Friday, March 21, 2008

more on Zionism/Anti-Zionism

In the comments over at Engage (and if you don't often read the comments to blog posts, I can't blame you), Linda Grant cites a 2002 article by Gary Younge. She draws attention to this section:
anti-semitism is one charge that I take more seriously than most. This is not because I believe I consciously espouse anti-semitic views, but because I do not consider myself immune to them. There is no reason why I should not be prone to a centuries-old virus that is deeply rooted in western society. That does not mean that I accept the charges uncritically. I judge them on their merits and so far have found them wanting. But I do not summarily dismiss them either; to become desensitised to the accusation would be to become insensitive to the issue. It is a common view on the left that political will alone can insulate you from prejudice. It stems, among some, from a mixture of optimism and arrogance which aspires to elevate oneself above the society one is trying to transform.
I'd like to draw attention to this:
That doesn't mean that gentiles have to support Zionism or Israel just because most Jews do. But it does mean that they cannot simply dismiss Zionism if they are at all interested in entering into any meaningful dialogue with the Jewish community. And it means that they have to be sensitive to why Jews support Israel in order to influence their views. To deny this is to maintain that it is irrelevant what Jews think. It is to move to a political place where Jews do not matter - a direction which they will understandably not follow, because they were herded there before and almost extinguished as a people. To declare "Zionism is racism" offers little in terms of understanding racism, anti-semitism or the Middle East. It is not a route map to debate, liberation or resistance but a cul-de-sac.
And within those constraints Younge argues against a view of anti-Zionism as antisemitism. But only within those constraints. I do take issue with a sentence or two (I don't think I can blame him for the teaser, "If the left wants to win over the pro-Israeli lobby..."), but the bulk of the article is dead on.

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