Imagine for a moment that you’re talking to an Italian-American about Fascist Italy (1922-1945) and how elements of that destructive and authoritarian ideology are still present in many areas of the Italian body politic.
Then imagine that the friend shuts down the conversation because it makes him or her feel “uncomfortable”. When you ask why, the person explains that though you might not be aware of it, your critique of fascism is really a coded way of expressing a deep and pernicious hatred of all Italians and that, given the harm done to Italians in the past by such Italophobic musings, we really need to stop things right here.
Then imagine that the person makes behind-your-back visits to your direct-work supervisor—in the case of an academic like me, his or her academic dean—to complain about the malign thought-crimes being conjured in your head and the need to enact measures to cut down on the uncomfortable “environment of hate” that these thought-crimes promoted by you are generating for everyone in the community.
I think that if a friend or a colleague acted in this way, we would rightly see them, at the very least, as someone lacking a basic understanding of the implied rules of intellectual exchange, and at the very worst, as a heedless bully.
Amazingly, however, most of us put up with behaviors quite similar to this—or worse yet, we frequently self-censor to avoid the possibility of their onset—when it comes to talking with committed Zionists about Israel and its political and military behaviors.
In case you missed the point in the little story above, it is this: Zionism is a particular political ideology produced in a particular moment of time by a particular faction of a large and diverse ethno-religious group known as the Jews.
For most of the vast and impressive history of this collective it has not existed. It is no more essential, despite what Zionist ideologues ceaselessly tell us today, to the condition of being Jewish than, being a Fascist authoritarian was, or is, to being a true self-respecting Italian.
And despite the enormous social pressure exercised by censorious and bullying people like the ones described in the hypothetical Italian case outlined above, many Jews—indeed, it would seem an ever-increasing percentage of their numbers—do not see their identification with their people’s rich past and present as being coterminous with a blind commitment to the particular, and relatively new, racist ideology that undergirds the operation of the state of Israel today.
No other political interest group that I know in the US regularly demands, through the profligate employment of interpersonal bullying, social and professional slander, and orchestrated campaigns of ostracism, that we accept their particular ideology as per se legitimate and lovable.
Indeed, if anyone else tried to put us in this position, most of us would, quite rightly, either tell them to go to hell or laugh them out of the room.
Isn’t it time we started taking back the right and—if you consider the enormity of Israel’s dependence on US funding and diplomatic cover—the responsibility to treat Zionism for what it is?
What is that?
A passing political current that like all passing political currents is absolutely fair game for revision, critique, and yes, even outright censure, a passing political ideology that is no more congruent with the entirety of the Jewish historical experience than socialism is to the experience of being Swedish, than Francoism to the experience of being Spanish, than the ideological exaltation of invading and bombing foreign countries is to the experience of being an American today.