Ambivalent Zionist

Josh Marshall has a few posts up on in response to readers who wondered why he wasn't talking about the Middle East. His reply is typically illuminating and insightful.
I'm hearing two streams of conversation about the war -- two whole worlds of conversation and debate, you might say, often as distinct from each other as night and day.

One is the one we all see every day in the mainstream news -- the major papers and news networks and so on. And then there's another -- one I'm exposed to largely, but not exclusively, through email we get at TPM.

And it's this latter conversation that's engaged my attention, rattled me and intensified and deepened my belief in Zionism.

There's a whole detailed and after a while sterile debate about what sort of criticism of Israel amonts to 'anti-Semitism' and what doesn't. Suffice it to say that many of these emails have breathed a tone of hostility and double-standard toward Israel specifically and sometimes Jews generally that have left my head spinning. They range from wild conspiracy theories about the origins of this war to the blanket assumption that every civilian death in Lebanon was an intentional killing of civilians and a war crime. From there -- where to begin? -- we have debates over just when it was that Israel forfeited its right to exist -- the murder of Rabin, through a rather inverted logic, seems to be a favorite -- to where the Israelis should be deported to when the state is liquidated, and so on.

I don't think it's quite that simple. There is a whole vast range of nuance between the extreme anit-Zionists and Nazis on the one hand and the Fox News and Israeli government line. It's this middle that both the Nazis and the Israeli propagandists want to eliminate. They want to force everybody into the Procrustean bed of "you are with us or against us."

In a later post he adds some clairification.
In my post I referred to "my core belief in the Zionist project." And a number of readers have written in to ask what I mean by that.

Zionism is too multifaceted and controversial a subject to define here at TPM. And in any case what Zionism 'is' or 'means' isn't really relevant in this case. What's relevant is what I mean or meant when I identify myself with it.

Here's what I mean. I believe in the project of building a democratic and secular Jewish state in Palestine.

Some of Israel's enemies and too many of her friends and advocates use the word to mean in a Jewish state in all of historic Palestine or even, as used to be the Revisionist credo, a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River.

That's not what I believe.

I believe there should be a Palestinian state on the West Bank and in Gaza. Not a collection of autonomous cantons but a full state, with the border being the Green Line or some very near approximation of it. As Ben-Gurion saw from the beginning and others like Moshe Dayan realized not that long after, trying to settle the West Bank and Gaza was a terrible mistake, one born of Israeli triumphalism, fed by coalitional politics in Israel and constantly enabled by the intransigence of the Arab states

It's easy to see why most American Jews are Zionists, and I have considerable sympathy for this view. My own view is more muddled. Israel has existed for almost three generations now, and it is unreasonable to expect that it should now be undone. My bottom line is almost identical to Josh's (or John Stewart's, mentioned in a previous post).

I also think that only a political settlement can give the region any kind of peace. Israel has had more than thirty years of peace with Egypt and Jordan, and overall it has worked pretty well. The standard reply is: "You can't negotiate with terrorists!" What crap. The founders of Israel were terrorists before they were a state (look up the Stern Gang, and its leadership). For that matter, the American revolution started with acts of terrorism. You can negotiate with anyone who is willing to negotiate with you. That doesn't imply you need to "trust" those you negotiate with. Sensible agreements always include provisions for verification and enforcement of their terms.

I'm afraid I lack a "core belief in the Zionism project" though. I think it was a big mistake. If Britain and the rest of the UN wanted to created a new Jewish homeland, wouldn't it have been fairer to give them a piece of Germany and Austria? Or maybe part of one of their own countries. Scotland or Wyoming, say.

Trying to undo the mistakes and injustices of history is hopeless however. For one thing, I, and most of my readers, would have to leave this country.


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