Friday, May 09, 2008

Tony Karon: "Israel is 60, Zionism is Dead, What Now?"

This morning's essay by Tony Karon is excellent. I don't have time to read it closely and parse a blogpost but at a glance I know it will be mandatory reading for later. Tony Karon is a journalist (currently a senior editor at with a mind like a steel trap. I appreciate his candor.

Get a load of these two sentences:

So confident are the Israelis in being able to withstand whatever the Palestinians throw at them that they are able to turn away from the hellish life they have created for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Sure, let Olmert – a weak and skittish leader whose domestic political standing is comparable to that of President Bush, except that the Israeli prime minister can’t seem to shake off the whiff of corruption – engage in the charade of negotiating a hypothetical peace (let’s be very clear about this: the current talks between Abbas and Olmert are aimed only at designing a “shelf” agreement, the elaboration of an “horizon” not unlike the Geneva exercise by Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed-Rabbo a couple of years ago – not a series of steps or deadlines that anyone plans to implement — this is its most optimistic outcome; even that seems doomed to fail, though…) with a hypothetical Palestinian leader.

More... takes an optimistic imagination to conceive of a viable independent state comprising of Gaza and those West Bank cantonments that lie between the major Israeli settlement blocs and the roads that connect them.
...the majority of Jews quite simply don’t want to be part of a Jewish nation-state in the Middle East. And so the very purpose of Israel has come into question. ...the simple fact is that almost two thirds of us have chosen freely to live elsewhere, and have no intention of ever settling in Israel.
Quoting one Israeli politician:

We live in a thunderously failed reality. ...We were supposed to be a light unto the nations. In this we have failed.

Israel, then, rather than some kind of Jewish achievement or prophetic triumph, looks to me more like a huge monument to Western anti-Semitism. Zionism had demanded that the Jews have a nation-state of their own, claming that for Jews to live among others was simply unnatural and untenable, and that anti-Semitism was a natural and inevitable consequence of gentiles having Jews in their midst.
The premise of Zionism has been that anti-Semitism is inevitable and immutable when Jews live among gentiles, allowing Jews only a truncated and perennially threatened existence in “exile.” This was the very basis of their case for creating a separate Jewish nation-state, in order to achieve “normality” alongside other nations and nationalisms.

This premise, of course, was never accepted by a majority of Jews... turns out, we’re able to live quite comfortably among others, which is where the majority of us choose to spend our lives. Israel has emerged as one of the world’s largest Jewish communities, but it seems a little wishful to imagine it the sine qua non of Jewish life on the planet — we managed without it for 2,000 years, after all.
He closes with a longish quote from Rami Khouri.

I wish Israeli journalists would apply to their writing and analysis the moral dictates and divine exhortations that their Jewish forefathers passed down from generation to generation: obey the law, treat others equally, pursue justice, choose life. Journalists should identify the legitimate rights, grievances and needs of both sides by providing facts rather than propaganda.
Moses had it right, perhaps because he accumulated much wisdom during his 120 years of life. Meet the legitimate demands of both parties to a dispute, he said, and a fair, lasting resolution will emerge. Ignore the centrality of justice and equal rights for both parties, and you will be smitten by divine fire - or fated to fight your adversaries forever, as Israel seems to have opted to do.

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