I've noticed how, when asked to defend Bibi's record or Israeli settlements, conservative Zionist voices immediately -- almost instinctively -- pivot to complaining about the actions or inactions of someone else. Obama did this. Iran did that. Hamas did this. The UN did that.
On this note, there is a passage in T'ruah's analysis of the UN Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements
that deserves highlighting:
Much of the Israeli and Jewish communal response to the UNSC resolution, as well as to all tokhecha [rebukes/corrections] regarding settlement growth, has emphasized the failure of Palestinians to accept past agreements, or focused on terror as the primary obstacle to peace. While there is certainly reason to find fault with both sides—as the UNSC resolution does—Zionism, ultimately, is about taking our future in our own hands, rather than waiting for someone else to determine our future. This means both accepting responsibility for the misguided and dangerous policy of settlement expansion, and taking it upon ourselves to do what is necessary to bring about peace.
If I could endorse this 1,000 times, I would. This could not be more right. And that it needs to be said at all identifies a sickness that is crippling the Zionist vision.
My specialty is anti-discrimination law, and so I'm well aware of the importance of comparator analysis. One common way of establishing discrimination is to demonstrate that similarly situated A and B are nonetheless being treated differently. Tell me that the UN -- that much of the world -- treats Israel unfairly, and I'll tell you "you're 100% right". It does. Absolutely it does. The comparative analysis of looking to how other countries behave or what other politicians say and do can completely warrant that assertion.
But the point of Zionism was not to enable Jews to be able to declare how unfairly we're treated. It was not even to make it so that Jews would cease to be unfairly treated. The point of Zionism was to put Jews in control of Jewish choices. It is a far closer cousin to Black Power and other nationalist conceptions of minority liberation than it is to more classically liberal civil rights models. The point of Zionism is self-determination
. And a self-determining ideology comes with responsibility for what the self determines
; it no longer is primarily about what others determine for us. The revolution that was Zionism was that Jews generate our own future, regardless of how the surrounding world feels about us. When putative Zionists focus on what others are or are not doing, what others say or are not saying, they abdicate the very core of the Zionist mission.
And here is the sickness: For too many Jews, Zionism has ceased to be about taking our future in our own hands. This self-determining
vision is beginning to wither. I've complained bitterly about those "Zionists" who refuse to act until the world writes them
a permission slip
. For these people, the metric of Zionism has become what other people or other countries do or don't do. It has become a pathetic shadow of itself: a reactive, rather than self-generating, ideology. Their Zionism focuses on what we can't do rather than what we can. It talks not of Israeli action but of Arab rejection. "If you will it, it is no dream" is replaced by "no partner for peace."
Take the settlements. Persons opposed to a settlement freeze often argue that Palestinians won't come to the negotiating table just because there is a halt to settlement growth. They say that evacuating the settlements won't bring peace. They say that the international community doesn't really care about settlements at all; it's a figleaf for more general anti-Israeli antipathy. They say that other countries engage in similar behavior and are not chastised for it.
Maybe they're right. It's not implausible. But none of these constitute a self-
determined reason to continue the settlement project. They're all based on what others
(supposedly) will say or do, or won't say or won't do. We won't act on the settlements until someone else
says or does the right thing. Our decisions are in their hands.
Put another way, one could fully agree that reversing settlement growth will not cause Palestinians to come to the negotiating table, will not bring about a peace agreement, will not result in any diminution of anti-Israel sentiment internationally, and still observe that Israel is fully capable
of doing it. However, outside of the nationalist-right, which endorses the settlements for their own sake, the discussion barely even purports to glance that way. Among those Jews who are not themselves affirmatively pro-settlement, Jewish autonomous choice has become virtually irrelevant to the conversation. The operative variables are entirely what non-Jews will or won't say, do or don't do.
I talk to these Jews, and they are dismissive -- perplexed, even -- towards the idea that Jews should act even in absence of cookies from gentiles. Say Israel should withdraw from the settlements, and they'll talk of Gaza, of Lebanon, of Cyprus, of Tibet, of Western Sahara, of Ukraine, of Iran -- someone else, somewhere else, something else. Agree with all of these examples, and say Israel should do it anyway, and they'll stare blankly. They cannot see a self-generative Zionism outside of the fringes of the extreme right (which, say what you will about it, tends not to care much about what the rest of the world thinks). The idea that we should do these things for self seems not to occur to them. They are paralyzed, awaiting a gentile seal of approval even as they bitterly grouse that the seal will never come. They have abandoned the core insight of Zionism itself, regressing to a world in which the most important measurement of the Jew was the gentile.
It is a sickness that is eating away at the heart of the Zionist dream. And somehow, it must be cured.