Monday, May 07, 2012

How Anti-Zionism Seduced the Intellectual Left

From Quadrant, Volume LVI Number 5, May 2012, by Leslie Stein:

[From the Introduction]
Can one be an anti-Zionist without being an anti-Semite? Many years before the establishment of the State of Israel one could reasonably adopt the view that the very notion of Zionism was a chimera, for the chances of successfully launching and then consummating the Zionist project seemed rather fanciful. Accordingly, the sprinkling of Zionist pioneers making their way to Palestine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were mocked as naive idealists by the many Russian Jews fleeing to America. In Western Europe, Jews wishing to assimilate into the mainstream community feared that the spread of Zionism would subject them to the charge of dual loyalty. Marxists attacked Zionism on the grounds that it that diverted the attention of Jewish workers from the class struggle. Finally, extremely devout Jews regarded Zionism as a blasphemous attempt to pre-empt the work of God.
The Zionist movement never commanded a Jewish majority until after the Second World War. Clearly, Jews themselves, not to speak of non-Jews, could and did adopt anti-Zionist positions without any concomitant anti-Semitic overtones. It may seem strange to think of any Jew being anti-Semitic but under certain circumstances, the oppressiveness, continuity and pervasiveness of anti-Semitism can propel some of its victims to seek a way out by associating with and internalising the views of their persecutors. It is not my intention to labour this point but rather to emphasise that in the past, anti-Zionism did not have the same connotations as it has today and that people holding such views did not necessarily do so with malice. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case....

[From the Concludsion]
....The adverse effects of anti-Zionism are considerable since its adherents relentlessly attempt to undermine Israel’s existence by means of commercial, scientific or cultural boycotts and by campaigns denouncing Israel’s right to defend itself on the grounds that Israel is illegitimate in the first place. Furthermore, a negative influence on diaspora Jewry is also brought to bear. After being unrelentingly assailed by anti-Zionist propaganda in the media and on university campuses, inevitably some Jews fall prey to the prevailing conventional wisdom. With Israel constantly being painted as inflicting terrible pain and suffering on defenceless Palestinians, many young Jews are loath to reveal their Jewishness lest they be viewed as accomplices of Israeli oppression. But by expressing their abhorrence of Israel and proclaiming from the rooftops that they are proud to be ashamed of Israel, they can safely acknowledge their Jewish ancestry without being socially ostracised. Sadly, they generally not only turn on Israel but find themselves estranged from the Jewish community at large.
It would be foolhardy to think of anti-Zionism as being a distinctly Jewish problem. In essence it is employed as a strategic means of combatting western civilization. As it gathers pace it enhances sympathy and support for Hamas, Hezbollah and other Islamists, all sworn enemies of open, democratic and tolerant societies. For some years past university campuses have become bastions of prejudice and intolerance where it is not unusual for pro-Israeli speakers to be threatened with violence. By fostering a mindset amenable to fanaticism and self-righteousness anti-Zionism gives rise to a general lowering of the tone of public discourse. That alone renders it harmful to society as a whole.
It is of course not the first time in modern history that intellectuals have held convictions belied by the evidence. In pondering just why so many learned people were enthused about the Stalinist regime at the very time when it was slaughtering and imprisoning millions of its citizens, the late and eminent Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski concluded that “the reaction of western intellectuals was a remarkable triumph of doctrinaire ideology over common sense and the critical instinct.” It is the author’s contention that the same applies with respect to the current appeal of anti-Zionism.

[Follow the link to the full article.]
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