I freely confess that I plagiarized the above phrase from a comment at a Web log. I mean, how sleazy can you get? Actually, there is no point in trying to improve on perfection. The slogan, "Some things are beyond marketing," explains in five words much of what is wrong with many well meaning attempts to correct the problems faced by Israel and Zionism advocacy. A poor fool like me will require more than five words to elaborate.
The good people at the World Zionist Organization have set up a well intentioned Web site entitled The Persistence of Vision: Israel at 60
. Gil Troy, who should know better, has written an article entitled, What the Zionist Movement Could Learn From Obama
. Enthusiasts think that faith in Barack Obama can cure the ills of the American economy, bad knees and skin trouble. Gil Troy seems to believe Obamaism can also solve the Jewish problem. If only we join hands and chant "Yes we can," or some other inane mantra, all of our troubles will vanish like bubbles.
Presidential candidates, however, even the best and most gifted ones, are only presidential candidates. All of their slogans and gimmicks are generally forgotten after the elections. "Nixon's the one," and "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" are not going to inspire national revolutions. Only a few such slogans like the "New Deal" remain, because of solid accomplishments that eventually supported the words. Obama or another candidate can unite Arabs and Jews and white and black and Hispanic people, because they are only dealing in words right now. They didn't do anything yet, and they don't ask anyone to do anything yet except vote for them and maybe give some money or call a few people on the telephone. When they start doing things they will necessarily alienate people. If they ask for sacrifice, hard work or heroism, they will alienate more people. The only thing Zionism can learn from Obama is that we can't learn from Obama.
Zionism is not based only on slogans and speeches and feeling good, but on real world accomplishments, sometimes bought at a terrible price. National movements require inspiring leaders and speeches, but they require substance too. Support or opposition for such movements cannot be marketed by public relations techniques developed to market soap. The advertising folks tell us that our cell phone brands and automobiles express our identities, but it is not really so. Few people are going to fight a war to defend Toyota against Nissan or Nokia against Samsung. You might vote for Obama or X, or Y, and you might do some canvassing for them, but you aren't going to move to a new country and work 10 hours a day for Obama. Obama doesn't really define who you are. "Zionism" and "Jewish" might do so, or "Anti-Zionist" might do so, depending on your identity.
The other drawback of the "learn from Obama" idea, is that it is an idea for Jews and Zionists, like so many other ideas about how to popularize Zionism. Unity and enthusiasm are always helpful, but our big problem is not with other Zionists. It is not even with other Jews. Our big problem is persuading the other 6 billion people in the world that the Jewish people have national rights, and the right to self defense, and even the right to make mistakes without being threatened with obliteration. Jeremy Bowen of the BBC is not going to join hands at a Zionist "Yes we can" rally, and neither will Mr. Nasrallah or Norman Finkelstein and their followers.
Israel was built by hard work and sometimes heroic self sacrifice. It won respect by solid achievement. Political candidates who want to serve their country can learn those things from Zionism, and we must learn them from those who came before. There are no shortcuts. Pioneering and service cannot be replacing by chanting mantras.
Another big problem of the Zionist movement is getting other Jews who are not Zionists to make a serious commitment about who they are, a commitment that requires making unpopular and difficult choices.
Not PR and spin, but clarity of vision, determination, persistence, quiet heroism and accomplishment are what served Zionism best in the past. What we need is not a Barack Obama, but a Martin Luther King Junior. Ami Isseroff
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