Jews argue whether Zionism is racism in the Forward! – Mondoweiss

Posted By on August 23, 2017

This is good news. Remember that monolith of Jewish opinion? The days when the leading Jewish organizations dictated the pro-Israel line and all other Jewish groups fell into line lest they undermine the security of the Jewish state, with Wolf Blitzer and Jeffrey Goldberg running shotgun? Well that orthodoxy is at last coming to an end.

Charlottesville has been a depth charge. The Israeli right was loath to condemn the white nationalists at the fringe of Trumps base, and this has sent a shock through the American Jewish community. There is open argument about Israel; and its not going to end.

The best news is that the Forward, Americas leading liberal Jewish publication, published a piece by Naomi Dann of Jewish Voice for Peacelast week equating Zionism with racism.Thats revolutionary. Time was when that argument was made by Arabs at the United Nations and then stifled as supposed anti-Semitism. Now its in the Forward, from the mouth of a Jew!

Dann says that white nationalist Richard Spencer was right when he expressed common cause with Israel, saying its an ethnocracy that discriminates in favor of a privileged group.

Richard Spencer, whose racist views are rightfully abhorred by the majority of the Jewish community, is holding a mirror up to Zionism and the reflection isnt pretty.

Looking at Israel today, we can see a state premised on the privileging of one group, and all too often perpetuating the erasure and displacement of another. We also see an obsession with demographics and the maintenance of an ethnic majority.

Jane Eisner, from Jewish Boston

Its a marvel that this piece even ran. Forward editor Jane Eisner then responded angrily to Naomi Dann, denouncing her as a member of the radical group Jewish Voice for Peace spreading untruths about Israel. Ouch! Hats off to Eisner for allowing the debate to happen. Even if she says its all lies.

We work hard to reflect a range of American Jewish opinion, which is why the piece andreaction to itwas published. The free flow of ideas is to be cherished. But when a Jew even hints at comparing Israel to Nazis, it must be denounced.

The argument that Zionism is akin to Nazism is not new, and its never been correct. Its related equation that Zionism is racism was codified by the United Nations when it passedResolution 3379in 1975. Though hardly Israels best friend, the international body later came to its senses and overwhelmingly rescinded the resolution in 1991.

Eisner is an ardent Zionist. She believes that ideology is necessary to Jewish survival and that the current Israeli government is undoing Zionism (not expressing it) with its discriminatory policies and the occupation and denial of Palestinian sovereignty.

That such policies are done in the name of Zionism is painful, a perversion of the Zionist ideal. It is something that all Jews must reckon with. But the imperfections of reality do not negate the underlying fact that Zionism is not inherently racist and can and, in fact, does exist side-by-side with democracy.

Its great that the Forward is hosting this conversation, because people can argue openly about whether Zionism is necessary. Thats all Ive asked for; I believe the answer (No its an anachronism) will change US Jewry and crumble the Israel lobby. Norman Finkelstein once mocked the idea that Americans could or should argue about Zionism because Zionism might as well be the name of a hairspray to Americans. Good joke; but he was always wrong about this. People can argue about any idea thats important, once its identified. And this toothpaste is not going back in the tube.

Eisner clearly believes that Jews are unsafe in America, and thats why we need Zionism:

For Dann to write that Spencer is holding a mirror up to Zionism and the reflection isnt pretty is especially perilous in the current political climate. The intimidating display of Nazi slogans and symbols in Charlottesville, Virginia, legitimized by the shocking statements of President Trump, are a chilling reminder that even in America, Jews are at risk simply because we are Jews.

We need to recognize our shared vulnerability and strengthen our sense of solidarity, Eisner says. Back to the monolith! Palestinian vulnerability just gets passing mention.

Also addressing the idea of Jewish vulnerability arewriters Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon.Last week they published an open letter to our fellow Jews, in the U.S., Israel, and around the world declaring that Trump is an anti-Semite who is endangering Jews and its time for all Jews to denounce him.

Now hes coming after you. The question is: what are you going to do about it? If you dont feel, or cant show, any concern, pain or understanding for the persecution and demonization of others, at least show a little self-interest. At least show a littlesechel. At the very least, show a little self-respect.

To Steven Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, and our other fellow Jews currently serving under this odious regime: We call upon you to resign; and to the Presidents lawyer, Michael D. Cohen: Fire your client.

To Sheldon Adelson and our other fellow Jews still engaged in making the repugnant calculation that a hater of Arabs must be a lover of Jews, or that money trumps hate, or that a million dollars worth of access can protect you from one boot heel at the door: Wise up.

Boot heel at the door is a Gestapo reference. In another traditional phrasing, the writers warn Trumps Jewish family members Ivanka and Jared Kushner that if they dont act, Youre dead to us.

To Jared Kushner: You have one minute to do whatever it takes to keep the history of your people from looking back on you as among its greatest traitors, and greatest fools; that minute is nearly past. To Ivanka Trump: Allow us to teach you an ancient and venerable phrase, long employed by Jewish parents and children to one another at such moments of family crisis:Ill sit shiva for you. Try it out on your father; see how it goes.

Among all the bleak and violent truths that found confirmation or came slouching into view amid the torchlight of Charlottesville is this:Any Jew, anywhere, who does not act to oppose President Donald Trump and his administration acts in favor of anti-Semitism; any Jew who does not condemn the President, directly and by name, for his racism, white supremacism, intolerance and Jew hatred, condones all of those things.

Waldman and Chabon deserve a lot of respect because of their anti-occupation book Kingdom of Olives and Ashes,which contains anti- and non-Zionist voices. I disagree with them about the vulnerability of Jews in the United States. I dont think history repeats itself; I think that chapter in the west is over and the belief in its endurance is atavistic. But Im glad to have the debate; especially because that question is at the heart of Zionism.

Finally, here is Chemi Shalev in Haaretz, who ismore in the Jane Eisner camp, warning that the Israeli right has shattered American Jewish solidarity with Israel by siding with the enemies of American Jews.

Rash Embrace of Trump Accelerates the Jewish Schism is the headline. Shalev says Netanyahus animosity toward liberal, cosmopolitan, universalist Jews is reminiscent of the kind of anti-Jewish bile spouted by Jew-haters around the world, from David Duke to Viktor Orban.

The delineation between the two opposing Jewish camps has never seemed clearer. On one side we have Netanyahu, many of his colleagues, the pro-settler lobby, an unfortunate proportion of Orthodox Jews, supporters of Jewish settlements, Obama-and/or Muslim-hating Israelis along with hyper-hawks and ultranationalists such as Sheldon Adelson. On the other side there are Israeli doves along with American Jewish liberals, Reform and Conservative Jews and other Trump-haters. And increasingly it seems that never the twain shall meet.

Israels willingness to embrace Trump above and beyond the call of duty is alienating large chunks of the American Jewish community. Those that supported Israel wholeheartedly are beginning to question themselves, those who had been harboring doubts all along have reached a guilty verdict and those who are sitting on the wall certainly wont come down in Israels favor now or anytime in the future.

Emotions run high in times of conflict. When people fear for their country or for their wellbeing or for the safety of their love ones, there is scant room for moderation and nuance. In the era of Trump, the main question on the minds of his critics is the one Joshua asked when he met Gods emissary: Are you with us or with our enemies? By standing so firmly and so recklessly with Trump, Israel is telling American Jews exactly where it stands: With their enemy.

Again, Id insist on the existence of broader strains of belief here. Neither Eisner nor Shalev is a universalist. Universalist cosmopolitan Jews can include anti-Zionist Jews, anti-racist Jews, and those of us who do not see the haters of Charlottesville as a real threat to our place in the west.

Thanks to Annie Robbins.

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Jews argue whether Zionism is racism in the Forward! - Mondoweiss

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