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Liberal Zionism is ‘impracticable and irrelevant’ — Daniel Solomon throws in the towel

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on 30 Comments

972 has published an important piece on the failure of liberal Zionism to do anything to change the nature of Israel and the resulting necessity: Liberal Zionists should become non-Zionists.

Daniel Solomon, a writer living in France, admires liberal Zionism for its historical idealism, but says we must respect realities, and liberalism is going extinct in Israeli Jewish politics:

[P]olitical labels must eventually correspond to political realities. Just as there are no more American Federalists, French Radicals, or English Whigs, changes in Israeli society are rendering the Liberal Zionist program impracticable and irrelevant. The available evidence suggests that Liberal Zionism is destined for the same fate as those bygone parties.

Impracticable and irrelevant. Nearly ten years ago Peter Beinart wrote that Zionism was asking liberal Jews to check their liberalism at the door; and today that demand continues. So Solomon, a former Forward staffer, says it’s time for liberals to choose first principles over a tribal adherence:

When support for a state means endorsing its repeated and unrepentant human rights violations, liberals will drop their support for that state. And rightly so, for in a modern political order, the state’s legitimacy is based on its respect for fundamental liberties, not some imagined scriptural right to land.

…the doorstep can no longer be avoided — this is a time for choosing.

As a recovering Liberal Zionist, I have found non-Zionism to be the most congenial self-descriptor.

Solomon is not an anti-Zionist because he doesn’t accuse Zionism of the sins that anti-Zionists do. Zionism could have redeemed itself in recent decades, he says. But it did not, it chose far right Jewish nationalism.

Non-Zionists refuse to delude themselves otherwise and [therefore] champion a human rights-first perspective free of ethnic or partisan allegiance… Liberal Zionism is an anachronism. But non-Zionism preserves its best elements: the refusal to privilege ethnic concerns over universal ones, a commitment to nuance, and moral imagination in the face of occupation’s immorality.

Solomon characterizes the piece as a cri-de-couer. His moral service here is in stating clearly that “this is a time for choosing.” HE puts pressure on other prominent liberal Zionists to define themselves in non-Zionist ways. It puts pressure on New Israel Fund and Ameinu to finally endorse equal rights because things have only gotten worse under their model for Zionist change. The middle ground is shrinking. The piece puts pressure on J Street to endorse legislation sponsored by some of its own endorsees: the bill that would cut off aid to Israel so long as it detains Palestinian children.

Imho, progressives should embrace former liberal Zionists and not seek to righteously shame them about their past. The only way for this conflict to be resolved nonviolently is for the South African epiphany to take place for many, many Zionists, and for them to abdicate Jewish nationalism in the name of human rights. (That’s how I got in, not thru the Radical door but the Liberal/realist door).

And for those who wish to accuse me of Jewish handwringing, please do. It must be acknowledged that, Virtually every Palestinian who stands up for human rights is doing just what their parents and grandparents and community wants them to do. Jews who do so are generally going against their ancestors. While I’ve always tended to dismiss these pressures because I enjoyed the freedom of growing up in an eccentric family that did not inoculate me with Zionism; by and large people are deeply social in their attitudes (as John Mearsheimer reminds us in his new book, The Great Delusion), and those social aggregates are very often tribal/ethnic/religious. Liberating Jews from Zionism is an urgent Jewish task.

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  1. hophmi
    hophmi
    December 4, 2018, 6:21 pm

    “Virtually every Palestinian who stands up for human rights is doing just what their parents and grandparents and community wants them to do. Jews who do so are generally going against their ancestors. ”

    Really? Most Palestinians stand for LGBTQ rights and women’s rights as human rights and most Jews are against human rights? You’re a joke, Phil.

    • eljay
      eljay
      December 4, 2018, 8:02 pm

      || hophmi: … most Jews are against human rights? … ||

      According to Jewish supremacists (Zionists) just like you, most of the people in the world who have chosen to be Jewish are also hypocritically against equality and human rights when it comes to Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine.

      || … You’re a joke, Phil. ||

      You’re a hateful and immoral hypocrite, hophmi.

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso
      December 5, 2018, 10:16 am

      @hophmi

      Come out of your hasbara induced trance. It’s now over 70 years and the entity known as “Israel” is still utterly dependent on the U.S. financially** and geopolitically. In short, 70 years of trying to “pound a square peg into a round hole.” Meanwhile, Jewish immigration is plummeting, emigration is soaring and Jewish youth worldwide are increasingly abandoning Zionism and “Israel,” which is now commonly and correctly described as “racist” and “fascistic.”

      Along with many other eminent Jews during the early 20th century, Henry Morgenthau Sr., renowned Jewish American and former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, accurately described Zionism in 1919: “Zionism is the most stupendous fallacy in Jewish history….The very fervour of my feeling for the oppressed of every race and every land, especially for the Jews, those of my own blood and faith, to whom I am bound by every tender tie, impels me to fight with all the greater force against this scheme, which my intelligence tells me can only lead them deeper into the mire of the past, while it professes to be leading them to the heights. Zionism is… a retrogression into the blackest error, and not progress toward the light.” (Quoted by Frank Epp, Whose Land is Palestine?, p. 261)

      BTW, if you live in “Israel” and are reasonably young, I recommend you learn Arabic. You’re gonna’ need it and so will your descendants.

      ** “Congressional Research Service, U.S. Foreign aid to Israel, Jeremy M. Sharpe, Specialist in Middle East Affairs, April 10, 2018.”
      “’Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $134.7 billion (current, or non inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although in the past Israel also received significant economic assistance. At a signing ceremony at the State Department on September 14, 2016, representatives of the U.S. and Israeli governments signed a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on military aid covering FY2019 to FY2028. Under the terms of the MOU, the United States pledges to provide $38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations) to Israel. This MOU replaces a previous $30 billion 10-year agreement, which runs through FY2018.’”

    • marc b.
      marc b.
      December 5, 2018, 10:54 am

      not to worry, hophmi, the haredi will take care of those PR fig leaves in due time.

      this feels like another, ‘mind your business and let us jews figure this out’, post. i’m pretty certain that the ancestral argument could not be applied to anti-semites, for example, with a straight face.

  2. JWalters
    JWalters
    December 5, 2018, 5:00 am

    Solomon’s childhood indoctrination was finally overwhelmed by the evidence. All the emotional ropes gave way to the overwhelming tide of facts. Solomon’s movement is a heavy rock in a developing avalanche.

    The Jewish community needs to free itself from its cult leaders, as Israeli-born, Jewish therapist Avigail Abarbanel has explained in:

    “Why I left the cult”
    https://mondoweiss.net/2016/10/why-i-left-the-cult
    “It’s time for American Jews to recognize they have been duped”
    http://mondoweiss.net/2015/07/american-recognize-duped
    “The Israeli police state” https://electronicintifada.net/content/israeli-police-state/7049

  3. JaapBo
    JaapBo
    December 5, 2018, 5:05 am

    What bothers me about this analysis is that Solomon writes “Liberal Zionism is an anachronism. But non-Zionism preserves its best elements: the refusal to privilege ethnic concerns over universal ones”. This is simply not true.

    Liberal Zionists did have an ideal to reject ethnic privilege/racism, but it was incompatible with their desire to make Palestine Jewish. To realise their goal, they had to ethnically cleanse Palestinians in 1948. Liberal Zionists were in practice always racists, while in their fantasy, they rejected racism.

    And nowadays liberal Zionists want the two-state solution, not as a real solution ending racism, but as an instrument to preserve the “achievements” of pre-1967 Israel, i.e. they reject the Palestinian right of return, and they want to preserve Israels racist laws like the Law of Return and other laws privileging Jews.

    I agree with Philip that progressives should embrace former liberal Zionists.

    But I don’t agree with Solomon who writes: “The distance between non-Zionism and Liberal Zionism might seem small indeed”. If you reject Zionist racism instead of embracing it, how can the distance be small? Or is Solomon a non-Zionist who wants to preserve the “achievements” of pre-1967 Israel, a crypto-Zionist?

    • eljay
      eljay
      December 5, 2018, 10:06 am

      || JaapBo: What bothers me about this analysis is that Solomon writes “Liberal Zionism is an anachronism. But non-Zionism preserves its best elements: the refusal to privilege ethnic concerns over universal ones”. This is simply not true. … ||

      I agree. Zionism has always been about Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine. There are no “best elements” to preserve.

    • echinococcus
      echinococcus
      December 5, 2018, 11:19 am

      I agree with Philip that progressives should embrace former liberal Zionists

      First, there is no monopoly on opposition to colonialism, invasion and genocide. Any and all decent humans agree. The particular persuasion of “progressives” that you favor is not the only one to support resistance to Zionism.

      Also, there is no need to “embrace former liberal Zionists”; most possibly these former liberals will have turned Likud or somesuch. Those that abandoned Zionism, though, may well be “non”-Zionists who even participate in limited boycotts, trying to ensure a foothold for the invaders.

    • echinococcus
      echinococcus
      December 9, 2018, 12:35 pm

      Jaap,
      /*
      “I think Israeli Jews have a right to stay” Well, if that means Palestinians of the Jewish persuasion who were legitimate inhabitants of Palestine prior to 1897 (when Zionists declared their hostile intent), then yes, there is such a right, and it should be transmissible.
      /
      If such a “right” includes any of the Zionist invaders (and offspring thereof) after their declaration of hostile intent to invade and subvert the sovereignty, then you think in complete contradiction with all civilized rules and with all international law. That would be thinking like, say, the Nazis about the settling of German in invaded countries, the Turkish occupiers of Cyprus, or like, yes, the Zionist invaders.
      /
      There is no such right. If and when the Palestinian people, including the entire Palestinian diaspora, decide by free collective deliberation, not under occupation or duress, to extend a gracious invitation to some of the invader offspring, they may then be able to stay legally –but not by virtue of any rights.
      //* slashes are there because the system seems to ignore all carriage returns, paragraphs, blockquotes, etc.

      • JaapBo
        JaapBo
        December 9, 2018, 3:58 pm

        @echinococcus
        International Law is clear: all citizens of Israel have a right to stay.
        Its inhumane to demand of Jews who have nowhere to go to leave. Also many Israeli Jews are there just because they were born there; they are unfortunate to be born into a racist society, but you can’t blame them for that. Furthermore, many Jews from Arab countries are victims of circumstances, like a hostile Arb home country, and Israel pressuring them. It’s simply imhumane to kick these Jews out of Israel and put them in a situation similar to that of Palestinian refugees now.

      • annie
        annie
        December 9, 2018, 4:51 pm

        jaapbo, ech doesn’t back down. might as well discourse w/brick wall. meanwhile, if equal rights were imposed w/reparations, at least 1/2 the israeli jews would probably leave.

  4. Elizabeth Block
    Elizabeth Block
    December 5, 2018, 10:40 am

    A Zionist is someone who supports Israel as a Jewish state.
    Correct?
    If so, then Zionism and liberalism – support for full, equal civil and human rights for everyone – are incompatible.
    Israel can be – or rather, could have been – Jewish or democratic. Not both. The choice was made long ago.
    The early Zionists had a chance to found an inclusive state, to live together with the people already inhabiting Palestine. They weren’t interested. Hell, they weren’t interested in living together, on equal terms, with the local Jews, never mind Muslim and Christian Arabs. And it’s just gotten worse. Non-Jews live at the mercy of the Jews.

    My gentile friends, when they learn that I’m not a Zionist, ask how Jews, of all people, can treat other people they way they were treated.

    • JaapBo
      JaapBo
      December 5, 2018, 11:21 am

      “Jewish state” is Zio-speak for a Zionist State, i.e. a Jewish and racist state.
      There is nothing wrong with a truely democratic “Jewish state”, i.e. with a Jewish majority, but without racism and Jewish privileges, and with laws against racism.

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus
        December 7, 2018, 1:09 pm

        There is nothing wrong with a truely [sic] democratic “Jewish state”, i.e. with a Jewish majority, but without racism and Jewish privileges, and with laws against racism.

        Nothing wrong except that it secures and whitewashes the crime against humanity of colonial invasion and occupation. No wrong there. Laws against racism are not a return of Palestinian land or Palestinian sovereignty over Palestinian territory. You guys are the last line of defense of Zionist invasion and genocide.

      • JaapBo
        JaapBo
        December 8, 2018, 5:07 am

        @Echinococcus:
        Do you realize what equality in the “Jewish state” means for Palestinian refugees of the Nakba? It means the “Law of Return” should not be racist and is valid for them too and they can return (even if there were no “law of return”, they have this right).
        In the modern world sovereignty does not rest with a “people” (Jewish or Palestinian), but with the inhabitants of a state’s territory. In many states like France or Germany the “people” coincides with the “inhabitants of the territory”, but the principle is that sovereignty rests with the permanent residents of a territory (and that these residents have equal rights). So I don’t see your concern with “Palestinian sovereignty”. Full equality and democracy are required but not “Palestinian sovereignty”.

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus
        December 8, 2018, 11:41 am

        Jaap,

        Do you realize what equality in the “Jewish state” means for Palestinian refugees of the Nakba?
        It means the “Law of Return” should not be racist and is valid for them too and they can return (even if there were no “law of return”, they have this right).

        Sure I realize that; can’t you even see the elephant-sized bug in your words?

        The “Law of Return” is racist by nature. Palestinians don’t have to “return”, it’s their whole land that must be returned to them by rights (plus reparations for every single wrong committed by the colonial invaders.) Also, there can be no “Law of Return” and there can be no “return” for invaders who have no right to be there in the first place, and they are not returning, they are invading and should be treated as invaders deserve.”

        In the modern world sovereignty does not rest with a “people” (Jewish or Palestinian), but with the inhabitants of a state’s territory

        You don’t even read what you write: sovereignty over a territory belongs to legitimate inhabitants of an (it doesn’t have to be a state, anyway, it says territory); it cannot be given to hostile invaders from somewhere else. Legitimate immigrants submit to the current laws, customs and other collective requirements of the territory; they do not invade by the force of arms (theirs or others’ — after having publicly declared their hostile intent, as the Zionists did, black on white.) Also, by definition the right to residency does not get inherited by the offspring of invaders, except it they receive right of sojourn from the collective of legitimate inhabitants.

        What you “equal rights” people are doing is just helping instil the idea that the Zionist ivaders’ presence is somehow legitimate, provided you camouflage the invasion with weasel words, so that they can continue occupying Palestine with a new and improved bullshit pretext.

        There are no “equal rights” between colonizers and colonized. The colonizers only have the right to submit to the locals or get the hell out, and pay reparations in any case.

      • mondonut
        mondonut
        December 8, 2018, 2:17 pm

        @echinococcus, The “Law of Return” is racist by nature.

        Israel’s immigration policy is racist? Which races are you referring to? Are the Jewish people a race? Do the Palestinians constitute a race unto themselves?

      • eljay
        eljay
        December 8, 2018, 2:53 pm

        || mondonut: @echinococcus, The “Law of Return” is racist by nature.

        Israel’s immigration policy is racist? … ||

        IMO a better term – a term that applies also to the “Jewish State” construct – is ‘supremacist’.

      • mondonut
        mondonut
        December 8, 2018, 5:54 pm

        @eljay, IMO a better term – a term that applies also to the “Jewish State” construct – is ‘supremacist’.

        No kidding. Isn’t that what you say in 99% of your comments?

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        December 8, 2018, 6:55 pm

        ” Are the Jewish people a race? ”

        Ask Boris.

      • eljay
        eljay
        December 8, 2018, 9:18 pm

        || mon donut: @eljay, IMO a better term – a term that applies also to the “Jewish State” construct – is ‘supremacist’.

        No kidding. Isn’t that what you say in 99% of your comments? ||

        It is, donut, it is. But for some reason 100% of you Zionists still can’t get it through your thick skulls.

      • JaapBo
        JaapBo
        December 9, 2018, 6:11 am

        @echinococcus
        So you think that Israeli Jews who immigrated (or descend of immigrants from) after 1948 or after 1918 have to leave Israel, and can only stay if Palestinians allow them?

        I think Israeli Jews have a right to stay.

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus
        December 9, 2018, 12:38 pm

        The Nut doesn’t even know that the Zionists and other “Jewish” nationalists assign Jewishness by birth.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        December 9, 2018, 12:42 pm

        “I think Israeli Jews have a right to stay.”

        I don’t think you need to worry about it. Why don’t you give us an estimate of how many Israeli Jews will want to stay and live in equality with Palestinians, and face an accounting and possibly reparations?
        Me, I’m afraid the GOI will make it impossible or as hard as possible for Jews to leave when they want to. That must not happen.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        December 9, 2018, 1:32 pm

        ” with a Jewish majority,”

        Which will be ensured into the future by ‘Jewymandering’?

  5. echinococcus
    echinococcus
    December 5, 2018, 11:18 am

    Zionism could have redeemed itself in recent decades, he says. But it did not, it chose far right Jewish nationalism.

    Translation from Zionese or Modern Hebrew or whatever he is using:
    Zionism could have gone on with a good conscience if it had continued to profess itself liberal while practicing genocide and “left Jewish nationalism”, and the author would have had no problem with it –we would have missed this article and a lot of similar ones that flood “Mondoweiss”.

  6. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    December 5, 2018, 5:01 pm

    Liberal Zionism is in the opposition and has been since 77. Part of the problem with the Rabin peace initiative was that the majority of jewish israelis opposed it and the election of someone from the labor party was a bit of a fluke.

    in recent years the fluke has been resolved and the last fluke was olmert who was not willing to go all the way into the end zone. (him and livni seemed to think time was on israel’s side or something and they were in no hurry to reach a peace.)

    As such it is quite valid to look to the future and draw conclusions that one needs to rechristen oneself a nonzionist. but as you can see from the reaction of the antizionists it obviously doesn’t put you inside their game, but obviously one shouldn’t behave for the approval of the venomous voices (indeed there are some nonvenomous anti israel voices). in fact there is no real reason to hope that change will come internally, rather the opposite: logically historically the probability of the change in israel’s behavior will come from the outside and specifically from a change in america and specifically from a change in the democratic party. and maybe the changeover from liberal zionist to nonzionist can tip the balance of the democratic party. so maybe it does make a difference to change one’s name from egalitarian zionist to nonzionist. peter beinart who tells of an israeli flag flying on his son’s wall would obviously not find it quite as easy to take zionist out of his name.

    but I am childless, so i can clip off zionist easier than that.

    But not quite ready yet. for when the day comes that the democratic party forces israel to face the music, there will be bridges that will need to be built to accomplish the changeover, and at that time it may be that the word zionist in one’s name might be useful.

    but til that day, trying as we are (i am reluctant, but cannot argue with the impulse) to get america to pressure israel under the next democratic president, it seems that the zionist label is a burden rather than a help.

    • amigo
      amigo
      December 5, 2018, 7:02 pm

      ” but I am childless, so i can clip off zionist easier than that.” WJ aka Yonah Fredman.

      Not around here , you can,t.

  7. RobertHenryEller
    RobertHenryEller
    December 6, 2018, 2:29 pm

    No. The problem is not Liberal Zionism.

    The real choice for all Jews is between Judaism and Zionism.

    Zionism has NOTHING to do with Judaism.

    • Keith
      Keith
      December 6, 2018, 6:28 pm

      ROBERTHENRYELLER- “Zionism has NOTHING to do with Judaism.”

      How to explain all of those Israeli flags in American synagogues? The position of the Chief Rabbi in the Jewish state of Israel? You are in deep denial, Robert Henry.

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