Gideon Levy declares the "death of the left" and the end of Zionism
Yesterday in Ha’aretz Gideon Levy passionately wrote of the path of the traditional Israeli left over the last 9 years and determined that the left, as we know it, has gone to the wayside and everything deemed right and just of Zionism has slipped away. Levy laments the days gone by of a vocal and active society that displayed its will through gatherings and demonstrations in the public arena.
Reading his piece I was especially struck by this passage:
On the fringes of this masked ball existed another left, the marginal left – determined and courageous, but minuscule and not legitimate. The gap between it and the left was supposedly Zionism. Hadash, Gush Shalom and others like them are outside the camp. Why? Because they are “not Zionist.”
And what is Zionism nowadays? An archaic and outdated concept born in a different reality, a vague and delusive concept marking the difference between the permitted and the proscribed. Does Zionism mean settlement in the territories? Occupation? The legitimization of every act of violence and injustice? The left stammered. Any statement critical of Zionism, even the Zionism of the occupation, was considered a taboo that the left did not dare break. The right grabbed a monopoly on Zionism, leaving the left with its self-righteousness.
A Jewish and democratic state? The Zionist left said yes automatically, fudging the difference between the two and not daring to give either priority. Legitimization for every war? The Zionist left stammered again – yes to the beginning and no to the continuation, or something like that. Solving the refugee problem and the right of return? Acknowledgment of the wrongdoing of 1948? Unmentionable. This left has now, rightly, reached the end of its road.
Reading Levy’s article forced me to reflect on my personal relationship to Zionist ideology and the Jewish state in a very real and deep sense.
I was reminded of being a teenager and believing adamantly in a one-(Jewish) state solution, intensely embracing the notion of a Jewish army and proving to the world that we are not “weak.”
Instantly I was brought back to exploring labor Zionism in its purest form–making the desert bloom with hard work, sweat and even blood and tears. I recalled roaming the quiet streets of Bethlehem and Hebron, and celebrating Shavuot with a dear friend in Shiloh. I even was brought back to the sounds and emotions of the explosion that went off no more than 20 yards from the building I was in, as I poured milk into my breakfast cereal.
I was brought back to passionately embracing secular Jewish culture, proudly defying and denying Judaism confident that Zionism, as an ideology, was the messiah and Medinat Yisrael the third Temple. I could hear myself saying that a part of my soul was in another land, that my being was not complete anywhere else. That a place I was not raised, where I had no family, I nonetheless had roots and was home. I remembered, very clearly, making the decision after one year of college to purchase a one-way ticket to Tel Aviv; and I remembered just as clearly the decision to purchase a one-way ticket to Chicago.
I remembered being in Iceland, in a gas station/diner, watching muted news with Icelandic closed-captioning, and seeing the limp, bloodied and brutalized bodies of Israeli soldiers being dropped by Palestinians from a window. I recalled being a loud and organized Zionist and Jewish presence on a less-than-welcoming college campus; having friendships end because I was a “ZioNazi.” I remembered arguing about the merits of the “separation barrier” in front of a giant wooden wall erected outside the campus library, blocking students from entering and debating about the necessity of checkpoints beside a barricade of students holding broom handles and checking identification before students entered the cafeteria.
I was brought back to endless conversations that would inevitably end in shouts and red faces, and saying things like “If you don’t side with Israel in this conflict, you simply don’t know enough about it.”
Then I recalled sitting in front of a computer working in a summer job at a Reform synagogue working as the rabbi’s assistant, reading international reports on the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and extreme warfare in Lebanon, and for the first time I couldn’t rationalize it. I couldn’t argue or debate for the merit or necessity of it. I watched, from afar, the Israel I loved morph into an unfamiliar place. A country I once longed for and sought to live and raise a family, I could not draw near to. I had to begin to rationalize for myself how I could love the land and not the State.
The internal dialogues rushed back about what it meant to recognize, acknowledge and learn about a story that I had not yet opened my ears or eyes to. What it meant to put aside defensiveness and listen to the other side. And eventually, what it meant to come to terms with putting aside an ideology I could no longer identify with.
Through Gideon Levy’s words, my Zionist life flashed before my eyes. Until reading this, I think I desired a resurrection of that life. It feels now that I can peacefully lay it to rest. My love for Zion is real and it is strong, but that does not make me a Zionist. My love for the land of Israel as the root and wellspring of the Jewish people and the glory of the Most High is real and it is strong, but that does not make me a friend of the State of Israel.
And you know what? That’s ok. It doesn’t make me an enemy to the Jewish people. It doesn’t make me an anti-Semite. It doesn’t make me a self-hating Jew (whatever that means, and can someone tell me? I really don’t get it). It doesn’t even make me anti-Israel or anti-Zionist. I know I’m not alone. And I also know that many of us feel like we’re better off not saying it publicly. I say, enough is enough.