This is a very thoughtful essay, as always, by Robert Cohen. I think I might have approached it differently but his analysis is still spot on. It is unfortunate that the discussion above is less lucid.
Boris of course gives the standard response of Zionists which is
‘Actually, Israel is the best example of people re-establishing their nation state in their ancestral home.’ Err no it isn’t.
It is IRRELEVANT whether modern European Jews are descended from the ancient Hebrews. EVEN IF their DNA were to match then they would have no right to ‘return’ after more than 2000 years to reclaim their lands. There is no inherent ‘right of return’ anywhere in the world for those who have voluntarily migrated to other pastures.
And no, there is NO evidence that the expulsion of Jews 2000 years ago by the Romans took place. Most Jews had already left for the Hellenised cities of the Middle East. Those that remained largely converted to Christianity and then Islam, so it is the descendants of the ancient Hebrews who are now being driven off the land. Or in Primo Levi’s words, the Jews of Israel are the Palestinians.
What Robert Cohen fails to deal with in Deborah Lipstadt’s boring and unoriginal monologue is that the Jews are not a nation or a single people. That is itself a racial conception. They are members of virtually every nation and none. Yes it isn’t necessarily racist to deny other people the right to self-determination, though it is clear that in the case of the Tamils and Kurds they are indeed the victims of racism, but they are indeed a nation. Being Jewish is a religion not an ethnicity.
To construct an ethnicity about of being Jewish, as happens in Israel, CANNOT HELP BUT BE RACIST AND EXCLUSIVIST. Defining a nation, any nation, on the basis of religion is a recipe for racism and worse. You only need to look to Burma and the Rohinga people and those claiming it is a Budhist nation or the European fascist states b4 the war, Romania and Hungary, which declared they were Christian states.
The Kurds are not religiously homogenous There were always Kurdish Jews and the Yazidis.
What I always ask when someone says Zionism is a national liberation movement is when did this argument first take hold. Zionists such as Herzl, Ben Gurion, Jabotinsky etc. always described Zionism as a colonisatory project, which it was. It is only in an age where Black people in South Africa and elsewhere have forged national liberation movements that Zionism jumped on the bandwagon. It is however wholly dishonest. Israel and Zionism supported the Apartheid state. They were its best friends. They had and have nothing in common with the ANC.
Zionism was the consequence of and a reaction to anti-Semitism in Europe. However it was an utterly reactionary and racist reaction. I don’t know whether Robert Cohen is familiar with people like Max Nordau, Herzl’s Deputy or Arthur Ruppin, the Father of Land Settlement in Palestine, but it was their eugenic racism and that formed the ideological underpinning of both the Kibbutz movement and the settlement project.
Robert was in short too kind to Deborah Lipstadt, who owes her fame to the decision of David Irving to sue her or rather Penguin. She has contributed very little to our understanding of the Holocaust and has used her reputation to whitewash Zionism. In so far as the deliberately obscures the racist and apartheid nature of Israel and Zionism she is nothing but an apologist for the most visceral racism.