An alarming and discouraging trend has matured over the past four decades: Zionism has become identified in the mind of the public as a reactionary movement.
Historically, Zionism was primarily a movement of the Jewish working class and poor people. Failing to enlist the help of rich Jewish financiers to fund the restoration of the Jews, the Zionist movement turned instead to the common people.
The rebirth of the Jewish people was made possible in large part by the poor Jews of the world, who existed in abundance, despite stereotypes. Labor Zionism forged a new Jewish proletariat from their ranks. These Jewish workers and Jewish farmers built the Jewish state and brought the scattered remnants of the Jewish people to it. The reforestation and redemption of the land of Israel was financed in the main by thousands of little JNF boxes that appeared in every Jewish house, school and place of business.
Ber Borochov rightly understood that the Zionist revolution could only be made by a Jewish proletariat. That proletariat was created in Palestine, and the institutions created by Labr Zionism forged the Jewish state. Zionism was, in image and in reality, a creation of the reborn Jewish working class.
Zionism, the most successful national liberation movement of the Twentieth century, triumphed in the face of a powerful coalition of reactionary forces. The most reactionary leaders of orthodox Judaism were opposed to it or indifferent. Rich and established Jews saw the Zionist movement as a threat to their bourgeois respectability. Zionism was the province of wild-eyed radicals, cronies of anarchists and social revolutionaries.
In Palestine, the Arab feudal land owners, and thereafter the Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem were opposed to Zionism because it threatened their feudal and repressive hegemony. From the late 1930s, imperialist Britain was opposed to Zionism, coopting and collaborating with reactionary Arab leaders. Lenin said, "Revolution is the locomotive of history." Labor Zionism, a radical revolutionary movement, drove the locomotive of Jewish history.
When Israel was born, the principle of self-determination for the Jewish people was championed by the left, by liberals and by everyone who considered themselves progressives. The deans of US foreign policy argued against US support for a Zionist state, on the grounds that Zionists were well known representatives of international communism. , Loy Henderson insisted,
ďWe know very well that all Jews are communists. If we let them come to Palestine, we will have a Soviet fifth column there, (Benson, Michael, Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel, p. 61).
Secretary of State George Marshall, while not expressing his sentiments about the political proclivities of the Jewish people, was likewise of the view that a Jewish state would be pro-Soviet.
In contrast, the Soviet delegate to the UN, Andrei Gromyko, voiced the position of the USSR regarding the establishment of a Jewish state in these terms:
The delegation of the USSR maintains that the decision to partition Palestine is in keeping with the high principles and aims of the United Nations. It is in keeping with the principle of the national self-determination of peoples....
The solution of the Palestine problem based on a partition of Palestine into two separate states will be of profound historical significance, because this decision will meet the legitimate demands of the Jewish people, Source: http://www.zionism-israel.com/zionism_ungromyko2.htm
In the 50s and 60s, the USSR supported liberation movements, and became both anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic. In 1956, Israel found itself allied with "imperialist" Britain and France against Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, who supposedly represented the forces of progress fighting colonialism. The 6-day war and subsequent confrontations with Arab states backed by the USSR forced Israel and the United States together, with Israel fighting the Palestine Liberation Organization, which modeled itself on the Algerian FLN. By 1975, "progressives" were able to pass a Zionism is Racism resolution in the UN, paradoxically aided by the reactionary colonialist imperialist petroleum interests. Israel slid to the right as well, as the Israel Labor Party and the Labor Zionist movement disintegrated. In the United States, a species of revisionist Zionism reduced the entire philosophy, and the socialist and revolutionary zeal of Jabotinsky, to a single-minded desire for real estate in Palestine and an intolerance of the Labor Zionist movement.
Today however, we have arrived at a diametrically opposed and paradoxical situation, in which "liberal" and "left" are identified with "anti-Zionist" and "anti-Israel," so much so that anti-Zionism itself is a sufficient ticket of entry into the ranks of "liberalism." A New York Times headline proclaims, Essay Linking Liberal Jews and Anti-Semitism Sparks a Furor. The essay in question, by Alvin H. Rosenfeld, took issue with the anti-Zionist views of several Jews. Other than their opposition to Israel or Israeli policy, expressed in various ways, Tony Judt, Richard Cohen and Rabbi David Weiss of the Netureh Karteh religious sect have no ideology in common. Weiss pictured below, cannot be described as a "liberal" by any stretch of the imagination.
The only qualification required to make Weiss "liberal" in the eyes of the New York Times, apparently, is his opposition to the existence of a Jewish state, which caused him to attend a Holocaust denial conference initiated by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and attended by such luminaries of the left as Holocaust denier David Irving and ex Ku Klux Klan Wizard David Duke.
Anti-Zionists like Tony Judt and David Weiss are dignified as 'liberal critics of Israeli policy.' They aren't criticizing Israeli policy. They are criticizing Israel's existence as a Jewish state. They are not allies in ending the occupation. They don't want to end the occupation. They want to end Jewish self-determination.
Tony Judt told the New York Times, "I don't know anyone in a respectable range of opinion who thinks Israel shouldn't exist." That is cheap intellectual fraud, since Judt and other anti-Zionists are willing to allow the existence of a state called "Israel" that is not a national home for the Jewish people. Judt and others deny the right of self-determination to the Jewish people. That is not a "liberal" position, and it is in opposition to international law. In practice, Judt denies Israel the right to self-defense, and advocates the cause of such "respectable" 'liberal' groups as the Lebanese Hezbollah.
The identification of the left with anti-Zionism is paradoxical, because "leftists" and "liberals" find themselves championing the cause of medieval Islamist mullahs and aligning themselves with the interests of global petroleum imperialism, reactionary oil sheikhs and repressive Islamist regimes. Opposition to capitalism, in the neo-Marxist theory of Sartre and others, means opposition to colonialism, and therefore dictates that every enemy of the industrial West is beloved of the left. Thus it is that in the latest Lebanon war, the forces of "progress" found themselves aligned with Hassan Nasrallah, the agent of imperialist colonialist Syria and the reactionary Islamic Republic of Iran, bent on returning Lebanon and the Middle East to religion and barbarism. It is therefore "politically correct" for feminist groups to side with regimes in which women have no rights, against Israeli democracy, and for gay rights advocates to side with regimes that hang homosexuals and to oppose Israeli multi-pluralism.
The paradox of progressive support for reactionaries produces some strange effects indeed, as was noted by Terry Gavin.a few months ago, when he reported on reactionary "leftists" who had real progressive Muslims on the run in Canada.
The isolation of Zionism in the camp of the reactionaries however, was not the work of the left alone. In the United States, self-proclaimed watchdogs of Zionism insist repeatedly that "leftists" and "liberals" must be identified with anti-Zionism, and are enemies of Israel. A few examples (of 95,000 in Google):
Klein is linked to assorted Far-Leftist anti-Zionist groups
Haaretz is the far-leftist anti-Zionist Israeli newspaper
(The above characterization of Ha'aretz, a liberal (in all senses) and Zionist journal, is ludicrous, but that is not the point.)
This 22 year-old socialist, anarchist, anti-capitalist Jewish, Leftist anti-Zionist - http://www.masada2000.org/list-F.html
(the above is from the notorious hit-list of Masada2000, the author of which has a contract out on everyone who disagrees with him).
Take that you leftist anti-Zionist pigs http://plancksconstant.org/blog1/2006/07/forget_waldo_wheres.html
These extremists who pretend to speak for Zionism are doing the work of the anti-Zionist opposition, which has mounted a mighty effort to identify the Jewish national movement with the forces of reaction, 'globalization,' colonialism and repression. In a word association test today, "leftist" would probably elicit the response "anti-Zionist" more often than not from U.S. Zionists. Could you image a "rightist anti-Zionist" or a "neocon anti-Zionist"? It sounds strange, but of course Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, David Duke, the former Klan Wizard, David Weiss of the Neturei Karteh, Osama Bin Laden, Hassan Nasrallah, and hundreds of millions of others are all "Rightist anti-Zionists" along with people like Lyndon LaRouche, Patrick Buchanan, James Baker III.
Isn't it time for the Zionist left to come out of the closet? Isn't it time we reclaimed our heritage? Isn't it time for right-wing Zionists to stop distorting history, stop trying to convert Zionism into Jewish Messianism, and to stop the self-destructive and self-hating quest to push progressive Zionism off the map? In terms of world political orientation, "Right-wing Zionist" is an oxymoron. Zionism cannot exist as a reactionary movement. Zionists and Jews will find little sympathy or backing from petroleum companies, xenophobic European groups and global financial interests. Zionism may gather some temporary allies there briefly, but Jewish rights and reactionary causes do not mix, neither historically nor in the geopolitical reality of the middle east. Therefore, those who insist that Zionism is the cause of neo-conservatives and the right are dooming Zionism, whether that is their intention or not.
Isn't it time we said "We are leftists because we are Zionist," and "We are Zionists because we are leftists," and not "we are Zionists even though we are leftists?"
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