This is something I wrote recently and have posted up on one other site. If anyone wants a PDF version let me know how to attach it to a post.
THE â€˜ISRAELISTâ€™ DILEMMA
Like many Israelis today I am having more and more trouble identifying with Zionism. I have found that Zionism has been hijacked by the Israeli right and Jewish fundamentalists with whom I barely identify. Zionism itself is tainted irreparably by years of occupation and repression of the Palestinians. I look at Israel and see a leadership and society that is militaristic and ideological in character and ill-suited to democratic government. Worse yet, while agreeing that Zionism was a response to persecution and not inherently racist at its outset, it is difficult to see Zionism today as anything but racist.
At the same time I increasingly identify with the ongoing predicament of the Israeli people. I know that a great many settlers live in the West Bank for economic reasons. I know only too well the scope of the threat to the Israeli people posed by Islamic radicalism and personally have been in relatively close proximity to several suicide attacks. Like many I supported the peace process, and still do. But also, like the vast majority of supporters of peace I believe in the continued existence and strength of Israel. I believe in democracy and the need for the Israeli people to be free.
This inner clash of abhorrence for Zionism versus support for Israel poses a critical dilemma for me and undoubtedly for many others. Zionism however is increasingly dissuasiveness of dissent, automatically discarding alternative visions of Israelâ€™s future. Rabin led Israel to victory in 1967 while Peres led the Ministry of Defence for years playing no small role in giving Israel its military strength. Both however are routinely portrayed as traitors to the Israeli nation, tragically so in Rabinâ€™s case. How then can I reject Zionism without the perception of rejecting Israel?
I would like to propose a new concept, tentatively named Israelism that might go some way to solving this dilemma. Israelism looks forward to a better future for Israel and the Israeli people. It sees a time when Israelis live in peace and security, when democracy and civil society flourish, when our diverse range of citizens view one another with respect, and when economic wellbeing increases rather than erodes. Call me naÃ¯ve if you want but I want to believe in a better future, and Zionism today does not allow me that right.
Israelism also sees a Palestinian state alongside Israel with Palestinians living in peace, security, and economic prosperity, much as we ourselves now demand. Settlements will have to be withdrawn, and roadblocks dismantled. The road to this vision is long and fraught with danger. People on both sides must be extraordinarily patient, which they were not during the Oslo peace process. Terrorism will perhaps continue for 10-20 years, but steadily it would abate as normalization occurs.
Israelism improves on post-Zionism which is derided as somehow implying that the need for Israel and Judaism has somehow diminished. Israelism accepts the post-Zionist view of history but tries to respect the views of the right, religious and poor, with a parallel demand for reciprocal respect. Israelism indoctrinates post-Zionism but widens its appeal beyond a limited range of people.
Those of us who support the existence of Israel but reject Zionism should create for ourselves a new identity that will be widely acceptable to Israeli society while not risking being tarred with the term traitor. That is love of the Israeli people and the Jewish state, but rejection of Zionist repression and racism. We must be realistic about the challenges ahead and accept that success will come from national unity not internal strife.
I would be interested to observe Zionists and Israelists engaged in a true debate, in which both sides view each other as having something to offer. The alternative is a scenario in which those who oppose Zionism yet support Israel steadily throw their hands in the air and depart to more accommodating shores.
Before anyone says â€œso let them goâ€ (as I am sure some of you are thinking right now) I ask you to consider a state without secular liberal citizens. Such a state might be anti-democratic in nature, at risk of alienating its allies and quite possibly subject to international sanctions, with poor economic prospects, and almost certainly at war with the Palestinians for the foreseeable future. Those of you who believe that the US will never abandon Israel should read up on the subject of alternative fuel sources, especially buel and hydrogen fuel cell technology.
A century ago Argentina was one of the most prosperous nations in the world. It then changed direction and adopted a paradigm that led it to military dictatorship, fascism, war, and eventual economic collapse. Argentina then was in many respects quite similar to Australia but the latter maintained its liberal paradigm. This helped Australia to become one of the wealthiest nations on earth today. Israel must now decide if it prefers the path of Argentina or Australia.
If we choose Australia as our model, and I believe that most of us would, letâ€™s start by abandoning Zionism, discarding the cabal of ineffectual generals who lead Israel today, and adopting Israelism. If we want the Palestinians to change their mindset, perhaps we must also change ours.