policies and priorities of Zionism are a non-trivial part of the reason why.

    I know a lot of people who think this. The problem is that only a tiny minority of Israelis and Palestinians want to live in the other reasonably democratic and non-genocide-involving solution: a single binational state. So while I entirely agree that Israel has made the achievenment of a two-state solution much more difficult than it was in the past, I don’t think the achievement of a single, binational state has gotten any easier.

    My own view has always been that anything that ends the violence, recognizes everyone’s equal rights and allows Jews and Palestinians to both achieve self-determination (in one state or two) is fine with me. If I were an Israeli, I’d support a single, binational state (I’m no great fan of ethnic nationalism and don’t buy the argument that having a state of one’s own provides security to a nation). But I’m a Jewish American and Israel is not my country. So anything that the Israelis and Palestinians can agree to that results in a just, long peace is fine by me. But at this point, neither of the two ways of achieving that seem at all likely to me.

    • djw

      My own view has always been that anything that ends the violence, recognizes everyone’s equal rights and allows Jews and Palestinians to both achieve self-determination (in one state or two) is fine with me.

      Amen.

      If I were an Israeli, I’d support a single, binational state (I’m no great fan of ethnic nationalism and don’t buy the argument that having a state of one’s own provides security to a nation)

      But isn’t that what being an anti-Zionist in 2014 means, more or less? Back when I thought a two state solution was considerably more possible than a binational state, I supported it. My views have changed not because I changed my mind about which was better, but (largely because of Likud governance) the two state solution decreased in plausibility. The single binational state didn’t increase in plausibility, but it still came to look as or more plausible than the two state solution.

    • JL

      I think the assumption that only a few Palestinians would be okay with a single, binational, non-genocidal state is incorrect. When a pollster gave Palestinians a straight up-or-down choice a few years back on “a one-state solution in historic Palestine where Muslims, Christians and Jews have equal rights and responsibilities,” 70% supported it. As of 2010, 29% of Palestinians supported a binational state over either a two-state solution or a confederation, and the trend is upward (24% of Israelis picked the same option).

      I’ve said before that I don’t really care about two states vs one state, and I don’t. Like you, I want a just, long peace, and if both sides can get a two-state solution that is supported by their various peoples, I will congratulate them. But to me, a just peace necessarily involves things like equal rights amongst peoples, and refugees having an option to return if they want, and to a lot of people that negates the entire concept of a two-state solution, because their framing of two states involves an Israel where Jews get special status and rights forever, and returning refugees would be a numbers threat to that.

      I didn’t just pull what constitutes a just peace out of my ass, either – the Call to BDS that was signed by a few hundred Palestinian civil society organizations, including the major trade unions, the refugee-serving groups, culture and arts groups, chambers of commerce, women’s/feminist groups, teachers’ groups, etc, names these things as well.

      Any just peace that they can get hammered out is fine with me.

      • djw

        Not that I doubt you here (and thanks for actual information), but do you remember where you found that data?

      • Lurker

        I believe that there is a real option to buy out the refugee population living outside the Holy Land. This would mean financial compensation for the refugees to accept their status and some compensation for Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to get them to grant citizenship for the refugees. It is clear that no Palestinian organization is going to accept this solution without a fully acceptable deal, but informally, both Fatah and Hamas have given out messages at various times that they would be ready to compromise.

        The most difficult thing in such solution would be for Israel’s neighbours to accept Palestinian refugees living on their soil as citizens. It would severely disrupt the internal politics at least in Jordan and Lebanon.

    • Lurker

      I agree with you on most points but I question one thing: do you really know that the majority of Palestinians would not accept living in a single binational state, if they would be full citizens with equal dignity with Jews?

      Sooner or later, the Palestinians will disavow the two state solution and start demanding equal rights as de facto citizens of Israel. That is the only solution that would not involve genocide. When this happens, the Israeli political position becomes untenable. In fact, they need Hamas and occasional genocidal raids to prevent such political stance from emerging.

  • 4jkb4ia

    This comment goes with the previous thread, but I am assuming it dead.
    My husband has been more or less getting his news about the latest war from the BBC inasmuch as he can stomach it, and we cannot really be said to be supporting it. Among the reasons–
    This is the third expedition into Gaza in the last six years. There is fatigue with having to do it over and over and a suspicion that the policy is wrong.
    There was the idea pointed out in Haaretz that the government should have tried to get the tunnels before.
    This came from the collapse of a very intense effort at peace processing. There is the belief that no one wants peace.
    Whether Hamas meant it or not, the episodes of civilian deaths are very frequent and very blatant. Wars of the past would have one major atrocity and sometimes it was exaggerated.
    We were lied to about the three yeshiva students for a week, or at least the government let us believe that they were alive, and they were used to target Hamas. Also in the back of our minds was the revenge killing by ordinary murderers. We both agreed that Jews do not murder. Even the IDF spokesperson who talked to Ben Hubbard at the NYT yesterday said, “I can’t know if it was murder until I debrief the soldiers.” [Not literal quote]

    Jewish Home is not ultra-Orthodox. Shas is not even ultra-Orthodox–it’s a Sephardi interest group party. But “national religious” will be very influential in the future of Israel inasmuch as they believe that the Land of Israel serves a religious purpose. Rabbi Moshe Shulman was recently at a Tanach Conference in Israel and gave a shiur last week about how we think that geulah (redemption) requires the Messiah. But nowhere in Tanach is it said that the Messiah is the one who brings the geulah in so many words. The Almighty is the one who brings the geulah. Therefore the language of the prayer for the State of Israel, “the beginning of our redemption”, makes more sense than you would think. There is Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. I can also not pick on Rabbi Shulman and bring in Ari Shavit who wrote that you can be religious anywhere. But without Israel you would have a remnant of a remnant. The national religious, of whom Shavit is clearly not one, can look around and see the strong Jewish identity in Israel itself, even if Israel only supported strong Jewish identity in the Diaspora for a generation.

  • observer14

    Maybe someone has already said this, but I have been mystified for a long time how anyone could claim to believe in democracy or liberal values (e.g. all men are created equal, etc.) yet at the same time support an ethnocratic state where a certain ethnic or religious groups gets a bunch of special privileges. This is what liberal zionists claim to support. How do you hold such contradictory ideas in your head at the same time?

    • wengler

      Denial and paranoia.

    • Whiskers

      The only special privilege that liberal zionists want for Jews is for them to be able to live there, side by side with whoever else is already there. The reason for wanting this special privilege is that it is a good alternative to go crawl under a rock and die.

      • JL

        That is false. When your state uses policy to keep a particular ethnoreligious group a permanent majority and to say that the state belongs to it and not to others, when it keeps refugees from being able to come back home on the grounds that that would be a threat to that group’s majority, that is more than wanting to live “side by side with whoever else is already there”. You are insisting that the concept of a state being the state of only some of its people, existing for the interests of only some of its people, is a neutral, equitable concept, and I don’t understand how this makes sense.

        There are a number of other ways in which Jews are privileged in Israel, some of which I’ve spelled out in previous threads, but liberal Zionists don’t necessarily support those privileges, so I will not invoke them here.

    • rewenzo

      A liberal Zionist would probably say that they don’t support a whole bunch of special privileges for a certain ethnic group. The only privilege that I think most liberal Zionists want Jews to retain in Israel is the right of return, the right for a Jew to be granted automatic citizenship in the state upon application, and I don’t even think the right of return is all that non-negotiable to liberal Zionists, either.

      Is the right of return in tension with liberal democracy? Yes. On the other hand, given the history of the Jewish people I don’t think it’s a crazy ask and, I believe quite a few liberal democracies give preference to members of their diaspora who wish to claim citizenship (though the Right of Return likely goes beyond any of them).

      Canada funds Catholic schools but not schools for any other religion. The United States grants limited sovereignty to Native Americans. Some countries have affirmative action regimes which may give preference to members of an oppressed group. Some states have established religions. I think you can square liberalism with these, for the most part. I think being a liberal Zionist is not a contradiction in terms.

      • observer14

        Okay.

        I suppose then you would support a Palestinian right of return? If, hypothetically, after the Palestinians return a majority of people (with the demographic picture now different) decide to have an immigration policy that does not favor particular ethnic/religious groups, would that be okay?

        Here’s another question I’d be curious for your opinions on. At what point do the sufferings inflicted on a minority group qualify that minority group for automatic citizenship in some far away country? Is there a standard to look to here?

        • rewenzo

          With regards to your first question:

          If the citizens of a state want to change the right of return to suit their preferences they can certainly do that. If Israel/Palestine end up being one state, it would be up to the voters to decide on that.

          My preference would be for two separate states for two peoples with their own rights of return. Forcing these two people to live with each other in demographic flux seems to me to be a bad idea.

          With regards to your second question:

          A majority of the citizens of Israel wanted to have an immigration that law that gave Jews the right to immigrate there. It wasn’t forced on them by Jews living everywhere else. It’s not a principle of international law or anything. To be okay with the Right of Return does not mean you have to believe that all oppressed groups everywhere should be allowed automatic citizenship in the country of their choice. It means you’re okay with a state deciding on an immigration policy that favors members of an ethnic group it considers to be its diaspora. If Ireland wants to grant automatic citizenship to everyone of Irish descent, it’s free to do so, but I don’t support the world forcing Ireland to do so out of principle, no.

      • djw

        I would add, as well, that the right of return is only marginally more illiberal than most countries immigration-setting priorities. It’s much more up-front and transparent about them, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing (if you’re going to have the policy). It’s difficult to see how a highly restrictive immigration policy that admits a select few could be consistent with liberal values, frankly, beyond perhaps a lottery. Are religious/ethnic preferences worse than class preferences? Maybe, but it’s not obviously the case.

        • observer14

          djw, I am sorry this is a repeat from up above but I’d like to get your response because I am a frequent reader of your blog and I value your opinions.

          I’d like to clarify what you meant in stating that you probably would have been a zionist in 1948. Are you saying that you would have sided, in 1948, with those who were ethnically cleansing 750,000 or so people from their homes (this being the long-stated deliberate aim of Ben-Gurion and his comrades), and that this was the the best option because there were no other good answers?

          This is not an outlandish view among Zionists, I think it is for example Benny Morris’ position (i.e. “there was no other way”). I just want to clarify what you are saying.

          • rewenzo

            I don’t think that’s entirely Benny Morris’ position.

            I think Benny Morris’ conclusion is that there was no intention on the part of the Jewish Agency (which later became the government of the State) to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians in 1948. There was certainly an awareness that governing such a populace would be difficult but that they saw no solution to the problem. They thought it would be good if the Palestinians left, but saw no legitimate way to do this. And so they operated under the assumption that the Palestinians would remain (e.g. drawing up plans for government services for the Palestinians). However, during the war, despite official policy of encouraging the Palestinians to remain, there were obviously individual atrocities and expulsions, many of them with the approval of high government and military officials. After the war, after the 750,000 had already left or forced out, the cabinet decided not to let them back in.

            I think Benny Morris’ personal position is that the nascent State of Israel should have had a policy of expulsion. Most Zionists will not accept this. Liberal Zionists because it’s gross, and right wing Zionists because they believe that no expulsion ever happened.

          • djw

            I don’t want to commit to anything too strongly here. I have no idea what I would have supported or not supported in 1948, and obviously it would depend on the political milieu from which I emerged. I could imagine, if I were in the European/Atlantic world and recovering from the shock and horror of what had just happened, I could be convinced that the best way to decolonize the relatively low population British Mandate could be two states divided on religious grounds.

            There are, of course, good reasons to not support such a policy that should have been evident to me at the time. Perhaps I’d have second thoughts if I’d been reading about the ongoing horrific violence produced by the of partition in India. But I suspect the shock and horror of the holocaust, and the guilt and frustration of persistent anti-semitism and unfriendly immigration policies toward jews in spite of that, would have produced a situation where I could have gone either way.

            While I now more or less think I would have been wrong to do so, I’m also not convinced there was a politically feasible policy path that would have been clearly and obviously better, which is a staggering indictment of the governments and peoples of Europe and the West.

          • Happy Jack

            Not only Benny Morris. Ari Shavit holds the same view, and he’s considered a liberal Zionist.

        • ExpatJK

          Yeah, I believe I have said this in previous posts, but of all Israeli policies I find the right of return the least problematic. (This is not to say it is problem free; it’s in comparison). Afaik several countries have relatively broad approaches to diaspora and immigration.

    • xq

      There’s always tension between ethnic nationalism and universalistic ideologies (liberalism, but also many religions, communism, etc.), but it’s not like it’s uncommon for these tendencies to coexist; historically, it’s the most likely outcome.

    • ExpatJK

      I don’t find this particularly mystifying. After all, the writers of the US Constitution – which included that quote, I believe – were slaveowners.

  • wengler

    The idea of Zionism is kind of irrelevant at this point though. Israel has existed for over 60 years and they have been occupying a non-Jewish population with little to no rights for most of that time.

    No Israeli government has endorsed the idea of a viable Palestinian state, and I predict none ever will due to the common belief that a Palestinian state that controls its own borders and foreign policy would be a threat to Israel. So the question they are tackling right now is how to permanently suppress the Palestinians through infrastructure and military might. It doesn’t matter if you are Likud or not. Full rights for Palestinians in a 2 in 1 state like Bosnia and Herzegovina isn’t a choice Jewish Israelis are willing to make.

  • j_kay

    Why think ethnic cleansing, what we did to Native Americans, is OK? That’s what Zionism is.
    Repeated from yesterday.

  • So you seem to mean I’m responsible, as an American, for the Teabaggers?

    WTF, man?

    • djw

      No. (At least not in this sense). See my reply to the first comment.

  • joe from Lowell

    Am I a Zionist?

    if you support creating a religiously ethno-nationalist and democratic state,

    Creating? Who’s creating? I do not support creating any religiously ethno-nationalist and democratic states. I’ve said plenty of times that I think it was a bad idea for Europe’s Jews to seek refuge in between Egypt and Syria. Give me a do-over, and we’ll set them all up in West Texas. (What? It’s sandy.)

    But Israel is there. Do I have to support getting rid of Israel in order to not be a Zionist?

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