On this seventy-first annual commemoration of Palestine’s Jewish-state Nakba, let’s resolve not to continue to oversimplify things.
Whether you believe the American rabbi and historian Arthur Hertzberg’s assessment of the Zionist idea as “unprecedented … an essential dialogue between the Jew and the nations of the earth”, rather than a matter between Jews and God, or you believe the assessment of Ass’ad Razzouk, researcher and contributor to the PLO Research Center’s 1970 Arabic translation of Hertzberg’s book, that Zionism, at its heart, emerged naturally from Jewish religious sources and is thoroughly influenced and motivated by traditional Jewish religious ideas, both conscious and unconscious, the fact remains that there exists a complex picture of the relationship between Judaism and Zionism.
To Palestinians, the intersection between Judaism and Zionism has always been considered the most dangerous aspect of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state in Palestine today.
The focus today among the international activist community advocating for Palestine is on Zionism’s modern European political and ideological roots, a focus that represents Zionism as no different from any other form of European colonialism, as a settler-colonial movement foreign to the Middle East.
This “narrative”, if you will, has made great inroads in concentrating international attention, especially through the human rights formulations of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. But I believe, by itself, such a theoretical framework for the Palestinian decades-long struggle for justice and liberation is insufficient to effect change, not only because of the ongoing complicity of Western powers in the Nakba, but also because, by itself, this narrative cannot sufficiently move the hearts and minds of Israelis and Jews worldwide.
Only a resurgence of the progressive and developed principles of Reform Judaism, as expressed in a series of rabbinical conferences in German lands in the 1840s and in the U.S. in the second half of the 19th century, will have the necessary ideological power to defeat Zionism.
Upon the partitioning of Palestine and the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state, Herzl’s expectation that rabbis would devote their energies in the service of Zionism came to fruition; Zionism has long gained the great masses of religious Jews around the world and “redirected their love of Zion from its spiritual and longing sense and its traditional supplicatory character” to political Zionism,
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