March 24, 2005

The wrong kind of Zionism?

This is one of those articles that is so bereft of meaning it makes you wonder why the Guardian printed it. This is by a Reform Rabbi, Tony Bayfield, headed We need a new kind of Zionism and sub-titled "it is treated as a dirty word and condemned by false analogy. But it is also an idea which has to be recast for the 21st century". Now read on....
Despite glimmers of hope [of a Palestinian surrender] and what looks to be the emergence of Ariel Sharon the statesman [eh?], Zionism still appears to be a dirty word. It gets classed with communism as a discredited ideology, or equated with appalling things such as racism and apartheid. [because it is analogous to racism and apartheid] To some, it might seem unthinkable that a progressive person should own up to being a Zionist. But I am.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of Jews, wherever they stand on the political spectrum, are Zionists. [that's absurd. Zionism is on the right of the political spectrum and where's the evidence for all these Jews supporting ethnic cleansing, colonial settlement and segregationist laws?]When attacked, we tend to respond by equating anti-Zionists with anti-semites. It may be unfair, but wells up out of anger and frustration at not being allowed to be ourselves, at the obtuse refusal to accept Judaism on its own terms. [Judaism? I thought he was talking about zionism]

"Traditional" Zionism owed much to 19th-century European life and thought. It was fuelled by persecution, by an enduring and increasingly violent refusal to allow Jews to be. It also reflected 19th-century nationalism [i.e. racism]. It was even marked by the fingerprints of colonialism.[it was Herzl who described his project as colonial when he approached the Brits] Modern day Australia is not alone in struggling with the consequences of seeing only terra nullius, the widespread perception of an uninhabited land waiting to be settled. But that isn't the whole story.[that isn't any of the story. The zionists knew that Palestine was inhabited]

Judaism is a religion with a geography as well as a history. The particular piece of land called Canaan, Israel, Judea and Palestine has always formed part of Judaism. You can't escape it in the Bible. You can't avoid it in Jewish prayer books. Judaism has always been both particularist and universalist, about both a people in a land and a people in diaspora. That's how Judaism is.[this is where it gets meaningless. Is it particularist or is it universalist? Universalist does not mean applying to people who turn up in lots of places, it means applying to all. But Bayfield is saying that the "particularism" means that Jews can ethnically cleanse Palestine and rule it (or most of it exclusively) whilst the "universalism" means that Jews can live as equals anywhere - that latter is of course fine but why the mealy-mouthed language of "particularism" and "universalism"?]

Today that theological, historical and cultural reality combines with a demographic reality. There are 1.8 billion Christians in the world, 1.2 billion Muslims and 14 million Jews. By 2020 more than half the Jews in the world will live in Israel.[and the relevance of these statistics?]

If the state of Israel were to cease to exist - were the Jews of Israel to be thrown into the sea or swallowed up as a minority in a bi-national entity [wow! did you see that? Consider the minority position of Jews in, say, the UK. Does it somehow compare to being thrown into the sea?] - Judaism would, I believe, also cease to exist, except perhaps for a tiny remnant of Jews.[so people stop believing in a certain religion, is that a problem? I have to say at this point, that this Bayfield guy doesn't seem to be terribly bright but this is a new angle. Zionists usually make out that Israel ceasing to exist would mean that Jews as an ethnic group would cease to exist. This guy, remember, has thrown Judaism into the equation; albeit a Judaism that worships geography over God.]

My point is this: religions are not all the same. The textbooks which make them look the same by describing each at equal length, under neat chapter headings, grossly distort. Consider this thought: perhaps the Jewish attachment to land is as important to Jewish self-understanding as the need to share and spread the "good news" is central to Christianity.[so people of good will should allow Jews who believe this tosh to carry out an ethnic cleansing campaign and maintain an apartheid state]

So does that mean that any faith has to be accepted uncritically on its own terms? Not at all. We need a contract by which the faiths can live together in a shared world. If one side of the contract is the right of a faith to acceptance on its own terms, the other side is the obligation of faiths to recognise that they exist within history, have been shaped by history and must respond to new situations that history brings about.

So Zionism, in the form in which it was expressed in the 19th and 20th centuries, needs a different expression in the 21st century.

Contemporary Zionism must assert as strongly as ever the right of the Jewish people to live in freedom and security [and exclusivity] on a substantial part of the land which has always been its home. I say "substantial part" because it should go without saying that Zionism must recognise the right of the Palestinians to their secure and viable state as well. But contemporary Zionism must respond by enshrining three values at its heart.[now here come some interesting admissions]

It must embrace a commitment to peace [I thought they claimed to always be seeking peace]- to building a just and enduring peace with the Palestinians. Revealing its 19th-century origins, traditional Zionism mobilised Jews to go to Palestine on the basis of a "settlement" ethos and on the assumption that either the Arabs there did not really exist or that the relationship with the Arabs who inhabited the land would sort itself out.[the knowledge of the existence of a significant settled Arab population in Palestine was well known to the zionist leaders as was the desire to remove them]

The world has moved on dramatically and the first goal of modern Zionism must be to make peace. I would justify that in terms of theology - peace as the highest value, and in terms of ethics - peace is not possible without justice and justice is the supreme ethical value. Others would be more pragmatic and say that without peace with the Palestinians, the Zionist dream will turn into a nightmare, if it hasn't already. Whatever the justification, the commitment to peace must drive us relentlessly.[yada, yada, yada]

The second value of contemporary Zionism must be democracy. Here, there are extremists on both sides. There are those who say that democracy is a Greek idea giving supremacy to vox populi, whereas Judaism is the authentic voice of God, vox dei. At the other extreme are those who argue that democracy requires the abolition of the Jewishness of the state and allowing other religious traditions, and none, to have equal say in the cultural and spiritual direction of the country. In fact, Israel can only exist, morally and physically, through an accommodation between those two views, which must not be at the expense of the rights of Muslims and Christians.[so bye bye zionism - campaigning for equality in Israeli elections is currently illegal as this would undermine the "Jewishness" of the state]

The third Zionist value must be an unswerving commitment to social justice. Every authentic Jewish source demands this and the reality, certainly of diaspora Jewish life, is a marked, widespread Jewish commitment to social justice in the societies in which Jews live. It would be scandalous if we were not as committed to the same values within the Jewish state. [but it clearly isn't. In the diaspora Jews have fought for civil rights for blacks in America and South Africa but there has never been a significant anti-war or anti-apartheid movement in Israel. Many of the Jews involved in desegregation in America and anti-apartheid in South Africa have been zionists. Is this a way of ingratiating zionism with non-Jewish liberals? Israel Shahak certainly thought so ] Contemporary Zionism must have, as its third core commitment, the renewal of the vitality of human and social goals in Israel, such as the vindication of rights and the eradication of poverty. [of course, one way to eradicate poverty in what zionists like to call "Israel", is to take the most impoverished parts, stop calling them "Israel" and start calling them "occupied territories", or "Palestine, or "Gaza"]As a Reform Jew I am enormously proud of the courageous work of the Israel Religious Action Centre, part of the Movement for Progressive Judaism in Israel, which has done so much to advance this agenda in the teeth of extremist opposition.

Yes, I am a Zionist and I am heartily sick of condemnation by false analogy and, even more, of not being allowed to be me [a supporter of racist war criminals] and of Judaism not being allowed to be Judaism. But Zionism must move on, learning from history and responding to the demands of present and future. [so, time for yet another PR drive for the racist war criminals of the state of Israel].

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