Yousef Munayyer, Zion Square’s sole Palestinian regular contributor, has responded to Peter Beinart’s settlement boycott op-ed in his first post for the Newsweek/Daily Beast blog. In it, Munayyer takes on “the increased volume voices described as ‘Liberal Zionists’ have garnered in the discourse on Israel/Palestine,” and specifically the contradictions inherent in the idea of liberal Zionism itself.
After discussing how liberal Zionists set up a false dichotomy between Israel and settlements, and fail to adequately address Israeli colonialism, Munayyer continues:
The third and perhaps the biggest problem with the “Liberal Zionist” narrative is that they erase the Nakba from the history of Israel/Palestine. The Nakba (the depopulation of Palestine of the majority of its native inhabitants) continues to be at the foundation of the Israeli/Palestinian dynamic. Zionism necessitates a Jewish majority, which it achieved in 1948 through a series of events (including mass expulsion and the flight of civilians from hostilities), and perpetuated by systematically denying the human right of Palestinian refugees to return. It should come as no surprise that even while “Liberal Zionists” are willing to condemn many of the human rights abuses inherent in the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the rights of refugees go ignored.
Any sympathies “Liberal Zionists” have for Palestinian rights generally stops at the green line. This is moral and intellectual cowardice. With the Palestinian question and Palestinian rights answered within the confines of green line, “Liberal Zionists” put off confronting the fundamental challenge that liberalism presents to Zionism.
You see, liberalism and Zionism are by nature incompatible and those calling themselves “Liberal Zionists” misunderstand one or both of the concepts. Liberalism is by nature an inclusivist ideology; Zionism, by contrast is an exclusivist ideology. While liberalism is associated with equal rights regardless to ethnicity or creed, human rights, and free elections, Zionism requires maintaining a Jewish majority over territory even at the expense of the non-Jewish native inhabitants of the land.
For many Americans who have Zionist and liberal inclinations, confronting this reality is both difficult and necessary. Yet “Liberal Zionists” choose instead to create and focus on illusions to avoid making the decisions, imposed on them by Zionism’s colonialist reality, that make them cringe.
The use of myths to obfuscate the inconvenient truths of Zionism’s illiberal agenda is not new. Early leaders of the Israeli left advanced the notion of a “land without a people”: David Ben Gurion, for example, described pre-colonization Palestine as “in a virtual state of anarchy… primitive, neglected, and derelict,” willfully ignoring the land’s native Palestinians.
The fact that Beinart’s call for a boycott of Israeli settlement products is on the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times is indicative of a changing discourse—and this is a good thing. Nonetheless, the discourse clearly has a long way to go. “Liberal Zionists” may find safety and comfort in putting off confronting the irreconcilability of liberalism and Zionism for another generation, but they aren’t doing the Palestinians or themselves any favors.
Great post. And although I find it incredibly hard to fathom that Newsweek is hosting a website on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where only one of the ten regular columnists are Palestinian, I think it’s great Munayyer is in there. I look forward to what’s to come.