Tony Greenstein | 25 May 2016 | Post Views:

A Response to Didi Herman’s ‘Zionisms’

Didi Herman – Believes We Should Vacate Zionism & Use Israeli Nationalism

In an article ‘Zionisms’ in Critical Thinking
of 29th April 2016 Didi Herman argues that the left
should drop the use of the term ‘Zionism’. 
I disagree.  The term Zionism is as relevant now as it has ever been.

Zionism red in tooth & claw
This argument is not
taking place in a vacuum but in the context of a concerted attempt to depict
the anti-Zionist left, including Black and ethnic minority members of the
Labour Party, as anti-Semites.  Part of
the narrative of the defamers is that
Zionism has become a dirty word, a term of abuse.  There are those on the left who have been
seduced by this special pleading.  Not
only Didi Herman but Jon Lansman of Momentum. 
[Why the Left must stop talking about ‘Zionism’]
Graffitti on walls of Hebron – is this a result of Zionism?
There is, as always,
when dealing with the Zionist hasbara [propaganda] a certain amount of
disingenuousness.  On the one hand we
have the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis asserting that ‘One
can no more separate it [Zionism] from Judaism than separate the City of London
from Great Britain.’
and then Didi writes that ‘scholars replace Jews and Judiasm with Zionists and Zionism, and
label Zionism ‘racist’ or part of a ‘racial contract’ or ‘apartheid’.] 
I’m sorry Didi, but it’s not left-wing
scholars but right-wing Zionists who conflate Zionism and being Jewish.  It hardly takes a logician to work out that if Judaism and Zionism
are one and the same, then Jews must indeed be responsible for the actions of
the Israeli state.
Theodor Herzl – founder of Political Zionism –  saw in anti-Semitism the ‘divine will to good’ (Diaries)
Didi Herman believes that the way to cut the Gordian
knot is to agree not to use the term ‘Zionist’ as if that will remove the
confusion between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism.  It will not because Zionists will cry
‘anti-Semitism’ for as long as Israel is under attack from BDS or any other
civil movement.  Didi Herman’s article
merely furthers the confusion.
says that ‘zionism is first and foremost a state of mind’ and that ‘some forms
of it do not require (indeed, are opposed to taking) actual land’. 
I’m sorry but this is nonsense.  Zionism is not some kind of spiritual
experience, a psychedelic trip to the unknown. 
It involved the colonisation and settling of land and the forcible
eviction of the Palestinian peasants from its earliest days.  In 1948 it involved the
massacre of thousands of Palestinian peasants and the forcible expulsion of ¾
million refugees.  This was no state of
Didi Herman – Professor of Law but a Mistress of Vacuity
let us deal with this ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’ version of Zionism.  Virtually all wings of Zionism – from
Political to Practical to Socialist to Cultural agreed on the need for the colonisation of
land.  The only real debate, between
Zionism and the Territorialists, was over which land.  The history of Zionism is the collapse of the
binationalist Zionists and the left Zionists into the colonialist wing of
Zionism.  As Ben-Gurion once remarked to
Martin Buber, ‘was it with the permission or against the wishes of the Arabs
that you came to this country?
Perhaps Didi does indeed believe that she was once an
anti-Zionist.  I can’t ever recall her
name cropping up as an Jewish anti-Zionist activist.  Perhaps she kept the secret closely hidden.  Maybe, in a vague and unformulated way she
was, but clearly she didn’t understand the specific nature of the Israeli state
and why it is different to other states, still less the dynamics of Zionism
I don’t refer to the Zionist movement because I wish to
demonise anyone, still less to summon the ghosts of anti-Semitism past, but
because I want a precise and scientific term with which to understand the
trajectory of the modern state of Israel and where it came from.  Without understanding what Zionism is and was
you cannot understand why Israel is what it is. 
The subjective prose that Didi wishes me to use by way of a substitute
clouds rather than clarifies.
Didi writes that ‘‘Israeli
nationalism = apartheid’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it.’ 
That is true. 
A false equation rarely does have the same impact.  Israel is quite unique as an ethno-religious
state.  Many states for example Ireland have
immigration laws based on patriality, whereby those who have some family link
to the country can immigrate and claim citizenship.  But no state that I know accords such a
‘right of return’ to people who have never been there and who have a mythical
attachment going back 2,000 years in
to those who have always lived there.
I would expect someone who is a Professor Law to at least take the
time out to study the basic constitutional framework of Israel, the legal
position of the individual and the jurisprudence of the state they are
pontificating about.  Indeed I would
expect Didi to have at least some idea of what it means for Israel to declare
itself a ‘Jewish state’.
The socialist Zionist stockade & watchtower settlements
me help her.  There is no Israeli
nationalism for the very simple reason that there is no Israeli
nationality.  There is a Jewish
nationality and a Christian, Muslim and many more ‘nationalities’ but there is
no Israeli nationality, for the simple reason that Israel is a Jewish
state.  It is a state of the Jewish ‘nation’,
as the Jerusalem Program of the World Zionist Organisation prescribes.  That means it is a state, not of its own
citizens, but of all Jews throughout the world. 
That is why Israel is unique. 
That is what makes Israel an apartheid state.  It is the Zionist movement, a settler
colonial movement, which sought from the start to create a Jewish state which
excluded non-Jews from its borders or, if they continued to live in it, from
any notion of equality. 
Zionism or merely Israeli nationalism?
followed a similar decision in 1972 in Tamarin
v State of Israel. George Tamarin
wanted his nationality to be changed from ‘Jewish’ to ‘Israeli.’  Justice Agranat ruled that ‘the desire to
create an Israeli nation separate from the Jewish nation is not a legitimate
aspiration. A division of the population into Israeli and Jewish nations would
… negate the foundation on which the State of Israel was established.’
court ruled that “There is no Israeli nation separate from the Jewish People.
The Jewish People is composed not only of those residing in Israel but also of
Diaspora Jewry.”
O. Kraines, The
Impossible Dilemma: Who Is a Jew in the State of Israel? (Bloch
Publishing Company, 1976), p.67.  Tamarin
v State of Israel (1970). 
article is one long concession to the Zionists’ cynical weaponising of ‘anti-Semitism’.  What is happening today has nothing
to do with historical and largely dead Christian anti-Semitism.  By disavowing the use of the term ‘Zionism’
Didi is left in a sea of subjectivity, wittering on about homelands of the
not Israeli nationalism that explains why mobs marching in Israel today
chanting ‘Death to the Arabs’.  Does this
not remind her of another time and another place and another people?  National Socialism was not merely a form of
German nationalism but a particular political creed which used (volkish)
concepts of the German nation in order to pursue imperialist aims in Eastern
Europe.  Both Zionism and Nazism took the form of blood
and soil racial nationalism.
not the assumption to power in Israel of the fascist Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman,
who promptly announces that the death penalty he is introducing will only be
for Arabs, suggest other countries in other times.  And what does the plurality of Israeli Jewish
voters who support expelling Israel’s Palestinian citizens suggest?
is a Christian state but Christianity is a constitutional adornment.  The Prime Minister appoints the Bishops of
the Church of England and the Queen is the head of the CoE.  But there is no Christian National Fund which
declares that Jews cannot rent or lease 93% of British land.  Nor are there hundreds of Christian priests
ruling that it is a mortal sin for anyone to rent a Jew a room or flat.  But in Israel the Jewish National Fund
controls 93% of the land from which Arabs are barred.  In Israel there is a situation where hundreds of
rabbis support commanding Jews not to rent to Arabs, all of them paid state
officials. Dozens of Top Israeli Rabbis Sign Ruling to Forbid Rental of Homes to Arabs
In Islamic states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia Muslims
don’t receive any benefits.  Quite the
contrary, an Islamic state is a heavy burden on Muslims.  It legitimises the most terrible forms of
repression in the name of Islam.
In Israel being Jewish entitles you to
privileges in the same way as being Aryan in Nazi Germany entitled non-Jews to
privileges.  If you are a Jewish child
then your school will receive about 30% more funding than if you are an Arab
child.  Jewish local authorities get far
more state aid than Arab equivalents. 
Indeed half of Israel’s Arab villages are unrecognised, meaning they can
be demolished at any time and they do not receive basic services such as
electricity and running water.  Al
Arakabh in the Negev has been demolished nearly 100 times as part of the Prawer
Plan for Judaisation of the Negev.  As Meirav
Arlosoroff observedIsrael is a country
of national separation − or to put it more starkly, of segregation.’

This isn’t accidental.
 It is Zionist institutions that
have been used by successive Israeli governments, Labour and Likud alike, to
implement apartheid in Israel. 
Organisations like the JNF and the Jewish Agency.  Israel isn’t ‘post-colonial’ as Didi
imagines, it is an active settler-colonial state which is still throwing Arabs
off the land, even within Israel. 
Zionism isn’t some
warm dream of a homeland.  In its origins
it was a reaction to anti-Semitism in Europe but it was a reaction that
accepted anti-Semitism as the normal reaction of non-Jews to the abnormal situation of Jews
in their midst.  In the words of the
founder of Political Zionism Theodor Herzl 

Paris…, I achieved a freer attitude towards anti-Semitism, which I now began
to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognise the emptiness
and futility of trying to ‘combat’ anti-Semitism.’ [Diaries, ed. Patai, p.6]  

Whilst Zionism accepted anti-Semitism most
Jews rejected it.
founders of Zionism constituted the most reactionary segment of Jewish
society.  They teamed up with people like
Edouard Drumont, the leader of the anti-Dreyfussards in France.  Both the Zionists and anti-Semites accepted that Jews did not belong
in the countries they had made their home. 
Zionism consisted of the believers in eugenics and the racial
sciences.  They were the movement that
welcomed Hitler to power because, in the words of Berl Katznelson, a founder of
Mapai and editor of its daily paper, Davar, the rise of Hitler was “an opportunity to build and flourish like
none we have ever had or ever will have”.
[Francis Nicosia, Zionism and
Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany p.91]
The sneering reference to Ken Livingstone, that he has been  making stupid remarks about Jews for years is
just that, an unmerited sneer devoid of substance.  Because Ken is right.  Zionism is a movement whose leader David Ben-Gurion
could declare, in response to the Kindertransport that saved 10,000 Jewish
children after Krystalnacht that:

I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by
bringing them over to England, and only half of them by transporting them to
Eretz Yisrael, then I would opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh
not only the life of these children, but also the history of the People of
Israel’. Tom Segev, The 7th Million, p.28.

was seen by most Jews in the pre-war period as a form of Jewish anti-Semitism.
wasn’t a movement consisting of ‘homeland’ dreamers.  It was a settler colonial movement that took
its inspiration from Cecil Rhodes in southern Africa.  It colonised the land and dispossessed the
indigenous population.  Unlike in South
Africa, it did not reintegrate them in the economy as exploited labour but
sought to expel them first from the economy and then from the land
altogether.  It followed the Australian
and American colonial models.
yes Zionism has become a dirty word and quite rightly so.  Just as ‘segregation’ and ‘apartheid’ were
also considered dirty words.  We didn’t use
the term ‘separate development’ when the meaning of ‘apartheid’ was perfectly
clear.  Nor should we use Israeli nationalism
when it is ‘Zionism’ that we really mean.
suggestion that ‘Judaism is zionism’s parent’ is simply nonsense.  If anyone was Zionism’s parent it was the
Russian Czar Nicholas II and his Interior Minister, the instigator of the
pogroms von-Plehve.  British Evangelical
Christians and anti-Semites like Arthur James Balfour and William Evans-Gordon
came a close second.  They supported
Zionist colonisation of Palestine because they didn’t want Jews to come here.  
in Britain today is minute.  I don’t fear
being physically attacked walking down the street.  I am not only Jewish I am White.  I don’t suffer from police raids, stop and
search or being asked for my passport like Black and Asian people.  The ‘Anti-Semitism’ of Zionism is a ruse, a
device to deflect attention from the actions of Israel.  That unfortunately is the effect of Didi’s

Jews in Europe had a legitimate desire for a homeland.  When fleeing the Czarist pogroms they found
one – in Britain and the United States. 
That’s why Palestine was a racial dream that has turned sour.  

In Israel Zionism means the demographic question, the fear that in the night more Arab babies were produced than Jewish babies.  It is the fear of racists throughout the ages.  When the issue of African refugees who had entered Israel illegally first raised its head, the question was posed in Zionist terms – the threat to Israel’s Jewish identity.  The refugees became ‘infiltrators’ a term first used for Palestinian refugees trying to make their way back into their own country.

Netanyahu exclaimed that “If we don’t stop their entry, the problem that currently stands at 60,000 could grow to 600,000, and that threatens our existence as a Jewish and democratic state,” [Guardian, 20.5.12.].  

Israel’s then Interior Minister, Eli Yeshai, was even more blunt:

“I want everyone to be able to walk the streets without fear or trepidation … The migrants are giving birth to hundreds of thousands, and the Zionist dream is dying,”

But I make a promises.  If Zionists stop referring to their Zionist dreams and the World Zionist Organisation and all similar organisations abolish themselves then I will stop referring to Zionism!

And finally Didi, if there’s one thing I detest it is when an academic deliberately uses obscure words for the general public, like autochthonous instead of the more normal word indigenous.  This is just obscurantism.  At least you have now corrected the spelling!

Tony Greenstein

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