First, let’s present the chilling facts. Representatives of a broad spectrum of the Israeli gay (LGBT) community planned to actively participate, with workshops and Sabbath services, in a large international gay activist convention in Chicago. Radical left representatives,( pro Palestinian and BDS boycott forces) forced the convention’s organizers to cancel the participation of the Israeli gay delegation. Powerful Jewish, liberal American politicians convinced the organizers to rescind their decision.
The radical left, pro Palestinian forces at the convention did not accept the organizers’ verdict, and attacked and disrupted the Israeli delegation’s programs, including Sabbath services. They justified their actions with the ideological arguments:
1)oppressed gays must express solidarity with all oppressed groups, such as the Palestinian Arabs ('+i`ntersectionality', the new mantra that allows the anti-Zionists to inject themselves into every human rights cause);
2) Israel presents to the world the liberal status of gays in Israeli society, in order to ‘pinkwash’ (cover over) its ongoing oppression of the Palestinians;
3) Israel does not have a moral, legitimate right to exist because during its 68 year history it has been a source of unending war, conflict and oppression in the area.
This article is intended as a wakeup call to all Jewish Zionists- from Meretz to the rank-and-file hareidi. The international forces denying of the legitimacy and the morality of a state for the Jewish people in their historical homeland are reaching a ‘critical mass’ of international influence. This influence is snowballing, with the potential of becoming a ‘real and present danger’. The conclusion from this analysis is that all Zionists must go back to pre-l948 basics, and learn, in 2016, how to argue the moral, historical legitimacy of the Jewish people to establish an independent Jewish state.
It is no longer enough to hide behind the argument that the State of Israel has a right to exist according to international law. International reality is calling us to again explain to the world why the Jewish people need/deserve their own state, just as we did before1948
The Kristallnacht of the radical left
It is easy for Arutz Sheva readers to feel that the above attack on the Israeli gay community in a faraway country has little long term significance. It is easy to dismiss it as internal infighting among the American political liberal-left (the hardcore radical left always tries to canabalize the softcore liberal left in every country, in every historical epoch). It is easy to dismiss the radical left’s delegitimizing of Zionism/ Israel as another expression of two thousand years of political anti-Semitism, and to believe that this time it will also pass. One can also dismiss the radical left’s claims because, no matter what we do, Israel is destined to be an isolated player on the geo-historical stage (as was prophesized by Balaam).
And as they say in a multiple choice test, all of the above arguments are true, even very true.
So why am ‘panicking’? Because I sense, deep in my historical bones, that the violent actions in Chicago are the American radical left’s Kristallnacht. Kristallnacht presented in very graphic, concrete form (burning and destroying Jewish stores and synagogues) the Nazi message that Jews have no place in Germany (and thus also implying that Jews also have no place on the world stage). Similarly, the radical left’s violent disruption of a gay Israeli delegation’s Sabbath is sending a clear message that any institution(even the most liberal and progressive) that represents a positive aspect of Israel society is illegitimate, highly morally tainted, and thus not presentable ( and thus implicitly stating the Israel has no right to exist as a sovereign state).
The radical lefts’ actions in Chicago crossed a geo-political Rubicon. Such attacks have been common in Europe for the last 10-15 years. But when they happen in liberal America they are a much more serious, dangerous sign. America lacks the European tradition of violent, ideological political action in the streets. American public opinion is still, over all, very sympathetic to Israel. The principle of free speech and free debate, and freedom to practice religion, are still sanctified in America . The radical left’s actions dared to violate all of these, up till now, fairly sacred American political principles, and they seemingly ‘got away with it’.
I did not read across the board censure in the liberal American press. (What would have happened if 200 homophobes violently disrupted the convention?)
The radical left in Chicago sent a clear message. ‘The cat is now aggressively out of the bag’. It is now politically acceptable to argue that Jews do not have a legitimate, moral right to their own state. It is politically acceptable to declare ‘open hunting season’ on the morality of the Zionist vision.
All Zionists and pro-Zionists must understand the seriousness of the challenge and prepare a vigorous, viable counter attack.
Returning to pre 1948: explaining to the world why the Jewish People deserve a Jewish State
All proponents of a Jewish state for the Jewish people must now put themselves in a pre- 948 mentality mode and publically argue (what we had the post-Holocaust grace of 60 years to believe had been self evident) that the Jewish people deserve their own independent state.
In the pre l948 period, Zionists heavily relied on the argument that the Jews were a historically persecuted, oppressed minority and thus needed an independent state as a ‘permanent safe refuge’. Today when most Jews are safe and affluent in most states, the persecution-refugee argument carries less weight.
Instead, I propose that we Zionists use the following ten arguments. I believe that they are acceptable, and held to be true, by 90% of Israel’s Jewish population, and a majority of world Jewry, from J-Street to hareidim. I tentatively term these ten arguments, “A Renewed Zionist Definition of Independence”.
The proposed arguments
1) A independent Jewish state is moral and legitimate because in 68 years it has constructed and maintained the most democratic, liberal, tolerant, socially just society in the Middle East, all the while absorbing millions of immigrants while being in a constant state of armed conflict, and having a large minority population that has a conflicted degrees of loyalty to the state.
2) An independent Jewish state is moral and legitimate because the Jewish people were the political-cultural dominant indigenous population in the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea from 800 B.C.E till 3-400 C.E. (and actually even earlier). The Jews are clearly thus an indigenous population returning to their historically documented homeland, and not colonizers. The point is made when recall that when Jeremiah prophesized in Jerusalem in 600 B.C.E. , there were no Frenchmen or French culture in North Africa. Similarly when the Jewish Jesus walked in the hills of the Galilee there were no Boers in South Africa. The French and the Boers colonized. We, the Jews, have returned home.
3) For those who take the Bible seriously, it can serve as an historical documentation of the Jewish people’s connection to the Land. For those who are of a theological bent, The G-d of the Bible promised the Land to the Jewish people. Today, even without accepting the Bible, there are solid, independent archeological findings of the Jewish indigenous presence, and solid genetic-DNA evidence that today’s Jews are the descendants of the Jews of 2-300 years ago.
4) For the last 1700 years this indigenous Jewish people maintained intense, religious/cultural bonding with their initial homeland, and frequently emigrated in return (albeit in small numbers given the reality of pre-modern transportation).
5) In the last half of the 19th century, given the developments of modern communication and transportation, and the rise of ideological nationalism, Jews began to return Home and settle the Land in greater numbers (often with great personal sacrifice).They did this ,not through military conquest , but by peaceful land purchase and settlement.
6) In 1923 the League of Nations (as the recognized supreme international legal body at the time) gave Britain trusteeship over the Land for the expressed purpose of developing a Jewish Homeland for the Jewish Nation.
7) In 1947 the United Nations decided to establish a Jewish and Arab state in the Land. The Jewish political leadership accepted this resolution. The Arab leadership violently rejected it. The Jews established an independent state along the 1949 cease fire lines, a state which was accepted in 1949 into the United Nations.
8) In 1967 the Jewish people went to war in an act of self defense, and gained control over the 'West Bank', a territory whose sovereignty was unresolved by international law at the time (Only Pakistan and Britain recognized Jordan’s claim to sovereignty) and was part of the original land given to the Jews by the League of Nations.
9) Israel has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan for more than twenty years. The Jewish people desired and made peace (withdrew from territory and dismantled communities) with those Arab countries who accepted the reality of the Jewish/Israel state.
10) The Israel-Palestinian conflict is primarily an existential struggle of two peoples - the Jewish people and the Palestinian Arabs- both claiming sovereignty over a single piece of territory. The vast majority of 2016 Zionists/Jews are willing to publically acknowledge the legitimacy of various degrees of Palestinian Arab sovereignty in certain areas. However, no Palestinian political leader is willing in return, to publically acknowledge that the Jewish nation has a legitimate historical claim to the Land. No Palestinian leader is willing to acknowledge the historical legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty in Tel Aviv! In the terms of Palestinian ‘political correctness’ Tel Aviv remains a ‘settlement’. The current irreconcilability of these conflicting existential-national claims is the basic cause of the present diplomatic stalemate.
However,this inability to resolve these different perspectives should in no way detract from the historical, moral legitimacy of the indigenous, Jewish people to return and build a state in their historical homeland
International public opinion is beginning to seriously question the need, the desirability, and the moral legitimacy of a Jewish state for the Jewish people in the Mid East. What seemed to be self evident ten years ago is no longer accepted as self evident by world opinion. This is the real meaning of the American radical left’s violent actions in Chicago against the Israeli gay delegation.
Israel’s case in defense of the moral legitimacy of its military actions (and most of its "settlement" policy) must go beyond arguing the international legality of the establishment of the state in l949. We must also base our arguments on the classic arguments of pre-1948 Zionism (as presented above), that the Jewish people have a moral, legitimate right to establish an independent state in the Land because it is our ancestral homeland.
I believe that the arguments outlined above are acceptable to the vast majority of Israel and world Jewry. Every Zionist group will emphasize the arguments that most easily correspond to their overall political outlook. For example, liberal Zionists will emphasize Israel’s democratic nature, and conservative Zionists will emphasize its historical, national roots.
We have a ‘great’ case; and most important, a historically true case. Now we have to wake up, and begin once again to fervently argue it in the ‘court’ of world opinion. And win.
Postscript to my liberal Zionist friends
I suspect that my liberal Zionist friends have two basic reservations about the above arguments. One reservation is the omission of Israeli responsibility for the growing campaign to deny the legitimacy of a Jewish state for the Jewish people because of its building in Judea and Samaria, lack of compromise, and non vigorous pursuit of a diplomatic settlement.
It is possible that Israel shares some responsibility. Maybe Israel has made certain mistaken geo-political decisions. It is very easy in our chaotic, rapidly changing neighborhood. However, I believe that my liberal friends will agree that, 70 years after the Holocaust, the geo-political, historical changes that are causing public opinion to question the need and desirability of a Jewish state run much deeper, and are more fundamental, than the tactical mistakes of successive Israeli governments.
Second, another liberal reservation may be that the arguments put forth above are based on a strong, positive understanding and appreciation of Jewish peoplehood and history, and not on Jewish oppression. Unlike in 1948, the concepts of history and nationalism do not easily interface with the core concepts of currently politically correct liberal ideology which are multi-culturalism, anti-colonialism, self-gender-ethnic minority identity, and the breaking down of exploitive power relationships between gender and group entities.
For example, most liberal Jews outside of Israel understand their Jewishness and Judaism in liberal-religious terms, and not in Jewish nationalistic terms. Zionism, defined in nationalistic, historical, geographical terms, is a difficult, uncomfortable ideological pill for many non-Israeli Jews to swallow.
I do not have an easy answer to this very sincere, honest and real ideological dilemma. I can only say that the challenge of defending the Jewish people’s right to an independent state in the land in 2016 is very apparent, real and critical. The defense is true and makes clear sense, using historical and nationalistic arguments. If you, my liberal friends, can do the required job, then do so. If you want to stand on the sidelines, because of ideological discomfort, history will be the judge of how you allowed the historic opportunity to rebuild a Jewish homeland embodying Jewish self-determination to proceed without you.