Thursday, February 01, 2007

Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. UPDATED

There, I said it. Now let me explain. Zionism used to mean the belief that a Jewish state should be created in Palestine, a land where some Jews already lived, as well as some non-Jews. Zionism's worth was debated, some Jews were against, some non-Jews were for, and so on. Long story short, those in favor won, as all other options once debated ceased to be feasible, and there is now, and has been for some time, a country called Israel. So what can "Zionism" possibly mean today? Today, oddly enough, Zionism means exactly what it has always meant, that is, the belief that there should be a Jewish state in Palestine. Critics and lovers of Israeli policy alike are thus Zionists. Israelis on the left and right are, by definition, Zionist. Anyone not advocating the destruction of Israel as it currently exists is a Zionist. It is absurd, if you think about it, that the term "Zionist" continues to be used by those who see Israel as a legitimate country, something that can be critiqued as a country--as can all countries--but not as a project.

Imagine a term, Frenchist. It's the belief that there should be a French state in Gaul. Some Frenchists want an entirely ethnically French state in all of Gaul, while others are OK with a multi-ethnic state within the current French borders, so long as Western values and the French language and culture remain dominant. Those of French heritage in other parts of the world have this horrible tendency to be Frenchist, to believe that France has a right to defend itself (whether or not such efforts are likely to make much difference, should France come under attack.) From Le Pen supporters to Communists, the Frenchists have a grip on France, as well as on Frenchmen worldwide.

Whether these Diaspora Frenchmen are extreme Frenchist or moderate, it hardly matters to the anti-Frenchists who want the French out of Gaul for good. They're fine with people speaking French or eating cheese in other parts of the world, or with people doing so in Gaul so long as they don't claim to be doing so as Frenchmen. They're not anti-French, they love the French, they just believe France is more a spiritual nation, one that doesn't need land, and one that, when it has had its own land, has been horribly murderous and oppressive to many people.

Counterargument: There didn't used to be an Israel, but there were Jews! Counter-counter-argument: Yes, and that went well, didn't it?

UPDATE

I should point out that this post is largely a response to Matthew Yglesias's posts--and comments to them--as well as to this controversy discussed in the NYT. Add to the mix this article, from NYU's "Washington Square News," which Clementine just forwarded me.

To reiterate--the problem is to a great extent one of rhetoric, and I deserve some of the blame for referring to this blog's content as "Francophilic Zionism." By keeping around "Zionism" as an ideology possible to adhere to in a world in which Israel exists as a Jewish state, we who support or accept its continued existence implicitly challenge it all the same. In doing so, we allow critics of Israel's existence to refer to what it is they are opposing as a movement or an idea and not as an actual country.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

If belief is the means to justify a thing then - as they say - if wishes were horses then beggars would ride.

The fact is that a bunch of people got together and decided to rob a bunch of other people using lying cheating, stealing, and military force to displace the other people.

How many people voted for or against the collective crime seems less important than the crime itself.

Zionism means the same thing it always meant. We the Jews have decided that we have rights and you the Arabs have none. We have lots of money, guns and lawyers. And you have none. And if you try to get access to money, guns or lawyers we declare that you terrorists for not going along with our plans to take your land.

That's what Zionism is Dear Heart. Don't believe that conservative bull that you can change the nature of a thing just by renaming it. Which is what you're trying to do here.

Have some integrity. Work on the real problem, which is stopping the on-going injustice, instead of trying to patch the little framework of words that protects you from the pangs of your guilty conscience.

A bunch of Jews got together and rationalized taking someone else's country and renaming it Israel. Now you want to pretend that is the same as people living in Gual since forever.

Your logic needs some work.

Phoebe said...

"The fact is that a bunch of people got together and decided to rob a bunch of other people using lying cheating, stealing, and military force to displace the other people."

As opposed to every other nation in the world, which began when the people who'd always been living there decided to leave a state of nature.

"A bunch of Jews got together and rationalized taking someone else's country and renaming it Israel."

Yes, how dare anyone, Jew or Arab, take Palestine from the British!

"Now you want to pretend that is the same as people living in Gual since forever."

Because wars were never fought over the land that is modern-day France.

Argh.

Anonymous said...

I bet you don't have the guts to post any comments that don't agree with your self-centered world view.

Post all the comments.

Phoebe said...

All the comments ARE already posted. See above.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for publishing my comments. It's atypical of the Zionists to actively discuss their nation's charter.

Yes, it is unfortunate for Zionism that the principles of colonialism are no longer vogue. If Israel styles itself a "real" country based on the principle that might is right - well then it is king of the moral hill where tooth and nail is the high water mark of civilization.

But Israel isn't a real country is it? Israel is a fait accompli. Israel is deal made in a smoke filled room by thieves and liars - then presented to the world as the only possible remedy to European racism.

What had Palestine to do with European racism? If Balfour is the credentialed source of Israel's charter, then any intelligent person will ask - where did Balfour assume it's authority?

Since the creation of the United Nations, international law now holds that it is illegal to expropriate territory using either military or economic force. It is no longer acceptable for the powerful to usurp the rights of less powerful people, to herd them onto reservations, and to withhold democracy from them.

If the principle of one-man-one vote were adopted in Israel - as has been the fashion in all the countries you cite for the last one hundred years - then Israel would cease to exist.

The only way to maintain a racist state is to have racists policies.

If you want peace, work for justice. There's simply no justification for injuring Palestine in order to compensate Jews for European racism.

That Europe thought it was a good idea to export their racism problem to Palestine is not a moral justification. After all it was the moral "standards" of Europe which gave us colonialism in the first place.

Therefore it follows that Europe the is highest source of moral authority and property rights because the Britain sold Palestine to the Zionists, which didn't even belong to them in the first place?

One must ask - in the case of an ordinary citizen selling stolen property - does the court find the citizen not guilty because the property in was originally stolen by the British?

Phoebe said...

For a long list of reasons, Zionism cannot be looked at as colonialism. While from the perspective of Arabs living in Palestine during the early 20th C, it may have looked this way, from the perspective of the rest of the world, it was not. Zionists were not Europeans who wished to conquer lands in the East in order to further the West's glory, but were rather a group of Jews, neither Western nor Eastern, whose attempt at being Western had , at this point (beginning of political Zionism), both been rejected by the West and had, themselves, rejected the West. Thus the decisions to speak Hebrew (not the far classier German, English, or French), eat Arab-inspired food, and so on. A people who were ultimately rejected, not just by Europe, but as refugees, by even the United States, is a people without options other than their own state. Does this justify absolutely every last thing done by Israel? Nothing justifies every last thing done by any country. That's so completely besides the point. The point is that, fine, call it unfair--but what other solution would have allowed the remaining Jews of the 1940s to exist, alive, as Jews?

"That Europe thought it was a good idea to export their racism problem to Palestine is not a moral justification."

Fair enough. And nor is it a justification for attacking Israelis, who exist as a nation because of Europe's "racism problem." Can't everyone--Arabs, Muslims, and Jews alike--just turn on Europe already? I am being facetious, in a way, but in a way not really-- I'm far less bothered by Palestinian resistance to the fact that Israel exists than I am by white Europeans or Americans who embrace the Palestinian cause in order to alleviate guilt for having in fact brought the whole thing about in the first place.

Ed said...

Was French Algeria a country? If they had learned a different language would they be more sympathetic?

The Boers had their own third party history of oppression that supposedly justified their conduct in South Africa. Did they get a bad rap while the real villians of the scenario got away?

Max said...

Phoebe, I agree with your post. I have often considered writing a post that would have said pretty much the exact same thing, but never got round to it.

What your anonymous critic doesn't seem to realise is that most of the Middle East was carved up and doled out by colonial powers that were desperate to leave the region. Israel is not unique in that respect.

Your anonymous critic is right in pointing out that the world needs to work towards peace and justice rather than debate semantics. And on that note, Hamas would be taking a big step in the right direction if they could just bring themselves to acknowledge that the state of Israel does in fact exist.