What is a Zionist? And can it include the “one-state solution”?

Mark claims he’s not a Zionist anymore.  I’ll chalk it up to justifiable pique at being called a Nazi sympathizer by Jewish fascists.

The most basic definition of Zionism is that you believe in a Jewish state in Palestine.  If you believe in Israel within the 1967 borders, then you’re a Zionist.  Mark rightfully objects that the Likud, the Haredim, and the Liebermans have hijacked the brand.  He’s right.  But we musn’t give into hijackers, right?

You can actually be a Zionist and not believe in Israel within the 1967 borders.  This would be a form of “binational Zionism,” as exemplified by the Brit Shalom group before 1948.  Brit Shalom, known in Arabic as Tahalof Essalam, included such luminaries as philosopher Martin Buber, historian Gershom Scholem, activist Henrietta Szold, and Hebrew University President Judah Magnes.  Its sort of Zionism stressed the aspect of the Jewish cultural mandate to return to the land, but rejected the emphasis on statehood.  On some days, the distinguished writer Ahad Ha’am embraced this concept of Zionism.

One major reason why Brit Shalom got nowhere was the refusal of any Arabs to join it.  Now, of course, we hear from many intellectuals that they embrace a “one-state solution.”  I would be more persuaded of such a “solution” were it not for the fact that the Arab world remains the globe’s only region without a stable democracy, and states sharply divided by ethnicity anywhere have horrific and appalling records.  If the best that the one-staters can do is recommend another Lebanon, then, as Mark and Sam Goldwyn would say, “include me out.”

Over the long run, the death of statist Zionism might be the most lasting legacy of the Arab Spring, if it ever gets that far.  If Israel found itself surrounded by a series of stable Arab liberal democracies, then one next logical step would be further economic and political integration on an EU model.  If you went back to 1911, and told Frenchmen that one hundred years from then, Europe would be economically and politically integrated and that France and Germany would have open borders, they would have told you that you were insane.  But this sort of integration only became possible after firm and deep German democratization, the common enemy of Soviet Russia, and the constant presence of US troops.  (A couple of world wars didn’t hurt, either, but it was the outcome of those wars, not the wars themselves, that changed things).

So if you are really a one-stater, your focus should not be on delegitimizing Israel, but rather on fostering Arab liberalism.  This most assuredly does not mean that anyone should overlook Israel’s horrid and unethical policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians; rather, it is to say that one-staters should concentrate on changing the Arab world.  They aren’t, which leads me to suspect that they are not particularly focused on a real one-state solution.  In American criminal law, “recklessness” refers to “a state of mind in which a person does not care about the consequences of his or her actions.”  One-staters, unless they are actually attempting to think through and prevent the spectre of anti-Jewish oppression that would surely result from a one-state Palestine, are reckless.  Again: include me out.

A few years ago, an Israeli correspondent asked Edward Sa’id: “So what you envision is a totally new situation in which a Jewish minority would live peacefully within an Arab context?” Said: “Yes. I believe it is viable. A Jewish minority can survive the way other minorities in the Arab world survived.” To Sa’id’s confidence, Martin Kramer had the best response: “Introduce this man to an Iraqi Kurd.”  Or, for that matter, a Saudi Shi’ite.  Or a Sudanese Black African.  Or a Darfurian.  Or an Algerian or Moroccan Berber.

Last thing: the irony in all of this is that the greatest practical advocates of the one-state solution are all members of the current Israeli government.  As always, Hizbullah votes Likud.  This is why, at the end of the day, the Revisionists are not Zionists: they are anti-Zionists.  And we should not hesitate to say so.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

16 thoughts on “What is a Zionist? And can it include the “one-state solution”?”

  1. The Israelis, as I see it, were put into a terrible position by the anti-Semites in Britain, and France, and USSR at the end of WWII – those folks were happy to have some solution which did not involve Jews living in their country. And they (UK, France, USSR) were utterly heedless of the other Semitic people involved, the Arabs, who they could not imagine could trouble the waters in future. 60 years on, and we have an awful situation, irritated by the actions the Israelis and Palestinians have taken. I can’t see any way that the Israelis can make things tenable where they are, they only have to lose once, on the other hand they maybe can keep fending off the Palestinians for years to come. The people who were at fault are all dead, and their living descendants have problems of their own, have moved on.

    Maybe we should invite the Israelis all to move to Iowa? Bloomberg – from New York! – wants to repopulate Michigan? It is hard to imagine a one-state future there. Only different varieties of catastrophe.

  2. Pique! Well, you’re his friend. But that was one shitty and ill thought-out post, and you don’t have to be a genius to see that he’ll come to regret it.

  3. I have a policy of not getting into discussions of I/P; nothing good ever comes of it.

    Even the best policies are worth breaking every now and then. I think, though, that I’d rather talk about my own country.

    1. Roger Williams was right (about indigenous title, and about separation of church and state). It’s a tragedy on our continent that it took us nearly 300 years to figure this all the way out, and a tragedy on others that they still haven’t gotten it.

    2. John Marshall was basically talking about a two state solution in Worcester v. Georgia, but it was intolerable to greedy racists. And that asshole is still on the sawbuck.

    3. The examples given in the post about ethnic minorities are cute but context avoidant: who would own most of the wealth, and wield the power that that brings in a single state? Who will be in the officer corps of the armed forces? The Supreme Court? Who will be able to prevent, long into the future, the 2/3d vote to amend the constitution (which, if it isn’t there, ought to be)? On the other hand, knowing that apartheid cannot be sustained indefinitely, who has to tremble for his country when he reflects that God is just? People should not pretend that their actions today will not play a large role in what happens when/if a single state comes about.

  4. (Funny, I’ve misunderstood the denomination of the ‘sawbuck’ — oh well, that other guy was an asshole too.)

  5. I have a theory that motivations are important to policies. If the people proposing a one-state solution were in good faith, that would be one thing. But you can’t force someone to be in a state with you – or at least, you shouldn’t be able to. To me it seems like an argument someone came up with to appeal to Europeans, and make Israel look bad, but that they knew would never fly and was a big waste of time, and therefore dishonest. Lying liars who waste everyone’s time.

  6. Of course I oppose the “one-state” solution, which is a formula for ethnic cleansing if not genocide. But my support for the right of Jews to have a state in Israel is no longer a loyalty; it’s just a strong policy preference based on considerations of human rights, like my support of the right of the Burmese to be free of the SLORC or of the East Timoreans not to be oppressed by Indonesia or the right of the Tibetans to autonomy. Someone else will have to carry my Israeli flag for me.

  7. I feel crazy, but I will try to guess what Mark Kleiman meant. He did say he supported a democratic Jewish state of Israel when also writing that he isn’t a Zionist. Huh indeed. What could that mean ? What is the difference ?

    Well think about it this way, I support the existance of a bilingual democratic state of Canada, but I’m not Canadian. Once Zionism was a dream, and only the passionately engaged supported the creation of a Jewish state. Now it’s over there. One can support Israel’s right to exist. without feeling any particular attachment to Isreal, just as one can support, for example, Brazil’s right to exist .

    By “Israel” I mean the Jewish state of Israel. If it were replaced with a non-Jewish state called Israel, it would be elminated and a new state with the same name created, just as Ryan’s plan would elminate Medicare.

    My ignorant guess is that, until recently, Mark Kleiman had a different view of Israel than of most states which he considers legitimate, and now Israel is just another legitimate foreign country to him.

    It is absurd and rude for me to try to guess. But I was very puzzled by the apparently contradictory claims and I’m trying to understand.

    To leave Canada and Brazil alone, I support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state but I don’t consider myself a Zionist. This probably has something to do with the fact that I’m not Jewish, but I don’t see any logical connection.

  8. Robert Waldmann has it right. My feelings about Israel are closer to his than they are to Peter Beinart’s.

  9. Larry will someday learn that “that was shitty” isn’t actually an argument. What I felt at that meeting was not pique, but disgust. It was brought home to me that too much of contemporary “pro-Israel” polemic involves defending the indefensible.

    As to regretting it, perhaps I’ll regret getting the Zionist McCarthy treatment that Tony Kushner is now experiencing, if anyone ever bothers to notice my comments. But I don’t expect to change my mind.

  10. Just to be fair to Edward Said, both Egypt and Lebanon have had some recent spells of reasonable tolerance toward religious/ethnic minorities. On the other hand, the tolerance is fragile and episodic at best.
    On the third hand, Muslim intolerance is a fairly recent phenomenon. It may go away when the Muslim inferiority complex disappears. And the recent Arab Spring has been more in the direction of liberal democracy than anything else. But I’m not holding my breath.

  11. Mark, re “pique”, I was quoting jonathan.

    There are lots of things Americans do that disgust me. There are lots of things people in my family do that disgust me. There are even things I do — I try to learn from them — that disgust myself. That doesn’t mean I decide America or my family are propositions I’m indifferent about.

    I didn’t say this before but I’m disgusted by Beinart. In my view he’s a moral coward who is utilizing a trite psychological mechanism to deflect the pain associated with the dilemmas in which the West generally, and Jews in particular, finds itself in coping with — I won’t say evil, and it is no long acceptable to say backwards, so let’s just say parts of the world which haven’t yet adopted liberal democratic and Western views of how human beings should live and relate to each other. Given his manifest intelligence this failure is just gross. Given his platform it’s actually dangerous.

    The people who disgusted you are using a different mechanism. But don’t kid yourself about who these people are. By the standards of America and the world they are generally quite liberal-minded. They’re having a hard time coping with the situation emotionally. You seem to have no understanding of this. Meanwhile you are using yet another coping mechanism. It doesn’t actually absolve you of responsibility. It just makes you feel better.

  12. “Zionist”: an analogy might be “communist”. From say 1900 to say 1925, there was a wide range of left-wing radical movements inspired by Marx and Kropotkin who had a communist ideal, and revolutionary agendas covering a gamut from terrorism to pacifism. With the seizure of power in Russia by the small Bolshevik faction, its claim to exclusivity of the communist label and interpretation of its content was gradually accepted by sympathisers and opponents alike. There does come a point when it no longer makes sense for the minority to say “I’m still a Zionist/communist/conservative, but not like you.” Mark has just reached that point.

    On the issue, what Robert Waldmann says.

  13. Jonathan Z: “A couple of world wars didn’t hurt, either, but it was the outcome of those wars, not the wars themselves, that changed things”.
    The outcome of WWII was that both France and Germany were defeated. Churchill, for all his irritation with de Gaulle, insisted that France be treated as one of the victorious powers, with an occupation zone in Germany and all. Roosevelt and Stalin would not have bothered, but it wasn’t important enough not to let Churchill have his way. De Gaulle carefully constructed a myth of French self-liberation to restore French honour and self-respect, not because he did not understand the real situation, which did not undo the verdict of 1940. I say this as an admirer of the heroism of the French Resistance and the Free French – all the more heroic because they were few in number.
    There is no way of reproducing this double defeat in the Middle East.

  14. Ebenezer Scrooge writes: “On the third hand, Muslim intolerance is a fairly recent phenomenon.”

    Perhaps you don’t recall the Almohads, who conquered parts of the Iberian peninsula in the twelfth century, and were extremely intolerant towards non-Muslims, causing many to flee their territory for fear of their lives if they did not convert. The Almoravids who had preceded them were relatively tolerant, but that was not true of all Muslims. Even if you ignore the way Mohammed himself treated the Jews of Arabia, it is not an reasonable reading of Muslim history to claim that this intolerance is of fairly recent vintage.

  15. Robert Waldmann: you’re *not* crazy – that was helpful.

    Perhaps we could say that a person in Mark’s position may still be a supporter of Zionism (if that just means supporting the continued existence of Israel as a safe place for Jews to live, rather than some maximalist, land-encroaching version), it’s just that he can no longer stand (most? many? the other?) Zionists? Or even more to the point, can’t stand the (crackpot?) arguments some of them come up with?

    I feel a little bit less confused now. But we may need a new word for this. “Neo” something? I got nothin’.

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