Thursday, November 18, 2010

FAQ on Zionism and Racism

(Occasioned by Jerome Slater's article, the comments (mostly critical) of Slater on Mondoweiss, and Ahmed Moor's criticism.)

Is Zionism inherently racist?

No. Zionism was never based on theories of racial or even cultural superiority. Zionism, was and is a movement to achieve Jewish self-determination (there are other elements as well). For most Zionists, the place for that self-determination was and is the Land of Israel.

Is there racist Zionism?

Sure, there are certainly racist versions of Zionism, if we broaden "racism" to include theories of religious-racial superiority.

Have there been racist Zionists?

Sure, but not by virtue of their Zionism. Even the attempts of certain religious Zionists to posit a metaphysical distinction between Jew and Gentile, or who suggest that the Ishmaelites have inherited their ancestor's hatred of Isaac, etc., can not be laid at the feet of their Zionism, but rather their understanding of Judaism. And, of course, there are racists everywhere. Even cultural Zionists like Magnes expressed feelings of cultural superiority towards local Arabs in his private correspondence. But that did not figure into his Zionism. He simply was an American who had spent time in Germany, and who had the cultural snobbery that infects many people. In America, German Jews didn't let Russian Jews become members of their country clubs because they viewed the latter as uncouth and vulgar. A person can be a bigot and a Zionist, but that doesn't make Zionism bigotry.

Is Zionism inherently discriminatory?

Not all forms of Zionism are, but the sort of exclusivist-ethnic-statist Zionism that emerged in Palestine was and is inherently discriminatory – even if Zionists wish to believe that it is not. They could never give convincing arguments for the distinction between favoring Jews (good) and discriminating against Arabs (bad) on the level of the state. You really can't have one without the other.

Was Zionism essentially a colonialist movement?

There are essential colonialist elements within classical Zionism, both in practice (settlements) and in mentality (feelings of cultural superiority over the natives.) But it differs from colonialism in that it is a settler nationalism that sees its task as reclaiming its ancient land.

Was Zionism essentially anti-Arab?

Zionism essentially ignored the Arabs, at least until the Arabs made it impossible not to. Zionism was not initially directed against the Palestinian Arabs; they were the "collateral damage" of the Zionist project, especially the statist Zionist project. But with time, and with the predictable and justifiable Arab resistance, anti-Arabism entered Zionism.

But didn't a Jewish state require ethnic cleansing?

That depended on the sort of Jewish state. The state that Ben Gurion envisioned would have had great difficulties without ridding itself of the Palestinian population, which it defined as hostile. It did not have enough land for the socialist pioneers, and it did not have room for the anticipated waves of immigration. Nor was anybody interested in 1948 with power-sharing. Before 1948 the Zionists told the world that a Jewish state could arise with a sizeable Arab population. The state that the Jewish Agency accepted was 40% Arab. But upon independence the State of Israel passed a law that effectively barred the return of Palestinians to their homes, and there has been an effort to keep the total number of Arabs to no more than 20%. To justify this morally, the Zionists have engaged in self-deception; they claim that the Arabs left voluntarily and had abandoned property claims and that they could not return because they were a hostile element. The Zionists didn't want to accept responsibility for the ethnic cleansing, but they were happy for it. That is true of the vast majority of Israelis, today.

Then why do people call Zionism "racism"?

Either because they use the term loosely, or they don't understand Zionism, or because racism is very bad, and if you want to delegitimize something, you throw the word "racism" at it. Thinking people, on the other hand, can realize that "Zionism" and "racism" and "colonialism" are complicated terms, and that terminological sobriety is a virtue. Something can be very, very bad without being racist or apartheid. If I say that Israeli society discriminates against Palestinian Israelis, the discrimination need not be based on racism in the technical sense. Part of it is racist; part of it is not. All of it is very, very bad.

64 comments:

T said...

You say this: "If I say that Israeli society discriminates against Palestinian Israelis, the discrimination need not be based on racism in the technical sense. Part of it is racist; part of it is not. All of it is very, very bad."

Maybe I'm missing something? How is discrimination based on ethnicity not racism? What are those other "non-racist" parts?

I agree with that Zionism isn't inherently racist, but the only relevant forms of Zionism (i.e. the ones that have been put into practice rather than the ones that exist only as thought experiments) are racist towards Palestinians.

Palestinians living in Israel and Israeli-controlled land, by virtue of being Palestinian, have less rights, and the justification is the preservation of the self-determination of the Jewish people. There is no escaping that.

Jerry Haber said...

Maybe I should have first said what I consider by racism. I assume that it implies a theory of racial difference as well as the superiority of one race over another. If one wants to see some forms of ethnic discrimination also as racist, then it would be a view that sees the superiority of one ethnic group over the other (say by virtue of its culture) and that *by virtue of that superiority*, one group has rights that the other does not.

Now, consider the following case. Say there has been a pattern of ethnic discrimination against Hispanics, and in order to rectify that pattern, some people in power decide on a program of affirmative action. So Hispanics are favored over non-Hispanics in the program. When non-Hispanics accuse the program organizers of racism, they say, "We do not consider Hispanics to be culturally or ethnically superior to non-Hispanics. We are trying to redress a historical injustice."

Similarly, Israeli Jews don't discriminate against Israeli Arabs because they feel themselves ethnically or racially superior to them. They do so because the structures of Israeli society favor the Jewish sector of the state. There is a feeling of dividing the pie to help your own kind. This is tribalist but it is not racist.

Of course, you can define all forms of "discrimination on ethnic basis" to be racist. There are people who consider affirmative action to be racist because it recognizes ethnic difference as relevant. I don't

pabelmont said...

Possibly humorously, I posted a comment elsewhere which argued that Zionism was not "racist", because it was based on theft (I want your land and I want you off your land), but that that theft was "equal opportunity" in the sense that whoever previously occupied the land would be kicked out, irrespective of "race" (whatever that may from time to time be deemed to mean: in USA, "Irish" was once a non-white "race"), and even if, as may well be the case, the Palestinians are largely descendants of ancient Jews who lived then, as Palestinians did in 1947, in this land. In this view, the Zionist is a thief, not a racist. He "gives himself permission" to take what is not his by force of arms.

Above, "racism" is taken to mean antagonism toward and major damage done to a "race" (as if Palestinians were a "race"). However, "racism" could also be understood as protecting a "race" by doing major damage to others, as "white supremacism" favors "whites" over all others, being "equal opportunity" towards those disfavored and damaged, but "racist" towards those favored. In this view, perhaps Zionism is a kind of "racism" because it certainly damaged "all others" (Palestinians) in favor of one group, or "race", "Jews" (including religious, secular, and non-Jews (some Russians)).

Donald said...

I think I agree with T, though your discussion is very good. It might be helpful if you could go back and amend your post to include your definition of racism.

Where I agree with T is that it's true that Zionism isn't inherently racist, but the form that seems to have dominated actual practice is racist or pretty close to it, based on the actions taken. Your affirmative action analogy doesn't really work, unless the affirmative action policies become a systematic truly oppressive set of policies towards white people conducted in the name of helping blacks or Hispanics. Conservative opponents of affirmative action might imagine that is happening, but in the real world anyone who would compare Israel's treatment of Palestinians to the treatment of white people in the US is seriously deluded.

David said...

While I appreciate your nuanced views of what Zionism might have been, Revisionist Zionism has been the preeminent version and it's been getting more racist and violent over the years. There is no longer a "kinder, gentler" form as espoused by the author of this blog -- and there hasn't been for some time. So let's look clearly and unflinchingly at the Zionism in the contemporary mirror and not remember how good looking it was 100 years ago but see it for what it is today.

Irish Moses said...

A Zionism motivated by the need to find a safe place for Jews suffering the horrors of the pogroms of Eastern Europe in the 1880s is understandable and valid. Unfortunately, Zionism had a second motivation, the desire to create a place or homeland, exclusively for Jews. The need for a safe place did not require exclusivity. Unfortunately, the goal of creating a homeland exclusively for Jews started with Herzl who felt the Arabs needed to leave Palestine but thought they would be willing to resettle if sufficiently compensated.
It was the Zionist drive for exclusivity which really started after Balfour in 1918, that created the later Arab anger and riots. The Zionist drive for exclusivity, for an Israel as a homeland exclusively for Jews, led directly to the discrimination, ethnic cleansing, and modern day oppression by Israelis of Palestinian Arabs.
So, the question is not whether Israel should be recognized as a Jewish state; it has been since UNGA 181 which created a Jewish State out of a portion of mandate Palestine in 1947. The question is whether it must be an exclusively Jewish state, or a Jewish state in which its Arab citizens can be denied many of the civil rights possessed by its Jewish citizens, as is the case today.
It is that demon or original sin of Jewish exclusivity that motivates Israeli politics today, and drives the demand for recognition of Israel as a "Jewish State". The critical question is what do Israelis mean by "Jewish State". Palestinian reluctance to provide this recognition without legal claification of its limits is understandable.

myron said...

You write that "The state that Ben Gurion envisioned would have had great difficulties without ridding itself of the Palestinian population, which it defined as hostile." and go on to mention the sizeable Arab minority.

Do you think that B.G. envisioned a state that would include the extra land (beyond partition borders) capture during the war: Land that brought with it a significant increase in Arab population? (This seems to be Sari Nusseibeh's reading of B.G's "plan".

In other words, is my reading of the original acceptance of Partition by the Zionist movement a myth: A State with a large Arab Minority that would become less significant as the Jewish population would increase through immigration.

Interesting to think that Zionism as a movement may not have been racist..but all too many Zionist individuals think like racists and that has effected government policy in ALL Israeli governments.

On the other hand (and you might disagree with me) settlers are not evil per se, but the movement is the problem.

Jerry Haber said...

Irish Moses, if you are familiar with my posts, you know that you and I are barking up the same tree. I would just say that the safe haven for the Jews was only one element of Zionism; another element was the notion of self-determination.

Here's a case in point. Originally, the concept of Avodah Ivrit, Hebrew labor, was adopted by many Zionist pioneers not because of feelings of racial or ethnic superiority -- on the contrary, that would have led to employing natives as happened in most other colonialist ventures. Rather it was the desire to negate the image of the galus Jew who despises agricultural labour as something worthy of peasants. Their intentions were to be self-sufficient; the consequences, of course, was to remove the natives from that labour force.

Jerry Haber said...

myron, your question about Ben Gurion is beyond my expertise; I have to look into that. My reading of Ben Gurion is that he was prepared to do anything that he felt he could get away with. On the other hand, I think that the signers of the declaration of independence genuinely believed that they could have it all -- civil equality for Arabs, and discrimination in favor of Jews. The inherent contradiction barely occurred to them because they viewed the Palestinian population as essentially traditional and docile, with little political consciousness (Yet they were always fearful that they would attain one.)

As I said in my post, anti-arab racism definitely infected Israelis, and it is growing.

Donald said...

I think you got me confused with David in part of your response.

On the subject of what should be called racism, I tend to go by results. If a group X is subjected to oppression, then I call it racism though the word isn't always precisely applicable. For instance, Islamophobia I will sometimes call racism, though it isn't that, strictly speaking, because it's not based on any theory of biological inferiority, but rather a theory of cultural or religious inferiority. Some Islamophobes who would mistrust a Muslim Arab would embrace the very same person if he became a harsh critic of Islam. I think some cases of white racism are "only" preference for one's own kind, not necessarily a thought-out position that non-white people are inherently inferior. I knew someone when I was growing up down South who said that if he ran a business and a black man didn't get along with his white employees (presumed to be in the majority), he'd fire the black guy, not out of hatred, but just for practical reasons. I'd call that racism though it wasn't something he imagined himself doing out of hatred of blacks.

So maybe we need a broader term. Bigotry might work. I defend the use of the word "racism" in part because of the double standard in the American press--we hear all the time about widespread anti-semitism in the Arab world, but any hint that there might be something racist about Zionism as it has been practiced since the early 20th century is greeted with sharp denunciations.

GRF said...

I'm afraid I find these arguments to be distinctions without differences. Zionism, as a 19th century movement, was larded with assertions of "blood and soil" and the need for racial purity. I recall one early Zionist tract railing against intermarriage as "one drop" of gentile blood would destroy the "Jewish genius." While certainly not a purely Zionist notion, that movement was infected with the same racialist nonsense as was prevalent at the time. Jabotinsky, for one, was writing of this as early as 1904, if not before. To parse out these "racist versions of Zionism" as if somehow we can only include or take account of them by broadening the definition of racism (seemingly beyond recognition) is not only to bend a blind eye to what was clearly seen and argued over at the time, but also to play fast and loose with commonly accepted usage. Is not Anti-Semitism a form of racism? I've never heard or read of anyone arguing that it is not, yet many of the main tropes of classic anti-semitism are not based on perceived inferiority but on notions of unfair advantages, through business acumen, clannishness, even superior intellect, all in service of course to idiotic notions of inbred greed and the desire to rule the world, etc. Thus, the subsequent discrimination against Jews as a group has long been considered a form of racism, along with other forms of discrimination not necessarily based on notions of racial inferiority, i.e., anti-Catholic and anti-Muslim prejudice.

Perhaps the more telling question would be "Is Zionism - not inherently - but inevitably racist and discriminatory?"

Perhaps it is the same question, but it might also clarify the dilemma. Zionism is no different than any other ethnic nationalism, or as some would have it ethnic/religious nationalism. They have all ended up roughly the same, no matter what threads of benign theory run through their past. One group is in the cat-bird seat, while the "other," however defined, gets it in the neck.

Even the enabling rationals blend together: the Boers of South Africa saw themselves as a persecuted people given the land by God as a final refuge, as did the Puritans of Old Massachusetts and later generations of Anglo-Saxon Americans borrowed Old Testament tropes to the same ends. No group has ever staged a war of aggression against another without first claiming itself to be the innocent victim on the right hand of God. We are all "chosen" when it comes to getting what we want. The inconvenient natives are always either subjected, driven out, slaughtered or some combination of the three. The logic, no matter what ethnicity or religion, always runs its inevitably poisonous course.

I have long been stumped as to how anyone could believe Jewish Nationalism could have ended up any different than the rest. Have we not all feet of clay?

Is not the answer to any demand for any ethnic nationalism what Martin Luther King referred to as the promissory note inherent in the Constitution? And I would argue that that in turn is why American Jews live with far more security with more personal and religious freedom than do Israeli Jews.

Juan said...

Jerry Haber commented:
"Similarly, Israeli Jews don't discriminate against Israeli Arabs because they feel themselves ethnically or racially superior to them. They do so because the structures of Israeli society favor the Jewish sector of the state. There is a feeling of dividing the pie to help your own kind. This is tribalist but it is not racist."


An essential element of tribalism is primary allegiance to one's own group. In all instances of which I am aware, tribalism is accompanied by feelings that one's own group is to be both preferred and favored in comparison with non-group (out-group) members. Normally these two tendencies are also accompanied by feelings of superiority and discriminatory behaviors toward outgroup members. Whether such tribal tendencies are or are not manifestations of racism, they are certainly a prescription for intergroup conflict. It is perhaps this last point that is so upsetting to those of us who wish for a fair and peaceful solution to the I-P conflict.

Devir said...

Irish Moses, normaly I agree with most of what Jerry posts ( he uses a kind of logic I enjoy and knows what he is talking about ), and I still do on this one. But your post seemed to me more precise and adjusted to reality.
The catch realy is that "exclusively" before "a Jewish state".
That is, in my view, the reason why more and more people are facing the "one country" solution as a not so utopian one.
In many other things in life when you plan something you must have a " Plan B " just in case the one you really want fails.
If you think of the " two countries" option as "Plan A". it is becoming growingly evident that it is failing in practice ( for 62 long years ! ) Wouldn't it be time to move on to "Plan B" ?...
Luis Almeida
Lisbon, Portugal

Clif Brown said...

It's good to examine the foundations of an ideology, but from my standpoint as an American who is not Jewish, the arguments within the faith seem distant from the pressing manifestation of Zionism in the form of Israeli policy that means with nothing but approval from the U.S. Congress.

I am impatient because I see decades of American support (that I did not question until the last decade when the bizarre US-Israel bond because impossible to ignore) helping the implementation of Zionism to go beyond what those of us not educated about it expected, but which, now that I have done some reading on the subject, seems perfectly in keeping with the thoughts of the founders of Israel - to expand exactly as expansion is going on right now and to exclude exactly as exclusion is being done in the occupied territories.

To me, Zionism means erasure, just as Israel has erased the very towns and even place-names that preceded it and as it is doing as it presses east with the settlements. This is extremism seen from the eyes of an American who has watched the transformation of his country to (somewhat bumpy) multiculturalism within his lifetime.

I don't see Netanyuhu as an unusual far-right zealot, but only as the latest in the line of those directing a plan with no apologies for it and a vision with only one group in it. This line of leaders teaches me that Zionism sees no others.

Where the U.S. has gone wrong is in the unquestioning support of a program that bears no relation to liberty and justice for all and, by shielding it, has invited power to be used without restraint. How well the U.S. should know how this works out from our national experience!

My impatience is in the very great danger I see to the United States with which, as a citizen, I must be primarily concerned. I see my fellow Americans who are Jewish as my compatriots and no more or less in danger than I as an American. I stand with them but I do not stand with an Israel that accepts no limits despite the outcry of the world, greeting in only with indignation and self-righteousness.

The pity, as I see it, is that Jews are as safe as anyone in the States, but the place that was claimed by Zionism to be the place of refuge for Jews is instead the place where Jews are free to oppress; that allows a sense of entitlement and superiority to thumb its nose at the world. This is the logical outcome of what has always been the case: Jews are people just like the rest of us. Though Israelis see their country with pride, it is at the same time a bleeding wound for others. Into this wound salt is deliberately poured.

What happens in the O.T. is ugly and no American of any background should look upon it with favor. Whatever the definition of Zionism may be - the Israeli flavor has gone sour and is anathema to any sense of justice. Israel should exist because it does exist. There is no turning back the clock, but the engine of the steam-roller must be turned off, it has already run far too long..

Jerry Haber said...

pabelmont, you seem to be suggesting that there can be something like inadvertant or unintentional racism; in other words, I don't consider myself superior to you, and I have no desire to hurt you, I just want the land you are on because originally it belonged to me.

I argued that Zionism became exclusivist-ethnic-statist and hence inherently discriminatory against Arabs. If folks out there want to call that racism, fine; I don't. The claim that this is my homeland and you have no national rights to it has nothing to do with race; it is an ethnic nationalism to be sure, but ethnic nationalism is not racism.

Or so I think.

Donald, of course the analogy is imperfect, but my point simply was that racism can be behind certain forms of ethnic discrimination, but not all. Forget affirmative action; one group can have other reasons beside racism to discriminate against another group. For example, one group may have an historical grievance against other group; maybe they have had war over territories for years. But I still maintain that if we reduce all ethnic discrimination to racism we sin not only against language but against our ability to make important distinctions.

Jerry Haber said...

And David, may I submit that the distinction I was trying to make was not between a violent Zionism and a kinder, gentler Zionism. That is a fault dichotomy. I don't consider Labor Zionism to be a kindler, gentler Zionism than the revisionists. The Arabs certainly suffered more from Labour Zionist schemes and projects than from the Revisionists.

Cultural, non-statist Zionism was kinder and gentler, although from the Arab nationalist standpoint, the Jews had no claims to anything more than minority rights. Still, I think cultural Zionism would have been better then; it certainly is the better way to go now than statist Zionism.

Jerry Haber said...

I think I got the Donald/David confusion worked out. Sorry

Folks, I want to thank all of you for responding. This has been very helpful for me. It shows that my FAQ was definitely in Beta. I will come out with a new version of it.

It also shows that posts with Zionism and Racism in the title get readership!

Back to responding

Note, Donald, that I did not pull the usual hasbara-response that Zionism is not racism because Jews are not considered a race. In fact, although I do think it is important to keep the element of race in racism when speaking strictly about it, I don't mind if we extend that to include religiou-racial ethnicity. Jews are defined, for the purpose of the Law of Return with religious and racial criterion.

But I want to get back to your analogy -- Zionism in its desire to have a Jewish state is very different from Islamophobia, or for that matter, Arabophobia. The theme of Jewish superiority over Arabs, or over goyyim, is simply absent from the classic texts of Zionism, even religious Zionism. In many of those texts the Arabs are not there, or not paid attention to, or there is some statement about how they will benefit from a Jewish state. I am not saying that this is a good think; I don't think it is -- it speaks to Cliff's point about erasure, to "the land-without-a-people" line. And in the context of ethnic nationalism, it is very common that people build their identities without reference to Others.

And, Donald, I have NO PROBLEM with criticizing Israeli policy or the attitudes of many Israelis as racist. I also have no problem talking about racist versions of Zionism. But I repeat, Zionism is not fundamentally racist, although the form of Zionism that emerged in the State of Israel was inherently discriminatory.

For those of you who think that making distinctions is unimportant I have no answer.

Jerry Haber said...

GRG,

Sorry, GRF, but you are wrong. Zionism was not larded with assertions of "blood and soil" -- but you are right that there was "blood and soil" Zionism. That is völkism, not racism, in any event.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkism

I urge you to read this article. Even Martin Buber, a cultural Zionist, adopted völkisch notions. It was prominent in some strands of Zionism, and it has survived in religious Zionism today.

Völkism is not racism, but is pretty close, and were Völkism to be the dominant layer of Zionism, I would concede the point. But it isn't. Wade through 500 pages of Shimoni's The Zionist Ideology, or Hertzberg's Zionist Idea, and you will find it plays a very small part, and is dropped as time goes along. Nowadays, only the settlers talk in those terms.

Bottom line, GRF is that you are opposed to ethnic nationalism of all sorts -- no matter how liberal or attentuated that may be. We can have that argument some other day. My problem is not with ethnic nationalism but with thick ethnic statism, which is what Israel (among others) is about, especially when it has a rightwing government. I personally believe that there is a Jewish people, a nation, and that its national heritage is worth preserving and continuity is worth preserving. That makes me a liberal nationalist. But if you read my other posts, like Zionism Without a Jewish State, you will see that I believe that the Jewish nation can survive and thrive, preserving its culture and heritage, is an exclusivist ethnic state, but rather a state for all its citizens.

Jerry Haber said...

Juan,

I agree with you 100%. So the question how can one preserve the good features of tribal loyalty while reducing the bad. That takes education and effort.

Jerry Haber said...

Cliff,

I am glad you took the time to write, but you are preaching to the choir. Read more of my blog and you will see that to a great extent we are on the same page.

When you write,

To me, Zionism means erasure, just as Israel has erased the very towns and even place-names that preceded it and as it is doing as it presses east with the settlements.

your words hurt me deeply because, as a Zionist, I can fully understand why you conceive Zionism in that faction. The tragedy of Israel was that it put into practice a vision of Zionism, or a version of Zionism, which is very deeply flawed. Other visions of Zionism -- which did not seek to erase at all, but only sought to revive a Hebrew national culture -- were abandoned along the wayside.

Now suppose, as a thought experiment, that the State of Israel had been established not in Palestine, but in some area that was really bereft of population. That would have mitigated matters a bit, but still, in my mind, would have been problematic -- because the very notion of an exclusivist ethnic statism is so foreign to my mind as an American, that had I been a citizen in that state, I would have done my best to weaken it. Even now, if a strong and secure Palestinian state arises, and adopts a form of ethnic nationalism that matches Israel's I would argue that both states abandon their ethnic statism and adopt a more multicultural model.

Joachim Martillo said...

Some discussions of Zionism really require the participation of people with a background in German or Slavic studies.

I am fluent in German.

Before the 1950s (more correctly probably the 1990s) "völkisch" means "racist" or "racial."

How would you translate "Der völkische Beobachter"?

I translate it as The Racial/Racist Observer.

The völkisch state is a racist state or at least a racial state.

More to the point, what did Judenstaat really mean to German Jews?

It did not mean Jewish state. That would be juedischer Staat.

Judenstaat should be compared and contrasted with Rechtsaat.

A Judenstaat is a state where Jews rule or are privileged. It is hard to be more explicitly racist in German than Herzl was as much as he tried to cloak himself in liberal nationalism.

All Central and Eastern European formulations of Zionism denied the right of democratic self-determination to Palestinians on racist or racial grounds -- no if, ans, or buts.

Because Zionism crystallized in late 19th and early 20th century Central and Eastern Europe, Zionist ideology incorporates both

1. German völkisch nationalist concepts of Volk (race), Gegenvolk (anti-race), Nichtvolk (non-race), or Bevölkerung (population), and also

2. Slavic extremist organic nationalist concepts of народ (naród, nation) and народность (narodność, nationality).

Zionist Hebrew vocabulary exhibits the full range of völkisch and extremist organic nationalist concepts in am (race), leom (nation), neged-am (anti-race), i-am (non-race), leumanut (nationality), and ukhlasiyah (population).

From the standpoint of Zionist ideology Palestinians stand in more or less the same position as Jews do in German Nazi ideology. Hence it has been common for Zionists to argue that Palestinians only define themselves negatively in opposition to Zionism (i.e., as an anti-race) while other Zionists like Golda Meir would deny that Palestinians constituted a genuine people (i.e., they represented a non-race) but are rather a piece of the Arab nation, to wit, a nationality (narodność), that should be absorbed into the Arab nation (naród) outside of Israel. The approach is similar to that of some Serb politicians, who wanted Albanian Kosovars to leave Kosovo in order to live in Albania.

In addition, just as there were occasionally liberal Nazis, who did view Jewry as a real Volk, there are now and then liberal Zionists, who accept the concept of a Palestinian people but would use some sort of binational subterfuge in order to avoid granting Palestinians full citizenship rights in the Israeli state. Binyamin Netanyahu does not belong to this Zionist subset. He is probably closest to the German Nazis, who viewed conquered Poles as members of a Bevölkerung (population) with no rights within the German Reich except existence as long as they groveled sufficiently. In Netanyahu's conceptualization the Palestinian "state" serves as a formal structure of control for the Palestinian Bevölkerung.

The points above notwithstanding, there is a more serious issue.

The logic of supporting a Zionist territorial claim based on the etymological connection of the word Jew with the word Judea would give Irish Roman Catholics the right to steal and ethnically cleanse Rome because the word Roman is morphologically derived from the word Rome. In other words, Zionism is so extreme that it is psychotic, and the failure of Americans to show any awareness of inherent Zionist extremism strips the term extreme of any meaning in US political discourse.

[Note that I exempt Judah Magnes from the above discussion because he was American and was willing -- as far as I can tell -- to concede the right of democratic self-determination to the native Palestinian population because he recognized the right of Palestinians to limit the immigration of ethnic Ashkenazim and Jews of other ethnicities to Palestine.]

Donald said...

I also agree that Zionism isn't inherently racist--the cultural version isn't. The kind which simply ignores the people already on the land and assumes Jews have the right to take over just as people don't usually consult the resident gophers when they build a house--that kind is racist.

But anyway, I don't consider our disagreement on this to be a major one--I've been reading you for years and agree with you 98 percent of the time and this seems to be an argument over semantics, I think, since we'd agree on the badness of the behavior.

Clif Brown said...

Jerry - I'm reminded of the old saying that the Eskimo (now we say Inuit) have a hundred words for snow.

Whatever the debate about Zionism may mean for Jews, it's the face of it presented by Israel that is real to the world. Maybe one could say that those who made it concrete hijacked it at the same time.

When Herzl wrote, how could one not sympathize with the concept, yet now, with the new historians, the ways and means are out.

If I understand what I have read, there were Bundists who, after WW2, were (remarkably) still of the mind that Judaism could/should exist wherever Jews were found. Zionists silenced them to the extent that they could.

As I travel about the Chicago area I see places that are literally packed with synagogues large and small, with folks in black crowding the sidewalks on Saturday. I think to myself, here is the Bundist Zion and it works. We share the land.

Then I read of the latest nutty ruling coming out of Israel, if not from the Knesset then from some chief rabbi. There is no need for signs saying "Palestinians need not apply" because it's virtually the law of the land.

I despair because I see an express train heading backwards and at the side of the track so many are shouting, me among them, "slow down!" "wrong way!" "danger coming up!" Other than a stubborn and courageous few among Israelis, nobody is listening.

This is what I think most of those outside Judaism see as Zionism, not the progressive idea it once may have been, but blind lust for empire.

annie said...

pabelmont, you seem to be suggesting that there can be something like inadvertant or unintentional racism; in other words, I don't consider myself superior to you, and I have no desire to hurt you, I just want the land you are on because originally it belonged to me.

or "I just want the land you are on because I want a Jewish State".

of course there are those that justify placing israel in palestine because of past ownership but generally recognizing ownership rights based on the bronze age isn't generally how real estate transactions occur.

Maybe I should have first said what I consider by racism. I assume that it implies a theory of racial difference as well as the superiority of one race over another.

discrimination based on ethnicity is inherently racist. it is not contingent upon a theory of racial superiority.

by choosing this description you impose intent into the equation.

zionism in and of itself is not racist. simply the desire to have a jewish state is not racist. however, to manifest this goal on a piece of land excluding the inhabitants based on their ethnicity is racist.

iow, zionism, as practiced in palestine, is racist and justifying it is racist. i accept it is not 'intended' to be racist but if something cannot exist or express itself without racial or ethnic discrimination, it's racist.

for zionism to exist in a non racist form it would require being pro jewish state sans the requirement it be manifested in location w/non jews or else sans the requirement a homeland for jews requires a majority jewish population.

so i agree zionism (the ideal) is not inherently racist. zionism established in a land with no people for a people for no land is not racist and i'm probably not the first one to think of that which is why the phrase gained so much popularity. it was however, a blatant lie. it implies those who made up that lie knew what they were doing was racist, or at a minimum wrong. people don't lie unless the truth is dangerous to their endeavor.

Eric said...

In your next FAQ be sure to make clear the point that the word Zionist ,like the word Democratic, appearing in an organization's name does not imply it is a Zionist (resp. Democratic) organization.

Danaa said...

" Israeli Jews don't discriminate against Israeli Arabs because they feel themselves ethnically or racially superior to them. They do so because the structures of Israeli society favor the Jewish sector of the state. There is a feeling of dividing the pie to help your own kind. This is tribalist but it is not racist."

I honestly don't see how you can say this about Israelis - unless you live in a special bubble (which you may, being an academic, orthodox and all). Surely you can't have missed how utterly superior Israelis feel relative to palestinians, arabs in general, and actually to any non-Jew. I grew up in Israel and from day one "choseness" and "superiority" were drummed into us by the educational sytem. You should take a look sometime at the textbooks that proliferated in Israel in the 60' through 70'. When it come to history, they are basically ethnocentric manifestos of superiority to all others, unjustly persecuted for being better people and smarter to boot too. That's how we, who were secular, learnt the bible too - the jews were always right (except when they fought among thermselves, which was plenty often), and they absolutely had the prerogative of lording over others, courtesy of a god in which we, the secular, didn't even believe in the slightests. But we liked the message and who care if "choseness" had a few built-in contradictions? I mean Jews are smarter, right? and Arab are stupider, no? And non-jew, christians included, are unfortunate in being born who they were. And that's what you hear on the streets of Israel from regular, everyday people, and even some highly educated ones. And that is the majority of the people, including every one of the few hundred people I still know there, and my family members with whom I can barely speak any longer.

You can quibble about whether zionism was inherently racist or not. That kind of thing only seems to matter to people who are either outside Israel or who moved there as relative adults. The reality is that zionism is, and has been for decades, deeply, disturbingly racist, as well as ethno-centric as well as tribal. Personally, I see little need to separate these trends. They are all disturbing and contemptible in equal measures.

Please Jerry, do get out of the ivory tower now and then and talk to the taxi drivers, the secretaries, the sales people, the insurance agents, the health care workers, the people on the buses. Talk to them and ask how they feel about blacks, about arabs, about non-Jews, and yes, about christians. And Obama. Let's not forget to ask how they feel about Obama. The kind of deeply-embedded, ideologically implanted contempt for others, is not "merely" tribal. It is tinged, to its core with the sense of superiority you seem to deny. And that, according to later' definition make it racist, no?

And this disturbingly exceptionalist element was there from zionism's inception - it was there in the very idea of "reclaiming" the land. In whose name? god's? justified by persecution? is that enough to dismiss the palestinians as "collateral damage"? much as the edomites were? can palestinians at some future time use then the same criteria to displace the zionists?

Sorry, but your definitions seem to me to be, well, theological, rather than reality based. Being that I, as a secular Jewish person who made aliyah to the real zion - which I found in America, where I dicovered there was, actually, real Judaism out there, with merit that far surpasses the sordid parochial reality of the Israel I knew, I beg to strongly differ with you on this post (usually, I love everything you have to say). It's just that the zionism I knew then and know now is not only indistinguishable from racism but may even be worse for also being so tribal and unaware.

Danaa said...

" Israeli Jews don't discriminate against Israeli Arabs because they feel themselves ethnically or racially superior to them. They do so because the structures of Israeli society favor the Jewish sector of the state. There is a feeling of dividing the pie to help your own kind. This is tribalist but it is not racist."

I honestly don't see how you can say this about Israelis - unless you live in a special bubble (which you may, being an academic, orthodox and all). Surely you can't have missed how utterly superior Israelis feel relative to palestinians, arabs in general, and actually to any non-Jew. I grew up in Israel and from day one "choseness" and "superiority" were drummed into us by the educational sytem. You should take a look sometime at the textbooks that proliferated in Israel in the 60' through 70'. When it come to history, they are basically ethnocentric manifestos of superiority to all others, unjustly persecuted for being better people and smarter to boot too. That's how we, who were secular, learnt the bible too - the jews were always right (except when they fought among thermselves, which was plenty often), and they absolutely had the prerogative of lording over others, courtesy of a god in which we, the secular, didn't even believe in the slightests. But we liked the message and who care if "choseness" had a few built-in contradictions? I mean Jews are smarter, right? and Arab are stupider, no? And non-jew, christians included, are unfortunate in being born who they were. And that's what you hear on the streets of Israel from regular, everyday people, and even some highly educated ones. And that is the majority of the people, including every one of the few hundred people I still know there, and my family members with whom I can barely speak any longer.

You can quibble about whether zionism was inherently racist or not. That kind of thing only seems to matter to people who are either outside Israel or who moved there as relative adults. The reality is that zionism is, and has been for decades, deeply, disturbingly racist, as well as ethno-centric as well as tribal. Personally, I see little need to separate these trends. They are all disturbing and contemptible in equal measures.

Please Jerry, do get out of the ivory tower now and then and talk to the taxi drivers, the secretaries, the sales people, the insurance agents, the health care workers, the people on the buses. Talk to them and ask how they feel about blacks, about arabs, about non-Jews, and yes, about christians. And Obama. Let's not forget to ask how they feel about Obama. The kind of deeply-embedded, ideologically implanted contempt for others, is not "merely" tribal. It is tinged, to its core with the sense of superiority you seem to deny. And that, according to later' definition make it racist, no?

Ael said...

This discussion reminds me the endless discussions about whether Leninism was truly Communism.

As Matthew says: "By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?"

When the effects of Zionism are racist, how can it not be racism?

Danaa said...

" Israeli Jews don't discriminate against Israeli Arabs because they feel themselves ethnically or racially superior to them. They do so because the structures of Israeli society favor the Jewish sector of the state. There is a feeling of dividing the pie to help your own kind. This is tribalist but it is not racist."

I honestly don't see how you can say this about Israelis - unless you live in a special bubble (which you may, being an academic, orthodox and all). Surely you can't have missed how utterly superior Israelis feel relative to palestinians, arabs in general, and actually to any non-Jew. I grew up in Israel and from day one "choseness" and "superiority" were drummed into us by the educational system. You should take a look sometime at the textbooks that proliferated in Israel in the 60' through 70'. When it come to history, they are basically ethnocentric manifestos of superiority to all others, unjustly persecuted for being better people and smarter to boot too. That's how we, who were secular, learnt the bible too - the jews were always right (except when they fought among themselves, which was plenty often), and they absolutely had the prerogative of lording over others, courtesy of a god in which we, the secular, didn't even believe in the slightest. But we liked the message and who care if "choseness" had a few built-in contradictions? I mean Jews are smarter, right? and Arabs are stupider, no? And non-jews, christians included, are unfortunate in being born who they were. And that's what you hear on the streets of Israel from regular, everyday people, and even some highly educated ones. And that is the majority of the people, including every one of the few hundred people I still know there, and my family members with whom I can barely speak any longer.

You can quibble about whether zionism was inherently racist or not. That kind of thing only seems to matter to people who are either outside Israel or who moved there as relative adults. The reality is that zionism is, and has been for decades, deeply, disturbingly racist, as well as ethno-centric as well as tribal. Personally, I see little need to separate these trends. They are all disturbing and contemptible in equal measures.

Danaa said...

I apologize if the pot was sent in a few time. I kept getting the message that the URL was too large so I chopped up the comment....maybe just one pot will do....

Joshua said...

This is a very interesting topic that certainly has piqued my interest again in involving myself in the debate over the Palestinian issue but once again it is an age-old intellectual study that really has been rehashed over and over since Zionism was constructed and became such a force to be reckoned with. I do love the brain acrobatics that tackling such a lively subject entails, what should be said first and foremost is that this really is irrelevant and has no bearing on what strategy to undertake to achieve justice for the Palestinians in their struggle for independence. But tackle I shall indulge.

I have always felt that if Zionism had decided to lay its foundations on a land that is truly empty (which in the past world, it would have been a stretch by all means), and not one person was violated. But that is an exercise for utopia which did not exist in the past nor ever, as the nascent "Jewish" state would still see complications unless the state's citizens was 100% Jewish. It would have faced much condemnation of its selective immigration policies and certainly would be viewed as something akin to a true Aryan nation of the likes we need not try to compare with. (Jerry, you yourself would have expressed such a critique on said grounds.) But this would also lead to more hypothetics as we could never anticipate what the future would have held for this fictional pure Jewish Israel in a land with no enemies, as it might have embraced the meme of Jew totality and ignored any suggestions of pluraty and democracy or it might have taken a pure socialist turn and attempted to unite with oppressed workers world-wide and abandoned the "Jewish labour" exclusivity.

There are major differences with Zionism and self-determination for other nationalities, especially those nationalities which emerged or awoke with the colonial enterprises and oppression with the caste systems, as most suggested that liberation from their oppressors was the focal point and that they should determine their own fate, through their own means and their own battle. Zionism felt no desire to "liberate" from oppression, only escape it so they can determine their own fate, whilst deciding the fate of another. The fight for equality which is so indicative in third world revolution was vacant in Zionism; the founders may not have laid the movement through the lense of racism but its own sense of superiority over the Gentile world's thinking (ie "they will never be free of anti-Semitism" is a display that non-Jews will never smarten up to accept Jews within their scope) and coupled with European 19th Century attitudes towards the Orient gave it the racist stamp that help build racist institutions in Palestine that still thrive to this day (JNF, Histadrut). The sheer fact that the founders of such a state were by design Ashkenazim can only give more momentum to the argument that Zionism was born with racist intent despite its many variations that attest to the contrary (nationalisms can bend to many variants when forces trigger it to change to certain circumstances for it to survive). A skim through Palestine Remembered to view quotations from the main instruments of Zionism can only allude to more of the same.

savingisrael said...

Jerry,

Good discussion.

I think the problem with this discussion is that it was improperly framed. Whether Zionism is racism isn't really the point. I think virtually everyone who has responded appears to agree that Zionist/Israeli behavior toward the Palestinians, including massive ethnic cleansing and coninuing oppression and unlawful seizure of Palestinian lands, has been and continues to be illegal and atrocious.
Whether the motive was and is racist or merely exclusivist doesn't really matter, it still is very, very wrong, immoral, illegal, and a continuing atrocity of monumental proportions. I think trying to split hairs over whether the motive was or wasn't racist is obscuring the reality and extent of the atrocity.
Focusing on the conduct is probably more productive than philosophical discussions about the history and various forms of Zionism and whether these led to racism or a somehow less culpable form of atrocity. I think righteous Jews like you, Jerome and others understandably have a hard time coming to terms with what really happened in 1948, and what has happened since. There is an understandable urge, even while admitting the wrongfulness, to find less damning explanations or excuses. Ultimately, it just doesn't work.
The real eye opener for me was Ilan Pappe's book "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine". He demonstrates the clarity of purpose of the Zionist leaders, including Ben Gurion, Sharon and now Netanyahu. They wanted a state for the Jews, as large as possible, with as few Arabs as possible. These guys knew what they wanted to do, what they had to do to get there, and knew it would have to bloody and violent. They were/are so secure in their righteousness and religious zeal that they are not at all inhibited by moral compunctions or doubts. They just did what they had to do, be it the 1948 ethnic cleansing, the obliteration of hundreds of Arab villages, or later stuff like Sabra Chatilla (sp?), Gaza in 2008, the continuing oppression and violent treatment of Arabs in the territories, etc. They know it is necessary to reach their goal so they get it done and they don't agonize about it.
Are they racists? Who knows, who cares? There are certainly worse things and worse behavior than racism.

Gil Maguire
www.irishmoses.com

savingisrael said...

Jerry,

Good discussion.

I think the problem with this discussion is that it was improperly framed. Whether Zionism is racism isn't really the point. I think virtually everyone who has responded appears to agree that Zionist/Israeli behavior toward the Palestinians, including massive ethnic cleansing and continuing oppression and unlawful seizure of Palestinian lands, has been and continues to be illegal and atrocious.
Whether the motive was and is racist or merely exclusivist doesn't really matter, it still is very, very wrong, immoral, illegal, and a continuing atrocity of monumental proportions. I think trying to split hairs over whether the motive was or wasn't racist is obscuring the reality and extent of the atrocity.
Focusing on the conduct is probably more productive than philosophical discussions about the history and various forms of Zionism and whether these led to racism or a somehow less culpable form of atrocity. I think righteous Jews like you, Jerome and others understandably have a hard time coming to terms with what really happened in 1948, and what has happened since. There is an understandable urge, even while admitting the wrongfulness, to find less damning explanations or excuses. Ultimately, it just doesn't work.
The real eye opener for me was Ilan Pappe's book "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine". He demonstrates the clarity of purpose of the Zionist leaders, including Ben Gurion, Sharon and now Netanyahu. They wanted a state for the Jews, as large as possible with as few Arabs as possible. These guys knew what they wanted to do, what they had to do to get there, and knew it would have to bloody and violent. They were/are so secure in their righteousness and religious zeal that they are not at all inhibited by moral compunctions or doubts. They just did what they had to do, be it the 1948 ethnic cleansing, the obliteration of hundreds of Arab villages, or later stuff like Sabra Chatilla (sp?), Gaza in 2008, the continuing oppression and violent treatment of Arabs in the territories, etc. They know it is necessary to reach their goal, so they get it done and they don’t agonize about it.
Are they or were they racists? Who knows, who cares? There are certainly worse things and worse behavior than racism.

Gil Maguire
www.irishmoses.com

savingisrael said...

Jerry,

Good discussion.

I think the problem with this discussion is that it was improperly framed. Whether Zionism is racism isn't really the point. I think virtually everyone who has responded appears to agree that Zionist/Israeli behavior toward the Palestinians, including massive ethnic cleansing and continuing oppression and unlawful seizure of Palestinian lands, has been and continues to be illegal and atrocious.
Whether the motive was and is racist or merely exclusivist doesn't really matter, it still is very, very wrong, immoral, illegal, and a continuing atrocity of monumental proportions. I think trying to split hairs over whether the motive was or wasn't racist is obscuring the reality and extent of the atrocity.
Focusing on the conduct is probably more productive than philosophical discussions about the history and various forms of Zionism and whether these led to racism or a somehow less culpable form of atrocity. I think righteous Jews like you, Jerome and others understandably have a hard time coming to terms with what really happened in 1948, and what has happened since. There is an understandable urge, even while admitting the wrongfulness, to find less damning explanations or excuses. Ultimately, it just doesn't work.
The real eye opener for me was Ilan Pappe's book "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine". He demonstrates the clarity of purpose of the Zionist leaders, including Ben Gurion, Sharon and now Netanyahu. They wanted a state for the Jews, as large as possible with as few Arabs as possible. These guys knew what they wanted to do, what they had to do to get there, and knew it would have to bloody and violent. They were/are so secure in their righteousness and religious zeal that they are not at all inhibited by moral compunctions or doubts. They just did what they had to do, be it the 1948 ethnic cleansing, the obliteration of hundreds of Arab villages, or later stuff like Sabra Chatilla (sp?), Gaza in 2008, the continuing oppression and violent treatment of Arabs in the territories, etc. They know it is necessary to reach their goal, so they get it done and they don’t agonize about it.
Are they or were they racists? Who knows, who cares? There are certainly worse things and worse behavior than racism.

Gil Maguire
www.irishmoses.com

savingisrael said...

Ooops. Sorry. I don't know how I managed to post one comment 4 times. For some readers even one of my postings might have seemed too much. I apologize for my inadvertant error. Blogger.com is not particularly user-friendly for posting. It kept telling me my posting wasn't going through.

Gil Maguire
www.irishmoses.com

mris said...

dear Magnes Zionist,
you answered the first question with a flat-out no. Then you defined racism as it implying "a theory of racial difference as well as the superiority of one race over another."

I urge you to read the sub-chapter "Zionism and Heredity" in Sands' "The Invention of the Jewish People", pp. 256 in the English edition (pp. 245 in the Hebrew one).

There you will find that many Zionists, such as Nathan Birnbaum (who coined the term Zionism), Max Nordau, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, Borochov, Arthur Rupin and many others saw the Jews explicitly as a distinguished pure race and were obsessive with racial comparisons and EUGENICS theories. Those gentlemen did NOT hold theories of religious-racial superiority.

I believe therefore that some major Zionist leaders and were indeed purely racist, even though today I agree with you that most racism here in Israel is religiously driven.

wib said...

"The claim that this is my homeland and you have no national rights to it has nothing to do with race; it is an ethnic nationalism to be sure, but ethnic nationalism is not racism."

If you claim a certain group of people have no national rights, or even the right to live in their own land that they've been living in for practically forever that is indeed racism. Referring in this case to the Zionist claim that the Palestinians have no national rights in the land claimed by Israel (I use the legal definition which includes discrimination based on religion or culture as well as "race").

There are certainly ethnic nationalisms that deny immigrants equal rights - and such denial is often supported by law. Which might explain the common Zionist assertion that Palestinians or Arabs are immigrants to Palestine - it presents a better argument for denying them rights. Such an assertion is B.S. of course, and I always wonder about about the Jewish claim to Palestine based on some 2000-year-old myth that it belonged to "Jews" 2000 years ago, I mean, given the modern concept of private property just which Jews did each plot of land belong to, which one can show that they inherited those plots through legal means such being passed it from father to son over all those years? Show me the records that prove that the purported original Jewish owner didn't sell it when he moved to Europe? Assuming he actually came from the Levant. That's essentially what the Zionists assert.

History tells us most of the Jewish societies in Palestine of 2000 years ago later became Christian or Muslim. The Zionist assertion (that only Jews have national rights in Palestine because they owned it 2000 years ago) would also require one to believe that changing faith also means you give up property and national rights in this land of Palestine. Equally racist.

diogenes said...

This article is a good example of the "weasel words" constructed by zionists to "excuse" crimes against humanity. It is "constructed" to create a phony argument that distracts from the reality that zionism was always and still is completely incompatible with the basic principles of western democracy. Simple things like: "all men ae created equal and have equal rights".

It is shameful that the US has become an aider and abetter of massive crimes that contradict the very basis of our country. It is time to clean out ALL the apologists for zionist crimes against humanity from our government, politics, media, universities...... They have no business calling themselves Americans, or even being in America, since they clearly are traitors to Americans, America and American democracy.

Jerry Haber said...

It is one thing to be an anti-Zionist. That is a respectable position. But it is ridiculous to say that Jewish nationalism per se is racist -- and not show that the overwhelming number of Zionist writings -- which all speak about the regeneration of the Jewish nation -- are racist.

Of course, it has been claimed that Judaism per se is racist. After all, Jewish law forbids intermarriage; Jewish tradition considers its people chosen by God (what other people doesn't consider itself chosen? certainly that is true in the premodern world). Etc. Jewish law discriminates between Jew and non-Jew, just as ever national law discriminates between members and non-members of the nation.

There are people -- anti-Semites and folks like Meir Kahane -- who consider Judaism racist for the reasons considered above.

In my original F.A.Q. I said that there are Zionist racists and racist Zionism, but that Zionism, at least as understood as Jewish nationalism (and, yes, there is non-Zionist Jewish nationalism, e.g., Dubnow) is not inherently racist, and nothing anybody has said here has changed that opinion.

On the contrary, those who disagree with me freely admit that they are using racism to mean any attempt to discriminate between insiders and outsiders of a group, which, of course, is an abuse of language. And why? Simple because the "r" word is powerful, and people who use it do so for its effect.

Of course, the real answer to the F.A.Q. on Zionism and Racism is that there is no one-size-fits-all version of Zionism, but that there are Zionisms, some more discriminatory than others.

Again, I really have nothing to say to those who claim that ethnic nationalism, or ethnic difference, for that matter, is inherently racist, or that all these little distinctions don't matter. I have three degrees in analytic philosophy, and, may I assure you, in my guild, distinctions not only matter -- they matter supremely.

Joshua said...

When stripped of all its nuances and frozen in a certain timeframe when it originated, you can mimic this exercise and paint a pretty picture of every form of nationalism there is and justify it based on the grounds that it was only focused on a singular cause for a singular peoples. Distinctions can make definitive differences that can make or break an argument; certainly, but it could also dilute or hide what truly was the intention behind a movement.

For instance, white nationalists and the Tea Party alike always stress that there is nothing racist within their ideologues and that their's is sincerely only about the empowerment of their nation. They seek to revive the tradition of white power and educate the young to show pride with their heritage of whiteness. You could substitute whiteness for Jewishness here and it can be strikingly similar, even so when the white power nationalists do feel aggrieved and that they are being run over by other colours. In the abstract, the same line of thinking can be appealed by any believer in such a cause.

I in no way do agree that Zionism is racism, as my definition of racism is leans more to the intonation of skin, shaped by my own upbringing and the works of the black nationalists I studied so much about. But it is also important to note that "whiteness" and other colours do transcend the tone of skin and it also becomes a form of class validity, ie one can achieve "whiteness" when one is perceived as accepted in being "one of us", just like in Africa when ethnic groups were really determined by land owners, nomads and landlessness. But it is not hard to fathom how it can be reconstructed into being labelled as such, ie a Jewish National Fund explicably refused non-Jewish purchases, Jewish Labour Unions, etc.

You are correct that there this is not a "one-size-fits-all" example, but since when is there one in this world of ours?

Joachim Martillo said...

While Yiddishism/Yiddish nationalism in the regions of historic Poland is hard to criticize as inherently racist, Zionism is really another beast entirely.

Not only does essentialist primordialism lie at the core of this latter ideology, but the goals of Zionism and Yiddishism are really very different.

As formulated in late 19th century Central and Eastern Europe, Zionism was meant to mobilize Jewish wealth, to normalize Jewish power, to combat Jewish radicalism, and to redefine the Ashkenazi ethnic group as the pan-Judaic ethnonationality with unchallengeable claim to the whole of historic Palestine.

Zionist groups often had radically different views of economics, of social organization, and of Jewish religion. These groups were able to collaborate because they were bound by ethnic fundamentalism or probably more correctly ethnic monism.

To understand what is meant by ethnic fundamentalism, I recommend The Nazi Conscience by Koonz.

I prefer the term ethnic monism to characterize Zionism because Zionism is in many regards a good deal ideologically more extreme German Nazism.

It may be instructive to look at the relations between ethnic Ashkenazim and the other Jewish community in historic Poland. That community consisted of Jewish Tatars, who practiced Karaite Judaism.

In the 18th century we find cordial relations and lots of shared communal endeavors especially in the territory that is now Lithuania.

In the 19th century as ethnic Ashkenazim developed increasing hostility to the Polish peasantry and to the Polish gentry, Jewish Tatars began distancing themselves from Ashkenazim. Towards the end of the 19th century Jewish Tatar intellectuals rejected the ethnic formulation of the Jewish community entirely and were as annoyed with ethnic Ashkenazim as some ethnic Poles and ethnic Russians that are sloppily consider anti-Semites. Those Jewish Tatars that were interested in cultural identity and autonomy tended to reach out to Armenian and Muslim Tatars.

Not only is the identity politics associated with Zionism inherently problematic as many Jews of historic Poland realized very early, but racist may be too mild a characterization for the Zionist ideologies of Central and Eastern Europe.

Joachim Martillo said...

Dear Joshua, Skin-color-based racism is more typical of the New World than the old where racism whether European, Asian or Africa is much more ethnicity-oriented.

benjamin said...

There's a simple, fundamental logical contradiction here. The very idea of a "Jewish state" (or "Jewish self-determination") means that the state must be ruled by Jews, i.e. that Jews must be dominant, and that non-Jews therefore can't have equal rights. Allowing non-Jews to be a "sizeable" minority is not the same thing as granting them equal rights. If everyone in a state has equal rights, it can't possibly be a "Jewish state". In any case, in a state where everyone has equal rights, nothing can stop any group from becoming a majority.

An ideology that grants different rights to Jews and non-Jews is indeed a racist ideology. So even according to your apologetic definition of Zionism here, Zionism is indeed inherently racist.

benjamin said...

I see that there is an attempt here to make a distinction between "racism" and "ethnic discrimination". I see this as untenable, because "ethnicity" is simply a euphemism for "race". Witness the standard UK ethnicity forms in which respondents are asked to define their "ethnicity" as "white" or "black".

Jerry Haber said...

benjamin

"The very idea of a "Jewish state" (or "Jewish self-determination") means that the state must be ruled by Jews, i.e. that Jews must be dominant, and that non-Jews therefore can't have equal rights."

Why? Some would argue that the U.S. is a Christian state because it's dominant religious culture is Christian; Christmas and Easter are national holidays, and although there is separation of church and state, Christian cultural heritage still predominates. This is even more true of Europe. Why can't Israel be Jewish in the sense that Italy is Christian?

And what of self-determination? Where a dominant culture of the state is Jewish, Jews have self-determination. All that is perfectly compatible with a non-Jewish prime minister, or a non-Jewish party in power.

Some argue that there are areas of New York and Los Angeles where Jews have a measure of self-determination. In a binational state, for example, Jews certainly could have a homeland and self-determination.

Are you familiar with cultural Zionism?

Jerry Haber said...

Danaa,

Oh, I agree with you wholeheartedly that Israel is a very racist society, and that a lot of people are racists. What I was suggesting that the institutional discrimination doesn't come from feelings of racial superiority as much as the tribalistic desire to further Jewish interests

Jerry Haber said...

mris,

The Zionists you mention were racialists and not racists; in various measures they bought into last 19th century race theory as did many (but not all) European intellectuals.

The idea that the Jews formed a race was a commonplace in the nineteenth century, and the appeal to "race science" was ubiquitous. But there was also the German romantic notion of "volk" or even "nation", something above and beyond an aggregated of people.

The romantic notion of nationalism fit very well into race science (well, not always very well, since the borders were not always the same). But as I said, Zionism doesn't become racist simply because some, not all, Zionists appealed to romantic notions of nation, or even race science. Polemicists use arguments where they can find it; what motivates 19th century Zionism is a) anti-Semitism and b) nationalism

GRF said...

I am sorry, Jerry, but your last comment to benjamin just sent me through the ceiling.

Throughout this discussion you have been making very fine distinctions in meaning and intent (far too fine in many cases and far too static in my opinion) but then you're all over the map on this one.

There may indeed be those that argue that the US is a Christian state. They would, however, also be entirely incorrect and ignorant.

We may be a country where the preponderance of the population identifies themselves as Christian but we are not in any sense a Christian State nor were we founded as a Christian state nor do we see this nation as one for Christians nor do we preference Christians over anyone else nor is there a preference in citizenship for Christians. And nor do we call ourselves a Christian state.

In fact, the entire arc of American history can be measured by the progressive struggle - often violent - that entirely rejects such narrow notions, whether they be based on class and wealth or religion or race or ethnicity.

And no, Jews in New York and Los Angeles do not have any measure of self-determination (by any rational use of the word) than that enjoyed by the American people as a whole under the same laws and civil procedures and governance.

"Where a dominant culture of the state is Jewish, Jews have self-determination."

Hello? If you mean by self-determination the dictionary meaning of "the process by which a person controls their own life," which is the only one I can assume you mean (unless you believe LA Jews are setting their own foreign policy) than LA and New York Jews have no more "self-determination" than any other American citizen, which obviates your first determinate which is that the culture be predominately Jewish. And are implying by this statement that somehow San Francisco Jews get chopped liver?

The rub in all this to which I believe you turn a Nelson's eye is that over the long run you cannot maintain a predominate Jewish culture to maintain your Jewish "self-determination" without sooner or later discriminating against non-Jews in order to keep the predominate culture Jewish.

One hundred years from now, if not sooner, there will be far more Palestinians between the river and the sea than there will be Jews. Under a democratic pluralist state, "a state of all it's citizens," (such as the USA and Italy and France where nationality is determined by citizenship) the predominate culture may very well NOT be Jewish.

So unless you plan to cordon off or gerrymander the non-Jews or discriminate against them in some way so as to artificially maintain Jewish culture (by which do you mean European Jewish culture, or what?) then you just ain't going to have a Jewish State.

I would think that you would be arguing for a model based not on Italy and the United States, or even making reference to them as neither bear any resemblance to what you seem to be wishing for, but instead something based on the Swiss model with two linguistic and cultural regions with full common rights for all governed by a Federal body with both equally represented.

Of course, there you would not have a "Jewish State" but merely a Jewish cultural and linguistic region of a confederation, but at least you wouldn't be pounding a square peg into a round hole.

GRF said...

I am sorry, Jerry, but your last comment to benjamin just sent me through the ceiling.

Throughout this discussion you have been making very fine distinctions in meaning and intent (far too fine in many cases and far too static in my opinion) but then you're all over the map on this one.

There may indeed be those that argue that the US is a Christian state. They would, however, also be entirely incorrect and ignorant.

We may be a country where the preponderance of the population identifies themselves as Christian but we are not in any sense a Christian State nor were we founded as a Christian state nor do we see this nation as one for Christians nor do we preference Christians over anyone else nor is there a preference in citizenship for Christians. And nor do we call ourselves a Christian state.

In fact, the entire arc of American history can be measured by the progressive struggle - often violent - that entirely rejects such narrow notions, whether they be based on class and wealth or religion or race or ethnicity.

And no, Jews in New York and Los Angeles do not have any measure of self-determination (by any rational use of the word) than that enjoyed by the American people as a whole under the same laws and civil procedures and governance.

"Where a dominant culture of the state is Jewish, Jews have self-determination."

Hello? If you mean by self-determination the dictionary meaning of "the process by which a person controls their own life," which is the only one I can assume you mean (unless you believe LA Jews are setting their own foreign policy) than LA and New York Jews have no more "self-determination" than any other American citizen, which obviates your first determinate which is that the culture be predominately Jewish. And are implying by this statement that somehow San Francisco Jews get chopped liver?

The rub in all this to which I believe you turn a Nelson's eye is that over the long run you cannot maintain a predominate Jewish culture to maintain your Jewish "self-determination" without sooner or later discriminating against non-Jews in order to keep the predominate culture Jewish.

One hundred years from now, if not sooner, there will be far more Palestinians between the river and the sea than there will be Jews. Under a democratic pluralist state, "a state of all it's citizens," (such as the USA and Italy and France where nationality is determined by citizenship) the predominate culture may very well NOT be Jewish.

So unless you plan to cordon off or gerrymander the non-Jews or discriminate against them in some way so as to artificially maintain Jewish culture (by which do you mean European Jewish culture, or what?) then you just ain't going to have a Jewish State.

I would think that you would be arguing for a model based not on Italy and the United States, or even making reference to them as neither bear any resemblance to what you seem to be wishing for, but instead something based on the Swiss model with two linguistic and cultural regions with full common rights for all governed by a Federal body with both equally represented.

Of course, there you would not have a "Jewish State" but merely a Jewish cultural and linguistic region of a confederation, but at least you wouldn't be pounding a square peg into a round hole.

GRF said...

I am sorry, Jerry, but your last comment to benjamin just sent me through the ceiling.

Throughout this discussion you have been making very fine distinctions in meaning and intent (far too fine in many cases and far too static in my opinion) but then you're all over the map on this one.

There may indeed be those that argue that the US is a Christian state. They would, however, also be entirely incorrect and ignorant.

We may be a country where the preponderance of the population identifies themselves as Christian but we are not in any sense a Christian State nor were we founded as a Christian state nor do we see this nation as one for Christians nor do we preference Christians over anyone else nor is there a preference in citizenship for Christians. And nor do we call ourselves a Christian state.

In fact, the entire arc of American history can be measured by the progressive struggle - often violent - that entirely rejects such narrow notions, whether they be based on class and wealth or religion or race or ethnicity.

And no, Jews in New York and Los Angeles do not have any measure of self-determination (by any rational use of the word) than that enjoyed by the American people as a whole under the same laws and civil procedures and governance.

"Where a dominant culture of the state is Jewish, Jews have self-determination."

Hello? If you mean by self-determination the dictionary meaning of "the process by which a person controls their own life," which is the only one I can assume you mean (unless you believe LA Jews are setting their own foreign policy) than LA and New York Jews have no more "self-determination" than any other American citizen, which obviates your first determinate which is that the culture be predominately Jewish. And are implying by this statement that somehow San Francisco Jews get chopped liver?

The rub in all this to which I believe you turn a Nelson's eye is that over the long run you cannot maintain a predominate Jewish culture to maintain your Jewish "self-determination" without sooner or later discriminating against non-Jews in order to keep the predominate culture Jewish.

One hundred years from now, if not sooner, there will be far more Palestinians between the river and the sea than there will be Jews. Under a democratic pluralist state, "a state of all it's citizens," (such as the USA and Italy and France where nationality is determined by citizenship) the predominate culture may very well NOT be Jewish.

So unless you plan to cordon off or gerrymander the non-Jews or discriminate against them in some way so as to artificially maintain Jewish culture (by which do you mean European Jewish culture, or what?) then you just ain't going to have a Jewish State.

I would think that you would be arguing for a model based not on Italy and the United States, or even making reference to them as neither bear any resemblance to what you seem to be wishing for, but instead something based on the Swiss model with two linguistic and cultural regions with full common rights for all governed by a Federal body with both equally represented.

Of course, there you would not have a "Jewish State" but merely a Jewish cultural and linguistic region of a confederation, but at least you wouldn't be pounding a square peg into a round hole.

Jerry Haber said...

GRF,

Rather than repeat the points I made in my post "Zionism Without a Jewish Ethnic State," may I suggest that you read and react to that.I think you will have a better understanding of what I am looking for. I agree with you that the US model may not be the most appropriate one to emulate, but I have difficulties with the Swiss model as well. To me there is a fundamental problem with conceiving Jewish nationalism like other ethnic nationalisms, and that is because of the religious element in becoming a member of the Jewish people. As far as I know, Jews are the only ethnos where religious conversion provides membership. That has to be taken into account.

"The rub in all this to which I believe you turn a Nelson's eye is that over the long run you cannot maintain a predominate Jewish culture to maintain your Jewish "self-determination" without sooner or later discriminating against non-Jews in order to keep the predominate culture Jewish."

I discuss this point in my post. If by discriminate you mean that a state favors the cultural institutions of one group over the other, then I plead guilty. In a binational state, the cultural institutions (I am using the term in a broad sense) of both nations will have greater access to government resources than, say, minority cultures. Ditto for religions, especially in the Middle East, where the trend has been towards greater religious influence in the public and governmental spheres than fifty years ago.

"We may be a country where the preponderance of the population identifies themselves as Christian but we are not in any sense a Christian State nor were we founded as a Christian state nor do we see this nation as one for Christians nor do we preference Christians over anyone else nor is there a preference in citizenship for Christians. And nor do we call ourselves a Christian state."

Spoken like a true liberal. But you seem to have a preformed vision of what it is to be a "Christian state" and then claim that the US, despite the overwhelming preponderance of Christian culture, symbols, and holidays in the history and public places, does not fit your definition.

But I do grant you that my vision of a state that diaspora Jews can be proud of, identify with, view as a homeland, and see as a center of Hebrew/Jewish culture will not be sufficiently "thick" for many people who want a Jewish state. But that, I submit, is because they are used to the state that was hastily founded in 1948.

But I won't quibble about terms. My vision of Zionism -- the vision of Ahad ha-Am and Magnes and Buber -- does not require a Jewish ethnic state. Period.

Jerry Haber said...

GRF,

Rather than repeat the points I made in my post "Zionism Without a Jewish Ethnic State," may I suggest that you read and react to that.I think you will have a better understanding of what I am looking for. I agree with you that the US model may not be the most appropriate one to emulate, but I have difficulties with the Swiss model as well. To me there is a fundamental problem with conceiving Jewish nationalism like other ethnic nationalisms, and that is because of the religious element in becoming a member of the Jewish people. As far as I know, Jews are the only ethnos where religious conversion provides membership. That has to be taken into account.

"The rub in all this to which I believe you turn a Nelson's eye is that over the long run you cannot maintain a predominate Jewish culture to maintain your Jewish "self-determination" without sooner or later discriminating against non-Jews in order to keep the predominate culture Jewish."

I discuss this point in my post. If by discriminate you mean that a state favors the cultural institutions of one group over the other, then I plead guilty. In a binational state, the cultural institutions (I am using the term in a broad sense) of both nations will have greater access to government resources than, say, minority cultures. Ditto for religions, especially in the Middle East, where the trend has been towards greater religious influence in the public and governmental spheres than fifty years ago.

"We may be a country where the preponderance of the population identifies themselves as Christian but we are not in any sense a Christian State nor were we founded as a Christian state nor do we see this nation as one for Christians nor do we preference Christians over anyone else nor is there a preference in citizenship for Christians. And nor do we call ourselves a Christian state."

Spoken like a true liberal. But you seem to have a preformed vision of what it is to be a "Christian state" and then claim that the US, despite the overwhelming preponderance of Christian culture, symbols, and holidays in the history and public places, does not fit your definition.

But I do grant you that my vision of a state that diaspora Jews can be proud of, identify with, view as a homeland, and see as a center of Hebrew/Jewish culture will not be sufficiently "thick" for many people who want a Jewish state. But that, I submit, is because they are used to the state that was hastily founded in 1948.

But I won't quibble about terms. My vision of Zionism -- the vision of Ahad ha-Am and Magnes and Buber -- does not require a Jewish ethnic state. Period.

Jerry Haber said...

GRF,

Rather than repeat the points I made in my post "Zionism Without a Jewish Ethnic State," may I suggest that you read and react to that.I think you will have a better understanding of what I am looking for. I agree with you that the US model may not be the most appropriate one to emulate, but I have difficulties with the Swiss model as well. To me there is a fundamental problem with conceiving Jewish nationalism like other ethnic nationalisms, and that is because of the religious element in becoming a member of the Jewish people. As far as I know, Jews are the only ethnos where religious conversion provides membership. That has to be taken into account.

"The rub in all this to which I believe you turn a Nelson's eye is that over the long run you cannot maintain a predominate Jewish culture to maintain your Jewish "self-determination" without sooner or later discriminating against non-Jews in order to keep the predominate culture Jewish."

I discuss this point in my post. If by discriminate you mean that a state favors the cultural institutions of one group over the other, then I plead guilty. In a binational state, the cultural institutions (I am using the term in a broad sense) of both nations will have greater access to government resources than, say, minority cultures. Ditto for religions, especially in the Middle East, where the trend has been towards greater religious influence in the public and governmental spheres than fifty years ago.

"We may be a country where the preponderance of the population identifies themselves as Christian but we are not in any sense a Christian State nor were we founded as a Christian state nor do we see this nation as one for Christians nor do we preference Christians over anyone else nor is there a preference in citizenship for Christians. And nor do we call ourselves a Christian state."

Spoken like a true liberal. But you seem to have a preformed vision of what it is to be a "Christian state" and then claim that the US, despite the overwhelming preponderance of Christian culture, symbols, and holidays in the history and public places, does not fit your definition.

But I do grant you that my vision of a state that diaspora Jews can be proud of, identify with, view as a homeland, and see as a center of Hebrew/Jewish culture will not be sufficiently "thick" for many people who want a Jewish state. But that, I submit, is because they are used to the state that was hastily founded in 1948.

But I won't quibble about terms. My vision of Zionism -- the vision of Ahad ha-Am and Magnes and Buber -- does not require a Jewish ethnic state. Period.

GRF said...

Jerry,

Thanks for the response. As I read "Zionism Without..." and your response I take it you are looking for a Jewish Nationalism in which the state is that of all its citizens, Jew and Gentile alike, but also one in which the Jewish cultural component is favored by the government over all others, or perhaps the Jewish and Palestinian cultural components are both favored over other minority groups (it's a little unclear taking both posts). Either way, I'm with you 100% on the first part: A state of all its citizens, abolish the law of return, equal rights, etc.,

But then you lose me. You seem to be saying, and do say, that there is an Israeli National culture that is Jewish and Hebraic, but also Palestinian, that you feel close to as an Israeli. Great. I'm there. But then you plead guilty to wanting the state to "favor the cultural institutions of one group over another" and then you say "In a binational state, the cultural institutions ... of both nations will have greater access to government resources than, say, minority cultures. Ditto for religions."

Now I'm out the door. Whether it is one group privileged over another or two groups privileged over several others this is a recipe for civil strife. Certainly history teaches us that. Not just the resentment that naturally arises when arbitrary (and they are arbitrary) assignments of privilege are made but the inevitable evolution of what those privileges come to signify to both parties over time. What I hear you saying is that in this binational Zionist state all Israelis will be equal, but in some spheres some Israelis will be more equal than others.

If at the heart of this is a desire for the continuation and nurturing of Jewish culture - a goal I am all in favor of - then I would say we hardly talking of a hot-house flower. Jewish culture has survived and dare I say thrived, despite noted set-backs, for thousands of years without the help of any sort of Zionism or privilege. I would argue once again that if Jews are seeking Zion it resides in the USA, not Israel, a nation where Jews receive no more privileges than anyone else (Although, ironically, the USA privileges Israeli Jews above everyone else due to political expediency and to the detriment of all).

Which leads to the last. I certainly do have a definite vision of what a Christian state entails and we are not it. We do not fit any sense of theocracy or of a state that promotes/privileges/claims the Christian faith. We do not have a Christian culture, we have a secular culture. Even the holidays I take it you refer to: Christmas, Easter, Halloween (?), Thanksgiving(?) are almost entirely bereft of religious content and instead are given over to secular commercial content, which, historically, was their actual point of origin. Christmas was not a wide-spread celebration until the post-civil war era; Thanksgiving did not even exist until Lincoln. They were not even national holidays, honored by days off from work, until the rise of Organized Labor in the 1930s. Until then most industrial workers could only count on the 4th of July off.

One can easily survive the entirety of both Christmas and Easter without once hearing the name of Jesus (He just can't sell a damn thing). And the predominate symbols of these holidays are not Christian but entirely pagan put to business purposes (the true religion and culture of the USA). Believe me, Jerry, if any one or all of these holidays ceased to be commercially viable they would disappear overnight.

And while it is true that religion runs through our history, the debunking of it and ridicule of it runs just as strong, with equal periods of religious revival and times of anti-religious fervor.

Jerry Haber said...

GRF,

Thanks for you comment, and thanks for pushing me.

"Whether it is one group privileged over another or two groups privileged over several others this is a recipe for civil strife. Certainly history teaches us that. Not just the resentment that naturally arises when arbitrary (and they are arbitrary) assignments of privilege are made but the inevitable evolution of what those privileges come to signify to both parties over time. What I hear you saying is that in this binational Zionist state all Israelis will be equal, but in some spheres some Israelis will be more equal than others."

What I think may separate us is the degree of official recognition and support the state gives to its national groups -- or even whether the state should give any recognition or support to groups per se, but rather let individuals and communities flourish on a level playing field. That is an argument worth having.

Language, calendar, history taught in schools, etc. -- all these privilege groups over another. In most of the US, English is privileged over Spanish, even where Spanish speakers may up a significant part of the population. There will be an ongoing debate over how much, etc., but I believe that states can remain liberal and still foster ethnic/national cultures, and I imagine you agree with me. And "fostering" can very well imply "privileging."

Today there are close to six million Jews in historical Palestine, seven and a half million Hebrew speaking Israelis, and the number is growing, mostly through population expansion. Barring their mass exodus, *any* political framework that emerges in the future -- even with a return of all those Palestinian refugees who wish to return -- will have to take into account a vibrant Hebraic culture -- a culture that arose only through Zionism, I may add, though it was vibrant before the establishment of the state.

If you convince me that the best way that this culture can survive is within the confines of a state that does not foster or privilege it more than say, Druze or Russian culture, then I am willing to hear your argument. But that Israeli Hebraic Jewish culture has its roots in this region, and while, like all national cultures, has its share of problems, I find it worth preserving.

Jerry Haber said...

GRF,

Thanks for you comment, and thanks for pushing me.

"Whether it is one group privileged over another or two groups privileged over several others this is a recipe for civil strife. Certainly history teaches us that. Not just the resentment that naturally arises when arbitrary (and they are arbitrary) assignments of privilege are made but the inevitable evolution of what those privileges come to signify to both parties over time. What I hear you saying is that in this binational Zionist state all Israelis will be equal, but in some spheres some Israelis will be more equal than others."

What I think may separate us is the degree of official recognition and support the state gives to its national groups -- or even whether the state should give any recognition or support to groups per se, but rather let individuals and communities flourish on a level playing field. That is an argument worth having.

Language, calendar, history taught in schools, etc. -- all these privilege groups over another. In most of the US, English is privileged over Spanish, even where Spanish speakers may up a significant part of the population. There will be an ongoing debate over how much, etc., but I believe that states can remain liberal and still foster ethnic/national cultures, and I imagine you agree with me. And "fostering" can very well imply "privileging."

Today there are close to six million Jews in historical Palestine, seven and a half million Hebrew speaking Israelis, and the number is growing, mostly through population expansion. Barring their mass exodus, *any* political framework that emerges in the future -- even with a return of all those Palestinian refugees who wish to return -- will have to take into account a vibrant Hebraic culture -- a culture that arose only through Zionism, I may add, though it was vibrant before the establishment of the state.

If you convince me that the best way that this culture can survive is within the confines of a state that does not foster or privilege it more than say, Druze or Russian culture, then I am willing to hear your argument. But that Israeli Hebraic Jewish culture has its roots in this region, and while, like all national cultures, has its share of problems, I find it worth preserving.

Jerry Haber said...

GRF,

Thanks for you comment, and thanks for pushing me.

What I think may separate us is the degree of official recognition and support the state gives to its national groups -- or even whether the state should give any recognition or support to groups per se, but rather let individuals and communities flourish on a level playing field. That is an argument worth having.

Language, calendar, history taught in schools, etc. -- all these privilege groups over another. In most of the US, English is privileged over Spanish, even where Spanish speakers may up a significant part of the population. There will be an ongoing debate over how much, etc., but I believe that states can remain liberal and still foster ethnic/national cultures, and I imagine you agree with me. And "fostering" can very well imply "privileging."

Today there are close to six million Jews in historical Palestine, seven and a half million Hebrew speaking Israelis, and the number is growing, mostly through population expansion. Barring their mass exodus, *any* political framework that emerges in the future -- even with a return of all those Palestinian refugees who wish to return -- will have to take into account a vibrant Hebraic culture -- a culture that arose only through Zionism, I may add, though it was vibrant before the establishment of the state.

If you convince me that the best way that this culture can survive is within the confines of a state that does not foster or privilege it more than say, Druze or Russian culture, then I am willing to hear your argument. But that Israeli Hebraic Jewish culture has its roots in this region, and while, like all national cultures, has its share of problems, I find it worth preserving.

GRF said...

Jerry,

Very interesting discussion we're having here.

While the US has always been a polyglot and multi-cultural nation it is true that English is the predominate tongue. But this did not come about through privileging or fostering, both of which I view as verbs entailing active choice between alternatives. This was the tongue of the predominate culture. No one had to foster or privilege it. We don't have an official state -sanctioned language, although there have been misguided attempts to foster one. One such attempt was introduced in Congress in the mid-19th century, but the language was German not English.

Culture is never static, and certainly American culture never has been. Not only is it different from state to state and region to region, but within those enclaves it changes over time with the influx of new cultures that as the generations assimilate (or don't as the case may be) leave their mark on what remains.

That vibrant Hebraic Israeli culture you speak of is composed of influences of different Jewish cultures, as well as different Arab cultures. This admixture is beyond the control of any one group or government, no matter how much prejudice or discrimination may be occurring. To "foster," to "privilege," is to actively choose. Which is in essence an attempt to create an artificial culture, a Disneyland of the soul, but an attempt that will always fail. Look at African-American culture - despite centuries of the very opposite of "fostering," of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and violent repression, and the active denigration of that culture by the guardians of "Americanism" and morality it emerged triumphant as one of the predominate influences on American life, and this was true even during the worst of Jim Crow.

So I believe we do agree that that vibrant Israeli Hebraic culture is well worth preserving, but I would argue one cannot accomplish that by "fostering or privileging", as if it needs a petri dish, but by allowing it to evolve freely on its own, to find itself as each generation and each cultural and religious and ethnic group leaves its mark on it. That is the only way it will remain vibrant and the only way forward for Israel. Over time, say a century or so, the culture might well change in ways that you would not now recognize, but it would still be the vibrant Hebraic culture of that future Israel.

Joachim Martillo said...

"Today there are close to six million Jews in historical Palestine, seven and a half million Hebrew speaking Israelis, and the number is growing, mostly through population expansion. Barring their mass exodus, *any* political framework that emerges in the future -- even with a return of all those Palestinian refugees who wish to return -- will have to take into account a vibrant Hebraic culture -- a culture that arose only through Zionism, I may add, though it was vibrant before the establishment of the state."

The argument about Christian or Islamic states vs Jewish state is an apples and oranges debate.

Partisans of Christian or of Islamic states want at least religiously informed states, but the Jewish state is fundamentally a relexified Yiddish ethnic state whose social-political culture is little more than a hybrid of the German, Polish, and Yiddish culture of the 20s and 30s.

[Someday I will have to write an article on the influence of Sienkiewicz on modern Hebrew literature -- he was according to the statistics the most read author in Tel Aviv in the 20s.]

Is the Jewish state something of which Jews (really ethnic Ashkenazim) should be proud or ashamed?

Can the modest cultural achievements of the State of Israel really justify Zionist theft, ethnic cleansing and genocide?

David Shasha would probably also correctly blame Israel/Zionism for the eradication of Arab Jewish religious culture. (Arab Islamic Judaism probably differs more from Polish Catholic Judaism that Sicilian Catholicism differs from Polish Catholicism.)

In the discussion above when Zionism is not justified on a cultural basis, the sufferings and pogroms inflicted on Jews in the Pale of Settlement serve as an alternative justification.

Specialists in Russian and Russian Jewish history have tried to understand the state of Russian Jewry in the Czarist Empire.

Jabotinsky was not even aware of the Kishinev Pogrom when it took place even though he was in Odessa at the time.

On the basis of current state of research, it is fairly safe to say that Jews babbling about the pogroms are regurgitating a mostly false propaganda history created by partisan Jewish anti-Czarist journalists in the US and the UK. (A similar reality disconnect characterizes Lucy Dawidowicz' claim of more than 100,000 Jewish deaths during the Chmielnicki Rebellion.)

You can talk with Michael Stanislawski at Columbia if you doubt me.

Phil Weiss obliquely references the divide between Jewish memory and historical reality in http://mondoweiss.net/2009/07/last-night-i-posted-david-zellniks-take-on-theodor-herzl-my-response-lets-start-with-our-absolute-agreement-theodor-herzl.html.

[Lindemann's Esau's Tears: Modern Anti-Semitism and the Rise of the Jews provides a more thorough discussion.]

Joachim Martillo said...

In any case, issues of Hebrew culture or Jewish history are irrelevant to the question of Zionism today.

The record of the Neocon destruction during the Bush administration shows that the State of Israel is the lynchpin of a vast Jewish Zionist power nexus that successively managed or threatened to incinerate Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and Iran and that killed or displaced 20 million people from the horn of Africa through South Asia.

In addition Jewish Zionist political manipulations threaten the US constitutional system and created finance industry armageddon.

[I am happy to discuss the role of Marty Feldstein in the creation of the modern CDO as a means to get around the refusal of George HW Bush to provide loan guarantees for the settlement of Russian Jews in the Occupied Territories.]

Overall, the State of Israel and Jewish Zionist political manipulations have probably fraudulently cost the USA at least $6-8 trillion (~3/4 of the US National Debt).

Even if the State of Israel is not an irredeemably racist/evil entity, its continued existence is simply too costly to Americans and too dangerous to the world.

Joachim Martillo said...

A note on racialism vs. racism.

I am not sure what the distinction is.

British English tends to use racialism where American English uses racism just as British English uses pressurize where American English uses pressure.

I have the impression that American English tends to prefer shorter forms that drop morphemes, whose clear sense has been lost.

Clif Brown said...

Please, everyone, come to Chicago! Within a mile or two are vibrant Jewish, East Indian and Pakistani communities. You would not be able to say you were in America for the density of signs in Hebrew, Hindi or Urdu.

But nobody is fighting, nobody is scowling at the other! As a matter of fact there is a stretch of Devon Avenue where Pakistani and Indian restaurants are side by side.

Neighborhoods change. New people move in and if they come to predominate the neighborhood reflects it but the important thing is everyone realizes there is no way to keep the other out while at the same time anyone is free to move where they wish.

This is the promise of America come true, leaving aside for a moment the horrible mess America has made in other countries, the system works here. Nobody would consider trying to "privilege" on group over another because they recognize it works both ways. Live and let live.

Israel is a disastrous project given a clean face by immense wealth, a Great Protector and the widespread use of propaganda in a foreign country with many Jews and few Arabs. So America supports injustice and oppression at the same time it would never stand for it on its own soil. Hypocrisy, thy name is USA!

Jerry, is there anything more plain then that elevating one group over another in law cannot stand? Israel is living on borrowed time no matter how strong it appears militarily. The world stands back from it and America will eventually be repulsed by some outrageous act by the Knesset that smells so bad even AIPAC won't be able to cover the odor.

Israel exists only because of the free pass it was given by the Holocaust. That is fading as the old generation that sees nothing but Jewish righteousness and victimhood leaves the scene.

All the kings horses and Rupert Murdoch's money cannot keep Humpty Dumpty sitting intact on the Wall. Only isolation and rejection faces Israel in the future, regardless of the weaponry America gives it.

Think of what a high price everyone but the Israelis have paid for Israel being forced upon the Middle East. Only from the view of Zionism can Israel be called a benefit to the area. There isn't a single Israeli who could be thriving in the United States and living in complete security with non-Jews.

My neighborhood is stable, multilingual and multicultural though it is. Nobody looks forward to the future with fear, but the whole world looks with fear to what Israel might do next.

jules1 said...

I am a bit late for this conversation, but if ethnic nationalism isn't racism then what is?

jules1 said...

I may be a bit late for this conversation, but if ethnic nationalism isn't racism then what is? I think you are confusing the content of some racist ideologies with the term racism itself. Racism is the preference for/discrimination against a group of people based on their ethnic origin or background. That goes irrespective of the underlying motifs.
Affirmative action isn't racist because it is directed at compensating an existing inequality.