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Robert Farley


(Just wanted to be helpful.)


Do you think that every people should have it's own state? Or just that they have a right to? Also, who gets to decide how to define "a people?".

Personally, the primary objection I have to Zionism as an idea is that it aims to define a state along religious/ethnic lines, which is a form of discrimination. One that many if not most states participate in, but that doesn't make it right. More troubling, unless you are willing to be very flexible about what it might mean to be a Jewish state, Zionism requires creating and maintaining a Jewish majority in a place that for centuries did not have one, which means in practical terms trying to displace, disenfranchise or kill those who live there and are not Jewish, and then after that to keep non-Jews out. How can a state have a preferred religion whose population they try to maximize without discriminating? I think what it boils down to is that I believe every human has a fundamental right to be treated equally wherever they may live regardless of religion or ethnic identity, but I don't think any of us has a fundamental right to live in a country where our ethnicity or religious group is the majority. Does one also have the right to live in a neighborhood where their ethnic group is the majority and kick out or bar from moving in anyone who isn't part of that group?

It's not that I don't understand the appeal of being in the majority - minorities the world over are marginalized and abused, though obviously there are places and times where it's worse and where it's better. And I don't mean to gloss over what it has often meant for Jews to be a minority historically. But I don't think the solution to this problem is to put the whole world all in separate, homogeneous states for every identity and give entirely on the idea of states that know how to respect diversity - and it gets even murkier when you try to pin down what counts as an identity, when people often identify with multiple and changing identities, and it's not necessarily that clear where the boundaries lie between one identity and another. Defining a state along ethnic/religious lines is also a bad idea because it requires policing and legislating who legitimately can claim that identity - and as I understand it in practice, you actually do see this with the Israeli religious orthodox authorities telling some people who consider themselves Jews that in fact, they aren't Jews.

What makes all of that acceptable in universalist terms?

Just to clarify, I'm not suggesting that the mere fact of having a majority of one group or another is wrong, it's the attempt to make and keep a majority I think is wrong, and I also am not a fan of the idea of a state of Palestine that defined itself exclusively in an official sense as Muslim, or Arab, or that tries to keep out people that didn't fit with that, which may be what a lot of people have in mind when they talk about Palestinian statehood. I don't think the problem is that Palestinians don't have a state that matches their identity so much as that Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are treated as second class citizens and West Bank Palestinians do not have any state that they belong to at all, that they have almost no rights and very little recourse while they are in this limbo. The Israeli government still has a large degree control over their lives but doesn't consider them citizens, so they lack most avenues of accountability for those decisions and protection under Israeli law, while the PA and Hamas have no real sovereignty, and are both rather overdue for the next elections. And all of these parties in my observation frequently and flagrantly violate their basic human rights.

Marshall Pease

Personally, I think Joshua made a mistake when he entered the Promised Land with sword and fire, and you can see right away it turned to ashes. I think Yhwh wanted them to build a land of milk and honey and make everyone rich, descendants of Esau or Cain and everybody, which is what "taking Dominion" means to me. Maybe that's why the Lord kept the Israelites circulating in the desert, they weren't ready to do lie down, lion with lamb. And they still aren't willing to make the Palestinians rich by sharing what Yhwh gives. Which in the end will probably bring destruction down on them, as always.

Personally, idealist that I am, I think the notion of a "State" one more example of the troublesome modern trend towards absolutism in all things. High technology, empty morality.

If you insist on state-universalism, then I think those of us who think like I do should have a state of their own, a stateless state of hippie tranquility. We would be happy with a few thousand square miles here on the West Coast somewhere, thanks very much. How large/powerful/troublesome do you figure a group needs to be to qualify?


Personally, I'm uncomfortable with the entire idea of nationalism based on blood, soil and/or sect, but if the Jewish state had been set up in an uninhabited part of the world, I wouldn't really give it much thought one way or the other. The primary, and pressing, problem with Zionism is not the idea of a Jewish state, but the dispossession of Palestinians. As much as Zionism (universalist or otherwise) would like it to be so, the cold, hard fact is that Palestine was inhabited. Inhabited by actual people who were actually forced out of their homes and denied the right to return to those homes. These people, and their children and grandchildren, live in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza. That basic injustice means that you can't fit the square peg of Zionism into the round hole of liberalism.


And as long as we're talking about Ahad Ha'am, let's read what he actually had to say:

We who live abroad are accustomed to believe that almost all Eretz Yisrael is now uninhabited desert and whoever wishes can buy land there as he pleases. But this is not true. It is very difficult to find in the land [ha'aretz] cultivated fields that are not used for planting. Only those sand fields or stone mountains that would require the investment of hard labor and great expense to make them good for planting remain uncultivated. [...]

The Arabs, especially the urban elite, see and understand what we are doing and what we wish to do on the land, but they keep quiet and pretend not to notice anything. For now, they do not consider our actions as presenting a future danger to them. They therefore do their best to exploit us, to benefit from the newly arrived guests as much as they can and yet, in their hearts, they laugh at us. The peasants are happy when a Jewish colony is formed among them because they get better wages for their work and get richer and richer every year, as experience has shown us. The big landowners also have no problem accepting us because we pay them, for stone and sand land, amounts they would never have dreamed of getting before. But, if the time comes that our people’s life in Eretz Yisrael will develop to a point where we are taking their place, either slightly or significantly, the natives are not going to just step aside so easily. [...]

If we have this ambition to settle in a new country and radically change our way of life and we truly want to achieve our goals, then we can’t ignore the fact that ahead of us is a great war and this war is going to need significant preparation. [...]

It is not our way to learn nothing for the future from the past. We must surely learn, from both our past and present history, how careful we must be not to provoke the anger of the native people by doing them wrong, how we should be cautious in our dealings with a foreign people among whom we returned to live, to handle these people with love and respect and, needless to say, with justice and good judgment. And what do out brothers do? Exactly the opposite! They were slaves in their diasporas, and suddenly they find themselves with unlimited freedom, wild freedom that only a country like Turkey can offer. This sudden change has planted despotic tendencies in their hearts, as always happens to former slaves ['eved ki yimlokh]. They deal with the Arabs with hostility and cruelty trespass unjustly, beat them shamefully for no sufficient reason, and even boast about their actions. There is no one to stop the flood and put and end to this despicable and dangerous tendency. Our brothers indeed were right when they said that the Arab only respects he who exhibits bravery and courage. But when these people feel that that the law is on their rival’s side and, even more so, if they are right to think their rival’s actions are unjust and oppressive, then, even if they are silent,and endlessly reserved, they keep their anger in their hearts. And these people will be revenged like no other.

By the by, this is from an essay of Ahad Ha'am's that Solomon and Kushner republished back in 2003.


What Sean said.

I respect you, Mr. Ackerman, but I think you're defending a type of Zionism that never has and never will actually exist outside of the realm of theory and imagination. Israel is a colonial state that dispossessed a large number of people of their homes to establish itself. Shutting your eyes to that and talking about national ideals isn't going to change that.

Jim Thompson

The right to self determination for all people must be the goal, else we fall short of what is right. The Jewish people needed a homeland for many reasons, just as the Palestinians do today. How can anyone enjoy a privilege which they purposefully and conspicuously deny others? What does "Do unto other..." look like?

Defining a nation along ethnic/religious grounds does little more than contribute to a sense of seperation. Community is made of people who buy-in, or decide to join. If your skin has to be a particular color in order to become part of the community, it only places people on the outside - it is exclusive. Some people like this and will do all they can to rationalize or defend it. In the end though - its all star-bellied Sneetches.

Which is the highest, best expression of Zionism? Can Zionism become the axample for others to follow?

I hope always for the best.

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