The end of liberal Zionism? Most commentators say ‘no’

For anyone interested in what has been said–and it’s overwhelmingly critical–in response to the thesis I laid out briefly in my op-ed in the New York Times on 24 August, ‘The End of Liberal Zionism’, here are the titles and links for most of the published and posted pieces I have come across that address my column directly. They range from the elegantly written and persuasively argued to the coarsely hacked and bruisingly prosecuted. I could have omitted a few, but, in the interests of fairness and objectivity, I thought I should not only let the stylists (and I mean that as a compliment) speak but also the rough-tongued.

The scale of the response took me completely by surprise. I realised, of course, that the piece was controversial, but I did not expect so many people to feel the need to attempt to refute my arguments in such strong terms. Clearly, I touched a raw nerve. But I also know that for some, I struck a chord.

I certainly did not expect to persuade the liberal Zionist community with just one short op-ed. I never thought for one moment that they would all fold up their tents and move on, joining–most of them at least–in the Jewish/Israel-Palestinian movement or campaign for equal rights that I advocate in the piece. I wanted to start a debate and in this I reckon I succeeded beyond what I could ever have imagined.

I have learnt a lot from what others have written. It has given me much food for thought. A lot of good thinking has gone into some of the arguments deployed against me. However–and this is a big ‘however’–I’m struck by some of the spectacular misreadings of what I wrote, the need for many to put me in a labelled box in which I simply don’t belong and the tendency to ignore completely some of the very central facets of my argument–as if they are so unpalatable, they simply can’t be engaged with. The mind turns away; it doesn’t want to know.

I am deliberately not spelling out now precisely what was said (you can read it for yourselves here) or precisely why I think it was mostly wrong, because I hope to respond at greater length, both writing a much fuller exposition of my thesis and, in the course of doing so, answering my critics. It may take a little time to secure the right opportunity for this and the right place in which to do it. I will make sure friends and foes alike are informed when and where this will come about.

Meanwhile, make what you will of the pieces I have supplied links to below.

First, here is a link to the op-ed itself, so that anyone alighting on this blog who isn’t familiar with my piece can first see what all the fuss was about. But also for anyone who read it and wants to read it again so that they make sure they know what my arguments really were before they read the counter-arguments of most of the pieces:

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

Here are the links to the critical articles and posts:

1. The Washington Post 22 August 2014

Two reasons the ‘I can’t be a Zionist because I’m a liberal’ meme is false

David Bernstein

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/08/22/two-reasons-the-i-cant-be-a-zionist-because-im-a-liberal-meme-is-false/

2. Haaretz 22 August 2014

Not the end of liberal Zionism

Michael L Gross

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.612421

3. Haaretz 27 August 2014

The unrequited love affair between liberal Jews and an illiberal Israel

Strenger than fiction: Carlo Strenger

http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/strenger-than-fiction/.premium-1.612716

4. The Nation 26 August 2014

Liberal Zionism is dying. The two-state solution shouldn’t go with it.

Michelle Goldberg

http://www.thenation.com/blog/181364/liberal-zionism-dying-two-state-solution-shouldnt-go-it

5. The New Yorker 5 September 2014

Is liberal Zionism impossible?

Bernard Avishai

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/liberal-zionist

6. Haaretz 29 August 2014

Liberal Zionism: It can’t be dead because it never existed

Asher Schechter

http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-features/.premium-1.613037

7. New Jersey Jewish News 27 August 2014

The liberal Zionist surrender

Andrew Silow-Caroll

http://njjewishnews.com/article/24404/the-liberal-zionist-surrender#.VAt6WcJ_mSp

8. The Jewish Daily Forward 19 August 2014

Liberal Zionists Unite! Now is not the time to recoil from Israel

Elan Ezrach and Naamah Kelman

http://forward.com/articles/204843/liberal-zionists-unite/?

9. Huffington Post 26 August 2014

If liberal Zionism were dead, what actions would that imply?

Robert Naiman

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/if-liberal-zionism-were-d_b_5711671.html?utm_hp_ref=gaza

10. Frontpage Mag 24 August 2014

Liberal Zionism isn’t dead, Liberalism is

Daniel Greenfield

http://www.frontpagemag.com/2014/dgreenfield/liberal-zionism-isnt-dead-liberalism-is/

11. Jerusalem Post 26 August 2014

Israel’s patriotic left offers an important model for diaspora Jews–and liberals everywhere

Gil Troy

http://www.jpost.com/Blogs/Center-Field/Israels-Patriotic-Left-offers-an-Important-Model-for-Diaspora-Jews-and-Liberals-Everywhere-372857

12. Haaretz 28 August 2014

The next step for liberal Zionists: a Freedom Summer with Palestinians

Peter Beinart

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.612998

13. The New York Jewish Week 29 August 2014

Liberal Zionism and its discontents

Jeremy Ben-Ami

http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial-opinion/opinion/liberal-zionism-and-its-discontents

14. The Times of Israel 29 August 2014

Since when is a challenge a bad thing? Response to Antony Lerman

Sheri Oz

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/since-when-is-a-challenge-a-bad-thing-response-to-antony-lerman/

15. The Jewish Daily Forward 2 September 2014

So you really think that liberal Zionism is dead? Gaza did not spell the end of the two-sate solution

JJ Goldberg

http://forward.com/articles/204844/so-you-really-think-liberal-zionism-is-dead/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=The%20Forward%20Today%20%28Monday-Friday%29&utm_campaign=Daily_Newsletter_Mon_Thurs%202014-09-02

16. ARZA The Reform Israel Fund 26 August 2014

I am a liberal Zionist and this is NOT the end

Rabbi Josh Weinberg

http://blogs.rj.org/arza/2014/08/26/i-am-a-liberal-zionist-and-this-is-not-the-end/

17. San Diego Jewish World 31 August 2014

Answering a liberal Jewish critic of Israel

Steve Kramer

http://www.sdjewishworld.com/2014/08/31/answering-liberal-jewish-critic-israel/

18. Haaretz 2 September 2014

Despair won’t advance liberal Zionists’ agenda

Brent Sasley

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.613757

19. Mondoweiss 22 August 2014

‘NYT’ op-ed calls on Jews to abandon liberal Zionism and call for equal rights

Philip Weiss

http://mondoweiss.net/2014/08/abandon-liberal-zionism.html

20. The Partners for Progressive Israel blog 26 August 2014

Examining anti-Zionist op-ed in NY Times

Irwin Wall, Lilly Rivlin, anonymous, Paul Scham

http://blog.partners4israel.org/2014/08/examining-anti-zionist-op-ed-in-ny-times.html

21. PassaicPark.com 31 August 2014

The liberal Zionist surrender

http://www.passaicpark.com/the-liberal-zionist-surrender/

22. Smartertimes.com 23 August 2014

Antony Lerman’s end of liberal Zionism

http://www.smartertimes.com/1271/antony-lerman-end-of-liberal-zionism#

23. Jerusalem Post 28 August 2014

A dose of nuance: hope you’re having a good summer

David Gordis

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/A-dose-of-nuance-Hope-youre-having-a-good-summer-372646

24. Theology in the Vineyard 25 August 2014

Endgame for liberal Zionism?

http://theologyinthevineyard.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/endgame-for-liberal-zionism-2/

25. New York Times 30 August 2014

Letters to the Editor: Liberal Zionism today

Strong reactions to an essay saying that Israeli policies have tarnished the Zionist ideal.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/31/opinion/sunday/liberal-zionism-today.html?smid=nytcore-ipad-share&smprod=nytcore-ipad&_r=1

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2 Responses to The end of liberal Zionism? Most commentators say ‘no’

  1. Dr Brian Robinson says:

    I started with David Bernstein, persisting despite the false black-or-white alternatives in the first few paragraphs, until I came to, “Israel has already withdrawn from Gaza (and also left Lebanon fourteen years ago) …” when I stopped reading. Anyone who can write those words isn’t worth wasting any more time on. On to the next link.

  2. Dr Brian Robinson says:

    A preliminary comment on Carlo Strenger’s piece, with reference to Jonathan Freedland. Strenger cites him correctly as “the Guardian’s Opinions editor, Jonathan Freedland”. I believe that Freedland should publicly recuse himself from having anything to do with editing (which includes commissioning, accepting or rejecting) articles to do with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He’s too parti pris.

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