Sunday, February 10, 2013

What's So Wrong with BDS

Readers, this appeared in Open Zion here last week.

Controversial speakers appearing on campus are as American as apple pie. So why are critics riled up about an event organized by the Brooklyn College chapter of Students for Justice for Palestine, where Prof. Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti are explaining and defending the Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS) movement against Israel?

Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz complains that the event is co-sponsored by the political science department, which is inappropriate for an academic unit, unless it sponsors all sides of a controversial issue. For him the co-sponsorship implies an endorsement of a political view that may have a chilling effect—indeed, an adverse career effect—on opponents of that view within the department.

I can sympathize with the claim that academic units should not co-sponsor events with student groups, although many universities, including Harvard, permit it, and I am not aware that Prof. Dershowitz has spoken out against this practice on other issues besides the Middle East. As the director of a Jewish Studies program that houses Israel Studies, I have instituted a policy against co-sponsorships with student groups (although we occasionally contribute modest sums for refreshments, which is what student groups are often looking for anyway).

But forget the co-sponsorship issue: What if the political science department had on its own initiative invited Butler and Barghouti to explain the aims of the BDS movement to its faculty and students? Prof. Dershowitz doesn’t just object apparently to a department “endorsing” a controversial speaker. He also objects to a department even sponsoring a controversial speaker unless opposing views are presented—an unusual and impossible demand for departments.
I suspect that the real reason for the Brooklyn College brouhaha is the belief among mainstream Israel supporters that those who support BDS belong to the extremist, loony fringe of Israel-haters. Free speech may require that they be allowed to speak on campus when invited by student groups, and, indeed, they appear regularly not only at colleges like Berkeley and San Francisco State, and but also at Penn and Harvard. But a respectable institution should publicly disavow their positions and relegate the event to a room in the crowded Student Union.
The real issue here is not freedom of speech for controversial ideas but rather the presentation of the BDS movement as beyond the pale.
I have written elsewhere about why liberal Zionists should consider supporting the global BDS movement. To the claim that the BDS movement is anti-Israeli I pose the question, “Was the BDS movement in South Africa anti-South African?” For many whites and most Afrikaaners, and the South African government at the time, the answer would have been yes. For them, apartheid was an essential part of the South African regime. Dismantle apartheid, and the country, no matter what its name, would never be the same. Yet it was possible for those who opposed apartheid to contemplate a better place for all South Africans, blacks, whites, and colored. For them the BDS movement against apartheid was not directed against the South African people but against the policies of its government.
The global BDS movement has adopted three goals (rarely mentioned by its critics): ending the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the separation barrier; granting full civil rights and equality to the Arab minority within Israel; and respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in U.N. resolution 194. The three goals correspond to the three main sectors of the Palestinian people today. There is no goal of the abolition of the State of Israel, or even its transformation into one secular democratic state. In fact, those who support BDS against Israel have somewhat similar aims as those who supported BDS in South Africa. Both groups wanted and want to bring about fundamental changes in their respective societies in a non-violent manner.
One can disagree with the desirability or the consequences of some of these goals. Certainly one can disagree about the utility or efficacy of BDS as a tactic. But there is nothing odious or despicable about the goals or the tactic.
Some opponents of BDS will object, “We have no problem with criticism of Israel, as long as it is constructive and recognizes Israel’s legitimate security needs. But BDS aims not only to weaken the state, itself an immoral goal, but also to delegitimize its very existence. Indeed, many who endorse the BDS movement are in favor of replacing the Jewish state with a secular Palestinian state. That’s what places it beyond the pale of respectable discourse at universities, and what makes it deeply offensive to some students, even if it is protected by free speech.”
Arguing in this manner is troubling for two reasons. For one thing, it insinuates that the supporters of BDS hide their real agenda, the destruction of the State of Israel and the subjugation or exile of its Jewish inhabitants, under the cloak of human rights and international law. Second, it reads the desire to see a better regime or regimes for both Israelis and Palestinians as the wish to relegate the Jews to a second-class citizenship in a secular Palestine.
The question at stake here is not whether extreme positions should be allowed to be heard but rather whether BDS or One State advocacy are extreme positions. Prof. Dershowitz opposes the BDS advocate on one extreme and the radical settler zealot on the other. But the settler’s opposite counterpart is not the advocate of BDS, nor even the advocate of one state for Palestinians and Israelis, but rather one who would deny Israeli Jews any place in Palestine—just as the opposite extreme from the white supremacist in South Africa was not those South African blacks who wished to replace the apartheid ethos with the belief that blacks and whites should have equal rights in a shared society. In the Israeli-Palestinan conflict, the “middle” is not the domain of the two-staters but rather of all those who see both sides as entitled to control over their own security, lives and liberty, whatever the political arrangement, one state or two. “Neither to rule, nor to be ruled” as the old socialist Zionist slogan went.
This is why it is important that discussions and debates over BDS go mainstream and are not marginalized by the self-appointed arbiters of the acceptable and the unacceptable. The boundaries of discussion on Israel/Palestine are changing, albeit slowly. The longer the Palestinian people are deprived of their rights, the harder it will be to justify the current boundaries of discourse. The New York Times correctly complains that “the sad truth is that there is more honest discussion about American-Israeli policy in Israel than in this country.” But the terms of reference for such a discussion should not be limited to what is acceptable discourse in Israel. The diverse voices of the Palestinian people and their supporters, not to mention the supporters of the civil rights of both Israelis and Palestinians, should be heard in this country—not just in alternative media but in the public sphere.

16 comments:

pabelmont said...

The anti-BDS folks who claim the status of "liberal Zionists" complain that BDS's THIRD DEMAND ("return" of the 1948 exiles to their country of origin, pre-1967 Israel) attends to the needs and desires (they don't seem to admit to "rights") of Palestinians whilst ignoring a principle need/desire (and I guess they'd claim "right") of Zionists, namely, the need-desire for a predominantly Jewish population in Israel.

In other words, they champion the result of the exile/non-readmittance of the 1948 Palestinians ("refugees") and suggest that their own desire for a predominantly Jewish homeland trumps the Palestinian exiles desire to return (and become voting citizens it should be added, just to make things clear).

They do not explain why they need so LARGE a land (even so large as the pre-1967 land). They do not explain why Israel has not been able to attract twice as many "Jews" as it has in fact attracted (I use quotes because of problems about the Jewishness of some of the Russians).

In short, under the rubric of "we need a substantially Jewish majority in our land" they ignore the possibility of gaining such a majority either by drawing-in their borders (and population) or by achieving far greater Jewish "return".

These "liberal Zionists" are happy that the ethnic cleansing of 1947-8 happened, and stand by it and its results. Let the rest of the world rant and rave.

I think this is where the rubber meets the road in the conflict suggested by the BDS program, as far as "liberal Zionists" are concerned.

For myself, I far prefer NYC, where I live, even with politicians like so many fawning "I love Israel better than I love the USA and its democracy" types that the BDS business brought out of the woodwork.

C. Bendavid said...

Dear Mr. Haber,
you said: '' It took an intifada to convince Yitzhak Rabin that the occupation was untenable.''
Well, in 1987, just a few months before the intifada, Peres reached an agreement with the king of Jordan called the London Document, according which, Jordan would've been in charge of the administration of the territory, whilst Israel would have kept the military sovereignty of the West Bank (though, with only a limited number of troops being deployed in sparsely populated areas of the West Bank).

As for the ''native'' Palestinians, who were dispossessed by the Jewish ''colonists'', let me remind you that the 2nd aliya has never been colonialist (I'm not talking about the 1st one, which had a strong colonial influence).
Ever since the first Arab Congress, held in Paris in 1913 (where the Zionist movement sent a delegation), the Zionist movement offered several times an alliance to Arab nationalists. Even Ben Gurion who was not a binationalist (unlike Marxist Zionists or cultural Zionists) proposed the idea of a ''Semitic confederation'' to Musa Alami in the 1930's.

Furthermore, you seem to forget that those who launched the 1948 war were not the Jews, it was the Arabs. I don't condemn them for having refused the partition plan. From their point of vue they were resisting a foreign invasion. Nonetheless, they were the ones who attacked first and in the course of this war, 10% of Israeli Jews were expelled from their homes by the Arbas. So please, don't make silly comparisons with colonial invasions such as a the Conquest of the West.
Those who refused any compromise were the Arabs who did not even want to hear about a binational state, not the Jews.

Finally, let me remind you that the reason invoked by ''political Zionists'' to justify the creation of a Jewish state on a territory already populated by a native population, is not the mere fact that the Jews lived there 2,000 years ago, or because they had sacred rights conferred by God.
The argument invoked by the Zionists to justify their claims to Palestine, was the fact that they were a landless people, and given the fact that they were homeless, they had the right to recover a part of their historic homeland in order to have a state of their own own like any free nation.
Anti-Zionists like to argue that if the Jews have the right to lay claims to a territory that they owned 2,000 years ago, every other people should be allowed to do the same, which would turn out to be a terrible mess.
This argument is sophistic. A homeless people in need of a homeland is not the same as a people which already has a country of its own, and which decides to conquer further territories for expansionist purposes.

PS
If the Palestinians should be given a right of return to Israel, there is no reason to oppose a similar right of return to Spain, for the Arabs whose ancestors were expelled from Andalusia in the 15th Century. Of course, it's unlikely to happen, because it would turn Spain into an Arab country once again.
No sane person would ever dare to call for the destruction of Spain, because of the circumstances surrounding its creation.
Everybody who has even limited notions of history, knows that most countries were created through violence and conquests. Thus, there is no reason to single out Israel and to call for its destruction for a crime perpetrated my most countries on this planet(including most Arab states, that were created at the expense of native populations, like the Berbers in North Africa for example).

Jerry Haber said...

C. Bendavid, you're no relation to Y. Ben David, are you?

Some comments:
1) Rabin said that he was convinced of making peace with the Palestinians as a result of the first intifada. So I am not sure of why cite Peres' agreement not with the Palestinians -- whom he did not recognize -- but with King Hussein, especially since it was shot down by Prime Minister Shamir.

2. Read Gorny's book on Zionist proposals for federations and confederations in the late 20s and 30s. In every case the Zionists held out for more power and sovereignty than their numbers in Palestine warranted. The Zionists never refused to offer an eminently refusable offer.

3. Once the Zionists officially announced at Biltmore that their goal was a state the Palestinians were completely within their right to resist, especially since they had been told what the nature of that state would be. These were foreign settlers. In fact, all but one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were settlers, the overwhelming majority from Eastern Europe.

Jerry Haber said...

Re the 1948 war. As you know this was preceded by a civil disturbances on both sides which involved a jockeying of positions. The disturbances following Nov. 29 were local riots, and, as Moshe Sharett pointed out at the time, did not imply that the Palestinian Arab farmers rejected partition. Tom Segev published in this week's Haaretz Ben Gurion's view that under cover of war, the Galilee could be emptied of many of its inhabitants, and so a war with the Palestinians Arabs was in his interest (though he did not feel that way about a war with the Arab states.)

Let's not forget, shall we, that once partition was seen to be problematic, the Arabs reluctantly agreed to UN Trusteeship while the Zionists rejected it. (Why is it that this always is forgotten or minimized by the hasbaritas -- maybe it doesn't fit the narrative of Arab rejectionism...)

Jerry Haber said...

I didn't make silly comparisons between the 1948 war and the conquest of the West.

Even if the Jews were a landless people, that gave them no rights to dispossess the native Palestinians of their homes and to declare a state in Palestine. Why should the Jewish right to self-determination trump the Palestinian right to self-determination.

The number of Jews evacuated from their homes in the West Bank was miniscule compared to the number of Palestinians. But more than that -- by refusing to allow the Palestinians to return to their homes, and by acquiescing in the Jordanian conquest of the West Bank, Israel and Jordan together wiped Palestine off the map -- despite all the plans and resolutions that had called for the establishment of a Palestinian state. No severe demographic change followed the evacuation of the Jews from the West Bank -- but think what happened to the area under Israeli control.

How dare you compare the return of people who were thrown off their land, and whose return is enshrined by the UN 194 and by international laws and resoultions, with the return of the Arabs to Andalusia -- and by the way, you realize, do you not, that together with the Jews, they have been invited to return?

If anything you should agitate with the Arabs states to allow the Jews who fled persecution there to return if they so desire. You and I can stand together on that one. All refugees should be allowed to return to their place of origin, allowed, not forced.

The fact that many states came about as a result of violent conquest is completely immaterial -- unless you feel that the Nazi invasion of Poland, or the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe, was justified.

C. Bendavid said...

Dear Professor Haber,
your doctrinarian mindset (no offense) makes you conflate colonization and colonialism.

Colonialism implies the will to dispossess the natives, whereas colonization (in the outdated meaning of the term, the one in which it was used by the Zionist movement at the beginning of the 20th Century), means to settle a territory.
And ever since the second Aliya, the Zionist movement made it clear that it rejected this idea.
Even the Poalei Zion party's manifesto rejected the charge of colonialism against Zionism unequivocally. I've rarely seen people who claim to be anti-colonialist, being colonialist at the same. That's an oxymoron!

Hence, you are right, the Jews who created the Yishuv were settlers, and there is no reason to be ashamed of it.

A homeless people wanting to exercise its self-determination right needs to acquire a land on which it could establish its own state, otherwise they are doomed to remain a homeless people forever.
Would that be fair?

Saying that those who have nothing should remain bare hands for the rest of their lives, while the rich should keep all the wealth for themselves without sharing, even a small part of it, with those who are in need, is a morality that suits the Tea Party but not progressive people.

Professor Haber, your friends of the left never hesitate to advocate agrarian reforms in the Third World for landless peasants. They believe that asking landlords to give up a small part of their possessions to those who have nothing is a form of redistribution and equity. Only the Tea Party would dare to call that a theft.
I don't see why the same reasoning should not be made at the scale of nations. Redistribution is not the same as dispossession.

Frankly, you remind me of these radical rednecks who believe that if someone is not rich enough to get a medical treatment, it's his problem, and the society should not help him to pay the bill.



C. Bendavid said...

You can't talk about self-determination seriously if you believe that not all nations are entitled to this right, including those that happen to be homeless, like the Jews.
Thus, in order to allow every nation to access self-determination, it is right, in my opinion, to ask those who already have a territory to give a small chunk of it to those who don't have any.

By the way, this reasoning is not new. Strangely, it's the one made by the radical left in 1947, to justify the creation of a Jewish state in a territory that was already populated. If you read the archives of the Nation, the New Republic and the press releases of anticolonialist left-wing parties, both in the US and everywhere else in the world, they basically said the same thing.
They said that the Arabs are blessed with a huge territory, whereas the Jews have nothing. Thus, it would be fair to ask the Arabs to accept a minor territorial concession, in order to allow the Jews to have a state of their own as well.

This is not the same as a colonial conquest aiming to enrich a colonial Empire.
Even Jean-Paul Sartre and Michel Foucault were stunned by the fact that the ''New Left'' that emerged in the late 60's, could not understand this simple dichotomy.
The evolution of the PSU (United Socialist Party) in France, which was created for the purpose of opposing the occupation of Algeria by France is quite evocative.
The PSU rejected the accusation of colonialism against Israel until the late 60's. The MAPAM Party, was even the guest of honor at their Congresses.
Back then, the PSU contended that a homeless people looking for a homeland in which they could exercice their self-determination right cannot be compared to a colonial power whose purpose is to expand its wealth for imperialistic purposes.
Unfortunately, in the 1970's, they began to adopt anti-Zionist resolutions, like the rest of the left.

C. Bendavid said...

I do agree however, that only a small part of the territory should've been given to the Jews, so that the Palestinians would've not lost a large part of their territory. But setting aside the fact that Jordan which represents 80% of historic Palestine, was given to the Arabs in 1922, the Palestinians boycotted the UNSCOP.
Had they cooperated with it, they would have gotten a much better deal.


PS
Spain allows Sephardic Jews to return to Spain, but not the Arabs whose ancestor were expelled from Spain. It has nothing to do with ''keeping Spain white''. Most Spaniards have either Jewish or Arab ancestry. The reason they oppose a massive return of millions of non-Spaniards, is because they want to preserve the Castilian character of Spain.
As for the Sephardic Jews, they have kept close ties with the Spanish culture, and they are not numerous. Thus, they don't threaten to turn Spain into a new Sderot or a new Kiryat Malakhi! This is why we have a right of return there.

Wanting to preserve a country's
national culture is not racist.
If the Arabs opposed Jewish immigration to Palestine in the 1930's, it's not because they felt that the Ashkenazi Jews were not dark-skinned enough for the region! It's because the Palestinian Arabs didn't want to become a minority, which is totally legitimate.

As for the expulsion of the Palestinians, I don't condone it.
What I said is that those who decided that this conflict would be settled through violence were the Arabs, not the Jews.
This is what gave the Israelis the possibility to expell the Palestinians.
Of course, the Arab agression does not justify Israel's behavior, but let's not forget who lauched the war. Otherwise, it would be like focusing exclusively on the expulsion of Sudeteland Germans without mentioning that the Germans were the ones who invaded Czechkoslovaquia in the first place.

Last comment.
Like many Liberal Zionists, I do not condemn Arab opposition to Zionism. I do not think this conflict is a conflict between those who are right and those who are wrong.
Whilst I believe that the Arabs made a terrible mistake by refusing a two-state solution, I believe that the Arab-Israeli conflict is a conflict between two protagonists that were both right.
The Arabs were right to refuse the creation of Israel, and the Jews were right to fight for not staying a homeless people.
This is what makes this conflict complicated.
It would be easy to find a scapegoat, but the truth of the matter, is that we were all fighting for a just cause.
I'd rather call it a Greek tragedy.

Unfortunately, however, the only ones who are willing and eager to recognize that the other side's cause was as legitimate as their own, are the Liberal Zionists (left -wing of the Labor party, Meretz, Sheli, Moked...) It think it just reveals who is the most open minded between you and us.

Nonetheless, I know it has become very trendy to make fun of Liberal Zionists and to denigrate us by calling us ''semi-racists'', which is not only false, but also hurting.
However, I have to admit that you are one of the only anti-Zionists (or alter-Zionist)who has been respectful to us so far.

It's quite unusual.

I hope you'll excuse my sloppy and ungrammatical English. It's not easy to learn a new language!

C. Bendavid said...

By the way, I'm no relation to Y. Ben David, although I guess he is probably of Moroccan descent.
Unless, he's an Ashkenazi Sabra who had his name changed!

Jerry Haber said...

"I've rarely seen people who claim to be anti-colonialist, being colonialist at the same. That's an oxymoron!"

Not at all. Many Zionists saw themselves as the descendants of the rightful sovereigns of the Land of Israel, who had been banished from their land, and who had never been assimilated into other countries. Read the Declaration of Independence.

What this says is that the Zionists perceived themselves as returning natives. Not that they were returning natives. And by the way, it is not surprising that there was this turn in Zionist thought -- after all colonialism had been discredited and following WWI, the language of self-determination of peoples had been adopted.

"Thus, in order to allow every nation to access self-determination, it is right, in my opinion, to ask those who already have a territory to give a small chunk of it to those who don't have any"

You realize, of course, that there are many peoples out there with the consciousness of being a nation that don't have statist self-determination. Apply your principle and states will fragment into miny states, with all sorts of problems of ethnic minorities. Look at Belgium, Spain, Canada, the list goes on and one.

Several other considerations:

I don't think that self-determination of peoples is an overarching value; it has to be weighed with other values.

One can have self-determination within the a multi-national state, or as a minority group with cultural/national rights within a state. There are all sorts of models of self-determination. And some may be better for the Jewish nation than an ethnic state, precisely because many people who are Jewish do not consider themselves part of a Jewish nation; they certainly don't consider themselves homeless. Ask American Jews whether they think that America or Israel is their home, and you will get different answers. Ask them whether they think they are living in an Israeli diaspora. What is clear to your consciousness, because of your adherence to Zionism, is not at all clear to theirs. Nor was it ever.

Rather than go over some of your arguments, I suggest that you read some of my posts that do so. But I do want to say one thing more

Jerry Haber said...

I believe that in an Israeli state of all its citizens, Jews, Arab, and none of the above, a national culture can flourish that is Hebrew and Jewish. Look at Berny Avishai's The Hebrew Republic, and you will see what I mean. What makes the state Jewish will be language, culture, calendar, etc. If there is a large group that has its own culture, then that would also be represented. There are ways of formalizing binationalism, etc. Or one can have an equitable division of two states. But both states -- Israel and Palestine -- must, in my opinion, be truly liberal democracies and not ethnocracies that masquerade as liberal democracies.

Again, I have written about this on my blog.

Finally, I call myself the Magnes Zionist, because Judah Magnes knew that the Jews could not really have a state at the expense of the natives -- even on part of Palestine -- without eternal bloodshed and injustice. We now have the State of Israel -- the question is how to make it a truly liberal democracy in which the nation represented by the state is the Israeli nation, not the Jewish people. But the Israeli nation -- just think of the name -- will be a state in which all Jews can take enormous pride.

PS. I don't consider myself leftwing, really. I am just a wimply American liberal or progressive.

C. Bendavid said...

Ok, so we got a deal!
I thought you would compare me to a racist Pied-Noir (like most of the BDS supporters I talked to), but you appear to be much more comprehensive.

Just a few words on you last comment.
Bernard Avishai's Hebrew Republic is what I envision for Israel.
I actually wanted to mention his book as way to reconcile Israel's Jewish character with democratic principles, but I didn't want to write too much.
Unfortunately, many Israelis have an Eastern European conception of nationhood and they just can't understand what a civic nation is all about.
I had the same prolem to talking to other peoples of Eastern Europe, such as the Slovaks who don't understand why their nationality should encompass the Hungarian minority of their country as well.
Fortunately, Zeev Sternhell is trying to educate his comaptriots, but it's not enough.
Israel remians stuck in Eastern Europe (in the Shtetl)!

As for the self-determination right than can be exerciced in a multinational framework, I totally agree with you.
As you probably know, what used to be the Second largest faction of the Zionist movement, the MAPAM party, was favorable to a Judeo-Arab state.

Although, today, this idea appears to be dead in Israel and among left-wing Zionists, you should not undermine its potential.
The reason Meretz (heir to Mapam), opposes a one state solution, is not because they don't find the idea appealing, it's because they feel that the BDS movement is using it as a way to destroy Israel and the sovereignty of the Jewish people, instead of using it as a possible way to reconcile Jews and Arabs.

You can't have a genuine binational state if both nations don't support it. Those who want to proceed this way want to put Israel on its knees, to use Ali Abunimah's expression.

This is why we advocate the creation of a confederation.
In the long term, confederations are doomed to merge. No one can imagine today the cultural, social, economic and political ties between the French and the Germans being severed after several decades of partnership. Actually, the bonds established between both peoples can only grow stronger.




History is a discipline that doesn't like speculation, but I don't think that envisioning the European Union evolving into a confederation like Switzerland, is out of touch with reality. Don't forget that 60 years ago, Europeans couldn't bear each other.

Also, France and Germany are quite homogenous countries. Imagine a regional integration process between Israel and the Palestinians with the important Arab minority of Israel, and the Jewish settlers becoming a Palestinian citizens.
It will just strengthen this new polity.
What can be done in the Middle East is actually more promising than what was already achieved in Europe, but it has to respect the sovereignty of the Jewish people.

However, as long as people like Omar Barghuti will call Bernard Avishai a racist, and as long as people like Ahmed Moor will remain stubborn in their aim of erasing every inch of the Israeli identity, so much that he wants you to rename cultural Zionism ''Hebrew culturalism'', there can be no possible dialogue.

C. Bendavid said...

You know, it's difficult to be rejected by everyone. Unfortunately, left-wing Zionists have been rejected by the left outside Israel, for more than 40 years now. It's depressing.
If anti-Zionists, could only lower their voice and to stop insulting us, there is a real potential for a real constructive dialogue.
Don't forget that SIAH did much more to raise awareness against the occupation of the Palestinian territories in the Israeli society than MATZPEN, which had virtually no audience, and no impact on the Israeli youth.

PS
One clarification.
It's not after WWII that the Zionist movement stopped calling itself colonialist.
The rejection of colonialism in the Zionist movement began with the Second aliya.
Furthermore, as early as 1913, the Zionist movement sent a delegation to Paris, to attend the First Arab congress and to offer an alliance to Arab nationalists.
Also, the Poalei Zion manifesto was drafted in 1917, before Wilson's 14 points (which included the self-determination of peoples).

Hence, the break between Zionism and colonialism was ideological, not tactical. Being colonialist was morally acceptable in the West until the late 1940's, whilst the Zionists stopped being colonialist in the 1910's.

People tend to charge Zionism with colonialism, because this ideology emerged in Europe, when most Europeans were colonialist.
But this analysis, which stems from Maxime Rodinson's work, is simplistic.
Many Europeans, especially in the left, rejected colonialism ever since the beginning of the 20th Century.
Therefore, the Zionist movement encompassed all the ideologies existing in Europe.
This is why the Bourgeois Zionists who dominated the Jewish national movement during the 1st aliya, were colonialists, whereas socialist Zionists of the 2nd aliya, who wanted to be accepted by the Bolcheviks rejected this ideology.

Anyway, whether or not Zionism was a colonialist movement, is a scholastic debate.
It may be a very interesting topic, but it won't change anything on the ground.
As long as we can agree on a ''functional compromise'' (to use Shimon Peres expresion!) , like the one brought forward by Bernard Avishai or Chaim Gans, we got a deal!

Dear Professor Manekin, talking to you sounds strange.
It brings me back to the 1990's when it was still possible to have a cordial conversation between Liberal Zionists and post-Zionists.
I miss those days terribly (even though I was just a teenager)!

Jerry Haber said...

C Ben David, are you any relation to Calev Ben David, who used to write for the Jerusalem Post? Maybe still does, but I don't read the Jerusalem Post. Maybe I also saw the byline in Haaretz English?

Anyway, please call me Jerry, since that way I keep my amateur status on zionism, and I/P. Prof. Manekin's academic specialty is medieval Jewish philosophy. I don't want people to think that he is an expert on what Jerry is writing about.

So I guess your real question is why is a self-styled Zionist palling around with the BDS crowd of anti-Zionists, etc. I try to answer that in some of my recent post. We are allies in a fight.

I haven't met Omar Barghouti and Ali Abunimah, but I am friends with Ahmed Moor, and if you knew him, you would be, too. I can perfectly understand why Palestinian nationalists (and post-nationalists) dont' want a state in Palestine to have anything to do with Zionism, and I understand their issues with binationalism. I am also not so wild about it, civic nationalist that I am.

But the way I look at things is as follows. There are around, how many, 5 1/2 million Israeli Jews in historic Palestine, and I don't know how many live outside. But that's a lot of folks who will want to have a say in the political future of the regime. I have no problem with the right of return, and I can contemplate alternate forms of political arrangements.

At the end of the day, states are there to serve people. I don't believe the Jewish people (whose survival I have an interest in) need a state; they have done just fine without one. But I am a fan of the revival of Hebrew culture in Eretz Yisrael, and that's what makes me a cultural Zionist.

I think that the fundamental question facing Jews and Judaism today, at least those Jews who support Israel, is the ongoing subjugation of the Palestinians and the thwarting of their fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property, also; I am no communist, even though I vote Hadash.)

I also wax nostalgiac for the ninties, because then there was a lively discussion about the future of Israel. But the fact that the discussion ended maybe suggests that it was opening a pandora's box for too many people whose very identity had been frozen in 1948. Tony Judt had a piece when Israel turned 60 in which he called upon Israel to grow up. From what I gather, you agree with that. I do.



Jerry Haber said...

One more thing. I don't feel rejected by folks on the left, except for folks like Gilad Atzmon and Israel Shamir. And the BDS movement in the US is coordinated with JVP. I understand that my brand of Zionism is not exactly understood by them, and I have a friend in England who keeps on asking me when I will drop Zionist from my blog. But what can I do? I am of that ilk of Zionists who felt that as Jewish state was bad for Jews, bad for Arabs, and bad for Zionism. Being a non-statist Zionist doesn't hurt my status among the left. I guess.

Jerry Haber said...

Last one more thing.

Not all bad for the Jews, of course. There are lots of things I like about Israel, and were it not for the "textbooks," real progress could be made in the right direction