Friday, September 19, 2014

The End? Or the Kiboshing of Liberal Zionism?

  Bill  Clinton, Yitzhak Rabin,Yasser Arafat (photo: Vince Musi)
Israel is undoubtedly an important proxy for United States interests in the Middle East. This is only one of a number of reasons why the country finds itself anathema to many on the left, both in America and overseas. President Obama’s more moderate stance and the tensions that have existed between him and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu mirror the conflict of some liberals who were once fervid supporters of Israel. In addition, in the opinion of some, the Israeli lobby represented by AIPAC tends to take an even more hard line stance than many average Israelis themselves and there are Israelis who criticize the jingoism of today’s American Zionists whose zealotry is a form of windmill chasing that's not validated by practical everyday experience. You have to be there is the point. The film, The Law in These Parts dramatized the unsettling realities of a society which has failed to apply its own advanced and enlightened codes of justice in the occupied territories. But there was another era, almost hard to remember, when the newly independent Israeli state was the darling of the left. Israel was a socialist, primarily agricultural utopia in which a good part of the population lived on kibbutzim (today only a handful remain and agriculture is only a small part of a booming capitalist economy) and even more importantly Israel was a place of refuge for the survivors of the Holocaust. Baby boomers will recall bonds issued for the State of Israel decorated with the trees whose planting they financed.  In a recent Times Op-Ed piece, “The End of Liberal Zionism,” NYT, 8/23/14) Antony Lerman, author of The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist gave vent to some of the disenchantment of liberal Diaspora Jews with a country that embodied ideals they once cherished. Lerman states, “In reality, the only Zionism of consequence today is xenophobic and exclusionary, a Jewish ethno-nationalism inspired by religious messianism. It is carrying out an open-ended project of national self realization to be achieved through colonization and purification of the tribe.” But has a once venerated idealistic enterprise itself become the victim of  extremism? Are Israel’s enemies using it as a pawn in yet another messianic struggle that goes far beyond the questions of a two state solution or whether the country’s borders should be returned to where they were before the Six Day War? All societies have their doves and hawks. What is feeding the hawkish elements in a body politic with a substantial history of voting for leaders who supported peace, accommodation and reconciliation?

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