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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Two articles about Zionism, from different angles

From Melanie Phillips:
Zionism is no more nor less than the self-determination of the Jewish people -- as a people, and not just as adherents of the Jewish religion. Jews are in fact the only people – as a people -- for whom Israel (ancient Judea and Samaria) was ever their national homeland. Those who deny Zionism thus deny Jewish peoplehood and the fundamental right of Jews to live as a people in their own ancestral homeland, Israel.

Unique in the world, Jews are both a people and adherents of a religion. Intrinsic to and inseparable from the religion of Judaism is the land of Israel; more specifically, the centrality of and longing for Jerusalem and its Temple. Deny that centrality and you rip the heart and soul out of Judaism. Those who deny the right of the Jews to Israel and Jerusalem deny the right of the Jews to their own religion.

Judaism is like a stool supported on three legs – the nation, the religion and the land. Saw off any of these legs and the stool collapses. Does this mean that all Jews are Zionists? Of course not, no more than it means that all Jews are religious. But just as the hatred of Jews on theological grounds has always threatened the lives and safety of all Jews including those who are not religious, so the anti-Zionist hatred of Jewish self-determination is a form of bigotry which threatens the lives and safety of all Jews, whether or not they are Zionists. And the fact that there are some anti-Zionist Jews who themselves hate the expression of Jewish self-determination in the form of the State of Israel is a manifestation of that same self-same bigotry no less for being such a tragically twisted example.

The anti-Zionist madness of our time is thus far more pernicious even than hatred of Israel, pathologically obsessive and malevolent as that is in itself. Bad enough that for so many people in Britain and the west, Israel has been successfully demonised as a pariah state on the basis of a unique systematic campaign of falsehoods, distortions and libels about its history and behaviour, untruths which have nevertheless become the unchallenged basis for public discussion.

But far worse even than this is the assumption underlying this lazy defamation, that Zionism is a creed that is itself a particularly aggressive kind of racism or colonialism. This vicious prejudice has turned truth, reason and decency inside out. The right of the Jews to their own historic national homeland has been recast, entirely falsely, as a usurpation of the ‘right’ to that land of ‘Palestinians’ – who never actually existed as a discrete people in the first place. Those Jews who are Zionists now find themselves as a result cast as racists and social pariahs – merely for asserting the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their own historic homeland.

Those who are driven by a vicious and bigoted hatred have thus been allowed to cast the victims of their hatred as themselves hateful people. Zionist Jews are thus defamed and victimised many times over – and by those who have the gall to claim the moral high ground in doing so, from luvvies Emma Thompson and Ken Loach to the boycotters and thugs who harass and bully Zionist Jews on campus.
Read the whole thing.

And from a completely different direction, from Michael Totten:

“Are you Zionists?”

My colleague Armin Rosen and I were supposed to be conducting the interview. Instead, we were put on the defensive before we could even ask our first question.

“Of course not,” I said.

“Nope,” Armin said. “I don’t have a Zionist bone in my body.”

We were at the headquarters for the UGGT, Tunisia’s biggest labor union, in the small city of Kasserine just down the road from Sidi Bouzid where the revolution—and the region-wide Arab Spring generally—began at the tail end of 2010 when fruit vendor Mohammad Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest crooked and onerous government regulation.

Four men sat in the union office with us. Armin and I wanted to hear about what happened in the early days of the revolt against Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s autocratic regime, but they were in no mood to share such information with Zionists.

Our translator Ahmed Medien, a young and—shall we say—more cosmopolitan journalist based in the capital, Tunis, sat with us.

“What if we were Zionists?” I said, directing my question to Ahmed as much as to our interlocutors.

“They wouldn’t talk to you,” he said.

I was annoyed and tempted to say, never mind then, we’re done here. How would they feel if I opened an interview by asking if they were terrorists? Part of me wanted to get thrown out of their office, not because I itch for fights on the job, but because I learn as much from one interview that goes off the rails as I do from six that are predictable. But I don’t sabotage interviews. That’s up to the folks on the other side of the table. And anyway, conversations like this one that merely go wobbly, rather than implode catastrophically, can also be more revealing than typical ones.

Did I lie when I said I wasn’t a Zionist? What’s a Zionist, anyway? A person who thinks Israel has a right to exist? If so, then, yes, I suppose I’m a Zionist, or perhaps just a Zionist sympathizer since I am not Jewish. But these working-class mustachios in Tunisia’s back-of-beyond have another, more phantasmagorical, definition of the notorious Z-word. I’m certainly not a Zionist as they define one. Neither is Armin Rosen.

“We are not against Jews,” said the man behind the desk in whose office we sat, “but Zionists didn’t go to Palestine to coexist peacefully with Arab nations. They went there to take land from Palestinians and kill them. This is not a country that wants to peacefully coexist. This is a country that wants war between Arab nations.”

This is nonsense on stilts, of course, and since he and his colleagues wanted to know if Armin and I support that, then, no, neither of us lied, not really, when we said we weren’t Zionists.

(h/t Mohammed the Teddy Bear)

Tunisia is moderate and even liberal compared with other Arabic-speaking countries, but the place still suffers from a heady case of Israel Derangement Syndrome. More than half the people I interviewed complained about Israel at least once even when I didn’t ask about it. Not a single one of these people—not a one—based their complaint in reality. They were jousting with a fantasy Israel that only exists in their minds.