(Closing Off Conversation) JVP Anti-Zionism (Under the Gentile Gaze)

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[Julia Andrews-Clifford, The Female Gaze]  The recent JVP statement on anti-Zionism, which you can read here,  is typical anti-Zionist doggerel. Any interest it may or not contain speaks to what it says about JVP, not about what it purports to say about the history of Zionism or Jewish and Israeli history. In picking a side, in determining that Palestine comes before Jewish history and political rights, JVP has effectively written itself out of conversations that have to happen in the Jewish community about Israel and Palestine.

Apart from a laundry list of Zionist and Israeli crimes is the reading of Jewish history and the claim that Zionism has been toxic for the Jews, that, after the Holocaust, Zionism was a false and failed answer. What better answer there was at hand after the Holocaust goes unmentioned. Little is made of the fact that Israel is home to some seven million Jews, a major center of Jewish life and culture, and the statement badly misrepresents questions concerning Mizrachi Jews, their integration into Israel and the Israeli patriotic-national right, or mention of their places of origin, that they were chased out of Arab countries after 1948. About the lack of nuance or historical grasp others will have their say.

Perhaps the most revealing part of the statement is how the authors describe the decision to “close off conversation” with the Jewish community in order to partner with Palestinian activists, and how a commitment to Palestine precedes a “Jewish self-understanding” as to what is good or “damaging” to Jewish identity and spiritual life. The bridge burning with the mainstream Jewish community was intentional and done at the group’s own initiative.

You can read that here:

At its founding, JVP made a conscious choice as an organization to abstain from taking a position on Zionism, because we felt it closed off conversation in the Jewish community. Palestinian partners had long theorized Zionism as the root cause of the Palestinian condition, and more and more of our members not only agreed, but understood Zionism as damaging to Jewish identity and spiritual life. In 2014, it became clear that we needed to clarify our position in order to effectively continue doing our work.  

and here:

Through study and action, through deep relationship with Palestinians fighting for their own liberation, and through our own understanding of Jewish safety and self determination, we have come to see that Zionism was a false and failed answer to the desperately real question many of our ancestors faced of how to protect Jewish lives from murderous antisemitism in Europe.

At some point it was decided to close off the conversation in and with the Jewish community. To point this out is not to say that truth cannot come from a margin. It is only to say that the margin is its own special place on the social and political spectrum. No doubt, the statement will court Palestinian activists and gentile progressives on the anti-Zionist left. But to what ultimate end? What the statement reveals is a world-view according to which Jewish political interests and safety follow and are made to hinge upon the struggle for a view of Palestinian liberation that is fundamental and uncompromising, and at odds with Zionism as a political movement and with Jewish life in the State of Israel. For JVP, Palestine comes first.

And the Jews? The JVP statement represents a kind of Jewish political positioning on the activist left, one that does not start with a statement of Jewish difference, and which looks to others for confirmation. The JFREJ statement on anti-Semitism, about which you can read here, was positioned on a more clearly articulated sense of a Jewish political perspective and brought far more nuance to the discussion of Zionism and Israel. Or compare the JVP statement in light of this discussion at Jewish Currents, which you can read here,  concerning the deep cultural particularities that drove Yiddish anarchism in its heyday. Closing off discussion in the Jewish community and deciding to do so very much under the gentile progressive gaze, the JVP statement against Zionism is something else.

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. http://religion.syr.edu
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2 Responses to (Closing Off Conversation) JVP Anti-Zionism (Under the Gentile Gaze)

  1. Sheldon Ranz says:

    You pretty much hit the nail on the head. JVP shot itself in the foot by basically kicking out the non-Zionists and the Zionists of conscience who have been members. It has now marginalized itself by telling the overwhelmingly Zionist US Jewish commmunity to fuck off. Good luck getting anything meaningful done, JVP!

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