Sunday, November 7, 2010

Israel’s “Arab Problem,” Part Three – The Israeli Nation-State

As a rejoinder to Shalem Center's Rabbi Daniel Gordis, who hails from the United States, I publish here a translation of a recent Haaretz opinion piece by Hebrew University's Dr. Dimitry Shumsky, who hails from Russia. So much for national generalizations: Gordis' writing reads like the work of a nineteenth century ethnic nationalist, whereas Shumsky is a liberal nationalist of the twenty-first century. Shumsky is the author of an important book, Between Prague to Jerusalem: Prague Zionism and the Idea of a Binational State. in which he argues that binationalist Zionism has its roots in the political experience of young Prague Zionists as Czecho-German Jews, i.e., Jews who embraced both cultures. These Jews included Hugo Bergmann, Hans Kohen, Robert Weltsch and Max Brod, who later became identified with the "radical" faction of Brit Shalom in Jerusalem. The book is currently in Hebrew; I hope it will appear in English.

The Israeli Nation State

Dimitry Shumsky

In 1917 David ben Gurion published an article entitled, "On Determining the Origins of the Falahin," in which he formulated, systematically, the claim that was commonly accepted by the members of the Second Aliyah – that the rural Arabs of the Land of Israel were the descendants of the ancient Jews who had converted during periods of persecution. This idea, which in hindsight appears rather na├»ve, did not arouse much enthusiasm among the Arabs of Palestine of the Jews of the Land of Israel, each of whom clung to their national-religious identities, which over the years increasingly became polar opposites.

Still, underlying Ben-Gurion's line of thought was a deep political insight that was not bereft of an element of healthy political realism. This insight was the recognition that the future state would have to formulate a national-civic myth that would be shared by Jews returning to their homeland, and by Arabs dwelling in their homeland.

In spite of the continuing bloody conflict between Jews and Palestinians, there has developed over the years the beginnings of civil-territorial consciousness that is shared by most of the Jewish citizens and some of the Arab citizens – an Israeli identity. Yet in recent years, anybody who suggests taking the name of Israel, which is familiar in the international community, seriously, and to recognize Israel as the Israeli nation state is called a "post- Zionist" or an "anti-Zionist," who seemingly wishes to undermine the principle of self-determination for the Jewish nation.

But it would be an illusion to think that the conception of an Israeli identity excludes the notion of Jewish nationalism. On the contrary, the term "Israeli" contains within it the religious, cultural, and national "baggage" of the Jewish past. Most of the Jewish citizens of the State of Israel see themselves, through voluntary and conscious choice, as Israelis.

At the same time, the abstract concept "Israeli" signifies not merely the Jewish religio-ethnic dimension, but also the status of citizenship that is common to all Israeli citizens. As a result, even among the young Arab population in Israel, at an age where one would expect them to be most influenced by radical trends, it turns out that half of them see themselves as Israelis [and not as Palestinians – JH], according to a poll conducted by the Maagar Mohot Research Institute.

A new self-definition of Israel as the state of the Israeli nation would not undermine the collective right of its Jewish citizens to define themselves as members of the Jewish nation. On the contrary, the former definition would reinforce the latter definition within a broader civil framework, in which Jews would share citizenship in common with Arabs. In this old-new framework, not a single one of the essential components of Jewish national sovereignty would lose its validity, neither the freedom of the Jewish nation to foster its values of cultural, ethnic, and religious inheritance, or his right to provide the members of his Jewish national diaspora with citizenship. Nevertheless, such a definition would put an end once and for all to the anomalous, humiliating, and perverted situation where citizens of the State of Israel, whose ancestors dwelt in the country for generation before the founding of the state, are prevented from joining the sovereign nation of the state – unless they convert to the religion of the founders of the state, who recently returned to their homeland.

Theodor Herzl in "Altneuland" believed that the civic foundations shared by Jews and Muslims in the "Old New Land" could be formed on the basis of the monotheism held in common by both sides. Ben-Gurion saw this basis in the idea of the common ethnic origins of the returnees to Zion and its inhabitants. The experience of Israeli citizenship, common to both Jews and Arabs, has fostered, despite its inherently unequal character, the concrete possibility to establish this foundation within the idea of an old-new Israel nation, which is able to contain within it all the memories, values, and national symbols of the Jewish majority as well as those of the Arab minority, in all its complexity.

The realization of this possibility will signify therefore the completion of the civic vision of statist Zionist and the only way to establish

 

 

 

9 comments:

Michael Davis said...

Hi Jerry,
Thanks for the Shumsky reference. I translated the Baram article. Here goes:


Unearned Nostalgia
by Haim Baram - Haaretz, Nov 7, 2011
It would be unfair to ask of Niva Lanir (Dying, Yet Lively, Ha’aretz, Nov. 2) to provide an analysis of the Labor Party’s decline in a short article. However, it appears that even such limited space was sufficient to introduce erroneous nomenclature and to arrive at imprecise conclusions.

The Labor Party was never “Left.” Rather it was the aggressive, nationalistic center that instigated most of Israel’s wars. Labor was in power when the three most egregious attacks on Israel’s Arab citizens took place: Kafr Qassem (1956), Land Day (1976) and the murder of 13 Arab civilians in 2000. The party abandoned social democracy, willfully demolished the Histradut Labor union, closely collaborated with Apartheid South Africa and French colonial Algeria and initiated the gradual annexation of the Occupied Territories following the June 1967 war. This party also built the nuclear reactor in Dimona and, according to foreign reports, harnessed it for military uses.

One can agree to or disagree with Labor’s platform and policies. One may choose to see them as an integral part of “Zionism,” but they are not “Left.” The Labor Party adopted neo-liberalism as its ideology in contradiction to the social-democratic image it carefully crafted for the overseas consumption. Labor’s representatives at the Socialist International, such as Shimon Peres, openly admired Margaret Thatcher. They gradually came to support the American conservative Right too. Yizhak Rabin – who Lanir swears by – was, ideologically and politically, an enthusiastic fan of Richard Nixon’s.

Yossi Beilin was the first to see where this policy was taking us. And so, he softened Israel’s support of the South African White racists. He tried to somewhat accommodate the Palestinians - despite the fact that they rejected his questionable wish to have them declare [the village of] Abu Dis as the [new Palestinian] Jerusalem. But all this was a rearguard action: Even Yossi Beilin was afraid of acting on the paralysis that seized the Israeli Right following Yizhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995. He did not [use that moment to] remake the reality of the Jewish presence on the West Bank. His positions were moderately Liberal: they were not Left.

If Ms. Lanir’s terminology is faulty, her arithmetic never even gets off the ground. The Labor Party folk and their offspring followed Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon and others to the Kadima party, and even on to Likud. The miniscule Left, living in Hadash and perhaps Meretz, focuses mainly on ideology and street activism. Hadash is also trying to heal the rift that Ehud Barak wrought [between Jewish] and Arab citizens. The centrists who support peace (at an unrealistic cost) fear a break with the international community and its concomitant, untenable economic, social and cultural costs. In the way of the complacent well-to-do they are not particularly active on the political street. This is the same political street where the Right - together with the architects of the unholy alliance between Avigdor Lieberman (and his followers) and the Orthodox-Nationalist camp - is lively and definitely not dying.

Michael Davis said...

Hi Jerry,
Thanks for the Shumsky reference. I translated the Baram article. Here goes:


Unearned Nostalgia
by Haim Baram - Haaretz, Nov 7, 2011
It would be unfair to ask of Niva Lanir (Dying, Yet Lively, Ha’aretz, Nov. 2) to provide an analysis of the Labor Party’s decline in a short article. However, it appears that even such limited space was sufficient to introduce erroneous nomenclature and to arrive at imprecise conclusions.

The Labor Party was never “Left.” Rather it was the aggressive, nationalistic center that instigated most of Israel’s wars. Labor was in power when the three most egregious attacks on Israel’s Arab citizens took place: Kafr Qassem (1956), Land Day (1976) and the murder of 13 Arab civilians in 2000. The party abandoned social democracy, willfully demolished the Histradut Labor union, closely collaborated with Apartheid South Africa and French colonial Algeria and initiated the gradual annexation of the Occupied Territories following the June 1967 war. This party also built the nuclear reactor in Dimona and, according to foreign reports, harnessed it for military uses.

One can agree to or disagree with Labor’s platform and policies. One may choose to see them as an integral part of “Zionism,” but they are not “Left.” The Labor Party adopted neo-liberalism as its ideology in contradiction to the social-democratic image it carefully crafted for the overseas consumption. Labor’s representatives at the Socialist International, such as Shimon Peres, openly admired Margaret Thatcher. They gradually came to support the American conservative Right too. Yizhak Rabin – who Lanir swears by – was, ideologically and politically, an enthusiastic fan of Richard Nixon’s.

Yossi Beilin was the first to see where this policy was taking us. And so, he softened Israel’s support of the South African White racists. He tried to somewhat accommodate the Palestinians - despite the fact that they rejected his questionable wish to have them declare [the village of] Abu Dis as the [new Palestinian] Jerusalem. But all this was a rearguard action: Even Yossi Beilin was afraid of acting on the paralysis that seized the Israeli Right following Yizhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995. He did not [use that moment to] remake the reality of the Jewish presence on the West Bank. His positions were moderately Liberal: they were not Left.

If Ms. Lanir’s terminology is faulty, her arithmetic never even gets off the ground. The Labor Party folk and their offspring followed Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon and others to the Kadima party, and even on to Likud. The miniscule Left, living in Hadash and perhaps Meretz, focuses mainly on ideology and street activism. Hadash is also trying to heal the rift that Ehud Barak wrought [between Jewish] and Arab citizens. The centrists who support peace (at an unrealistic cost) fear a break with the international community and its concomitant, untenable economic, social and cultural costs. In the way of the complacent well-to-do they are not particularly active on the political street. This is the same political street where the Right - together with the architects of the unholy alliance between Avigdor Lieberman (and his followers) and the Orthodox-Nationalist camp - is lively and definitely not dying.

Michael Davis said...

Hi Jerry,
Thanks for the Shumsky reference. I translated the Baram article. Here goes:


Unearned Nostalgia
by Haim Baram - Haaretz, Nov 7, 2011
It would be unfair to ask of Niva Lanir (Dying, Yet Lively, Ha’aretz, Nov. 2) to provide an analysis of the Labor Party’s decline in a short article. However, it appears that even such limited space was sufficient to introduce erroneous nomenclature and to arrive at imprecise conclusions.

The Labor Party was never “Left.” Rather it was the aggressive, nationalistic center that instigated most of Israel’s wars. Labor was in power when the three most egregious attacks on Israel’s Arab citizens took place: Kafr Qassem (1956), Land Day (1976) and the murder of 13 Arab civilians in 2000. The party abandoned social democracy, willfully demolished the Histradut Labor union, closely collaborated with Apartheid South Africa and French colonial Algeria and initiated the gradual annexation of the Occupied Territories following the June 1967 war. This party also built the nuclear reactor in Dimona and, according to foreign reports, harnessed it for military uses.

Michael Davis said...

part 2:


One can agree to or disagree with Labor’s platform and policies. One may choose to see them as an integral part of “Zionism,” but they are not “Left.” The Labor Party adopted neo-liberalism as its ideology in contradiction to the social-democratic image it carefully crafted for the overseas consumption. Labor’s representatives at the Socialist International, such as Shimon Peres, openly admired Margaret Thatcher. They gradually came to support the American conservative Right too. Yizhak Rabin – who Lanir swears by – was, ideologically and politically, an enthusiastic fan of Richard Nixon’s.

Yossi Beilin was the first to see where this policy was taking us. And so, he softened Israel’s support of the South African White racists. He tried to somewhat accommodate the Palestinians - despite the fact that they rejected his questionable wish to have them declare [the village of] Abu Dis as the [new Palestinian] Jerusalem. But all this was a rearguard action: Even Yossi Beilin was afraid of acting on the paralysis that seized the Israeli Right following Yizhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995. He did not [use that moment to] remake the reality of the Jewish presence on the West Bank. His positions were moderately Liberal: they were not Left.

If Ms. Lanir’s terminology is faulty, her arithmetic never even gets off the ground. The Labor Party folk and their offspring followed Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon and others to the Kadima party, and even on to Likud. The miniscule Left, living in Hadash and perhaps Meretz, focuses mainly on ideology and street activism. Hadash is also trying to heal the rift that Ehud Barak wrought [between Jewish] and Arab citizens. The centrists who support peace (at an unrealistic cost) fear a break with the international community and its concomitant, untenable economic, social and cultural costs. In the way of the complacent well-to-do they are not particularly active on the political street. This is the same political street where the Right - together with the architects of the unholy alliance between Avigdor Lieberman (and his followers) and the Orthodox-Nationalist camp - is lively and definitely not dying.

Michael Davis said...

part 2:


One can agree to or disagree with Labor’s platform and policies. One may choose to see them as an integral part of “Zionism,” but they are not “Left.” The Labor Party adopted neo-liberalism as its ideology in contradiction to the social-democratic image it carefully crafted for the overseas consumption. Labor’s representatives at the Socialist International, such as Shimon Peres, openly admired Margaret Thatcher. They gradually came to support the American conservative Right too. Yizhak Rabin – who Lanir swears by – was, ideologically and politically, an enthusiastic fan of Richard Nixon’s.

Yossi Beilin was the first to see where this policy was taking us. And so, he softened Israel’s support of the South African White racists. He tried to somewhat accommodate the Palestinians - despite the fact that they rejected his questionable wish to have them declare [the village of] Abu Dis as the [new Palestinian] Jerusalem. But all this was a rearguard action: Even Yossi Beilin was afraid of acting on the paralysis that seized the Israeli Right following Yizhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995. He did not [use that moment to] remake the reality of the Jewish presence on the West Bank. His positions were moderately Liberal: they were not Left.

Michael Davis said...

part III:



If Ms. Lanir’s terminology is faulty, her arithmetic never even gets off the ground. The Labor Party folk and their offspring followed Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon and others to the Kadima party, and even on to Likud. The miniscule Left, living in Hadash and perhaps Meretz, focuses mainly on ideology and street activism. Hadash is also trying to heal the rift that Ehud Barak wrought [between Jewish] and Arab citizens. The centrists who support peace (at an unrealistic cost) fear a break with the international community and its concomitant, untenable economic, social and cultural costs. In the way of the complacent well-to-do they are not particularly active on the political street. This is the same political street where the Right - together with the architects of the unholy alliance between Avigdor Lieberman (and his followers) and the Orthodox-Nationalist camp - is lively and definitely not dying.

Eric said...

What people didn't come to Israel with European baggage?

LeaNder said...

In 1917 David ben Gurion published an article entitled, "On Determining the Origins of the Falahin," in which he formulated, systematically, the claim that was commonly accepted by the members of the Second Aliyah – that the rural Arabs of the Land of Israel were the descendants of the ancient Jews who had converted during periods of persecution.

this immediately triggered an association of the Shomer, the "Jewish-Arab" hybrid Ayal Gil writes about in his The disenchantment of the Orient: expertise in Arab affairs and the Israeli

I found his book much more interesting than David Ohana's, Political theology in israel : Zionist Messianism and its Critics, who obviously focuses on Ben Gurion in the larger mythical context.

LeaNder said...

Between Prague to Jerusalem: Prague Zionism and the Idea of a Binational State

Hmmm, no translation only some articles so far. I have to learn Hebrew. Very peculiar transcription of the title in the German interloan system. Looks like no transcription at all, like something more arbitrary?