Saturday, May 10, 2014

Zionism attacked again on the Israel/Palestine Mission Network site

The Presbyterian Israel/Palestine Mission Network has posted a paper on their web site entitled “The Crisis of Liberal Zionism” by Andrew Levine. It is meant to show that liberalism and Zionism are incompatible. It is another attempt by the IPMN to slur Zionism and by doing so to slur the Jewish people.

Levine begins with questions which the IPMN have highlighted:

Does a commitment to Zionism entail support for a Jewish state?  Must that state be in Palestine?  Must Zionists support a revival of the Hebrew language?  How committed must they be to distinctive cultural forms and ways of life established by Jews in Palestine and, later, Israel?  What is Zionism’s relation to the Jewish religion?

While the writer opines that now that the State of Israel exists the above questions have become facts, he shows, with his questions, what both he and IPMN find unacceptable. That is, a ‘Jewish’ state, the fact that it is in Palestine, the fact that Hebrew is the national language and that many of the people celebrate Jewish customs.

Besides these concerns of Levine and the IPMN, the article, which with tongue in cheek attempts to reconcile liberalism with Zionism, has some nasty lies about Zionism. For instance that Zionists were the ones who made sure that no country opened their doors to those Jews trying to flee Nazism. Levine writes:

The fact that some six million European Jews were put to death under Nazi rule between 1942 and 1945 did give a certain urgency to Zionist demands in the immediate post-War period.

Needless to say, the case would be stronger had not Zionists worked so diligently to see to it that the survivors had nowhere other than Palestine to go, and had they not gotten so much help in this regard from the American government.

Slurring even liberal Zionist, with a few snarky paragraphs, Levine writes and the IPMN highlights part of his words:

The 77% share of Mandate Palestine that falls within Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries is mostly like that; it has been ethnically cleansed so thoroughly that its conquest by Zionist settlers, before and after the establishment of the state of Israel, is, by now, effectively irreversible.

A Palestinian state in the rest of Mandate Palestine is therefore just what the doctor ordered.  This is why the liberal Zionist’s commitment to a “two state solution” is sincere; unlike, say, Benjamin Netanyahu’s.  He is for it – or rather he says he is for it – only because he needs American and European support, and so he gives the Americans and Europeans what they want to hear.

As Zionists, liberal Zionists too would like Israel to incorporate all of Palestine.   But since that is morally and politically impossible, and since, as liberals, they want liberal principles affirmed too, they moderate their Zionist ambitions.   There is nothing else they can do.

These are hateful words for any organization supposedly attempting to help bring peace to the Middle East. But the article goes on trying to clarify all of the various Jewish views on Zionism and even on Judaism. Levine also attacks Christianity and eventually dismisses all religion as an example of how Zionism might eventually disappear.

And then the final attack in this rather dismal, meandering, insulting, article:

Liberal Zionism has always played a crucial role in keeping American Jews in line.  Just by being there, it provided assurance to a population that was and is overwhelmingly liberal by inclination that the Zionist project — and the state of Israel too, regardless of its policies – must be basically sound.

So long as that perception remains intact, Israel can count on the majority of American Jews remaining at least passively – and tepidly – pro-Zionist.  With money from Jewish plutocrats flowing in, and with the Israel lobby still strong enough to inspire fear and awe in Congress and the White House, that might be enough to keep the American government in its traditionally subservient role.

This really is meant to be an article aimed at the liberal Jewish community, so to end my thoughts I want to look at something Levine stated in the first part of his article. “In its early years, Zionism, like liberalism, was a contested ideal. And, as within the liberal fold, there was ample quibbling over what it involved.  But, at the doctrinal level, there was always a crucial difference.  Liberalism is universalistic, Zionism is not; its ideals pertain to Jews only, not to people generally”

But what is missed here is the general ideals of Zionism that translate into the needs of any culture or peoples. That is the need for freedom, the need to be secure from persecution, the need to have their culture, including their language, traditions and faiths respected. That the Jewish people should choose for themselves these values and call them Zionism hardly makes them less than universal. To say as a Christian that I value religious freedom is not to make religious freedom less than universal but rather to add my own distinctive needs to what it means to have religious freedom.

Israel certainly has a lot of work to do, as a democracy, to keep her democracy. It isn’t wrong to say so. But it is wrong to accuse her founders of the kinds of atrocities that occur in this article. And it is wrong to write that “There is therefore something oxymoronic in the very idea of liberal Zionism.”

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), goaded on by the IPMN, has become a weak institution allowing individuals and small groups to lord it over the concerns and desires of many fellow Presbyterians. That concern and desire is for peace in the Middle East with fairness and love for all peoples.

Picture of the  Exterior of the Hurva Synagogue, Old City, Jerusalem. It was blown up by Muslims in 1721. After rebuilding it was destroyed again during the 1948 war by the Arab Legion. It was rebuilt in 2010. See Wikipedia


Martha Leatherman said...

The world is watching the PCUSA on this, and we don't look good.

Viola Larson said...

Thanks Martha, I think there is some One extremely higher than the world who sees the PCUSA and weeps.