Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Zionism, Nationalism and all the Jazz

I was brought up with what I would call a very "radical" Zionist, world view and values. My parents were admirers of the slain extreme right-wing leader Meir Kahane. The short version of the "Kahanist" world view is as follows.
1. "God" gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people and we must retake it by force to bring the messiah.

2. The world is divided into two groups, Jews and those that hate or will hate Jews.

3. The Jewish government of Israel should be based on Jewish religious law.

4. There is no place for non Jews in Israel.
When people would sit around and discuss how we thought the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be solved, me and my family would paraphrase Kahane and say "the nice ones (Arabs) can leave on air conditioned buses". Growing up, I believed in this world view 100%.

As I wrote before, I moved to Israel at 17 to fulfill the Zionist mission. I wanted to join the army and fight Israel's enemies. I voted for political parties that advocated the transfer of Arabs from Israel as part of a finale "peace" plane. I believed anyone that did not agree with the world view that I was brought up with was at best not a real Zionist, and at worst a traitor. Radical Zionism was a huge part of my upbringing and a huge part of who I was. My feeling of Israeli nationalism was second to none.

When I first told my parents that I was no longer religious, one of the first things they said to me was, "so you are no longer a Zionist?!" I was hurt by this accusation. Of course I was still a Zionist. I thought that was such an absurd thing to say. What did god have to do with nationalism? There were plenty of secular Zionists in Israel. Israel was built by secular Zionists. Nationalism exists in literally every country on earth and often has little or nothing to do with religion.

But as time passed, and I started to apply my new rational, humanistic and realistic values to more and more topics, my feelings of nationalism faded. I stopped seeing the world as divided into arbitrary groups. What is the difference between a Jew, an Arab, a German, or an Indian? We are all human. I do not feel a need to only be around people that are similar looking to me, or have a similar social/genetic background. There are non Jews in the world that I love very dearly. Why am I less connected to them than I am to some Jewish person living far away from me that I never met?

I realize now that my parents were right, religion was an important part of my Zionism for two reasons. The first reason was that it gave me the "Jews vs. the world" attitude. Second, it allowed me to believe that there was an end to the conflict. I believed that if Israel just did x,y and z, the messiah would come and everything would be perfect. Today, I realize that as long as the conflict is about who's fairy tails are more "accurate", the conflict will never end.

So where do I stand today? I do think that Israel has a right to exists and should exist. Sadly most of the world still sees humanity as divided into different groups; nations, religions, races, ethnicity, etc. These make-believe divisions are the sources of many wars, conflicts and genocides around the world. If Israel did not exists, Jews would be a lot more vulnerable to another genocide, just like the many genocides that happened through out the history of the Jewish religion. However, this does not justify Israel mistreating Arabs or any other non Jews. I think that as long as religion is such a powerful force in the Middle East and the world, this conflict will never end. And frankly, I think that shows how pathetic humanity is sometimes.


  1. "Today, I realize that as long as the conflict is about who's fairy tails are more "accurate", the conflict will never end."

    "And frankly, I think that shows how pathetic humanity is sometimes."
    Very well said.

    1. Thanks Dreamer for the comment and thanks for reading :)

  2. I see a contradiction in your last paragraph. You say Israel has a right to exist. But then you say that sadly, the world is still divides itself into make believe divisions, such as nations. Israel, is a nation. So either you see value in the concept of "nations" existing, or you don't.

    1. Because the world still is divided up, Israel has a right to exist to protect those Jews that would be persecuted. It is a necessary evil. There is not contradiction in what I wrote.

    2. Ok. So ultimately, you would prefer a world without borders, correct?

    3. Correct. Although I know that will never happen. Just an ideal in my mind.

    4. I find your post honest and thought provoking. I understand the previous comment on the last paragraph being seemingly contradictory, maybe it is indeed, but being a Zionist and humanist myself i don't have a problem in accepting it. It is the question of timing to me and also of common sense. When humanity is ready to let go separation, i think we'll be the first ones to jump with joy; but until then it would be idiotic to let population of Israel serve as some kind of sacrificial lamb to its more than hostile neighbors.
      Ami, there is one account on which i don't agree with you though - being from former Yugoslavia, i am convinced that nationalism almost always has to do with religion; my experience and the history i witnessed led me to become certain about it.

    5. Ruth, thank you for reading and commenting.
      And thank you for articulating my thoughts so well.
      I am sure that in most cases religion plays a role in nationalism. However, mu point is that is not always the case. Vietnam, China (both the People's Republic and Taiwan) and South Korea are examples that come to mind.
      Anyways, I hope you keep reading and commenting :)

  3. >"Today, I realize that as long as the conflict is about who's fairy tails are more "accurate", the conflict will never end."

    Do you believe that its core this is really what the conflict is about?

    1. Yes, if it was about anything else, peace could have beena acheived a long time ago. But religion is unbending, especially when talking about topics like the division of Jerusalem.

  4. I certainly will keep reading and commenting! ;)
    @Holy: i think there is way more to it than "fairy tales", i study with observant Muslims (in a third country though) and i must tell you that on a personal level there is hardly ever any kind of conflict; when you leave normal people -one on one, face to face - they have way more pressing, day-to-day issues to discuss; the thing is that the conflict is fostered from higher level and there we come to a question in whose interest it is... Maybe you read that former Arafat's economical adviser is wanted by his own, sentenced, if i am not mistaken, to a decade in jail for financial malversations. Wherever there is blood spilled, someone is making money, the same was here in ex-Yu. We had this amazing writer, Ivo Andric, he said: every fifty years in Balkans the sage shuts up, the fool commences talking and the scum gets rich." I believe if we eliminated that, it would be easier to deal with the "hate-for-no-reason" of common people.
    Anyhow, hope all will recharge batteries during weekend, to those who observe - Shabbat Shalom!

  5. As I am quiet new in Jewish, looking around for some Jewish information> Got something important here. Nice to get it.
    This piece of video helped me forgive and let go of my frustration.