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An article in Hadassah Magazine.Feeling Left Out, expresses one part of the tragedy and frustration caused by the great Zionist divide -- the lack of unity in the Zionist movement -- about which I have written previously (see Zionist Unity.Gershom Gorenberg begins:

The word ‘Zionist’ belongs to both the right and left of the political divide. Using the term incorrectly displays ignorance of Israel’s history—and deserves to be corrected.






Thus begins a lament that expresses the feelings of a large section of the population of Israel, and of Diaspora Jewry, who have been disenfranchised and delegitimized in their own country and their own own political movement. It is not an abstract problem. We all feel it personally.

Author David Grossman, who lost his son in the second Lebanese war, made an impassioned plea for peace at the Rabin memorial rally this year. It was a very Zionist speech, but most people who live abroad would not understand it that way. He said, inter alia:

I am totally secular, and yet in my eyes the establishment and the very existence of the State of Israel is a miracle of sorts that happened to us as a nation - a political, national, human miracle.

I do not forget this for a single moment. Even when many things in the reality of our lives enrage and depress me, even when the miracle is broken down to routine and wretchedness, to corruption and cynicism, even when reality seems like nothing but a poor parody of this miracle, I always remember.

Avigdor Lieberman is not a better Zionist than David Grossman, but he will be portrayed as such by "Zionists" in the United States, and by anti-Zionist media as well. The Bronfman family have given millions of dollars for Jewish and Zionist charities, but from the recent flurry of op-eds, which reflect internal squabbles about politics and power, you would think Edgar Bronfman was a member of the PLO.

Bronfman is in good company. It is appalling to see the leaders of Israel and Zionism from Yossi Sarid, Itzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres to Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and even Menachem Begin, branded as "traitors," "anti-Semites," "self-hating Jews" and "Bolshevik dictators" by so-called "super-Zionists" who live in the United States and contributed nothing to building our state. I am weary of watching BBC documentaries in which the "Zionist" side is invariably represented by the most racist fanatic they can find.

This historical injustice is being perpetrated by an unlikely coalition of anti-Semites, anti-Zionists, and ultra right-wing Jews and Christian zealots. It serves the narrow political interests of extremists in the settler lobby to discredit Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert and others who sought and seek to end the occupation peacefully. It serves the interests of anti-Zionists to portray all Zionists as aggressive and abrasive supporters of the extreme right, and to "brand" Zionism as a reactionary, racist colonial movement that has no respect for the rights of others. Imaginative reporters like Jack Kelley invent "Zionist" orthodox settlers who put on their kippah before shooting Arabs.

When my grandfathers came to this part of the Turkish Empire, over a century ago, and helped to found the Labor Zionist movement, they did not dream of the variety of Zionism that is portrayed by some as the only sort of Zionism today.

Gorenberg continues:

I noticed the shift in popular use of “Zionism” in English when my family hosted a pair of bright American college students for Friday night dinner...Our Shabbat customs were an exhibit of the Israeli side. As we set the table, one young woman described the Palestinian lecturers they had heard. And Israelis, I asked?

Yes, she said, they had listened to a couple of West Bank settlers who were “very Zionist.”

I was startled. An Israeli, describing the same people, would have said “hawkish” or “right wing.”

Most israeli Jews, I gently explained to my guest, would call themselves Zionists, whether they are on the left or the right. I myself, I said, am a Zionist, and I’m on the dovish side of Israeli politics. She listened studiously, as if taking mental notes and trying to understand another unexpected quirk of this strange land....

Some time after, for instance, I saw a Newsweek article on how disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff allegedly channeled charity funds raised for American inner-city youth to a West Bank settlement. Abramoff, Newsweek explained, was described by an associate as “a super-Zionist.” By implication, he would have been a lesser Zionist, if a Zionist at all, if he were less supportive of settlements.

More recently, chance browsing led me to a column in Canada’s National Post on efforts to rejuvenate The New Republic (a magazine for which I wrote in the 1990’s). Editor-in-chief Martin Peretz, said the National Post’s columnist, was “a Zionist,” as indicated by The New York Times’s portrayal of him as having “never met an Israeli military offensive he didn’t like.” Ergo, those critical of some offensives—a class including many Knesset members, former Israel Defense Forces’ officers, reservists and average Israelis—might not qualify as Zionists...

I find the selective use of “Zionist” personally offensive. Nearly 30 years after I chose to leave the United States to live in the Jewish state, how did I lose my credentials? It is also communally damaging: If, for instance, American Jewish college students are convinced that being a Zionist means one can criticize the Gaza pullout but not settlement building, quite a few young people might feel they must choose between identifying with Israel and their liberal political views. That’s a false choice.

Most of all, making “Zionist” interchangeable with “right winger” reveals ignorance. Historically, Zionism refers to the modern movement that sought to restore Jewish life as a nation in the Jewish homeland. But there were always many variations on the theme. For some Zionists, cultural renewal was more important than political independence. For others, an independent Jewish society had to be religious, or socialist, or a model of liberal democracy. Still others identified with the European right in the 1920’s and 1930’s. In the years before and after independence, the socialists were clearly the dominant group.

...In my years of journalism, I have interviewed many Israeli settlers and right-wing politicians who believed deeply they were doing what Zionism demanded of them. I don’t doubt their sincerity

I don’t expect the debate over what Zionism demands to end soon. In the meantime, the word Zionist belongs to both sides in the argument. It’s worth correcting those who err.

I too find the selective and distorted use of "Zionist" offensive. In the United States, a part of the damage is done, perhaps, because the "Zionist Organization of America" has become a mouthpiece of right-wing Zionism, opposed to the peace process and the policies of the government of Israel. To an outsider, it sounds like "Zionist Organization of America" should be representative of Zionism, but of course, it is not. It gets about 5% of the vote in the World Zionist Organization elections.

Gorenberg himself, however, makes the same mistake, of stereotyping and excluding others:

Whether “Christian Zionism” is Zionism at all is arguable: It is based on a theology that sees the Jews as unwitting harbingers of the Second Coming and has little to do with Zionism’s worldly goal of making Jews into a sovereign nation controlling their own fate.

Gorenberg should know better. Christian faith in the restoration of the Jews was the lynchpin of British pro-Zionist sentiment. Without it, there would have been no state of Israel. It animated the life and work of Orde Charles Wingate and many others. The "Christian Zionist" stereotype of fundamentalists who believe in rapture and want to convert all the Jews instantly is largely a creation of mendacious anti-Semitic Christians like the Rev. Stephen Sizer. Not all Christians who support Israel are like Ted Haggard and Pat Robertson. Not all Jews who believe in the Messiah believe he is coming tomorrow, and not all Christians who believe in the second coming believe it is going to happen any time soon. In any case, it is not for us to question the faith of others. If we are given a gift, we must accept it gracefully, even if we do not think it is the most interesting book, or the most aesthetic vase, or the best music we ever received. If a hand is extended by our brothers, we must take it. If we are given the gift of friendship, we must accept it in the loving spirit in which it is given.

Equally culpable are those opponents of the occupation and of Jewish religion who insist on excoriating all right-wing Zionists as evil fundamentalists, and who even cite the works of Israel Shahak and others like him, to brand all of orthodox Judaism as a fanatic messianic faith. This was not the way of Ben-Gurion, of Golda or of Rabin. It is not the way of the progressive Zionist movement who respected the faith and culture of our forefathers as a great legacy. The Jewish people will not be restored by denying our roots.

There is a good deal of talk about "branding" Israel -- creating a positive image. (see Israel feels good, like a country should and forum discussion. Zionism should also be branded. A brand needs a logo. This picture, from Gorenberg's article, gets my vote:

Zionism is not about uprooting olive trees and expelling Arabs from Israel, nor is Zionism about propagating anti-Semitic images of Judaism. Both these views are those of unrepresentative extremists. Zionism is about decent people building a new life for a battered people. Let's all make it happen together.

(Gornbergs article is below at http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000284.html.

Ami Isseroff



Letter from Jerusalem:
Feeling Left Out

http://www.hadassah.org/pageframe.asp?section=news&page=per_hadassah/archive/2006/06_Nov/content.asp&header=per&size=50
By Gershom Gorenberg

The word ‘Zionist’ belongs to both the right and left of the political divide. Using the term incorrectly displays ignorance of Israel’s history—and deserves to be corrected.

A trend is something you notice well after it begins, at the uncertain point when background noise gets loud enough that you suddenly hear it

I noticed the shift in popular use of “Zionism” in English when my family hosted a pair of bright American college students for Friday night dinner. They were in Jerusalem, as I remember, on a study tour of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our Shabbat customs were an exhibit of the Israeli side. As we set the table, one young woman described the Palestinian lecturers they had heard. And Israelis, I asked?

Yes, she said, they had listened to a couple of West Bank settlers who were “very Zionist.”

I was startled. An Israeli, describing the same people, would have said “hawkish” or “right wing.”

Most israeli jews, I gently explained to my guest, would call themselves Zionists, whether they are on the left or the right. I myself, I said, am a Zionist, and I’m on the dovish side of Israeli politics. She listened studiously, as if taking mental notes and trying to understand another unexpected quirk of this strange land.

In my own unwritten notes, I could have marked her down as lacking historical background for her visit. But I realized this wasn’t actually the first time I had heard “Zionist” misconstrued—by an American visitor or in the media—as referring to only one side of the Israeli and Jewish political spectrum. My guest was merely following the trend. And now that I was aware of the background noise, I heard it even more.

Some time after, for instance, I saw a Newsweek article on how disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff allegedly channeled charity funds raised for American inner-city youth to a West Bank settlement. Abramoff, Newsweek explained, was described by an associate as “a super-Zionist.” By implication, he would have been a lesser Zionist, if a Zionist at all, if he were less supportive of settlements.

More recently, chance browsing led me to a column in Canada’s National Post on efforts to rejuvenate The New Republic (a magazine for which I wrote in the 1990’s). Editor-in-chief Martin Peretz, said the National Post’s columnist, was “a Zionist,” as indicated by The New York Times’s portrayal of him as having “never met an Israeli military offensive he didn’t like.” Ergo, those critical of some offensives—a class including many Knesset members, former Israel Defense Forces’ officers, reservists and average Israelis—might not qualify as Zionists.

One reason for presuming that “Zionist” applies only to those who would like to see hard-line Israeli policies may be the recent prominence of those who call themselves “Christian Zionists”—conservative evangelicals who profess enthusiastic support for the Jewish state. Their support comes packaged with faith-based rejection of peace efforts or territorial concessions. One spokesman is Pat Robertson, who last January explained former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke as Divine punishment for his withdrawal from Gaza.

Whether “Christian Zionism” is Zionism at all is arguable: It is based on a theology that sees the Jews as unwitting harbingers of the Second Coming and has little to do with Zionism’s worldly goal of making Jews into a sovereign nation controlling their own fate. Nonetheless, the Christian-right connection strengthens the perceptions that real Zionists are on the political right.

Another factor may be the widening use of “post-Zionist” as a pejorative among Jews. Post-Zionist started as a term in Israeli intellectual debates. It was used by younger historians who claimed that the previous generation of Israeli scholars had been more interested in patriotism than in objectivity. But the term soon became an epithet to be hurled at any iconoclast, particularly one on the left. By implication, real Zionists lean rightward.

Fact is, “Zionism” isn’t alone as a name for a belief system that is often misused these days. I have spotted reporters in the American press using “Christian” to refer only to evangelicals, or only to the Christian right. This fits the way some conservative evangelicals use the word, but why should a journalist go along with that? Were I a Catholic, or a liberal Protestant, I imagine I would be infuriated to find myself written out of my own religion. Likewise, the lazy sometimes use “Islamic” to mean “Islamic fundamentalist.” This eases circular reasoning: If only extremists are truly Islamic, then clearly Islam is extremist.

I find the selective use of “zionist” personally offensive. Nearly 30 years after I chose to leave the United States to live in the Jewish state, how did I lose my credentials? It is also communally damaging: If, for instance, American Jewish college students are convinced that being a Zionist means one can criticize the Gaza pullout but not settlement building, quite a few young people might feel they must choose between identifying with Israel and their liberal political views. That’s a false choice.

Most of all, making “Zionist” interchangeable with “right winger” reveals ignorance. Historically, Zionism refers to the modern movement that sought to restore Jewish life as a nation in the Jewish homeland. But there were always many variations on the theme. For some Zionists, cultural renewal was more important than political independence. For others, an independent Jewish society had to be religious, or socialist, or a model of liberal democracy. Still others identified with the European right in the 1920’s and 1930’s. In the years before and after independence, the socialists were clearly the dominant group.

The Six-Day War of 1967 reshaped Israeli politics. Before, left and right largely referred to one’s economic positions, as in Europe. Afterward, the terms gradually came to refer to views about territory. For the right—secular and religious—an essential goal of Zionism was that Israel regain rule of the entire historic homeland of the Jewish people. The conquests of 1967 constituted a leap forward toward that goal. Establishing settlements in the new area was the next essential step, while giving up land would be a retreat from Zionism.

For the left, Zionism’s key goal is a democratic Jewish state in the historic homeland, not in all of it. That state should fulfill the ideals laid out in Israel’s declaration of independence—it should “be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel” and it must “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants.” At the same time, the dominant culture should be Jewish, and the country be open to all Jews who wish to come. To achieve those goals, it’s essential that Israel maintain a clear Jewish majority.

From the left’s perspective, achieving independence was a great leap toward fulfilling Zionism, but much remained to be done to shape a just society. While Israel had no choice but to defend itself in 1967, continuing to rule the West Bank in fact contradicts Zionism. For if Israel annexes the territory and grants citizenship to the Palestinians, it will no longer have a Jewish majority. If it goes on controlling the West Bank while leaving Palestinians disenfranchised, it undermines its own democratic ideals.

In my years of journalism, I have interviewed many Israeli settlers and right-wing politicians who believed deeply they were doing what Zionism demanded of them. I don’t doubt their sincerity.

I have also listened to human rights lawyers, antisettlement activists, opponents of the first war in Lebanon and the second, organizers of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue groups and left-wing members of Knesset. Deep in the conversation, when we have talked long enough to get past business to gut feelings, they often tell me they are acting as patriots and Zionists.

I don’t expect the debate over what Zionism demands to end soon. In the meantime, the word Zionist belongs to both sides in the argument. It’s worth correcting those who err.



Original content is Copyright by the author 2006. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000284.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 4 Comments

Great article. The use of the word Zionism or Zionists has been propelled to the forefront in a negative context predominantly by our neighbours and other Palestinain sympathisers. Barely a day goes by without someone mentioning the "Zionist entity" as the main cause of the ills in the world. Thus by using it in such a public way and only in a derogatory manner, it now has become a label of oppression and colonialism that the left has hijacked and use as part of their normal rhetoric.
Keep up the good work!

Daniel King, Wednesday, November 8th


The article states: "I am weary of watching BBC documentaries in which the "Zionist" side is invariably represented by the most racist fanatic they can find. "

Surely this is a reflection on the BBC, not on anyone in the Zionist movement, Left, Centre or Right.

Sadly, the term "Zionist" is used by antisemites and Israel haters as a perjorative epithet. It is they who are responsible for a misunderstanding of the term. It is they who have 'stolen' it. This is especially insidious when they use Zionism or Zionists as a cloak for latent antisemitism, a problem of which we are all very aware.

"Those who err" are generally not Zionists nor Jews. They are simply those trying to reinvigorate the discredited "Zionism is racism" cry of decades ago as being up front about antisemitism is still considered poor form.

Zionists on both sides of the fence do not need to be fighting with each other over this, and are not nearly as divided on many issues as the casual observer of this piece might conclude. The things which unite us are greater than those which divide us.

Daniel Lewis, Wednesday, November 8th


Gilovich wrote a book entitled: "How we know what isn't so." Gilovich detailed a number of errors in human reasoning -- how, for example, we can arrive at a biased conclusion.

One of the ways to arrive at a biased conclusion is to focus on that which is most salient, while ignoring the fact that that which is most salient may not be that which is most representative.

For example, you could have a data set for the weights of 30 teenagers. If you have an "outlier" -- say, someone who weighs 300 lbs, then this figure will throw off your data set. The "average" weight of the teenagers will then be skewed to the "heavy" side. But the mean "average" will not truly represent the "central tendency."

Thus, one could, if so politically inclined, skew Zionists as composed primarily of "religious fanatics" (paint these individuals in a certain way, and they become the most salient -- but not necessarily the most representative of "religious Zionists"). The same is true of the Leftists. One could paint all Leftists as representatives of Yossi Beilin. (I recall watching on the Canadian Political Channel a "Yossi Beilin goes to Switzerland" live event...quite remarkable...)

It's also like Borat representing a "stan" country. He's definitely "salient", but -- perhaps --not necessarily representative...

The problem, though, is trying to figure out whether or not a salient feature is NON REPRESENTATIVE. Again, take Borat -- are the people from Kazakhstan as boorish as Borat? I just saw a video featuring a Kazahkstani say, (calmly and matter-of-factly) -- he was on a street somewhere in Kazahkstan, holding a hooded falcon, state: "I think that Borat should be -- killed."

Similarly, just how "far out" is the portrayal of the Ultra Left (of the Beilin variety)? Are the Beilin's of Israel *that* unrepresentative? Would they sue for peace no matter what? Is the group in Canada which desires to become part of the CJC who have no qualms about boycotting Israel or signing petitions that allege that Israel is an apartheid state -- are these too "Zionists?" It's one thing to have a "large tent" which encompasses divergent opinions and political points of views, even divergent religous views -- but surely there must also be limits.

Not that long ago I read the latest from Amos Oz -- the book was published just prior to the Palestinian elections. He was predicting that the Arab moderates would rise to the occasion. READ those final paragraphs! He was in La-La Land. It's not that I think he's a "bad person" for being such an optimist -- it's just that I suspect if his ideas were EVER put into practice, Israel would not exist...Israel would become yet another Arab state with its capital in Jerusalem. Thus, this invalidates whatever Oz (as well-meaning and as benign as it is) says. He becomes an outlier who has to be ignored.

And, back to data sets -- you're not supposed to throw out (just dismiss without thought) the outliers. You're suppose to consider WHY do these outliers exist. Then you present two conclusions -- one with the outliers included (you get to see how skewed the results are), and then you present a second data set with the outliers excluded (usually more representative of the "central tendency".)

Final thoughts -- Islamists here in Canada constantly state that the suicide bombers represent only a tiny, tiny percentage of Muslims. This is the constant refrain -- and they rely on the notion that being salient is not the same as being representative. But, you know, after the Palestinians electing Hamas, and what they say in polls, you have to wonder. Perhaps the salient part of their culture (ie violent suicide bombers) is an expression that's representative of the majority!

J.S., Tuesday, November 7th


If these articles communicating sane messages not only for the guidance of Jews but also of Gentiles would be aired in the mass media specially Jewish media, it may open the eyes of misguided Jews and Gentiles alike. 95% of media communicationsd are uninformed anti-Zionist lies or half-truths. And lucid, simpole starements as this article reach only a few. It is a pity.

thomas braun, Monday, November 6th


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