Thursday, March 22, 2007

I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER


It is true. I should have known better then to reprint some lengthy, lefty analysis. I've avoided that for years because I didn't want to be drawn into one of those useless and endless sectarian type arguments. But I went ahead and printed that thing yesterday, so today I want to make a very few, short and simple comments...and with any luck that'll be it...

1) Please note I said the piece was close and similar to my thinking. I did not say or mean that it exactly represented my thoughts.

2) The main thing I hoped people would focus on and get out of it was simply the notion "The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend..."

3) I think that while the author makes a big to do over not being anti-semitic, he himself in some ways falls into the trap. How is this?

A. He fails to mention what he even means by zionism and anti-zionism.

B. He fails to address the issue of Israel's right to exist or nor clearly and if he feels that Israel does not have a right to exist then the question becomes why does the left harp on just this one "settler" state and not the dozens of other settler states (i.e. Canada, U.S., most of the states of the western hemisphere, Australia, New Zealand and on and on), or the conquerer states of Europe, or the artificial states all over the world.

C. He fails to address why what amounts to one form of reactionary nationalism (zionism) is singled out from all the other reactionary nationalisms of the world.

D. He fails to address how or why one small nation state is singled out constantly as a menace to the world. He fails to address the oft implied left (and right) notion that the small state of Israel somehow is the tail that wags the dog of the superpower known as the U.S.A. Personally, I think that notion is absurd on the face of it and if you don't I would like to hear an explanation that is NOT anti-semitic.

I, myself, have little use for any of the world's nation states and certainly even less for any of their governments. However, I live in the world and I recognize that they exist (and I recognize that Israel exists as well).

I also recognize that most of the Jews who have headed for Israel didn't head there because they were zionist but rather because they were persecuted (and persecuted historically) in their "home" states.

I also recognize that none of the above justifies the many policies and actions of the state of Israel, nor does it justify any sort of Jewish racialism or Jewish racial superiority as represented by some who call themselves zionist.

By the way I do not consider myself a zionist despite the fact that I do (within the limitations I've already said) "recognize" Israel's (and other such states) so called right to exist. Again, let me make it clear, if it were up to me there were be no borders and no states, but it ain't up to me.

Finally, the simple fact that the left (and the right) spend so much time and energy on the question of Israel and talking about zionism, I find more than suspicious. I always find it odd that so much time and space is spent worrying about the alleged "vast powers" of the few million Jews who exist in the world or even the "huge danger" represented by the tiny state of Israel (except, that is, by the Palestinian people who actually are the direct victims of that tiny state's oppression and who also have the "right" to a nation state of their own throughout all the occupied territories and with a part of Jerusalem as its capital).

To me Israel is just another state - worse than some, better than some, more oppressive then some, less oppressive then some. The same goes for zionism in relation to other forms of nationalism.

Okay, that's all for my rant. And it is a rant. I did not sit around working hours on end on this thing, just threw it out there. I've been here before and I hope to not be here again.

9 comments:

Jonathan Penton said...

"He fails to address the oft implied left (and right) notion that the small state of Israel somehow is the tail that wags the dog of the superpower known as the U.S.A. Personally, I think that notion is absurd on the face of it and if you don't I would like to hear an explanation that is NOT anti-semitic."

THANK YOU! Do lefty pundits get to have BBFs?

Oread Daily said...

Call me dumb, but I don't know what a BBF is?

Anonymous said...

-ok, israel has one of the largest lobbies in DC (AIPAC) and in DC money talks.

-crazy christians think jesus is going to come back and in their version of this first the jews have to be living in israel. bush and many other republicans actually believe all that rapture non-sense. so there is a theologically-based reason.

-israel is the US's main ally in the region, with nuclear weapons looming over the rest of the states in the region, and the region is critical for the US because of oil and it cannot afford to loose it's only ally in the region.

-guilt/sympathy from the holocaust still resonates within the US so it makes politicians more sympathetic to supporting israel.

none of these regions are anti-semitic.

and also, the reason israel is singled out is that it one of the most extreme example's of overt oppression by a state currently happening in the world. it is the same reason there was a campaign against south africa. israel is an apartheid state, just like s. africa, and that is the reason for the attention. NOT anti-semitism.

Anonymous said...

"none of these regions are anti-semitic."

i meant REASONS, not regions. ha sorry

Anonymous said...

thank you for writing this. i have been meaning to write my own response to michael about his failure to interrogate the anti-semitic basis of the majority of contemporary anti-zionism (whether one themself is an anti-zionist or not).

RanDomino said...

I second the anonymous person's metion of AIPAC. It is one of the largest (if not THE largest) and most powerful lobbyists in DC

Mike said...

Hello Randy,

Thanks for your comments. Glad to see you’re still reading my blog, and glad to hear that the Oread Daily is back up and running. Thanks once again for bringing my writings to a broader audience. I’m also happy to see that in general you liked my talk, and I’m not too surprised by your areas of disagreement. I’ll try to respond to your criticisms more or less point by point.

You are correct that I didn’t attempt to define either Zionism or anti-Zionism. In the context I was describing, I think of Zionism as the defense or advocacy of Israel as a Jewish-majority state, and I think of anti-Zionism as opposition to Israel’s existence as a Jewish-majority state. These definitions are not meant to be scientific or perfect, but they probably help contextualize my comments.

Like you (I think), I am not much for rights-talk in general, and I don’t believe that any state has any “right to exist.” But I’ve also long opposed the theoretical flattening that too many anarchists take part in, whereby all states are more or less equally bad because they are states. Even in the world of settler states, you are right that Israel is not alone, although it is clearly unique (as are all the others you mention). That said, I do have a particular opposition to Israel as it is currently constituted, and not simply to Israeli policy. I guess this is similar to the position of many who deny Israel’s “right to exist,” although I think this similarity is not as deep as might be apparent on first glance.

For myself, I only singled out Zionism for challenge in this talk because it was clearly related to my discussion of anti-Semitism in ways that an opposition to, say, Canadian nationalism is not. I have written elsewhere about questions of nationalism and especially revolutionary nationalism in a Latin American context. That doesn’t explain anything about the ways in which the rest of the left treats Zionism, but again it hopefully puts my comments in some context.

I assume you are correct that most Jewish immigrants to Israel have not been ideologically committed Zionists. But neither did European immigrants to the US come because they were ideologically committed to white supremacy. That doesn’t keep me from opposing white supremacy and the existence of the United States as a white supremacist and imperialist state. (Comparisons like this are always flawed, but I hope my point is clear.)

I do not believe, and I don’t think I ever implied, that Israel is a “menace to the world.” I have long disagreed with the “tail wagging the dog” version of the relationship between Israel and the US. I’m not sure I think such an explanation is absurb “on the face of it,” but as far as I can tell the evidence clearly doesn’t back up the theory. In my experience, most of those who advance this sort of analysis, especially the versions that obsess about the dangerous powers of AIPAC, are usually leftists who cling to hopes about the possibly redemption of the Democrats, which they believe can only happen if/when prominent Dem’s abandon their uncritical support of Israeli policy. This has never been my position, and in general I don’t think AIPAC exerts any greater control over its chosen areas of influence than does the Cuban National Foundation and its ilk over their specific area of work. Hey, the gusanos tipped tipped the 2000 elections…

I agree with your assessment of Israel and Zionism: “worse than some, better than some, more oppressive then some, less oppressive then some. The same goes for zionism in relation to other forms of nationalism.” But again, I tend to shy away from phrases like “just another state,” because it implies a sort of equivalence that tends to negate the particulars of specific states.

I’m not sure you’ll think that any of this extricates me from the “trap” you believe me to be caught in. I’d be happy to extend the conversation if you have further comments.

Solidarity,
Mike

Oread Daily said...

Mike, Thanks for your reaction to my comments. Your response was clear and I found well thought out. We aren’t really all that far apart. I didn’t mean to “negate the particulars of specific states” in this case Israel and you are right to bring that up. I presume when you talk about the particular make up of this state, you are referring to it being mandated a Jewish majority state. Yes, that is a concept that is impossible really to defend as it would be like saying that the US must be a white majority state. I understand where it comes from in Israel’s case (for most Jews I think they just want a place where they aren’t a minority existing at the whim of the majority - which has not worked out to well for Jews), but still it isn’t something I’d like to try to defend - and is one big reason why I would not defnine myself as a zionist of any sort. That said I still think Israel today has a right to exist. I wonder how for example if any Muslim or Christian state were suddenly facing the prospect of a Jewish majority in their state would react. In fact, isn’t that indeed one (not the only) reason why Jews fleeing the Holocaust were not welcome in Palestine regardless of their ideology (and isn’t that in fact one reason why so many white anti-immigrant folk in the USA claim to oppose immigration from Mexico). So in that regard many states are or would be like Israel under different circumstances. I mean isn’t this really what nationalism is all about. This, again, is not meant to let Israel off the hook. Just to say the specific quality I figure you are referring to is maybe not all that specific after all. Just a thought.

And finally, for the record, I certainly do not think that all states are equally “good” or equally “bad.”

Anyway, enough for now. Stay in touch.

Oread Daily said...

Just to be clear, I didn't mean the anti-immigrant folk in the US were worried about Jews, they're worried about demographics i.e. maintaining a white anglo majority.