Jewish Anti-Zionism Unravelled: The Morality of Vanity (Part One)
CONTEMPORARY JEWISH ANTI-ZIONISM is most generously to be interpreted as occupying a position, or a set of positions, within a new Jewish politics. Modern Jewish politics was a response to, and an attempt to address, the "Jewish Question;" contemporary Jewish politics is a response to, and an attempt to address, the "Israel Question." Modern Jewish politics emerged out of ideological divisions within Jewish communities in the mid- to late-19th century. The Holocaust brought this politics to an end. Ideological differences within Jewish communities following the Six Day War then caused a re-emergence of Jewish politics, which had been dormant for about 40 years.
This shift from the "modern" to the "contemporary" has a complex history. Towards the end of the 19th century, there was an upsurge in "collective enthusiasms" within the Jewish world , and a break with traditional religious and communal life . The precipitating events were the 1881 pogroms in Russia, taken by many Jews to confirm the failure of the emancipation project. The divisions within Jewish communities caused by this new, and perhaps clearer-eyed, understanding of their predicament grew over succeeding decades. Intra-communal conflict reached maximum intensity in the inter-war period of the 20th century. It was, for example, the Jewish sections of the Communist party in revolutionary Russia that led the fight against Zionism; if it were not for these sections, the liquidation of the Zionist movement would have been a slower process .
"The Jewish Question" was several questions, not just one. Are Jews to be defined as a nation or a religion - and then, what version of Judaism, what kind of Jewish nation? How should Jewish history be understood, and what aspects of it speak to contemporary concerns? Where, how, and with whom should Jews live, "here" in the Diaspora, "there" in Palestine - and with what minority / majority rights and status? In what language or languages should they express themselves as Jews? With what broader political movements, if any, should they ally? From what broader ideologies should they take direction? How should antisemitism be combated - by Jewish solidarity or proletarian solidarity ? A divided, inventive, and almost always struggling Jewish left took every possible position between the polarities of class and nation, revolution and exodus, Lenin and Weizmann, Moscow and Jerusalem. The most refined reasoning (say, Gershom Scholem's insistence that he was a Zionist, not a Jewish nationalist, or Buber's insistence that he was a Hebrew Humanist, and not a nationalist)  often emerged in the most desperate of circumstances. Though modern Jewish politics was not confined to the Left, it was easy to believe otherwise.
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