Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Thoughts on Zionism

David Seaton's News Links
"It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell." Buddha
For much of the world, Zionism is associated today with racism and apartheid. That certainly was not always the case. In the context of 19th century European imperialism, where it had its origins, Zionism was totally benign.
Zionism's original idea was to "heal" the Jewish people of the deformations caused by centuries of Diaspora wandering. Heal them by renewing their contact with the land.
Zionism's foundational idea was for Jews to become farmers and artisans.   But you could say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, because they certainly picked the wrong neighborhood to put it into practice.
The Zionist movement began with anything but the "ethnic cleansing" now in relentless progress.
In the days before antibiotics had brought down infant mortality in hot countries, with the subsequent population explosion, Ottoman Palestine, although not "empty," was nothing near as populated as today.
The Turkish empire was tottering on its last legs and most of the land  that early Zionist pioneers acquired was owned by absentee landlords, who lived in Istanbul. Buying their land was easy and Baron Rothschild helped finance the first colonies. In Jewish families of that period Zionism was the sort of flaky thing that your wife's younger brother was involved in. And so it remained until the 1930s.
The horrible irony of all this is that it was Adolph Hitler that really put Zionism on the map for well-meaning and powerful gentiles...  again within the totally eurocentric context of the day, the idea that in compensation for the German-led Holocaust, the Jewish people should be given Arab Palestine instead of Baden W├╝rtenberg seemed to make sense.
Now, it looks like Israelis have painted themselves into a dreadful corner, one where they are forced to do a dozen evil things before breakfast just to keep their lead balloon of a country afloat.  So much for being a light unto the nations.
Believe me, this is not just a Palestinian tragedy... it is taking the Jewish people, who, with all their Nobel prizes, brains, initiative, talent and soul, are an ornament of humanity, and bending them all out of shape. You might say that their "inner Albert Einstein" is in danger of being overpowered by their "inner Bugsy Siegel".
The real change that has taken place in the world since Theodor Herzl was inspired to create the Zionist movement, is the emancipation, self-awareness and the empowerment of the heretofore humiliated, subordinate and invisible... the process whereby "colored people" become "people of color" called anti-imperialism.
Israel itself is a projection of Europe's sins and problems onto a region which had never organized pogroms and where Jews had lived in peace for centuries. (I understand that Iraq's Jewish community, for example, dated back some four thousand years).
Ironically, a product of eurocentrism, Israel, created to be the homeland of the persecuted and downtrodden, is the last bastion of the "white man's burden" left standing.
In the world of "Arab Springs", Israel's case is like the slogan of Sam Peckinpah's classic, "The Wild Bunch"... "they came too late, they stayed too long". They, of all people, should know better. DS
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14


Publius said...

Great analysis. I recall that Hannah Arendt was alarmed and disappointed by the course that Zionism started to take after WWII, and she was vilified for it.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

I had Zionism well and thoroughly explained to me. My Israeli girlfriend was raised on a Hashomer Hatzair (Young Red Guards) kibbutz, one of the earliest kibbutzim in Galilee. Her parents had made the aliya from Poland in the early 1930s. She had never had money in her hand until, at 18, she did her military service. What I know about Zionism I learned from her.

Zionism was really rather beautiful in its origins. Very 19th century romantic: the purification of men and women, an entire people, through work in the soil owned in common, where each contributed according to their ability and each received according to their needs.

The idea behind it all was in some ways rather similar to Marx's view of Judaism: that centuries of being forcibly divorced from the land and forbidden to exercise most skilled trades and forced to live a rootless life, surviving by lending money to, or practicing medicine on, Christian rulers, who hated them and persecuted them, had alienated and thoroughly shrunken Jewish people's "species nature" and this could only be healed in a land of their own, working with their hands and eating the fruits of their own labor. The ideal was the "cultured peasant": working in the fields by day, but reading philosophy and science in their ample free time.

Nowadays there are immigrants from places like Thailand doing stoop labor in the fields... and Tel-Aviv is a world capital of money laundering... that is how far things have come adrift from the original idea. That today, reactionary, born again Christian, Tea Party types are ardent "Zionists" would have Theodor Hertzl spinning like a top in his grave.

Publius said...

Thanks for that vignette... wow.

bailey said...

Yes, i too, luv the vignette.