Posted by: sean | March 17, 2009

“Zionism is the problem”

I was surprised to come across this op-ed in the LA Times, which has the following as its thesis statement and title: Zionism is the problem. The premise isn’t new at all, but it’s presence in a large mainstream American newspaper seems to indicate that my feeling that we’re currently seeing a shift on American opinion on Israel is correct. The article’s main argument is this:

It’s hard to imagine now, but in 1944, six years after Kristallnacht, Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, felt comfortable equating the Zionist ideal of Jewish statehood with “the concept of a racial state — the Hitlerian concept.” For most of the last century, a principled opposition to Zionism was a mainstream stance within American Judaism.
Even after the foundation of Israel, anti-Zionism was not a particularly heretical position. Assimilated Reform Jews like Rosenwald believed that Judaism should remain a matter of religious rather than political allegiance; the ultra-Orthodox saw Jewish statehood as an impious attempt to “push the hand of God”; and Marxist Jews — my grandparents among them — tended to see Zionism, and all nationalisms, as a distraction from the more essential struggle between classes.

To be Jewish, I was raised to believe, meant understanding oneself as a member of a tribe that over and over had been cast out, mistreated, slaughtered. Millenniums of oppression that preceded it did not entitle us to a homeland or a right to self-defense that superseded anyone else’s. If they offered us anything exceptional, it was a perspective on oppression and an obligation born of the prophetic tradition: to act on behalf of the oppressed and to cry out at the oppressor.

For the last several decades, though, it has been all but impossible to cry out against the Israeli state without being smeared as an anti-Semite, or worse. To question not just Israel’s actions, but the Zionist tenets on which the state is founded, has for too long been regarded an almost unspeakable blasphemy.

Yet it is no longer possible to believe with an honest conscience that the deplorable conditions in which Palestinians live and die in Gaza and the West Bank come as the result of specific policies, leaders or parties on either side of the impasse. The problem is fundamental: Founding a modern state on a single ethnic or religious identity in a territory that is ethnically and religiously diverse leads inexorably either to politics of exclusion (think of the 139-square-mile prison camp that Gaza has become) or to wholesale ethnic cleansing. Put simply, the problem is Zionism.

Again, there’s nothing terribly creative or groundbreaking in such an op-ed, but its very existence in a paper like the LA Times is surprising in and of itself. I believe that we’re currently witnessing a watershed in the US and that Israel will soon find that it no longer has carte blanche to do whatever it wants and still receive obscene amounts of unconditional American financial and military support. Of course, this change is gradual, so the above piece was accompanied by this one by Judea Pearl, who weakly attempts to argue that anti-Zionism is just hate (emphasis mine):

Anti-Zionism rejects the very notion that Jews are a nation — a collective bonded by a common history — and, accordingly, denies Jews the right to self-determination in their historical birthplace. It seeks the dismantling of the Jewish nation-state: Israel.

Anti-Zionism earns its discriminatory character by denying the Jewish people what it grants to other historically bonded collectives (e.g. French, Spanish, Palestinians), namely, the right to nationhood, self-determination and legitimate coexistence with other indigenous claimants.

Anti-Semitism rejects Jews as equal members of the human race; anti-Zionism rejects Israel as an equal member in the family of nations.

I can’t believe that Pearl has the gall to complain that people are trying to deny the Jewish people what has been granted to Palestinians. At first I thought it was a typo, but I think it’s actually just chutzpah!



  1. Yes indeed the Zionist philosophy of Theodor Herzl and the Rothschilds is the problem in the middle east. Zionism is mostly Marxist and has nothing to do with religion.

  2. Islam is a totalitarian ideology, not a religion. We know all we need to know about Islam: it is a vicious, narrow-minded, murderous, intolerant and an undemocratic cult – opposite of anything the west stands for.

  3. Thanks for your expert opinion on Islam, ya James. Please sign me up for your erudite newsletter.

  4. The Palestinians already have three nations – Jordan, PA, and Gaza. That they have made of sewer of the latter two (PA, GAZA) is their own fault. That they have not made a sewer of the first (Jordan) is to the credit not of the Palestinians, but of the Hashemites.

  5. Thank god, people like James are becoming dinosaurs. I’m sure he would love it if someone of another race came into his home, decided it was theirs, and put him into a refugee camp, where he wasn’t allowed to trade his goods and where electricity and running water were luxuries. I’d love to see how his vegetables rotted in Israeli warehouses as his family was starving. People like him wouldn’t last a day outside his little suburban American cushion.

    Thankfully, those of us Americans who have actually have a passport and have seen the real world outside of a picket fence know what is happening, and we’re slowly changing US policy. It just makes racist dinosaurs like James scream louder, but we should rejoice in such screaming – it is the sound of a dying ideology struggling for its last breaths.

  6. very interesting blog. Thanks!

  7. Thanks for stopping by, Joumana!

  8. […] as a typically Jewish debate. In other words, why is this an internal tribal discussion? And, as I’ve asked before,  why are we so rarely privy to the opinions of, say, Palestinians or other Arabs? As it stands, […]

  9. lol @ zionism = marxism.. that is hilarious!

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