Anti Zionism Liberal Zionism (Concepts & Mirrors)

Hall of mirrors, Petrin Hill, Prague. 1998

It wasn’t always the case, but today, all the markers that identify liberal Zionism, as such, constitute questions. They are dubitable, under threat of erasure, pressured from either side of the political spectrum. “Democracy,” “Zionism,” “Israel,” “the Jewish people,” “the Green Line,” “2 State Solution,” “Jewish State.” What are these things? Each sign is a question, no longer an assertion, at least in liberal Zionist circles, which has been forced by historical circumstances to doubt what it once took for granted. In contrast, anti-Zionism seems to be awash in certainty. No questions are asked about its own categories, its own discourse. The pressure is to make on-the-spot simple either/or equations and decisions based on ready-made categories that are regarded, internally, as self-evident. “Apartheid,” “Apartheid Israel,” “Palestine,” “settler-colonialism,” “state-violence,” “human rights,” “democracy” “bi-nationalism.” The conversation never goes deep. It rips across the surface of the binary category oppositions that once upon a time we learned to deconstruct. As if placed in a room full of mirrors, everyone thinks he or she has caught hold of the thing itself by giving it a name. In the process, we lose touch with the human dynamic.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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5 Responses to Anti Zionism Liberal Zionism (Concepts & Mirrors)

  1. says:

    It’s a little spooky. I almost sent you a comment last night that concluded with the exact thought you do above. Someone has to teach that idiot Buddha to stay out of the road.
    Sometimes I wonder if the greatest sin we jews commit is fighting to maintain our identity. Why not give in and go away. Let the hate find another object. As a kid at camp I loathed the Assimiliationists. What a bunch of cowards and turncoats. Worse perhaps than anti-semites. Abandoning their tribe …shallow rats on a precious ship in rough seas. Now I wonder ‘ how precious the ship? ‘How much does the ship itself roil the seas? We are remarkably creative, vibrant and brilliant people. Is this sustained by our otherness, by the fierce delusion of our particular I and us or should we graciously dilute, dissolve back into what always seems to want to drown us?

  2. says:

    I think it’s a little cheap to accuse the anti-Zionist crowd of binary simplicity. First of all, there is at least as much certainty on the pro-Zionist side. You might want to deflect that by claiming that you are comparing (a broad, simplistically defined) anti-Zionism against (a nuanced notion of) liberal-Zionism, but then you’re guilty of what you’re complaining about. Secondly, and more importantly though, the anti-Zionism crowd is constituted in part by a very rich and diverse set of perspectives on the occupation. So, for example, when one walks into a bookstore in East Jerusalem, one sees shelves of books on the conflict from a variety of perspectives, from the environmental impact of settlements, the history of the nation-state, to case-study comparisons with Ireland, and this isn’t even to consider Jewish books on the topic (e.g., Judith Butler).

    I think you’re setting up a straw-man to tear down here.

    • zjb says:

      fair enough. it was not my point to say that there is not an incredibly diverse panoply of anti-Zionist contents and perspectives, and there are plenty of self-certainties on the Jewish-Israeli-Zionist right. it’s the hapless liberals, among whom i count myself, who are riddled by doubts and questions. what it comes down to is not manifold contents, or simplistic contents, but the rock solid form of a critical and final judgement which i sense in anti-Zionist circles.

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