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When Zionism is the essence of life, a break has huge consequences

Middle East
on 26 Comments

Breaking with Zionism can be a life-shattering experience.

In Israel, the Jewish-Israeli society is by and large Zionist – in degrees varying from the so-called ‘liberal-Zionist’ to the fundamentalist Zionist. There is not really, necessarily, much of a difference when one speaks of this breaking experience in one faction or the other.

The thing with Zionism is, that its adherents basically see it as a kind of ‘essence of life’. The Zionist indoctrination teaches that it’s about ‘our very existence’. The ‘us’ is generally considered to be ‘the Jewish nation’ or ‘the Jewish people’, and hence the individual is seen as a small part in this. As the survival of the whole also encompasses the individual, any breaking with Zionism is considered a kind of societal treachery, which endangers the strength and even survival of the ‘whole’.

Narratives challenging the factual veracity of the ‘survival’ notion, like pointing out the thriving Jewish existence elsewhere, is rather meaningless for Zionists. Under the Zionist meta-narrative, this is all temporary. Jewish thriving is temporary, and simply awaits a point in time wherein the gentiles will again ‘turn on the Jews’, because that’s what happens “in each and every generation”, as the Passover chant goes.

And the Zionist answer to this supposedly perilous, eternal state of affairs, is a Jewish nation-state. So in the bigger paradigm, Zionists simply see the solution – the Jewish nation-state, as a survivalist solution. They are therefore not inclined to see any ‘problems’ ensuing from it, such as human rights violations and challenging of international law, as more than mere obstacles or challenges facing this ‘special case’ – Israel.

So when one points out these violations, this is an irritation for Zionists not necessarily because they are not aware of them – but because by pointing them out, one is not showing sympathy with the challenges facing the ‘special case’ that Israel is, for them.

Since the case of Israel and Zionism needs a ‘special dispensation’, even an individual’s emotional breaking with Zionism can be perceived as a danger. And when one thus breaks with Zionism, it is seen in highly emotional, personal terms by those for whom it represents the ‘essence of life’.

That one then characterizes this kind of allegiance to the ‘Zionist essence of life’, as a kind of fascist adherence reminiscent of totalitarian societies, does nothing to add understanding amongst one’s peers. It merely adds insult to injury for them.

Furthermore, the talk about the intrinsic violation of human rights inherent in Zionism is only offensive to Zionists, and here particularly to the ‘liberal Zionists’, since it suggests that the whole grand ideology which they subscribe to is irreconcilable with values of equality and even democracy. Natasha Roth makes an eloquent summation of this in her article concerning the recent Israeli blacklist of BDS activists. Roth writes:

“The Israeli government apparently considers the banning of BDS activists acceptable behavior for a democracy, a view facilitated by its having very diligently cultivated and promoted the lie that BDS is an anti-Semitic movement aimed at destroying Israel. This lie has been remarkably successful, despite the clear statement on the official website of the BDS movement that its goal is to secure the same human and civil rights for Palestinians as everyone else living in Israeli-controlled territory. But if granting equal rights to everyone who lives in the territory controlled by Israel will cause the state to implode, then surely those who oppose BDS on those grounds are ignoring a fundamental problem — that a state which cannot survive if all its residents have equal rights is by definition not a democracy.”

In other words, Zionism renders the supposed values of ‘liberalism’ meaningless. It may well be that ‘liberal Zionists’ consider liberal values to be their highest goal, but when it comes down to the competition between Zionism and liberalism, Zionists will go Zionist. Where the more fundamentalist and more unabashed fascist Zionists are concerned, this is less of an affront, because they have less of an inclination to respect the ‘liberal’ notion anyway. But even fascists tend to think that their values are related to ‘freedom’ and ‘moral superiority’ – they simply judge the ‘others’ to not be part of the club.

So when the break occurs, it is a break that will inevitably lead one to reconsider the totality of the indoctrination and set of values one was brought up with. One ends up having to question the nature of those values, inasmuch as they hold up such a construct – Zionism – to be the essence of life. If one had thought that one was brought up on values of respect, one has to then mirror that claim against the intrinsic disrespect of Zionism towards the native ‘others’ – Palestinians. If this mirror does not bear the picture, if this disrespect – a genocidal one, let it be noted – cannot be reconciled with ‘respect’, the mirror shatters. One has to re-educate and re-assemble one’s whole set of values to establish a new and real concept of respect. This example pertains to a long list of values.

Thus the breaking with Zionism becomes a core breaking by oneself with a whole value-system with which one was raised. One’s family and peers register that one’s distance is not merely ‘political;’ it is, inevitably, about one’s essential nature of being. Zionists perceive this as a suggestion that they, the Zionists, are regarded as ‘others’ of lesser values, and instinctively register that regard as an offense, even throwing them back to the ‘anti-Semitic’ idea of Jews as lesser beings (even when it is a Jew breaking with Zionism). This is offensive to a Zionist’s whole being, on so many levels. They will inevitably feel a natural aversion to the person.

The solution to this aversion, if the people still want to deal with one another, might simply be avoiding the topic as much as possible. But the knowing will be there. It will be like an elephant in the room, the one we can’t talk about — Zionism.

People who are in such a society – the one which upholds and enshrines Zionism – know all this instinctively. The price of breaking with it can be high. It’s not only a breaking with society, it’s a breaking with one’s past. For most people, such a price is considered simply too high. But those who have realized that Palestinians are paying and have paid an incomparably high price for Zionism may find the price very tolerable and worthy. The intrinsic and general Zionist denial of Palestinian suffering is a part of this mechanism. If you deny it, and cannot feel it, then you can keep the mask, keep your self-righteousness, and keep the belief that Zionism is the only way.

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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26 Responses

  1. Citizen
    January 9, 2018, 3:28 pm

    2 wrongs don’t make a right.

  2. RoHa
    January 9, 2018, 6:02 pm

    “Zionists simply see the solution – the Jewish nation-state, as a survivalist solution. They are therefore not inclined to see any ‘problems’ ensuing from it, such as human rights violations and challenging of international law, as more than mere obstacles or challenges facing this ‘special case’ –”

    And this view implies that Jewish survival is more important than any other consideration, including the survival of non-Jews. As Saleema so neatly summarised Zionism, “We matter, and you don’t.”

    • Noodles
      January 10, 2018, 5:28 pm

      Help me, Zionists, anti-Zionists, trolls. I just don’t get it. How does Israel promote the survival of Jews?

      If the world is full of bloodthirsty anti-Semites and a holocaust is always just around the corner, how does it make sense to march half the Jews in the world into an area that could be destroyed by a single atomic bomb? The statements of Theodore Herzl (1904), Rabbi Fischmann (1947), and the Yinon Report have told Arabs that their countries are on a hit list. How does it make survival sense to tell Arabs that they and their children are on a hit list when atomic bombs can be made small enough to fit into a single suitcase and smuggled into any Israeli city?

      Why continue to bomb Syria? Syria is now full of Chinese troops, Russian military equipment, and a Russian commitment to return to Syria in case of further military action. Russia has a huge nuclear arsenal. Israel can’t possibly defeat Russia, but any one of Russia’s thousands of bombs could destroy Israel.

      How does it make sense to deliver death threats and war threats to Iran when the Hezbollah has missiles that can reach any part of Israel, and Iran is allied with both Russia and China–two nuclear powers with more powerful nuclear arsenals, a bigger economy, and larger populations than Israel?

      To me, Israel looks more like a recipe for a third world war and a second Jewish holocaust than it does a survival plan. If Israelis want their own culture, compete with Mozart, compete Stephen Hawking, compete with the guys swallowing the most goldfish, but don’t compete with Jim Jones and don’t out do the engineers at Fukushima.

  3. Keith
    January 9, 2018, 6:22 pm

    JONATHAN OFIR- ” Under the Zionist meta-narrative, this is all temporary. Jewish thriving is temporary, and simply awaits a point in time wherein the gentiles will again ‘turn on the Jews’, because that’s what happens “in each and every generation”, as the Passover chant goes.”

    Something which is critical to understand, yet which outrages many Jews when spoken by a Gentile, is that a core component of Zionism is anti-Gentilism. The notion that Gentiles are inherently evil and irrational and will eventually “turn on the Jews.” Zionist neo-tribalism could not exist if Zionist Jews viewed Gentiles as their fellows of a different religion/ethnicity. The Zionist world is a manichean world of Jews versus non-Jews.

    According to Israel Shahak: “Therefore, the real test facing both Israeli and diaspora Jews is the test of their self-criticism which must include the critique of the Jewish past. The most important part of such a critique must be detailed and honest confrontation of the Jewish attitude to non-Jews.” (p103, “Jewish History, Jewish Religion,” Israel Shahak) Unfortunately, I have yet to see that happen.

  4. Stephen Shenfield
    January 9, 2018, 6:23 pm

    Nice piece. The ‘existential’ threat must seem most real to Israeli Jews who have no ties with a potential alternative homeland because they cannot believe that they would be allowed to remain with equal rights in a state with a non-Jewish majority. It requires more trust in Palestinian generosity than they can muster, especially as most Israeli Jews have no meaningful personal contact with Palestinians.

    • Sibiriak
      January 9, 2018, 9:04 pm

      Stephen Shenfield: they cannot believe that they would be allowed to remain with equal rights in a state with a non-Jewish majority.
      ———————————-

      It’s not just about equal rights– it’s about cultural/linguistic/religious predominance as well.

      • echinococcus
        January 9, 2018, 10:26 pm

        Sibiriak

        It’s not just about equal rights– it’s about cultural/linguistic/religious predominance as well

        You just underlined why a one-state fantasy was not acceptable to many colonized peoples. Possibly also to Palestinians.

    • Keith
      January 10, 2018, 12:52 am

      STEPHEN SHENFIELD- “…they cannot believe that they would be allowed to remain with equal rights in a state with a non-Jewish majority.”

      Let us begin with the obvious. The atheist, blood and soil Jewish nationalists who founded Israel had no desire whatsoever for “equal rights in a state with a non-Jewish majority.” They still don’t. Zionism has morphed from a form of blood and soil nationalism into a unifier of the Diaspora in support of a Jewish state where “dual loyalty” is considered a form of treason to the Jewish state.

    • Mooser
      January 10, 2018, 3:17 pm

      ” It requires more trust in Palestinian generosity than they can muster,”

      Or maybe they are aware of how much has been stolen, and how much would have to be given back.
      And once the dream of “Jewish sovereignty” goes, what happens to Zionism’s remittances from the diaspora?

  5. Maghlawatan
    January 10, 2018, 12:12 am

    Zionism goes back to a hypertext. It is not the same as Bulgarian nationalism. The Bulgarians were always there . The Zionists were not. Someone had to sit down and invent the rules. Zionism is a model. And the model is wrong.

    Tough titty, Israel.
    I bet Hillel is LAUGHING.

  6. Marnie
    January 10, 2018, 6:08 am

    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/539798705310286136/
    Aug 14, 2017 – “The IDF are not an army, they’re the most well funded terrorist organization in the world” Miko Peled – Jewish Israeli & former IDF officer.

    And have been from jump street.

  7. KarlRKaiser
    January 10, 2018, 8:23 am

    Zionism has all the characteristics of a cult. It IS a cult.

    • Maghlawatan
      January 10, 2018, 11:56 am

      It is. It is something that has to be adhered to. It doesn’t conform to reality. Dissenters are treated brutally.
      It is incoherent. It is has hasbara talking points . It does not listen. It is repetitive. It is nihilistic.
      It is a long way from Hillel

  8. Moral Jews
    January 10, 2018, 8:30 am

    As a Moral Jew (the designation for a Non-Zionist Jew) we are fighting to rid Judaism of Zionism….just as many Christians are fighting to rid Christianity of IT’S racism, tribal bigotries and transgressions. Zionism in Palestine is the equivalence of all the racial bigotries found in Christian Fundamentalists. The history of discrimination and racial strife, repression and murder in the United States is the SAME as what has been duplicated in Palestine.
    Wrong is wrong. Bigotry is bigotry.

  9. justice48
    January 10, 2018, 9:03 am

    Jonathan Ofir analysis of the religion of Zionism is the best I have seen. From my experience with interlocutors on Palestine/Israel I agree with his diagnosis. But there is a price for this new religion.
    I am certain that the history of the Jews, especially Zionist Jews, will not anymore be marked in the future by the Christian belief that they killed Jesus Christ, nor by the Nazi atrocity committed during the heat of World War II. But it will be indelibly marked by the persistent, intentional and continuous dismemberment of Palestine and Palestinians.

  10. Elizabeth Block
    January 10, 2018, 9:38 am

    I quote Jane Jacobs, in “Dark Age Ahead”:

    Cultures take purposes for themselves, cling tenaciously to them, and exalt them into the purposes and meanings of life itself…. How does a culture reveal its concept of the purpose of life? A cultural purpose enables perpetrators and witnesses to regard horrific deeds as righteous.

    • Maghlawatan
      January 10, 2018, 11:57 am

      The worst thing that ever could happen happened after the worst thing that ever could happen happened after the worst thing that ever could happen happened.

      Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, AKA Chuck D

  11. Liz
    January 10, 2018, 11:11 am

    “Thus the breaking with Zionism becomes a core breaking by oneself with a whole value-system with which one was raised. ” Brilliant post, Jonathan. This is the essence of what Zionists are up against if they want to undo their Zionism. It can be done, but they will need support to construct a new reality and develop a new sense of self. Many have done it; hopeful more will.

  12. Mooser
    January 10, 2018, 12:13 pm

    Well, I’m all confused. Wasn’t it just a few days ago “Jon s” was explaining the Heimat principle in Judaism?

  13. biggerjake
    January 10, 2018, 4:31 pm

    I think Jonathan Ofir has written a way too elaborate excuse for people who want to believe in Zionism.

    In fact it sounds more like an ode to Zionism than a break from Zionism.

    “So when the break occurs, it is a break that will inevitably lead one to reconsider the totality of the indoctrination and set of values one was brought up with. One ends up having to question the nature of those values, inasmuch as they hold up such a construct – Zionism – to be the essence of life.”

    What? Why all the melodrama? Even a modicum of critical thinking leads one to realize that from the time we are born we are being indoctrinated to believe things that just don’t stand up to scrutiny. Prayer in school, the Pledge of Allegiance , God, race, Communism, the Russian people hate us, US is the greatest country in the world, 6 million, etc., etc.

    Beliefs in Religion and the necessity for Israel are some of the most intractable fantasies that even the otherwise intelligent and well read will refuse to abandon in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But deep down they know that they are holding on to lies from which they refuse to liberate themselves.

  14. Misterioso
    January 10, 2018, 4:40 pm

    https://www.commondreams.org/ views/2018/01/09/why-has- israel-banned-jewish-leftists- not-members-nazi-linked-groups

    The Lobe Log – January 09, 2018

    “Why Has Israel Banned Jewish Leftists But Not Members Of Nazi-linked Groups?

    “There is a toxic mix of prejudices at work here: racism, illiberalism and religious chauvinism.”

    by​ ​Natasha Roth

    EXCERPT:
    “Israel’s latest step in its self-described ‘offensive’ against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is to include Jewish Voice for Peace, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and the American Friends Service Committee on a list of organizations whose leading members are banned from entering the country. Although the law barring boycott advocates was passed in March last year, the blacklisted organizations only came to light on Saturday. But while Jews who support the boycott movement are now barred from visiting the country, members of Nazi-allied organizations and anti-Semitic political parties continue to be allowed into Israel — including at the invitation of government officials.

    “The Israeli government apparently considers the banning of BDS activists acceptable behavior for a democracy, a view facilitated by its having very diligently cultivated and promoted the lie that BDS is an anti-Semitic movement aimed at destroying Israel. This lie has been remarkably successful, despite the clear statement on the official website of the BDS movement that its goal is to secure the same human and civil rights for Palestinians as everyone else living in Israeli-controlled territory. But if granting equal rights to everyone who lives in the territory controlled by Israel will cause the state to implode, then surely those who oppose BDS on those grounds are ignoring a fundamental problem — that a state which cannot survive if all its residents have equal rights is by definition not a democracy.

    “It’s also worth looking at which political opinions the government does not deem grounds for banning individuals from the country. In September last year, for example, Sebastian Gorka — who belongs to a Hungarian Nazi-allied group, and sports a medal declaring his affiliation — was a keynote speaker at an anti-terrorism conference in the Israeli coastal city of Herzliya.

    “Heinz-Christian Strache, the head of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria and the country’s vice chancellor, has been hosted by members of the ruling Likud party several times in recent years, despite the party’s Nazi roots and Strache’s own dabbling in anti-Semitic imagery. While Israel’s Foreign Ministry in December took the step of temporarily restricting contacts with FPA government ministers following the Austrian elections, they are not prohibited from visiting Israel — and Netanyahu’s office is said to be in favor of accepting the party’s claim to have broken with its anti-Semitic roots.

    “In January of last year, the secretary-general of France’s far-right National Front (Front National, or FN) — which has traditionally counted anti-Semitism among its core ideologies, despite party head Marine Le Pen’s attempts to refurbish its image — visited Israel for a series of meetings with government and army officials. As with the Freedom Party of Austria, Israel officially refrains from direct contact with the FN due to its history, but nonetheless allows its members into the country.”

  15. JLewisDickerson
    January 13, 2018, 2:56 pm

    RE: “When Zionism is the essence of life, a break has huge consequences”

    MY COMMENT: Wow, that explains (nearly) everything! It should be lengthened to a few hundred pages, and titled Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Zionism, But Were Deathly Afraid to Ask!

    ✡ Moses of Crete
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_of_Crete

    Moses of Crete was a Jewish Messiah claimant and apocalyptic prophet in the 5th century C.E.

    After the failed Bar Kokba war, there was an end to Messianic movements for several centuries. However, the hope of a coming messiah nonetheless continued. In accordance with one interpretation of the Talmud, the Messiah was expected in 440 (Sanh. 97b) or 471 (‘Ab. Zarah 9b).

    This expectation in connection with the disturbances in the Roman empire attendant upon invasions may have raised hopes in a messiah claimant who appeared about this time in Crete, and who won the Jews there to his movement. He called himself Moses, and promised to lead the people, like the ancient Moses, dry-shod through the sea back to Palestine. His followers, convinced of his claim, left all their possessions and waited for the promised day; upon which they followed Moses to a promontory overlooking the sea and at his command cast themselves off – where many drowned or were destroyed on the rocks below.[1]

    Then Moses himself immediately disappeared.[2] Socrates of Constantinople states that Moses fled, while the Chronicle of John of Nikiû claims that he perished in the sea. Others claimed he had been a demon, sent to lead the Jews astray. While he called himself “Moses”, the Chronicle gives his actual name as ‘Fiskis’.[3][4]

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