Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A word about Zionism, in response to an anti-Zionist Jew

A few weeks ago, at a potluck Shabbat dinner, I got into a discussion about Zionism and made a serious error:  I talked about Zionist as a response to the Holocaust.

That was a mistake on my part:  I should have said that the founding of the State of Israel was not intended to be a response to the Holocaust--on the contrary, it was supposed to have prevented a holocaust.

Unfortunately, it came 20 years too late.  :(

The following is from a Jewschool post for which the link that I saved,, is no longer functioning:

"when the right speaks of “fighting” antisemitism, it does not and never can mean eliminating or overcoming antisemitism. Instead, it takes the perennial existence of antisemitism for granted as the foundational justification for Zionism.

By contrast, when the left talks about fighting antisemitism, just as when it talks about fighting racism, cis-heteropatriarchy, and capitalism, it envisions a world in which these phenomena do not exist. This is the source of its utopian energy, and this is why conservatives have always been skeptical of the left."

I do not believe that it's only the right that "takes the perennial existence of antisemitism for granted as the foundational justification for Zionism."

From the Encylopaedia Brittanica:

"A profound change began in Herzl’s life soon after a sketch he had published in the leading Viennese newspaper, Neue Freie Presse, led to his appointment as the paper’s Paris correspondent. He arrived in Paris with his wife in the fall of 1891 and was shocked to find in the homeland of the French Revolution the same anti-Semitism with which he had become so familiar in Austria. Hitherto he had regarded anti-Semitism as a social problem that the Jews could overcome only by abandoning their distinctive ways and assimilating to the people among whom they lived. At the same time, his work as a newspaperman heightened his interest in, and knowledge of, social and political affairs and led him to the conviction that the answer to anti-Semitism was not assimilation but organized counterefforts by the Jews. The Dreyfus affair in France also helped crystallize this belief. French military documents had been given to German agents, and a Jewish officer named Alfred Dreyfus had been falsely charged with the crime. The ensuing political controversy produced an outburst of anti-Semitism among the French public. Herzl said in later years that it was the Dreyfus affair that had made a Zionist out of him. So long as anti-Semitism existed, assimilation would be impossible, and the only solution for the majority of Jews would be organized emigration to a state of their own."

Imagine what would have happened if the Jewish People had had a home of our own in 1928.  I think that the main reason why so many Jews died in the Holocaust was that there was nowhere else for them to go--even the United States turned away the ship St. Louis.

But I do not believe that anti-Semitism is the only foundational justification for Zionism.  Imagine what world Jewry would be like without a Jewish state.  This ancestral homeland, for which our people prayed for centuries, is much more than just a "start-up nation."  It's an inspiration for the renewed flourishing of Jewish arts and culture, and of religious studies by Jews from the most "ultra" Orthodox to the completely secular.

Anti-Zionists, such as my conversation partner, often ask why Jews had to take over Palestine and create a Jewish state in a place where there should be a Palestinian one.  My response is this:  Given that no existing country wanted us Jews, we had no choice but to found a Jewish state in order to save Jewish lives, and where else were we to found a state of our own if not in the land of our ancestors to which we'd dreamed of returning for over 2,000 years?

The bottom line is that I am a Zionist, and you're an anti-Zionist.  But here's one ancient Jewish tradition on which I hope we can both agree--we Jews have always made it a point to speak respectfully with those with whom we disagree.  Let's continue to follow the ways of the Talmud, and keep talking to one another.


Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>