Mondoweiss

Zionism threatens to bring anti-semitism full-circle

David Ben-Gurion during the playing of the Hatikva at the opening session of Israeli Knesset, 1949

Zionism is very much a mirror image of anti-Semitism. It was founded and based on an assumption that assimilation is bound to fail, and that the Jews must resort to other measures in order to protect their existence – as persons, but perhaps even more significantly – as a supposed nation. David Ben-Gurion’s words to the Mapai committee in 1938 reveal how the national aspect could supersede the humanitarian concern to actual people: ”If I knew that it was possible to save all the children of Germany by transporting them to England, and only half by transferring them to the Land of Israel, I would choose the latter, for before us lies not only the numbers of these children but the historical reckoning of the people of Israel.” In that same year he spoke to the Jewish Agency in regards to the Évian conference which sought to facilitate the plight of Jewish refugees, saying, “[I do] not know if the conference will open the gates of other countries. . . . But I am afraid [ it ] might cause tremendous harm to Eretz Yisrael and Zionism. . . . and the more we emphasize the terrible distress of the Jewish masses in Germany, Poland and Rumania, the more damage we shall cause” — to Zionism and Eretz Israel by promoting emigration to western countries. [Both quotes at this link].

That is to say, that the priority of nationalism (as opposed to personal security) was extremely high in Zionism from the outset. Zionism sought to forge a sense of ‘nationhood’ for a people that were of a vast spectrum of ethnicity, language, even religion (from ultra-orthodox to atheist) and claim that they were one. The British (and notably Jewish) Secretary of State for India Edwin Montagu, in his critique of His Majesty’s Government’s intentions to endorse a ‘Jewish national home” in Palestine in 1917, said: “I assert that there is not a Jewish nation. The members of my family, for instance, who have been in this country for generations, have no sort or kind of community of view or of desire with any Jewish family in any other country beyond the fact that they profess to a greater or less degree the same religion. It is no more true to say that a Jewish Englishman and a Jewish Moor are of the same nation than it is to say that a Christian Englishman and a Christian Frenchman are of the same nation: of the same race, perhaps, traced back through the centuries – through centuries of the history of a peculiarly adaptable race”.

Jonathan Cook in his recent article relates how “Hannah Arendt, the German Jewish scholar of totalitarianism, argued even in 1944 – long after the Nazis abandoned ideas of emigration and embraced genocide instead – that the ideology underpinning Zionism was ‘nothing else than the uncritical acceptance of German-inspired nationalism’.” He also notes that “even today the Zionist movement cannot help but mirror many of the flaws of those now-discredited European ethnic nationalisms….Such characteristics – all too apparent in Israel – include: an exclusionary definition of peoplehood; a need to foment fear and hatred of the other as a way to keep the nation tightly bound; an obsession with and hunger for territory; and a highly militarised culture”.

So Zionism seems to be based on the idea of maintaining and supporting a “nation”, a “people” – but those “people” are by large not even there, in the ‘homeland’. The ‘nation’, that is, ‘the Jewish nation’, is a construct that supersedes the nationality of the people actually residing in the country. As I have earlier written, Israelis do not actually exist as ‘nationals’ – only as citizens. As the state is by definition the Jewish State, the ‘nationals’ who by default are closest to being ‘Israeli’ are the Jews – wherever they may be. This aspect is also embodied in the ‘Law of Return’ (1950) which allows any Jew to become automatic citizen in Israel. As even the Jewish Virtual Library notes, “at present, the definition is based on Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws: the right of Return is granted to any individual with one Jewish grandparent, or who is married to someone with one Jewish grandparent. As a result, thousands of people with no meaningful connection to the Jewish people theoretically have the right to immigrate.” (My emphasis.)

The Jewish State is thus acting, still today, as if the Nuremberg Laws and their like are a real-time threat and the threat of a second Holocaust is looming. It relies upon this perception to maximise its appeal to Jews with the ever-present suggestion of existential threat. This is why any incident where Jews are targeted around the world can quickly become a claim by Israeli leaders, to prove the Zionist point – that Israel is their ultimate home, suggesting that their safety cannot be guaranteed elsewhere. As PM Netanyahu said last year in Paris:

“The State of Israel is not just the place to which you turn in prayer. The State of Israel is also your home. This week, a special team of ministers will convene to advance steps to increase immigration from France and other countries in Europe that are suffering from terrible anti-Semitism. All Jews who want to immigrate to Israel will be welcomed here warmly and with open arms. We will help you in your absorption here in our country, which is also your country.”

But the “defense” of this “home”, this “national home”– which has required ethnic cleansing, Apartheid and military oppression for its maintenance since day 1– has meant that the more Zionism became representational for Jews all over the world, the more Jews would naturally be associated with the crimes perpetrated on their behalf, as it were. Zionism and Israel have tried to conceal these crimes by a well-funded, constant and relentless propaganda over the years, to depict these acts as mere ‘necessary responses’ to an unfortunate reality. Yet the reality is unmistakably that of colonialism (see my lecture on the subject here), which involved the predictable crimes that go with it. As Israeli historian Benny Morris summarizes:

“Transfer was inevitable and inbuilt into Zionism—because it sought to transform a land which was ‘Arab’ into a ‘Jewish’ state and a Jewish state could not have arisen without a major displacement of Arab population.” (The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited).

This ‘displacement’, this ‘transfer’, or whatever other terms one wishes to apply to describe what we generally know today to be ethnic cleansing, the Apartheid, the seasonal massacres and sieges even fulfilling the definition of genocide, are acts that continue today. The astounding success of Zionism must be said to have been the ability to paint these crimes as something else. But this cannot continue forever. Not only is access to real-time news now more instant than ever – people’s access to critical evaluations of the situation is also more instant, and bypasses the archaic means by which the powers that be exerted censorship of information and ideas in past decades.

As the reality of Zionism on the ground is becoming harder to hide, as Israel presses on with its subjugation of Palestinians and enters ever more horrid cycles of state-terror, as Israel continuously intensifies its claim to act on behalf of all Jews, the obvious danger is that Zionism, the supposed answer to anti-Semitism, will become the major propellant of such feelings towards Jews – all over the world.

For Zionists, this danger is not necessarily something that would bother them that much. After all, whenever there is a case of anti-Semitism, real or imagined, that raises the validity of the Zionist raison d’etre. Jews around the world (who number more than Jews in Israel), should not be so sure to rely upon the motivations of the Jewish State and blindly regard it as their ‘insurance policy’. Not only is Israel the most dangerous country in the world for Jews, it is also one of the most dangerous countries in the world in general. To rely on such an ‘insurance policy’ might not be the best investment – especially not when it is a major cause not only of regional unrest, but also of hatred towards Jews around the world. Yes, I know, I’ve stepped on another eggshell – how can I trivialise the monster of anti-Semitism by playing into the anti-Semitic canard that Jews are to blame for others hating them? My answer is, that we simply need to withdraw from the absolutism of considering criticism, indeed even harsh criticism, of what the Jews in their collective representation under the Jewish State of Israel do, as necessarily unreasonable, endemically hateful and having nothing to do with their actual acts. In other words, critique doesn’t have to be anti-Semitic just because it is the goyim levelling it at Jews – even when it is heavy.

I don’t like to generalise people. I don’t like to be considered with generalisation. But the ‘Jewish State’ has generalised me for its nationalist ends in such ways, that I just cannot chide others for harbouring hostility towards me as a Jew. That I should require them to make the distinction between “Jew” and “Zionist” whilst Israel conflates the two, seems to me to be somewhat hypocritical. Nonetheless I have many friends, non-Jews and notably many Palestinian, who do make this distinction and place great value on doing so. I feel honoured to know these people, and cherish their tolerance greatly. Yet the Jewish State threatens, increasingly, to erode these distinctions. If all Jews must be identified by an inevitable connection to Israel, as the state seeks, then it may be that Israel will become their greatest peril.

Misunderstand me not – I have connection to Israel. I am an Israeli citizen, and I have family there who I love dearly. But my connection to them as persons has no bearing on my feeling about Israel as a Jew or as an Israeli. My critique of its construct as an ethnic-religious exclusivist one is fierce. My advocacy for the relinquishing of our Jewish privilege is clear. I have to separate the two – the macro political paradigm and the persons – knowing that in the long run, a faulty macro paradigm will come to mean peril to all its subjects.