Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Quotes of the Day - June 5, 2012: Notes on Gershom Gorenberg's The Unmaking of Israel

I've been reading The Unmaking of Israel off and on for a few weeks now, but I've decided to sit down and give it a close reading. Since I will spending a gap year in Israel, I have a bit more motivation fully immerse myself in texts about Israel and Zionism. This is also the first book that I'm reading on Kindle and trying to take notes on, so this might be a bit more fragmented than other posts.

Gorenberg notes the chasm between the internal and external perceptions of Zionism. From outside, and increasingly from inside:
The most concise criticism is that Israel is an "ethnocracy," as Israeli political geographer Oren Yiftachel argues in his book 2006 book of that name. (5)
Zionism, understood from within, is the national liberation movement of the Jews. (6)
And yet, does Zionism as a national liberation movement make it any less of an exclusionary and ethnocentric ideology? If Zionism is simply another kind of nationalism, then does it encompass, as many argue it does, all of the unsavory and illiberal facets of nationalism: ideas of ethnic supremacy, nativism, and racism?

But there is another problem with the idea that Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jews: the majority of the world's Jews do not recognize themselves as members of a distinct nation. While many like to look to Israel as evidence of Zionism's success, the presence of a mere six million Jews living in the state of Israel suggests otherwise. More than half of the world's Jewish population lives outside of the Jewish state. They have no desire to be part of the national liberation movement. Israel, then, is worse than just an ethnocracy; it is an ideological failure. The modern state of Israel is not the fulfillment of the Zionist dream but it's failure.

Though the parliamentary anti-capitalist left in Israel is long dead, it's nice to see things kernels of resistance like this:
By then, both of the Communist newspapers had published editorials denouncing Ben-Gurion and Eban of "trafficking in the blood" of young Israelis to satisfy their American masters. (32).
I would love to see an argument like the one above made again. After all, American Jews bear none of the sacrifices Israeli Jews bear in protecting the Zionist dream. American Jews give a few dollars, Israeli Jews give their lives. AIPAC, ZOA, and other American Zionist organizations, by setting policy agendas and taking hawkish positions, are responsible for the deaths of Israeli soldiers in unjust and unnecessary wars. For all their rhetoric about their love for Israel, American Jews seem to equate the lives of Israelis with dollars and cents.

No matter how many books are written and films are made, American Jews have trouble understanding the trauma of the Nakbka for Palestinians. Jews have trouble facing the realities of the war for independence:
In some places, Jewish commanders expelled Arabs from conquered villages. In many ore, panic led to mass flight, especially after Irgun and Lehi fighters perpetrated a massacre in the village of Deir Yassin outside Jerusalem. (48)
Afterward as the fighting continued, cases of the IDF expelling Arabs grew more and more common. The decision to prevent return was the turning point transforming what began in the chaos of war into a choice. (29). 

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