Tuesday, August 19, 2008

left zionism

TGD asks:
where do Jews fit in the fight for Palestine? Are we supposed to constantly flagellate ourselves for being so awful? Are we supposed to ignore our own history? Are we not allowed to feel pride in our culture? Should we just stop being Jewish? Are we supposed to take all our conflicting feelings about Israel and burn off everything but the hate, or maybe manufacture some hate if we don’t have it already? Because when I get emails talking about how evil the “Zionists” are, the conclusion I’m forced to come to is that the only thing this movement wants me to do is disappear.
This weekend, my mother came to visit and we talked with an old friend of hers. She was, as she put it, pissed at Jews who wouldn’t vote for Obama because of Israel. (”Orthodox Jews in Boca,” to be precise.) But here’s the thing - both of them, like most Jews, support Israel. And it turned out the Jews my mother’s friend was talking about were “I know people who know people.” I don’t think I know a single Jew who is really unwilling to entertain criticism of Israel - though some take it better than others - but it seems every Jew I know knows some Jews who know some Franken-Jews built from bits of Foxman, Dershowitz, and Horowitz.

I think there’s a strong pressure for Jews to deny that we care about Jewish issues of any kind, and this plays out in discussions on Israel. There’s always an imagined group of Jews who are too concerned with Israel. When we talk in that frame, though, it only deligitimizes the concern for Israel that we share. It’s not concern for Israel that makes anyone a right-winger. That in itself is a frame forced upon us to demand we renounce any sort of Jewish identity politics. It’s not concern for Israel - no matter how strongly felt - that makes any Jew a right-winger. And, though I think it’s great to be concerned for the Palestinians, we shouldn’t have to pander in order to deserve to live without antisemitism. Personally, I feel that I’m a Zionist because I’m a leftist.

Likewise, I don't think (although there are practical issues about militarization to be worked out in the peace process) the Palestinians need to erase antisemitism in order to deserve a state. And that's freeing in a way, because it means I can critique the antisemitism in the Palestinian solidarity movement without being opposed to the stated goals of the movement. I don't have to decide where I fit - I can demand the right to define myself.

3 comments:

The Girl Detective said...

"I don’t think I know a single Jew who is really unwilling to entertain criticism of Israel - though some take it better than others - but it seems every Jew I know knows some Jews who know some Franken-Jews built from bits of Foxman, Dershowitz, and Horowitz."

I'm increasingly finding this to be true, too. Everyone's always talking about these hordes of closed-minded, over-sensitive Jews... but, yeah, who exactly are they?

chaia said...

Matt, I have been following your comments over at Racialicious for a while and finally hopped over to your blog. Thank you SO much for your smart, insightful words...I am totally adding you to my blogroll. xo

Matt said...

Oh, thank you, chaia, very much.