13 May 2007
Post-Zionism a chance for peace
By: Mahmoud Labadi
The phenomenon of Post-Zionism is the stance of many Jews in the Diaspora
and the Israeli left inside Israel searching for peace and understanding. It sees Israeli nationalism with its single minded concentration on survival and the concomitant strictures it imposes on individual and societal life as an anachronism. It longs for the rich normality of the West for individual; personal liberty and the pursuit of happiness; for the society; the worldliness and sophistication that comes with the transcendence of mere Jewish Nationalism. And for the world it sees the triumph of geo-economics and multi-culturist over geopolitics and
nationalist thought of an age that has passed.
The origins of post-Zionism started with the historians, and more
precisely with a group of new enlightened historians. There are
differences of opinion as to when post-Zionism first emerged, but every one agreed that it happened in the second half of 1980s. The first Intifada reminded every Israeli that there was a second face of the conflict, a side of victims, to the Zionist success story, and the fact that studies of post-Zionist character began to be published. Under the archives law it was not until the end of 1970s that the files containing documents and papers relating to 1948 war were opened to public, and 10 years is definitely a reasonable time in which to write and publish academic studies. Those researches were motivated by the need to find a peaceful settlement the everlasting Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The first book of post-Zionism appeared in 1987 by Simha Flapan “The Birth of Israel” New York. The following year, Benny Morris published “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem (1947-1949) Cambridge. Avi Shlaim published “Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdallah, the Zionist movement and the Partition of Palestine” (Oxford), and Ilan Pappe
published “Britain and the Arab Israeli Conflict” 1948-1951 (London).
There are two kinds of Post-Zionism. The original stream argues that historically the state of Israel was born through violence and at the expense of the Palestinian people. Favoring universal rather than
particularity ethics, most post-Zionists maintain that Israel should no longer define itself as a Jewish State, which would mean revoking the right of return and other legislations and symbols favoring exclusively Jews, such as the national anthem or the Israeli flag.
The new Post-Zionism is as Universalist as the old, but it is implicit and indirect. It does not use history to challenge the legitimacy of Israel, and does not seek to call Zionism in to question, but it operates on principles that subordinate the needs of the Jewish people to broader values. It is not anti-Zionist in doctrine, but it proposes a new
modernized version of Zionism capable of reconciling itself with its Arab and Palestinian neighbors. Its policies are based on a new form of economic liberalism and are indifferent to national frontiers.
The economic version of Post-Zionism finds it’s expression in Shimon Peres’s “New Middle East” as a shining vision of not just a mere Jewish Zion but an Arab Israeli Benelux.
Post-Zionism found its expression in revising the cultural and political history of Zionism and the state of Israel. It tries to verify the prevailing narrative on the creation of the state in 1948. The
introduction of the history book (A World of Changes) by the Ministry of Education during the mandate of Yossi Sarid as Education Minister in the Left-center Government of Ehud Barak created controversial reactions within the Israeli political elite.
This Book was revoked and put on the top of book burning pile by the new coming Education Minister Limor Livnat. “Indeed, not only do they not learn alternative interpretation of Israeli and Zionist history, their school system doesn’t recognize that any history took place outside the limited confines of the “history of religious Zionism”. Livnat hadn’t even stepped inside her office for the first time before she stated her clear intentions of turning the Education Ministry in to an ideological agency of the state aimed at brainwashing the Israeli children with a specific political philosophy,” said David Newman.
Certainly, the opponents of Post-Zionism belonging to the camp of closure and castle
Mentality were furious to see their “iron wall” of Zionist nationalism
questioned. Therefore, something had to be done in order to stop the tide of overture and the change in the education system. Mainstream Zionists like Isi Leibler, “Chairman of the Governing Board of the World Jewish Congress” criticize Post Zionism as being destructive for the Zionist Character of Israel. Leibler, a Jewish leader, in an article in the Jerusalem Post daily of June 12, 2001 assesses post-Zionism in the frame work of negating the Palestinian aspect of the conflict. He
criticizes the opinion columnists of Haaretz to be dominated by
post-Zionists and apologists for Arafat by focusing more on the
sufferings of the Palestinians than on their own Jewish people. Leibler criticized also “other Knesset members and Yossi Beilin, former minister of Justice for supporting Post-Zionism and encouraging defeatism and disunity rather than exercising civic responsibility and building moral unity”.
Nevertheless, David Newman, a post-Zionist responded to such accusations in an article published in the Jerusalem Post on March 14, 2001, in which he described Israeli measures undertaken by Livnat and the attempt to gag all other opinion through the use of the state education system, the Jewish Agency institutions and the threat of “deligitimization”, as more suitable to the Mc Carthy era in the U.S. than it is to true democracy. Newman criticized Livnat and Leibler and all their camp that they are deeply rooted in the mentality of siege. By clinging to the image of the besieged Jew, threatened and isolated they believe that this is the only way to preserve the Jewish personality. He also says that Livnat and Leibler commit the same mistake perpetrated by those who call themselves teachers. “They equate nationalist education with Jewish education, as if the lack of Jewish Education and Jewish Science depends on their intention to make peace and the recognition of others’ rights”. Newman concludes by saying that, “it is also not a great honor that 80% of Jewish Children in this country know nothing about the 20% of the non-Jewish minority, and know nothing about their feasts or the foundation of their culture and there fore, they cannot treat them in a tolerant and comprehensible way.” Indeed, Newman was referring to the discriminated Arab minority inside Israel.
However, Post-Zionism is not confined on improving the lot of Israeli Arabs and their status; it has a broader dimension calling for abandoning the occupied territories, and the creation of a Palestinian state
alongside Israel. Nevertheless, it has to be frankly said that most Israelis are simply fed up with dying, with doing reserve duty. They are also tired of the daily killing and bloodshed and with the domination and oppression of another people.
* Mahmoud Labadi, is a Palestinian writer based in Ramallah. He was PLO spokesman during the Lebanon period until 1983 and was the Director General of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) until 2005. He is author of three books on Media, a Novel in Arabic and other publications.