Jewish Journal


July 6, 2008

Post-Zionism: giving up on the Jewish dream or Judaism?


Post-Zionism is not new.

There is nothing new in this moral blindness and these historical distortions, but it is worth remembering: This is not a matter of post-Zionists, but rather of anti-Zionists of the old school. The absurdity is that anti-Zionists of a different breed, the people of the ultra-Orthodox movement Agudat Yisrael, for example, have accepted the historical fact of the existence of the State of Israel. The other anti-Zionists, who are accustomed to calling themselves the people of the world of tomorrow, are still captive in the snares of the past. Indeed there is nothing new under the sun.

Still, post-Zionism is accepted as something new. And Brian Britt, writing for Sightings, argues that it is an underlying theme of two new movies, the second of which I can proudly say I have not and will not see: “Restless” and “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan.”

IDF soldier leaves for NY

Both films conclude with father-son reunions. When Tzach’s mother dies, he finds and angrily confronts his Moroccan-born father, who fled Israel’s wars and ethnic discrimination twenty years earlier. After a standoff at gunpoint, Tzach and Moshe reconnect over a bowl of homemade soup. Zohan’s father, who earlier mocked his son’s hairstyling ambition, finally asks his “faygele” son for a haircut. Away from Israel, the sons and fathers preserve their families and some sense of group identity.

But this group identity includes neither Zionism nor Judaism. Our protagonists do not reflect the biblical warriors David and Samson so much as Joseph, the diaspora hero who succeeds on the basis of good looks and skill. Exiled by choice, these fathers and sons retrace the steps of earlier immigrants to New York, networking and seducing their way to housing, jobs, and social support. Zohan, Moshe, and Tzach escape their warrior culture in un-warrior-like moments of weeping, cross-dressing, and heartfelt poetry; but they have given up their stakes in a Jewish homeland.

They are not alone: New York turns out to be full of Israeli-Americans.

So too is Los Angeles. But it’s inaccurate to dub as post-Zionists those who simply have left Israel. Very few of these people, I suspect, are strongly working against the dream of a Jewish state; they’ve just stopped working for it.

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