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liberal zionism

  • What Israelis really mean when we talk about the Left

    It is a shameful lie to make opposition to 47-year military rule an issue of supporters or traitors of Israel. The war in Gaza yielded a large crop of articles about Liberal Zionism. Suddenly numerous authors felt an urgent need to reject, redefine, defend or deconstruct a term that the vast majority of Israelis have never heard of. However, Israelis are familiar with the same basic concept, except they call it the “Zionist Left,” or national left. They embrace the label “Zionism,” but unlike diaspora-based writers, don’t spend too much time trying to define it.  I can’t recall anything like…

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  • The many denials of liberal Zionism

    From its origins until today, liberal Zionism has been unable to reconcile Israeli policies of dispossession and military control with the image of a democratic state. Is it merely a matter of semantics, or inherent to the ideology? Part two of Ran Greenstein's analysis. By Ran Greenstein As discussed in the previous part of this article, liberal Zionists like Arthur Ruppin and Hans Kohn responded in divergent ways to the challenge of reconciling broad universal values with narrow Zionist aims. What they shared with other activists and intellectuals, though, was full realization of the costs involved in their choices. This…

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  • The perennial dilemma of liberal Zionism

    For over a century, liberal Zionists have attempted to reconcile universal humanism with Zionist nationalism. A review of two prominent thinkers who failed. By Ran Greenstein The prospect of impending doom facing Liberal Zionism has been raised time and again in recent months, from the inane apologetics of Ari Shavit to the more sophisticated discussions of Jonathan Freedland in the NY Review of Books and Roger Cohen in the New York Times, culminating with the highly critical approach of Antony Lerman, also in the Times. While the war in Gaza played a role in this wave of lamentation, it is in…

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  • War is the new system of governance (and five other Gaza takeaways)

    The status quo of the occupation has reached a new level of violence and destruction, but there is no political power in sight that can impose a change on the ground. 1. Israel paid more than it expected for a bit less than it wanted. Israel’s strategic goal in this war was to maintain the status quo on the Palestinian issue. Prime Minister Netanyahu outlined this notion from the first days of the war, when he presented his ceasefire formula: if Hamas stops shooting, we stop shooting. Israel got most of what it wanted, but at a greater price than expected,…

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  • Israeli peace activism: Same slogans for a different reality

    As a fundamental human desire and right, peace traverses time and context. However, if it is to be realized it must be adjusted to political and social realities. By Nadia Naser-Najjab In a period degraded by extremes of violence and dehumanization, the sight of 10,000 Israeli protestors taking to the streets of Tel Aviv last Saturday to protest against their own government’s actions in Gaza appeared as a welcome chink of light illuminating unremittingly bleak skies. Despite being smaller in scale, the demonstration recalled the early 1990s, when large numbers of Israelis demonstrated in favor of peace, and the possibility…

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  • Addressing Israel’s addiction to settlements

    A former J Street leader explains why he became a supporter of BDS. By Seth Morrison Many of us have friends or family who suffer from addiction, and all too often it is only when we cut them off and stop enabling their negative behavior that things can actually change. It is that model of tough love that led me to become a BDS supporter. Unfortunately the Middle East peace talks started with the best of intentions by President Obama and Secretary Kerry are dead – a victim of Israel’s unfettered development of illegal settlements and Netanyahu’s decision to go…

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  • After Kerry, only BDS may save the two-state solution

    Not even Ben-Gurion would be able to rally the political support necessary to displace masses of settlers as long as there is no price to be paid for the occupation. So how much longer can liberal Zionists sit and watch the status quo remain static? If instead of trying to persuade Israel to change, two-state supporters started holding it responsible for refusing to change, it could have a jarring psychological impact on the country and its leaders. Now that the Kerry peace talks have failed and everyone has given up hoping that Netanyahu will change, what's the new plan for…

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  • Arik Einstein and the failure of Israeli liberal Zionism

    As the death of legendary Israeli singer and actor Arik Einstein became a nationwide event, it became clear that some of his mourners were more interested in lamenting what they saw as the end of Ashkenazi rule in Israel. Tom Pessah talks about the role that someone as great as Einstein can play in creating real change. By Tom Pessah I spent yesterday working on my dissertation at Tel Aviv University. Israeli students can be noisy, even in libraries, but the Sourasky Central Library is generally very quiet. I have my own corner on the first floor where I can…

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  • Liberal Zionism at 65: Fantasy and reality

    Liberal Zionism has had 65 years to prove Israel can indeed be both a Jewish state and a liberal democracy. Given its track record, is it time to put the ideology to rest?  By David Sheen Imagine if you would, for a minute, that Liberal Zionists have been proven correct: that it is totally possible for a state that accords privileges to members of one specific ethnic group only - Jews, in this case - to be a flourishing democracy. Imagine that Israel is indeed a Light Unto the Nations, and that people from all the other nations who see the…

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  • 'No solution,' says the oppressor to the oppressed

    A liberal-Zionist writer learns to accept the status quo. A response. The disappointment over the failure of the Oslo process and the rise to power of an extreme nationalistic coalition in Israel have led to a newly founded belief among some liberal Zionists that "there is no solution to the conflict," or that "peace cannot be achieved." This view – which dominates Labor Party politics today as well - is both morally and politically wrong. The New Republic's Leon Wieseltier, a self proclaimed "hawkish dove," expressed the "no solution" idea in a recent post. After blaming the Palestinians for missing…

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  • An essential sense of urgency: On Peter Beinart's 'The Crisis of Zionism'

    "The Crisis of Zionism," appears to be a book about politics, history and ideology, but in fact it is a research into identity; the identity of a community and the identity of the author. It is a book about the construction, the de-construction and the effort to reconstruct an identity; it sheds light on forgotten historical political facts, while leaving out others; it invents a new narrative, but is by no means false, since such is the nature of all identity projects. In his groundbreaking work, "Imagined Communities," Benedict Andersen quotes French author Ernest Renan: "The essence of a nation…

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  • One or two states? The status quo is Israel's rational choice

    The secret to understanding Israeli political behavior lies in the widespread (and fundamentally evident) notion that any change to the status quo is likely to bring more harm than good. Even passionate advocates of Israeli policy wonder at times – often in private, but sometimes also in public – why the Israeli government doesn't show a bit more urgency in pursuing a way out of the West Bank. Israel, the saying goes, is faced with two options: A two-state solution and a one-state solution. The first option involves removing most of the settlements from the West Bank (but not necessarily…

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  • Ideological revolution in Zionism must include feminist values, rhetoric

    By Zoe Jick This week's provocative NY Times op-ed by Peter Beinart is already the subject of much controversy among those engaged in public debate about Israel and Zionism. Coming from a prominent academic voice of liberal Zionism, Beinart’s message pushes the boundaries of pro-Israel activism by maintaining his “devotion to the Jewish people” while allowing for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) in the occupied territory, or “undemocratic Israel.” His statements will incite backlash from the American Jewish community, many of whom protest BDS across campuses, co-ops and institutions nationwide. His call for locality-focused BDS aside, the op-ed’s most valuable lesson is…

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