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General Articles
Jewish Anti-Zionism Unravelled (Part 1 + 2)

 http://www.z-word.com/z-word-essays/jewish-anti-zionism-unravelled%253A--the-morality-of-vanity-%2528part-1%2529.html
Jewish Anti-Zionism Unravelled: The Morality of Vanity (Part 1)
anthony julius  |  march 2008

CONTEMPORARY JEWISH ANTI-ZIONISM is most generously to be interpreted as occupying a position, or a set of positions, within a new Jewish politics. Modern Jewish politics was a response to, and an attempt to address, the "Jewish Question"; contemporary Jewish politics is a response to, and an attempt to address, the "Israel Question." Modern Jewish politics emerged out of ideological divisions within Jewish communities in the mid- to late-19th century. The Holocaust brought this politics to an end. Ideological differences within Jewish communities following the Six Day War then caused a re-emergence of Jewish politics, which had been dormant for about 40 years.

This shift from the "modern" to the "contemporary" has a complex history. Towards the end of the 19th century, there was an upsurge in "collective enthusiasms" within the Jewish world [1], and a break with traditional religious and communal life [2]. The precipitating events were the 1881 pogroms in Russia, taken by many Jews to confirm the failure of the emancipation project. The divisions within Jewish communities caused by this new, and perhaps clearer-eyed, understanding of their predicament grew over succeeding decades. Intra-communal conflict reached maximum intensity in the inter-war period of the 20th century. It was, for example, the Jewish sections of the Communist party in revolutionary Russia that led the fight against Zionism; if it were not for these sections, the liquidation of the Zionist movement would have been a slower process [3].

"The Jewish Question" was several questions, not just one. Are Jews to be defined as a nation or a religion - and then, what version of Judaism, what kind of Jewish nation? How should Jewish history be understood, and what aspects of it speak to contemporary concerns? Where, how, and with whom should Jews live, "here" in the Diaspora, "there" in Palestine - and with what minority / majority rights and status? In what language or languages should they express themselves as Jews? With what broader political movements, if any, should they ally? From what broader ideologies should they take direction? How should antisemitism be combated - by Jewish solidarity or proletarian solidarity [4]? A divided, inventive, and almost always struggling Jewish left took every possible position between the polarities of class and nation, revolution and exodus, Lenin and Weizmann, Moscow and Jerusalem. The most refined reasoning (say, Gershom Scholem's insistence that he was a Zionist, not a Jewish nationalist, or Buber's insistence that he was a Hebrew Humanist, and not a nationalist) [5] often emerged in the most desperate of circumstances. Though modern Jewish politics was not confined to the Left, it was easy to believe otherwise.

It was, for example, the Jewish sections of the Communist party in revolutionary Russia that led the fight against Zionism; if it were not for these sections, the liquidation of the Zionist movement would have been a slower process Modern "Jewish politics" took multiple institutional forms. There were Jewish political parties and groups, Jewish "sections" in non-Jewish political parties, philanthropic organisations, labor unions with a predominantly Jewish membership, trade associations, clubs and reading circles, newspapers and journals [6]. The variety was immense; the level of engagement was intense. In 1920s Poland, for example, there were no less than six socialist Zionist parties [7]; there were also substantial anti-Zionist groupings, and a broader anti-, or non-Zionist sentiment, particularly in Western Europe and the United States.

The contending institutions of contemporary Jewish politics are radically different. On the one hand, there is the massive fact of the Jewish State. On the other, the political life of Diaspora Jewry is much attenuated - especially in Europe. There are communal bodies, one or two research institutions, some ad hoc pressure groups, and there are charities. But that is all. The principal oppositionist bodies that identify themselves as Jewish - in the United Kingdom, "Jews for Justice for Palestinians," "Independent Jewish Voices," in America, groups such as "Independent Jewish Voices" and one or two others - are marginal to their community.

[T]hen came the Six Day War, and with it, the emergence of a new Jewish politics - a contemporary Jewish politics
The Nazis destroyed the Yiddish-speaking Jewish nation that inhabited parts of Central and Eastern Europe [8], and many of the ideological positions taken by those Jews perished with them. The very possibility of Jewish politics suffered an immense blow. Leftists of Jewish origin surrendered their Jewish identity in favor of their Leftist politics; other Jews merely abandoned their Jewish politics and either chose or had forced upon them the consolations of private life, the apolitics of quietism. In the decades immediately following the War, the Jews in the Soviet bloc were prisoners; the Jews of Muslim lands were expelled; the Jews of Israel built their state; the Jews of Western Europe and America reconciled themselves to their good fortune. And then came the Six Day War, and with it, the emergence of a new Jewish politics - a contemporary Jewish politics.

The "Israel Question" is similarly plural. The Six Day War reintroduced the possibility of a Jewish politics by posing the question, what should be done with this newly conquered land? If returned, on what terms, and if retained, by what right? These questions led to still further ones, of a more historical nature. Most concerned the differences and similarities between the 1967 War and the 1948 War. Were they both wars of Jewish survival? Were the Arabs / Palestinians Arabs on both occasions the authors of their own calamity? What were Israel's peace-making responsibilities in the aftermath of these wars, and did it meet them? And what, indeed, were Israel's responsibilities towards those unwillingly under its control, and did it meet those responsibilities, too? And still further questions arose. Can Israel be both Jewish and democratic [9]? What are Diaspora Jewry's obligations to Israel? And by reference to what (Jewish?) principles were these obligations to be defined [10]?These questions together constitute a new Jewish politics in the making [11].

The character of the contemporary Jewish anti-Zionist

There have always been distinct strands in the Jewish objection to Zionism. It has been regarded as inconsistent with Jewish teaching (the "religious objection"), with Jews' obligations to their countries of citizenship ("the patriotic objection"), and with projects of universal emancipation both / either from capitalism ("the leftist objection") and / or ethnic or religious particularism ("the liberal objection").

In the pre-1948 period, every one of these objections counted for a great deal. The religious objection existed in both Orthodox and Reform or Liberal versions. The patriotic objection, which was often advanced in tandem with the religious one, was made by substantial fractions of the Jewish communities of most Western European nations, and of the United States [12]. Indeed, antipathy to Zionism was one of the few positions (according to Michael B. Oren) around which, in the early 1900s, most of American Jewry could rally [13]. In Germany, meanwhile, in addition to the patriotic objection commanding the unreflective, commonsense allegiance of the generality of the nation's Jewry it was also given considerable theological depth by the German thinker Herman Cohen (1842-1919) [14].The liberal objection was to the effect that Zionism represented an attempt - no more, actually, than the latest in a series of such attempts in Jewish history - to distance the Western Jew from Western culture [15].The leftist objection was advanced by both the Third and the Fourth
Internationals, that is, the Stalinist and the Trotskyist wings of the revolutionary Communist movement. All these objections faded upon the establishing of the Jewish State, not all at once, but over time. The religious objection was chastened by the ready accommodation reached with the State by the non-Zionist religious parties; the patriotic objection disappeared almost completely, as Jews found it possible to be citizens of their own country while also taking a fond pride in the achievements of another, Israel; the leftist objection faded before the spectacle of the Jewish remnants of the Holocaust rebuilding their lives as they built a state. Non-Zionists became no less ardent for the safety and success of the young State as the Zionists themselves [16];anti-Zionists tended to keep their own counsel.

And there matters stood until 1967. In the late 1960s, for a variety of reasons, the leftist objection re-emerged among young Jews who belonged to the New Left. It was thought necessary to "shatter" Zionism to release the revolutionary potential of the Israeli working class; a "dialectical relationship" was perceived between the struggle against Zionism in Israel and the struggle for social revolution within the Arab world
[17].Religious and patriotic objections to Zionism, however, continued to count for nothing. Then, in 1989 or thereabouts, the socialist project was all but abandoned and the radical transformation of society was ruled out of question. And it is at this moment that contemporary Jewish anti-Zionism emerges (though there were early intimations of its emergence in certain positions taken by Diaspora Jews on the 1982 Lebanon War). The leftist objections wither, while the religious objection is revived - though in radically reformulated terms. This new Jewish anti-Zionism inaugurates a return for many Jews to some kind of Jewish identity. They no longer seek, as with previous generations, to relieve themselves of the burden of their Jewish origins; rather, they reassume the burden, in order further to burden their fellow Jews. It is a return conditioned by many factors, of course. It is in part an involuntary response to what is taken to be Israel's importunacy of people of Jewish descent, it is in part also deliberately assumed for its value in the context of pro-Palestinian activism [18],and last, it is in part the result of a certain post-leftist searching for new allegiances or affiliations.

The reformulation of the religious objection has two aspects. First, it is framed in terms of "justice," understood to be a distinctly Jewish concept. The Palestinian cause is "just;" Israel's cause is "unjust." Second, it is framed in terms of universalist allegiances, similarly understood to be Jewish in character. Let me take these in turn.

This new Jewish anti-Zionism inaugurates a return for many Jews to some kind of Jewish identity
First, there is the objection in the name of justice. The "Independent Jewish Voices" (IJV) opening statement in 2007, for example, endeavored to "reclaim" the "tradition of Jewish support for universal freedoms, human rights and social justice." "Judaism," it continued, "means nothing if it does not mean social justice." And Moses' instruction to Israel was cited, "Justice, justice shall you pursue" (Deuteronomy 16:20). This instruction "is a compass bearing for all humanity." [19] "As a Jew, I feel a particular duty to oppose the injustice that is done to Palestinians," said one IJV signatory [20]. "Israel's actions betray Jewish ethical traditions," assert a Jewish pro-boycott group [21].The anti-Zionist is not just a Jew like other Jews; his dissent from normative Zionist loyalties makes him a better Jew. He restores Judaism's good name; to be a good Jew one has to be an anti-Zionist.

The historian Eric Hobsbawm, for example, explained when IJV was launched: "It is important for non-Jews to know that there are Jews ... who do not agree with the apparent consensus within the Jewish community that the only good Jew is one who supports Israel." [22] This refusal to "support" Israel leads to the formulation: "Israel is one thing, Jewry another." [23] So far from Zionism being inextricably implicated in Jewish identity, fidelity to Judaism demands that Israel be criticised and one's distance from Zionism be affirmed. The public repudiation of the "right of return," guaranteed to Jews by Israel in one of its earliest pieces of legislation, was considered to be one important such affirmation [24].

Second, there is the objection in the name of universalism. The national project has debased the Jewish character by making it ordinary. The true Jew is the universalist - indeed, the one who paradoxically has disavowed all "the trappings of linguistic, religious, and national identity." [25] This contentless "Jewishness" then becomes pure subjectivity [26]. Statehood, nationality, race and ethnicity - each one is a false icon. "Jewish particularism" of every kind must be rejected; Jews should not cut themselves off from their fellow students, workmates, and neighbours [27]; Jews should seek a "Jewishness not sealed behind walls of conviction, but open to the infinite possibilities of tomorrow." [28]

The ambition is captured in Karl Krauss's slogan, "Through dissolution to redemption!" [29] It must be the Jewish quality to have no qualities at all; assimilation is a "renunciation of characteristics;" Jews are to be distinctive as exemplars of pure humanity [30]. Israel is a test of their commitment to a cosmopolitan identity. Once, it was a test of their patriotism; now, it is a test of their freedom from all patriotisms - all loyalties smaller than to an indivisible human race. The only Jewish nationalism that is acceptable is an extranationalism, the only Zionism, a renunciation of Jewish statehood. IJV's principles, one of its founders explained, include "putting human rights first; repudiating all forms of racism; and giving equal priority to Palestinians and Israelis in their quest for a better future." These are "principles that unite people of goodwill;" "group or ethnic loyalty," by contrast, is not a principle - or not a worthy one, at least [31].

It must be the Jewish quality to have no qualities at all; assimilation is a "renunciation of characteristics;" Jews are to be distinctive as exemplars of pure humanity Contrary to Freud, whose own stance towards Zionism was somewhat reserved [32], but who affirmed "I have never lost the feeling of solidarity with my people," these Jews play no favorites [33]. Many anti-Zionist Jews do not consider themselves bound by an obligation of loyalty to any Jewish project. Indeed, they are not drawn to any such enterprises. Their ties to Israel are at most ones of affection [34].

Writing history with rage

These Jewish anti-Zionists claim to speak as the moral conscience of the Jewish people. They no longer assert, as their revolutionary forebears once did, "We regard ourselves as men, not Jews." [35]Instead, they play the part of scourges of the Jewish State. While the position of scourge can be an honorable one, it is rarely free of difficulty. Many Jewish anti-Zionist scourges find themselves mired in difficulty.

The "scourge" is a kind of moraliser, that is, a public person who prides himself on the ability to discern the good and the evil. The moraliser makes judgments on others, and profits by so doing; he puts himself on the right side of the fence. Moralising provides the moraliser with recognition of his own existence and confirmation of his own value. A moraliser has a good conscience and is satisfied by his own self-righteousness [36]. He is not a self-hater; he is enfolded in self-admiration. He is in step with the best opinion [37]. He holds that the truth is to be arrived at by inverting the "us = good" and "other = bad" binarism [38]. He finds virtue in opposing his own community; he takes the other point of view [39]. He writes counter-histories of his own people. It is not enough for him to disagree, or even refute; he must expose the worst bad faith, the most ignoble motives, the grossest crimes. He must discredit.

There is thus a quality of rage in much Jewish anti-Zionist writing. Consider, for example, Oren Ben-Dor, an Israeli academic who teaches Legal and Political Philosophy at Southampton University. In his view, the State of Israel should be "reconfigured." Israel is a "terrorist state like no other" because it "hides [its] primordial immorality [by] foster[ing] an image of victimhood." "Israel," he writes, "was created through terror and it needs terror to cover-up its core immorality." "In 1948, most of the non-Jewish indigenous people were ethnically cleansed from the part of Palestine which became Israel. This action was carefully planned." Israel has pursued a "successful campaign to silence criticism of its initial and continuing dispossession of the indigenous Palestinians" The Palestinians have "no option but to resort to violent resistance." "Silence about the immoral core of Israeli statehood makes us all complicit in breeding the terrorism that threatens a catastrophe which could tear the world apart." "The main problem in Palestine [is] Zionism." "Hamas' voice as a blunt denial of the 'right of Israel to exist' has indeed a belligerent tone to it, signalling destruction and annihilation. However, understanding this voice as an ethical cry to the world to not allow Israel the right to persist in its racist self-definition is a much better way of articulating the moral message." Given these positions, it is perhaps inevitable that Ben-Dor should also maintain "the U.S. is a captive of Zionism." [40]

The moraliser makes judgments on others, and profits by so doing; he puts himself on the right side of the fence
The rage is given less histrionic expression in the work of Ilan Pappe, another Israeli who has now made his home at an English university. He has written a book characterising the two-way, mostly forced transfer of populations during the 1947-1948 fighting between Jews and Arabs as a one-way plan, devised by the Zionist movement in advance of hostilities and executed under cover of war [41]. Surely Mark Lilla is correct when he writes that all political foundings are morally ambiguous enterprises, and that the moral balance-sheet of Israel's founding, which is still being composed, must be compared to those of other nations at their conception, and not to the behaviour of other nations after their existence was secured [42]. But such a perspective, scrupulous and nuanced, is not for Pappe. On the contrary.

Every Zionist reference to "transfer" is treated as evidence of the plan; every Zionist disavowal of transfer is treated as an act of dissembling. Every Arab declaration of war against the Jews is treated indulgently, as mere rhetoric; every Arab claim of persecution is accepted without challenge. Every Zionist atrocity is treated as part of their transfer plan; every Arab atrocity is treated as a defensive response to Zionist aggression (or is airbrushed from the history) [43].The Palestinian refugees from Israel are represented as the victims of an historic injustice, and the pathos of their unsought and undeserved condition moves Pappe to indignant eloquence; the many hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, on the other hand, displaced by a
combination of coordinated action by the League of Arab States, of state-sanctioned discriminatory and repressive measures, and of popular violence [44], barely figure at all in his narratives. The immoderation of Pappe's thesis, so plainly indifferent to the complexity of the historical record (when indeed it is not positively misrepresented) [45], invites not so much a refuting response as the dismissive acknowledgment that one is in the presence of a partisan, angered into the traducing of the motives and actions of one political movement in advocacy of the interests of its adversary movement.

Jewish anti-Zionist moralisers attract the praise of Israel's adversaries and enemies [46]; they are perceived by them to be an admirable, embattled remnant. They are credited with knowing the truth about Israel, the truth about Jews. The ex-Israeli Akiva Orr, wrote Tariq Ali admiringly, "had long abandoned Israeli patriotism, but he had been an insider and knew a great deal." [47] Ilan Pappe has received the kind of praise usually reserved for dissident truth-tellers in totalitarian societies. This esteem tempts some Jewish anti-Zionists into a certain kind of posturing. It takes "guts" to speak out, says one, the comedian Alexei Sayle [48]. This "speaking out" - always that, never merely "speaking" - encourages overstatement. A group describing itself as "Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods" writes "the continuing occupation and exploitation of Palestinian land is a major obstacle to peace for Israelis and Arabs alike which has global implications for world peace" (my italics) [49]. Even though IJV comprises a group of people with very good access to the public sphere, they lent support to the trope that Jews endeavor to suppress the truth about Israel. They had been "silenced," they claimed, reduced to muteness by allegations of "disloyalty" or "self-hatred." Several months after its launch, however, a member of the steering committee resigned, remarking "I've become aware how little in touch with the Anglo-Jewish community so many of its people are, when they make the good old Board of Deputies the axis of evil." [50]

So much for contemporary Jewish anti-Zionism, most broadly conceived. Within it, however, a distinction may be made between the Israeli or ex-Israeli perspective, on the one hand, and the Diaspora Jewish
perspective, on the other. It is to this, and other related matters, that the next part of this essay turns [51].

 

Anthony Julius has donated his fee for this essay to the CTRT Appeal, in memory of his wife, Dina Rabinovitch, who passed away in October 2007. Readers wishing to learn more about this important charity are encouraged to visit http://www.justgiving.com/dinaspage.
 

 

[1] Jonathan Frankel Prophecy and Politics (Cambridge, 1984), p. 79.

[2] Eli Lederhendler The Road to Modern Jewish Politics (Oxford, 1989), p. 3. It was "a historical big bang" (op. cit., p. 5). "If political
autonomy, social exclusivity and traditional culture defined the
parameters of premodern Jewish existence, the transition to what can be called the 'conditions of modernity' would necessarily entail the
dismantling of all three." Hillel J. Kieval Languages of Community (Berkeley, CA, 2000), p. 26.

[3] Zvi Gitelman "The Evolution of Soviet Anti-Zionism: From Principle to Pragmatism," in Robert S. Wistrich, ed., Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism in the Contemporary World (New York, 1990), p. 15.

[4] See Walter Laqueur "Zionism, the Marxist Critique, and the Left," in Irving Howe and Carl Gershman, eds., Israel, the Arabs & the Middle East (New York, 1972), p. 19.

[5] Lionel Abel The Intellectual Follies (New York, 1984), p. 256; Amnon Rubinstein From Herzl to Rabin (New York, 2000), pp. 45-46. Buber said this "in the midst of World War II."

[6] See Ezra Mendelsohn On Modern Jewish Politics (Oxford, 1993), passim.

[7] Ezra Mendelsohn On Modern Jewish Politics (Oxford, 1993), p. 65.

[8] Ezra Mendelsohn On Modern Jewish Politics (Oxford, 1993), p. 141.

[9] A question that has many aspects, both symbolic and practical. For example, Should the words of the national anthem, the Hatikvah, be revised (or the anthem itself be rejected in favour of something else)? For a recent discussion, see Adam Lebor "New lyrics for Israel," New York Times, 18 June 2007.

[10] See Brian Klug "A time to speak out: rethinking Jewish identity and solidarity with Israel," in Adam Shatz, ed., Prophets Outcast (New York, 2004), pp. 378-392.

[11] Cf.: "Bromberg likens the discussion about Israel to a backed-up swamp full of noxious ideas--from critiques of the Israel lobby to calls for a one-state solution. "All of this is happening because the process has been so stagnant for so long," he argues, and blames the American Jewish leadership for not openly questioning some of Israel's decisions. " Philip Weiss "AIPAC alternative?" Nation, 23 April 2007.

[12] "Zionism, warned the celebrated Reform rabbi Rudolf Grossman in 1897 strikes 'a fatal blow at the patriotism and loyalty of the Jew to the country under whose protection he lives.' Congressman Julius Kahn of California, also a member of a Reform congregation, feared that Zionism would expose the American Jew to charges 'of merely being a sojourner in the United States ...'" Michael B. Oren Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present (New York, 2007), p. 351.

[13] Michael B. Oren Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present (New York, 2007), p. 352.

[14] See Mark Lilla The Stillborn God (New York, 2007), pp. 241-242.

[15] See Sander L. Gilman Jewish Self-Hatred (Baltimore, MD, 1986), p. 237.

[16] "I never loved the idea of a Jewish state. All attempts to separate people on the basis of race or creed or nationality were anathema to my cosmopolitan creed of human fraternity. Still, after the Holocaust ..." Eugene Goodheart "A Non-Zionist reflects on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," Dissent, Summer 2007.

[17] Haim Hanegbi, Moshe Machover, and Akiva Orr, "The Class Nature of Israeli Society," New Left Review, No. 65, January 1971, pp. 12, 26.

[18] Or it may be both, and then more than either. See Lynne Segal Making Trouble (London, 2007), pp. 214-215.

[19] Brian Klug "Who speaks for Jews in England?" Guardian, 5 February 2007.

[20] Martin Hodgson "British Jews break away from 'pro-Israeli' Board of Deputies," Independent, 5 February 2007.

[21] Letter, Guardian, 25 April 2007; letter, Jewish Chronicle, 27 April 2007.

[22] Martin Hodgson "British Jews break away from 'pro-Israeli' Board of Deputies," Independent, 5 February 2007.

[23] Brian Klug "The Myth of the New Antisemitism," Nation, 2 February 2004.

[24] "We renounce Israeli rights," Guardian, 8 August 2002.

[25] See Jacqueline Rose "Response to Edward Said," in Edward W. Said Freud and the Non-EuropeanThe Letters of Martin Buber (New York, 1991), p. 257. (London, 2003), p. 71. Rose describes this as a "striking
self-definition of a modern secular Jew." The "trappings" "stripped away" are the "untenable, most politically dangerous elements." (But, one wonders, elements of what precisely? A Jewish identity without any Jewish incidents?). Cf.: "My belated identification with Judaism was determined only by those aspects of the national Jewish character that are supra-national in character." Letter from Margarete von Bendeman-Susman to Martin Buber, 29 March 1921, Nahum N. Glatzer and Paul Mendes-Flohr, eds.,


[26] See Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi Freud's Moses (New Haven, CT, 1991), p. 10.

[27] Born Jewish (London, 2005), p. 176.

[28] Jacqueline Rose, Introduction to Marcel Liebman Born Jewish (London, 2005), p. 19.

[29] "Only a courageous purge of the ranks and the laying aside of the characteristics of a race, which through many centuries of dispersion has long ceased to be a nation, can bring the torment to a stop. Through dissolution to redemption!" See Robert S. Wistrich The Jews of Vienna in the Age of Franz Joseph (Oxford, 1990), p. 514.

[30] See Steven Beller Vienna and the Jews 1867-1938 (Cambridge, 1989), p. 211. The phrase is Hannah Arendt's.

[31] Brian Klug "Climate of the Debate Over Israel,"
http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1003#.

[32] See Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi Freud's Moses (New Haven, CT, 1991), pp. 12-14.

[33] Alain Finkielkraut The Imaginary Jew (Lincoln, NA, 1994), p. 136.

[34] See Brian Klug "A time to speak out: rethinking Jewish identity and solidarity with Israel," in Adam Shatz, ed., Prophets Outcast (New York, 2004), p. 383.

[35] See Jonathan Frankel Prophecy and Politics (Cambridge, 1984), p. 52.

[36] See Tzvetan Todorov Hope and Memory: Reflections of the Twentieth Century (London, 2003), pp. 189, 196.

[37] "Since the 1970s, Israel has steadily lost support in the world community; it has been increasingly perceived as a conqueror not a victim, as a nation that militarily dominates its region (often ruthlessly) ..." John Docker "'Sheer Perversity:' Anti-Zionism in the 1940s," London Papers in Australian Studies No. 4, Menzies Centre for Australian studies, King's College London, 2001, p. 22. It is taken for granted that this
"perception" is correct.

[38] See Tzvetan Todorov Hope and Memory: Reflections of the Twentieth Century (London, 2003), p. 140.

[39] Cf. Nelson Mandela on Bram Fischer, Afrikaner chairman of the underground Communist Party in South Africa: "I fought only against injustice, not against my own people. Bram showed a level of courage and sacrifice that was in a class of its own." He died in prison. His Afrikaner guards regarded him as a traitor, persecuting and tormenting him whenever they could. See Martin Meredith "Bram Fischer," in Alistair Horne, ed., Telling Lives (London, 2000), pp. 108, 119.

[40] See "Hamas' victory, a new hope?" The Palestine Chronicle, 1 February 2006. http://www.cpcml.ca/Tmld2006/D36012.htm#9, and "Who are the real terrorists in the Middle East?" Independent, 26 July 2006.
http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/article1197235.ece 

[41] The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford, 2006).

[42] "The End of Politics," in David Kertzer, ed., Old Demons, New Debates (New York, 2005), p. 32.

[43] See Seth Frantzman "Ethnic cleansing in Palestine?" Jerusalem Post, 16 August 2007. For example, Pappe mentions neither the 1929 massacre in Hebron nor the 1948 massacre in Kfar Etzion. Hebron is instead merely referred to as a "biblical Jewish site," as if it had no post-biblical Jewish existence. See The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford, 2006), p. 43. In the 1948 War, 141 local Jews were killed in Kfar Etzion and many others were taken prisoner by the Jordanians, write Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar, Lords of the Land (New York, 2007), p. 5. In addition, thirty-five young soldiers were massacred in February 1948 on their way to rescuing the besieged Etzion Bloc. The exiles from the Bloc had resettled on the Israeli side of the Green Line, but many carried with them the memory of their former home. It is no surprise, then, that the first post-1967 settlement initiatives were undertaken in what had been Kfar Etzion, and in Hebron. See Zertal and Eldar, op. cit., pp. 14-17, 247 and Amnon Rubinstein From Herzl to Rabin (New York, 2000), p. 113.

[44] See Irwin Cotler, David Matas, and Stanley A. Urman, Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights and Redress (New York, 2007).

[45] In The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford, 2006), p. 69, Pappe misrepresents a passage from Ben Gurion's 1948 diaries in several critical respects. Pappe alleges that Ben Gurion "laconically summarised [a] meeting" held on 1-2 January 1948 "by repeating [Yigal] Allon's words." Pappe then quotes these "words:" "There is a need now for strong and brutal reaction. We need to be accurate about timing, place and those we hit. If we accuse a family - we need to harm them without mercy, women and children included. Otherwise, this is not an effective reaction. During the operation there is no need to distinguish between guilty and not guilty." Pappe's misrepresentations are as follows. First, he mistranslates a critical phrase. It is not "If we accuse a family ...," it is "If we know the family ..." (im yodim hamishpacha ...). Second, he omits the opening sentences: "There is no question whether or not a reaction [to Arab violence] is essential. The question is only the time and the place. Blowing up a house is insufficient, especially if this is the wrong house." The context, then, is retaliation. Third, Pappe omits the sentence that follows the quoted passage: "In a place where there was no attack - we don't touch" (Bemakom sheloh hayta hatkafah - eyn lingoah) (underlining added). Fourth, Pappe misattributes the words to Allon. In fact Ben Gurion records the words as spoken by Gad Machnes. This
misattribution is probably not innocent. Allon was by far the more senior figure of the two. See David Ben Gurion Yoman Hamilchamah: Milchemet Ha'atzmaut 1948-1949 (Tel Aviv, 1982), Vol. 1, pp. 97-98. Last, Pappe relies upon Ben Gurion's summary of Machnes' remarks, even though a full transcript was available to him in the archives of the Haganah. Efraim Karsh cited it in an article written well before Pappe published his own work. See "Benny Morris and the Reign of Error," Middle East Quarterly, March 1999, Vol. VI, No. 1. According to Karsh, the transcript makes plain that Machnes recommended "a highly discriminate response," distinguishing between those guilty of violence against the Yishuv, and those innocent of violence. I am grateful to Elena Schiff for the research that made this note possible, and for translating the relevant passage from Ben Gurion's diaries. See also
http://camera.org/index.asp?x_context=7&x_issue=21&x_article=1446, which first alerted me to Pappe's misuse of the Ben Gurion diary entry.

[46] Even though Zionism - a "settle-state ideology" - has now become hegemonic among the Jews, there are still some among them engaged "in the vanguard, in the struggle for humanity." See George Galloway I'm Not the Only One (London, 2004), pp. 31-33.

[47] The Clash of Fundamentalisms (London, 2003), p. 88. "[Akiva] became something of a guru for many of us aspiring Palestinian and Israeli activists." Ghada Karmi In Search of Fatima (London, 2004), p. 397.

[48] "I am Jewish, which should make me immune to the charges of
antisemitism that fanatical Zionists trot out whenever anybody suggests that Israel's constant use of torture and ethnic cleansing might be a teensy bit racist and wrong. I say 'should,' but of course it won't. The Zionists have thought up a good psychobabble condemnation for those Jews like myself who think that Israel is merely Serbia with yarmulkes and felafel. They call us 'self-haters,' as if our recognition of injustice is somehow a psychological condition. Well, I say better to hate yourself than an entire other people. And it's bollocks anyway. [...] That great Palestinian Edward Said once said in a speech that those of us who are Jews should confront our co-religionists whenever they show any signs of the unthinking knee-jerk refusal to believe the truth about Israel that even the kindest of them can be prone to. I have never had the guts to do this, but I think if I am chairman of the PLO, then they will get the picture." "I've got what it takes to lead the PLO: Jewish good looks," Independent, 3 October 2000.

[49] Letter, Guardian, 25 April 2007.

[50] Simon Rocker "Voices founder quits 'out of touch' group," Jewish Chronicle, 16 November 2007.

[51] The unJewish State (London, 1983), pp. 5-6, 237-238.

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Jewish Anti-Zionism Unravelled: Questioning Antisemitism (Part 2)
anthony julius  |  april 2008

 
THE FIRST PART OF this essay ended with a distinction between the Israeli and Diaspora Jewish anti-Zionist perspectives. The writings of Akiva Orr and Uri Davis may be read as representative of the former perspective, and the writings of Jacqueline Rose as representative of the latter
perspective. There are, of course, others who could have been chosen, both Israeli and Diaspora Jews.

The Inadmissibility of Israel

Akiva Orr argues that to be Jewish is to be religious; there is no such thing as a secular Jewish identity. Only those who keep the mitzvoth, or "commandments", remain "indisputably Jews;" the tenets of Judaism cannot be secularized. Zionism, which is predicated on such a project of secularization, has failed. The secular Jewish State has been unable to provide its Jewish citizens with a new, secular Jewish identity. The failure was inevitable: "Zionism" is no more than a heresy of Judaism and the ethnocentrism of Jewish Israelis. The "dominant criterion of personal and political behaviour" should instead be the "wellbeing" of "humanity as a whole and not one's self, nation, or God." The anthropocentric should take the place of the theocentric, the ethnocentric and the egocentric (1).

Akiva Orr argues that to be Jewish is to be religious; there is no such thing as a secular Jewish identity
Orr's fellow Israeli, Uri Davis, has adopted a somewhat more legalistic stance in his writings. He has three objections to Israel. First, political Zionists founded it, and political Zionism is an objectionable political ideology. Second, the circumstances of its founding caused great hardship to Palestinians. Third, its character as a "Jewish State" puts its non-Jewish citizens at a substantial juridical disadvantage .

Each of Davis's objections is to what he regards as an aspect of racism. Zionist ideology is racist; Israeli conduct towards the Palestinians in 1948 was racist; Israel's laws, especially as reflected in its treatment of the Arab citizens of Israel and its status as an occupier of Palestinian territories, are racist. It is this last aspect that for Davis justifies the term "apartheid." Apartheid is racism regulated in law, he says. In consequence, Israel does not deserve to exist; it should be "dismantled" and replaced by a "confederal, federal or unitary state for all of its citizens and Palestinian refugees," that is, a "democratic Palestine."

Davis describes political Zionism as an "abomination" and a "crime(2)." He is also a committed practitioner of the incriminating quotation (3). He engages in relentless, quarrelsome score settling with other Jewish oppositionists (4). And he works hard to keep at bay those acknowledgments of complexity and nuance that from time to time surface in his work; at some level, he may intuit that his harsh, unnuanced condemnations lack sophistication, balance, and even justice.

The British author Jacqueline Rose has written three books with an anti-Zionist perspective: States of Fantasy (1996), The Question of Zion (2005), dedicated to the memory of Edward Said, and The Last Resistance (2007). She seeks, she says, to "revive the story of internal Jewish dissent (5)." In the 1996 book, in which she describes herself as "a Jewish woman," and as a "Jewish critic who wishes to address Israel as an outsider," she writes that Israel "desires its potential citizens - exiled, diaspora Jewry - to come home, with as much fervour as it banishes the former occupants of its land from their own dream of statehood (6)."

In the 2005 book, she describes herself as a "Jewish writer (7)." Israel, she writes, is one of the most powerful military nations in the world, yet it presents itself as vulnerable and on the defensive. It suppresses dissent (8). Though Zionism emerged out of the legitimate desire of a persecuted people for a homeland, the creation of Israel in 1948 led to a historic injustice against the Palestinians still awaiting redress. A straight line may be drawn from the 17th century heretic, Shabtai Zvi - proto-Zionist, mystic and false messiah - to the Zionism of the late 19th century and the 20th century. Jewish Messianism is material and carnal as well as spiritual, fully embodied in political time. It is a notion of redemption as bound up with ruin, dread and catastrophe.

With the birth of Israel, nationalism became the new Messianism.
Messianism colours Zionism, including secular Zionism, at every turn. This is "chilling," Rose says (9). We cannot relegate Messianism, she continues, to the religious Zionists and the Orthodox anti-Zionists. The compulsion to fight the Arab people is entirely self-authored (10). Arab aggression is either a response to Jewish settlement of the land or dispossession. The Palestinians are the inadvertent objects of a struggle that, while in one sense is all to do with land, in another sense, has nothing to do with the Palestinians themselves at all (11). The remedy? Rose is committed, she writes, to Palestinian self-determination or to full political and civic equality (12). But though she does not quite know her own mind on these alternatives, she is certain that absent one or other of them, there will be catastrophe - Israel cannot secure its own future.

Messianism colours Zionism, including secular Zionism, at every turn. This is ‘chilling,' Rose says

The question of antisemitism

Jewish anti-Zionists tend to misrepresent the nature of the prophetic tradition, which celebrates Jewish self-government and preaches the link between righteousness and the holding of the land; (13) they wrongly assume that group loyalty is inconsistent with the ethical life, and that universalist moral foundations cannot sustain a version of nationalism; (14) they fall into contradiction when they hold that while dispersion is good for the Jews, it is bad for the Palestinians, and when they demand of the Jews that they disavow "nationalism," (15) while valuing the
Palestinians' "continuing struggle for justice;" (16) and though there is indeed a Messianic aspect to one version of religious Zionism, they mistakenly hold it to be a necessary feature of all religious Zionisms, (17) and indeed of Zionism in its secular versions too (18). What is more, they are also mistaken in thinking that Jewish Messianism in any event implies a claim to Jewish political hegemony (19)- indeed, to some Jewish thinkers it meant the positive disavowal of sovereignty (20). Yet none of these objections imply a judgment on Jewish anti-Zionists that they are antisemitic. Is such a judgment tenable, ever?

Jewish anti-Zionists tend to misrepresent the nature of the prophetic tradition, which celebrates Jewish self-government
Struggling with the nakedly antisemitic character of Stalin's defamatory attacks on him, and the threat of the physical extermination of the Jews, Leon Trotsky acknowledged that he had lived his "whole life outside Jewish circles"; he then circled the Jewish question, rejecting all solutions other than "revolutionary struggle", which, in 1937-8, was a hopeless, even contentless option (21). Many Jewish anti-Zionists hold back from making such an acknowledgment, though they could (and perhaps should) do so, before they too circle today's "Jewish question." Trotsky maintained that his disconnectedness from Jews "did not mean that he had the right to be blind to the Jewish problem (22)." He did not, however, assert that he had any special insight into it, merely because he was a Jew by birth. He most certainly did not assert that he spoke on behalf of the Jews or of Judaism when he offered his views. Indeed, he rarely spoke or wrote on any issue as a Jew. "I am a Social Democrat," he once declared, "and that's all (23)." He would have acknowledged that he was not only without that quality known among Jews as ahavat Zion (yearning for, or love of, Zion), (24) but also the fundamental quality of ahavat Israel (love of the Jewish people). He was not, however, an antisemite. What is more, he could smell antisemitism in others. Contemporary Jewish anti-Zionists, however, have lost the sense for it. They struggle incompetently to understand it; (25) they struggle incompetently against it; they are themselves susceptible to its tropes and turns of phrase. Their perspectives on antisemitism are defective; their contributions to antisemitism are significant.

[Trotsky] could smell antisemitism in others. Contemporary Jewish
anti-Zionists, however, have lost the sense for it Jewish anti-Zionist perspectives on antisemitism tend to be derived from one or more of the following propositions: (a) antisemitism is caused by Israel (b) antisemitism should not preoccupy Jews (c) contemporary antisemitism is trivial, and need not be taken seriously (d) many
ostensibly antisemitic acts and / or language are not in reality Jew-hating (e) the antisemites happen to be right about the "Israel Lobby."

Antisemitism is caused by Israel For most anti-Zionists, such antisemitism as now afflicts Jews is largely engendered by Israel. Tony Judt, an English academic who teaches at New York University and, relevantly, a Jew, has written, "today, non-Israeli Jews feel themselves once again exposed to criticism and vulnerable to attack for things they didn't do, but this time it is a Jewish state, not a Christian one, which is holding them hostage for its own actions." If Israel behaved better, Jews would fare better; Israel is bad for the Jews (26).

Insofar as the Israeli leadership claims to speak for all Jews, and the majority unfortunately accept the claim, anti-Zionism tends to appear as antisemitism. Only when a majority of Jews speak out against Israel will that "antisemitism" be defeated (27). According to Jacqueline Rose, while antisemitism is not caused by Israel's policies, without a clear critique of Israel today, there is no chance of defeating it. Antisemitism is thereafter not examined in her 2005 book, save for Zionism's complicity with it. When opportunities for such an examination arise - for example, in relation to Tom Paulin (28)- she tends to avoid them. She is certain, however, that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism (29).

According to Jacqueline Rose, while antisemitism is not caused by Israel's policies, without a clear critique of Israel today, there is no chance of defeating it
Antisemitism should not preoccupy Jews There has always been within Judaism, and therefore within Jewish politics, a certain tension between the "universal" and the "particular." In response to any public call made by a Jew on behalf of other Jews, another Jew is likely to comment that the call should not be restricted to Jews and should extend more widely. This is the small change of intra-Jewish controversy (30). Jewish critics of Zionism have always argued that it neglects the universal in favour of the particular.

Contemporary antisemitism is trivial, and need not be taken seriously It is no longer a serious problem for Jews; antisemitism is now a marginal, insignificant phenomenon. It is asylum seekers, Muslims and black people who bear the brunt of today's racism (31). Many of the attacks on Jews in Europe and elsewhere, Tony Judt says, are "misdirected efforts" by young Muslims to get back at Israel. Uri Davis writes approvingly of the UN 1975 resolution and the WCAR 2001 conference (32).

Many ostensibly antisemitic acts and / or language are not in reality Jew-hating Attacks on Israel, or even upon Jews, by Palestinians or those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, are rarely to be construed as antisemitic. When Israel claims that it acts in the name of all Jews, there are some among its enemies ready to take the claim at face value, and strike at Jewish targets outside Israel. They cannot be criticized for doing so. These attacks are motivated by political outrage, not bigotry (33). Antisemitism in the Arab countries must be distinguished from its western European counterpart. Suicide bombing is the reaction to Israeli action; "the roots of the problem [are] the human rights abuses, daily humiliations and overwhelming frustrations ... in the occupied territories (34)." The bombing of a synagogue in Paris, for example, is reprisal for an incursion into the West Bank. "Racism" legitimises the powerful's oppression of the weak; the "weak" Palestinians by definition cannot be racist towards the powerful Israelis (35).

Many of the attacks on Jews in Europe and elsewhere, Tony Judt says, are "misdirected efforts" by young Muslims to get back at Israel
False accusations of antisemitism have led a few of the falsely accused to embrace some antisemitic tropes. The occasional antisemitic remark can be dealt with swiftly. For example, British parliamentarian Tam Dalyell's "antisemitic outburst," said one Jewish anti-Zionist, would be "decisively reject[ed]" by "the anti-war movement and the left." (Dalyell spoke of a "Jewish cabal" with undue influence) (36).

The antisemites happen to be right about the "Israel Lobby" In a speech at Chicago University, given in October 2007, Tony Judt said:

"If you stand up here and say, as I am saying and someone else will probably say as well, that there is an Israel lobby, that there is... there are a set of Jewish organizations, who do work, both in front of the scenes and behind the scenes, to prevent certain kinds of conversations, certain kinds of criticism and so on, you are coming very close to saying that there is a de facto conspiracy or if you like plot or collaboration to prevent public policy moving in a certain way or to push it in a certain way - and that sounds an awful lot like, you know, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the conspiratorial theory of the Zionist Occupational Government and so on - well if it sounds like it it's unfortunate, but that's just how it is. We cannot calibrate the truths that we're willing to speak, if we think they're true, according to the idiocies of people who happen to agree with us for their reasons (37)."

Judt's odd, misconceived remarks bring me to the Jewish anti-Zionist contributions to antisemitism. Independently of the mere endorsement of the truth of antisemitic positions, there are two distinct contributions. The first is to provide "cover" for antisemites; the second is to offer what they represent as akin to "expert evidence" on Judaism to its discredit.

Jewish anti-Zionist contributions to antisemitically inflected positions taken by non-Jewish anti-Zionists consist of the following: (a) to give cover to the holders of such positions by endorsing them "as Jews" (b) to endorse those positions as true, with the all the authority of an
"insider" or "expert."

[Jewish anti-Zionists] provide "cover" for antisemites; they...offer what they represent as akin to "expert evidence" on Judaism to its discredit  Cover "Nothing infuriates Zionists more than the arguments of anti-Zionist Jews," wrote the late Socialist Workers Party activist and journalist Paul Foot, "who have such a courageous and principled history. The essence of the intellectual case for Zionism is that its opponents are antisemitic. But when Jews ... speak out against Zionism, and especially if they denounce Israeli imperialism and defend the victims of it, how can they be accused of anti-Semitism (38)?" It was noted in the context of the boycott agitations, not least because the boycotters themselves loudly insisted upon it, that the boycott cause had Jewish supporters. Though not advancing fresh arguments in favour of a boycott, these Jews made two distinctive contributions to the boycott campaign. First, they maintained that as Jews they were under a moral duty to campaign for a boycott. Their Jewish conscience required them, they claimed, to side with Israel's enemies. Second, they gave cover to non-Jewish boycotters accused of anti-Semitism (39). How could these non-Jews be antisemitic, when Jews took their line too? Antisemitism, they intimated, ceases to be antisemitic when adopted by a Jew. These absurd, ignominious positions attracted only a few Jews, though they were much exploited by the boycott movement.

Endorsement To the feminist writer Lynne Segal, Palestinians are the new Jews, and their suffering evokes Jewish suffering in the worst periods of antisemitism in Europe (40). But Jacqueline Rose goes further. She cannot resist the Israel / Nazi analogy; she cannot leave it alone. "The suffering of a woman on the edge of the pit with her child during the Nazi era," she writes, "and a Palestinian woman refused access to a hospital through a checkpoint and whose unborn baby dies as a result, is the same" (italics added) (41). How, she asks, did one of the most persecuted peoples of the world come to embody some of the worst cruelties of the modern nation-state (42)?

Israel inscribes at its heart the very version of nationhood from which the Jewish people had had to flee (43). What should one make of the use by self-identifying Jews of the Jew/Nazi trope? It is always shameful. In certain usages, it derives from a specifically Jewish conviction that Jews should have nothing to do with power, and that Nazism is merely the most realized form of power. Every exercise of power is latently Nazi.
Separately, it is also an aspect of that over-heated, intemperate intra- and inter-communal polemicising that characterises Israeli public life. Whatever one opposes, one describes as Nazi. And why not characterise one's opponents as utterly iniquitous, without saving quality or merit - it has been the Jewish way in polemic for centuries. Nazi iniquities now comprise a fund for the polemically incontinent to draw upon in the abuse of enemies and adversaries (44).

In Israel, it tends to be the Zionist Right that draws on this language; in Europe, it is the anti-Zionist Left (45). Last, it has a distant relation to that tendency in foundational Jewish texts to collapse the ostensibly inconsequential into the grievously consequential, condemning both with a similar ferocity. One finds in the Talmud, for example, the following formulation: anyone who does x (something ostensibly minor), it is as if he has done y (something indisputably major), and thus has forfeited or merited z (the punishment for the most major of offences).

Most Jewish anti-Zionists reach antisemitism by the thoughtless deployment of the new anti-Zionism's vulgarities. A few reach antisemitism, however, by reviving rather older libels on Judaism. In The unJewish State (1983), Akiva Orr characterises Judaism as subordinating morality, society and justice to God, and characterises God as demanding of Jews that they carry out immoral, anti-social and unjust acts, like sacrificing their own children to him, merely to test the strength of their conviction (46). Israel Shahak's Jewish History, Jewish Religion (1997) sought to trace the most discreditable aspects of Zionism in Jewish religious laws concerning the treatment of non-Jews. The book is published by Pluto Press, which was founded in London in 1969 as a publishing arm of International Socialism, the forerunner of the Socialist Workers Party in the UK. In 1979, however, it broke with the party, "and became truly independent (47)." It publishes, according to its website, "the very best in progressive, critical thinking," and it describes Shahak as a "voice of conscience." Shahak composed tracts worthy of Johann Eisenmenger, the 18th Century author of the defamatory "Judaism Unmasked", and August Rohling, Eisenmenger's 20th Century imitator, only to be praised for his
scholarship by people who knew nothing either of his sources or his way with them (48).

The distinction between a perspective and a contribution is not absolute. A perspective can of course also be a contribution.

Beyond the everyday Jewish anti-Zionists lurk a few maverick figures, Gilad Atzmon chief among them. Atzmon is a London-based, ex-Israeli and ex-Jewish jazz musician, much lionized by the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) (49). "Zionists have imposed a blindness on the world," he says. "It's time to hit back with literature, prose, music, cinema. Everything goes." "It's time to establish a clear association between colonialism and the Zionist lobby. It's my duty to make that association widely known (50)." Speaking at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Atzmon declared: "I'm not going to say whether it is right or not to burn down a synagogue, I can see that it is a rational act (51)." And then, as if inciting himself to go still further:

"To regard Hitler as the ultimate evil is nothing but surrendering to the Zio-centric discourse. To regard Hitler as the wickedest man and the Third Reich as the embodiment of evilness is to let Israel off the hook. ... Israel and Zionism are the ultimate Evil with no comparison. ... The current Israeli brutality is nothing but evilness for the sake of evilness. Retribution that knows no mercy. Israel is a devastating collective resurrection of the Biblical Samson. It is a modern representation of the man who kills women, children and the elderly, the Hebraic victorious master of blind indiscriminate retaliation. ... Israeli cannibalism ... If we want to save this world, if we want to live in a humane planet, we must focus on the gravest enemy of peace, those who are wicked for the sake of evilness: the Israeli State and world Zionism. ... We all have to de-Zionise ourselves before it is too late. We have to admit that Israel is the ultimate evil rather than Nazi Germany (52)."

Beyond the everyday Jewish anti-Zionists lurk a few maverick figures, Gilad Atzmon chief among them
This incontinent, malicious verbalising, which has no connection to real thought, is of significance only because Atzmon nonetheless continues to be admired in anti-Zionist circles (53).

Representativeness

Jewish anti-Zionists find nothing appealing about the principle of Jewish self-government; they find little of value in the project of maintaining the existence and integrity of the Jewish state. While most Jewish anti-Zionists are realists about Israel, they tend to be idealists about the Palestinians. Many acknowledge that Israel is still too substantial a presence, too fixed, to be dislodged; all are engaged by the Palestinian "struggle," which excites their imagination and engages their sympathies. In the Israeli, they see nothing of the state-building pioneer, they see only the predatory land-grabber and people-expeller; in the Palestinian, they see nothing of the defeated aggressor, they see only the victim. Indeed, the Palestinians are mostly represented as somewhat spectral vessels of pure suffering.

In these respects, they are with the zeitgeist. Jacqueline Rose, for example, happily acknowledges, "I am with the zeitgeist (54)." She has the sense that Zionism - understood to be ethnicist, separatist,
particularist, "Messianist," a reactionary nationalism - is out of step with the times. Tony Judt has most recently made just this case. Israel, Judt argues, denominates and ranks its citizens according to
ethno-religious criteria, which makes it an oddity among "modern nations," or alternatively among "democratic states." It has imported a typically late-19th century separatist project into a world that has moved on, a world of individual rights, open frontiers and international law. The very idea of a "Jewish state" is from another time and place, the twilight of the continental empires, when Europe's subject peoples dreamed of forming "nation-states." In the contemporary world, where nations and peoples increasingly intermingle and intermarry at will; where cultural and national impediments to communication have all but collapsed; where more and more of us have multiple elective identities and would feel falsely constrained if we had to answer to just one of them, Israel is an
anachronism.

...if this is now the zeitgeist, it is not - or not yet, at least - the Jewish zeitgeist
Alternatively, if this does not characterise the world as a whole, but only the world of open, pluralist democracies, engaged in a "clash of cultures" with belligerently intolerant, faith-driven ethno-states, Israel risks falling into the wrong camp (55). A binational state is the solution (56).Zionism is a dead-end; the Jewish State must cease to define itself as Jewish (57). She must, that is, dissolve herself. Judt does not entertain the question of whether this proposal would be welcomed by the majority of Israel's citizens (58). Nor does he seem to be aware that he is rehearsing an argument within Jewish politics that is at least 140 years old - since the very emergence of the modern Jewish politics, there has always been a position that finds in the modern the very negation of the national (59).

But if this is now the zeitgeist, it is not - or not yet, at least - the Jewish zeitgeist. Anti-Zionism remains a minority position within the Jewish community (60).

1The unJewish State (London, 1983), pp. 5-6, 237-238.

2 This language comes from Apartheid Israel (London, 2003), but note also the following, from hiscontribution to a July 2006 conference organised by the IHRC, "[I hope] that within the next decade or fifteen years the UN General Assembly will endorse a long overdue covenant, the covenant for the suppression of political Zionism as a crime against humanity." See http://www.ihrc.org.uk/060702/.

3 For example, a statement attributed to a Jewish settler, "We are Judeo-Nazis, and why not? Even today I am willing to do the dirty work for Israel, kill as many Arabs as necessary ...," is said to "accurately capture the Zeitgeist of Israeli apartheid." Apartheid Israel (London, 2003), p. 84.

4 See Apartheid Israel (London, 2003), pp. 146-148, for an attack on Uri Avnery. For a general review of this quarrelsome milieu, see "Mikey" "Jews and Jew Haters: The Anti-Zionist Jewish Squabble," Harry's Place, 21 November 2007.

5 "Nation as trauma, Zionism as question: Jacqueline Rose interviewed," openDemocracy, 18 August 2005.

6 States of Fantasy (Oxford, 1996), pp. 2, 13.

7 The Question of Zion (Princeton, 2005), p. xviii. Two pages earlier, Rose describes herself as a "Jewish woman."

8 Not always consistently, though. Jacqueline Rose, for example, has maintained both that "Israel silences dissent" and "inside Israel [the Zionist dissenters'] voices have been mostly silenced" and that "the voices of dissent and opposition are very strong inside Israel." See The Question of Zion (Princeton, 2005), pp. 53, 69, and contrast John Sutherland "The ideas interview: Jacqueline Rose," Guardian, 28 November 2005. Rose also argues that the voices of the dissenting Zionist intellectuals (Buber, Scholem, Kohn, Arendt) "inside Israel have been mostly silenced," though their vision has also "returned to the centre of debate inside Israel." The Question of Zion (Princeton, 2005), pp. 69, 86-87.

9 The Question of Zion (Princeton, 2005), p. 43.

10 "Arab rights can be dismissed; the Arab people - only too visible - can or rather must be defeated, because any concession is repetition. Weakness always excites hate." The Question of Zion (Princeton, 2005), p. 131.

11 The Question of Zion (Princeton, 2005), p. 133. Later, as if as an afterthought, Rose concedes, "That the Arabs played their part in rendering ... coexistence impossible is not in dispute ..." it is a thought that she cannot sustain, even for the length of a sentence. And so she concludes, "although their opposition to the settlement of their land needs, still today, to be understood" (op. cit., p. 147). That Palestinian enmity played a part in pushing Zionism towards the kind of nation she deplores is barely considered. Responding to Judah Magnes's proposals for limited Jewish autonomy, and no independent state, one of the leaders of the Arab Istiqlal (independence) Party wrote: "In your opinions and proposals I can see nothing but a blatant provocation against the Arabs, who will allow nobody to share with them their natural rights ... as to the Jews, they have no rights whatsoever except spiritual memories replete with catastrophes and woeful tales ... It is, therefore, impossible to have a meeting between the leaders of the two peoples - the Arab and the Jewish" (see Amnon Rubinstein From Herzl to Rabin (New York, 2000), p. 68). Rose expresses great sympathy for the stance taken by Magnes and his circle, but no understanding of the strength of the Arab opposition to it. "Magnes proceeded to offer his hand, but found no one willing to take it." Michael B. Oren Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present (New York, 2007), p. 437.

12 The Question of Zion (Princeton, 2005), p. 11.

13 Brian Klug tellingly omits the final clauses of the verse he quotes from Deuteronomy, which is as follows: "That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee" (italics added).

14 See Richard W. Miller "Nationalist Morality and Crimes against
Humanity," in Aleksander Joki?, ed., War Crimes and Collective Wrongdoing (Oxford, 2001), p. 144 et seq..

15 "Europeans who expend such vast quantities of energy lecturing Israel on its supposed hypernationalist instincts give no thought whatsoever to ridding the Arabs of their own, rather more vivid, forms of nationalist sentiment. But for those European Jews who embrace the modish conviction that nationalism is not just a sin but the root of all modern evil, the fantasy of Israel's de-nationalization serves another purpose. It ensures their own conformity with the latest European thinking on the best way for human beings to organize themselves in society-namely, as good Europeans." Emanuele Ottolenghi "Europe's 'Good Jews,'" Commentary December 2005.

16 Jacqueline Rose Guardian, 2 January 2006.

17 See David Hartman Israelis and the Jewish Tradition (New Haven, 2000), which argues for a religious Zionism "grounded in a normative covenantal framework that is independent of messianism" (p. xi).

18 Shlomo Avineri gets closer to the truth: "Zionism is not a linear continuation of the Jewish religious messianic quest. It is a modern and revolutionary ideology, signifying a clear break with the quietism of the religious belief in messianic redemption that should occur only through divine intercession in the mundane cycles of world history." "Zionism and the Jewish Religious Tradition," in Shmuel Almog, Jehuda Reinharz and Anita Shapira, eds., Zionism and Religion (Hanover, NH, 1998), p. 3. But Avineri then goes on both to examine the views of those early Zionists who did interpret Zionism in messianic terms and to demonstrate that many emancipationist Jews and Reform Jews - quite different in their respective political stances to the Zionists - likewise used messianic language when characterising what they most valued in the political emancipation of the Jews or in Reform Judaism. All the modern Jewish political ideologies were inflected, in one way or another, by aspects of Jewish messianism. In a sense, how could this have been otherwise? See also Yosef Salmon "Zionism and anti-Zionism in Traditional Judaism in Eastern Europe," in Shmuel Almog, Jehuda Reinharz and Anita Shapira, eds., Zionism and Religion (Hanover, NH, 1998), p. 25.

19 Maimonides, for whom belief in the Messiah was one of the articles of faith, had this to say about the messianic era: "The Sages and Prophets did not long for the days of the Messiah that Israel might exercise dominion over the world, or rule over the heathens, or be exalted by the nations, or that it might eat and drink and rejoice. Their aspiration was that Israel be free to devote itself to the Law and its wisdom, with no one to oppress or disturb it, and thus be worthy of life in the world to come. In that era there will be neither famine nor war, neither jealousy nor strife. Blessings will be abundant, comforts within the reach of all. The one preoccupation of the whole world will be to know the Lord." See David Hartman Israelis and the Jewish Tradition (New Haven, 2000), p. 82. (My friend Menachem Kellner comments that the better translation of the 2nd sentence is "Their aspiration was that all would be free to devote themselves..."). Nothing in the law will be changed when the Messiah arrives. Maimonides' argument, asserts David Hartman, is thus to be read not just as a polemic against Christian Messianism, but also as an expression of his conviction that the constancy of the law acts as a corrective to utopian politics. Hartman's object is to call a certain kind of religious Zionist back to this Maimonidean perspective.

20 To Herman Cohen, for example, "isolation in a separate state would be in contradiction to the messianic task of the Jews. Consequently, a Jewish nation is in contradiction to the messianic ideal." See Mark Lilla The Stillborn God (New York, 2007), pp. 241-242.

21 See "Thermidor and Antisemitism" (1937), and "Appeal to American Jews menaced by Fascism and " (1938), On the Jewish Question (London, 1970), pp. 28-30.

22 "Thermidor and Antisemitism" (1937), On the Jewish Question (London, 1970), p. 28.

23 See Baruch Knei-Paz The Social and Political Thought of Leon Trotsky (Oxford, 1979), pp. 533-539.

24 Colin Shindler What do Zionists Believe? (London, 2007), p. 15.

25 Writing in the Socialist Worker, the poet and children's author Michael Rosen proposed this test: "... in my experience, if people both hate Jews and the state of Israel then they say so. One of the classic forms of antisemitism is to say that "the Jews" are in a "conspiracy" to take over the world, or that they are running the world. Sometimes, they may say there's a "Zionist" conspiracy to run the world - but that's hardly a cunning disguise for a hatred of Jews. Within this bit of conspiracy theory is the antisemitic idea that "the Jews" or "Israel" or "Zionists" run the US. Again, the people who believe this say so. It's a nonsense because the people who run US capitalism and the people who defend what it calls "America's strategic interests" (often just a euphemism for "raw materials and markets we want to get our hands on") are simply US
capitalists, their officials, allies and armies." "Antisemitism
accusations - an attempt to smear anti-Zionists into silence," Socialist Worker, 16 September 2006
http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/article.php?article_id=9667.

26 "Israel: the alternative," The New York Review of Books, 23 October 2003.

27 Sabby Sagall "The Jewish Question," Socialist Review, July/August 2002. Sagall concludes: "In western Europe, however, there is a resurgence of the genuine article, associated with the rise of fascist parties across Europe. The Russian Jewish writer Ilya Ehrenburg, a Communist and atheist, said, 'As long as there is a single antisemite in the world, I remain a Jew.'"

28 "'Look,' insisted distinguished poet and critic Tom Paulin, 'you're either a Zionist or an anti-Zionist, there's no middle way. Everyone who supports the state of Israel is a Zionist.' Everything hangs, of course, on that word 'support.' ..." The Question of Zion (Princeton, 2005), p. 11.

29 The Question of Zion (Princeton, 2005), pp. 134-135.

30 "Shortly after I arrived I Israel, I was invited to the Knesset, Israel's parliament. Shlomo Hillel, then speaker of the Knesset, greeted me warmly, pledging that the fight to free Soviet Jewry would continue. What I thought was a perfectly innocent statement treated a heated confrontation. 'Why don't we work to free non-Jews as well?' shouted one Knesset member. To which another shouted back: 'Why are you always interested in non-Jews? Are Jews not interesting enough?'" Natan
Sharansky, with Ron Dermer, The Case for Democracy (New York, 2006), p. xxix.

31 Tony Greenstein "The seamy side of solidarity," Guardian CiF, 17 February 2007.

32 Apartheid Israel (London, 2003), pp. 3-4, 150, 176-177.

33 See Brian Klug "The Myth of the New Antisemitism," Nation, 2 February 2004.

34 Irene Bruegel, JFJP, letter to the Guardian, in support of Jenny Tonge, 24 January 2004.

35 Certainly, some Palestinians talk about "Yehuds" in a derogatory fashion, cite libellous texts without forethought and make foolish statements about the Holocaust. But that's what happens to language when you step on someone's throat. Black victims of segregation in the Deep South talked about "honkies" and Malcolm X's Nation of Islam preached that an evil scientist called Yaqub created white people in a test tube experiment that went wrong. This did not make them racists, because racism usually describes a concrete set of power relations, more than it does an abstract collection of prejudices." Arthur Neslen "When an antisemite is not an antisemite," Guardian, CiF, 5 April 2007. Neslen describes himself as a "Jewish anti-Zionist."

36 Guardian, 5 May 2003. The article prompted this letter from Shalom Lappin: "Mike Marqusee ... is in denial of the facts in suggesting that [Dalyell's] 'outburst' is unusual within large swathes of what passes for the left these days. Anti-war political commentators frequently invoke a conspiratorial Jewish/Zionist lobby in American and Britain to account for US and British foreign policy ..." (6 May). Marqusee's prediction was wrong. For example: "The charge of antisemitism has been seized on as a convenient stick with which to beat Dalyell in order to discredit and silence him. [...] To accuse Dalyell of antisemitism is absurd. [...] ... one could criticise Dalyell for a serious error in referring to a cabal of Jewish rather than pro-Zionist advisers. But such a mistake is far from uncommon. Those he criticises use the terms Zionism and Jewish
interchangeably ... [...] Generally, the thrust of Dalyell's statements cannot be refuted [...] ... the accusations against him are slanderous. He is no racist or antisemite [...] ... all attempts to prevent a genuine discussion of the perfidious role played by Zionism in world affairs serve to disarm the working class internationally ..."Chris Marsden "Britain: Labour extends antiwar witch-hunt to Tam Dalyell," 22 May 2003,
www.wsws.org.

37 The speech is available by following the link on this web page, http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/freedom161007.html. It is also discussed by David Hirsh on http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1488. Compare this New Left perspective, taken from an article written in 1969: "...we have to use expressions which, taken by themselves, appear to resemble certain lines from Mein Kampf. As a result we shall feel the burden of being labelled antisemites and will be obliged to live 'with' this insult, in the same way that the incurably ill live 'with' their 'ailment.'" See Seymour Martin Lipset "The Return of Antisemitism as a Political Force," in Irving Howe and Carl Gershman, eds., Israel, the Arabs & the Middle East (New York, 1972), p. 393.

38 "Palestine's partisans," Guardian, 21 August 2002.

39 For example: "the imputation of antisemitism is a red herring, as so often is the case when Israel is criticized, and its aim, as always, is to deflect criticism. In the case of the British boycott committee, it is particularly inapt, since most of the members are Jewish" Ghada Karmi "Weapon of the weak," Ha'aretz, 14 July 2007. Cf.: "For archbishop Desmond Tutu, as for the Jewish former ANC military commander now South African minister of security, Ronnie Kasrils, the situation of the Palestinians is worse than that of black South Africans under apartheid" (italics added). John Berger letter calling for cultural boycott, Guardian, 15 December 2006.

40 Lynne Segal Making Trouble (London, 2007), p. 244.

41 "Nation as trauma, Zionism as question: Jacqueline Rose interviewed," openDemocracy, 18 August 2005.

42 The Question of Zion (Princeton, 2005), p. 116. See also pp. 145-146.

43 The Question of Zion (Princeton, 2005), p. 83. And see also: Hannah Arendt's "account [in Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963)] of the Jewish Councils' complicity with the Nazi genocide has frequently been dismissed or disbelieved." Introduction, Marcel Liebman Born Jewish (London, 2005), p. xii.

44 "The imagery of the Holocaust has become part of Israel's political language, not just in conflict with Arabs, but as a rhetorical means of abusing opponents internal political squabbles." Anton La Guardia Holy Land, Unholy War (London, 2002), p. 172 - which contains several
unedifying examples of this kind of abuse. See also Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar, Lords of the Land (New York, 2007), pp. 74-75, 135, 152, 215, 298.

45 In the alternative, the Right often accuses Israeli governments of political capitulations comparable to pre-World War II capitulations to Hitler. See Ehud Sprinzak The Ascendance of Israel's Radical Right (Oxford, 1991), p. 75.

46 The unJewish State (London, 1983), p. 184.

47 See http://www.plutobooks.com/shtml/aboutpluto.shtml.

48 The Talmud scholar Daniel Boyarin, whose anti-Zionist credentials are beyond dispute, has said of Shahak's work, "the book is a scandal, it's a slander, it's the sort of thing that the worst antisemites could write. If I had the time, I could take the trouble to contextualise every one of his claims. Now my point is not to whitewash anything. Judaism, like every other tradition, has much that is ugly in it, but I think no more and probably no less than any other tradition." Seth Farber Radicals, Rabbis and Peacemakers (Monroe, ME, 2005), p. 183. See also Gabriel Schoenfeld The Return of Antisemitism (San Francisco, 2004), p. 134. Shahak's project, in its scope and impact, is to be distinguished from frivolous misrepresentations by Jews on Jewish law, such as the following: "The Biblical injunction of "an eye for an eye" is grisly enough, but Israel goes even farther by its habitual practice of exacting an eye for an eyelash!" Avi Shlaim "Israel, Free Speech and the Oxford Union,"
openDemocracy 13 November 2007,
http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/conflicts/israel_palestine/free_speech_oxford_union. "An eye for an eye" expresses the principle of proportionate compensation, and is not meant to be taken literally.

49 See, for example, http://www.swappeal.org.uk/events/gilad.html. It would appear that at one such event some SWP members criticized his antisemitism, and gave him a "rough ride" ("Anti-fascist and
anti-antisemitic," Lenin's Tomb, 25 July 2004). But he continues to be invited back. For a different account of the "rough ride," see "Gilad Atzmon: The 'Anti-Fascists' give their response," Drink-soaked Popinjays for War, 14 July 2005
http://drinksoakedtrotsforwar.blogspot.com/2005/07/gilad-atzmon-anti-fascists-give-their.html.


50 "Gilad Atzmon: 'Zionism is my enemy,'" Socialist Worker, 5 June 2004 http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/article.php4?article_id=809.

51 Jamie Doward and Nico Hines "Boycott threat to Israeli colleges," Observer, 17 April 2005.

52 "Beyond comparison," Al-Jazeerah, August 12, 2006
http://www.aljazeerah.info/Opinion%20editorials/2006%20Opinion%20Editorials/August/12%20o/Beyond%20Comparison%20By%20Gilad%20Atzmon.htm.


53 From an interview in the online "paper of the working class:" "For an Israeli to humanise himself, he must de-zionise himself. In this way, self-hating can become a very productive power. It's the same sense of self-hating I find, too, in Jews who have given the most to humanity, like Christ, Spinoza or Marx. They bravely confronted their beast and, in doing so, they made sense to many millions." The admiring interviewer writes: "I ask Atzmon about his hopes for a liberated Palestine and how the ecumenical vision of his own music, taking from Hebraic, Arabic and Turkish traditions within a jazz framework, could find its true home there. And what would be the first tune he would play in a free Jerusalem? Etc." Chris Searles "Interview," Morning Star, 12 November 2007.

54 "Nation as trauma, Zionism as question: Jacqueline Rose interviewed," openDemocracy, 18 August 2005.

55 Judt does not understand himself to be presenting alternative cases; but this is what he is doing. He argues both, that Israel is an anachronism in a world becoming transnational, and that Israel is typical of that part of the world that resists the transnational. The first argument is simply untrue. He has not learned the lesson that he himself has taught in Postwar (London, 2005), which notices the birth or resuscitation of no less than fourteen separate countries in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Yugoslav wars that followed thereafter (in which "ethnic cleansing" was practised by all sides). The second argument is self-contradictory, because on the one hand it proposes that we all have multiple identities, and on the other, that those people with multiple identities will clash with people with but one. Judt argues that from its inception, Zionism was opposed by Jews. It has only been since "the post-Sixties," however, that this anti-Zionism has come to be characterised as antisemitic. In this account, anti-Zionism is the constant, the description of it, the variable (see Gaby Wood "The New Jewish Question," Observer, 11 February 2007). But times have changed. There is now a state. Judt's failure to get to grips with this is registered in his failure to consider the wishes of Israelis. He is still shuffling blueprints, as if a luftmensch in pre-World War II Warsaw.

56 "Israel: An Alternative Future," New York Review of Books, 23 October 2003, anthologized in Adam Shatz, ed., Prophets Outcast (New York, 2004), pp. 396-404. See also the correspondence in the NYRB 4 December 2003. Judt writes: "After all that has happened, a binational state with an Arab majority could, as Amos Elon ruefully reminds us, very well look more like Zimbabwe than South Africa. But it doesn't have to be so." "After all that has happened" suggests that at some earlier moment, a binational state stood a somewhat better chance of success.

57 "The issue is not whether Israel has a right to exist,' Judt says plainly, 'Israel does exist. It exists just like Belgium or Kuwait or any other country which was invented at some point in the past and is now a fact. The question is what kind of a state Israel should be. That's all.'" Gaby Wood "The New Jewish Question," Observer, 11 February 2007. Cf. Sartre, in remarks made shortly after the War of Independence: "I have always hoped, and I still hope, that the Jewish problem will be solved within the context of human community unrestricted by national boundaries, but since no developing society can skip the stage of national independence, we must be glad that an Israeli state has come to justify the hopes and battles of Jews all over the world." See Jonathan Judaken Jean-Paul Sartre and the Jewish Question (Nebraska, 2006), p. 188.

58 "Every opinion poll shows that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians want the two- state solution. The US government is formally committed to it; so are the Europeans. There is still time to enforce it. And
afterward, when the French, Germans, Swedes, Bulgarians, and Japanese begin to worry about their anachronistic politics, Jews and Palestinians will be able to join them." Michael Walzer, contribution to "An
Alternative Future: An Exchange," NYRB 4 December 2003.

59 Cf.: "On the nationality issue, the survival of the Jewish people, Lieberman took if anything an even stronger stand. He placed himself in total opposition to those who (again since the 1830s) had seen the modern as the negation of the national." Jonathan Frankel Prophecy and Politics (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 30-31.

60 In a survey of Anglo-Jewish opinion conducted in 2004, 47% of those questioned agreed with the statement "I am a Zionist," and 78% agreed with the statement "I care deeply about Israel." The gap between the final two figures is attributable to the commonly held conviction that one can only describe oneself as a Zionist if one intends to emigrate to Israel. See The UJIA Study of Jewish Identity in the UK: A Survey of Jewish Parents (London, 2004). This would appear to represent a modest strengthening of Zionist sentiment over the previous decade. In 1995, of Jews surveyed, 43% felt a strong attachment, and 38% felt a moderate attachment, to Israel. Thus while over 80% of respondents expressed special feelings of attachment to Israel, only 3% expressed negative feelings." Barry Kosmin, Anthony Lerman, and Jacqueline Goldberg, The Attachment of British Jews to Israel, JPR Report, No. 5, 1997.

 

 

 

 

 
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