An apologia for Ken Livingstone (What would Buber say?)

Middle East
on 26 Comments

Thursday’s elections in Britain brought mixed results for the Labour Party: a victory by a Muslim Labourite in the London mayor’s race, the first Muslim to win that office; setbacks in Scotland and Wales; but surprisingly strong results in England. The elections followed a boiling controversy inside the Labour Party over anti-Zionism. Roland Nikles posted the following piece before the British elections, but its points are still relevant. For more on the Zionist relationship with the Nazis and the famous instance of collaboration, the transfer agreement, Ed Moloney has a post on Livingstone’s comments here which cites the Israeli Holocaust memorial’s own research on that collaboration. And Max Blumenthal has a thorough piece up at Alternet describing a concerted campaign over the last year by Israel advocates to smear Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his “grassroots coalition of Muslim immigrants, blue-collar workers and youthful left-wing activists.”  –Editor.

In Great Britain they will have elections this Thursday and they are having a row over the question “Is anti-Zionist criticism anti-Semitism?” This has initially resulted in the suspension of two prominent Labor members of Parliament, and then it snowballed into a larger purge of more than 50 party members for making allegedly anti-Semitic statements. It raises questions about what is anti-Semitism, what is Jewish identity, and what is Zionism?

It all started when a political muck-racking site–Guido Fawkes—unearthed a number of 2014 Facebook posts by Labor Party MP Naz Shah that were critical of Israel. Those posts included a map of Israel superimposed on a map of the U.S. with the suggestion that Israel should be moved to the U.S. and riffs relating to this fantasy. Shah was promptly accused of anti-Semitism. She apologized for her postings, noted that they pre-dated her election to Parliament, and professed that they do not reflect her considered views. Nevertheless, political pressure was brought to bear and Shah was suspended from Parliament by Labor Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn pending an investigation.

It bears mentioning that Shah’s Facebook postings were not an actual suggestion. They appear to be ironic commentary on the very close relationship between Israel and the United States. But Shah obviously has negative feelings about the existence of Israel in the Middle East. She is anti-Zionist.

In the meantime, long time Labor Party member and former mayor of London Ken Livingstone came to Shah’s defense. She is not anti-Semitic he said. Although many Labor MP’s have expressed concern for the rights of Palestinians over the years, and they sometimes have said harsh things about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, Livingstone says he has never heard any Labor Party MP say anything anti-Semitic.

In defending Shah Livingstone said: “Let’s remember that when Hitler won the election in 1932, his policy was that Jews should be moved to Israel.” This comment immediately made Livingstone the center of the controversy and, in turn, led to Jeremy Corbyn suspending him as well.

Livingstone’s statement has left even his most sympathetic critics scratching their heads. What could he have been thinking? At Mondoweiss Robert Cohen (a Brit) says that, although he does not believe the British Labor party has a problem with anti-Semitism, he implies that the statements by Shah and Livingstone are anti-Semitic, and he counsels critics of Israel to stay away from self-made bear traps like mentioning Hitler and Israel in the same sentence, or questioning Israel’s narrative of national self-determination, or to suggest “Zionist control” of anything (like pointing out Zionist efforts to equate criticism of Zionism with anti-Semitism?)

At +972 Magazine Gilad Halpern (an Israeli) notes that, in addition to Livingstone getting some of the key facts wrong in his sentence—like Hitler did not come to power in the 1932 elections (he was appointed chancellor in January 1933) and Israel did not exist until 1948—there is something mysterious about what relevance Livingstone had in mind:

Livingstone has a “dubious” record of downplaying quasi anti-Semitic statements, says Halpern:

The reason [Livingstone] came under so much fire was the subtext: assuming that issue had some relevance for 2016 Britain, he was talking about the present, not the past. It was his underlying intentions that were called into question. Why on earth would one evoke Hitler’s supposed warming to Zionism in a debate about contemporary politics, if it wasn’t to draw some sort of parallel, as awkward and far-fetched as it may have been, between Zionism and Nazism? And why would he allow himself to be dragged into a debate about the Holocaust at a time when his party is bending over backwards to fend off accusations that it is teeming with anti-Semites? Livingstone, an astute and experienced politician, took a plunge into an empty pool. While all this might have been a slip of a tongue from a politician who’s no stranger to controversies, it is pitted against a dubious backdrop of his consistent effort to downplay positions within his party that could be branded, if not downright anti-Semitic, as bigoted and hateful.

A Search for Relevance

Livingstone, however, has said that he accepts Israel and supports a two-state-solution. He has also said that it would have been better if Britain and the US had opened their doors to Jewish refugees rather than to support the creation of Israel in ’48. At minimum, we must acknowledge that a statement that the U.S. and Britain should have thrown open their doors to Jewish refugees from Hitler is manifestly not anti-Semitic.

Here is what Livingstone said on a panel in London on January 2, 2013 (starting @10:21):

Nobody disagrees with the academic concept that the Jews have a right to a state. What they didn’t have a right to was the displacement of the Arab community. We now live in a world where the reality is there is an Israel. I would not have created an Israel, but there is an Israel there. I support the concept of the two-state-solution. I want to see the ending of the wall and the separation, so there is an economic link (inaudible) there now (as) exists between France and Germany.

But it was a travesty. And the main force driving American policy makers in actually getting the UN vote to create the State of Israel is they were too frightened of anti-Semitism in America and Britain to do what we should have done, which is open our doors to the refugees from Hitler and to welcome them into Britain and America; not, because of our fear of anti-Semitism, actually displace an established Arab population who have spent the last 60 years living in degrading conditions and subject to constant violence.

Zionists don’t like to hear such talk (e.g. Jonathan Freedland who did not characterize Livingstone’s comments fairly), but it is not anti-Semitic. In the context of the question whether it would have been better to welcome Jewish refugees from Hitler in the U.S. and Britain instead of forming the state of Israel, it is historically relevant to note that the Nazis were cooperating with Zionists in the early 1930’s to transfer Jews to British Mandate Palestine.

It is also relevant to note, that German National Socialism was objectionable not only because Hitler wanted to exterminate the Jews, and because Nazi Germany turned into a genocidal war machine; it was also objectionable for its ideology of building a national homeland for the German people at the expense of all competitors to the land. This ideology was about more than extermination of the Jews: it included plans for the mass starvation of 30 million Ukrainians to make room for German settlement. And it’s worth noting that the idea of a Jewish homeland for Jews in Palestine does bear some uncomfortable parallels to this Nazi ideology separate and distinct from the horrors the Nazis committed during the war, and without making any comparison between Nazi atrocities and anything Israel has done or may do.

It is worth recalling, as Livingstone’s observation about Nazi and Zionist collaboration does, that European anti-Semitism helped with the creation of Israel. See, for example THIS article by Siddhartha Shome.

We usually think of this “assistance” as hatred and intolerance of Jews in Europe forcing Jews to create Israel as a Jewish state wherein Jews can take refuge. In other words, anti-Semitism created (and continues to create) the need for a Jewish state and was the impetus for its creation. For the anti-Semitic Western powers (even after the war), voting for the partition of Palestine was a way to rid themselves of Jews living in displaced persons camps in Western Europe.

But there is a flip side to this. “It is the job of Zionism,” declared Ben Gurion, “not to save the remnant of Israel in Europe but rather to save the land of Israel for the Jewish people and the yishuv” (see Shomes article at note 3). The gateway to the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem has an inscription, in Shome’s translation: “I will put my breath into you and you shall live again, and I will set you upon your own soil.” In other words, Jews living on their own soil: Jewish blood mingling with Jewish soil protected by Jewish power. It’s not a recipe that bodes well for non-Jews living in the land.

Anti-Semitism helped to create the modern state of Israel, but in non-trivial ways, anti-Semitism also infected the ideology of this project.

A matter of Jewish identity

Chris Cook of the BBC interviewed the prize winning Jewish novelist Howard Jacobson about the Livingstone flap. Like many, Jacobson felt personally attacked by Shah’s and Livingstone’s statements. He felt they were being anti-Semitic.

Jacobson is a Jew living in England. He is a British citizen, a successful novelist; winner of the Mann Booker prize. He doesn’t believe in God and he doesn’t go to Shul. But for him, Zionism—a Jewish state in Palestine—is central to his identity as a Jew. So when he hears criticism of Zionism, of the Jewish state, he feels it as a personal attack.

What would Buber and Heschel Say?

The question, of course, is what kind of state? Martin Buber who emigrated to British Mandate Palestine from Germany in 1938 notedthat Jewish identity is a unique hybrid between a religious and a national form. His “national form” included a Jewish collective in its own land, but he did not mean  by this a modern nation state. He argued for population parity and a bi-national state. He did not conceive of Jewish identity as requiring a Jewish state run by and for Jews, with Jews having superior rights over everyone else—which is what modern Israel has turned out to be.

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy:

At the theoretical core of the Zionism advanced by Buber was a conception of Jewish identity being neither a religious nor a national form, but a unique hybrid. … Buber rejected any state-form for the Jewish people in Palestine. …. Buber embraced Zionism as the self-expression of a particular Jewish collective that could be realized only in its own land, on its soil, and in its language. The modern state, its means and symbols, however, were not genuinely connected to this vision of a Jewish renaissance. While in the writings of the early war years, Buber had characterized the Jews as an oriental type in perpetual motion, in his later writings the Jews represent no type at all. Neither nation nor creed, they uncannily combine what he called national and spiritual elements.

In his letter to Ghandi, Buber insisted on the spatial orientation of Jewish existence and defended the Zionist cause against the critic who saw in it only a form of colonialism. For Buber, space was a necessary but insufficient material condition for the creation of culture based on dialogue. A Gesamtkunstwerk in its own right, the Zionist project was to epitomize the life of dialogue by drawing the two resident nations of Palestine into a perfectible common space free from mutual domination.

Here’s what we coincidentally talked about in Talmud class the other day. The Jewish religion as practiced in Temple days was local. The sacrificial cult could not be exported; you couldn’t conquer other lands in its name. After destruction of the Temple, there was a transfer from the land to Torah: the Jews became bound to Torah the way they once were bound to the land.

In creating Judaism, the Rabbi’s made the religion portable. But the religion, of course, maintained a strong metaphoric connection to the land. Most Jewish holidays are metaphorically connected to the land. The creation of the modern state of Israel has mucked up all the metaphors.

The Polish-American theologian and Jewish philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel also pointed out that Judaism revolves around three sacred entities: God, Torah, Israel. But for Heschel, like Buber, “Israel” doesn’t mean a modern nation state with a Jewish army and police force and courts to enforce Jewish primacy over everyone else in the land. For him, “Israel” is more like peoplehood: the Jewish people past and present and future.

Judaism, says Heschel, is a complex structure. It can be characterized exclusively neither as a theological doctrine, nor as a way of living according to the Law, nor as a community. A religious Jew, according to Heschel is a person committed to God, to his concern and teaching (Torah), who lives as part of a covenant community (Israel).

Howard Jacobson, like so many Jews today, has neither Torah nor God, but he has Zionism: and by Zionism he means the modern state of Israel with a Jewish army and Jewish police and Jewish courts to privilege Jews over non-Jews and to perpetuate Israel as a “safe haven” for Jews like him to go to (if he ever wanted to).

Rather than God-Torah-Peoplehood, or walking humbly with your God and having some presence in the land, a lot of modern Jewish identity in Britain, the U.S., Canada, Australia revolves around anti-Semitism (the Holocaust) and Zionism (the modern state of Israel). And by Zionism they don’t mean the gentler kinder version of Buber, but the militarized, paranoid, life-boat version of Netanyahu’s Zionism.

I think Buber and Heschel would say that’s not going to carry the religion through the next millennia.

About Roland Nikles

Roland Nikles is a Bay Area writer and attorney. He blogs here: rolandnikles.blogspot.com. And you can follow him on twitter @RolandNikles

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26 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    May 7, 2016, 7:54 pm

    Good essay, tho it drifts from the English (possibly antisemitic) politicians to the various flavors of Zionism (past: plural, present: unitary). Alluding to the suggestion (rather practical, what?) that UK politicians not use Hitler and Zionism in the same sentence, it proceeds to go over various histories (of Nazi and Zionist settler colonialism) apparently to find similarities and, in any case, in the same breath (or sentence).

    I suppose a central question about antisemitism is this: when is the statement of history, and when are parallel (or comparing) statements of parallel histories, antisemitic?

    • pabelmont
      May 8, 2016, 7:47 am

      BTW, Zionists are always saying that other countries (today) have worse human rights records than they do, so why are anti-Zionists picking on Israel and ignoring the others. So, right away, Zionists approve — by their own actions — the comparison of Israel’s behavior with the behavior of other countries, seemingly giving “license” for such comparisons. So, one might ask, having been given such license, why should anyone be blamed or “antisemitized” for comparing what Israel does/did with what Nazi Germany did? Antisemitism, if there at all, would perhaps reside in an unfair comparison — perhaps one which bends the facts. And when the question of “bending facts” arises, the question of “who writes the history — and determines the ‘facts’ ” comes soon on its heels. Are Israel’s “revisionist historians” antisemites or truth-tellers? If Israel has indeed closed its (military, diplomatic, governmental) paper archives to historians in favor of censored electronic archive-copies, does this not show Israel manipulating the history, the facts?

  2. YoniFalic
    May 7, 2016, 10:06 pm

    BTW, Nikles is more likely to find more valid history in Supernatural than in a Talmud class, that is none.

    Before the revolt in 70 BCE, in the Greco-Roman period there were a good number of Temples of Judaism (more if we include Samaritanism).

    Here are some:

    Jerusalem — destroyed 70 CE at the end of the Great Revolt of Judea,

    Elephantine — I don’t known when it ceased to function,

    Transjordan — the Tobiad Temple — I don’t know when it cease to function,

    Casiphia — Near the Caspian sea — I don’t know when it ceased to function,

    Leontopolis — destroyed 73 CE,

    Mt. Gerizim — (Samaritan/Hebraic) — destroyed 111-110 BCE by John Hyrkanos (Josephus) or by Simon the Just (Talmud).

    There was already much proselytization for Judaism by the time of Jesus — long before Judah HaNasi is supposed to have produced the Mishnah.

    Matthew 23:15

    Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

    By the time of Jesus most of the people practicing Judaism within the Roman Empire were probably of convert origin and certainly by the time of the Kitos War.

    The Kitos War seems to have started among Phoenician converts, spread to Greek converts, and only then reached Judea.

    Understanding the Great Revolt, the Kitos War, and the Bar Kochba Rebellion helps explain the early development of the Roman Imperial System, but to do so requires ignoring everything one might learn in Yeshiva, in Israeli secular schools, or in Hebrew Day School, where only nonsense is taught.

    • Roland Nikles
      May 8, 2016, 2:56 am

      Hello YF. Thank you for reading and following up with this information. A couple of points in response to your comments on the supernatural and Talmud: 1) I find learning a bit about Talmud interesting to get a sense for what Talmud is, and what the rabbis who wrote the Talmud were thinking; it may contain some history and historical references, but surely one does not read Talmud in order to learn history as such. I think Talmud like history is a manmade tradition. Learning about Jewish presence and practices at Elephantine and other places is also interesting… although I’d say Talmud has had a greater influence on what Judaism has become today than whatever sacrifices may have happened at Elephantine, in Transjordan, or other places. I’ve not attended Yeshiva, Israeli secular schools, or Hebrew Day School, so I have no opinion on what is taught there. If you attended all those places and had a bad experience, I’m sorry about that. 2) I’m not sure of the relevance of your assertion that many Jews at the time of Jesus, or the Kitos war were probably converts. The question the essay suggests (for thinking about) is what did Judaism become after Talmud, what stories did it tell itself, and what impact does the creation of modern Israel have on those stories. I understand this is not of interest to everyone.

      • Mooser
        May 8, 2016, 12:01 pm

        Elephantine? Wait a minute. Are pachyderms kosher?

      • YoniFalic
        May 8, 2016, 12:13 pm

        “[Elephantine’s] ancient name was ‘abu’ or ‘yebu’, which means elephant and was probably derived from the shape of the smooth grey boulders which surround the island, looking like elephants in the water.”

    • Mooser
      May 8, 2016, 11:54 am

      “but to do so requires ignoring everything one might learn in Yeshiva, in Israeli secular schools, or in Hebrew Day School, where only nonsense is taught.”

      Yes, “Gamal” put it very well:

      “it is a discursive tradition with no central legal text or overarching purpose”, – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/recent-comments/#sthash.GMAgAwSi.dpuf

  3. Citizen
    May 7, 2016, 11:40 pm

    Always useful to have no agreed meaning of terms and phrases.

    • Mooser
      May 8, 2016, 11:59 am

      “Always useful to have no agreed meaning of terms and phrases.”

      Very useful!
      Can you imagine the disorganizing and destructive effects of having a single agreed-upon definition for “Jew” or “Jewish”. Or “antisemitism”?
      Or having a standard for “supporting Zionism”. That’d screw everything up!
      Yes, having very ambiguous meanings for those things is very, very useful.

  4. Rodneywatts
    May 8, 2016, 10:11 am

    A nice piece Roland, adding to the other pieces which have appeared on MW over the last few days about the ludicrous situation we have here in Britland.
    You draw attention to the Chris Cook BBC interview with Howard Jacobson and his ‘Jewish Identity’ — he doesn’t believe in God, doesn’t go to Schul but identifies with zionism–‘the liberation movement before the formation of Israel and now Israel itself’. You have to wonder why he still lives in England.
    He also talks about the need for people like the ‘antisemitic’ politicians, whom he graciously explains don’t realise they are being antisemitic, to be reeducated and then to denounce their previous beliefs. He certainly is representative of an ignorant population who themselves need to be reeducated about ‘zionism the liberation movement’!

    ‘Editor’ – good survey at beginning, but may I just add a link to a most important factual survey, referenced by Max B https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jamie-stern-weiner/jeremy-corbyn-hasn-t-got-antisemitism-problem-his-opponents-do
    This is by Jamie Stern-Weiner, a signatory to Jews for justice for palestinians http://www.jfjfp.com This excellent British info website is currently carrying a number of relevant posts. On both sides of the pond we are engaged in the same battle of keeping the public correctly informed.

  5. Boomer
    May 8, 2016, 10:52 am

    I don’t understand the details of this episode in the UK, or the history of the people involved, and I don’t particularly care about them. But I don’t see why it should be considered anti-semitic, or offensive to Jews, for someone to make posts that “included a map of Israel superimposed on a map of the U.S. with the suggestion that Israel should be moved to the U.S. and riffs relating to this fantasy.”

    On the other hand, the suggestion that Palestinians should be cleansed from their land by force, so that a Jewish state for Jews from Europe could be created seems highly offensive to moral human beings. Of course, that was actually done, with the support of the UK and US, leaving the victims to their fantasies. Perhaps the perpetrators have a guilty conscience, and are therefore unduly sensitive. Indeed, to me it seems outrageous, as well as irrational, to attempt to rule out (as Cohen does) “questioning Israel’s narrative of national self-determination.”

    As for fantasies, they don’t change history, and can detract from the issues of today, but it seems to me that if the UK or US wanted to give Jews a state of their own, it would have been more generous, and more just, to give them a part of their own countries rather than someone else’s. The UK, for example, might have given them Wales, or Scotland.

    The U.S. might have given them the islands of New York (Staten, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long). Being islands would have established boundaries for the state, which would have from the beginning included the greatest concentration of Jewish institutions and population in the U.S. I assume that the non-Jewish Americans forced to move would be compensated, unlike the Palestinians.

    It seems to me that the only exception, in which giving Jews a new state from someone else’s might have been regarded as just, would be Germany. The allies divided Germany up after WWII, so such a plan could have been implemented. The fact that some Jews preferred to take land from the Palestinians instead didn’t make that course of action just.

    • eljay
      May 8, 2016, 1:39 pm

      || hophmi: Here’s what antisemitism looks like in 2016. link to timesofisrael.com ||

      It’s utterly offensive and disrespectful. Anyone who has made threats against her should be held accountable for their actions.

      None of which justifies Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine or any of the countless related past and on-going (war) crimes.

    • Rodneywatts
      May 8, 2016, 1:55 pm

      Now, hophmi, we must all agree that what Luciana Berger has experienced is real antisemitism indeed. PLAIN AND SIMPLE. However, unfortunately there are honorable people who are currently under investigation because of FALSE ACCUSATION of antisemitism for purely political or zionism/Israel defending motives. Even Tony Greenstein, I understand , is under suspension.
      Sorry, hophmi, even evidence of genuine antisemitism is no excuse for the illegal, oppressive, thieving, murderous activities perpetrated by or condoned by the state of Israel against the Palestinians.

    • WH
      May 8, 2016, 5:25 pm

      It wasn’t claimed that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist, so this case is meaningless as a rebuttal of anything argued here. And the article, as one should expect from the JP, also contains nonsense like this: ‘Labour MP Naz Shah was revealed to have posted a message on Facebook in 2014 calling for the dismantling of the State of Israel’.

      • Sid
        May 8, 2016, 7:29 pm

        This is the vicious racist anti-Semitism of the kind that was so common in Europe in the 1910s, 20s, and 30s. Ken Livingstone’s statements are not of this kind.

        Ironically, many prominent Zionists of that period seem to have shared these anti-Semitic sentiments. Consider the following quotes:

        1. David Ben Gurion described Jews in Europe as “sterile Jews, living parasitically off an alien economic body and dependent on others.”

        2. A.D. Gordon (the father of labor Zionism): “we [Jews] are a parasitic people. We have no roots in the soil; there is no ground beneath our feet. And we are parasites not only in an economic sense but in spirit, in thought, in poetry, in literature, and in our virtues, our ideals, our higher human aspirations.”

        3. Ze’ev Jabotinsky: “Our starting point is to take the typical Yid of today and to imagine his diametrical opposite … because the Yid is ugly, sickly, and lacks decorum, we shall endow the ideal image of the Hebrew with masculine beauty. The Yid is trodden upon and easily frightened and, therefore, the Hebrew ought to be proud and independent.”

      • YoniFalic
        May 9, 2016, 1:48 am

        Jabotinsky occasionally argued that Jews are really Aryans.

    • Mooser
      May 10, 2016, 11:35 am

      “Here’s what antisemitism looks like in 2016. “

      One person getting nasty e-mails? That’s not nice.

      Gosh, I sometimes wonder (I know I shouldn’t) how other minorities even make it through the day.

  6. Stephen Shenfield
    May 8, 2016, 8:28 pm

    Zionism did not need to get “infected” by anti-Semitism. It was steeped in anti-Semitism from the start. Zionists agreed with anti-Semites that the Jews were a foreign and unassimilable element in their host societies and it was therefore natural, inevitable, and humanly understandable that they should be rejected and persecuted. They shared the anti-Semites’ negative perceptions of Jews as they actually existed. That also meant that they hated themselves.

    Where they differed from the more thoroughgoing anti-Semites was their belief that at least some Jews could be rehabilitated and normalized through Zionist efforts. Hitler in particular did not believe this was possible; for him the only final solution of the Jewish question was extermination.

    However, Hitler cannot be equated with Nazism as such. In the 1930s there were Nazis, including SS officers, who thought that Zionism could solve the Jewish question. A key figure in the attempt at a Zionist-Nazi rapprochement was Rabbi Joachim Prinz. I got hold of his book “Wir Juden” (We Jews), published in Berlin in 1934, i.e. under Nazi rule. The author himself apparently blocked publication of an English translation after his emigration to the US in 1937 — and no wonder. The book is a skillful synthesis of Nazi and Zionist ideas, with the “German Revolution” presented as a model for Jews to emulate. It shows that the German Zionists did not collaborate with the Nazis for purely practical purposes–they also saw the two movements as ideologically complementary.

    Of all the tendencies of Jewish thought Zionism is and always was the closest to anti-Semitism. The hypocrisy of Zionists accusing other people of anti-Semitism on the flimsiest grounds is astounding.

    • YoniFalic
      May 9, 2016, 1:46 am

      Interested German-readers can find Wir Juden at http://www.menschenkunde.com/pdf/blankertz/judentum/prinz_wir_juden_1934.pdf .

    • Sid
      May 9, 2016, 3:31 am

      Hi Stephen, you are absolutely right.

      Spare a thought for the Zionists, though. Consider for the moment the situation in the first decades of the 20th century. Racist anti-Semitism is sweeping over Europe. The polyglot empires of old are disintegrating into independent ethnically defined nation-states. The United States has embraced the Wilsonian Doctrine of national self-determination, at least as far as Europe is concerned. To many secular Jews in Europe, it must have seemed that the emerging framework of ethnically defined nation-states would be the primary organizing principle of society, at least in Europe.

      Having tried and failed to achieve assimilation for Jews under the Enlightenment framework of individual equality and individual rights, these (mostly) secular Jews figured that the only way to secure the Jewish future was to seek collective assimilation for Jews as an ethnically defined nation state that would become a respected member of an international family of ethnically defined nation states. According to Hannah Arendt, “the Zionists, in a sense, were the only ones who sincerely wanted assimilation, namely ‘normalization’ of the people (‘to be a people like all other peoples’).” Consequently, the Zionists made tremendous efforts to transform a diasporic religious and cultural community into an ethnically defined nation-state with a specific piece of territory designated as its ‘national homeland’. Under tremendous pressure from European anti-Semitism, and focused on fully conforming to the norms of European ethnic nationalism, the early Zionists in the 1910, 20s, and 30s completely ignored the Arab inhabitants of Palestine and their culture and heritage.

      Today, however, our civilizational norms have changed. After having run amok in Nazi Germany, ethnic nationalism has fallen from grace. The broad trend (with exceptions such as Russia/Ukraine, the former Yugoslavia, etc.) is away from racist/ethnic nationalism and towards multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-racial societies that value diversity over ethnic or racial purity, respect the culture and heritage of multifarious groups and communities, and do not place too much importance on standardized nationalist narratives.

  7. JLewisDickerson
    May 9, 2016, 6:28 am

    RE: In defending Shah, Livingstone said: “Let’s remember that when Hitler won the election in 1932, his policy was that Jews should be moved to Israel.” ~ Nikles

    F.Y.I.
    “Zionism in the age of the dictators”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zionism_in_the_Age_of_the_Dictators
    by Lenni Brenner – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenni_Brenner

    DOWNLOAD OPTIONS AT ARCHIVE.ORG:
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    TO DOWNLOAD – https://archive.org/details/ZionismInTheAgeOfTheDictators

  8. tony greenstein
    May 9, 2016, 10:12 am

    It is an interesting article but nonetheless superficial in parts. It never asks the obvious question, why now? Why the anti-Semitism row at this particular time? Whose interests does it serve? Why did up 2 year old tweets?

    If you are a socialist you might ask these questions and also come up with some answers. ‘Anti-Semitism’ has been weaponised as a means of attacking the left leadership of Corbyn. Trivial, humorous, idealistic and fantastic comments about moving Israel to the USA, based on a Jewish virtual library cartoon, are evidence of atavistic anti-Semitism? Give us a break.

    Buber is an interesting character but he subscribed to Volkish Zionism. he was a blut and bloden Zionist who recoiled from the consequences. The most interesting anecdote about him was when he met Ben Gurion and Ben Gurion asked him whether he had moved to Israel with the permission or against the wishes of the Palestinians.

    There is also no mention of the fact that Zionism historically had utter contempt for the Jewish diaspora and accepted all the anti-Semitic characterisations of them. That is the context for today’s discussions on anti-Semitism

    As for LIvingstone. The holocaust is also instrumentalised, a weapon against those who deny Israel’s right to exist as a racist state. It is quite understandable, even if he got some things wrong, to point out the collaboration between the Zionist movement and the Nazi government.

    • just
      May 9, 2016, 10:27 am

      Many thanks for your informed comment, Tony.

    • Mooser
      May 9, 2016, 12:13 pm

      ‘Anti-Semitism’ has been weaponised as a means of attacking the left leadership”

      I think we should stop and spend a moment lauding the complete and uncompromising political independence of charges of antisemitism.
      Never one to play favorites, charges of antisemitism can be used to attack the right, or the left.

  9. Ossinev
    May 9, 2016, 1:53 pm

    @ Tony Greenstein “Anti-Semitism’ has been weaponised as a means of attacking the left leadership of Corbyn”

    100% correct and surprise surprise it has served and will continue to serve as a convenient “conflation” weapon for the Israel Firsters in the UK who are panicking over BDS. This classic piece of 3rd page small article “news” continues to be a main part of the daily recipe in the UK Times in particular and the likes of David Aaronivitch and others continue to engineer totally irrelevant A/S tit bits into their articles on everything under the sun. “News material” such as this in any other circumstances would be considered long past its sell by date but the Israel Firsters appear have put all of their apples in the Anti – Israel/Anti-Zionist = Anti Semitism basket to counter BDS and they have effectively become basket cases working their usual backstage levers on the media . The great British Public sooner or later will start to think FFS can we have a rest from this crap as well as become increasingly irritated and pissed off that the “Collective British” (to borrow one of Mark Regurgitev`s latest neat little Hasbara play on words ) are effectively being accused by a bunch of serial whingers of being un – British ie racist.

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