From the first moment Zionists discovered another people lived in Palestine, the Zionist movement has faced a fatal dilemma. Because Zionism declares that it is the national movement of self-determination of the Jewish people. There is no provision in Zionism for another people existing in the land of Israel. Thus, from its inception Zionism deprecated anyone who was not Jewish and living in this land. This means that racism was built into the very fabric of the movement and the nascent “Jewish homeland.”
Those of us who fight for a definition of Zionism which embraces two peoples living in a single homeland, are brought up short by the Law of Return. This is a major component of the Zionist ‘dream,’ which says that Jews are doomed in the Diaspora; and that Jewish life can only survive and thrive in Israel. In order to make this dream a reality, the State inscribed a fundamental right for any Jew anywhere in the world to come to Israel at any time and declare their intent to make aliya–that is, become a citizen of Israel. One might even say that for the Zionist movement, aliya is the 11th commandment.
There are of course hundreds of thousands of Jews who want to visit or live in Israel, but who do not wish to make aliya. Until, recently they too were welcomed with open arms. When I was an undergraduate and graduate student there were scores of Israeli academic programs encouraging such exchanges with many American Jewish students enrolling in Israeli academic institutions. We were offered financial assistance and directed to programs established specifically for foreign students.
Lately, much of that has changed. Israel still welcomes Jews. But not just any Jew. You must be the right kind of Jew. You must have the right political views. And those views must be as racist and ultra-nationalist as the government itself. Or, in the alternative, you may have no views; or views which are vaguely liberal Zionist. That won’t get you into too much hot water. It goes without saying that leftist Jewish students who endorse the BDS movement will be suspect. But even liberal Zionists like Peter Beinart, who supports a boycott of Israeli settlements and their products recently faced intense interrogation from Shin Bet agents on leaving Israel.
It may be debatable whether the inherent racism in the early Zionist movement led to the obloquy showered on Diaspora Jews who today hold dissenting political views. After all, a nation which demeans a people with which it shares a home can very easily decree that fellow Jews are the enemy as well. Intolerance may start with hating the Other, but it can very quickly lead to hating one’s own too.
The Netanyahu government and its chief enforcer, Gilad Erdan, have not only gone to war against BDS; they’ve gone to war against their fellow Jews for holding views deemed subversive. In the past, distinguished academics like Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky have been deported due to the ‘threatening’ political views they hold. But recently, the net has been spread far wider. Scores of Diaspora Jewish (and even more non-Jewish) activists have been arrested on arrival at Ben Gurion airport and deported. Ariel Gold, an activist for CodePink and BDS supporter, arrived in Israel to spend a year pursuing Jewish studies. She was detained and interrogated for hours. She was asked questions that were both private, intrusive and insulting. At the end, she was expelled. She was a troublemaker. Doesn’t matter whether she was a Jewish troublemaker or not. Troublemakers are banned. The same happened to Simone Zimmerman, the founder of the anti-apartheid group, If Not Now.
Israel even tried to deport an American Jewish woman who planned to study at the Pardes Institute, a Jerusalem yeshiva, and later make aliya. Such an Israeli act would seemingly violate every principle of Zionism. Here is her response to her treatment:
“It made me really sad,” Weinberg-Connors added later. “I love this land very deeply and it’s very important to me that it is a place that is a safe home for the people who call it home. That we have a government now that’s trying to deny people entry based on their political beliefs is scary.”
I suppose one might argue that the current Israeli government are no longer Zionists. A true Zionist sees all Jews as his brothers and sisters. He makes no distinction based on political views because he holds the survival of the Jewish people as a sacred principle. A shared religion and peoplehood are the bonds that unite and they trump politics.
But the racist ultra-nationalists, who I often call Judeans to distinguish them from Jews or even Israelis, violate this fundamental dictum of ZIonist thought. For them, Zionism is primarily a political movement. Only the right Jews, holding the right beliefs may be part of this movement. It is something like the Nazi ideology, in that if you were of pure Aryan blood, you were a member of the superior race. But even an Aryan could be designated for extermination if they were homosexual, disabled or a Bolshevik. So for the Likud definition of Zionism, dissenting Diaspora Jews are akin to Bolsheviks. The only difference, of course, is that Israel has not started exterminating its Bolsheviks…yet.
The leadership of Diaspora Jewry has refused to recognize this fundamental re-definition of the Zionist movement. They still linger under nostalgic notions of the past in which the Diaspora and Israel were partners in Jewish destiny. They are blind to the fact that the Judeans have hijacked everything including Israel and Zionism itself. For the latter, the Diaspora has become expendable. Bibi Netanyahu himself has publicly declared the Diaspora is dying. He believes that we will all die out, leaving Israel’s only allies Evangelical Christians and Tea Party conservatives (with a sprinkling of white supremacists thrown in for good measure).
Just as Democrats were slow to realize the true potency and danger of Donald Trump, American Jews have refused to put up a fight against Israeli extremism. They have adopted Rodney King’s motto: “Why can’t we all just get along.” While Netanyahu and his cabal have stolen our birthright out from under us.
I’ve struggled here to come up with a definition of the Netanyahu government’s Zionism. Since it rejects so many fundamental principles of classical Zionism, it really requires a new name. What better method of determining what it should be than by retreating back in history and resurrecting the classic term coined by none other than Jabotinsky himself, revisionism. The ideology underpinning Israel today is not Zionism. But rather Revisionism. That is, a radical re-definition of the rationale underpinning the Israeli state. It is no longer a partner of the Diaspora. It is no longer a member of the Jewish people. It is a restrictive, politically homogeneous, intolerant state willing to reject Diaspora Jews and embrace new alliances with anti-Semitic forces like Viktor Orban and Poland’s Law and Justice Party.
This is an Israel few of us here in the Diaspora recognize. It is alien to our upbringing and values as Jews. There is a major divorce on the horizon.
Diaspora Jews and Israel are like a married couple who’ve long since stopped sleeping together. There is no love remaining and precious little mutual respect. They remain together for purely practical reasons. One party is a serial philanderer, chafing to get out of the relationship and the other is oblivious to what is going on right under his/her nose. When s/he will wake up from sleep, no one knows.
Li Hing Lo says
“Only the right Jews, holding the right beliefs may be part of this movement. ”
Right wing Kahanists are not permitted to enter Israel either. The Kahana Party is outlawed in Israel.
Finkelstein was denied entry, not because of his beliefs (he’d already visited Israel and the West Bank), but because he refused to discuss with authorities his recent meeting with Hezbollah leader Nasrallah in Beirut.
Chomsky was not deported. He was refused entry to the West Bank from Jordan.
Had he entered Israel via Ben Gurion Airport, he likely would have been allowed to visit the West Bank.
Weinberg-Conners is allowed to remain in Israel so long as she doesn’t visit the West Bank.
Why should Israel allow Jewish activists like Gold to come to the region, demonstrate against Israel and the Occupation, and than get arrested and deported?
Here’s the big question Richard has not addressed. Which left-wing Jew has ever been denied application for Aliya based solely on their beliefs?
Richard Silverstein says
@ Li Hing Lo:
Gee, then how did those tens of thousands of American Jewish Kahanists make aliyah? Did they disguise themselves or their views and fool the Interior Ministry? Of course not. It’s likely that settlers and their allies run the ministry ferchrissakes.
Of course he was denied entry due to his beliefs. Nor is there any reason he should have to discuss his political views on Hezbollah or any other issue with the Shabak. Remember, the state prosecutor herself has invalidated such questioning?? At least as far as a liberal Zionist like Peter Beinart is concerned.
You are full of horseshit. You mean those big bad Shabakniks at the Allenby bridge were insulting when Chomsky refused to recognize Israeli sovereignty and tried to enter the West Bank from Jordan? Really. THe idea that a distinguished foreign visitor would be banned from entry via Jordan but permitted entry via Ben Gurion is ridiculous beyond belief. The difference between being deported and being refused entry is a distinction with no difference. It’s the same outcome, hence the same thing. You’re being a sophist.
She is making aliya, planning to become an Israeli citizen. As such, she would be able to visit the West Bank whenever she wished. This distinction is again petty, vindictive and emblematic of Israeli petulance. And she was only permitted entry after Israelis intervened on her behalf. Without that she’d be sitting back home here in the U.S.
Because that’s what democracies do. They permit visitors, especially visitors of the same ethnicity or religion as the nation itself to visit and participate freely in any activities they wish (as long as they aren’t criminal like drug dealing or bank robbery). The fact that Israel bars Jews from entry is a fundamental violation of Zionist principle and indicate Israel is no longer a Zionist state.
That’s coming my friend. In addition, Jews have been rejected for citizenship for many reasons: they’re gay; they have a gay partner; they are Jewish and have a non-Jewish partner. In fact, a British citizen was murdered in Eilat, in part because she was rejected for citizenship. The Law of Return is only for the ‘right Jews.’ As for rejection on political ground: that’s coming soon to a Jewish state near you.
You are done in this thread.
Li Hing Lo says
“Jews have been rejected for citizenship for many reasons: they’re gay; they have a gay partner; they are Jewish and have a non-Jewish partner. ”
Not true. Not true at all.
The British national, murdered by her boyfriend, had problems with her application, overstayed her visa, was arrested, released and murdered.
When was a gay jew denied Israeli citizenship?
Richard Silverstein says
@ Li Hing Lo: I told you you were done in the thread. This is the second time you have ignored my request. Do this again and you will be moderated. THIS was your last comment in this thread.
Here are a list of Jews or spouses of Jews denied citizenship in contravention of the Law of Return:
The Interior Ministry retaliates against Israeli citizens seeking citizenship for their non-Jewish spouses by stripping the Jewish citizen of citizenship:
Until 2014, Israel refused to permit spouses of gay Jews making aliyah to gain citizenship in contravention of the Law of Return.
Israel has a long history of denying citizenship not only to non Jewish spouses of Israeli citizens, but also their children, leaving them with no legal status in Israel: https://law.acri.org.il/en/2008/02/20/denial-of-citizenship/
You’ve completely messed up your account of Julie Pearson’s murder and the Interior Ministry’s role in the case. Pearson was continually strung along by the Interior Ministry. SHe was denied citizenship solely because the Interior Ministry disapproved of her relationship with an Israeli Palestinian. The only reason the Ministry didn’t ultimately reject her application was that it had delayed the process so long that she was murdered before they definitively rejected her. That refusal caused her to be unable to earn a living. That in turn threw her into the arms of the drug dealers and underground lifestyle which eventually led to her death. Given that several of her relatives, whose Jewish ancestry was no different than her own, were granted citizenship without having to file any of the documents and paperwork demanded of her, indicates this was a decision that abused the Law of Return.
tony greenstein says
I disagree Richard. Netanyahu is a Zionist as is Avi Gabbay. It’s not true that Zionism always saw Jews as equal to each other. Selectivity applied to immigration from the very start and not least during the Holocaust. I am sure you have read Herzl’s antisemitic essay Mauschell. The Kibbutzim always saw themselves as an elite. What you are seeing now is something different. The old collectivist ideology has come into conflict with reality and reality has won. The logic of a land without a people for a people without a land is now being played out and of course in a racial state then hierarchies apply as much to the chosen race as the unchosen. This was also true in Nazi germany.
Peter Dahu says
Do you view Zionism as anti-Semitism? Zionism does tend override Jewish individualism and replace it with an overarching identity. Many Zionists either lament or are hostile toward Jews who do not shows some kind of affinity toward Israel.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Peter Dahu: Zionism is a great many things to a great many people. But I would agree that Zionism as practiced by the Likud and Israeli ultra nationlists is antagonistic to Diaspora Jewry. It disparages and insults and often even acts directly contrary to interests of Jews outside Israel. Many Zionists believe that the Diaspora will eventually disappear and they will be the only remaining Jews. An especially noxious concept I think. There also certainly are passages from Herzl which can be defined as anti-Semitic and I’ve discussed them before.
I try to use the term “anti-Semitism” in measured ways since so many use it cavalierly and in a distorted manner. So I wouldn’t say I’m ready to go there (yet). But who knows how much worse things may get in the future??
Magen Bavli says
“From the first moment Zionists discovered another people lived in Palestine, the Zionist movement has faced a fatal dilemma.”
I agree with everything you say in tenor and spirit. I agree with a lot of your substance. I simply have a factual problem with this statement, which I believe you didn’t make with any severe degree of focus in particular (it’s simply an opening line).
The early Zionists knew well that Palestine was populated. They were choosing different locations, as you know, the quality of Palestine also ascertained in depth. The Balfour Declaration that followed was addressed to the Zionist Federation and explicitly mentioned “in Palestine” twice and the non-Jewish indigenous community in Palestine. That was 31 years prior to the establishment of the regime upon Palestine in 1948.|
Ben-Gurion, too, noted in his memoirs that it was a willful sin to remove the Arabs from their lands and that they even had a right to complain about it.
It wasn’t until Golda Meir that the envelope of mythology was pushed centrally to the point that Golda would utter the phrase that the Palestinians were a made up people. It was sort of the line for a long time: that Jordan was the real Palestinian state, anyway. Just not from the head of state and to be echoed by everyone down to the Adelson acolytes of today.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Magen Bavli: I did not say the early Zionists did not know there were Palestinians already in Palestine. I only said that they could not reconcile the Palestinian presence with the Zionist creed of creating a homeland for Jews. But you are right in everything else you mentioned in your comment.
Bolsheviks? Bolsheviks means the Majority in the “party”. Those Diaspora Jews opposing what Israel has become and how it handles “others” are hardly the majority among all Jews (Israel + diaspora). They are certainly Mensheviks (=minority) even among diaspora Jews.
If that would be true then there would not be extremely strong and influential Jewish lobbies and other loyal “organisations” and oligarchs around the world. Israeli regime is still able to control and use these very successfully in defending Israel’s less admirable actions and interests. The “interesting” question is how much the Israeli ever increasing racist and “wir sind über alle” attitude is in reality transferred to local Jewish organisations and individuals outside Israel.
This Israeli BDS “attitude” is interesting. When Hitler came to power in 1933 the Jewish organisations declared at once a boycott against Germany. The slogan was “Don’t buy German goods! The Boycott is the moral substitute for war!”.