January 24, 2006

Wherefore is zionism different from all the other nationalisms?

Cop this Ha'aretz article from David Hirsh and Jon Pike of Engage - the zionist anti-boycott group. It has David Hirsh indulging his hobby horse that Israel - with its grounding in colonial settlement and ethnic cleansing backed by racist laws - is the same as any other other state and that zionism is Israeli (not Jewish now), Israeli nationalism. See this:
The boycott policy was advocated by people who argue that Israel is the only "illegitimate" state in the world; that Israeli nationalism is essentially different from other nationalism; that Zionism is a form of racism, apartheid or Nazism; that Israel plays a pivotal role in global imperialism; that the Zionist lobby has huge, covert and illegitimate influence; that Israel is guilty of genocide.
What I find so bewildering about this paragraph is that it's just so bland. Look at it. "The boycott policy was advocated by people who argue that Israel is the only "illegitimate" state in the world Now here you might expect something to refute what David and Jon are trying to tell us is wrong and yet there is nothing. What could there be? Israel is certainly an illegitimate state. Are there others? I don't think there are any that compare to Israel. I mean I find Saudi offensive being named after its ruling family but illegitimate? Could it honour the human rights of all the people who come from there and still be Saudi? Well I guess it could. I hope it couldn't but I guess it could. But the fact here is that Israel is an illegitimate state and possibly uniquely so. David Hirsh and John Pike cannot simply issue a declaration that it ain't so; they have to make their case. Well they should if they had any sense of intellectual principle but sadly they don't have to in order to be academics in UK colleges.

Ok, how about "that Israeli nationalism is essentially different from other nationalism." Now here, if you weren't used to their method you might expect a bit of compare and contrast. You also might wonder where they got this "Israeli nationalism" expression from given that zionism has many definitions but they are always bound up with some kind of Jewish nationalism. Actually if Israel's official ideology is truly "Israeli nationalism" then it is unique because Israel doesn't recognise Israeli as a nationality. Citizens of Israel may not call themselves Israeli on their pass cards. They have to say whether they are Jewish or not. They can say almost anything else but not Israeli. Some nationalism! I think most definitions of zionism would have to point to the idea of some kind of Jewish, not Israeli, nationalism. This means that zionism excludes many Israelis from its nationalism. Other nationalisms that exclude large percentages of a country's population on ethnic or religious grounds are called racist or sectarian. Also, most nationalists have some kind of belief in the country that they are from but zionism encourages Jews to believe in a country that we are mostly not from. It also discourages (in various ways) people who do come from that country from believing in it. It is this discrimination that leads people to argue that zionism is a form of racism. "that Zionism is a form of racism, apartheid or Nazism" Again Hirsh and Pike cannot just insist that it isn't so. They have to make a case but the two academics don't seem to see a need for that; not in practical or in moral intellectual terms. They probably think that slipping nazism in would make people sqeamish of arguing with them but very few people say that zionism is nazism. Obviously they are in the same family of ideas but they are not the same.....yet. Regarding apartheid, this is another devious maneouvre. Israel has laws for apartness (in Afrikaans: apartheid) but South Africa sought to exploit the natives, Israel seeks to eliminate them. I think I'll just stick with racist. But again, where is there argument?

Moving on then, "that Israel plays a pivotal role in global imperialism"Pivotal? I'm sure it's been said but who by and how often? Most would say that Israel plays a role in imperial affairs in the Middle East and indeed the world but pivotal? Nah!

What about"that the Zionist lobby has huge, covert and illegitimate influence?" This isn't relevant. Actually zionist lobbying has been very successful and it might not be delicate language but it is safe to describe most media in the English speaking world as zionist controlled but that's not the reason to boycott Israel. That's the reason that it's difficult to get a boycott off the ground.

And finally (thank goodness) "that Israel is guilty of genocide". Now I think that removing such large numbers of people from their land is considered genocide under international law but Israel does seem to seek the elimination of Arabs from wherever it seeks to govern. The ideology and the project are genocidal in action and intent.

I was in too much of a hurry to finish here and a commentor has pointed out that Wikipedia defines genocide as the "systematic extermination of a people." So running with that definition, genocide is indeed an exaggeration but it's not so outlandish an allegation, particularly when pitted against the many myths of zionism. But we have to have higher standards than the racist war criminals of Israel and their supporters so I'll cool it with that particular allegation just in case it gives more ammunition to these Israel apologists than they already have by virtue of their status as academics. 25/1/2006

Now that was a nice excuse to further expose Israel as the nasty racist illegitimate state that it is but these guys are academics in British educational establishments. They make questionable declarations with no reference to facts or sources. I know many people see through this stuff and some are even pushed over to the other side by it but many do not and these people certainly have the upper hand in the mass media. I find it most offensive that they have made such inroads into academic life. I'd say that the duty of principled anti-racists is to expose these people wherever and whenever possible.

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