The Zionist Left is neither Zionist nor Left

While “Zionism” might be a difficult term to define today, meaning so many different things to so many different people, the ANZV defines the term as “Jewish liberation.”

By LEAH KARCHMER
April 22, 2015 19:34
People carry Israeli flags during a Jerusalem Day march in the capital.

People carry Israeli flags during a Jerusalem Day march in the capital.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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When my party, the Alliance for New Zionist Vision (ANZV), was attacked last week by the Hatikvah slate (in an online article), which is competing against us in elections for the next World Zionist Congress, I wasn’t surprised. We’re likely the only serious competition they face on the Left and among young adult voters. And while Hatikvah candidate Maya Haber, for her article, combed our website to challenge our progressive credentials and dug through our finances to challenge our claim to be “grassroots” (with her published findings only strengthening that claim), I’ve decided to limit my response to criticisms of ideology and policy.

Ironically, Haber’s main accusation against my party was that it represents the “radical Right” – an accusation based on the fact that we vehemently oppose the two-state solution that has, for the past two decades, only exacerbated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and brought us further from genuine peace. As someone who spent her college years building the Students of Semitic Heritage dialogue group while interning with the Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative and volunteering with Semitic Action, I found Haber’s accusations ridiculous and offensive. However, within the narrow ideological paradigm Hatikvah operates in, I am not surprised.

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Hatikvah includes candidates from J Street, Americans for Peace Now, the New Israel Fund, Hashomer Hatzair, Habonim Dror, Partners for a Progressive Israel (formerly Meretz USA) and Ameinu – groups that essentially comprise what has come to pass for the Zionist Left in the United States. But based on the worldviews and positions of these organizations, I’d call into question both their claims of being progressive and Zionist.

While “Zionism” might be a difficult term to define today, meaning so many different things to so many different people, the ANZV defines the term as “Jewish liberation.” We self-identify as active characters in the story of our people and aspire to define and achieve the next goals of our revolution. While we recognize legitimate Palestinian grievances, criticize Israeli policies we deem unjust and define solving the conflict as a Zionist goal, on par with reviving a dead language and ingathering exiles, we continue to place the Jewish people and its historic aspirations at the center of our story.

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We understand that some Jews consider Judea and Samaria – the cradle of Jewish civilization – to be territory rightfully belonging to our people, yet are willing to compromise in order to make peace with the Palestinians or appease the international community. And although we may sharply disagree with that position, we wouldn’t accuse such people of not being Zionists. The leadership of Hatikvah, on the other hand, relate to the West Bank as foreign territory and to the Jews deeply connected to it as hated antagonists. By rejecting the Jewish homeland and vilifying those who cling to it, Hatikvah seems to have removed itself from the Zionist camp.

By publicly calling for aggressive American pressure to force a two-state solution on Israelis and Palestinians (many of whom feel oppressed by this “solution” and ultimately blame each other rather than identifying Washington as the culprit), J Street and its allies undermine Israel’s sovereignty and essentially function as Jewish mouthpieces for American empire in the Middle East. The agenda they push for is not one desired by the natives on the ground but by the foreign superpower, wielding dominance and selling arms to both sides.



Hatikvah also supports and partners with the most westernized, bourgeois sectors of Israeli society, who have monopolized Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians for too long, blocking any attempts to challenge the two-state paradigm or present fresh solutions to achieving justice and peace. The two-state model close-mindedly insisted upon by Hatikvah is one that promotes forced segregation and envisions Israel as a tiny, American-backed colonial fortress in the Middle East serving as a bastion of Western civilization alienated from its neighbors (while Palestinians would be forced to live under a Fatah-led police state).

Liberal and Labor Zionists actually have a long history of serving imperialist agendas. As Palestine’s ruling Jewish party in the 1930s and ‘40s, Labor Zionists benefited from British occupation and actively worked to suppress the real revolutionary forces fighting to free the country from British rule. Revolutionary Zionists like Lehi – the “Stern Gang” – were arguably the real Zionist Left (in the Maoist tradition) because Natan Yellin-Mor and other Sternist leaders actually applied Marx’s method to the Jewish people, as we’ve collectively self-identified for thousands of years. Unlike Labor Zionists, who employed a colonialist methodology, holding an Orientalist view of the Arab world and seeking superpower patronage, Lehi self-identified as fully indigenous, advocating Semitic solidarity and seeking to unify the Middle East into a revolutionary socialist anti-imperialist front.

In the same vein, the ANZV aspires toward Semitic unity, with a strong Jewish and democratic Israel from the river to the sea existing as an organic part of the greater Middle East. Our partners in the territories work to facilitate dialogue between those Israelis and Palestinians actually living the respective aspirations of their peoples. Israel’s peacemakers cannot be European-funded NGOs or those who would like to see Israel as a Western outpost in the Middle East, but rather those Jews who actually wish to create an authentic Hebrew society fulfilling the ancient dreams of the Jewish people. Jews deeply connected to our collective history, culture, identity and destiny – including and especially those living just next door to Palestinians in the territories with their own harsh experiences of police brutality and house demolitions – should be the Jews engaging with Palestinians to solve our conflict.

Recasting the leadership of those charged with achieving peace would change the dense conversation going on for decades among those most removed from the front lines of the conflict. While it might be easy to find common ground between those least committed to their people’s history and least passionate about their national identity, such a peace would be merely a façade. In reality, it would leave those on both sides actually living the story of their people disenfranchised and determined to continue the conflict. The only real way to achieve genuine, lasting peace is through the active involvement and leadership of those until now derided as “enemies of peace.”

Hatikvah rightly sees the ANZV as the only potent threat to its growing influence among young Diaspora Jews. Because they are trapped in an outdated, superficial political spectrum, Hatikvah stubbornly clings to a failed two-state solution and to the notion of Israel as an outpost of Western values in the Middle East, while claiming that commitment to Jewish identity and loyalty to the territorial integrity of the homeland confines people like me to the Zionist Right. But it is exactly this paradigm that the ANZV seeks to challenge in order to advance Jewish history.

Since the liberation of Jerusalem in 1967, Zionism as a revolutionary movement has been paused, focused mainly on maintaining the status quo and shallow talking points about stale, non-viable “solutions.” Diaspora youth are encouraged to demonstrate support for Israel by marching in parades, blindly defending Israeli policies on campus and attending AIPAC conferences. From the ANZV’s perspective, these are all poor substitutes for a real Zionist achievement. Israel is not a football team and Diaspora Jews are not fans. Only by decolonizing Jewish identity and self-identifying as active participants in Jewish history can our youth be empowered to effectively define Jewish interests, identify challenges standing in the way of those interests, and successfully become the heroes that advance Israel’s story to the next stage.

Please vote for the Alliance for New Zionist Vision (third slate) at www.myselfourisrael.com.

The author is currently earning her masters degree in Israel Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and is a candidate on the Alliance for New Zionist Vision slate in the upcoming World Zionist Congress elections.

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