Monday, July 31, 2006

The Algebra of Non-Anti-Semitic Anti-Zionism

We're sure it adds up; we just don't know how.

TALKING PEACE. Yesterday's post inspired a comment that's worth responding to. I started to write my answer in the Comments section, but mindful of all the flame wars raging through the blogosphere, I remembered the advice of one presently beleaguered blogger who remarked that if a comment is worth answering at all, it merits a post that everyone can see. I think that's good advice. So I'm responding here to the comment of Blade, who cited one phrase of my post and registered an objection:

>> nauseating phenomenon of pro-Palestinian "anti-zionist" Jews<<

Anti-Zionism == Anti-Semite. I've never gotten this algebra.

It works out like this: if you even consider the idea that a political fiat establishing a "country" in the middle of a 6,000-year-old war zone might not have been a good idea -- even if you are actually a Jew -- you an Anti-Semite.

I suspect you are considered an Anti-Semite for even wondering aloud about such a strange equation.

I believe Blade speaks for a significant population of virtuous but skeptical thinkers. He deserves a thoughtful reply. Here's mine:

Dear Blade,

Thank you for your reasonable tone. It's much appreciated.

The anti-zionist position is not automatically anti-semitic. It does, however, carry the huge burden of its disastrous bedfellows, many of whom are avowed anti-semites and many of whom are -- regardless of your own rational perspective -- secret anti-semites. Does this and should this silence you? No.

It does seem to me, though, that anti-zionists who are not anti-semitic have a special responsibility. If I inclined to the anti-zionist position, for example, I would be eager to make it clear exactly why and how my beliefs were distant from any desire to pack Jews into gas chambers and cremate them after first digging the gold fillings from their teeth. I'd be hypersensitive about this. I certainly wouldn't want to be quoted in print for the casual observation that it's not "a good idea" to plop a hated people into "the middle of a 6,000 year-old war zone." I wouldn't want my doubts to be read like some slightly condescending review of a badly written play. I wouldn't want anyone to mistake me for one of the people who sincerely believe the world would be a better place with no Jews in it. And I certainly wouldn't drop a hint about my anti-zionist leanings and then lapse into silence with the suggestion that to say more would be to expose myself to the unfounded charge of anti-semitism. I would instead regard it as my responsibility to delineate in precise detail the differences between my position and that of both the Zionists and the Jew-haters.

In fact, I'm prepared to describe the particulars of the special responsibiliity I believe non-anti-semitic anti-zionists have. Are you prepared to shoulder that responsibility?

First, I believe they should recognize that more than other idealists, they have an obligation to describe how, other than via Israel, the Jews might be protected from the multiple cultures and peoples who wish to exterminate them. For example, it's all well and good to criticize the ad hoc decision in the wake of WWII to give the Jews a homeland surrounded by desperate bigots bent on their annihilation, but we who had no part in that decision are the reluctant heirs of a history that cannot be repealed. What precisely would you propose we do to rectify this half-century-old error that does not involve destroying the lives of the descendants of Hitler's (and Stalin's and Mussolini's, and Vichy's, etc) victims? Are you prepared to throw the French and Germans out of Alsace-Lorraine and plant the Jews in an ancient war-zone surrounded by (hopefully) more civilized  anti-semites? Or do you prefer turning everyone out of New Jersey (where I live and you presumably do not) so that the world's most accommodating nation can absorb the human cost of a second radical displacement of peoples? Hypothetical if-wishes-were-horses solutions to the fatal problem your realpolitik logic sees are unacceptable. If your objection is grounded in the accuracy of your real-world vision, so must be the more intelligent alternative you prefer.

The fact is, it's been almost 60 years since the Palestinians were deprived of sovereignty over their patch of desert. And history is overflowing with examples of land that changed hands. (Anyone heard from the original Britons lately? The proto-Liberians? The pre-Viking Russians?) Do you find it at all interesting that the Jews lived for nearly 2,000 years after the Diaspora without becoming monomaniacal  terrorists living only for the possibility of annihilating those who displaced them from their patch of desert? Is it only casino licenses that's preventing the Native Americans from lobbing rockets into Oklahoma City and Dallas on a daily basis? Or is it somehow possible that a stone-age people in the Americas had more civilization in their wheel-less world than the ne'er-do-wells of one of the world's most prevalent cultures?

You see, part of the special responsibility of anti-zionists is also to describe the definition of justice that makes it acceptable for a supposedly advanced, civilized, and estimable people to abandon all pretense of ordinary human morality and adopt instead the pursuit of genocidal vengeance so rabidly that it warps even the parent-child relationship into a breeding program for mass-murdering martyrs. How can this phenomenon be excused in any system of morality? And why is it always wrong for the descendants of an historical fait accompli to defend themselves from the terroristic assaults of the descendants of the long-dead dispossessed? Speak to me about this in a way that does not evince the flavor of anti-semitism. I'm not saying you can't do it. I just haven't heard it. And I have no doubt that if you could explain such an exotic morality, it would be educational for reactionary zionists the world over. It might even lead to a framework for peace.

Finally, the special responsibility includes the obligation to explain the moral basis of the double standard that obtains in the response to the stated genocidal intentions of Araby by the U.N., the E.U., Russia, and AmericanBerkeley "liberals." 

Why, in particular, do anti-capitalists of the Third World and the post-Marxist left make this one spectacular exception to their contempt of the concept of property? As a universal rule, they believe that everything belongs to everyone, regardless of who made it or remade it or developed it or created it or earned it or imagined it in the first place. Except for Palestine. Which belongs eternally to the Palestinians because they owned (!) it -- from the time when the Jews were driven out of it into millennia of persecution until they came back in sorrowing desperation -- and therefore can't be expected to get over the loss of their property EVER. This is the basis for my criticism of Pro-Palestinian, anti-zionist Jews. For the most part Jewish anti-zionism is derived from Marxist sympathies (and the neurotic self-hatred that accompanies membership in the world's most hated club). Yet they do not ever explain why they acknowledge this one lonely claim of property while they disdain all others.

I'd also like to hear how you feel about the company you keep. Does it bother you (even a little) that Israeli sympathizers mistake your completely rational objections to the existence of their tiny nation as anti-semitism? Or is it, in the final analysis, no big deal? Do you think it's basically positive that people can agree to disagree about the disposition of the Jewish problem? That it would be a shame if they all wound up dying, but nevertheless a mathematically predictable outcome of an old bad decision? Is that your underlying algebra?

I'd love to read your response, and I'm not being sarcastic. If there's something you know that we Zionists don't, this is the time to enlighten us.


The answers don't have to come from Blade. But they do have to address my points. I'm tired of the sneaky, superior hit-and-run commentary about this matter. Prepare to swing for the fences or shut the hell up.

I'm waiting.

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