[O]ne cannot propose any effective liberation if the specificity of each condition has not been grasped. That is why I protested so strongly when attempts were made to reduce the colonial problem first, then the Jewish problem, to a matter of class struggle . . . . It is reductions such as those which have made the ideology of the political left in Europe impotent.Albert Memmi, Jews and Arabs 92-97 (Eleanor Levieux, trans., 1975) (emphasis original).
What, then is the meaning of the oppression of the Jew? I have demonstrated [in prior work] that the Jews are not oppressed only in the practice of their religion, or only as a religious group; they are not oppressed only as a cultural group; nor only in the exercise of their political rights, nor only in their economic activities, etc. The Jews are oppressed in every one of their collective dimensions. In other words, they are oppressed as a people.
[W]hether we like it or not, we are looked upon as a special category of foreigners and we are treated as such. Unlike our universalists, the Jewish masses know this and take it into account. The Jewish masses never have more than a limited amount of confidence in their fellow citizens. That is why they constantly confirm their unity, for they know that when a catastrophe occurs, the only help they can hope for will come from other Jewish communities that have been temporarily spared. People ought to stop stupidly repeating that such solidarity cannot be allowed! That it is a reverse form of racism and other such nonsense. It is a perfectly natural self-defense reaction on the part of an endangered group. Let people stop persecuting the Jews, first, and then we ill see what they can be reproached with.
Thus, the Jews are oppressed as a people. If we accept the idea that liberation should be achieved on the basis of the specificity of each case of oppression, then we are now in a position to take another step forward: oppressed as a people, it is only as a people that the Jews will be genuinely liberated. Today, however, the liberation of peoples still retains a national physiognomy.
. . . . I have not been more sparing in my criticisms of that young state [of Israel], of its political errors or its theocratic self-satisfaction. . . . All this, however, is merely a matter of criticizing details. The essential and undeniable fact is that from now on, the State of Israel is part of the destiny of every Jew anywhere in the world who continues to acknowledge himself as a Jew. No matter what doubts or even reproofs certain of Israel's actions may arouse, no Jew anywhere in the world can call its existence in question without doing himself grave harm. And the nonJews, especially the liberals, must understand that Israel represents the still-precarious result of the liberation of the Jew, just as decolonization represents the liberation of the Arab or black peoples of Asia and Africa.
. . . . I did not hide the fact that these new ties, this sentimental solidarity with the new state, were likely to intensify the climate of suspicion in which Jews everywhere have always lived. But we have always been in danger. I do not believe that we can be in greater danger. Let us at least face danger with dignity. Above all, and once again, the perspective of accusation must be reversed. If the Jews had not been so accused, threatened, and periodically prevented from living, they would not have tried to secure a possible refuge. It is really too presumptions of the people who have persecuted us for centuries, who have made us second-class citizens, often despite their own laws, to dare to reproach us with this ambiguity that they have cultivated in us regardless of our protests, our efforts, and the sometimes shameful pledges we gave them. What they call our double allegiance was forced upon us. We would have liked nothing better than not to need it!
What exactly is a Zionist?
A Zionist is anyone, Jew or non-Jew, who, having found that the Jewish situation is a situation of oppression, looks upon the reconstruction of a Jewish state as legitimate: so as to put an end to that oppression and so that Jews, like other peoples, may retrieve their dimensions as free men.
Or again, anyone who considers the liberation of the Jews as a Jew desirable.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Memmi on "What is a Zionist?"
I'm finally sitting down to try and make some progress on my pile of books. Reading Professor Zasloff inspired me, what can I say. And the book that I've actually been making some real progress in is Albert Memmi's Jews and Arabs (Eleanor Levieux, trans., Chicago: J. Philip O'Hara 1975). Memmi, of course, is a Tunisian Jewish writer whose work I've praised before. But the chapter I'm reading now ("What is a Zionist?") makes some particular important and erudite points.