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.