It was whilst studying on my gap year in Israel that I first became really exposed to Post-Zionism. Ideas that challenged and critiqued the what I had come to believe over the past two-three years since joining Hanoar Hatzioni. It encouraged its leaders to go to Israel and to take part in the Machon program, knowing full well that teaching about Post-Zionism was part of the curriculum, which involved being self critical.
In fact, one day I can remember some workers from the UJS (Union of Jewish Students), coming to visit us from London, to talk to us about life on a university campus in relation to the anti-Zionist activity that was beginning to grow and spread. It was important that we become at least familiar with these kinds of criticism’s now, otherwise it will be a big shock when we arrive on campus and have people calling us Nazis and racists and not understanding why.
It is debatable whether or not Post-Zionism and Anti Zionism are the same thing or not. The outcome is essentially that both do not believe there should be a Jewish state. The difference is that a Post-Zionist previously believed in Zionism but at a particular point believed that the movement failed or its ideas were disproven. For example, the premise of Herzl’s belief was that the objective of creating a Jewish state would be the solution to end anti-Semitism. We now know that the creation of the state did not end anti-Semitism.
In Herzl’s time, anti-Semites yelled Jews go back to Palestine,” today anti-Semites for the most part claim the reason there is animosity towards Jews is because they are in Palestine. We do see a consistent pattern however, between the Post-Zionists and the Zionists of the Herzlian school of thought. The early Reform movement believed that the cause of anti-Semitism was that people believed the Jews were different, people fear what they don’t understand, so they dropped their differences and sought to assimilate. Assimilating did not cause anti-Semitism to disappear, this is where Zionism responded by taking what the anti-Semites said seriously, believing that it was because the Jews were living among other nations, interfering, trying to be something that they are not that he proposed Zionism as an answer.
What many of us realise however, as former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has said is that anti-Semitism will that mutate to oppose whatever is the dominant belief system of the majority of Jews in every age using whatever is considered the highest respected authority to do so. In the Middle ages, that was Christianity in Europe, so the reason for anti-Semitism was because Jews killed Jesus, they were guilty of deicide according to the Church. In the modern era, Christianity was no longer the highest authority, science was, so the Jews were considered inferior as a race. In the post-modern era, racism is no longer acceptable, the highest authority is human rights, the founding of the UN and International Law was in response setup with the goal of preventing war, promoting peace and protecting human rights, particularly to fight genocide and war crimes committed by powerful states. So today the majority of the world’s Jewish population live in Israel and identify with it, and in turn it is accused of committing human rights violations, genocide, apartheid, ethnic cleansing and branding Zionism as racism.
Many students of the subject of anti-Semitism will note that it is a very strange unexplainable phenomena, it is completely irrational. None of the theories that are suggested for its cause have been consistent when put to a litmus test. There are real life examples from history that disprove every one of them. What’s more is that Jews are accused of things that are totally opposed to one another. Like being hated for being both capitalists and communists, rich and poor, for standing up for ourselves and for being passive victims, separatists and cosmopolitans. The list goes on.
What we eventually come to realise is that none of these serve as legitimate causes, they are only excuses for anti-Semitism. When we remove the alleged cause the problem never disappears, proving it to be only an excuse. It would appear that many of the Post-Zionists fail to recognise this mutation of excuses. They continue to listen to the anti-Semites/Zionists new claims, that if Israel stopped being a Jewish state and became a pure liberal democracy, a state for its citizens, ended the occupation and granted the Palestinians citizenship then there would be peace.
Post-Zionists will tell the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict very differently and in such a way that is more pro-Palestinian, placing the blame more on Israel for the problems in the Middle East. By claiming that Zionism ignored the Arabs and sought to expel them and did not truly want peace, the building of Israeli settlements in the West bank and Gaza is believed by them to be the biggest root cause of the violence on the part of the Palestinians towards Israel.
Another dimension is the belief that Israel represents an anachronism in 2014 as a Jewish state. Israel, is a very nationalistic society, it was an ideology that was born in the 19th century in Europe. Europe has moved away from such nationalism’s, and has come to embrace multi-ethnic, multiculturalism. The idea that the state belongs to a particular people and grants them certain rights that are not afforded to their minorities, seems like something of the past that is no longer appropriate within the western democratic world.
Some of these latter arguments, to some extent I sympathise with the sentiment of, and yes there are some issues in Israeli society and instances of inequality, but I don’t think that in order to address them one has to dismantle Israel as a Jewish state, and at the same time the facts concerning anti-Semitism I cannot deny. I do not believe for one minute that the cause of the conflict and anti-Semitism that emanates from it to Jews elsewhere has anything to do with Israeli settlements in the West bank. Whilst I can see how, if one aims to resolve the conflict through the two state solution, settlements might not be helpful, the conflict did not begin in 1967, it began before 1948. Arab terrorism and violence towards Jews began long before the state was founded. This was not because all the Arabs wanted was Israel to exist within its secure and ‘recognised’ borders (the armistice lines, pre 1967 borders) as they claim today.
To those who see infinite wisdom in US or European multiculturalism, as someone who grew up in one of these societies, it is not without its problems. In Israel for example, the majority of the country still shuts down on Shabbat every week. Some observe it religiously, others not, but people spend time with their families on this one day every week. Israelis debate over whether or not public transport or shopping malls or places should be open or not on Shabbat, or at least in parts of the country that are not very religious. In some, Tel Aviv for example, there are places that are open.
In Britain many years ago, when it was still a country that could safely call itself what it is a traditionally Christian country, there were laws against Sunday trading. Sunday was a day where very few people worked. Some went to Church, others had family Sunday roasts, and they too spent time relaxing with their families. Today, Sunday is pretty much a normal day. everywhere is open. Not everyone has a set day off anymore on the same day. Some people are in professions where they have to work anti-social hours in the evenings or nights and on weekends, so they have to take their days off mid-week, at times when their children may be in school, or their partner or friends are working. It is a 24/7 working week.
This causes lots of social problems in society. Those of us in western countries complain about the political correctness and the moral relativism. There are those who argue that all cultures are equal and must be respected and accepted, otherwise we are being racist or discriminating against a particular culture. So when people come to Britain from countries where honour killings are the norm, or men come with more than one wife, or reject the tolerant values that grant them the right to live there in the first place and people object to this, they are accused of claiming that their values that believe to the contrary are superior.
Put simply, societies are only able to be tolerant of others by believing that some values are absolute, not everything is relative. When everything is relative, the society becomes weak, taken advantage of, there is nothing that defines it nor anything strong enough for people to be willing to fight for it. It cannot be tolerant of the intolerant. This is what makes Britain weak, many of us will trace the roots of many of the problems we currently face here to a decline in these family and traditional values that come from religion, as well as being the root cause of problems we fear and foresee coming.
When I look at Israel in this respect, I see a country that in spite of all its problems and infighting a lot of the time, it is when it comes to the crunch a strong, socially cohesive society still. When I see it looking to the west as its role model that it should seek to follow, I see it as a disaster in many ways. Not everything about Britain and America should be emulated, some things yes, but these countries also have a lot they too can learn from Israel.