+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Can one be a liberal and a Zionist without being a liberal Zionist?

An alternative understanding of Zionism sees no contradiction between liberalism and Zionism, and makes possible various political arrangements, which do not place the national aspirations of Jews ahead of those of Palestinians.

By Jerry Haber

Can one be a liberal (or: progressive) and a Zionist? The debate has been going on for some time now, and recent entries in the debate on +972 by Joseph Dana, Larry Derfner, and Abir Kopty, are worth reading.

What’s interesting is that both the advocates and detractors of liberal Zionism agree that there is an inherent contradiction between being liberal and being Zionist. Derfner considers himself a liberal, one who believes, for example, in civic equality, but there are times when his allegiance to the statist self-determination of the Jewish people trumps his liberalism. There is nothing wrong or inconsistent with attaching different weight to competing values.  

I don’t agree with the premise that there is an inherent contradiction between being liberal and being Zionist.  But that’s because of how I understand those terms.

Zionism for me involves a cluster of beliefs and attitudes that contain the following:

a) I am conscious of being part of a Jewish people, and that consciousness provides something meaningful within my life;

b) As a member of this people, I am conscious of a religious/historical connection to the land of Israel/Palestine;

c) The growth of Hebrew culture in Israel/Palestine, that began in the twentieth century, has been, on the whole, positive for the Jewish people, and compatible with the legitimate national aspirations of the Palestine Arabs;

d) The legitimate self-determination of the Jewish people requires nothing more than the ability for the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, within  the limits of a liberal, civic framework;

I find these views compatible with various political arrangements in Israel/Palestine. They are certainly compatible with a one state, binational framework, and arguably compatible with a national Jewish minority status within a Palestinian state, with rights guaranteed by a constitution.

Still, these principles return us to the arguments within the Zionist movement in the 1920s and 1930s, before the Zionist movement made the (wrong, in my opinion) turn towards ethnic statism in the early 1940s. They are controversial, certainly from a Palestinian standpoint. Particularly problematic is c) which rests on Jewish immigration  – although, it is important to point out that most of the key institutions of the revival of Hebrew culture predated the Jewish state, and were not opposed by the Palestinian leadership.

In any event, we are not in the 1930s. There are now around five and a half million Jews in Israel/Palestine.  The overwhelming majority of Palestinians and Arabs, including the Hamas party, accept the physical presence of Jews within Palestine; their problems are more with a Jewish ethnic state.

I do not accept other principles, which may now be dogmas, of Zionism.  I certainly don’t accept the view that the self-determination of the Jewish people trumps the self-determination of the Palestinian people, or that it justified immigration against the wishes of the Palestinian population, much less the formation of an ethnic exclusivist state with quasi-racist laws and provisions that are unparalleled in liberal, decent societies.

Of course, there will be many whose view of Zionism is such that they won’t consider me to be a Zionist.  They will say that my Zionism is so attenuated as not to be worthy of the name.  And they may be right; the fact that there is historical precedent for my brand of Zionism may not cut the mustard for them.

Whatever. At least folks will know why this blog is called the Magnes Zionist.

Jeremiah (Jerry) Haber is the nom de plume of an orthodox Jewish studies and philosophy professor, who divides his time between Israel and the US. This article was published on Jerry’s blog, The Magnes Zionist. It is reposted here with the author’s permission.

Related posts on +972:
The Zionism debate: When colonialism is embedded in liberalism
Response to Joseph Dana: A case for liberal Zionism
A sad commentary on the state of liberal Zionist discourse
+972 readers weigh in on Zionism debate

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Gali

      ” Can one be a liberal (or: progressive) and a Zionist? ”

      as a Israeli I find all these english terms really confusing Jerry
      how it works here is if you are Zionist left you vote avoda or meretz if you are non zionist left you vote hadash .

      Reply to Comment
    2. Jerry Haber writes that for himself, Zionism only requires four principles, the last of which is:

      “The legitimate self-determination of the Jewish people requires nothing more than the ability for the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, within the limits of a liberal, civic framework;”

      His view is too grand for me, because there are clearly many Jews (I am one such)( who want nothing to do with Israel and yet are part of “the Jewish people” for whom Jerry desires self-determination. His principle is coercive as to non-Zionist Jews.

      However, in its favor, it says nothing of the territory in which Jews are “to be masters of their own fate within the limits of a liberal, civic framework” (which I have called self-determination).

      Everyone knows (though not everyone laments) that Israel was created in the name of rescuing Jews from the perils of the (rest of) the world (a sort of orphanage for Jews, a sort of philantropic institution) but only at the cost of taking by force the land, property, way of life, and often lives of the Palestinians people who lived in the lands upon which Israel built its [as sometimes called, philanthropic] enterprise.

      Jerry Haber does not require the land of Israel to be large! Or even, on a close reading, within Palestine. He especially does not require it to be exclusively Jewish as long as — within it — Jews can be masters of their fate.

      I think Jerry could live in an “Israel” the size of New York City (whose population is about the size of Israel’s), leaving the rest of Palestine to the Palestinians who might well abandon their claims to “return” to such a small “Israel” if Israel would abandon its claim to all of Palestine, the claim it has been increasingly making — via “facts on the ground” — for 44 years.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Volodinjev the Great

      Shorter Pabelmont: “Mr. Haber, even you are too moderate to be one of us. Our Progressive club admits only those who believe Zionists should, for the crime of ever having set foot on Palestine beginning from 1882, be paying through the nose.”

      Reply to Comment
    4. aristeides

      There may be nothing wrong with attaching different weight to competing values, but there is certainly something inconsistent in claiming both values absolutely. For most people who claim to be “liberal Zionists” this means “liberal until liberalism clashes with Zionism.” Which is honest but not really liberal.

      .
      What I find problematic are your last two principles. I don’t know how anyone can claim with a straight face that: “c) The growth of Hebrew culture in Israel/Palestine, that began in the twentieth century, has been, on the whole, compatible with the legitimate national aspirations of the Palestine Arabs”

      .
      As for: “d) The legitimate self-determination of the Jewish people requires nothing more than the ability for the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, within the limits of a liberal, civic framework;”

      .
      What on Earth does this mean? Zionism, as normally understood, means that the Jewish people in Israel require a national state in order to be “masters of their own fate,” a phrase with which Jews seem to be in total disagreement concerning the meaning.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Mitchell Cohen

      Once again, I ask what is the definition of “liberal”? This is NOT a cynical question (in case anyone is wondering)….

      Reply to Comment
    6. aristeides

      I define liberalism in terms of the equality of all individuals, particularly the equality of rights and freedoms.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Mitchell Cohen

      @Aristeides, the part of your sentence after the comma, maybe, but before the comma, “the equality of all individuals” what does this mean exactly? All individuals are equal in what? Do all individuals have to be the same or can there be different religions, traditions, cultures, languages, nationalities, etc.?

      Reply to Comment
    8. Andrew

      A few comments. First, Jerry’s definition of Zionism is so unusual that I cannot believe that many Zionists would accept it. For example,

      “The legitimate self-determination of the Jewish people requires nothing more than the ability for the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, within the limits of a liberal, civic framework…”

      contains no mention of the Land of Israel (i.e., Palestine), which is always where Zionism has assumed that the “self-determination” above has to happen. That’s where the name “Zionism” comes from. Jewish nationalists who believed that self-determination could happen somewhere else (e.g., Simon Dubnow) have never been called Zionists.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Andrew

      The problems with Zionism are so self-evident that it is surprising that they need to be mentioned. But apparently they do.

      Problem 1: Zionism is a theory of ethnic nationalism. Like all theories of ethnic nationalism, it leads to racism.

      Not every Zionist is a racist. By any means. But not every nationalist of any other “nation” has been a racist, either. That does not change the fact that every single nationalist movement in history has led to at least some racism among its members. As well-intentioned as the first Jewish nationalists were in the 19th century, there was never any chance that Jewish nationalism could be any different.

      Reply to Comment
    10. aristeides

      Mitchell – there is dispute among those who call themselves liberals over these points. But equality doesn’t mean sameness or identity.

      .
      When I speak of equality I mean the same justice, rights, freedoms for all. If the issue is human rights, then all humans must have the same rights. If civil rights, then all members of a given polity.

      .
      The opposite of equality is hierarchy or privilege. If, as in Zionist Israel, one group of individuals is accorded fewer rights, less freedom, less justice than another, a liberal must reject this. Since the essence of Zionism is to place the rights of Jews above the rights of others in the state, to privilege Jews over others in the state, it simply can’t be consistent with liberalism.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Andrew

      Problem 2: Zionism always focused on Palestine…even though this was an inhabited land.

      These two problems led to an explosive combination. A tendency towards racism (typical to some extent of all nationalist movements) focused on a land in which people not in the “nation” in question were already living. This could only result in ethnic discrimination against the original inhabitants of the land. At the bare minimum.

      That the nationalism is question (Zionism) is Jewish makes it neither more nor less likely to discriminate against the indigenous inhabitants than it would be if not Jewish. But the tendency to ethnic discrimination towards Palestinian Arabs has always been present in Zionism, and this should surprise no one. Not because Zionists are Jews. Simply because they are nationalists, and they are human.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Andrew

      I fully support the rights of Israeli Jews to live in freedom and security. I deeply respect Judaism. But I hope that Israelis (and Palestinians) can move beyond ethnic nationalism. The sooner, the better.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Zvi

      I am arriving rather belatedly in this debate, and do not have much time to participate, but from my perspective I think that the definition of “Zionism” has been hijacked by any number of groups for their own particular purposes. From my perspective the definition of Zionism is very simple: The Jewish people have a right to establish a Jewish National Homeland in Israel/Palestine. Nothing more, and nothing less. Zionism says nothing specific about the where and how of the project. Thus, if you accept that Israel has a right to exist then you are a Zionist.

      And if you do not accept that Israel has a right to exist, then that is a whole different debate.

      Reply to Comment
    14. “What’s interesting is that both the advocates and detractors of liberal Zionism agree that there is an inherent contradiction between being liberal and being Zionist.”

      This is wrong, and, frankly, dishonest. There are a great many people, including myself and, I would venture, the vast majority of Jews, who see no contradiction between liberalism and Zionism. In fact, some of us argue that Zionism is a consequence of liberalism. I think that willingness to simply erase what is probably the dominant view among Jews is telling.

      How is it that Jews are allowed “self-determination” (apparently only at the allowance of others), but Palestinians have “legitimate national aspirations” that include the right to limit immigration and amount to a far larger set of rights. How is there anything liberal in allowing more rights to one group than to another? This is why, as a Leftist (not libeal) Zionist I have great respect for something a friend recently described as “someday, only Diaspora, for everyone everywhere,” but little patience for Haber. I don’t think he has much idea of what “nation” or “self-determination” are.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Andrew

      Zvi, it’s not so simple. Because 1) the land was inhabited. There was never any possibility of establishing a Jewish National Homeland without doing something about the non-Jewish people there; And 2) defining the “Jewish people” in any way in which rights can be ascribed to them is not possible. Right apply to people (e.g., Jews), not to “nations”. Attempts to define nations and rights that apply to them lead to ethnic discrimination, and they have in every other theory of nationalism.

      I accept that Israel has a right to exist. That is far, far different than accepting that Israel has the right to conduct itself towards Palestinians in ways that are defined by theories of ethnic nationalism.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Mitchell Cohen

      “Not every Zionist is a racist. By any means. But not every nationalist of any other “nation” has been a racist, either. That does not change the fact that every single nationalist movement in history has led to at least some racism among its members. As well-intentioned as the first Jewish nationalists were in the 19th century, there was never any chance that Jewish nationalism could be any different.” [End of Andrew] So there should be no nationalities or nation-states? Yeah, let us all just be citizens of the world. Pipe dream, which to me would be a nightmare because, like it or not, we are all different (starting with language, culture, and that is just the beginning). You are entitled to dream though.

      Reply to Comment
    17. aristeides

      Zvi wrote: “Zionism says nothing specific about the where and how of the project.”

      .
      But it does, according to your own definition: “The Jewish people have a right to establish a Jewish National Homeland in Israel/Palestine.” That’s a “where.”

      Reply to Comment
    18. aristeides

      Matt wrote: “There are a great many people, including myself and, I would venture, the vast majority of Jews, who see no contradiction between liberalism and Zionism.”

      .
      Yes, there are a great many such people, but they are blind to the fact of the contradiction. People who cherish liberal values and can’t admit to themselves that the Zionism which they also cherish is hostile to those same liberal values. It’s self-delusion.

      .
      Historically, yes, Zionism can be said to have risen out of liberal values, when Jews were the victims of inequality and racism. But it rapidly betrayed them.

      Reply to Comment
    19. ARISTEIDES agrees, “Yes, there are a great many such people, but they are blind to the fact of the contradiction.” First off, the point then stands that Haber is being dishonest and erasing these people. He says they/we don’t exist. Second, it’s always easy to complain of people who disagree with you that they/we are blind, but it’s no argument. It certainly won’t convince any of them/us, so, ummm, do you want to take a stab at argument or do you just want to insult me?

      Reply to Comment
    20. Ben Israel

      Andrew-
      Palestinian nationalism is ethnic nationalism which is racist. The first clause of the Palestinian Constitution says that the Palestinians are an integral part of the “Arab Nation” and will work for Arab unity. This excludes non-Arabs, such as the Armenian population of east Jerusalem. They also say that Sharia Law is a basis of legislation, which discriminates against non-Muslims. Thus official Palestinian nationalism is as inherently racist as you claim Jewish-Zionist nationalism is.
      Same with Egyptian nationalism. The official name of the country is the “Arab Republic of Egypt”. Non-Arabs, among the almost the entire Jewish population were expelled by force in 1956. Thus, Egyptian nationalism is by its very definition, racist, not to mention the Islamic influence on legislation there (e.g. Christians are pretty much forbidden to build new churces). A racist, theocratic state.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Zvi

      @andrew, All modern states in existence today are by their very definition “nationalistic” in nature. Were no people displaced in the founding of Nation X? Why should the fact that an injustice led to the founding of a country undermine it’s very right to exist? Why is Israel any different than any other nation? Of course there is much to criticize about a wide range of Israeli policies, but this has nothing to do with Zionism (IMHO).

      Aristeides, there was in fact a great deal of debate within early Zionist circles about whether Israel should be founded in Israel/Palestine. There was very little debate about what would be the implications for the existing residents. And this was legitimate in my opinion: the goal of Zionism was to create a Jewish National Homeland, not decide for other people how they should live *their* lives.

      I will admit without hesitation that the founding of the State of Israel was a tragic injustice for Palestinians and I support without hesitation their right to establish an independent Palestinian state in this region (although personally I think that some sort of regional confederation is the only viable long-term solution). Israel’s birth does not necessarily abrogate the Palestinians rights. As for how the Palestinians should realize this right, I personally think that this should be up to them to decide.

      The strategy of criticizing/denying Israel right to exist on the one hand while declaring that the Palestinians rights are being ignored does not seem to be a constructive form of argument/debate. This is not a zero-sum game here. Both sides have their historical narratives, and they are both legitimate! We need to move beyond “justice” and find solutions.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Andrew

      In response to the above: first Arab nationalism, Egyptian nationalism, Palestinian nationalism, etc., all have tendencies to racism within them. Yes. No doubt. As does Zionism.

      The historical difference between all of these nationalisms and Zionism, though, is that none of these nationalisms is or was based on a land that was inhabited by members of another “nation”. Not recognizing this fact is less than honest.

      And it’s not true that all states are based on ethnic nationalism anymore, as Israel currently is. The U.S. is not based on ethnic nationalism. Western European states are not, either. South Africa is not. States in the democratic world have been moving away from ethnic nationalism in their public, official discourse for over sixty years. Not Israel.

      Defenders of Zionism typically point to a gap in public, official discourse and actual practice in Western European countries (for example). That both ethnic nationalism and racism exist in Western Europe is beyond question.

      But defenders of Zionism forget that the same gap exists in Israel as well. What is chilling about Israel is that *both* public, official discourse *and* actual practice are now well over half a century behind the democratic world.

      Reply to Comment
    23. aristeides

      Zvi – you will not find me agreeing that we need to “move beyond justice.” Justice is where we must always begin.

      .
      It isn’t just liberalism and Zionism that involve a contradiction. Zionism contains contradictions within itself. This, I think, is the source of Jerry Haber’s unsatisfactory definition.

      .
      The question has to be: Why do Jews want a national state of their own? Andrew points out correctly that Zionism traditionally assumed this national state would be in Palestine. But why?

      .
      Many religious Jews wanted to move to Palestine in order to live and worship in the vicinity of the ancient Temple, but this never required a national state, and in fact most of the early immigrants to Palestine were not Zionists and remain anti-Zionist to this day.

      .
      Another reason often given to justify Zionism is the wish of Jews to live together in a “Jewish lifestyle”, whatever that is, and avoid contamination from non-Jewish associations, such as assimilation, and to avoid inconvenient laws that might restrict the right of Jews to, say, torture chickens. But this does not require residence in Palestine.

      .
      It’s the conflicts and contradictions among these various Jewish goals as well as the contradiction between Zionism and the fading remnants of liberalism in Israel that cause such confusion in attempts at justifying its existence. There has never been a single purpose behind Israel, and its various different purposes are at odds with each other.

      Reply to Comment
    24. RichardL

      Zvi: “We need to move beyond “justice” and find solutions.”

      Ye gods!”The final solution” for example? If you throw out justice you have literally gone to the devil. No wonder you are not worried about any implications for existing residents.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Zvi

      @Richardl – Interesting that you would make that association with the word “solution”. I am sorry, but the search for justice only leads to binary solutions: we are right/you are wrong. Pick your side.

      From my perspective, there are no winners here – only losers. And the sooner we find a way to live together the better.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Mariana

      When you speak of being a racist in relation to Arabs, aren’t many Jewish Israelis from the same race as Arabs? Do all Jewish people belong to the same race? Does something like the Jewish race exist?

      Reply to Comment
    27. Zvi

      @Andrew – Israel is in the Middle East, where ethnic nationalism of all kinds is very much alive and kicking. The sooner all of us acknowledge that fact, the sooner we can move on to something more constructive than arguing over philosophy and semantics.

      It would be nice if Israel were able to become a “liberal democracy” like in Europe. It would be nice if Israel embraced the populist movements raging throughout the region which are clamoring for change. It would be nice if Israel did not prioritize security consideration over all else. Hallevei – הלוואי – I wish….

      Reply to Comment
    28. “Can one be a liberal and a Zionist without being a liberal Zionist?”

      Yes you can, Jerry.
      So long as you’re not a Zionist. It would seem your definition of Zionism is not really Zionist.

      You believe “self-determination of the Jewish people requires NOTHING MORE than the ability for the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, within the limits of a liberal, civic framework” – like in America or Europe or China. Basically everywhere in the world, except Israel.

      In Israel Jews are obliged to uphold Zionist nationalist ideologies. In Israel Jews are obliged to succumb to Orthodox Rabbinical courts. In Israel Jews cannot convert their religion nor marry whom they wish. In Israel individual Jews are in fact NOT masters of their own fate. In Israel Jewish self-determination is determined by the state and forced on the individual/self.

      Dissociating Israel/Palestine from Jewish self-determination has allowed you to successfully reconcile Zionism and Liberal values – as I’m sure was your intent. Well done.

      What is less clear, is whether you did this only for polemics’ sake or whether you believe the State of Israel is NOT, in truth, a vessel for Jewish self-determination.

      Please clarify.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Amir.BK

      What’s most shocking is that apparently not one single blogger in 972 (and including kopty outside of it) actually knows what “Liberalism” means and assumes that “Liberalism” means “leftism” or something as trite as that.

      Here is a clue, in America, both leading parties are “Liberal” by definition. Reminder that Apartheid and Racism do fit PERFECTLY into the Liberalist ideologies. etc etc.

      This is just so ridiculous, that you people would think you are educating anyone.

      If there is any reason to despair about Israel is because the folks such as those on 972 (with the exception of Yossi G, who owns) are representative of our ‘alternative politics’. skin deep understanding and emotional appeals all over.

      Reply to Comment
    30. “Another reason often given to justify Zionism is the wish of Jews to live together in a “Jewish lifestyle”, whatever that is, and avoid contamination from non-Jewish associations, such as assimilation, and to avoid inconvenient laws that might restrict the right of Jews to, say, torture chickens. ”

      This seems quite uninformed. To argue against Zionism honestly, it would be helpful to know what it is. Jabotinsky — of all the Zionists, if Jabotinsky said it, surely this is the racist face of Zionism — Jabotinsky believed Israel could have a non-Jewish, Palestinian Prime Minister.

      The problem is that a subordinate position requires accommodation to the dominant position. Cultural assimilation isn’t a problem in itself except that it requires assimilation to antisemitism. This is why, for example, African Americans tested for implicit racism tend to hold the same anti-Black biases as White Americans. It’s the necessity of this accommodation that is corrupting. Freed from subordination, according to traditional strains of Zionism, only then would Jews be able to be authentic. (For me, I hate the word “authentic,” and I would argue somewhat differently.) Then we would discover what a Jewish lifestyle is, for the first time since the destruction of the Temple. It’s the same reason Historically Black Colleges and Universities, like Howard University, contiue their mission. But then, I suppose you think Howard University is racist?

      Reply to Comment
    31. aristeides

      The point, Matt, is that such a program does not require a presence in Palestine. In fact, given that Palestine is full of Muslims, Christians and other varieties of non-Jews, it seems ill-suited for the project.
      .
      A program of Jewish exclusivity would best be carried out on some isolated uninhabited island where Jews could confine themselves and repel all nonJewish influences. How much better this would be than wasting the nation’s resources in a constant war of oppression against a displaced population. No IDF, no ministers, just rabbis.

      .
      As to what you would discover, I suspect it would be a series of walled enclaves where splinter groups gather to keep themselve pure from the assimilating influence of other Jews whose idea of the Jewish lifestyle differs from their own.

      .
      And a whole lot of Jews trying to escape.

      Reply to Comment
    32. “A program of Jewish exclusivity”
      .

      First off, I just pointed out that Jabotinsky saw no problem with a Palestinian PM in Israel. Did you read that and decide to go on to write about “Jewish exclusivity” anyway, or did you not actually read what I wrote?
      .
      Now, actually, before Zionism specifically, there were several territorialist movements. This is why there are as many Jews in Argentina as there are. And, btw, why Jorge Luis Borges (not Jewish) wrote about Jewish doctors and lawyers to fight the Argentinian stereotype of Jewish gauchos. So, in fact, you’re also wrong when you write, “Zionism traditionally assumed this national state would be in Palestine. But why?” The question isn’t why this was a given, because it wasn’t. The question is why this option was the most popular.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Ben Israel

      Amir.BK-
      In Europe “liberal” means opposing govnermental intervention in the economy, opposition to socialism, opposition to high taxation, etc. What we may call “the Right”
      In the USA, “liberal” means the opposite.
      When people use the term “Liberal Zionism” they generally mean it in the American sense. I don’t know who first used the term “Liberal Zionism” but it apparently was an American…someone like Richard Silverstein, or “Jerry Haber”, but I agree that the term is not really meaningful.
      To me, a “liberal Zionist” is someone who is struggling mightly to reconcile Zionism with post-Modernism which says any distinction at all between people is abhorrent, nationalism is a negative thing, and it is wrong to judge anyone’s else’s value system or to feel that one’s value system is superior to anyone elses.
      In other words, liberal Zionism would be an oxymoron.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Amir.BK

      BEN ISRAEL: This is great and all but when discussing political ideologies, such as Zionism, it would be proper if we use the word using its Political Ideological meaning to avoid even more confusion and incorrect terminology in a discussion already mired with very poor use of terminology by all parties involved.
      .
      Wikipedia is actually very helpful.
      .
      Political Liberalism, as a political ideology:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism
      .
      Disambuigation of local uses for the word Liberalism:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism_worldwide
      .
      Like I side, from a political point of view not only is Zionism completly compatible with Liberalism, it is actually redundent to say “Liberal Zionist” because Zionism is a freaking Liberal Ideology. A huge clue is that whenever an ideology appeals to terms such as “The right for self determination” it is derived from Liberal political ideology.
      .
      So in essence, we have here a debate about “left zionism”, pretending as if “Leftism” has any meaningful objective meaning.
      .
      I’m actually calling out the +972 crew for the shallowness of the debate, one would think you’d be supportive Ben! 😛

      Reply to Comment
    35. Amir.BK

      Liberalism precedes post-modernism by about 2 centuries, Liberalism is “MODERNISM” in its purest form.
      .
      It’s not that I don’t have opinions on all of these topics it is just silly to continue this debate with so many poorly defined terms.

      Reply to Comment
    36. RichardL

      @Zvi. We seem to have different concepts of “justice”.
      I take my position from one of the leaders at Bil’in who told me that their struggle was for justice. I did not understand him to mean that he was questioning Israel’s right to exist. But he most certainly wants all of the village land back, and he wants human rights for all Palestinians. We might also remember that Bil’in was very quick to unreservedly condemn the killings at Itamar.
      I do not see justice leading to binary solutions. Rather it is the foundation of any peaceful solution, for Palestine just as it was for South Africa.

      Reply to Comment
    37. Andrew

      In reply to Zvi’s last comment to me: The racism rampant in much of Israeli society today is not just “philosophy and semantics”. There is a direct line traceable between this racism and the first Zionists (though not everyone in the line was himself a racist, of course).

      Likewise, those who suffer from this racism in Gaza and the West Bank, and those being corrupted by it in Israel, are also not being affected by mere “philosophy and semantics”.

      That the rest of the Middle East has problems with racism does not make Israel’s (or Palestine’s) problems with racism any less worrying.

      Reply to Comment
    38. Mitchell Cohen

      “The historical difference between all of these nationalisms and Zionism, though, is that none of these nationalisms is or was based on a land that was inhabited by members of another “nation”.” [End of Andrew]
      That is one of the biggest horse manure statements I have seen in a while….

      Reply to Comment
    39. rose

      “The historical difference between all of these nationalisms and Zionism, though, is that none of these nationalisms is or was based on a land that was inhabited by members of another “nation”.” [End of Andrew]
      This is indeed a quite clear concept

      Reply to Comment
    40. Ben Israel

      Amir.BK
      We seem to be talking past one another. You are quite right that Liberalism long pre-dates
      post-Modernism. But when the term “liberal Zionism” was invented in the last couple of years, the world “liberal” was used within the context that I stated. At one time there was “Socialist Zionism” or “Labor Zionism” which was the predecessor of today’s “Liberal Zionism”. They claimed to meld Socialism (Marxist or not) with Zionism…but they faced the same problem. Socialism was originally internationalist and opposed to nationalism, and hostile to religion in addition. Thus it was a real problem for its adherents to try to reconcile all the contradictions. Secular Zionists, for instance, could be quite hostile to religion, yet the adopted the language and religious attachment to the land that existed for millenia before while trying, unsuccessfully as is becoming increasingly clear, to secularize them.
      Since, in Israel today, socialism is discredited and the “Labor” movement (Kibbutzim, Histadrut, workers “solidarity”) has broken up, those who try to mix the internationalist, humanist post-Modernist values that have become the rage among “progressives” in the world, PARTICULARLY AMONG JEW, the discourse has now switched to this new, unwieldy hybrid “Liberal Zionism”.

      Reply to Comment
    41. Amir.BK

      Ben: I see your point and definitely see value in your description of the “left-zionist” ‘progression’, i.e reconciling various internationalist worldviews with whatever conception of nationalist zionism currently reigns in israel.
      .
      However, I do still feel that when reviewing what Joseph D, Larry and Abir wrote, it is not clear what they mean by “Liberalism”.
      .
      For instance, for Abir “liberalism” is some beautiful ideology that requires a racially egalitarian attitude or some none-sense, I’m just calling out the fact that in this sort of debate it is incredibly important to pre-define the baseline terms.
      .
      When I read Larry’s piece “liberalism” just means “soft” leftism, that is, pseudo-pacifism of sorts that, similar to the Dershowitz position on the matter, encourages a “let bygones be bygones” attitude accepting current de facto conditions as the baseline for reconciliation. However for Abir, Liberalism literally translates to some post marxist egalitarian attitude that decries racism or ethnic boundries, which quite clearly has nothing to do with liberalism other then in the american “not a republican” sense.
      .
      And so for Abir and Joseph, Zionism can’t exist in the same room with Liberalism, For Larry there is no conflict. Could it have something to do with the fact that they are using ambiguous nebulous terms? Could it be that these guys just assume a-priori what the other side means when they say ‘liberal zionism’?
      .
      And to be honest, I almost never heard any person here in Israel describe themself as a Liberal Zionist, or as a Liberal at all for that purpose.

      Reply to Comment
    42. Ben Israel

      Perhaps I am being too harsh on the “Liberal Zionists”. Essentially they are attempting to reconcile two things they believe deeply in…..Jewish identity and conciousness along with “liberal” or post-Modernist values. They want both even though they are essentially contradictory. They want both because they feel both in their kishkas (guts) and this is ultimately based on emotion and not reason. I feel torn when when I confront them because, for me, as a Jew and a Zionist, it is preferable to me that a Jew be liberal Zionist (and even better, to live in Israel as does Derfner and the others) than to be a completely assimilated Jew or an ideological anti-Zionist.
      However, when confronting people like Sternhell, who when mention of the settlers is made they fly into a rage of “righteous wrath” and the epithets like “Fascist” or “Hitler Youth” (he used that one), then I feel that they have to be put in their place and their blatant hypocrisy exposed. The Arab side certainly sees it as we see in some of the comments made here.
      All in all, a difficult problem.

      Reply to Comment
    43. Amir.BK

      Well Ben, I really can’t help you there, I’m closer to an anti-zionist (or post zionist, depending on definitions) than I am to your brand of zionism. For me, I just decry any call for violence or any forced solution, that’s why I am weary of people who talk about the RoR and ignore the fact that the vast majority of israeli jews did not participate in the nakba or the 1948 and are not descendent of anyone who did and are thus not culpable and should not be expected to just move over or be receptive of the fact that it is natural for palestinian to ‘hate their guts’, so to say. For that purpose I do have a belly full against the settlers who I do feel are YHWH-crazed hate-mongers.
      .
      One reminder to all advocates of the RoR, resolution 194 clearly states that only refugees who seek to live peacefully among their new neighbors have any right or claim to their former property and homes. While I agree that a vast majority of the Palestinians ARE indeed innocent and deserve just compensation I can also see why the vast majority of Israelis should be fearful right now.
      .
      I heard so many pro-palestinian people on the web justify heinous acts, like the murder of Shalhevet Pass or the Fogel babies that I just can’t imagine being neighbours with any such people.
      .
      Is this liberal zionism?

      Reply to Comment
    44. “post-Modernism which says any distinction at all between people is abhorrent”
      .
      Ben Israel, you would find it easier, I think, to work with actual post-modernism, which is quite different from this. It’s difficult to describe post-modernism because it is actually a wide variety of ideas and strategies. However, Wikipedia is pretty good when it says:
      :
      “Postmodernism is a philosophical movement evolved in reaction to modernism, the tendency in contemporary culture to accept only objective truth and to be inherently suspicious towards a global cultural narrative or meta-narrative… Postmodernism postulates that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs and are therefore subject to change. It emphasises the role of language, power relations, and motivations in the formation of ideas and beliefs. In particular it attacks the use of sharp classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial; it holds realities to be plural and relative, and to be dependent on whom the interested parties are and of what their interests consist. It supports the belief that there is no absolute truth and that the way in which different people perceive the world is subjective.”
      .
      This is where the idea of multiple narratives comes from in the I/P conflict. Unfortunately, many contemporary Leftists/progressives are half-hearted in their postmodernism. They treat the Palestinian narratives with an exaggerated sense of subjectivity, so that anything Palestinians say is a “valid” narrative (even if it is something abhorent, hateful, and counterfactual).
      .
      Meanwhile, Jews are often denied the right to any of our own narratives. It is, for instance, taken as “fact” that Ashkenazim are European first and Jews second, when many Zionists would argue that the more important category is Jewish — especially when Europeans were telling us, “Go back to Palestine.” What is hidden and needs to be made apparent is the role of Christian, European dominance in producing these standards. Then we might have a possibility of recognizing the kyriarchy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyriarchy) in the I/P conflict.

      Reply to Comment
    45. As post-modernists, we would prefer to say that “differences are valid.”

      Reply to Comment
    46. Amir.BK

      Matt: Thanks for the link! That’s a good read!

      Reply to Comment
    47. aristeides

      Amir.Bk – I suppose I should be offended, as the only person here who has proferred a definition of liberalism, and which is the modernist definition with which you claim to agree.

      Reply to Comment
    48. AMIR.BK

      Dear Aris, to be completly frank I based my original criticism on the debate beween the bloggers, I did not have time to read the full comments for all the articles so really I did not mean offense towards anyone other than those who wrote 1000+ words and didn’t bother to define their terminology.
      .
      Under some of the possible definitions I am most definitely a liberal zionist, I did not mean to offend anyone who considers themselves thus.

      Reply to Comment
    49. aristeides

      Amir – life is too short to go around being offended. I proposed my understanding of the term, what I consider the standard classical one, to facilitate discussion of the issue, so it was disconcerting when you declared no one had done so.

      Reply to Comment
    50. Sinjim

      It’s funny. @Matt starts with a false premise and then goes on to attack the character of the author of the post. It’s quite clear from the paragraph that @Matt cribbed his quote that Haber is talking about the dialog between Dana, Derfner, and Kopty and not about discourse on Zionism in general.
      .
      It’s more than obvious to anyone who pays even the slightest attention that most liberal Zionists have no problem reconciling their ideology with liberalism. Haber never denied that. He was merely recounting the discussion on +972 so far, where indeed all the writers had agreed that there is a contradiction.
      .
      Perhaps people like @Matt should bother with a more thorough reading of the article before throwing around accusations of dishonesty, lest such accusers open themselves up to the self-same charges.
      .
      As for the rest of the substance, @Matt decries the idea of Palestinians supposedly being given more rights than Jews and says that this is the opposite of liberalism. Meanwhile in his multiple posts, he does not address the reality of the here and now, which is the topic at hand, where Jews have more rights than Palestinians as a result of Zionism. If that hypothetical idea is a contradiction of liberalism, @Matt, what of the reality?

      Reply to Comment
    51. Click here to load previous comments