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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Obama campaign: 'Zionism without a Jewish state?'

Over at Little Green Footballs, Charles has discovered a virulently anti-Israel blog that is being hosted by Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Hussein Obama's web site. The blog is hosted by one Tony Wicher, whose profile does not say he's Jewish but does indicate that he is quite active in the Obama campaign (a google search returned over 1800 hits), so they cannot claim they didn't know about him.

Wicher is apparently also affiliated with 'rabbi' Mikey Lerner.

One of the posts on his blog calls for 'Zionism without a Jewish state.' While that might be a contradiction in terms, what it would really do is put us back to the late 19th century, in which every Jewish community in the world would be vulnerable and in which Jews have no place to go. Here's what some of that post has to say:
Does it makes sense to talk of non-statist zionism now that there is a Jewish state, or at least a state that likes to call itself Jewish?

I submit that it does, and in fact, I would argue (if I had the time) that Israel would do well to adopt non-statist Zionism.

But first, some assumptions. I call them assumptions, because they are mostly articles of faith. And what I mean by that is that if you are a leftwing, post-nationalist, you aren't going to be impressed by anything I have to say here.

I start from the position of a liberal nationalist, one that sees the value for the flourishing of its citizens in a nation state. (On "liberal nationalism" you can read the good overview in the article on Nationalism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.) Because I am a liberal nationalist, I cannot be a statist Zionist, because by identifying the Jewish state as a state of the Jewish nation, I am automatically cutting off non-Jews from full membership in that state.

Moreover, I will always have to use what I consider dubious arguments to favor what I will call here ethnic Jews (as in ethnic Russians and ethnic Poles) at the expense of non-Jews who are citizens of the Jewish state.

Of course, one could make citizenship and nationality coextensive, so that anybody could become a Jew through the process of naturalization into the Jewish state. In that case, one could be a Muslim Jew, a Christian Jew, etc. But that would be a radical redefining of what it is to be a Jew.

A suggestion like that (from the other direction) was made by David Friedlaender, one of the enlightened Jews of Berlin in the eighteenth century. Friedlaender said that if the price to pay for German citizenship was being a Christian, why not have the entire Jewish community "convert" to Christianity en masse -- not, of course, traditional Christianity, but an enlightened version of Christianity which was devoid of Christian dogma. His proposal was turned down by enlightened Christians, for obvious reasons.

The point is that even if Jews do constitute a nation, or feel part of a nation, etc., it is not the sort of nation that liberal nation-states are constituted of, and for good reason -- it is a nation of which a national religion constituted a major part, whether one accepted it or rebelled against it, and, for better or for worse, that is the way it has played out in history.

The failure of Israel to be a liberal democracy and a nation-state of the Jews is well-known, and I hope I don't have to bring the familiar arguments. That fact that Israel is a settler-state founded on the thwarted national dreams of a native population compounds the problem, but, frankly, there would be problems even if Israel had been founded in a wilderness bereft of people.

But while Israel has, I believe, failed as a liberal state of the Jews, it need not be a failure as a liberal nation-state of all its people -- of the Israeli people, Jews and non-Jews, Palestinians and Jews.

I have lived in Israel on-and-off for over thirty years, and I can tell you that there is an Israeli national culture, and it is predominantly, though not exclusively, Hebraic and Jewish. Israeli Palestinian culture is also Israeli, and it is a culture which I admire and respect, and feel part of my own -- not as Jew, although I find it close to my own, but as an Israeli.
I have to go take a shower after reading this drivel.

I linked it only because I want you all to see that this really is on the Obama web site. I assume Bob Wexler and his friends have a reasonable explanation.



At 10:20 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Israeli Left wants to dissolve Judaism. I think we heard from Avram Burg exactly what that entails. A Jewish State that isn't Jewish by definition isn't a Jewish State at all.

That's the point.


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