rangreen at sn.apc.org
Thu May 14 16:32:43 BST 2009
Zionism, within Jewish political discourse, is a term for an ideology based on the notion that
the Jewish question (Jews historically having been a persecuted minority within European
society, though not today) has a national solution in the form of mass immigration into
Israel/Palestine.and the establishment of a 'national home' there. Within this overall
framework there are different positions, from Jewish exclusivity to bi-nationalism, in support
of the 1967 occupation and against it, in favour of ethnically cleansing Palestinians within
Israeli boundaries and in favour of granting them full equality.
It is true that the more exclusionary and racist tendencies within Zionism have had the upper
hand historically, and the more liberal and open tendencies have been marginalized. But they
still exist and there is no point in lumping all Zionists together, those who oppose equality and
those who campaign for it, those who call for annexation and those who call for withdrawal
from the 1967 occupied territories.
Herzl did not have a 'political system', but a vision of Jewish statehood in Palestine, which - in
some versions like his book Altneuland - included Arabs with full equality. Other versions
were more exclusionary. Racial superiority has nothing to do with Zionism - it is a nationalist
movement that regards its own constituency as having prior historical rights to the land: you
can challenge that of course, but it has nothing to do with race. In the same way that dispute
between India and Pakistan over Kashmir has nothing to do with race or superiority, or
dispute between Serbia and Kosovo, or between Turkey and Cyprus, and so on.
The oppressive practices you are referring to are the practices of the State of Israel, its
institutions and agents, not the practices of some amorphous entity of 'Zionism'. What is the
purpose of this distinction? It is to allow a group of a few hundreds of thousands of Israeli
Jews, who define themselves as Zionist but are opposed to the occupation and to various
other discriminatory practices of the Israeli state to join a common struggle with Palestinians
and non-Zionist Jews. By lumping them together with the Liebermans and Netanyahus we
make it more difficult for them to join struggle over concrete issues in which this can make a
difference. There are also issues on which you wouldn't be able to find a common cause with
them, but instead of engaging in 'all or nothing' politics (either you subscribe to the full anti-
Zionist agenda or you are an enemy of our just cause), it makes more sense to keep the
door open for tactical cooperation where it can be useful for advancing the cause of liberation
On 14 May 2009 at 17:01, Riaz K Tayob wrote:
> The term Zionist may be ambiguous on many fronts - but the
> preponderant signifier of the term is those who have a loyalty to
> either or both the political system of Herzl (and subsequents) and
> those that support Israel's brutal occupation of Palestinian
> territory. It is also clear to me on either racial superiority or a
> trumping claim on land belonging to others.
> Zionism is a political philosophy that find concrete expression in the
> political entity of the state of Israel and a range of individuals and
> civil society groups. Much like Apartheid South Africa did.
> You are right that it is difficult to state that money is Zionist or
> newspapers etc. However it is possible to say that AIPAC is an entity
> that espouses Zionism or that the BBC shows undue deference to both
> Israel and Zionism relative to oppressed Palestinians.
> Zionists in my limited experience are intent on oppressing
> Palestinians, stealing their land, brutalising them and maintaining
> international support for their movement. I agree that not all
> Israelis/Jews are Zionists, like not all whites were racist in South
> Africa. As much as you assert the view that not all Jews should be
> conflated with Israelis by others, this concern should be extended to
> the proponents of Zionism equally like the South African Jewish Board
> of Deputies and AIPAC that purports to speak for the Jewry and is
> vicious to any in its circle that thinks contrariwise on Zionism. The
> latter organisation's role in this conflation is stupendous.
> So while the distinctions you make are good for clarifying matters, I
> am not sure what the political objective is? If it is to ensure that
> there is no anti-Jew racism that is fine, because it tolerates
> critique of Israel and Zionism.
> I ask the following questions about the clarification you make,
> because for me the term Zionist clarifies matters for me in a way that
> avoids anti-Semitism (although the term has been abused so much by
> Zionists that the term has lost much precision! - see Waterman's point
> on precision regarding anti-Zionism which is more convincing).
> If it is a clarification to break the nexus of Zionism ( recognising
> that a large number of Zionists who are Jews, Christian and of many
> other ilks) and the Israeli political project, then I am not so sure -
> Zionism is a concrete political project embodied by many institutions
> most notably the State of Israel and its supporters. Despite changes
> in governments, the political objectives of the State have been by and
> large that of continuing oppression and occupation, consistent with
Johannesburg, South Africa
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