Periodically, it is important to remind people what Zionism
is, and what it is not. This should not be needed, except that the definition of Zionism
has been eroded over time both by demonizers and well-wishers. Two articles deal with what Zionism is
, and what Zionism is not
. For the most part, they do not focus on the semantic definition of Zionism
, but rather on a part of the operational definition: what it means and implies regarding peace with our Arab neighbors. It is only part of the operational definition of Zionism, which must include, and has included, a cultural revival and social revolution within the Jewish people, as well as Aliya to Israel.
The news of 600 new immigrants from France
today is a much more important aspect of Zionism perhaps, then the boycott Israel
movement of some misguided British unionists or the threats of genocidal lunatics in Tehran. In the past 18 months, about 4,000 French Jews have come to Israel from the smallish community of 500,000. About 3,000 will arrive this year. This is quite an achievement compared to the 3,000 immigrants contributed by American Jews ("we gave at the office"). That is really what Zionism is about. The news from France is very good for a change.
Contrary to the beliefs of many European journalists and academics, Zionism is not a Messianic religious movement, and Zionists are not all gun-wielding religious fanatics from Brooklyn who have settled in Hebron after evicting Arabs from the land. Many Jews from Brooklyn are still there. A lot of the ones who moved out moved to Los Angeles, Connecticut or LawnGuyLind (the place marked as "Long Island" on some outdated maps published, no doubt, before about 1960). Most of the Israelis living in the West Bank (marked as "Judea" and "Samaria" on some outdated maps published before 1948) were born either in the "West Bank" or within the borders of "Green Line" Israel. A lot of Jews from Brooklyn are people like Woody Allen and myself, who are not big fans of settlement in the West Bank or noted for our devotion to religious observance. Perhaps it is less pleasing to bigots to assert that the "West Bank" is filled with Zionist fanatics from Paris. Paris is chic, after all, while at least in the more benighted portions of Europe, Brooklyn, alas, still has the grungy image that was given to it by Damon Runyon and others. Brooklyn can be sold as a den of petty gangsters and uncouth religious fanatics. Fuhgeddaboudit. Most of those French Jews from the left bank and elsewhere are not settling in the "West Bank" either.
Contrary to the beliefs of some of Israel's overenthusiastic supporters, Zionism does not set the borders of the State of Israel or dictate that the Jewish people must have dominion over specific bits of real estate for theological reasons. King David apparently did not have dominion over Gaza and parts of Judea. If it was good enough for David, it's good enough for me. Of course, people who support Zionism are free to believe what they like, but that is not a necessary part of Zionism.
At the risk of boring many of you, I will repeat that Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. I didn't forget that I have written that many times, nor did I invent the phrase, but it bears repetition. The goal of Zionism is to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Israel, to gather most of the scattered members of the Jewish people to that national home, and to revive a modernized version of the ancient Hebrew culture. In short, to give to the Jewish people what is the birthright of every other nation: self-determination. Zionism requires peace for this goal. It is very difficult to get Jews from Brooklyn or Los Angeles to come here as long as there are people shooting at us and threatening to make a "world without Zionism." This, along with the traditional pacifist leanings of Jewish culture, explains the priority that peace is given by most Zionists.
Zionism has been subject to a great deal of criticism. Criticism is generally healthy, even if it is unpleasant, because it forces a movement to question itself and its methods. Perhaps that is why Zionism has been so successful until now. The Jewish people have also been subjected to a lot of criticism, and perhaps that has made us more competitive and adaptive. Zionism arose in part out of a rather merciless Jewish critique of the Jewish people.
There is a debate as to whether or not anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. The defenders of anti-Zionist views generally insist that they are only criticizing Israel, from the purest motives. This politically correct and humanitarian attitude to Israel is illustrated in the graphic below, a "criticism of Israel" which no doubt shows one of those Jewish Zionist Hebron settlers from Brooklyn who is sucking the blood of the oppressed Arabs.
The humanistic liberals who read the Independent and Counterpunch, along with Jimmy Carter, can judge if the above illustration of a "Zionist" is racist or not.
In any case, criticism and cartoons are not dangerous and do not really hurt anyone in themselves. If all that critics did was to write cartoons and critical articles, their activities would be helpful in shaping a more constructive vision of Zionism and a more adaptive Jewish culture. For example, it is certain that whatever muted criticism there has been of the human rights record of China, or its occupation Tibet, has been helpful to the Chinese society and people and has strengthened them rather than weakening them, by forcing the Chinese government and its citizens to examine themselves a bit more critically. A bit more of such criticism in the time of the progressive regime of Mao Tse Tung might have saved tens of millions of Chinese lives from that leader's schemes of "progress." Instead, most of the would-be critics were busy buying little red books and Mao posters. Perhaps if these critics would have voiced some honest analyses of what is going on in Palestinian society, the Palestinian Arabs would have benefitted as well. It is hard to see how throwing people off the roofs of buildings has benefitted Palestinian society. But such criticism is immediately labelled "finger pointing."
On the other hand, nobody is suggesting that the Chinese people should be driven out of China, or that China should be wiped off the map, or that the Palestinian Arabs should be scattered to the four winds for their sins. Likewise, though people criticize Saudi Arabia's human rights record and its racist Arab exclusivist citizenship laws, nobody is suggesting moving 20 million Americans or Africans to Saudi Arabia and turning it into a "secular democratic state" ruled by Americans or Africans. Anti-Zionists and so-called "critics" of Israel are doing more than writing and talking and drawing cartoons. Boycotts, divestment and other initiatives, as well as more expressive "criticisms" like suicide bombings, are aimed at destroying the state of Israel and Zionism. That is no longer legitimate, constructive criticism. The injustice of such campaigns is especially egregious in view of the failure of the same critics to even censure gross violations of rights such as those taking place in Sudan, China and Iran.
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