What contribution to critical awareness does this piece make? None directly, that I can tell. It does remind us of US Jewish narcissism, the author's, and the Mondo editors', their apparent determination to shove their superiority in their readers' collective face. Notwithstanding the disclaimer about "ostensible Jewish parody on unexamined privilege, benevolent Orientalism, and Jewish-American megalomania."
There are literate, critical analyses of the "Ramallah bubble", far over the heads of S Austerlitz and the Mondo editors.
"Ramallah bubble pierced by Israeli bullets"
"Austerlitz" is a town in Czechoslovakia, the site of Napoleon's most brilliant military victory, against superior Russian and Austrian forces, for which the Gare d'Austerlitz in Paris is named. Not exactly a signifier of unexamined privilege.
What would we make of a liberal German visiting a Wehrmacht museum about the conquest of Poland, and wallowing in her impressions? It is inconceivable to me how the Mondo editors commissioned this (from some pitch) and then accepted it. Or all too conceivable, because Palestine solidarity in the US is a Jewish salon, about being Jewish above all else, or it has no political or social traction at all.
Her impressions are inaccurate, as in this dubious passage, one of many
The Lehi were a lot more underground and intense than the Hagana. Also they came chronologically later. They were basically gangsters (terrorists, freedom fighters etc) blowing up stuff, massacring Palestinians at the village of Deir Yassin, wartime sabotage.
Deir Yassin was committed by the Irgun and Stern Gang in consulation with the Haganah, who gave them permission despite their friendly relations with the village, declined to warn the village, and provided the terrorists with weapons. Moreover, the terrorists were so incompetent that the handful of men defending the village with old Turkish rifles used for rabbit hunting prevented them from entering and inflicted casualties.
At that point the attackers sent to the Haganah for help, and they sent a platoon that occupied the village with no casualties. The platoon then withdrew, and the enraged terrorists then took their vengeance on the village. See Michael Palumbo, "The Palestinian Catastrophe", chapter on Deir Yassin.
If the author ever gets her facts straight she might feel ashamed instead of titillated by Israeli military museums, and Israel itself, to the point of not living there, to the point of rejecting the claim of "Jewishness" that her background makes on her, for the claim of humanity.
Perhaps "anti-Palestinian racism" expresses, most fundamentally, the anti-gentilism of Zionism, which in turn, in the view of Israel Shahak and others, secularizes the anti-gentilism of traditional Judaism. Perhaps we simply need to deal with Jewish racism, Zionism. From the outset it proclaimed the racialist fiction of "the Jewish people", against liberalism and integration with the modern world. The fundamental opposition of Zionism is not Jew vs indigene in Palestine, but Jew vs gentile everywhere.
The Jewish establishment's horror of "assimilation" is Zionism. So is "progressive Jewish" politics, in its adamant opposition to the Israel Lobby critique, and accusation of anti-Semitism against proponents; its equivocation over "anti-occupation" BDS; and its refusal to acknowledge that Zionism is a form of racism, as Rabbi Elmer Berger stated in his writings, and in the UNGA resolution 3379 that he helped draft.
We need to restore the canonical terms of the modern world, in which people of Jewish background are a religious minority, or secular citizens, period. There is no distinction between "Jew" and "Zionist", in secular terms. Zionism proclaimed the "secular Jew", which is nonsense, as Shlomo Sand argued, the same as racialist anti-Semitism. Zionism, from genocidal Israel, to the supremacism of the US Jewish establishment, to the equivocal, voelkisch idealism of "progressive Jews", is a reaction against the modern world, a return to the ghetto, as Shahak and Berger argued.
Recovering liberal foundations, and opposing the world-wide scourge of Jewish racism in those terms, as an urgent matter for all, is how you "play offense"
This case has the potential to get people to start to realize the sheer ugliness of how false charges of antisemitism are used to support a racist cause. But that’s not going to happen if people only play defense.
I greatly admire and respect Stephen Salaita's sacrifices and steadfastness for Palestine, but I think there is too much here, at least to start. The first step must be to recover the canonical terms of Enlightenment liberalism and Jewish emancipation which followed. These have been abandoned for the golden calf of "the Jewish people," on the left no less than the right.
The Enlightenment dissolved the pre-modern Judaic community, ruled by the rabbis and the rich, and admitted Jews to liberal society, as a religious minority, or secular citizens. Before 1914 and the political consequences of WW1, increasing acceptance of Jews on these terms was the norm. Fundamental was the rejection of "Jewish peoplehood", in the words of the 1885 Pittsburgh Platform of American Reform:
"We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state."
Reform was socially the vehicle of the German Jewish bourgeoisie, and attained its apotheosis in the US. In the 1940s this outlook, led by Rabbi Elmer Berger, Lessing Rosenwald and others, mounted a vigorous rear-guard action against the Zionist campaign for statehood. After 1948 Berger became an outspoken advocate of Palestinian rights, lionized in the Arab world. After the June, 1967 war, Berger, with a core of classical Reform supporters, renewed the struggle. He co-authored UN GA Resolution 3379 that held Zionism was a form of racism, and wrote on it himself. The Institute for Palestine Studies published his books.
Berger, like Israel Shahak, viewed Zionism as a reaction against liberalism and assimilation, an attempt to preserve the closed, medieval Jewish world and its obscurantism view, notably its anti-gentilism. Shahak was not a Marxist, much less a Reform Jew, but considered himself a secular humanist after Spinoza, the greatest of the 17th c rationalist philosophers. He wrote acutely on Zionism as a secularization of the obscurantism of medieval Judaism. Neither Berger nor Shahak were social radicals, though they were liberals, and Shahak's circle of supporters included Matzpen, which was Marxist.
Spinoza and classical Reform predated Marxist internationalism, which is also an important strain of anti-Zionist thought. The opposition of Zionism and internationalism emerged in the classical debates over the "national question" in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903. Rosa Luxemburg was the most rigorous internationalist, and the greatest figure of socialism's Second International period, who famously wrote, in a 1917 letter from the jail where her opposition to WW1 had landed her:
What do you want with this theme of the “special suffering of the Jews”? I am just as much concerned with the poor victims on the rubber plantations of Putumayo, the Blacks in Africa with whose corpses the Europeans play catch. You know the words that were written about the great work of the General Staff, about General Trotha’s campaign in the Kalahari desert: “And the death rattles of the dying, the demented cries of those driven mad by thirst faded away in the sublime stillness of eternity.” Oh that “sublime stillness of eternity,” in which so many cries of anguish have faded away unheard, they resound within me so strongly that I have no special place in my heart for the ghetto. I feel at home in the entire world, wherever there are clouds and birds and human tears.
Internationalism survived WW2 and its epochal tranformations in figures like the Polish Communist Isaac Deutscher, and the French Communist Maxime Rodinson. Deutscher left Poland for England in spring 1939, survived the war, visited Israel in the early 1950s, and wrote with perfect clarity about its militarism, colonialism and nationalism. He died in August, 1967, having lived to see Zionism enter its maturity, and viewed the war as arising from Israel's conduct.
Rodinson, a scholar of Middle East languages, survived the war in Syria. Afterward he was attached to the French embassy in Beirut; when word arrived that his parents had perished in Auschwitz, he was offered an embassy car to join "his people" in Palestine. He refused as it would violate his internationalism. In 1964 he took the negative in a debate organized by the Union of Jewish Students in France, on the proposition, "Israel is a socialist state". On the eve of the June, 1967 war, he published "Israel, a Colonial-Settler State", which appeared in a special issue of Sartre's Les Tempes Modernes. His "Israel and the Arabs" appeared in 2 editions, and included a sharp criticism of Israel's role in the origins of the June 1967 war. He passed away in 2004.
Before anti-Zionism can be anything else, it must recover its foundations in the Enlightenment and Jewish emancipation, which have been abandoned by the left, from Chomsky on down. Chomsky is a Zionist, believes in Zionist shibboleths of "the Jewish people" and the "secular Jew", views the kibbutz, an instrument of racialist Ashkenazi Jewish settlement, as anarchism.
These illiberal, anti-modern fallacies underlie his minimal critique of "the occupation", his rejection of the "Israel Lobby" argument about the US-Israel relationship, his opposition to BDS beyond "the occupation", his dogged defense of the "two-state solution" etc. The whole Jewish left is comprised of such Zionist foundations and equivocal, compromised politics, notably Jewish Voice for Peace. This epic failure can be called "the end of modern Jewish history", my term and others', with varying interpretations. See
From the interview with Shapiro linked above:
First, let’s start with what a Jew is not. A Jew is not a nationality or a race or an ethnicity or a culture. We have Jews of all races, nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures. Around the corner from me lives a Yemenite Jew, a nice fellow named Yichye. Our parents didn’t speak the same language, live the same culture, eat the same food, or share the same experiences. The only thing we have in common is our religion. For centuries, our families have had almost no shared historical experiences – his family in Yemen, and mine in Poland. Jewishness is a concept defined by the Jewish religion. Whoever the Jewish religion defines as Jewish is Jewish, since Jewishness is a concept created by – and defined by – the Jewish religion.
Etc. The book is written for yeshiva students, which is why it is larded with Hebrew phrases. The strictly religious "Jewish people" definition is quite obvious to them, which is why Shapiro uses the term freely. In the interview he is more emphatic.
Shenfield is trivializing the difference between Zionism's use of "people" and the religious definition, which refers to a pre-modern religious community, ruled by religious law and by its rabbis, under authority granted by a temporal power. In the modern age, the traditional community was dissolved, its control of Jewish life ended, and Jews admitted to liberal citizenship with gentiles; religion became voluntary, and secularism became the default. The 'Jewish people' ended.
The religious precedent doesn't make Zionism more natural as Shenfield claims, it merely shows how artificial and reactionary it is. Zionism was atheist and despised traditional Judaism because of the religious injunction you cite. Zionism was equally illiberal, rejected the liberal society Jews worldwide were eagerly joining and made common cause with anti-Semites against it.
Zionism, whose basic conceit is "the Jewish people", is intellectual nonsense as Shlomo Sand and others have shown. "The Invention of the Jewish People", "The Invention of the Land of Israel", "How I Stopped Being a Jew".
Elmer Berger and Israel Shahak viewed Zionism and its claims of "peoplehood" as a reaction against the Enlightenment, a longing for a return to the ghetto. Berger called Zionism a form of racism. Shahak saw it as a modern form of medieval Jewish anti-gentilism. Noel Ignatiev called it "Jewish race doctrine."
Jewish privilege on the left is part of it, pure and simple. It colonizes dissent and critique and makes gentiles--people who exceed its limits, like the Israel Lobby critics--inferior.