Anti-Zionism: Analytical Reflections

  • Posted on: 10 December 2019
  • By: Makhno

Anti-Zionism: Analytical Reflections
by Roselle Tekiner
Amana Books
1989

While anti-zionism cannot properly be considered a form of anti-statism, in that it does not question the existence of States as such, but only the legitimacy of one State in particular, I believe that the history and philosophy discussed in this collection of essays may be, and should be, of interest to those anarchists seeking a better understanding of how new States can come into being, and why they do, or do not, prosper.

Political Zionism, when it first became a movement in the 19th century, largely due to the efforts of Theodor Herzl and the World Zionist Organization (still very active in collaboration with the Israeli government), met with a great deal of criticism from other Jews, who were opposed to the concept of Jews as a separate nationality who could never be completely at home in any country where they were not the dominant majority, and would always face the existential threat of anti-semitism. Judaism as a religion was only a secondary consideration for the Zionists - useful only in so far as it helped to establish the basis for determining who could or could not be considered a Jew (this is a very important consideration for controlling immigration to Israel).

The State of Israel considers itself the only legitimate representative of Jews worldwide, and this is reflected in that country's three Basic Laws:

1. The Law of Nationality, which identifies all Jews in the world as a single nation.
2. The Status Law, which allows the World Zionist Organization to function as a quasi-governmental agency administering funds and property in Israel for the exclusive benefit of Jewish citizens
3. The Law of Return, which allows any Jew anywhere in the world to claim automatic Israeli citizenship, provided they can prove their Jewish credentials according to Orthodox custom.

Of course, any non-Jewish resident of Israel is, at best, a second-class citizen, unless they live in the Occupied Territories, in which case they are merely captives.

Jewish criticism of Zionism became much more muted after the Nazis came to power in Germany, but it has never gone away altogether, and the pieces in this book (not all of them by Jews) are evey bit as relevant today as they were when published thirty years ago.

Comments

an excellent example of a middle school book report. no information on where people can get access to the book, no information on who contributed essays (and it's only hinted at in the last sentence that the author is actually an editor/compiler), no information on the publisher, no information on the political background of the editor/compiler or any of the contributors. no price listed, no page count. C+

exonerated pedagogues wander dementedly on the anews comment busking for any spare homework to grade

the title of the book says more about it than this review does. C-

The publisher is actually identified in my submission as Amana Books. The book is out of print, but may be found on relentless.com or bookfinder.com. I wasn't really that interested in the editor's background, but the contributors are first-rate, especially Elmer Berger and Israel Shahak.

I found the book fascinating for the background it provides on the historical and philosophical development of political Zionism and the State of Israel. While all States are subject to an anarchist critique. I find those favoring a particular racial or religious group particularly repugnant. At some point, I believe Israel may face an internal crisis that will force it to move in a more secular direction, or just collapse.

sure, it's Amana Books, but what else did they publish? did they have an editorial position on anything else? so, giving the name is not actually helpful.
Berger was a Reform rabbi whose anti-zionism was predicated on the untenable notion that antisemitism didn't exist in any significant or meaningful way in the USA. like all the other folks in the American Council for Judaism, he was an American patriot.
Shahak's hatred of religion led him to make amazingly ignorant and hateful statements about Judaism. he was justifiably (but not unanimously) condemned as an antisemite.
neither of them are first rate in my estimation.
still, your two paragraphs here are more informative than your silly original post.

Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of either Elmer Berger, Israel Shahak, or the eight other writers who contributed articles, but a cursory glance on-line at information available about Shahak - a concentration camp survivor, and later a professor at Hebrew University in Israel - make the charge of anti-semitism debatable, at the very least. As for Berger, one might get a better sense of his position on Zionism by reading the last essay in this book - "Reform Judaism and Zionism: Early History and Change", by Norton Mezvinsky. As an American Jew, Berger evidently considered himself first and foremost an American, seeing Jewishness more as a religious or spiritual philosophy, rather than a nationality, as the Zionists do. My take on anti-semitism in America is that, while it has certainly existed, and still exists, it has never been as virulent or widespread as it was in Germany or some Slavic countries. My own father changed his name as a young man in order to hide his Jewish background, but that was in the 1930s; I doubt many American Jews would bother doing that now. Anyone who really wants to know more about Shahak or Berger will just have to read what they've actually written, and this book would be an excellent place to start.

I might as well go ahead and list the contents of the book:

"Zionist Ideology: Obstacle to Peace", by Elmer Berger

"Anti-Zionism: A Democratic Alternative", by Naseer Aruri

"The 'Who is a Jew?' Controversy in Israel: A Product of Political Zionism", by Roselle Tekiner

"The Question of Palestine: Palestinian Attitudes Toward Civil Liberties and Human Rights", by Shaw J. Dallal

"Separatism at the Wrong Time in History", by Benjamin M. Joseph

"Zionism, Freedom of Information, and the Law", by Sally and W. Thomas Mallison

"American Efforts for Peace in the Middle East", by Cheryl A. Rubenberg

"Israel's Christian Comforters and Critics", by Ruth W. Mouly

"Zionism as a Recidivist Movement: Origin of its Separatist Aims", by Israel Shahak

"Reform Judaism and Zionism: Early History and Change", by Norton Mezvinsky

in terms of Shahak's antisemitism, you've no doubt heard of this psychological phenomenon called "internalized oppression." this describes situations where a person who's a member of an oppressed/vilified minority comes to believe the shitty things said about that group by members of the dominant culture. some people just call it "self-hatred." examples are when black people say black people are lazy, jews who say jews are money-grubbing racists, women who say women are responsible for sexual assault and rape, gay people who say gay people are pedophiles...
just because Shahak was a holocaust survivor and a professor at Hebrew University doesn't confer upon him any special immunity from Jew-hatred. the 1965 incident that provoked Shahak to become a public intellectual (where he allegedly witnessed the refusal of an orthodox jew to call an ambulance to help an injured non-jew because it was the jewish sabbath, where using electricity is forbidden) was challenged by pretty much every religious authority who deigned to comment on it. most critics agree that this incident was a fabrication, yet 29 years later, Shahak had no qualms about using this fake incident as the justification to write his execrable screed "Jewish History, Jewish Religion." so many deliberate misinterpretations of Jewish culture litter the pages of this work that it would take at least twice the space to refute most of them. but allow me to cite one example to illustrate my point. on page 107, there's a footnote on ritual acts. he ridicules ritual hand washing (where water is merely poured over the hands). aside from the fact that he should know that the act is not called "washing" but refers to raising the hands (in homage to an old priestly act), he's monumentally ignorant of the entire ritual. the water being poured is supposed to be in constant contact with the skin of the hands from the wrists to the fingertips; it is not permitted to have any dirt or jewelry or any other impediment in the way of the water. obviously this means that the hands need to be completely clean prior to the ritual washing. yet Shahak, in his smugness says "If one's hands are really dirty, it is quite impossible to clean them in this way..." yeah, no kidding. the ritual is not for cleaning, but is a preparation for other rituals. for someone like Shahak, who in the introduction, prides himself on his Jewish religious education as a young man, this is hilarious. it's also inexcusable.
it's possible to despise jewish ethnic nationalism (which often veers too easily into racism), the horrific treatment of palestinians under military occupation, and the constant encroachment of the obscurantists in the orthodox establishment into israeli public and private life without resorting to antisemitic stereotypes. Shahak didn't bother; virtually all his objections are based on or echo typical antisemitic tropes.

By a Jew does not equal self-hate or insular antisemitism. It's more like a white person who affinitizes with non-white other culture or a black person who likes western culture but does not necessarily ID with black liberation culture. Nothing that you have pointed is an indicator of self-hate from Shahak.

Internalized oppression is a leftist IDpol canard that erases individuality. There is no reason why a black person should not ID with white western culture without hating themselves just as they are white people who want to take down the western white order who do not necessarily hate themselves.

The thing about Israel is that in comparison it's about as bad if not a little worse then post-civil war pre-1968 USA. The secular direction that you speak of would be something akin to a 1968 in regards to political, social, cultural institutional ect change. Israel is indeed repugnant when it comes to comparing it to other states and the antisemitism and self-hate charges that are a discursive strategy of zionism don't exactly help this level of change to come about.

Anyone who wants to make up their own mind about Shahak's work can read it here: dl4a.org/uploads/pdf/Israel_Shahak-Jewish_History,_Jewish_Religion_-_New_Edition_The_Weight_of_Three_Thousand_Years (2008).pdf

Or just go to DL4A.org and do a search for "Israel Shahak".

"he's a holocaust survivor so he can't be anti-semetic"

"just read him for yourself"

you know, there are lots of free resources online for persuasive writing

Zionism and the holocaust are sooo depressing, time to move on, get a ĺife in the Now!
Civilization is Auschwitz!

"Zionism and the holocaust are sooo depressing, time to move on"

Exact same point any fucking neonazi in the West is making. Let's forget the past... Holocaust is no longer relevant, and it's all fine to be wearing a Celtic Cross and celebrate our Germanity... Then go around calling zonists "ethno-supremacists", for the most ethnically-diverse country in the whole fucking Middle-East. I knew this is where this thread would devolve to. The Jews are still a target of hatred and bigotry and this has been demonstrated just a few hours ago with the rampage in a kosher market in Jersey City.

...aaaand this antisemitic filth is being allowed to be published on this site? Really?

Also there's an issue with how the holocaust is remembered and talked about. Zionism for instance is based on an EXTREME intentionalist reading of the holocaust which is not supported by the evidence and documentation. I take a moderate functionalist position on the holocaust which is actually supported by the date and documentation. Zionism needs an extreme intentionalist reading of the holocaust to stay relevant and of course you have those revisionist currents from people such as Netanyahu.

The Jersey City rampage was from those black nazi Israelite types if I'm not mistaken. While being targets of bigotry isn't something to debate it does not warrant the creation of a safe place state which Israel partially stands for. You also have numerous jews who do not see ant-semitism(particularly in the new world) as an existential threat.

The fact that you speak of the comparative diversity of Israel is very telling as it comes off as a backdoor way to legitimize Israel's existence. Zionism and it's apologists and devils advocates are simply the other side of the coin to anti-Semites. As Bob Black correctly said, Zionism is simply Jewish Nazism.

"The fact that you speak of the comparative diversity of Israel is very telling as it comes off as a backdoor way to legitimize Israel's existence."

No that was in response to the comments above presenting Israel as an ethno-state that practices apartheid against all the non-Jews. This is the agenda of the ultra-orthodox fascists in Israel, same agenda that came as legislation last year https://www.vox.com/world/2018/7/31/17623978/israel-jewish-nation-state-... This is somewhat recent politics driven by the Far Right ever since the Begin regime.

Just to be clear, the "secular direction" I suggested for Israel would involve renouncing the three Basic Laws I listed in my original post, severing all ties between the Israeli government and the World Zionist Organization, repealing all laws granting special treatment on the basis of religion or nationality, formally declaring Israel's territorial boundaries, and incorporating all residents within those boundaries as full and equal citizens of the State of Israel.

the word Israel and anti-semitic and zionist makes my head reel, I GO BLANK, I want them all to self destruct, their whole eschatological grandnarrative!
BE MERRY AND GAY

just to be clear, a self-described anarchist pontificating about the alleged correctives to a despicable little ethnosupremacist polity by invoking law (even a repeal, which is predicated on its unchallenged continuation and enforcement), state boundaries, and citizenship is about as hilarious as Shahak's idiocy about ritual hand washing. Shahak had no clue about how the ritual is supposed to work, just as you -- a self-described anarchist -- have no clue about how law, international boundaries, and citizenship actually work. you and Shahak deserve each other; you're both monumentally ignorant of the topics you choose to discuss and promote.

I'll grant you that speaking of laws, international boundaries, and citizenship has nothing to do with anarchism, except insofar as anarchists define themselves in opposition to those concepts. I would love to see constructive anarchy take hold in Israel - and everywhere else, but it's not likely to happen in our lifetimes. Being an anarchist doesn't stop me from learning and speculating about such non-anarchist concepts and how the world works, and is likely to work for the forseeable future. You are dead-on about Israel being an ethnosupremacist polity, and yet, for some reason, you haven't even mentioned Zionism in your posts, let alone tried to critique it. If you feel a strong affinity for Judaic philosophy and religious ritual, I certainly wouldn't argue about that, but can you really not see how political Zionism is the root cause, and the main support, of the ethnosupremacist society you claim to despise?

uh... when i wrote this: it's possible to despise jewish ethnic nationalism (which often veers too easily into racism), the horrific treatment of palestinians under military occupation, and the constant encroachment of the obscurantists in the orthodox establishment into israeli public and private life... did you think i was not referencing zionism? zionism is the movement that concentrates jewish ethnic nationalism into statehood/statecraft. zionism as enshrined in the state and its military is the reason for the military occupation of palestinians. zionism facilitates the constant encroachment of jewish religious fundamentalism into civic life despite those obscurantists being a minority of the jewish population. just because i didn't use the term "zionism" doesn't mean that i wasn't talking about it. jfc...
but there's a conundrum for anarchists who want to establish their anti-zionist credentials. by definition, anarchists are opposed to the state of israel -- because it's a state. a principled opposition to the state of israel and the zionism that upholds and promotes it is (or should be) the default position of all anarchists. anti-zionism, as a specific ideological perspective, is opposed to zionism for any number of reasons. you alluded to this problem in your book report; anarchists are against all states, while anti-zionists are against only one. for committed, professional anti-zionists, anarchists will never be anti-zionist enough because we don't (or shouldn't) harbor any special hostility toward the zionist entity. anarchists are equal-opportunity haters of all states, no matter what idiotic convoluted mythology their supporters concoct to hoodwink their constituents.
the other question might be, why are you so interested in a long out of print book celebrating a marginal figure of american jewish life rather than spreading information about, oh i don't know, some dissident israelis who confront their shitty government all the time, like anarchists against the wall for example? they practice anarchist anti-zionism on a regular and public basis, and are therefore much more relevant than Elmer Berger and Israel Shahak. just a thought.

zionism is the movement that concentrates jewish ethnic nationalism into statehood/statecraft. zionism as enshrined in the state and its military is the reason for the military occupation of palestinians. zionism facilitates the constant encroachment of jewish religious fundamentalism into civic life"

Replace "jewish" with "islamic nationalism" and basically you get Palestine, i.e. the other side of that conflict between two fascist groupings.

Is what I would call perennial binary anti-imperialism. There's a very simple solution to that problem, be anti-Zionist but not pro-Palestinian. Simple as that. I can agree that there are and were Arab Nationalist trends that left to their own state forming devices would be as bad or perhaps worse then Zionism. That does not cancel the need for a marginal anti-Zionist(and by extension anti-imperialist) position. It just means that you branch it from a deeper more perennial anti-state/leviathan position and don't take a binary political side. Same goes for post-colonialism which should also be a branch position on the part of libertarians anarchists and anarchs and not a rooted position.

Of course this will not be good enough for perennial Anti-Imperialists, but who cares about those selective statist clowns and what they think of more intellectually consistent and radical anti-leviathan anarchists.

Any dissident Israelis who regularly confront "their" government on anarchist principles have my complete sympathy, and I look forward to reading anything by them that analyzes the specific historical, political, philosophical and cultural context in which the State of Israel was created and continues to function - long out of print, or not. The fact that a book of essays by non-anarchists does exactly that is what attracted me to this work in the first place. Anarchist theory should not exist in an intellectual ghetto; we can and must be ready to learn from, and perhaps be inspired by, examples of clearly-expressed and penetrating analyses that share at least some, if not all, of our values.

not much disagreement with your broad brush strokes, but really the question is why promote such a book on a specifically anarchist website?
for contemporary Israeli anarchist analyses and critiques of Israel, try this as a starting point:
https://youtu.be/SzC0TzwP398

Thank you for the link, but I'm already quite familiar with the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement, and if I hadn't seen the word "Anarchist" in the background of the video, I would have had no idea that this talk was being given by an anarchist, rather than any other leftist supporter of the Palestinian cause. Not that I'm unsympathetic to BDS; I would just like to hear or read something specifically grounded in anarchist principles that offers a theoretical critique of the State of Israel: how and why it came into being, how it has perpetuated itself, and how it is supported materially and philosophically by others outside of Israel.

I always thought that anarchist analysis slices through Zionist bullshit like a machete. Makes a seemingly complex topic very simple.

Using the military industrial complex to create a state is always going to be terrible and guarantee mass death, suffering and severe mental gymnastics to justify everything.

Anarchists would anticipate this, if they understand their own position.

for once I agree wholeheartedly with SOT. why does fake Makhno need a specifically anarchist theoretical critique of Israel/Zionism, when the anarchist position should be clear that as a state, it requires a constrained definition of citizenship, requires a military/police bureaucracy, requires legislative and judicial bureaucracies, requires prisons, requires automatic reference to political authority... What’s your beef with the state of Israel that can’t be dealt with through the most generic anarchist analysis of the state?

Hey, we agreed at least 1 other time anon.
Good thing I don't have feelings!

*runs away crying*

hahaha you agree with anons all the time, but that was leway i think

Wha? Nah. making too much sense.

Is that this is my position on anti-fascism. In my view there is not even a need for a marginal anti-position on fascism as that is already covered by anti-authority-hierarchy and state.

Zionism on the other hand is a bit more complicated due to it's partial radical history and it's espoused post-holocaust legitimacy. One need only also look at what happened to Jeremy Corbyn recently, now as you niggas know I don't give a fuck about JC and am not sad to see him go. Some of his associates include people who think 1989-91 was a terrible time(it wasn't). That being said the antisemitism charges against him were nonsensical and indicative of the marginal and perhaps structural reach that zionism has in shaping sub-radical and even radical debate on Isreal. For these reasons I do think you need a strong but anarchist distilled marginal anti-zionism. When you see a state that has similarities to Nazi Germany you call it out and bat a way any rhetorical defense mechanism that state uses. The anti-german cunts who read too much Postone come to mind.

So yeah, in closing. A clear concise anti-zionism but without the pro-Palestinian statist anti-imperialist nonsense.

Lately, the Palestinian police (yes there's one) has been going down hard on queer people in the West Bank, yet the Left in the West has remained silent about this.https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/palestinian-police-vow-crackdown...

Palestine authorities are among the most regressive in the Middle-East and most of the history of Palestinian nationalism is tainted with collaboration with Nazis and neonazis. It is known that Otto Skorzeny was involved in the training and arming of the PFLP in the early '70s, and those were the days where their rebel star Leila Khaled was in her prime. I don't like bringing back this stuff all the time, but if the leftoids and anarchoids would just take a bit of critical distance from the positions they're putting forward and read into history, maybe I could take a break from that. Maybe if I had a dozen of academic books that'd convince them?

You realize you're strawmanning, yes? No-one is espousing Palestinian nationalism here.

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