Something we have long predicted on this site is coming to pass: the end of Zionism as a mainstream political movement. Yes it has many adherents holding on with white knuckles, but any sign of movement, the ability to grow and change and create excitement and win new converts, that’s over. It is a dying ideology. Even Abe Foxman is getting the message. In his latest press release, on the Presbyterians’ divestment vote, he hears the thundering hoofsteps:
It is disturbing that some of the loudest voices representing the Jewish community in all of this were those of fringe groups who do not reflect the perspective of the vast majority of American Jews.
So an organization led by feminists who avoid any mention of the word Zionism is the loudest voice “representing the Jewish community…” Roll over Ben Gurion and tell Jabotinsky the news.
The biggest cause of the new climate is the Arab Spring, which in transforming Arab societies has exposed the contradictions between democracy and Zionism. But the evidence is all around us in the US mainstream. Steve Walt saying that there is a contradiction between Zionism and democracy and Peter Beinart saying virtually the same thing at alternet are a reflection of this new consensus.
An important concession came lately from Jeffrey Goldberg publishing a “thoughtful” statement that between anti-Israelism and human rights, a longtime Zionist would choose anti-Israelism.
Honestly, in my moral universe disenfranchisement, apartheid, segregation-ism or whatever you want to call it are worse sins than anti-Israel-ism. And it is quickly getting to the point where that is the choice that the government of Israel is giving folks like myself.
Goldberg wrote a year ago that our side has the wind at its back. Look for him to jump on the “anti-Israel-ism” team when he can get a big magazine cover out of it.
The best work for our side has been done by Israel and its supporters. Zionism as an ideological movement has called on very good currents in Jewish life for the last century, from liberation to intellectual dreaminess to socialism to manual labor to a new Jewish relationship to land. But in the end Zionism has worked itself out to be militant ethnocracy. Full stop. This is best expressed by Ehud Barak in a recent interview with Time Magazine, where he says in essence, If you’re Jewish in the government, it doesn’t matter what politics you have:
Basically [Netanyahu and I] see eye to eye some of the major issues and when there are differences we know how to handle them…. And I think that we are in a way old enough and more mature to know that there are many things that on the national agenda that are much more important than…we can kind of moderate sometimes.
In Israel generally speaking politics is much more familiar than any other place. We all know each other. I knew Sharon for decades, I knew Rabin, Peres. We all know each other. It’s a tiny, tiny community and the elites, the upper echelons of all kinds of pyramids, knowing each other, it’s no more than 3,000 or 5,000 people who, for quite a long time know
When all is said and done, Labor, his original party, means nothing. No, what counts in the end is being with other Jews in a siege state ethnic-cleansing government, supported by the United States thanks to other Jews. Against the Palestinians, who are not in the coalition. Against the Arabs in their spring. Against Iran, against the world.
Liberal Zionism is no refuge against this tide. Amos Oz said very much what Barak said at the start of J Street this year. The novelist long associated with Peace Now, who had fought to bring in the two-state paradigm after 1970, Oz rejected the one-state solution, saying that there is a Palestinian family and an Israeli family. And they need to be separate.
This idea of two families, and of polity based on clan, is something the Arab world is also struggling with. We can condemn it in Libya and Saudi Arabia and Yemen. We should also condemn it in Israel. There is a family of man and woman, not ethnicities. This is the great challenge of modern democracy, and Zionism is fundamentally opposed to it. Happily the American mainstream at last seems to be registering this truth.