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Sunday, March 15, 2009

The "even-handed" LA Times

The Los Angeles Times published two essays, both by Jews, about Zionism today. One was by Ben Ehrenreich, saying that Zionism is "the problem." The other is by Judea Pearl, asking "is anti-Zionism hate?"

One wonders if the LA Times would have an equally even-handed pair of essays asking whether assassination of newspaper editors is desirable or not. After all, there are two sides to every story, right?

Anyway, it is worthwhile to look at what Ehrenreich has to say, if only to expose the underlying errors in his thinking.
It's hard to imagine now, but in 1944, six years after Kristallnacht, Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, felt comfortable equating the Zionist ideal of Jewish statehood with "the concept of a racial state -- the Hitlerian concept." For most of the last century, a principled opposition to Zionism was a mainstream stance within American Judaism.
Indeed, not all Jews were Zionists in 1944. In fact, as Ehrenreich mentions, "Marxist Jews -- my grandparents among them -- tended to see Zionism, and all nationalisms, as a distraction from the more essential struggle between classes."

So does the fact that many Jews embraced Marxism in the 1930s and 1940s automatically make their beliefs relevant today? Ehrenreich might not have noticed, but there are precious few Communist states prospering today. Yet by his logic, the fact that many Jews didn't embrace Zionism sixty years ago is somehow an important fact today, I suppose in order to give him a pretext to hate contemporary Zionism and not feel quite so guilty about it.
To be Jewish, I was raised to believe, meant understanding oneself as a member of a tribe that over and over had been cast out, mistreated, slaughtered. Millenniums of oppression that preceded it did not entitle us to a homeland or a right to self-defense that superseded anyone else's. If they offered us anything exceptional, it was a perspective on oppression and an obligation born of the prophetic tradition: to act on behalf of the oppressed and to cry out at the oppressor.
So his ignoramus parents and grandparents knew nothing about what Judaism is, and Ehrenreich internalized this ignorance and now uses it to justify his bizarre beliefs? In his world, Jews must remain the eternal victims, always begging the powerful goyim for crumbs, until the wonderful day that Jews can become fully assimilated and disappear in the superior gentile culture. What a great representative of Judaism!
For the last several decades, though, it has been all but impossible to cry out against the Israeli state without being smeared as an anti-Semite, or worse. To question not just Israel's actions, but the Zionist tenets on which the state is founded, has for too long been regarded an almost unspeakable blasphemy.
No, in the case of Jews like Ehrenreich, just unspeakable ignorance.
The problem is fundamental: Founding a modern state on a single ethnic or religious identity in a territory that is ethnically and religiously diverse leads inexorably either to politics of exclusion (think of the 139-square-mile prison camp that Gaza has become) or to wholesale ethnic cleansing. Put simply, the problem is Zionism.
Interesting observation. Which areas in historic Palestine have no Jews and which have no Arabs? The people who claim that Zionists are "ethnic cleansers" never seem to mention the answer to that question.
The fate Buber foresaw is upon us: a nation that has lived in a state of war for decades, a quarter-million Arab citizens with second-class status and more than 5 million Palestinians deprived of the most basic political and human rights.
Notice the sleight-of-hand: if Israel has been in a state of war, the reason must be because of the Zionists! The Arabs would love to live in peace, if it wasn't for those pesky Zionists. While I of course am not allowed to mention this, this exactly mirrors the arguments of anti-semites: since Jews have been hated and kicked out of other countries for millenia, they must have done something to deserve it.
If two decades ago comparisons to the South African apartheid system felt like hyperbole, they now feel charitable. The white South African regime, for all its crimes, never attacked the Bantustans with anything like the destructive power Israel visited on Gaza in December and January, when nearly1,300 Palestinians were killed, one-third of them children.
Here the LA Times lets lies get thrown into the mix. No reliable source counts more than 280 children under 18 as being killed in Gaza, and many of the "children" were hardly innocent. Besides the fact that, according to Ehrenreich, Israel has literally no right to defend itself against Qassam rockets, which means that he believes that Israel is the only nation that has the moral imperative to let its citizens be killed with impunity.
Establishing a secular, pluralist, democratic government in Israel and Palestine would of course mean the abandonment of the Zionist dream. It might also mean the only salvation for the Jewish ideals of justice that date back to Jeremiah.
Ehrehreich seems to be blissfully ignorant of how peacefully Jews and Arabs lived together before Zionism. He seems to have forgotten that the victims of the 1929 riots were not Zionists, but Jews whose families had lived in Palestine for centuries. He is painfully unaware that the Arabs before 1948 never said "death to the Zionists" but "death to the Jews."

And, unbelievably, he thinks that his thought processes have something in common with Jewish prophets of old.

The worst part is that he believes that the accident of birth that caused him to be genealogically Jewish somehow makes him an authority of Judaism and on Jewish ideals. More sickening is that the LA Times believes the same thing.