Liberal Zionist (A Note from the Center)


Much has been said against the liberal Zionist. To the rightwing, he or she is a leftist. But for left anti-Zionists, there is no position held in greater contempt. In the following couple of days, I want to post a bit about what I think this position holds, with Gaza, obviously, very much in mind. For now I want to start with something like a definition. Liberal Zionism is the position that Israel and Zionism are not always in the right, and not always in the wrong. What’s considered right and and what’s considered wrong remains, of course, historically variable. But for now, this pretty much sums up in a nutshell my overall position re: events recent and not so recent. In contrast to the liberal Zionist position, Israel is always in the right according to the right, against implacable enemies, whereas for the anti-Zionist left, Israel is the enemy, and always in the wrong, as such.

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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7 Responses to Liberal Zionist (A Note from the Center)

  1. nitzanl says:

    Maybe you should start by explaining what you’re debating/ who you’re arguing against, bec. I haven’t seen anyone arguing that Israel is ALWAYS wrong, except when it is…:) If the argument concerns the principles of the establishment of the state/Zionism then one should define whether the argument concerns the historical condition (the Nakba for instance, or the negligence of political Zionism to take into consideration the national aspirations of the Palestinian population already during the 1920s) or the philosophical idea (of a political sovereign state, which Buber, for one, was against). Right now, it sounds as if you invent a debate and a rival in order to have it easy. This, I’d say, is a classic liberal move. 😉

  2. zjb says:

    Nitzan, as I encounter the arguments, the assumption on the anti-Zionist left is that Israel was and remains always in the wrong at its inception as a colonial or settler-colonial movement in both principle and practice, then as today. The arguments tend not to focus on this aspect or that aspect of Zionist or Israeli history, but the phenomena tout court. It’s hard, though, to think that you recognize no one in what I presented, intentionally, as a broad brush sketch or working note. Alas, there’s no need to invent debates and rivals on my part –for that there’s FB and Twitter, not to mention MESA. Liberals are, of course a paranoid bunch, only because everyone else is out to get us. 😉

  3. Mandi Katz says:

    not crazy about your definition – its’ not about taking a stand in the middle which your definition suggests, but about supporting a vision of Zionism that is not inconsistent with core liberal principles. It’s principles based , not tactical or (op)positional, as suggested by your definition.

  4. Myron Joshua says:

    Buber, who was against a sovereign political state for the Jews, knew to accept the facts of life. Accepting the historical outcome he continued to fight for the values he understood of being truly Jewish and moral. He was willing (and probably felt obliged) to go beyond the very principled debate about the state and work within the dynamics of history – centered (but perhaps not often “balanced”) between vision and life. That is the difference between those continue to grind the axe to its sharpest and those who seek to find solutiions.

    • dmf says:

      does seem to be a central question in our times of international companies and the accompanying flows of resources/pollution/etc if nation-states are still the best means of securing human rights/dignity for those not directly in seats of power.
      One of the ironies of federal government here in the US is that the more representative our elected bodies have gotten the less efficient/workable they have become.
      Hard times for democracies to say the least and as for the alternative forms of state governance I think we have seen enough of those…

    • zjb says:

      I think you’re right, Myron.

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