Posts Tagged ‘Zionism’

Is Zionism racist? Should Israel exist?

April 8, 2021

Kibbutz ceremony, 1951 (Wikipedia Commons)

It isn’t possible to understand Zionism without understanding that Jews have a basic, understandable fear of being wiped out.

In medieval times, Christians regarded Jews as Christ-killers.

In modern times, blood-and-soil nationalists regarded Jews as disloyal foreigners.

Both forms of antisemitism were existential threats.

One of the doctrines of Christianity is that Jesus is the prophesied Jewish messiah. The question arises: Why don’t the Jews recognize their own messiah?

One easy answer is that Jews must be an exceptionally wicked people.  And from there, it is an easy to to saying they must be persecuted, killed or expelled.

In modern times, Jews were allowed out of their ghettos to participate in civic life. But a new question arose. The basis of nationhood was blood and soil—a group of people of the same lineage occupying the same territory.

But Jews are of different lineage, and they have no territory.   How do they fit in with modern nationalism?  They don’t.  And from there, it is an easy step to regard all Jews as potential or actual traitors.

This form of antisemitism inspired the Dreyfus case., in which a French Jewish artillery officer was falsely accused of treason.  The older form of antisemitism inspired the Beilis case, in which a Russian factory manager was falsely accused of the ritual murder of a Christian child.

Justice eventually prevailed in both cases, but the founders of the Zionist movement believed that Jews needed a homeland of their own—not just as a refuge from antisemitism, but because they were a nation with the same right to a homeland in which they were in the majority..

That was one of the roots of Zionism.  The other was a fundamentalist religious nationalism, inspired by Biblical prophecies, that links the Jewish people to their ancient homeland.  There are fundamentalist Christian Zionists, based on the same prophecies.

Zionism in its early years was a controversial movement among Jewish people.  Jews in western Europe and North America mostly regarded themselves primarily as Americans, Britons, French, Germans and so on who happened to be a different religion than their fellow citizens.

This changed during the Second World War.  Hitler’s attempted genocide of the Jews was matched by an unwillingness of Allied nations, including the USA, to accept more than a token number of Jewish refugees.  The British government did its best to prevent Jewish immigration to Palestine, lest they provoke the Arabs into revolt.

I am old enough to remember the Allied war propaganda during the Second World War.  Hitler’s antisemitism was not emphasized.  Knowledge of the Holocaust was suppressed.  I think now that Roosevelt, Churchill and other Allied leaders feared to give credence to Hitler’s claim that the war was being fought on behalf of the Jews.

After the war, Europe was filled with “displaced persons” camps.  All the DPs had homelands to which they could return, except for the Jews.  So a lot of them headed for Israel.

Invading a country and driving out the inhabitants is now regarded as a crime against humanity.  But if I had been one of those Jewish DPs, I wouldn’t have cared.  All I would have cared about was having a place I could call my own.

Of course, if I had been a Palestinian Arab at the time, I wouldn’t have cared about the plight of the Jewish refugees.  I wouldn’t have seen any reason why I should lose everything because of events in Europe.


Gabor Mate on anti-Semitism and Zionism

November 11, 2019

Dr. Gabor Maté is a physician who lives in Vancouver and writes about addiction and childhood trauma.

Born in Hungary, he is a Holocaust survivor and a disillusioned Zionist.  He is shown in the video above being interviewed by his journalist son, Aaron Mate, about anti-Semitism, Zionism and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

He said he has gone through three disillusionments in his lifetime—with Hungarian Communism, with American exceptionalism and with Zionism. Disillusionment is painful, he said, but it is better to be free of illusion than a slave to it.

The interview is well worth watching, as is an earlier interview about Russiagate.


Gabor Mate on the misuse of anti-Semitism and why fewer Jews identify with Israel, an interview for The Gray Zone.

America in denial: Gabor Mate on the psychology of Russiagate, an interview for The Gray Zone.  With transcript.

The Jewish scene: November 6, 2015

November 6, 2015

These links are from my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty.

THE Most Amazing Falafel Assembly OF ALL TIME    🙂

The Soldier Who Voluntarily Became A Prisoner in Auschwitz

[Not about Jews, but an interesting story nevertheless -M]

Hitler & the Muslims

[2 books reviewed from ‘The NY Review of Books’ -M]

She gives me partridges – Domineering, drunk, anti-Semitic: The composer Alma Mahler sought relationships with Jewish men.  She wanted to “improve” them

Preaching to the converted: how Kabbalah keeps on growing

This Day in History: October 30, 1944 – Margo and Anne

[The last days of the Frank sisters -M]


Nationalism and religious fanaticism in Israel

October 16, 2015

Nationalism and religious fanaticism are a dangerous combination in any country.

It means that people worship their collective selves instead of a universal God, and regard rival nations as the equivalent of demons.

I hesitated to post this video because I don’t want to associate myself with the anti-Semites in the comment thread.  I have had many Jewish friends and acquaintances during my life, none of whom adhered to the theology described by the brave Israeli journalist Yossi Gurvitz.   I do not think that what he describes represents the best values of Judaism.

But I think what he describes is real, and should not be ignored in the name of tolerance.

I do not criticize Israeli policy from the standpoint of moral superiority.  I don’t think the Israeli government has done anything that the American government has not done.

Zionism, colonialism and national liberation

October 7, 2015

In the 1950s and 1960s, I thought of Israel mainly as a refuge for Jewish refugees from Hitler and from the “displaced person” camps after World War Two.

Zionism was in fact partly a movement to give Jews a refuge from anti-Semites, but it was two other things as well.

Vladimir Jabotinsky

Vladimir Jabotinsky

It was a national liberation movement for people who had never before constituted an independent nation, like the Kurds today.  At the same time it was a colonial movement, an attempt to take over a land inhabited by other people.

Vladimir Jabotinsky, one of the early Israeli settlers, saw clearly that Zionist leaders were kidding themselves if they thought they could peacefully co-exist with Arabs.  Neither Arabs nor anybody else will ever tolerate being made a minority in their own country.

He called upon his fellow Zionists to face up to the fact that Zionism was colonialism, and that making the Palestine Mandate a Jewish nation could not be accomplished without force.

He said peace between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs could only happen when the Arabs were convinced that the Jews could not be dislodged by means of force.

Israelis today think of themselves as a nation like any other, fighting to maintain their national existence.  Palestinian Arabs and their allies think of Israelis as invaders, like the white settlers of the former Rhodesia.  The problem is that both beliefs are true.

I think that someday both sides will accept that neither one can get rid of the other, and they have no choice but to live together in peace.


The Jewish Terrorists by Asaf Sharon for The New York Review of Books.  [Hat tip to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack]

The Iron Wall by Vladimir Jabotinsky (1923)  [Hat tip to Jack]

The Jewish scene: October 1, 2015

October 1, 2015

Hat tip for these links to my expatriate friend Jack and his friend Marty.

How a Fake Typhus Epidemic Saved a Polish City From the Nazis

Survivors in Ukraine: unearthing the hidden stories of Holocaust survivors

14 Fascinating Facts About ‘Schindler’s List’

Hostile Intelligence: Reflections from a Visit to the West Bank

You Are Here! You Were Here! Chutzpah or Kharbata?

Jews in America struggled for decades to become white. Now they must give up whiteness to fight racism.


The long odds against Israel-Palestine peace

August 9, 2014

The Israeli novelist Amos Oz is an example of a sincere Zionist who sincerely wants peace between Israel and the Palestinians.  He favors lifting the blockade against Gaza and recognition of a truly independent Palestinian Arab state.

But in regard the Israeli army’s attack on Gaza, he posed the following questions:

Amos Oz

Amos Oz

Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?

Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?

via Deutsche Welle

I might say that if my neighbor had been the original occupant of my house, that if I’d kicked him out, and that if I had a record of killing my neighbor’s relatives, regardless of age, he would be exceedingly foolish to expect me to be deterred from anything by a child on his lap.

But this is not a meaningful answer to Oz’s argument, which is that Israel should try to make peace, including lifting the blockade on Gaza, but that so long as Hamas militants attack Israel, Israel has no realistic choice but to respond and retailiate.

Jewish peace advocates say Israel should negotiate a truce, end the blockade and freeze the settlements (or, which is highly unlikely, shut them down).   They are right in saying that so long as Israel bombs and blockades the people of Gaza, and expands settlements on the West Bank, there is no possibility of peace.

But if bombing, blockade and settlements ceased, the Palestinian Arabs would not necessarily be content to let bygones be bygones, and to sit in peace on the 22 percent of the original Palestine remaining to them.

In the one case, peace is impossible; in the other, peace is unlikely.

I don’t say this in any gloating spirit.  The government of my own country, the United States, has done a global basis what the Israeli government has done locally.   Both countries have operated like the Michael Corleone character in Godfather II—seeking safety by trying to kill all their enemies.

But perfect safety is an illusion, the number of potential enemies is unlimited and there comes a time when it is too late to escape the consequences of past actions.   I hope it is not too late for Israel.  I hope it is not too late for us Americans.


Read and listen to some other Jewish voices below.


Israel from underdog to top dog

August 1, 2014


I am not Jewish.  I am not a Zionist.  I think of Israel as I think of Britain or France—as a foreign country whose people I wish well, but whose interests are not necessarily those of my own country.

But there was a time when I had considerable sympathy for the State of Israel.  The map above shows why.  The nations in green are members of the Arab League, whose 1967 Khartoum resolution reaffirmed a long-standing policy of no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel.  The countries marked in dark green show the countries that went to war with Israel at one time or another.

As long as Israel was surrounded by larger and more populous countries dedicated to its destruction, I thought of Israel as the underdog.   Their situations were not comparable.

 There was never any possibility that Israel could threaten the existence of Egypt, Syria, Iraq or the other Arab nations.  But there was a very real possibility that the Arab nations together could wipe Israel from the map of history.

I argued that the Jewish people had as much right to create a new nation as the Germans or Italians in an earlier era.  I would argue that people who are in peril cannot be expected to follow moral rules.

I argued that if the Soviet Union was providing unlimited armaments to Egypt and Syria to destroy Israel, it was only right that the USA provide military aid to Israel.  I argued—I think that 40 or so years ago, this argument was plausible—that more Arab civilians, even more Palestinian civilians had been killed by Arab governments during Israel’s existence than had been killed by Israelis.

Nowadays I no longer make these arguments because I no longer see Israel as the underdog.  The map below shows why.

No Arab government threatens to attack Israel.  Egypt and Jordan have signed peace treaties.  Israel has committed acts of war against Lebanon, Syria and Iraq with impunity.

Their only enemies are the powerless, miserable Palestinians in Gaza and on the West Bank.  All the arguments I made in justification of Israel could now be made in justification of Hamas and Fatah.

The Palestinians have as much right to constitute themselves as a nation as the Israelis did.   People who are being killed indiscriminately have the right to fight back by any means necessary, especially against a nation being given virtually unlimited aid by the USA, the world’s largest military superpower.

There is no possibility that the Palestinians can threaten the existence of Israel.  But there is a very real possibility that Israel can eliminate the Palestinian presence in Gaza and the West Bank.



Israel: the once and no longer underdog

December 5, 2012


I used to sympathize with Israel because I thought of the Israelis as the underdogs, and I thought the Israeli people were under a threat to their existence.  I don’t think that is true any longer.

Zionist leaders at the turn of the previous century believed that Jewish people would forever be persecuted minorities in the countries in which they lived, unless they, like other peoples, had a homeland of their own.  During the early 20th century, some prominent Jewish people opposed Zionism.  They said Jews were adherents of a religion, not a separate nation.  To say otherwise, they said, would only validate anti-Semites who denied that Jews could be patriotic citizens of the nations in which they reside.  The rise of Naziism confirmed the fears of the Zionists.   Being patriotic did the German Jews no good.

The immediate impetus for the creation of Israel was the failure of the Allies to address the refugee problem after World War Two.  If the United States and other countries had been willing to take in Jewish people and others in Displaced Persons camps after World War Two, the Jewish people in the camps might not have tried to get to Israel at all costs.

I don’t blame the founders of Israel for trying to establish a new Jewish state.   I don’t blame the Palestinian Arabs for fighting back.   One of my mother’s favorite sayings that that two wrongs don’t make a right.  But sometimes two rights make a wrong.

Jewish people have a deep fear of being wiped out.  Nobody who is familiar with history could say that fear has no basis.   The Arab League declared war on Israel in 1948 with the intention of wiping out the new nation.   The map above shows the nations that declared war on Israel; the nations in dark green were the ones that put troops in the field.

Later on the Soviet Union allied itself with anti-Israel nations.  The Soviets were an open-ended source of arms for Egypt and Syria in waging war against Israel.  In that situation, it was only right that the United States maintain a balance by arming Israel.

But that situation no longer obtains.  Israel is no longer threatened by neighboring countries, even the ones who refuse to recognize its legitimacy as a nation.   Instead Israel is waging war on a subject people, the Palestinian Arabs, a people who have as much right to exist as a nation as the Israelis did in 1948, and who have as few alternatives as the Israelis did back then.   But most of Israel’s American supporters think that Israel is as embattled and surrounded as it was in 1949 or 1956 or 1967.  It’s time to look at the new reality.

Double click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

Click on Visualizing Palestine for more graphics.


A brief history of the Holy Land

October 26, 2012

Click on Who’s Killing Who? A Viewer’s Guide for background on this animation.

Click on Nina Paley’s Blog for more from this artist.

Hat tip to

Mark Twain on the West Bank settlements

January 19, 2011

The conversation is from Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894)