Israel

AJCommittee: Progressive Jews Empower Antisemites

The American Jewish Committee, America’s oldest, most established, and, in some ways, most influential Jewish organization, has gone on the offense against the progressive Jewish community, recently publishing a paper entitled “‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and The New Anti-Semitism,” which aims to illustrate the dangerous connections between post- and anti-Zionist thinking on the Jewish Left and various manifestations of antisemitism.
In it, Prof. Alvin H. Rosenfeld, director of the Institute for Jewish Culture and the Arts at Indiana University, tilts at an array of Leftists who happen to be Jewish and Jews who happen to be Leftists, including Tony Judt, Michael Neumann, Noam Chomsky, Joel Kovel, Adrienne Rich, Douglas Rushkoff and Ora Wise, who he identifies as helping to facilitate the eradication of Israel, and thusly, the extermination of the Jewish people.
Rosenfeld first asks, “What, if anything, is new about the ‘new’ anti-Semitism?”
He begins to explore this issue by running through a list of manifestations of antisemitism in the Muslim and European communities. However, he does not venture to explore the causes of antisemitism in these communities, nor their relationship to economics or geopolitics. Rather, Rosenfeld seems content accepting that it is simply age-old irrational Jew-hatred. This, despite our thorough knowledge of antisemitism’s historic use as a political device.
Nonchalantly sandwiched between mentions of Jews being beaten in France and the pervasiveness of Jewish conspiracy theories in the Former Soviet Union, Rosenfeld inserts references to London mayor Ken Livingstone’s condemnations of Israel, as well as a brief history of the British divestiture movement. Yet Rosenfeld does not demonstrate why either criticizing Israel or divesting from Israeli businesses are antisemitic acts. He simply lumps them in with varied acts of antisemitic violence and paranoia without meaningfully connecting them.
Rosenfeld concludes that the “new” characteristics of antisemitism are marked by its globalized nature (thank you, Internets), its evolving nature (yesterday it was poisoning wells, today it’s subterranean nukes), its predominance among Muslims rather than Christians, and finally, its primary manifestation in anti-Zionism. According to Rosenfeld, opposing Jewish statehood is simply the modern manifestation of desiring the Jewish people’s extermination:

Some of the most impassioned charges leveled against the Jews today involve vicious accusations against the Jewish state. Anti-Zionism, in fact, is the form that much of today’s anti-Semitism takes, so much so that some now see earlier attempts to rid the world of Jews finding a parallel in present day desires to get rid of the Jewish state.

At this point, Rosenfeld adds the oft repeated caveat, “Criticizing [Israeli] policies and actions is, in itself, not anti-Semitic.” Of course, to claim otherwise would be to condemn a majority of the Israeli public, if not the entire world Jewish population. Rosenfeld then draws what he perceives to be the line between legitimate and illegitimate criticism of Israel — the tone of the critique, or more specifically yet, the invocation of specific analogies: “To call Israel a Nazi state […] as is commonly done today, or to accuse it of fostering South African-style apartheid rule or engaging in ethnic cleansing or wholesale genocide goes well beyond legitimate criticism.”
But waging a purportedly illegitimate criticism of Israel and engaging in antisemitism are still not the same thing. Many of these Nazi analogies, for example, derive from Palestinian and pro-Palestinian sources. However the motivation behind Palestinian comparisons of Jews to Nazis rests in the Palestinian experience of Israeli occupation. While it is indeed true that a large segment of the Palestinian population harbors deeply troubling antisemitic beliefs, the comparison of one’s perceived oppressors to Nazis cannot be so easily reduced to an irrational outburst of antisemitism. The former are based in traditional, mythical canards, the latter in one’s own experience of suffering. In other words, calling the soldier who bulldozes your home a Nazi is not the same as believing he is part of a conspiracy to manipulate the world economy. Thus while such analogies may ultimately be used as slurs with which to tarnish the State of Israel, they are not necessarily antisemitic in nature. Rather, they are emotional appeals.
Further, though Israel is not systematically murdering Palestinians, one might be inclined towards such exaggerations as “genocide,” while noticing that at least one Palestinain civilian is killed every few days by the IDF, on some days that number growing as high as 18 (a rare but not altogether infrequent result of Israeli “attackcidents”). While they’re certainly not evidence of genocide, such incidents do not make for a positive impression of Israel, and lend themselves instead to hyperbole.
I would also like to add that to accuse Israel of engaging in ethnic cleansing and/or fostering an apartheid-like regime can not justly be deemed as illegitimate. That is because Israel can be seen as engaging in ethnic cleansing and adopting apartheid-like policies. By its own admission, Israel is participating in demographic warfare and considers the systematic dispossession and forcible relocation of Palestinians part of its strategy to maintain a Jewish majority. This process has involved the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank, the Judaization of The Old City and East Jerusalem, numerous land grabs associated with the erection of the security barrier, hundreds of house demolitions unrelated to demonstrable security concerns, and the employment of practices not unlike those employed under South African apartheid (such as barring marriage between Israelis and Palestinians, denying reentry to the territories by Palestinians who have been traveling abroad, restricting travel between Palestinian villages, denying work permits to residents of the territories, and confining Palestinian settlement to predefined areas). These policies have culminated in the “The Convergence Plan,” which is intended to unilaterally draw the borders of a future Palestinian state, ultimately forcing the Palestinians into a marginal territory surrounded on all perimeters by the Israeli army, with internal jurisdiction granted to a Palestinian government with limited autonomy. This configuration is hardly distinct from the South African Bantustan system.
Thus, these supposed “tarrings” of Israel cannot be justly conflated with antisemitism. It is not accurate to compare Israel to Nazi Germany nor to claim that Israel is committing genocide. However, it is not necessarily antisemitic to do so either. Neither is it antisemitic nor even inaccurate to compare Israel to apartheid South Africa, though it is certainly unflattering and contrary to Israel’s projected self-image.
With this already glaringly problematic conception of anti-Zionism in mind, Rosenfeld moves on to his next question: “In what ways might Jews themselves, especially so-called ‘progressive’ Jews, be contributing to the intellectual and political climate that helps to foster [modern anti-Semitism], especially in its anti-Zionist forms?”
Rosenfeld begins to identify individuals whom he considers to be representative of the progressive Jewish community, and goes on to attack what he views as their negativity, their general hostility, and the inaccuracy of their information.
Here I could spend much time nitpicking and disputing Rosenfeld’s characterizations and purported facts.

  • Contrary to Rosenfeld’s claims, it has routinely served Zionist interests to tap into Jewish religious impulses such as messianism in order to bolster their efforts.
  • Jacqueline Rose’s claim that Israel is in “decline” and “in danger of destroying itself” is not just a view held by anti-Zionists, as implied by Rosenfeld, but one also shared by 67% of participants polled at this week’s World Zionist Youth Congress.
  • With regards to the claim that the razing of Jenin is an “outright fabrication,” on May 31, 2002, concerning the operations there, IDF soldier Moshe Nissim told Yediot Ahranot, “I had no mercy for anybody. I would erase anyone with the D-9, just so that our soldiers won’t expose themselves to danger. […] I didn’t give a damn about demolishing all the houses I’ve demolished — and I have demolished plenty. By the end, I built the ‘Teddy’ football stadium there.”
  • Concerning the claim that only “rigorously observant Jews associated with Neturei Karta and other extreme Orthodox groups have regarded the idea of a Jewish state established before the days of messianic redemption as blasphemous,” it was not just groups affiliated with Neturei Karta. Rather, the predominant view in Orthodox Judaism in-and-of itself was that Zionism was illegitimate — a view which was held up until the Shoah and is still in the back of most Orthodox people’s minds.
  • Binationalism was never “properly discredited and discarded.” Rather, its chief proponents were assassinated. Chaim Arlozoroff and Yaakov Yisrael De Hann are just two names of men who were killed for trying to actualize a binational vision. Support for their cause diminished because of fears of physical reprisal. It became dangerous to simply promote the idea of binationalism, let alone make steps towards accomplishing it. Evidence of this notion’s impossibility was only retroactively provided once the Arabs began their armed resistance to Zionist colonization. De Hann was killed by the Haganah five years before the Hebron riots even took place.

Yet none of these factual disputes cut to the heart of Rosenfeld’s position, which is primarily focused on examining the hostility of Jewish anti-Zionist rhetoric. These Jewish anti-Zionists, claims Rosenfeld, are “not driven by anything remotely like reasoned historical analysis, but rather by a complex tangle of psychological as well as political motives that subvert reason and replace it with something akin to hysteria.”
To make this case, Rosenfeld relies heavily on the use of Nazi analogies by the “progressive” Jews he includes in his survey.

One such was the philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who felt no reservations in talking about the “Nazification” of Israeli society and was fond of using the epithet “Judeo-Nazi” in referring to the Israeli army. And Leibowitz was hardly alone in employing such corrosive language.

Indeed, the members of Israel’s parliament were known for much worse. The phenomenon of MKs likening one another to Nazis was so rampant that a law was passed banning the use of Nazi analogies on the Knesset floor! In fact, everyone in Israel uses Nazi analogies.

  • Hareidim frequently call the Zionists Nazis while rioting and burning dumpsters in Mea Shearim.
  • Settlers wore orange “yellow” stars during the disengagement and took out newspaper ads comparing the withdrawal to a Nazi atrocity.
  • Israeli Leftists throw the word around as if it were an innocuous synonym for anyone who disagrees with their politics.
  • The Mizrachim refer to the Ashkenazim at Ashkenatzim, due to the discrimination they suffered at the hands of Israel’s once white European majority.
  • Nazi analogies are even invoked by the mainstream Right: “It’s 1933 and Iran is Nazi Germany.”
  • Come to think of it, Rosenfeld himself is putting Left-wing Jews in league with Nazis.

The Nazi charge thus bears a certain irresistability for Jews, precisely because it’s so incendiary. Those who invoke it want you to share their outrage. However, the tactic consistently fails, whereas the outrage instead becomes focused on the use of the Nazi analogy itself.
Perhaps the employment of such incendiary language and imagery is more rooted in a general Jewish propensity towards hyperbole and extremism more so than any particular political ideology. This tendency might explain, for example, Rosenfeld’s outrageous claim that Jewish “progressives” are just barely concealing their “murderous fantasies” towards their fellow Jews.
And therein lies the true heart of the matter — that which ultimately accounts more for the inflammatory remarks of these “progressives” than any explanation Rosenfeld offers.
All such behavior is no more than a reflection of the fact that there is no safe space for legitimate criticism of Israel within the Jewish community itself. Those who question Israeli policies are hastily isolated, demonized, marginalized and excluded. The resentment of this treatment frequently results in movement towards the farthest fringes of the discourse and the adoption of a tarnished impression of the Jewish community.
It would seem that the more Jewish activists seek to bring troubling matters to attention, the more vociferously they are ostracized. I can only assume that these authors, like so many others, had been dealt with harshly by their Zionist counterparts for criticizing Israel’s behavior, and were thusly driven towards the fringe. It should thus be no surprise that this group might employ hostile rhetoric, or even come to identify with and/or borrow from antisemites (such as the case with Israel Shahak and Gilad Atzmon). They are cowed into this position. From my own experience, I can say that the completely abhorrent and downright nasty way in which staunch Zionists often respond to challenges to their views can result in antipathy towards one’s fellow Jew. As a result, the hostility of Israel’s defenders soon becomes seen as part and parcel of the entire Zionist enterprise and the underlying intentionality with which that enterprise was embarked upon. It is here that legitimate concerns about Israel and Zionism become entangled with anti-Jewish platitudes that are neither helpful to one’s argument nor conducive towards finding a just resolution to the conflict.
Perhaps, in that respect, Rosenfeld is correct that such behavior is hysterical.
The facts on the ground — our very experiences of Israel — are simply inconsistent with the picture Israel’s defenders seek to project. Yet the response of this group to that assessment is to cover their ears and, instead, smear concerned Jewish voices as antisemitic, as this paper does, claiming that “the cumulative effect of these hostile ideas, which have been moving steadily from the margins to the mainstream of ‘progressive’ opinion, has been to reenergize ugly ideas and aggressive passions long considered to be dormant, if not dead.”
Yet we’re pleading with you, dying for you notice that something is very wrong here. We’re begging you to please, please, snap out of it and take a step back. And you’re telling us, shut up, you’re making a shonde fur der goyim.

At a time when the delegitimization and, ultimately, the eradication of Israel is a goal being voiced with mounting fervor by the enemies of the Jewish state, it is more than disheartening to see Jews themselves adding to the vilification. That some do so in the name of Judaism itself makes the nature of their assault all the more grotesque.

To not be taken seriously, but rather to be responded to with such degrading rhetoric, is enough to drive anyone insane.

36 thoughts on “AJCommittee: Progressive Jews Empower Antisemites

  1. It’s certainly refreshing to see a mainstream Jewish group finally acknowledge this issue head on instead of using the standard vanilla bureaucratese that “Whatever our differences we all support Israel’s security….” Ummm, not so much.
    The AJC’s willingness to deal with this question reminds me of a provocative essay that appeared in Azure two years ago that deals with the general Leftist compulsion to identify with those who are seen as “Others”.
    I also have to observe that the labeling of Leftist thought as “progressive” seems like something between silliness and dishonesty. Progressive? Please. “Progress” is in the eye of the beholder. Why are Leftist positions “progressive” but not centrist or Rightist positions? One could just as easily term leftist positions “regressive” for relying on 19th century Euro social movements and advocating policies that have previously proven unsuccessful. If you really need to label leftist ideas then just call them “Leftist”. The word “progressive” lays little more than a squatter’s claim to an as-yet unproven moral virtue or even historical accuracy.

  2. Mobius, you are (almost) right on target (I think you are a bit too harsh to Israel). I think this is because these Diaspora-based folk don’t know the reality in Israel. Now, you also made a good point in that “It is not accurate to compare Israel to Nazi Germany nor to claim that Israel is committing genocide. However, it is not necessarily antisemitic to do so either.”
    Unfortunately, hasbara and “supporting Israel” (even if what you support is really bad for Israel’s long-term well being) has become the core of American Jews’ Jewish identity that they can’t take any legitimate and loving criticism because (A) they don’t know the reality in Israel and (B) if their image of Israel as Jewish Disneyland is wrong than they have no reason to be Jewish.

  3. When a Jew or non Jew singles out a single country to be specific Israelfor constant critic and never speaks out against other real criminal regimes around the world,that is anti Israel

  4. I think your point (A) is right on, amechad (although I don’t understand your point (B) at all). How do you suggest we could remedy this problem? In these days of the intertubes, you’d think it wouldn’t be all that difficult to get that reality across.

  5. Their identity is based on Israel as Jewish Disneyland. Their identity is based on hasbara (which also bothers me because it’s not people engaging in hasbara b/c they think it’s good for Israel) and if Israel is imperfect and not Jewish disneyland than why should they be Jewish?
    A survey of American Jews showed fighting anti-Semitism as their #1 expression of Judaism so if they don’t have that, than everything else is virtually unimportant (which also deals with the need to invest antisemitism since it’s about identity [which is sad since there is enough real anti-semitism that we shouldn’t need to invent it)

  6. My name was not listed in the report, although a group I co-founded was. Darn….. maybe I’ll send them a letter.
    On a more serious note: this is such garbage. Instead of clarifying the problem of self-hating Jews, or those with pathalogical identity problems, he puts together all sorts under the same label.
    Is his conclusion that Y. Leibowitz is some kind of self hating Jew? Argh.

  7. Mobius- as always nicely done.
    amechad- you write “Their identity is based on Israel as Jewish Disneyland. Their identity is based on hasbara (which also bothers me because it’s not people engaging in hasbara b/c they think it’s good for Israel) and if Israel is imperfect and not Jewish disneyland than why should they be Jewish?”
    I say ach! I know lots of Jews – don’t we all – and none of them see Israel as a perfect little sea of democratic values and perfection…“who knew?” that making sweeping statements about ALL Jews couldn’t be true.
    With all due respect amechad you are statement proves that all Jews in Israel are just as ignorant of the Diaspora Jewish community as you propose all

  8. Mobius: Provocatively thoughtful piece; thank you (I’m posting it on three blogs). BTW, out of politeness, I generally use the word ‘fascist,’ to denote a fascist. Rarely do I use the term ‘nazi,’ unless referring to ilk such as Swarshenegger.
    Eric: On the ‘compulsive’ affinity of leftists to ‘others,’ my suspicion is that this comes from Uri Avnery, who was born in Westphalia, and lived there until his family were forced to flee the nazis.
    Westphalia is best noted for the treaty bearing its name, which ended the 30 year war among various Christian sects, devastating much of Europe. Most of the treaty contains the usual boring wording, but the part most significant involves “the advantage of the other,” ie, if the life of ‘the other’ is decent, most likely so will mine be (eg., if I set my neighbor’s house on fire, how safe is mine?).
    How can progress be in the ‘eye of the beholder?’ Isn’t that like saying there is no such thing as universal truth (or even universal gravity)? Isn’t progress that which allows humanity at large to properly feed, house, and educate a growing population? Starvation is not progressive. Lack of electricity and potable water is not progressive. Illiteracy is not progressive. Struggling to pay one’s rent is not progressive.
    Do you get my point?
    As for leftism, leftists do tend to have one problem: Though great at rising up against injustice, there tends to be little in the way of creative thinking toward the future, to ensure that injustices don’t have to be fought with each generation, which is rather inefficient.

  9. miriam, leftists, or those they hold up as heroes, have done a great job of getting rid of slavery in the US, ending legal covenants that restrict housing by race and religion, making public transport and buildings accessible to the handicapped, and so on.
    leftists created the very idea of social security, medicare, health insurance, and pension plans.
    leftists are responsible for the introduction of human rights law, the principle of national self determination, and religious liberty.
    with each ‘permanent victory’ another cause is set free from the frame of ‘left’ or ‘radical’ and shifts ownership to ‘common sense’ and ‘the mainstream.’ Best example ever: the weekend is an invention of leftists. Who today says TGFL (Thank God For Leftists) instead of TGIF?
    The label of ‘leftist’ is a fear word, deployed by conservatives to build up a straw man to attach, but also by left wing people themselves, to wear as a label of in your face pride. (why must it be ‘in your face?’ because lefties relish the sensibility of the few against the many, the elite against the unwashed).
    Uri Avnery of course, does not define himself as a lefty. He has been an anti-communist all his life, and a successful capitalist. He’s actually a nationalist patriot, who defines his nationality as ‘Israeli’ rather than Jewish. The war over Zionism is in part a war between Israelis who want to move on and just be a regular country, and Zionists eager to keep the chain linking Israel to her ideological past. In that frame, American Jews are marching resolutely to keep Israel in the 20th century, for their own selfish and misguided reasons.
    Please American Jews, stop it. Let go of the chain and Israel will spring forward, unfettered by your petty continuity concerns. Shabbat Shalom.

  10. Jew Guevara: I am also a leftist, and I have studied the union movements (and almost got fired to attempting to start one at a previous job), minimum wage history, FDR’s social security, etc.
    I didn’t mean to ignore that when I made my lament. Perhaps my failing here, was being at an event of the Iraq Vets Against War (in Philly) last night, and seeing the room filled also with Vietnam Vets.
    Seated next to me was a WWII vet, and when I said that his was the last generation to fight facism, he said, “Every generation must fight fascism.” Then I had to explain that I meant that every war since WWII has been fought to PROMOTE fascism.
    Now that I’ve muddled the waters more, I have to run. I hope you’ve gotten my drift.

  11. “While it is indeed true that a large segment of the Palestinian population harbors deeply troubling antisemitic beliefs, the comparison of one’s perceived oppressors to Nazis cannot be so easily reduced to an irrational outburst of antisemitism.”
    Um…actually it can be. The EU’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) put out a working definition for antisemitism in 05. They had a special part dedicated to how antisemitism manifests itself with regards to Israel. One way is:
    “Drawing comparisions of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”
    In other words, Nazi comparisions are PER SE antisemitic, because they don’t make any appeal to actual evidence, they simply act to demonize the jewish state. That doesn’t automatically make one who uses such an utterance an antisemite, but i think (and the EUMC apparently agrees) that such a comparision is as good an indicator of one’s bigotry as an utterance like “Zionists control the media.” (mobius, i hope your not myopic enough to whitewash that charge as well)
    check it out:
    http://eumc.eu.int/eumc/material/pub/AS/AS-WorkingDefinition-draft.pdf
    Shabbat Shalom to all

  12. The facts on the ground — our very experiences of Israel — are simply inconsistent with the picture Israel’s defenders seek to project.
    This is the part that kills me. What does it mean to be a defender of Israel? To me, the hardline Rightists rarely act in Israel’s best interest– instead fostering messianism (both secular and religious) within Israel, and the “Israel is never wrong” argument in America (how does it help Israel to hold it up like a balloon for all to pop?).
    The hardline Jewish Left, well they’re not defending Israel either. They say the “Jewish” thing is to rally against Israel at every turn, shout out ISO-concocted slogans… The Jewish leftists I know have never moderated themselves for a moment, have never admitted to me ‘hm, yeah I guess we did make a little progress on that on’ or ‘yeah, I suppose Israel did the only thing it could’ve done in that situation’. Instead it’s vitriolic attack after vitriolic attack– Israel can do no right in their eyes.
    To me the “Jewish” thing is ahavat yisrael. That means that our community should be squarely focussed on improving Israel. The real defenders of Israel ARE reflecting a picture consistent with the facts on the ground– that a third of Israeli children are living in poverty, that sex trafficking has become a major problem, that the haredi/hiloni split is tearing at the fabric of our people– while maintaining core Zionist values, like supporting Israel’s basic existential legitimacy and its right to defend its citizens from attack. They are focussing on improving Israeli society via social action and improving Israel’s stature among the nations by seeking actual peacemaking through compromise.
    The various factions of the Jewish community are making a grave error by portraing Israel as either all good or all bad. It’s both and neither. Let’s just understand that Israel is what it is, that it’s ours, and that we have a stake in its future. Taking a step back is something that BOTH the right and the left ought to do pronto.

  13. Ronen, by ‘defending Israel,’ to you mean defending the occupation, and all of its arterial problems (poverty, trafficking)? The Israeli leftists, and the ISM, and the Palestinians I’ve met in the last three years (including those I met in Israel, and occupied Bil’in) have all been post Zionists. All see the problems that you site — as well as others — as springing from the ‘fountain’ of occupation.
    And also, from being the pitbull of the current US administration, in that region of the world.

  14. These are not people who are criticizing the occupation. People like Tony Judt, et al are criticizing the existence of Israel within the 1948 borders. They believe that the very idea of a Jewish state is racist. Everyone on that list is an anti-Zionist.

  15. Whether someone thinks the creation of Israel was racist, or someone else thinks that without the messiah’s arrival, it’s blasphemous, is irrelevent.
    Any dismantling of any sovereign country will only create more chaos, and more bloodshed.
    Perhaps this is what they desire?

  16. Great critique, Mobius. One point to add — that perhaps goes without saying given what a standard m.o. it is for the right: the quotes from the supposed Jew-hating Jewish progressives are distortingly selective, out of context, and misrepresented. I don’t know the second anthology Rosenfeld attacks, but I have read Wrestling with Zion and it contains quite a range of opinion among its 40 contributors — people who would identify themselves as Zionists, non-Zionists, post-Zionists, anti-Zionists . . . Rosenfeld picks three or four of what he regards as outrageous statements from a book that’s several hundred pages without indicating that these passages are a. part of full arguments that, as Mobius points out, are based on real observations; and b. their conclusions are likely contested in some way by other articles in the same book because there is a lot of texture and range of opinion within the parameters of anti-occupation leftists.
    One example; Rosenfeld unfairly quotes from the Sara Roy essay, which is a very beautiful personal account of her witnessing an IDF soldier deliberately and gratuitously humiliating a Palestinian man. She is struck by how similar the scene is to a story her father — a Holocaust survivor — told her about witnessing a Nazi soldier humiliating a Jew. (I think it’s her father — it’s a long time since I read the essay, but the gist here is right.) Drawing this comparison is disturbing and upsetting to her, as she details — it is not some knee-jerk hysterical rhetoric as Rosenfeld charges. She says in the essay one shouldn’t equate humliation with extermination, obviously. She asks, though, how one can contain and understand these two parallel stories that involve dehumanization. It is a very thoughtful and moving essay, which I recommend.
    I don’t agree with everything in that anthology — nobody could since some pieces contradict others. But Rosenfeld really misrepresents it.
    It’s also important to note that not once in that lengthy report does Rosenfeld even attempt to dispute any of the substantive arguments made by Jewish progressives about the occupation. It’s all image for these guys. It would be pathetic if it weren’t so dangerous.
    Finally, in response to the immediately preceding post: One can logically think that Israel was created on an ethnically chauvinistic basis with racist policies, and perhaps even that this was a mistake, without thinking that the state that now exists should be destroyed, precisely becuase it does exist with real people in it. To criticize the IDEA of Zionism is not the same thing as trying to drives Jews into the sea.

  17. Left Zionism is the belief that destroying a people and taking their homeland is something that can be done humanely and fairly through mutual agreement and dialogue.

  18. “One can logically think that Israel was created on an ethnically chauvinistic basis with racist policies, and perhaps even that this was a mistake, without thinking that the state that now exists should be destroyed, precisely becuase it does exist with real people in it. To criticize the IDEA of Zionism is not the same thing as trying to drives Jews into the sea.”
    Yep. What the academic Jewish Defense League don’t want though, is reasoned debate over the intellectual premise of Zionism. Paradoxically, the very ones who demand that everyone accept Zionism are the least likely to want to stand in the shadow of early Zionists actual words, actual policies, actual decisions. When curious folks go and look at that, they discover that Israel arch-rightists like Kahane and Ghandi are correct: by and large, they believed in ethnic cleansing, practiced it, and oven confessed knowing that it was wrong by the moral standards of the time.
    If these folks want to blur the line between age old love of the land of Israel as a religion ideal, and the modern day phenomenon of political Zionism, then they will have to accept that the lines between the two will be blurred. Opponents of Israel may well drift to anti-Semitism, and supporters of Israel may well drift towards religious fascism. That’s what you ordered sir, don’t accuse others if your stomach hurts afterwards….

  19. I do wish that people weren’t so determined to accuse Israel’s foes of anti-Semitism. Israel’s most extreme crititcs may or may not be anti-Semites, depending upon whom we’re discussing. Some people hate Jews, and thus reflexively hate everything Israel does. Some people love Jews so much — at least in the abstract — that they resent Israel for bringing Jews into the real world of power politics and thus corrupting their vision of Jewish innocence/spiritual-moral perfection/victimhood (i.e. Neturei Karta, Tony Kushner). And then there are those who love Israel so much that they hold it to impossibly high standards and therefore reflexively hate everything that Israel does, because it can never live up to their standards of moral perfection.
    Constantly debating whether or not Israel’s more extreme critics are anti-Semites is a waste of intellectual juices. Why can’t we just label their ideas stupid or disgusting, rather than compulsively trying to prove that they stem from an underlying antipathy toward Jews or Jewish interests? Noam Chomsky, after all, hates America more than he hates Israel, and this cannot be chalked up to anti-Semitism. There are plenty of stupid views in the world that have nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Anti-Israelism is sufficiently abhorrent in its own right that we shouldn’t have to struggle to connect it to anti-Semitism in order to condemn it.

  20. I suppose my favorite bit is AJC (or, I suppose, one of its employees) accusing Yeshayahu Leibowitz of being an anti-semite. That’s rich. From the same organization that’s currently courting evangelicals? I hardly know what to say.

  21. Daniel, what you are talking about above is a form of antisemitism, not love, because it doesn’t allow Jews to real human beings. It is not love to set a people up on an impossible pedestal so you can knock them off with mock sorrowfullness.
    JewDern, Tony Judt and Noam Chomsky want a one-state solution. This would be a Naqba for Israeli Jews and could indeed end up with trying to drive Israeli Jews into the sea.

  22. Left Zionism is the belief that destroying a people and taking their homeland is something that can be done humanely and fairly through mutual agreement and dialogue.
    A sad statement indeed. The point of Left Zionism is to recognize the fundamental fairness of the CONCEPT of self-determination. If the Jews have a right to it, then so do the Palestinians.
    Indeed, some Palestinian land in the West Bank has been occupied for over 30 years… would their right to self determination be legitimate after 300 years? after 2000 years? Where does one draw the cutoff? Nobody argues that the Jews have always considered Israel their homeland, whether displaced or not. I will always stand by our claim to a spiritual and political homeland in Israel, and I will always feel gratitude to the generations that made that dream a reality (even while criticizing some of their actions during that time).
    And yet, because I believe it is our right, I believe others must have the same right. So we will work on a compromise and a dialogue and the end solution will respect everyone’s dignity. That’s the only answer, and at some point it seems to me both sides need to accept it. Comments like the above are a classic attack on Israel on account of its having the upper hand. Why should Israel apologize for that? And I wonder… if the tables were turned… would you consider Jewish self determination legitimate at all?

  23. Ronen, I agree that the should have their own state too, but it is mostly their fault that they don’t. Most Israelis consisently support a two-state solution. So why don’t they have a state? Because they have continually made bad decisions. Yes, I know Israel has made mistakes too, but Palestinians have made much bigger mistakes.

  24. Who cares whose mistakes were bigger? Certainly Camp David II was a historic failure. But how does finger pointing lead to actual progress?
    My point is that the left and the right have both been brainwashed by their own rhetoric to such an extent that pragmatism seems like a pipedream. And that’s a sad state of affairs.

  25. Gosh, Dan, thanks so much for posting this, as well as for your thought-out response. I wasn’t sure what to make of that screed.
    Sad thing is, I see myself as a more ardent supporter of Israel than any AJC rightwing nutjob. Is it in Israel’s best longterm interests to be working so closely with Bush and Co? Or for its lobbies to be quashing healthy discussion? Of course not. Nor is it appropriate to use Torah as the chief rationale for claiming a piece of territory. Democracies really can work, and we have to give them a chance.
    But such well-funded papers as this one really do succeed in alienating me from Judaism, and leading me to find my spiritual life elsewhere. Life is so short, and I really don’t want to spend my best time on this same argument.
    I mean, really. I get to the place where I start thinking “if they really want to own Judaism so badly, and to kill it, maybe we have to let them.” I don’t know that I need to claim the word Judaism in order to study Torah and daven to the best of my ability. So maybe it’s time to hand over Judaism to these institutions, and take the true Mosaic tradition somewhere else.

  26. You can’t be serious. Can you? Turn away in a snit because they’re messing up *your * Judaism?
    What about foundational concepts in Jewish culture like ahavas yisroel, knesses yisroel, the uh … covenant made by all israel with god. The covenant is not between individuals and god but between a people and its god. Or between people and the idea of god, if you like.
    Yes, *they* suck. They always have. People suck. But our responsibility to the group is a microcasm of our responsibility to the larger world. Did you stop voting when millions of people came out to vote, repeatedly, against their own best interests? No, if you’re like me, you worked like hell, did vote monitoring, whatever you could to make things better. Did it work? Not so much. Did I move to Canada? Not yet… I’m a Jew (and an American) and I am responsible for other Jews, sucky and non.

  27. Mobius, making an incisive point about the Jewish propensity towards hyperbole:

    Perhaps the employment of such incendiary language and imagery is more rooted in a general Jewish propensity towards hyperbole and extremism more so than any particular political ideology

    Mobius, engaging in the Jewish propensity towards hyperbole:

    Those who question Israeli policies are hastily isolated, demonized, marginalized and excluded.

    The claim that there is no “safe space” for questioning Israeli policies in American Jewish discourse is patently absurd. (Unless I missed on the wave of mass burnings of Tikkun at various suburban shuls.) Progressive Zionist Jews are even permitted to organize and form organizations like the Israel Policy Forum or Americans for Peace Now or the New Israel Fund. It’s shocking.
    Anti-Zionism, on the other hand, is out of the American Jewish mainstream. But there’s a very good reason, given Jewish history why the questioning the legitimacy of Israel is treated as a radical one. Any Jew who advocates has the burden of demonstrating why the abolition of Israel will not lead to the suffering and death of the world’s largest Jewish community and why a Jewish political haven is no longer necessary.

  28. Progressive Zionists, or post-Zionist Jews, do not get media coverage in the US. Haven’t you noticed?
    Were Lerner and Finkelstein to be published half as frequently as Dershowitz, Pelosi would not have had to stage her freakout over Carter’s book…

  29. I wouldn’t call Finkelstein a progessive or post-zionist of any kind.
    i’m one helluva lefty, but let’s call a spade a spade here.

  30. Post-Zionist? Fuck that. If Zionism is the belief that the Jews need a nation, because the history of anti-Semitism shows that they are never safe in any non-Jewish nation for long, I see no evidence in the last fifty years to dispel that logical belief. Give the Palestinians a nation too–yes, sure, once they deal in good faith. Read Clinton. Read Dennis Ross. Read the Hamas charter. I meet Palestinians all the time who admit that voting for Hamas was the biggest mistake they ever made. I can see a two-state compromise happening sooner rather than later, once Hamas collapses and falls from power. But a post-Zionist nation with Jews and Palestinians living in peace, and Jewish rights being protected? Nobody serious can think that will work given the current situation in Iraq.

  31. I think one thing that really colors this whole debate is that as jews we’ve been in a position without power for thousands of years. We’ve developed what Nietzsche would call “slave morality”– the idea that might makes wrong. I’m not saying we should run to the opposite side of the spectrum with Bush and Crew (“master morality”, might makes right), but rather that we should look at the facts rationally. So often, the entire debate is derailed by the jewish impulse to obsessively identify with a weaker other in all situations. Might doesn’t make wrong. The world is complex.

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