Culture, Israel, Peoplehood, Politics

Top 5 Reasons Why I'm Not A Liberal Zionist

1. The Nakba is more than just a “Palestinian narrative”.
Seven hundred thousand Palestinians were expelled from their lands in 1948. These expulsions were motivated by the Zionist desire to establish a Jewish-majority state on as much of British Mandate Palestine as possible. This is an objective fact of history, not a subjective perspective that we need to be sensitive about in dialogue groups. In the decades following the 1948 war, Palestinian villages were destroyed and refugees attempting to return were shot at the armistice lines. A series of laws were passed in the 1950’s to strip the refugees of their land and make everything legal. While Zionism had been a multifaceted movement with both statist and non-statist adherents right up until the early 1940’s, the Nakba constituted the State of Israel as a settler-colonial project. A project in which ethnic cleansing was seen as a legitimate means of establishing and maintaining a demographic Jewish majority.
2. The Occupation is a symptom, not the disease.
Israel did not plan to conquer the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, but this conquest very quickly became a new and terrible expression of Israeli settler-colonialism. The roughly one million Palestinian residents of these geographies fell under a brutal military occupation that remains in place to this day. In addition, some two hundred thousand Palestinians became refugees and some of their villages were destroyed. Liberal Zionists misidentify the occupation of 1967 as the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They fantasize about winding the clock back to June 4,1967. Moreover, they attribute magical moral powers to this date as if everything that happened before it is excusable, but everything that happened after it is reprehensible. This special cocktail of historical amnesia and moral incoherence is a defining characteristic of the Liberal Zionist ideology.

3. Ethnonationalism is a problematic foundation upon which to build a multiethnic state.
The world is not an ethnically homogenous place. No matter where you live, there will be people of different ethnicities who live alongside you. Therefore, the notion of building a nation state that structurally prefers one ethnicity over all others presents serious moral problems. This is as true of Sri Lanka and Estonia as it is of Israel/Palestine. When one ethnicity is given rights and privileges over and above all others, some group of people is in effect being discriminated against. In Israel/Palestine, this discrimination manifests in different intensities depending on the geographic location of the non-Jewish subjects in question. Palestinians who live inside the pre-1967 borders experience the lowest levels of state discrimination and those living in the Gaza Strip experience the highest, but no Palestinian is treated like a Jew under Israeli law. The two-state solution as articulated by most Liberal Zionists is designed to maintain a Jewish ethnonationalist state within the pre-1967 borders. Maintaining this state-enforced Jewish privilege in pre-1967 Israel, also means continuing to honor the law of return which allows Jews from anywhere in the world to immigrate while denying Palestinian refugees their right of return.
4. The Palestinian right of return is a moral right.
Discussions of the Palestinian right of return often focus on matters of international law, but the more important question is whether it is indeed a moral right. If a person is compelled to leave their home during a time of a war, should that person have the right to return when the conditions of war are no longer in effect? I find it incredibly difficult to argue against the right of return as a basic restitution right. A right that the State of Israel has systematically denied a huge segment of the Palestinian people for more than half a century. Press a Liberal Zionist on this point and you will be putting your finger on the very internal contradiction that makes their position so difficult. Why is the notion of millions of Palestinians returning home so unpalatable? Are you scared, because you think that Palestinians are dangerous? Did the immigration of a million Russian Jews to the state in the 1990’s scare you as well? Do you fear losing your Jewish privilege in a state where you are no longer part of a violently-maintained demographic majority?
5. Jewish rights and Palestinian rights are not zero sum.
For human rights to function at all, they cannot be conceived of as zero sum. There is no logical or practical reason why Jewish rights and Palestinian rights cannot both be respected in whatever mutually agreed-upon political settlement emerges in Israel/Palestine. Whether this is in one-state, two-states, or a confederation, respect for the rights of all people involved must be the foundation of any solution. For the Palestinians, this will mean abandoning the notion(still clung to by some) that Israeli Jews must pack up and go back to their countries of origin. For Israelis, this will mean relinquishing an insistence upon violently maintaining a demographic Jewish majority. It may even mean revisiting some of the long-dormant non-statist conceptions of Zionism that animated the movement in the early 20th century. But the Liberal Zionism of today simply won’t cut the mustard.
Eli Ungar-Sargon’s latest documentary film, A People Without A Land is now available on iTunes, Amazon, and Vimeo.

9 thoughts on “Top 5 Reasons Why I'm Not A Liberal Zionist

  1. Can Jews live in a Palestinain state? Will Jews be able to live across the “borders”, if and when they are established? Will a Palestinian state be an”ehtnonoational” entity?

  2. I have problems with no 1 and 4. Wrong about 1947 and 1948, and also wrong about right of return as a moral right. Israel is culpable but does not have to undo itself. Compensation to those in the effected generation. Two states. Some kind of creative confederation.

  3. And considering that 27 Jan is Holocaust Remembrance Day, the timing of this article is in extremely poor taste.
    One more thing, how do 7 million Jews pose such a threat to millions and millions of Arabs?

    1. Palestinians do not constitute the entirety of the Arabic speaking world. That’s like saying all the Jews in the world are a problem for Palestinians. It is not. Palestinians could care less about a Jew living in Tampa or Seattle.. This is an issue of Palestinians and their descendants who lived on the land currently occupied by the Zionist colonization of the British mandate of Palestine.
      It’s a silly and futile argument to drag in the entirity of the pan Arab world into what is an issue of two small populations over one land mass. Palestine was never a part of Irag, Morroco, Yemen, Oman, Turkey, etc.
      Holocaust Remembrance Day is a perfect occasion to remember and think critically about how evil done to you should not be repeated unto others. It’s a perfect day to reflect on the evil that is Zionism. How can one be morally comfortable with deprivation of another groups life and livelihood while commemorating such acts done to their own ancestors? IF you are not troubled by the parallels, then Holocaust Remembrance Day is lost on you and you should never observe it again.

  4. Number 4: Should the 800,000 Jews expelled from Muslim majority countries since 1948 be allowed ‘the right of return’ and if so what would their fate be?

  5. Jewschool is a perfect example of the far-left, antizionist movement that seeks Israel’s eradication while professing to support all things Jewish.
    This article is a perfect example of why these people are completely insane.

  6. This truly idiotic article ignores history, erases context and creates a completely false narrative based on the writer’s hatred of Israeli Jews and inability to recognize reality.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.