The end of liberal Zionism – my op-ed in the New York Times

I have long been convinced that only one form of Zionism has any agency and significance today: it’s the dominant Zionism in Israel, xenophobic and exclusionary, a Jewish ethno-nationalism inspired by religious messianism, carrying out an open-ended project of national self-realization to be achieved through colonization and purification of the tribe. Only a few years ago I thought that liberal Zionism might help in persuading diaspora Jews to voice their reservations about Israel’s policies and thereby influence the actions of the Israeli government. But I’m now convinced that liberal Zionism has reached a dead end and is now a barrier to making any progress towards equality, justice and rights for all in Israel-Palestine.

I develop my argument for this conclusion in an op-ed published today online in the New York Times, which will also appear in the print edition of the International New York Times on Saturday 23 August and in the New York Times Sunday Review (on 24 August). Here’s the link to the op-ed:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/23/opinion/sunday/israels-move-to-the-right-challenges-diaspora-jews.html

 

 

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8 Responses to The end of liberal Zionism – my op-ed in the New York Times

  1. Charles Zigmund says:

    As a Jew, in my opinion Liberal Zionism was always a contradiction in terms and was a badly needed contributor in making possible a great crime. Did you in your naivete think that displaced Palestinians would ever lie down peacefully enough to accept the loss of so much of their land? And that thus Israeli hawks would ever be presented with a situation stable enough on the ground to accept a two-state solution?

    You excused evil for what you deemed was a greater good. You’ve learned too late what many knew beforehand — the end does not justify the means. Your moral blindness has turned around to bite you; your chickens have come come to roost. You enabled the Begins, the Sharons, the Netanyahus – they couldn’t have snuck their evil deeds past the curtain of Jewish morality without your chorus singing “It’s Okay, Because…” in the background.

    You really should fold your tent and go away. Aren’t you yet disgusted by the sound of your own voice? Do we still need your contribution, whatever it might be? It amazes me when people like Thomas Friedman, who enabled the Iraq War, think their words still have value; or when Francis Fukuyama, who predicted the end of history, still pontificates; or when you, Mr. Lerman, still see fit to publish. I guess there is no shame — egotistical chutzpah has no limits and no possibility of being restrained by simple decency.

    • hewhotypes says:

      The Arabs took an attitude that said, in effect, “Jewish immigration over my dead body!”. Leaving little choice for those Zionists determined to make a homeland. There were enough mild Zionists (Judah Magnes, et cetera) that if the Arabs offered partition, binationalism, or some other compromise, it would have occurred instead of the knock-down fights we had instead.

      The displaced Arabs would not have been displaced, and the displaced Arabs would not have turned into displace Palestinians, had there been liberalism on the Arab side.

      If you look at Google Earth, there is still, even to this day, enough land for both groups to live side-by-side, intermingled or separate, in peace.

      If Haj Amin al-Husseini hadn’t been such a fascist, and if the Arab states hadn’t brushed aside both the locals (Palestinians) and Jews in their thinking, things would have turned out much better for everybody.

      My point is not that the Jews or Israelis are blameless, it is that the Arabs collectively have made their own bed, and in your description it is only the Jews whose actions have consequences.

      The increase in Jewish immigration starting about 1900 could have been a marvelous opportunity for the local Arabs, but they chose to flush that opportunity down the toilet.

      • Charles Zigmund says:

        I am replying to your comment quoted here:
        “The Arabs took an attitude that said, in effect, “Jewish immigration over my dead body!”. Leaving little choice for those Zionists determined to make a homeland. There were enough mild Zionists (Judah Magnes, et cetera) that if the Arabs offered partition, binationalism, or some other compromise, it would have occurred instead of the knock-down fights we had instead.

        The displaced Arabs would not have been displaced, and the displaced Arabs would not have turned into displace Palestinians, had there been liberalism on the Arab side.

        If you look at Google Earth, there is still, even to this day, enough land for both groups to live side-by-side, intermingled or separate, in peace.

        If Haj Amin al-Husseini hadn’t been such a fascist, and if the Arab states hadn’t brushed aside both the locals (Palestinians) and Jews in their thinking, things would have turned out much better for everybody.

        My point is not that the Jews or Israelis are blameless, it is that the Arabs collectively have made their own bed, and in your description it is only the Jews whose actions have consequences.

        The increase in Jewish immigration starting about 1900 could have been a marvelous opportunity for the local Arabs, but they chose to flush that opportunity down the toilet.”

        Your writing brings to mind the American southern planters before the Civil War, ticking off the advantages of slavery to the slaves, if they only they would realize it. Of course they had no choice in whether to become slaves or not, but the advantages to them and their children of slavery are plain for all to see. They would become civilized instead of barbarians; they would have the advantages of Christianity, they would learn morality, they would have something to do instead of lying around shiftless all day long. For some reason, many ungrateful blacks failed to see these advantages.

        In your ticking off of the good points here, nowhere are the indigenous inhabitants given any choice, but of course if they knew what was good for them, they would welcome the Jews with open arms.

        And how would you welcome such an influx into your neighborhood, wherever you live, of Muslims today, taking land, buildings and water resources while saying, “This is a good opportunity for you, your family and your descendents, if only you would realize it.” Somehow I doubt you would see the advantages in it. Somehow I think you might fail to appreciate the good intentions of the invaders and you might resort to resistance. Somehow I think you might even feel hatred. What do you think?

      • hewhotypes says:

        @Charles Zigmund:
        The Arabs were neither captives nor slaves. Your comparison is way out of line. Maybe there’s a case to be made that the situation is like the Mexicans coming in to California and Arizona: Disruption but economic growth.

        The ideology culture of the Muslims is radically different from that of Jews, or for that matter, Mexicans. I can understand suspicion and keeping a sharp lookout. But not the burning hatred and violence that marked the Muslims since way before the founding of the Jewish State. The Arab Higher Committee supported the Holocaust way before 1948.

        When the winners of WWI allocated the colonies of the Ottoman Empire, huge tracts were given to the Arabs, and one tiny area to the Jews. Getting rid of the Turkish overlords was a huge opportunity that has been mostly wasted by the Arabs, not only in Mandate Palestine.

        The Arab leadership chose a Manichean, all-or-nothing approach, which clearly has been very destructive for all concerned. I maintain there were many better options.

      • Charles Zigmund says:

        Once again you criticize the indigenous inhabitants for not recognizing a supposed blessing when it came their way, but ignore the fact that those deprived of their homes and lands were given no choice whether to accept or reject the advantages you claim they were offered. Your negative opinion of their outlook and ways of thinking is endemic in defenses of Israeli conduct, even though it has no bearing whatever on the original inhabitants’ right to keep their homes, lands and water resources. The supposed superiority of a worldview does not confer right to take away land owned by another.

        I am familiar with internet debates which go on and on repeatedly where people talk past each other and do their best to ignore points made by their interlocutors because these points are uncomfortably in the way. The story begins with the taking away of the original rights of the inhabitants. This is the crux of the situation, not a side issue. You have ignored this original right in every post you have made, and I expect you will continue to ignore or downplay this factor in further replies.

        I have stated my views clearly and don’t see any purpose in reiterating them further, and will not waste my time or effort in replying to any more posts.

      • hewhotypes says:

        CZ focuses on the Rights of the Original Inhabitants. Particularly:
        “the original inhabitants’ right to keep their homes, lands and water resources”.

        If the Arabs had respected the homes, lands and water resources of the Jews, that would have been reciprocated.

        The Arabs had, and still have, rules, that selling land to Jews incurred a death penalty to the selling Arab. The Arab leadership forbade peaceful co-existence. Arab agitators spread false rumors of massacres in Jerusalem, attempts to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque, and so on. The results included pogroms against the Jews, including the major pogroms of 1834, 1921, 1929, and 1936. This is all visible on the internet. And it was these attacks that required the establishment of a Jewish state. The founding of the state was not the origin of the attacks.

        There was sufficient resources and land that it simply made no sense for the Jews to attack homes, lands and water resources. The Jewish army, the Haganah, was started solely as a self-defense force.

        As raids and pogroms turned into full-scale war, the damage to the civilians, of course, increased. Especially to the losing side, the Arabs.

        The picture you paint of the Arabs as innocent and injured is not accurate. Motivated by ethnic hatred, and by the religious dictums of Islam, that Jews be humiliated and reduced to purely lower-class, or no-class, citizens, the Arab leaders fomented riot after riot, attack after attack, pogrom after pogrom.

        Your picture of settled Arabs settled in their homesteads was rarely true. The land was mostly owned by foreigners. In order to qualify for the UNRWA status as refugees the Arabs in question only needed to say they’d been in Mandate Palestine for 2 years. Their descendents are still classed as refugees 60 years later. Two for sixty. And it isn’t over yet.

        The Arabs forced a situation where the Jews had to flee or fight. Peaceful co-existence was not an option.

        Since there wasn’t any political entity of Arab Palestine, and the lawful governments were those of Turkey and Great Britain, Jews did not recognize the authority of rabble-rousers and pogrom leaders.

        The Arabs gambled much of their homes, lands and water resources, and lost. It would have been smarter, for example, to join with the Jews against the British and/or the Turks, to achieve a win-win situation.

  2. hewhotypes says:

    I started to read your NYT column of Aug 22. I came across this gem:
    “The attacks on freedom of speech and human rights organizations in Israel, the land-grabbing settler movement, a growing strain of anti-Arab and anti-immigrant racism, extremist politics, and a powerful, intolerant religious right”

    I’ve lived in Jerusalem for 10 years. I have no idea what you are going on about.

    The only attacks on the left wing NGOs are calls for them to not keep their funding secret. Most countries have laws like this. Israel should too.

    Racism is the least of all the problems in Israel. The conflict is about nationalism, religion, territory, mistrust, fear, and anger. Skin color just is not an issue.

    As far as the growth of the right, what has actually happened, instead, is the growth of pessimism. Fewer and fewer Israelis believe that kind of peace indicated by Oslo was ever real. More and more we have come to see the conflict as lasting longer, without relief.

    The growth of the settlements is an optical illusion created by housing minister, who keeps on announcing the same apartments over and over again. All these apartments are actually inside Jerusalem, reachable by the same old city bus routes.

  3. iddo wernick says:

    Mr. Lerman

    I believe you are incorrect in saying the latest wave of Zionism is religious-messianism, it enjoys a far broader base in the land of Israel.

    Zionism means Jewish sovereignty. Not the imposition of our will on others, but certainly not leaving our fate to well meaning muslims, or christians for that matter

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