Opinion Editorials, May 26, 2008
Zionism Is a Form of Racism
By Abdeen Jabara
Al-Moharer, May 26, 2008
Zionism, as a nationalist movement, can be viewed from several perspectives. On the one hand, one might adopt a position frequently espoused by Western liberals and intellectuals and even some radicals that nationalism is regressive and narrow and something to be disdained. Despite their "intellectualism" these practical internationalists are unable to distinguish between the aggressive and often brutal nationalism of an oppressor nation and the nationalism of an oppressed nation. The nationalist of an oppressed nation loves his people and is pained by their suffering or indignities. These liberal intellectuals see no difference between predatory and exploitative nationalism and defensive nationalism. As Lenin wrote, "whoever does not recognize and champion the equality of nations and languages, and does not fight against all national oppression or inequality, is not a Marxist; he is not even a democrat."
Obviously the question of Jewish identity has not been resolved among Jews. The numerous cases before the “Israeli” Supreme Court on the question of "who is a Jew", the conflicts in the Law of Return, and the failure of “Israeli” and Zionist leaders to create that one resource which Zionism needs most, immigration, is indicative that this question is still unresolved.
Whether one accepts the Zionist contention of a Jewish nation or people, one can enunciate the application of the rights of national minorities to Jews. A democratic Marxist position was set forth by Lenin, "Guaranteeing the rights of a national minority is inseparably linked up with the principle of complete equality ... that decision demands 'the incorporation in the constitution of a fundamental law which shall declare null and void all privileges enjoyed by any one nation and all infringements of the rights of a national minority' ".
"Don't Jews have the right to self-determination?" This serious question is frequently raised and many persons who oppose Zionism have either carelessly glossed over its answer or studiously avoided it for fear that it would legitimize Zionist colonization in Palestine. The question and its answer are vitally related to the Zionism-Racism issue for if Jews were merely exercising a right to self-determination through the colonization of Palestine, that movement could not properly be called a form of racism. Self-determination of nations means the political separation of these nations from alien national bodies and the formation of an independent national state. In other words, it is the secession from one body politic and the creation of a new body politic.
Before the question of Jewish self-determination can be answered, another must be raised. Is there an absolute and unconditional right of self-determination for an oppressed nation? Marxist-Leninists propound the right to be absolute. But they also said that it was "a right to free political separation from the oppressor nation" (Emphasis added). It cannot be realized, for it would be a contradiction in terms, at the expense of another nation or people. Marxist-Leninists saw the exercise of the right of self-determination as being led by the proletariat and advancing the cause of international socialism. But this unconditional right could be exercised only by an oppressed nation. Accordingly, members of a nation in a multinational society who were not oppressed would not have a right of secession from the body politic of which they are a part.
Likewise, a further qualification on the right of self-determination was the necessity for a struggle by an oppressed nation for full democratic freedom and a constitutional and economic system that would ensure that equality. Here the differences between the Zionist reaction to persecution of Jews and a revolutionary Jewish socialist reaction in Eastern Europe during the political turmoil in the later part of the nineteenth and early twentieth century is most apparent. The Zionist solution was secession and colonization without participating in the social and political struggles of societies in which Jews lived. For the Zionist such struggle was futile and made no difference for the security of Jews. But the many Jewish partisans of the socialist revolutions posited the idea that it was possible to construct a non exploitative and nondiscriminatory system under the guidance of Marxist-Leninist principles.
Historically, movements of colonization have been undertaken by minorities who desired to retain the particular characteristics of their groups rather than forego them or for group safety. Does the desire to maintain group identity or safety and the organizing of the group with a program to maintain that identity or ensure its safety qualify as a liberation movement?
First, there can be no doubt that any group or members of that group should not be obliged to relinquish its particularism, religion, culture, language or expression of self where those characteristics do not violate the rights of others. The Jews or any other national or religion-ethnic group should be free to maintain their specific expressions of their individual or collective consciousness of existence. To the extent that Jews or any other people are prevented or prohibited through discriminatory legal structures from doing so, they have the right to resist and rebel. They have the right to undertake a struggle for change of the system which denies them equal rights.
There is only one unconditional rule attached to the right of national liberation. No man or people may achieve national liberation at the expense of another people. Given this fact, any movement including Zionism which seeks to solve the national problem of one people at the expense of another may not properly be called a movement of national liberation.
Far from being the national liberation movement of Jews, Zionism might better be seen as a death trap for Jews in Israel today. Rather than leading to greater security for Jews, Zionism has isolated Jews in the Middle East and the world community. Rather than bringing peace and security to Jews in Israel it has brought them interminable conflict and war without any foreseeable conclusion. Rather than giving Jews in Europe, the Soviet Union, the United States and Latin America greater hope for the future of successful communal existence on a multinational basis, it has sought to polarize them in support of a movement that alienates Jews from the social and political struggles of their societies.
In this connection it is interesting to note the recent statement of Morris Amitay, head of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the principal Zionist lobby in the United States, that AIPAC's success stems "from the fact that we are single-issued." This is in conformity with the Zionist dogma that Jewish security can only be had in self-segregation as an obscene caricature of the eastern European ghetto. More recently the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith charged that pro-Palestinian information in the United States was "not only a dagger pointed at the heart of “Israel”," but "likewise poses a threat to the security of the American Jewish community and Jewish communities everywhere" (emphasis added).
In 1968 after the jubilation and euphoria in Israel from its stunning June 1967 victory, Moshe Dayan, in a speech before an officers' school, quoted several passages from Arthur Rupin, the grandfather of Zionist colonization in Palestine:
We are aiming at relations (between the Zionist colonists and the Palestinians) which we will be able to defend against our own consciences and against the League of Nations as a just solution without renouncing the fundamentals of Zionism.
It became clear to me how hard it is to realize Zionism in a way compatible with the demands of universal ethics.
What is interesting about Dayan's use of these quotations is that they were made after a stunning military victory and that they were made before an officers' school. The intensity of the moral conflict between Zionism and the universal ethics was revealed a half century after Zionism had achieved so many of its objectives. Even the state machinery designed to mold a strong Zionist national consciousness created a plaque of self-doubt and questioning.
Zionism has consistently sought to rationalize itself in the name of "universal human justice" but to be able to do this required its conciliation with an immoral phenomenon, the inherent discrimination against and oppression of national minorities. This is a permanent phenomenon of human society since it is inseparable from human nature. Anti-Semitism or persecution of minorities is not a problem for humanity as a whole involving scientific investigation into its social, economic, cultural and political causes, but an exclusively Jewish problem. In its attempts to "normalize" Jews in a "society like other societies" Zionism takes on the problem of minority oppression as a normal condition.
The headline on November 11, 1975, of a major metropolitan newspaper in a populous Midwestern city read "U.N. Declares Zionism is Racism." The U.S. Congress threatened retaliatory action against the United Nations and the United States contribution to the U.N. Budget was decreased. Moreover, the United States announced that it would not participate in the U.N. Decade to Combat Racism. In New York City, the City Council sought to change the name of the U.N. Plaza to Zion Square. Israel quickly moved to take measures to counteract its growing isolation. An emergency meeting of world Zionist leaders was called in Jerusalem to discuss a plan of action. Israel strengthened and made public its previously covert ties with the Union of South Africa. A hundred thousand Jewish Americans were reported to have marched in New York City in denunciation of the U.N. resolution. They were housewives, factory workers, students, retirees, and shopkeepers, businessmen who were hurt and angry and who wanted to defend their movement of salvation. What was it that had gone wrong with their dreams? What had happened to the sacrifices on behalf of Jewish victims less fortunate than themselves? What had so changed the world from their childhoods when they were in idealistic Zionist youth movements or saved their coins in the boxes marked "Jewish National Fund?" How they asked, could the majority of the world turn on the Jewish movement for salvation and national liberation?
The one flaw in what had, until the emergence of the Palestinian resistance, been a record of success for Zionism was that the Palestinians refused to acquiesce in their national oppression and obliteration. This is hardly surprising. And it was because of their refusal and the mounting of their struggle for national liberation that the issue of the nature of Zionism was thrust upon the peoples of the world.
The above is part of a longer article which can be found at:
Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent ccun.org.