I am Zionism’s mandatory object. So don’t I get to define it?

There’s an excellent discussion of the ‘Zionism is racism’ question over at Jeremiah Haber’s site, The Magnes Zionist. Haber makes some very good points which are especially compelling since he – a multiculturalist who self-identifies as a Zionist – is making them. Indeed, anyone who reads his site knows that people like him will be an asset in the as-yet-unrealized egalitarian one-state Palestine/Israel. I’ll get to the contradiction implicit in this statement in a moment. First, I want to review why this is an important discussion that cannot exist independently of the anti-apartheid struggle; why can’t we just focus on the tangibles like the ethnic cleansing in Sheikh Jarrah?

Any nation-building exercise employs narrative mythologizing at its core. National narratives can help to obviate perceptions of tribal, racial or classist differences to create stable, enduring societies. The most successful national narratives embed stories that permit the integration of previously non-national groups. Zionism, whatever it may be, is exclusionary in a space that requires integration.

As a one-stater, I have a real interest in working alongside Israelis to stop the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem. I also have a real interest in forging a new, inclusive national narrative that encompasses the breadth of life experience in Palestine/Israel. Part of that work entails delegitimizing and discrediting the Zionist narrative – which again, is nothing if not exclusionary.

By definition, a Zionist who struggles alongside a Palestinian in East Jerusalem exists in an exceptional, Teflon space. The impermeable bubble of Jewish privilege problematizes the interaction between the Palestinian and the Israeli; it’s an exercise in political convenience rather than solidarity and cohesion building. Social progress requires the renunciation of Jewish privilege – or Zionism.

But does that necessarily make Zionism racism?

I don’t think many people will argue that the dominant Zionists in Israel historically and today aren’t racists; Avigdor Lieberman springs somewhat clumsily from David Ben Gurion’s loins. I don’t think that’s what Haber takes exception to.

Instead, he argues that Zionism represents a wide spectrum of thought around the principle of Jewish self-determination. Judah Magnes’ life and writings showcase that broad-spectrum variance so describing the entire range as racist is terminologically inaccurate and intellectually dishonest.

The problem here is that this argument uses the exception to disprove the rule. Sociology, philosophy and the humanities generally resist empirically deliverable truths. The exceptions created by the momentary existence of recorded thought make language meaningless if we permit them to.

Zionism is up. Zionism is the hyetal, early-morning mist suspended above a Nordic lake in the spring. Zionism is an adolescent boy who shudders after urinating in a darkened, barren concrete East Coast warehouse. Zionism is not racism.

It’s not out of contempt for “terminological sobriety” or nuance that I describe the complexity of Zionism – the whole of the Zionist experience – as racism. Instead, the definition follows from descriptive reality. Zionists ethnically cleansed Palestine, etc. Some Zionist may define Zionism as ‘up’ but that’s meaningless. Definitional heft is borne by what Zionists do – what they’ve done.

Besides being descriptively accurate, defining Zionism as racism serves a psycho-social function. The modern Israeli Jew carries a grotesque historical burden. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine was perpetrated in the name of every Jew (according to the Zionists, anyway). By locating the history of racism and ethnic displacement in one capsule we provide a clear opportunity for Israeli Jews and others to unburden themselves – to break with a legacy they may not want to own. By declaring herself a non or anti-Zionist, a young Israeli Jew can experience a cathartic release – a humanistic leveling – to put her within emotional range of the humans on the other side. Here, a lack of terminological complexity is useful.

Finally, defining Zionism is my prerogative. The Jewish privilege conferred by Zionism in Israel and around the world carries with it the greatest privilege of all – the right of association. My Jewish friends in America and Israel can choose to engage with the Zionist enterprise or they can choose not to. The Palestinians have no such choice. I am forced to contend with Zionism every day. But I’ve come to realize that a special power is communicated by our mandatory marriage.

What I can do is choose to take ownership of Zionism. I will describe it authoritatively and with greater weight than any Zionist can or is permitted to. Zionism ceased to belong to Judah Magnes a long time ago and as Zionism’s mandatory object, I possess the power of explication and defamation. I have the right of appropriation. People like me will write the history books – that’s the colonial experience. And that’s partially what this is about – the battle over history.

So where does that leave obvious anti-racists like Jeremiah Haber who self-identify as Zionists? My humble suggestion is that another, more appropriate term be identified and descriptively applied. Hebrew culturalism or something like it may work. There’s plenty of room for Hebrew culture in Palestine/Israel. But Zionism has no place in my country.

About Ahmed Moor

Ahmed Moor is a Palestinian-American who was born in the Gaza Strip. He is a PD Soros Fellow, co-editor of After Zionism and co-founder and CEO of liwwa.com. Twitter: @ahmedmoor
Posted in Israel/Palestine | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

{ 34 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Avi says:

    Two points:

    1. Is Haber an Israeli?

    If he is not an Israeli, where does he see himself in this future non-racist, non-exclusivist, state? What role does he believe he currently plays or will play in the future within such a hypothetical political/social reality?

    2. The following two paragraphs resonate strongly with me:

    Some Zionist may define Zionism as ‘up’ but that’s meaningless. Definitional heft is borne by what Zionists do – what they’ve done.

    [...]

    So where does that leave obvious anti-racists like Jeremiah Haber who self-identify as Zionists? My humble suggestion is that another, more appropriate term be identified and descriptively applied. Hebrew culturalism or something like it may work. There’s plenty of room for Hebrew culture in Palestine/Israel. But Zionism has no place in my country.

  2. worker bee says:

    To be very generous, we could, when people say “Zionism isn’t racist”, they are arguing that Zionism could be made un-racist, just like when people say “Islam is not sexist”, understand them to be saying that Islam could be practiced in a non-sexist way, not that what devout Muslims have done in the last 200 years of history has not been sexist.* The empirical matter both of these claims ride on is that Zionism/Islam stripped of racist/sexist elements would remain attractive to some group of people–that those Zionists or Muslims who gave up (a certain form of) racism or sexism would not have compromised the constitutions of those belief systems to the point where, within a generation or two, they give up calling themselves Zionists or Muslims altogether, because the terms have lost their coherence. On the other hand, you are arguing–less generously, but justifiedly–that such a reformed Zionism would be just too different from Zionism as it exits, from the point of view of many/most of those who have been affected by Zionism, to still call it Zionism.

    The more I think about it, the more I agree with your side of the argument. It’s only with a certain cautious humility that I ought to ever claim that I am (that my own belief system–whatever that is–is) not sexist/racist. I can declare, with varying degrees of specificity, my opposition to sexism/racism as a principle, but nowadays (compared to 100 years ago) I don’t give up much by declaring such opposition, so my declaration is, accordingly, not worth much.

    Perhaps what Haber and others engaged in similar exercises should be granted is recognition of their intent to create a reformed, non-racist Zionism–and that someday this might be accepted by its mandatory objects as actually reformed, and maybe an entirely different creature because of that, but still, reformed, and (in some sense) Zionism. In any case, this new creature doesn’t exist yet, and I think it’s disingenuous of would-be reformers (at least in this case) to claim that all they are doing is restoring to Zionism some kind of lost purity.

    • Avi says:

      Citing sexism as directly related to Islam is weak for two reasons:

      1. You fail to distinguish between traditions, norms or culture on the one hand, and religion, on the other hand. For example, Mizrahi (Arab) Jews, can be equally as sexist as Arab Muslims.

      2. There is plenty of sexism in both practiced and theoretical Judaism.

      So, the bottom line is that your argument is bunk.

      • piotr says:

        As practiced, Islam is very sexist. Non-sexist Islamic scholars do exist, but they seem to be a small minority. Of course, the practice varies.

        As practiced, Orthodox Judaism is almost as sexist. But they do not commit honor killings. And Catholic Church is sexists, but does not tries to sit women in the back of buses, or remove them from the streets where the pius men can walk. So there is some gradation.

        Like Iran seems to be a feminist paradise compared to a US-friendly monarchy on the other side of the Gulf.

        • Avi says:

          As practiced, Orthodox Judaism is almost as sexist. But they do not commit honor killings.

          For the sake of argument, exactly what document sanctions honor killings?

        • edwin says:

          Religions in third world countries are often different than religions in 1st world countries in terms of support for basic human rights. Comparisons between first world countries and third world countries, or countries that have suffered severe destabilization in order to enrich and empower the first world have a tendency to smack of colonialism.

          Looking at your unfair comparison of Catholicism and Islam – Catholicism varies widely depending on the country it is practised in. Just like Islam. Catholicism is centralized with the head in a first world country.

          Woman’s liberation in the west has not been accepted all that long. Some of the extreme right wing in the US seem to still oppose the right of women to vote.

          In 1934 it looks like Turkey granted full women suffrage. In Canada I see it listed as 1960. My impression is that Canada did not grant universal suffrage until 1967. When it comes to the worlds only Jewish state – they still haven’t enacted universal suffrage through the back door technique of denying formal citizenship. In 1934 it is easy to imagine Muslims talking about the lack of morality of their Christian neighbours.

          As a Canadian, I’m not going go on about how inferior Islam is to the Christian west. There is far too much room for potential embarrassment.

        • Antidote says:

          embarassments:

          women in national parliaments, top to bottom (#136)

          # 1: Rwanda
          # 2: Sweden
          # 3: South Africa

          # 39 : Iraq

          # 49: UAE
          # 50: Pakistan
          # 51: Canada

          # 67: Israel

          # 73: Turkmenistan, USA

          # 130: Iran

          # 136: Afghanistan, Colombia, Venezuela

          link to ipu.org

      • worker bee says:

        I never said Islam is inherently more sexist than Christianity or Judaism, that Muslims aren’t potentially just as capable of strong feminism. And anyway, how do you justify blaming Middle Eastern culture for sexism, but not Islam? It’s hard to avoid drawing the conclusion from what you said that Muslims would be less sexist if they were European. Islam is part of Middle Eastern culture, and it has shaped other parts of Middle Eastern culture. It should be obvious that Middle Eastern Christians and Jews are they way they are partly because of Islam, that some things have rubbed off. And, another part of Middle Eastern culture is the historical experience of being colonized, exploited, and forcibly underdeveloped by Western imperial powers. This has resulted in poverty and a more hostile relationship between native institutions (like madrasahs & Muslim scholars of fiqh) and modern or imported institutions and ideas, including feminism.

        I think one of the best (i.e. one I think the rest of the world should emulate it ), and most important features of Islam is that it dictates that believers be concerned with other people’s behavior. Even if you believe, as many Sufis have taught, that religion is a personal matter, earthly justice is still an important priority for Muslims. Islam is not a monastic religion. And I think that makes it harder for any individual Muslim to say “this is how I’m practicing Islam and I don’t care what the rest of you think!” because there is social pressure from other people around you. That poses a big problem for people who want to reform attitudes towards women, because sexist attitudes are an established part of the religion that a lot of people don’t want to let go of. On the other hand, this sense of responsibility to protect your neighbors from both physical and spiritual dangers (as they say, “al-amr bi’l ma`ruf”) is, I think, a very big reason why Muslims commit relatively few violent crimes, and are very generous to charities and to their neighbors. We have to take the good with the bad. So sexism was, and remains, historically part of Islam, just like racism has historically been part of Zionism. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t have a reformed Zionism that effectively rejects its racist heritage, but it is awfully cheeky of us to declare that we are not racists/sexists and expect people who previously suffered from racist/sexist oppression enabled by our ideologies to take our words at face value.

        Yet another example: It’s hard to dissociate “Southern pride” from racism. But, I’ve met black people who were outspokenly proud of their Southern cultural heritage. In particular, I remember one woman’s story about how she was more successful than white northerners at relating to white southerners, because she understood the culture and to some extent identified with it. She was very much a proud southerner. There are a lot of southerners who are proud of aspects of their culture, and the South was, historically, not only affected by, but literally defined by slavery. Now, I think some of the pride people take in their Southern culture is justified, but on the other hand, it’s really not the place of anyone except black people to give others credit for having de-racialized their “southern culturalism”. For white people to go around saying they believe in “Southern pride” or “Southern culture,” “and by the way I’m not a racist” is awfully cheeky (and yes this kind of thing actually happens–for example, a friend at a big southern university told me about a campus “diversity celebration” event organized by the admin and attended entirely by white people). Arguably, a big difference here is that a lot more is invested in arguing over the term Zionism than in Southern pride or Southern culture, that Zionists, by renouncing Zionism for “Hebrew culturalism” thus ceasing to be Zionists, are acknowledging that Zionism led to a human catastrophe. But is this the only possible way for them to acknowledge this?

        • Avi says:

          And anyway, how do you justify blaming Middle Eastern culture for sexism, but not Islam?

          Because European society, too, was sexist until individual freedoms became codified in civil law, especially in the aftermath of the French Revolution and the rise of Nation States, a transformation which the Middle East has yet — to be left to its own devices — to undergo.

        • Avi says:

          It should be obvious that Middle Eastern Christians and Jews are they way they are partly because of Islam, that some things have rubbed off.

          This is utter nonsense and is not rooted in any sound scholarly work.
          That you THINK you know certain things, doesn’t make it true.

        • worker bee says:

          Islam even influenced Medieval European culture, both for Christians and Jews. How could it not have also influenced the development of Middle Eastern Jewish and Christian culture? But I’m not saying Islam was sexist so that made Middle Eastern Christians and Jews more sexist, I think you’re reading my comment that way and that’s not what I meant.

        • Avi says:

          The gist of your comment seeks to equate Islam with Zionism by positioning theory vs. practice as the core issue.

          Yes or no?

  3. annie says:

    excellent ahmed, your last 3 paragraphs especially.

  4. You can define Zionism for yourself as much as you please.

    You don’t get to define Zionism for Israelis, for those that self-determine.

    The question is that Jerry Haber and Jerome Slater both raised is of SELF-determination. Assimilation, persecution and its most extreme, naziism, were “other”-determination.

    Your attempting to define what Zionism is at its root, is as presumptious as me defining authoritatively what Palestinian nationalism should be.

    ALL nationalisms (including Palestine/Israel, one-state) exist within a dynamic tension comprising PRIMARY dual identifications. No nation has solely a primary democratic definition or identification. Otherwise, democratic Canada would rationally desire to merge with democratic United States with democratic Mexico. They don’t.

    They desire to retain their identity as “we are Canadian” and democratic.

    Turks, that do offer a right of return to ethnic Turks, desire to retain their identity as Turkish and democratic, and do not seek to merge with “democratic” Lebanon, or “democratic” Iran, or democratic Macedonia.

    When you successfully convince a super-majority of current Israelis that it is preferable to exist within a national state all things considered, then you will have the prospect of succeeding.

    As such, if you are sincere in your desire for a single-state, then that should be your effort.

    Zionism and democracy are not oil and water. They are compatible if democratic efforts are pursued and encouraged.

    The effort at the moment to impose a democratic single state, is the one that is currently an imposition.

    You are speaking opportunistically and self-hypnotically to refer to “colonial writing of history”. EVERY population, colonizer, settler, and colonized (they are three different), has its own self-delusive narrative.

    Also, I’m surprised at your naivete around retaining Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah and other East Jerusalem communities as preservable as Palestinian in a single state. The oppossite is nearly a certainty. A lot of money would come from Jewish sources to purchase East Jerusalem land on an open market, which would have to be open in the marketplace in a democratic society.

    The largest imposition of Judaization of those neighborhoods would occur in a state of war, in which the inhabitants do leave, and similar to 1948 are prohibited from returning.

    Again, the most right-wing expansionist Zionists are salivating at the prospect of an actual single-state, and secondarily at the prospect of a state of war.

    The second largest imposition of Judaization of those neighborhoods would occur in an Israeli annexation, with some regard for property rights.

    The third largest imposition would occur in the current setting, with the prospect of preserving East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital, and the eyes of the world on the territory.

    The least imposition would occur in a genuine two-state solution, with East Jerusalem as sovereign Palestine.

    In a word, in a single state, the Palestinian character of the land will quaint, a museum-life, but not the norm, and throughout much more of the land than currently.

    You seem to like Jerry Haber for not seeking a Jewish state (in spite of Arab terror on Jewish civilians), and not like Jerry Slater for tilting to some support (or even understanding) of the state of Israel.

    “But Zionism has no place in my country”. I think the same about commercial TV, but I live with and make the most of the reality of the time.

    • Avi says:

      Richard Witty November 21, 2010 at 1:29 pm

      You can define Zionism for yourself as much as you please.

      You don’t get to define Zionism for Israelis, for those that self-determine.

      Did you, witty, self-determine, too? It seems to me that you are determined to self-determine, despite the fact that you claim that Israelis get to self-determine. Only Israelis? What about non-Israeli Zionists? Do they get to self-determine their self-determination, as well?

    • Shingo says:

      “Your attempting to define what Zionism is at its root, is as presumptious as me defining authoritatively what Palestinian nationalism should be.”

      No one is defining authoritatively what Zionism nationalism should be, only what it is, and what it is comes down to what we witness by it’s actions, not what ideologues like yourself want to believe it to be.

      “No nation has solely a primary democratic definition or identification?

      What an absurd argument! How is democracy at odds with national identification.

      “Zionism and democracy are not oil and water. They are compatible if democratic efforts are pursued and encouraged.”

      Of course they are. Democracy is the antithesis of Zionism. Zionism has NEVER been seen to efforts are pursue and encourage democratic efforts of Palestinians. Quite the contrary.

      “The effort at the moment to impose a democratic single state, is the one that is currently an imposition.”

      Democracy can never be imposed. You clearly don’t understand democracy.

      “Also, I’m surprised at your naivete around retaining Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah and other East Jerusalem communities as preservable as Palestinian in a single state. The oppossite is nearly a certainty. A lot of money would come from Jewish sources to purchase East Jerusalem land on an open market, which would have to be open in the marketplace in a democratic society.”

      Actually you are most certainly wrong. The seizure of land land in these regions is only made possible due to the presence of IDF forces which protect the occupation. The settlers behave with impunity because they are guaranteed protection.

      In a true single democratic state, the demographics would drive out these extremists due to the fact they would refuse to live alongside Arabs as equals.

      “Again, the most right-wing expansionist Zionists are salivating at the prospect of an actual single-state, and secondarily at the prospect of a state of war.”

      Correction: The most right-wing expansionist Zionists are salivating at the prospect of an actual single apartheid state.

      You seem to like Ethan Bonner for not seeking a Palestinian state (in spite of Israeli terror on Palestinian civilians).

      BTW Witty, if Zionism is really self determination, then what are you as a Zionist doing in the US as opposed to Israel?

  5. Shmuel says:

    Thank you, Ahmed, for another thought-provoking post.

    If I understand you correctly, you are suggesting that people like Jerry Haber abandon the term “Zionist” because it has, in its predominant form, become an abomination – regardless of the diversity of its origins and potential forms. And you do so with the prerogative of the victim of that abomination.

  6. LeaNder says:

    Bold statement:

    The problem here is that this argument uses the exception to disprove the rule. Sociology, philosophy and the humanities generally resist empirically deliverable truths. The exceptions created by the momentary existence of recorded thought make language meaningless if we permit them to.

    this is the first time I realized you are really young.

    • worker bee says:

      It would seem that you are trying to compensate for the fact that you don’t understand post-structuralist thought by being patronizing. Or, you don’t have a better argument, so you’re pretending to a philosophical opposition to post-structuralist thought. Those statements were perfectly clear (and not all that bold) in the context of this blog post.

      • annie says:

        The exceptions created by the momentary existence of recorded thought make language meaningless if we permit them to.

        this is the first time I realized you are really young.

        i dunno worker bee, i took lea’s comment as a compliment. it’s going to take the younger generation to conceptualize our way out of this mess.

    • worker bee says:

      How embarrassing, apparently I misunderstood your comment.

  7. Excellent post as usual, Ahmed. I have often tried to distinguish between the pernicious Zionism of the state of Israel and the kind of imaginary Zionism of Haber and others by referring to the latter as “sentimental Zionism.” As a non-Jew who has often watched sensible and ostensibly non-Zionist Jewish friends recoil when having to hear the phrase “Zionism is Racism” I’ve had a sense of the emotional toll that is involved in disinvesting them from any aspect of the term Zionism. This is because they feel it’s a term that was in the dreams and poems of their ancient forefathers — which it was, but in a very different conception from what it has become. So while you’re correct that Hebrew culturalism is perhaps a better aspiration, so polluted the term Zionism has become, I also do see why even folks such as Haber, who are demonstrated to be far beyond the absurd contradictions of liberal Zionism still cling to a potential positive essence in the term.

  8. irishmoses says:

    Great discussion. A couple of points:
    1. I agree with Ahmed that the reality and actual practice of Zionism was/is so vile that trying to identify a benign subset of Zionism is problematic at best, and self-identifying as a progressive Zionist is even more so. While I am sure I could create some fascinating arguments about how fascism, at its intellectual roots, was and is a perfectly acceptable political/economic philosophy, and that Hitler and the holocaust were only aberrations, I wouldn’t feel very comfortable self-identifying as one of those progressive fascists, and advocate fascism as a means to improve societal efficiency. I think I would probably refine the definition a bit and pick a different name.
    2. While I think one could have been progressive Zionist in the early days, and advocated for a progressive, democratic, inclusive integration of Jews into Palestine, those days and choices are long gone. The reality is the actuality of the Zionist program in Palestine with all of its horrors, past and present. Self-identification as a Zionist today inevitably attaches to actual Zionist practice. Moreover, there is no longer a need for a progressive Jew to make a progressive Zionist argument that Jews, because of the pogroms and the holocaust, need a safe place of their own. Jews have that safe place and have had since Balfour, and formally, as a Jewish State of their own, since UNGAR 181 gave them their portion of mandatory Palestine in 1947. Since the only morally justifiable argument for Zionism, a safe place for the Jews, has been satisfied, the need or justification for a moral, progressive form of Zionism no longer exists.
    Those who were progressive Zionists should now devote their efforts toward creating a a truly safe place for the Jews by insisting on a two state solution and the cessation of the vile treatment of the Palestinians by the non-progressive, autocratic, dominent strain of Zionists, and by disassociating themselves from the Zionist label. You have the refuge or place of your own, now you just need to make it into the nice, progressive safe place you originally intended it be.

    Gil Maguire
    http://www.irishmoses.com

  9. yourstruly says:

    Better to renounce Zionism than dress it up in a new name. What, keep justice for Palestine on hold until Zionists come up with a feel good euphanism for their racist entity? Isn’t it more accurate to define Zionism by its creation, the Zionist entity, a racist enterprise from its start to its (not its people’s) imminent demise? Softening the landing is only going make it easier for them to try to make a comeback.

  10. Avi says:

    I must say that I am mystified by the sudden resurgence in the obsession over Zionism, its meaning, whether it equals racism, or not.

    Whatever debate storm is taking place at Haber’s blog, it strikes me as intra-Zionist, self-obsessed, hand wringing.

    So, when I read Robert Fisk’s article today, Mr. Fisk put things in perspective for me. And I found myself waking up from a liberal-Zionist-respect-the-victimizer’s-feelings stupor.

    Robert Fisk:

    In any other country, the current American bribe to Israel, and the latter’s reluctance to accept it, in return for even a temporary end to the theft of somebody else’s property would be regarded as preposterous. Three billion dollars’ worth of fighter bombers in return for a temporary freeze in West Bank colonization for a mere 90 days? Not including East Jerusalem – so goodbye to the last chance of the east of the holy city for a Palestinian capital – and, if Benjamin Netanyahu so wishes, a rip-roaring continuation of settlement on Arab land. In the ordinary sane world in which we think we live, there is only one word for Barack Obama’s offer: appeasement. Usually, our lords and masters use that word with disdain and disgust.

    Anyone who panders to injustice by one people against another people is called an appeaser. Anyone who prefers peace at any price, let alone a $3bn bribe to the guilty party – is an appeaser. Anyone who will not risk the consequences of standing up for international morality against territorial greed is an appeaser. Those of us who did not want to invade Afghanistan were condemned as appeasers. Those of us who did not want to invade Iraq were vilified as appeasers. Yet that is precisely what Obama has done in his pathetic, unbelievable effort to plead with Netanyahu for just 90 days of submission to international law. Obama is an appeaser.

    The fact that the West and its political and journalistic elites – I include the ever more disreputable New York Times – take this tomfoolery at face value, as if it can seriously be regarded as another “step” in the “peace process”, to put this mystical nonsense “back on track”, is a measure of the degree to which we have taken leave of our senses in the Middle East.

    It is a sign of just how far America (and, through our failure to condemn this insanity, Europe) has allowed its fear of Israel – and how far Obama has allowed his fear of Israeli supporters in Congress and the Senate – to go.

    Three billion dollars for three months is one billion dollars a month to stop Israel’s colonization. That’s half a billion dollars a fortnight. That’s $500m a week. That’s $71,428,571 a day, or $2,976,190 an hour, or $49,603 a minute. And as well as this pot of gold, Washington will continue to veto any resolutions critical of Israel in the UN and prevent “Palestine” from declaring itself a state. It’s worth invading anyone to get that much cash to stage a military withdrawal, let alone the gracious gesture of not building more illegal colonies for only 90 days while furiously continuing illegal construction in Jerusalem at the same time.

    The Hillary Clinton version of this grotesquerie would be funny if it was not tragic. According to the sharp pen of the NYT’s Roger Cohen, La Clinton has convinced herself that Palestine is “achievable, inevitable and compatible with Israel’s security”. And what persuaded Madame Hillary of this? Why, on a trip to the pseudo-Palestine “capital” of Ramallah last year, she saw the Jewish settlements – “the brutality of it was so stark” according to one of her officials – but thought her motorcade was being guarded by the Israeli army because “they’re so professional”. And then, lo and behold, they turned out to be a Palestinian military guard, a “professional outfit” – and all this changed Madame’s views!

    Quite apart from the fact that the Israeli army is a rabble, and that indeed, the Palestinians are a rabble too, this “road to Ramallah” incident led supporters of Madame, according to Cohen, to realise that there had been a transition “from a self-pitying, self-dramatizing Palestinian psyche, with all the cloying accoutrements of victimhood, to a self-affirming culture of pragmatism and institution-building”. Palestinian “prime minister” Salam Fayyad, educated in the US so, naturally, a safe pair of hands, has put “growth before grumbling, roads before ranting, and security before everything”.

    Having been occupied by a brutal army for 43 years, those wretched, dispossessed Palestinians, along with their cousins in the West Bank who have been homeless for 62 years, have at last stopped ranting and grumbling and feeling sorry for themselves and generally play-acting in order to honour the only thing that matters. Not justice. Certainly not democracy, but to the one God which Christians, Jews and Muslims are all now supposed to worship: security.

    Yes, they have joined the true brotherhood of mankind. Israel will be safe at last. That this infantile narrative now drives the woman who told us 11 years ago that Jerusalem was “the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel” proves that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has now reached its apogee, its most treacherous and final moment. And if Netanyahu has any sense – I’m talking abut the Zionist, expansionist kind – he will wait out the 90 days, then thumb his nose at the US. In the three months of “good behaviour”, of course, the Palestinians will have to bite the bullet and sit down to “peace” talks which will decide the future borders of Israel and “Palestine”. But since Israel controls 62 per cent of the West Bank this leaves Fayyad and his chums about 10.9 per cent of mandate Palestine to argue about.

    And at the cost of $827 a second, they’d better do some quick grovelling. They will. We should all hang our heads in shame. But we won’t. It’s not about people. It’s about presentation. It’s not about justice. It’s about “security”. And cash. Lots of it. Goodbye Palestine.

    • pabelmont says:

      Fisk: “It is a sign of just how far America (and, through our failure to condemn this insanity, Europe) has allowed its fear of Israel – and how far Obama has allowed his fear of Israeli supporters in Congress and the Senate – to go.”

      Yes. If Obama wishes to do get something done, and realizes that Israelis never respond to speech, but only to deeds and force, he will have to renounce electoral and legislative fund-raising and then, being thereby made independent of all lobbies, go to UNSC and work with the EU and others to get an expanded UNSC-465 with real teeth. (Repatriate all settlers, dismantle all settlements and the wall, discontinue the siege of Gaza, deliver sufficient potable water to Gaza and to West Bank).

      Hard to believe there could be progress by any other route.

    • clenchner says:

      I agree with Avi. The arguments over ‘Zionism’ detract from addressing current events. But Ahmed explains why the issues remains compelling: because it’s a device that makes the argument for a one state solution stronger in some way. (I disagree, but that’s besides the point.)

      Zionists who obsess over Zionism make the same mistake; the think that safety and security for Israel isn’t a strong enough cause. So it must be dressed up in the ideological language of Zionism. Why not Israeli patriotism? Not good enough, because the mere existence of Israelis in safety and prosperity isn’t enough of a glue.

      As a supporter of Israeli patriotism, a patriotism that encompasses Israeli Jews, Palestinians, Russians and all the rest, Zionism, Zionist discourse, and anti-Zionist discourse are obstacles that make it harder to argue for a truly Democratic Israeli state.

    • irishmoses says:

      Avi,
      As I wanted to read the Fisk op-ed in the original, I first checked the New York Times, certainly it would be there. No luck. Of course, the Washington Post would have it. No luck. So, I resorted to Google and found it in the Independent; not the Fargo Independent, or the Fort Lauderdale Independent, and in fact in NO US independent. It was in the British Independent. I guess charges of appeasement aren’t controversial enough for the US media.

      Now, back to that fascinating discussion on the intricacies and nuances of nationalism, selfdeterminalism, exclusivism, rationalizationism, and other justifications for Zionism which you so rudely interrupted. Clearly you are not an intellectual.

      Gil Maguire
      http://www.irishmoses.com

    • Antidote says:

      Fisk on Clinton: “this ‘road to Ramallah’ incident”

      priceless

  11. pabelmont says:

    I am neither a Zionist, nor an Israeli, nor a Palestinian, so perhaps I don’t get to “define” Zionism. Nor do I wish to. But I have eyes to see, and I shall describe it.

    As IsraelMoses says, “”Comment #2: The Focus of the Debate Should Be on the Unlawful Brutal Conduct, not on Whether or Not it is Racially Motivated.”

    Zionism is all about theft. This particular theft has been large, a whole country and a people’s way of life and connection to their land, stolen — and has been particularly brutal. The thieves have armed themselves with an ideology, which they call “Zionism”, which has been interpreted by the thieves to justify the theft as arising from need (“Jewish people need a homeland and self-determination in that homeland”) and to excuse the brutality as arising from necessity. They ignored that self-determination has almost always meant self-determination for the people already settled in a particular space, and not invaders stealing the space from others who themselves enjoyed a right (and a territorial right at that) to self-determination.

    Who cares if Zionism is racism or not or even cares if the question has meaning?

    The theft was on behalf of a group of people, calling themselves a “people”, and indeed “the Jewish people.” Did they claim this was a race?. Would this make Zionism racist? Who cares?

    But the theft would have been from whomever held Palestine, whether Palestinians, Arabs, reindeer, lemmings, Martians, Alpha Centaurions, or otherwise. The victims were seen by the Zionists as a temporary nuisance to be got rid of, not as a “race”, not even as “a people”, not even as a collection of human beings (look at the Israeli treatment of the Gazans 2006-2010).

    Or, to put it another way, the Zionists talked themselves into the idea that forming a Jewish State was necessary. Armed and shielded with this necessity, they did what they convinced themselves that this “necessity” required them to do. It all followed logically.

    Not because they needed to displace the people from the land, but because they needed the water over and under the land, without other users of the water. Especially as they thought or hoped that all the world’s Jews would soon arrive, thirsty. There is barely enough water today even for today’s Israelis, taking almost all the Palestinians’ water. The early Zionists wanted Lebanon up to the Litani River. for the water. It has always been, in significant part, about water.

    A bank robber goes to a bank to rob it because it has money and he needs (he tells himself he is entitled to take) the money. He doesn’t care what is the “race” of the banker or of the depositors. He takes the money for himself. He gives himself permission. And if people resist, he shoots them. He tells himself, and he tells others, the taking and the shooting are necessary.

    If Zionists were honest and a bit logical or mathematical, they would say, “Here are our axioms. We needed a country this big and with this much water. We didn’t initially need all of Palestine, but we did need so much that we knew we’d create a lot of enemies, so we took even more land, and later even more land than that, all to give ourselves strategic depth. As weaponry improved, we armed ourselves to be impregnable but even so we persuaded ourselves that we needed more and more strategic depth. When weapons available to our enemies can strike world-wide, we’ll need the whole world. And we’re well on our way, having captured the USA and Europe. You can see that it all followed from the axiom.”

    And to that the poor Palestinian, or American, or anyone, a Jew here or there, can only say, “I don’t grant your axioms. I understand that you wanted all this. But you didn’t need all this. And you were not in any case entitled to all of this. And now look what’s happened to you (and to the Palestinians). The effort you made to get what you wanted, by illicit means, by extraordinarily brutal means, has trapped you into a pattern of ever greater use of illicit means. You have developed a criminal’s habits, perhaps an addiction, both as to hunger for more loot and as to defiance of law and a good reputation. You are land junkies and control freaks and lovers of the practice of extreme brutality apparently for its own sake.”

    As an outsider, it is not for me to “define” Zionism. I have described the practice of political Zionism. That should suffice.

  12. MHughes976 says:

    It is very important for those who do not accept an ideology to attempt to understand it, which implies being able to define it, at least approximately. To be baffled by someone’s claims is to be confused and to be confused is to be weakened.
    If ‘we need a certain amount of territory’ is the axiom, it entails at most a claim to territory of the specified amount, probably not even that. Another axiom or premise is probably needed, that is ‘We have a right to choose and take territory to the extent specified’. To produce the behaviour mentioned we need a third, ‘What we have is never enough, at least while more exists, to meet our needs or secure our rights’: we now have enough to motivate a demand to control everything.
    None of these are really axioms in the sense of things that almost everyone would readily accept as the basis of discussion. In truth all, including the first, are preposterous. The way that genuine human needs are met is not by sovereignty, least of all racial sovereignty, over a certain amount of territory but by enjoyment of human rights without mention of race.

  13. VR says:

    “By definition, a Zionist who struggles alongside a Palestinian in East Jerusalem exists in an exceptional, Teflon space.”

    Of course Ahmed you are correct, and there is only one way to overcome this. However, I am afraid that neither you, nor those of this “Zionist” persuasion, or the divided Palestinians (artificially divided) want to face what is necessary at this juncture to get there. Read my last post on my site.

  14. sherbrsi says:

    Historians will argue forever over this question, but the fact is that by its definitional value and its lasting legacy, the formula for Zionism (as explained by the actions and words of Israeli PMs) has been maximum Palestinian land with the least Palestinians on them. History has defined those nations and people with such ideologies as colonialists and racists. It is Israel and Zionism alone that is allowed the regular right to engage in ethnic cleansing and racism, and still not be called out for its acts, and is instead lauded for its “democracy.”

    I still contend on whether Zionism espouses racism or not is an irrelevant question. Zionism may not be racist in intent but it is racist in effect (for its creation and maintainance as a Jewish state requires the expulsion of the Palestinians, and the subsequent and everlasting rejection of rights of its non-Jewish inhabitants). Anyone who discounts that reality that has been thoroughly established in the conflict is either steeped too much in intellectual inquiry so as to be out of touch with the primary Zionist fact on the ground, or is culpable of revising Zionism to suit their agenda (which Haber is certainly doing in presuming his Zionist identity, even if it is more humane and according to universal rights).