Sunday, August 12, 2007

Zionism without a Jewish State

There is a long tradition of non-statist zionism, from the cultural zionism of Ahad ha-Am (who at times seems to have embraced the idea of a Jewish state, provided that it would not be devoid of Jewish cultural content), to the vehemently non-statist zionism of Judah Magnes.

Does it makes sense to talk of non-statist zionism now that there is a Jewish state, or at least a state that likes to call itself Jewish?

I submit that it does, and in fact, I would argue (if I had the time) that Israel would do well to adopt non-statist Zionism.

But first, some assumptions. I call them assumptions, because they are mostly articles of faith. And what I mean by that is that if you are a leftwing, post-nationalist, you aren't going to be impressed by anything I have to say here.

I start from the position of a liberal nationalist, one that sees the value for the flourishing of its citizens in a nation state. (On "liberal nationalism" you can read the good overview in the article on Nationalism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.) Because I am a liberal nationalist, I cannot be a statist Zionist, because by identifying the Jewish state as a state of the Jewish nation, I am automatically cutting off non-Jews from full membership in that state.

Moreover, I will always have to use what I consider dubious arguments to favor what I will call here ethnic Jews (as in ethnic Russians and ethnic Poles) at the expense of non-Jews who are citizens of the Jewish state.

Of course, one could make citizenship and nationality coextensive, so that anybody could become a Jew through the process of naturalization into the Jewish state. In that case, one could be a Muslim Jew, a Christian Jew, etc. But that would be a radical redefining of what it is to be a Jew.

A suggestion like that (from the other direction) was made by David Friedlaender, one of the enlightened Jews of Berlin in the eighteenth century. Friedlaender said that if the price to pay for German citizenship was being a Christian, why not have the entire Jewish community "convert" to Christianity en masse -- not, of course, traditional Christianity, but an enlightened version of Christianity which was devoid of Christian dogma. His proposal was turned down by enlightened Christians, for obvious reasons.

The point is that even if Jews do constitute a nation, or feel part of a nation, etc., it is not the sort of nation that liberal nation-states are constituted of, and for good reason -- it is a nation of which a national religion constituted a major part, whether one accepted it or rebelled against it, and, for better or for worse, that is the way it has played out in history.

The failure of Israel to be a liberal democracy and a nation-state of the Jews is well-known, and I hope I don't have to bring the familiar arguments. That fact that Israel is a settler-state founded on the thwarted national dreams of a native population compounds the problem, but, frankly, there would be problems even if Israel had been founded in a wilderness bereft of people.

But while Israel has, I believe, failed as a liberal state of the Jews, it need not be a failure as a liberal nation-state of all its people -- of the Israeli people, Jews and non-Jews, Palestinians and Jews.

I have lived in Israel on-and-off for over thirty years, and I can tell you that there is an Israeli national culture, and it is predominantly, though not exclusively, Hebraic and Jewish. Israeli Palestinian culture is also Israeli, and it is a culture which I admire and respect, and feel part of my own -- not as Jew, although I find it close to my own, but as an Israeli.

Within such a Israeli space, Jewish culture can flourish for those who want it to, and I think that in that sense, Israel could be a homeland for the Jewish people, a cultural center (note that I do not say, THE cultural center) that resonates with the historic associations of the Land of Israel for the Jewish people.

Look, I told you I was a Zionist, so if you are anti- or post- or non-, this won't speak to you. But for Zionism to flourish in a liberal democracy, one cannot have a Jewish state as constituted now. The law of return would have to be abolished -- in its stead could be an immigration law which favors certain groups (Jewish and Palestinian) but does not grant citizenship automatically to any quasi-religio-ethnic group. In such a state, one would not be forever counting heads to see whether there is a Jewish majority -- because at every moment, the state would consist of a 100% of Israeli citizens.

People say to me, "Why would any Jew would be interested to live in a state like that?" The funny thing is that the Jews who ask me this question actually do live in a state like that -- it is called the USA.

Other people say,"Hang on, but what happens in your Israeli state if a majority of its citizens are able to change the constitution in such a way as to reduce the Jewish component to a minimum?" My answer is simple: in that case, the citizens would have every right to do so. But so what? What's the point of a predominant culture if most of the state's citizens are opposed to it.

That is like saying that the idea of America is a bad one, because in principle, most of the citizens could change the constitution and vote America out of existence. Yes, but so what?

In this post I have left many things unexplained. But mostly I have been assuming that the present state of Israel, while it may be good for Judaism, is bad for liberal democracy. But I don't believe that. I believe that while there are positive things about the state of Israel, it, on the whole, has not been very good for Judaism. That I will leave for another rant, i.e., post.

But what I wanted to say here is that there can be zionism -- the feeling of the centrality of the Land of Israel for the Jewish people -- without a Jewish state as presently conceived. The conditions were not ripe for such a zionism in the forties, but they are much better now. And while I don't expect many people will agree with me -- on my right are the statist zionists, on my left are the post-nationalists, I don't see what is wrong about trying to preserve what is good about zionism, and, for that matter, the state of Israel, while pushing towards a more liberal and equitable regime, a second Israeli republic, as it were.

25 comments:

Dan Fleshler said...

Jerry,

This sums up what I think about the degradation of the Zionist dream very persuasively. But it is hard to figure out how to build a political movement around it, either in Israel or the Diaspora. That's the problem with much of what you've been articulating on this provocative blog. It's not enough to "speak truth to power." Not in this world. There has to be a political path, or at least the possibility of a political path, or at least the possibility of the possibility of a political path.

Jerry Haber said...

Dan,

If I followed your advice, I wouldn't call myself the Magnes Zionist. I have no illusions that a political movement can be built around some of the ideas I articulate.

On the other hand, the idea that Israel should not consider itself a state of the Jewish nation, but a state of all its people, is not something that I invented, as you know. There are many Israelis on the left who believe that, and while it is not mainstream, it is an idea that liberal zionists have to confront and will increasingly confront, as the illusions of "Jewish and democratic" will fade.

What I hope I can do is to convince people that Israel can be a Jewish state -- albeit in a different sense from the way it is today -- AND a state of all its people. It is not either/or.

I don't believe that there can be, in the near future, anything that I preach. But that didn't stop Magnes, and, lehavdil, it won't stop me.

That doesn't mean that I think we should sit and twiddle our thumbs. My heroes are the activists out there fighting for justice...and one of the things I will want to do, when I am not waxing philosophical, will be to encourage them on, and for others to help them.

rozele said...

i'm a bit confused by what you mean by the terms you're using, which makes it hard for me to follow your argument.

what is a "nation state", after all, if not a state which is defined as a state 'of' a particular nation? in some cases, this definition is explicit - france, for instance, whose constitution begins "the french people...", or israel in its current form. but it's no less true in cases like the u.s., where there is a very strong and specific definition of who constitutes the 'american' nation despite it never being spelled out in the founding documents. we can tell that the 'american' nation is white and christian, for instance, by the very consistent identification of u.s. citizens who aren't as 'minorities' even in places where they are a majority, as identity-based problems to be solved even when the sole source of problems is clearly economic, etc.

or perhaps what i'm not following is how you connect your 'liberal nationalist' pro-nation-state position to the 'state of its citizens' model, which is quite precisely opposed to the nation state model.

but i suppose you need not connect them, after all - there's no shame in being comfortable with nation states in theory and rejecting them in practice; far better that than the other way around...

which leaves me interested in why you choose to use the term 'zionism' for your notion of the land between the jordan and the mediterranean as a jewish cultural center. the z-word has long since stabilized away from its disputed status in the days of ahad ha-am into a pretty precise meaning of (1) support for a jewish nation state in the eastern mediterranean and (2) a belief that a fulfilled jewish collective life can only be lived in or in primary relation to that territory (the marginally loosened version of 'negation of the diaspora').

i'm always intrigued by folks who insist on using the word 'zionism' for a project that they themselves insist is pretty much unreconcilable with its basic current definition. (i'm taking you at your word on the "a cultural center" - if you mean "a favored/privileged/prioritized cultural center", then this doesn't apply.) mobius (of orthodoxanarchist) and you are among my favorites, and seemingly involved in interesting conversations between yourselves as well... so i'd love to hear your thoughts on that choice.

(oh, and by the way, i'd say that the folks who'll find your argument most interesting, but least compelling are my flavor of jewish folks, who aren't anti-, post-, non-, or any other identity defined in relation to zionism. mir zenen yidn: which is to say, diasporists, since as the proverb says, a yid iz in golus.)

Jerry Haber said...

Well, I consider both France and the US "nation states," but the nation is not a particular ethnic group that precedes the state, but is defined or created by the state. If you are an American citizen, you belong to the American nation. I wouldn't even know what to make of a concept like "ethnic Americans," but I do know what is meant by "ethnic Russians" or "ethnic Czechs."

Why must a state of its citizens be opposed to a nation-state model? I suppose you can do away with the concept of nation, but you don't have to. Why not refer to an Israeli nation, one that includes all Israeli citizens? There is a suit before the High Court of Israelis who want to register their nationality as "Israeli". As you may know, the State of Israel does not recognize "Israeli" as a nationality.

I choose the term Zionism -- actually, this is worth a post -- because I endorse the notion of a a Jewish/Hebrew cultural center in Palestine/Eretz Yisrael, either within the framework of a one-state or two-state solution. Call it cultural Zionism without some of the Russian baggage of Ahad ha-Am. Of course, for reasons that you give, some people may not consider that Zionism at all. People said that Magnes was not a Zionist for that reason. I believe that the Jews as a people has a right to self-determination, but that need not be within the framework of a nation-state.

By the way, the Ben Gurion view that you can't live a fully Jewish life outside of Israel is supported by such ideological dinosaurs as A.B. Yehoshua but by few else. I think it is extremely difficult to live a life that is fully Jewish in Israel.

a yid iz in golus, no matter where she lives

D said...

i don't feel like you addressed my question about your decision to use the word 'zionist' in a way that runs so definitively against its almost universal (dare i say hegemonic?) current use. i look forward to your projected post on it...

but as for 'state of its citizens' versus nation-state, i think the distinction is this:

in a nation-state, full citizenship (in state-backed social and informal terms as well as legal ones) is dependent on membership in the 'nation'. as, for instance, in the u.s. or france, folks who aren't christian are actively marginalized (in france by laws like the head-covering ban in public schools; in both countries by many aspects of the core political rhetoric and state-backed social structure). the same holds true for folks who are (visibly) not european-descended in the u.s. or 'ethnically' french in france, and for folks whose primary language is not english or french, respectively. the 'nation' in the u.s. nation-state is very clear: it's white, christian, and english-speaking; it's who comes to mind when you hear the phrase "why don't you go back to where you came from", especially when directed at another light-skinned person for 'disloyalty'.

by contrast, in a state of its citizens (of which i'm not sure i can cite a genuine example - which is part of why i think states are an inherently bad idea), a citizen or resident's identification (by anyone, including herself) as a member of any nation (jewish, israeli, palestinian, arab, circassian, druze, thai, krimchak...) would have no impact on their relationship to the state.

i think you'd find very few u.s. citizens of african descent who'd agree with you that they are members of the 'american nation' in anything like the same way as white folks in the u.s. the civil rights movement and the other phases of the african american liberation struggle have been very specifically aimed at transforming the u.s. from a nation-state into a state of its citizens. one look at jena, louisiana, or the blackface costume that won an award for 'originality' from the federal government this halloween, shows that this has not yet occurred.

as for the question of shlilat hagalut, first of all, i didn't say it consisted at present of denying the possibility of fulfilled jewish collective life outside of 'ha-aretz'. what's central to contemporary zionism is the idea that jewish life outside that territory must be lived in primary relation to it (and generally to the israeli state) to be fulfilled.

if you think this is any less than pervasive, i think you should pay closer attention to what the self-appointed leaders of the u.s. jewish community say. almost every institution for jewish education in the u.s. explicitly declares as its primary goal the creation of a strong attachment to the state of israel in its students. this is presented as the primary if not sole element of a positive jewish identity. it's also generally accompanied by next to no education on the two millennia of jewish history between the destruction of the second temple and herzl's rise to prominence (except a stereotyped depiction of the shtetl that would make sholem-aleykhm regret having written "tevye der milkhiker").

this is shlilat hagalut in a close meld with mamlaktiyut: the devaluing of diasporic existence except insofar as it is centered on the israeli state. yes, it's considered impolite to use the kind of phrasing that yehoshua did. but that's mainly because it implies that only making aliya expresses a sufficient attachment by u.s. jews to the state. the sponsors of 'birthright israel', for instance, entirely agree with him that an israel-centered life is the only fulfilled jewish one - the only disagreement is the range of acceptable expression of that israel-centrism.

i don't disagree with you that it's hard to live a fulfilling jewish life in the state of israel (though i think we have different difficulties in mind), but i wouldn't say it's easier elsewhere. as you say: golus is wherever we live - un s'iz shver tsu zayn a yid, shverer tsu zayn a mentsh.

Jerry Haber said...

D,

I think you mistake being a member of a minority with being excluded from a nation. You can be a member of the nation and be a member of a minority. French citizens are members of the French nation, no matter what minority they belong to. Ditto for the US

As an American citizen, I am a member of the American nation -- no less than a WASP. By the way, even for those who feel that the US is a Christian nation, that doesn't exclude non-Christians from being members of the nation...because being a Christian is not a requirement of *membership* but rather a characterisation of American tradition. And, as you know, only fundamentalists now call the US a Christian nation. The national foundations that create the US and French nations are neither ethnic nor religious in nature. When somebody calls the US a Christian nation, that person is usually marginalized as a fundamentalist.

Once again, the common general distinction is between states that create the nationality through citizenship and those in which the ethnic group/nation is prior to the formation of the state.

The distinction is common but not uncontroversial, and the two types listed above are ideal types.

By the way, you are wrong about African Americans, and, I would suggest, your comment smacks a bit of racism. I know quite a few blacks who would take umbrage at the idea that they are less American than whites. They are just as American, but they are discriminated Americans. Once again, you assume, without argument, that nationality has to be defined by ethnicity, but that is an undefended assumption.

As for what is central to Zionism, well that is a matter of opinion, of course, and there are zillions of answers. You may be right about contemporary Zionism; if that is so, then the founding of the State impoverished Zionism, and maybe the best thing for Zionism would be to transform Israel into to something that is not now. After all, since the founding of the State there has been no interesting Zionist thinker. Some would say that Zionism died with the founding of the state; Israelism replaced it.

By the way, I don't know of any Jewish leader or educator anywhere in the world who says that the primary goal of Jewish education is the creation of a strong attachment to the state of Israel. If that is true, then there are a lot of heretics masquerading as Jewish leaders and educators. That is fascism pure and simple, as Leibowitz would want to say. Allgiance to a state as the goal of education? God help us!

Again, I think you are wrong about Birthright as well. I have not heard them say that "an israel-centered life is the only fulfilled one." This is what the say on their website.

"Taglit-birthright israel provides the gift of first time, peer group, educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18 to 26. Taglit-birthright israel's founders created this program to send thousands of young Jewish adults from all over the world to Israel as a gift in order to diminish the growing division between Israel and Jewish communities around the world; to strengthen the sense of solidarity among world Jewry; and to strengthen participants' personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people."

None of the stated aims are remotely similar to what you write.

Jerry Haber said...

One further comment to D -

Even if you are skeptical that citizenship really creates nationality (and I can understand the skepticism), I would prefer the French or the US citizen conception of statehood over that of Israel's any time. But, actually, it is not just the French or the US conception. I would accept the German conception as well. In fact, many nation states are moving to a conception of the nation which is multi-cultural and multi-ethnic. As usual, Israel is behind the times with its late 19th century conception of nationality that the Western world has moved beyond.

rozele said...

just a partial response on one point:

you write "By the way, I don't know of any Jewish leader or educator anywhere in the world who says that the primary goal of Jewish education is the creation of a strong attachment to the state of Israel."

if we're going to have this conversation at all, please take the trouble to inform yourself of what's actually going on in the u.s. jewish world. look at the official program of goals for any major u.s. jewish education project, and here's what you'll find:

the reform movement’s “10 goals for reform jewish education”, for instance, include “affirm[ing jews’] historic bond to eretz yisrael, the land of israel” and “cherish[ing] and study[ing] hebrew”, but make no mention of learning the history of any diaspora community, much less cherishing or affirming ashkenazi culture or any of the other jewish cultures from which reform jews come.

the only specific curriculum elements which appear in the american jewish committee’s 1999 “policy statement on jewish education” are identical: “israel experience” and “hebrew language instruction”.

a very similar view appears in a rather different part of the jewish institutional constellation, the reconstructionist rabbinical college, whose core curriculum requires no study of jewish history past the talmud, while insisting on a year’s study in israel (even its dual degree program in jewish education does not seem to require any study of ashkenazi or any other diasporic culture).

the united jewish communities’ website page on “jewish living” contains exactly two content-based resources (not counting a rotating article and/or dvar toyre): a holiday observance guide and the “israel education resource center”. the list of holidays, incidentally, strays from halakhic practice to add four dates to the ritual calendar: three israeli national holidays and yom hashoah.

the complete replacement of jewish (i.e. diaspora) history and culture by the state of israel as an object of study, identification and adherence is striking. and if you "don't know" about it, it can only be because you choose not to. these are all publicly available documents, which turn up with a 30-second google search.

and, while clearly some zionist-identified folks like yourself disagree with them in various ways, there is an equally clearly defined set of 'foundations of zionism'. while it's going a bit far for the world zionist organization to claim that "all Zionists agree on the set of ideals and principles known as the Jerusalem Program", it's a decent example of the common core for all but a few voices like yours or mobius', admirable but utterly marginal to the zionist movement as a whole.

the jerusalem program's most recent revision put it this way: "the centrality of the State of Israel and Jerusalem, its capital, in the life of the nation".

i wish you were correct in your assessment of the diversity of zionist views, but the evidence is otherwise. there were more dissident voices within the zionist movement in its earlier days, for sure, but it's not a matter of a noble ideal now corrupted but of a consistent main stream of opinion that's gotten better at silencing dissenters over time. ze'ev sternhell's (meticulous if dry) book the founding myths of israel shows those processes at work in the yishuv, targeting folks much closer to the zionist mainstream than state-skeptical folks like you or magnes.

Jerry Haber said...

hi rozele, long time no response...

sometime i choose my words carefully, and while I agree that Israel plays a central role in much of Jewish "education" today, probably more in statements of goals then in actual curricular hours, there is a difference between fostering a bond between a Jew and eretz yisrael, and fostering an attachment between a Jew and the State of Israel. Ditto for the requirement of the reform movement that its rabbinical students spend a year in Israel. That is more to get their Hebrew and reading of texts up to snuff then Zionist indoctrination.
In my neck of the woods, which is Jewish studies at the university, more students enroll in courses about the Holocaust than Israel.

But let me grant you the point...so much the worse for Jewish education....although I am all for Israel studies, and my university now has a Center for Israel Studies (thank you, Alan Dershowitz, and all those neocons and liberal hawks who scared the rich Jews into footing the bill for Israel Studies Centers -- to counter the "anti-Israel climate on campus."

As for the varieties of Zionism....It may be that Zionism is irredeemable, a dinosaur of the nineteenth century. But look out for a liberal nationalist defense of Zionism coming your way soon from Oxford University Press.

And of course, one day I may write a book...

jerry

Anonymous said...

Galut Jewry for 2000 years our leaders have had to seriously consider the goyim peoples who's nations and empires hosted our scattered and exiled peoples. Even in the times of the Gemarah edited in Bavel, the political independence of Channuka was limited to a discussion of lighting candles! Following the closure of the Talmud, the later Talmudic scholars limited their ideas unto solely religious matters. Re establishing the Jewish State requires reaching a consensus concerning the Torah. Is this solely a religious document or primarily a political Constitutional document? Zionism without a Jewish State, the very notion is patently absurd. Political Zionism starts with the objective of attaining international recognition of the Jewish Right to Self Determination! Balfour, the League of Nations "Palestine" Mandate of 1922, the UN vote of 1948, this is Zionism in its finist hour. The Arab states and their employment of "People's War" conflict, (go look it up its important to know what the enemy is doing) seeks to internationalize and isolate the Jewish State.

The Nazis and non Jews look at Jews as being a race. We are not. Arabs their are a race. Israel exists as a people. Building a people - this require a Torah spirituality, that the "liberal butt heads" have absolutely not a clue.

Imanuel said...

“The anti-semites will assist us thereby in that they will strengthen the persecution and oppression of Jews. The anti-semites shall be our best friends”

Theodor Herzl

halewistan said...

Very commendable post. This strikes me as exactly the sort of thinking needed in this day and age. I wonder how you'd see it meshing with the (admittedly crackpot) idea of a permanent non-state UN Protectorate in the region. I'm a fan of your writing--any thoughts would be welcome. -h

Roy said...

I like the idea of moving from a nationalist notion of a Jewish state to a more liberal one that frees the institutions of the state from being Jewish, and puts the "burden" of being Jewish on the Jews living there - their communities, their culture, their not-for-granted Judaism. As someone who grew up as a secular Jew in Israel, it was very easy - but also very empty - being a Jew.

Still, I'm pretty sure that the USA can't be a good model for what we can expect if the law of return will be abolished. People will not stop counting heads because they are 100% Israeli. People will count heads because they are in a democracy and they are not expected to be in the same parties - at least not in the first stage. So Jews will more than ever (since 1948) count on bringing more Jews as their share of the state will not be guaranteed as it is now.

If 50% of the USA was Native-American, and there was a big Native-American, as well as European-American, diasporas, you would not have had the same naturalization laws you have today.

Jerry Haber said...

Roy,

Actually, the US is a democracy that doesn't ask religion on its census. Being Jewish is not being a member of a party.

When liberals and fellow-travelers like Gershom Gorenberg can claim that Israel needs a Jewish majority to be Jewish and democratic, then I have problems.

I have problems because I am American, and religion and ethnicity are supposed to be irrelevant to the government - except for affirmative action, and then, ethnicity is one consideration of many.

owl of minerva said...

Hi Jerry,
How would you define your kind of zionism? How is it different from 'being jewish'? I find it hard to understand a kind of zionism that is not tied up to the notion of statehood. How do you differ from non-zionist jews?
kind regards,
sandra
http://the-owl-of-minerva.blogspot.com/

Jerry Haber said...

Sandra,

Since my post was an answer to your question, how can there be Zionism with a Jewish ethnic state, I don't understand what is troubling you.

So maybe I should start from the other directions. There are people who deny that Jews constitute a people or a nation that have any claims to or rights of self-determination. Judaism is essentially a religion or a culture but not a national identity.

I don't believe that.

There are other Jews who may recognize the notion of Jewish peoplehood, but who think that the expressions of self-determination are not best served by a Jewish collective in Palestine.

I don't believe that, either.

There are still other Jews who feel that the sole security for the Jews, as well their cultural regeneration, requires the founding of a Jewish ethnic state, e.g., Israel.

I don't believe that, either.

What do I believe in? Read Berny Avishai's The Hebrew Republic. I believe in a liberal democracy with a predominantly Jewish/Hebrew culture, but also a Palestinian Arab culture. Such a state would be a source of pride and identification for Jews in the diaspora. It would be a state of all its citizens, like America is a state of all its citizens. But it would be a Jewish country in the sense in which America is a Christian country.

For better formulations, read my post.

owl of minerva said...

i am sorry. I don't want to sound argumentative. I have been reading your blog and find it nuanced and a little different and it raises questions in me. I sense that there is some basic contradiction in magnes zionism. You don't want to tie statehood to a religion, and be a liberal democracy for all people. But then you say you want the population to be predominantly jewish. What if the population was 50% jewish and 50% arab? Also if you disconnect nationality from ethnicity then why do you still worry about how many Jewish people and how many Arab people there will be? I understand you want to reconcile tribalism with liberal democracy. But I don't know how it logically can be done. It seems to me that as long as you are worrying about how many Arabs there are as opposed to how many Jews you operate in a fundamentally different mode of thinking . This is ultimately not how democracies think. In america they are not even supposed to ask you anymore what ethnicity you are in more and more circumstances. It is not supposed to matter. The more it matters the less democracy. But maybe I am still not understanding your point.

pabelmont said...

You wrote: "because by identifying the Jewish state as a state of the Jewish nation, I am automatically cutting off non-Jews from full membership in that state."

True. Moreover:

There are Jews (and if I am counted as a Jew, then I am one) who do not want to be counted as part of Israel or protected by it or spoken for by it.

Recall the Balfour declaration, a sine qua non of the creation of Israel:

"His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

The Balfour declaration had this straight, but Israel upon establishing itself as a state, immediately got it wrong -- both as to Jews outside Israel and also as to non-Jewish Palestinians.

xiquillo said...

Dear Jerry,

I am writing to you because I found your blog extremely interesting in the new fresh view it gives about Israel and Zionism. I am writing to you from Spain, a country which is usually very concerned with the situation in the Middle East, but where any criticism to Israel made by a Spaniard is confronted with the accusation of anti-Zionism or even worse, with the affirmation that we Spaniards are all bloody antisemites.

Concerning your topic, I would like to ask you a couple of questions:

The first of all is about what I understood as your view of Zionism. I wonder if having Israel as a non-Jewish state might turn Israel into a kind of Lebanon, where Muslims (who usually have a much higher birth rate than Jews or Christians) would double the population of Jews and therefore gain the political, cultural and religious power in Israel.

The other question is regarding Humanist Zionism (I think this is the right term to name it). I have just discovered this ideology and only know about Judah Magnes, so I wonder if you could indicate me authors or works about the topic. I am very interested in it and think this ideology can really bring realistic and achievable ideas for peace in the Middle East.

Thank you very much for your help.

All the best!

Jerry Haber said...

Thanks for your questions.

There are over 5 1/2 million Israeli Jews living in Israel, I think. There is a predominant Hebrew culture. The Israeli Palestinians speak Hebrew, often better than the American Jews. Now how could that predominant Hebrew culture vanish overnight because of Muslim birthrate? In a democratic state of Israel/Palestine that culture would be vital -- as would Arabic Christian, Muslim, and Jewish culture?

Humanistic Zionism is a good phrase. Look at the writings of Martin Buber and Judah Magnes -- and Ahad Haam, some of which have been translated to English. The problem with Buber is that he got used to quickly to the reality of a Jewish ethnic state. Magnes died shortly after the founding of the state.

xiquillo said...

Dear Jerry,

Hello again. Thanks a lot for your answer. I am really interested in reading your blog and understanding this new Humanistic Zionism, about which no one here in Europe usually talks.

I have been wondering about the denomination of Israel as "The state of All its Citizens" that some Arabs in the Knesset proposed (some of them were really reprimanded for it if I'm not wrong). I think this denomination would determine a much more democratice stance from the Israeli state and an open acceptance of the difference between its citizens. However, I wonder what kind of changes would this bring into practice. Should probably the right of return for Jews be restricted? Would this change anything for the Israeli Arabs daily life?

I read a lot about Adalah and some Arabs that say their situation as Israeli Arabs is that of a second class citizen, but I refuse to believe it can be so bad in a state that (not taking into account the occupied territories) grants all rights to all its citizens. Or is it not so?

Thanks for answering my questions.

All the best from Spain

Julia Riber Pitt said...

NO STATE should exist. You can have ethnic pride, a common heritage, and community without a state. Human beings lived in stateless communities for CENTURIES and did just fine.

Nate Glenn said...

As a proponent of palestinian and all human rights, I think you've hit the nail on the head. It's not even necessary to talk about zionism or antizionism or postzionism, the important thing to focus on is democracy and human rights. Zionism is not necessarily a bad idea, so long as it's implemented in a way that protects the human rights of all people. It should be about restoring and cultivating what has been lost, not destroying what is. You are absolutely right about so many things here, I couldn't agree more.

Arikcarlo said...

There IS such a thing as multiculturalism that allows a country to declare its majority identity while respecting the identities of minorities.

Here in Canada, which had a racist past as a member of the Master Race British Empire, things changed dramatically after WWII. Things evolved as they can in Israel.

Slowly equal rights legislation appeared and shows of respect for minorities, who were once thought of as novelties like the fat woman in the circus, evolved through various means. One would be the lighting of the Menorah on Chanukah in Parliamentary Ottawa.

In rural Canada, it's still a fairly White culture that dominates - where the sacrifices in WWII of Jewish and other adherents to minority religions on the battlefield are not mentionned at commemorations by the presiding Reverend Protestant minister.

Still, there's an overall view that minorities are to be respected, while the majority cultures (of British stock in Anglo Canada; of French stock in French Canada , and First Nations (Indian) stock as well) carry on with the understanding that they are exactly that...the majority culture.

It would be very damaging for any nation to open itself up to a free for all regarding majority cultural identity - read the Tower of Babel.

Israel has to forge ahead with multiculturalism, eg. putting up a statue to a regional Palestinian Israeli hero in a non anti Israel field would be an example.

Equal treatment, eg. in housing, is another approach.

It IS possible for a Jewish State to exist in that manner.

As an aside, the Palestinian Authority who are so hot on Israel not being a Jewish State have never denounced Saudia Arabia or Iran for being Islamic states.

Yitzchak said...

this is the "zionism" of the religious "anti-Zionist" communities such as Satmar, Brisk, Eidah Charedith, etc. They all have devotion to the Land (even Neturei Karta means "Guardians of the City", i.e. Jerusalem), they have a faith-based national identity as part of Am Yisrael, but they lack any devotion to the State of Israel, and the utterly eschew the concept of any Jewish State, religious or secular, before the Messiah comes (and perhaps once he comes, there will be no more such thing as nation states, as it says the only difference between then and now is "Shibud malchioth bilvad"?)