Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Hijacking of the Word "Zionism"

I couldn't have said it better:

Distorted Zionism (Hebrew here)

Im Tirtzu will hand out 'Zionist' tags to those who think as they do, and will silence everyone else.

By Avirama Golan, Haaretz, September 1, 2010 

I almost began this opinion piece by ceremoniously declaring, "The undersigned is a Zionist," but then I realized that this is exactly the kind of self-justification that those in the ideological camp of Im Tirtzu and the Institute for Zionist Strategies are hoping for, and gave up on the idea. If Zionism means blind extreme nationalism that is disconnected from all historical, humanitarian and universal contexts, then the undersigned is not a Zionist.

Both the institute and Im Tirtzu are the vanguard of a new orientation, one that carries out a brutal rape of the concept of Zionism. The concept has never before sounded so trite, shallow, frightened and aggressive. In effect, the "Zionism" of the "new patriots" consists of nothing besides the coarse division into "post-Zionists" (that is, deserters, draft-dodgers, Tel Avivans, those who are disloyal and "Arab-loving" leftists who are against the occupation ), and "Zionists" (that is, loyalists, patriots, preferably settlers, and anyone who is outraged by the slightest hint of criticism of the state and the army in particular, and Jews in general ).

What a tragicomic reversal this is. Precisely the two communities that battled against Zionism as conceived by Herzl and realized by Israel's founding generation (each in its own time and manner ) are now demanding to be recognized as the real Zionists, and anyone else is a traitor worthy of denunciation.

The first group is the Haredim. Many, albeit not all, of them have in recent years been showing clear signs of extreme nationalism: a burning hatred of Arabs, of course, but also adulation for the army (the Hasidic newspaper Hamodia covered the Gaza flotilla incident as if the finest sons of its readers served in Shayetet 13, the naval commando unit that boarded the Turkish ship ), and the use of the terms "enthusiastic Zionist" and "good Jew" as if they were synonymous.

To grasp the extent to which the Zionist idea has been distorted it's enough to simply scroll through readers' comments on the Opinions page of the Haaretz website: Among those who insult the commentators with remarks like "Go live in Gaza, you're not a Jew or a Zionist anyway," it seems to me that there are more than a few Jewish-American Haredim.

The second group is the settlers. After more than 40 years it may be difficult to explain just how ironic it is that Israel Harel, one of the leaders of Gush Emunim, has become the oracle of the "Zionist strategy." He and the institute he heads dictate the standards for who is a Zionist. If there is anything that is antithetical to the spirit of Zionism, the settlements are its embodiment. Zionism is a secular national movement that sought to sever the Jewish people from the ahistorical messianic religious elements, to create a normal national home that would join the family of nations as an equal member.

It's no coincidence that the most virulent opponents of the state (the non-Zionist national religious, as Rabbi Chaim Navon dubbed them ) grow on the hills of Judea and Samaria. That is what gave rise to the deadly marriage between messianic Judaism and racist extreme nationalism. An extreme example of this is the abomination known as the book "Torat Hamelekh" (The King's Torah" ), many of whose Haredi-religious Zionist fans define themselves as good "Jews and Zionists" and claim that the "leftists" are neither of these.

The purpose of nationalist movements is to liberate peoples from subjugation and to give them independence and a national identity. When this mission is completed, the movements are supposed to silently disappear into the pages of history and clear the stage for the vital phase of creating a normal society, for which the state is merely a tool. But Israel, which for 62 years has been mired in a struggle for self-definition (democratic, Jewish - where's the democracy, where's the Judaism? ), also mired Zionism.

The secular and the sane traditional religious public (the "silent majority" ) have long since been ready for the next stage, but the abovementioned two groups, and especially their leaders (and above all politicians from and to the right of Likud who know which way the bad winds are blowing ) won't let them. They will hand out "Zionist" tags to those who think as they do, and will silence everyone else.

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