May 15, 2008
Post-Zionism in a diaspora world
(Page 2 - Previous Page)In each country's annals, including those of the United States, we must accept those facts we can't ignore, the dark actions that stain our history. Individuals may argue their significance, sometimes for generations to come. But we need only accept them as our past -- we are not compelled to imbue them with any greater power in the present beyond accepting them and saying: How shall we go forward?
There will always be those, Jewish and not, who can only focus on Israel's wrongs as an indictment of all Israelis and Israel's right to exist. At the same time, there will always be those, Jewish and not, who will cite a double standard applied to Israel as a way to avoid confronting those wrongs in Israel's past and its present.
As each group gets more vocal, empowered by the Internet, blogs and a polarization that preaches opinion to its own fervent choir, it becomes increasingly difficult to stand up to the clatter and to voice a simple truth: That a true democracy thrives, regardless of the bad and regrettable actions of individuals in one regime's government (as is evidenced by what's going on right now in this country). That is the point of a democracy. A post-Zionist will continue to believe in Israel's dream of an open society, with truly democratic institutions and a democratic rule of law.
Herzl wrote his essay, "The Jewish State," in reaction to witnessing France's Dreyfus trial. Herzl felt that the only answer to the anti-Semitism he saw in Europe was to found a Jewish state. Today, we hear that anti-Semitism exists in Europe and elsewhere because of actions of the Jewish state (plus Ã§a change.....).
By some accounts, there are now more Jews living in Israel than in any single country in the world, yet anti-Semitism continues to flare up even in countries with little or no Jewish population
How in this age of post-Zionism do we distinguish between criticism of Israel and its supporters (both Israeli and American), and criticism informed or motivated by anti-Semitism?
From my experience (and I have met quite a few Holocaust revisionists), more than anything, the issue boils down to the Gestalt, not the simple fact of criticism but the pattern, the language, the generalizations, the tone. Although that doesn't sound very precise (and I'm afraid it is not), let me refer you to someone who has done some serious research on the subject:
April Rosenblum, a Philadelphia-based progressive activist was troubled enough by her leftist friends not standing up to anti-Semitism that she produced a 32-page pamphlet, "The Past Didn't Go Anywhere." While critical of American and Israeli policies, the pamphlet explains in the language of the struggle how anti-Semitism weakens the cause of those committed to social action.
Rosenblum's is one response. But the point is that, for those imbued with the Gestalt of supporting and defending Israel, post-Zionism means finding a way to speak truth to Israel's faults as well as to those with anti-Semitic agendas.
As Israel turns 60, post-Zionism is a love of Israel without borders, unafraid to accept truth and confident that a democratic Jewish state, despite its imperfections and failings, will continue to nourish our souls, and will one day fulfill its promise; and that as part of our covenant, we will continue to dream and work and support Israel, so that promise may come true in our lifetimes.
These words, which for years I've mumbled in Hebrew, without paying them any attention, seem strangely appropriate. They were written by a Naftali Herz Imber in Zolochiv, Ukraine, in 1878. You may know them as the words to the Israeli national anthem, "Hatikvah":
As long as in the heart, within,
A soul of a Jew is yearning,
And to the edges of the East, forward,
An eye gazes toward Zion
Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
Tom Teicholz is a film producer in Los Angeles. Everywhere else, he's an author and journalist who has written for The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Interview and The Forward. His column appears every other week.
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