Liberal Citizenship, not “Jewish Identity”

An abiding feature of the Palestine question in the United States since 1967 has been a “Jewish left,” which combines Jewish affirmation with criticism of Israel’s occupation of the territories it conquered in that war. A 1973 anthology of writings from the “Jewish radicalism” movement stated:

In the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War of 1967, an upsurge of Jewish consciousness hit the campuses, and a new voice—what we call the ‘Jewish Left’—appeared. Young Jews began to make demands for ‘Jewish studies’ programs, to publish Jewish underground newspapers, to criticize Israeli policies while defending Zionism against Arab and pro-Arab attacks, and to confront the Jewish Establishment for ‘selling out’ to the ‘American dream’ while ignoring the needs of the Jewish community. ((Jack Nusan Porter and Peter Dreier, eds., Jewish Radicalism: A Selected Anthology (New York: Grove Press, 1973), p. xv-xvi.))

Thirty years later, journalist Esther Kaplan described “the old school of Jewish activism on Palestine…organizations from Breira in the 1970s to New Jewish Agenda, International Jewish Peace Union, the Road to Peace and Women in Black in the 1980s and early ’90s.” ((Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon, eds. Wrestling with Zion. Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (New York: Grove Press, 2003), p. 81.))

These activists followed “the star of identity politics”; they felt personally implicated by Israel’s deeds, saw a strategic role for themselves, and felt that changing the views of the US Jewish community was possible and necessary. ((ibid.)) After the second Intifada (Palestinian uprising) began in 2000, Kaplan found all this “anachronistic.” ((ibid., p. 82)) She described new organizations such as the International Solidarity Movement, and the boycott/divestment/sanctions movement (BDS), and concluded: “We Jews can join in—many of us will—but we don’t own this movement any more.” ((ibid., p. 88))

Yet the Jewish Left has thrived. It is not uniform, and exists in more and less sophisticated forms, but it is noticeable. It is the subject of a new book by David Landy, Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights: Diaspora Jewish Opposition to Israel. ((David Landy, Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights: Diaspora Jewish Opposition to Israel, London: Zed Books, 2011)) Landy is the former head of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and earned his PhD at Trinity College, Dublin. Landy’s main focus is the British “Israel-critical diaspora Jewish movement,” in his careful phrase. ((ibid., p. 6)) He notes that the UK movement became important only after the second Intifada, while elsewhere in Europe and Australia, movements arose only after Israel’s assaults on Lebanon in 2006, and especially on Gaza in 2008-9. Obviously that is not true in the US, whose movements’ “size and dynamism” make them the most important case. ((ibid., p. 211))

In his introduction, Landy states that this movement seeks “to challenge Zionist hegemony among fellow Jews and to challenge Israel, speaking as Jews…who oppose Israel” so that we “do not conflate the two.” ((ibid., p. 5)) This formulation at once raises questions, beginning with the meaning of “Jew.” A religious definition is clear, as one who practices Judaism, but a secular definition is not; in fact, secular Jewish nationality is precisely what Zionism claims, and what many in Landy’s movement claim.

Landy’s background is Jewish, but he states that being a “movement activist is more important than shared Jewishness.” ((ibid., p. 12)) He also notes that many people of Jewish background are “active in society-wide groups…rather than specifically Jewish ones,” so that his study understates diaspora Jewish opposition to Israel. More important, the choice to work in “society-wide groups” sets a universalist benchmark to judge the choice to work in Jewish groups. The book is a sustained critique of identity politics, yet Landy does not fully comprehend his subject, in part because the UK movement, his main focus, is not the most illustrative example, which is in the US. Still, Landy’s rigor and honesty inevitably raise wider questions, and his book is a welcome contribution.

In his first chapter, “Understanding and researching the social movement,” Landy argues that the movement “seeks to re-cognize what it means to be a disapora Jew,” and also notes “the constraints and traps, as well as the opportunities that identity contestation offers.” ((ibid., p. 21)) Landy defines the movement theoretically using Pierre Bourdieu’s formula of “[(Habitus)(capital)] + field = practice”. “Habitus” is “‘a system of durable, transposable dispositions’” acquired in upbringing from which an individual “generates schemata” in different spheres of life. ((ibid., p. 28, quoting Bourdieu)) “Capital” is “‘good, services, knowledge, or status.’ ((ibid, quoting Bourdieu)) “‘Fields denote arenas of production, circulation, and appropriation’” of capital. ((ibid., p. 29)) Social life is a struggle over “field-dependent capital.”  Participating in a field means accepting its “doxaor realm of undiscussed and undisputed paradigms.” ((ibid., pp. 31-2)) Thus while “the unnameability of Palestinians has been successfully challenged” within the Jewish field, “other silences, such as on the Palestinian right of return, have to an extent been reproduced.”

Landy’s second chapter discusses “The conflict over diaspora Jewish identity.” He notes that “identity has replaced ideology as the idiom of modern politics,” and that “diaspora identity is commonly deployed to create some sense of bounded racialized identity.” ((ibid., pp. 44)) Diaspora identity is thus “a concession” to the “hegemonic language” and “illusio of the field.”  Diaspora is viewed “perhaps as thecondition of authentic Jewish existence and imbued with qualities of alterity, heterogeneity, hybridity and (usually) universalism.” ((ibid., p. 47)) This outlook, “while often critical of Israel, effaces Palestinian subjectivity,” and “creates a false symmetry with Palestinian refugees” by confusing “symbolic chosen exile and actual forced exile.” ((ibid., pp. 42, 47))

A claim that “Jews are uniquely univeralistic subjects” arises from concepts like Marxist Isaac Deutscher’s “non-Jewish Jew.” ((ibid., p. 52)) Landy “wonders what the term ‘non-Jewish Jew’ means absent these specific social connotations,” i.e., the traditional Polish Jewish upbringing that Deutscher rejected. Landy forgets today’s activists who choose to work in “society-wide groups” rather than Jewish ones, even as he finds them often as stifling as Deutscher’s traditional background. Landy notes the “link between Jews and justice,” citing the rabbinical injunction tikkun olam, conventionally interpreted as “heal the world.” ((ibid., p. 53)) This leads to claims of pre-Zionist Jewish innocence, and that Zionism is actually assimilation to Christian values. He finds the term “Jewish prophetic” much over-used, a “flag of convenience” which becomes an “ideological and even racial construct.” ((ibid., p. 64)) Despite all this “diasporist ideas with all their problems are a motivating force for Jewish Israel-critical groups.”

Landy’s third chapter, “The Jewish field and its dissidents,” discusses “community” in the traditional “sense of community as a small-scale, organic, bounded arena.” ((ibid., p. 66)) Landy accepts today’s Jewish self-definition as “ethnic” even as he finds “ethnicity” a problematic concept, and finds Jews among the least “ethnic” in their societies. He refers to a “religiously linked ethnicity,” a “religio-cultural concept called Jewishness.” ((ibid., p. 70)) He seeks to account for the power and patronage in organized Jewish life, and recalls Bourdieu’s notion of “field” in order to avoid making “assumptions about its authenticity or normativity.”

From this ambiguous foundation, Landy surveys the Jewish field, or fields. With national variations, he finds the inexorable forces of liberal society at work, and enduring Zionist allegiance, despite criticism. Jewish populations are declining more or less from assimilation and exogamy, with secular disaffiliation from religion, from communal organizations, and from other Jews. In religion, the center is outflanked by traditional Orthodoxy, syncretism of liberal Reform and Christianity, and non-denominational spirituality. A diasporist culture of “‘new forms of synagogue…festivals, books and films’” accompanies alienation from, and criticism of, Israel most strongly among the young. Yet “disillusion and disidentification” can lead “to withdrawal,” not change. ((ibid., p. 85)) In Britain, it “is not true that most Jews aren’t ‘really’ Zionist.” ((ibid., p. 78, 80)) In the US, an “ageing Zionist leadership” still controls a “robust institutional framework. ((ibid., p. 84, 85)) However, former points of unity, Israel and Holocaust, are now points of dissension, allowing “Israel-critical movements” to arise in the “Jewish field.”

Landy surveys these movements, since the second (al-Aqsa) intifada began in September, 2000. In Britain, the conventional Jewish Israel-critical strategy of “reach[ing] out to the community” failed, being depicted as “one-sided,” which confirms “the success of Jewish communal controls at repressing dissent.” ((ibid., p. 89))  Overall, the events of the past decade have radicalized the Israel-critical groups within the Jewish field, and institutionalized them in the general movement, following en bloc the Jewish individuals omitted from his study. Landy finds in the US “the most dynamic national Israel-critical Jewish movement. ((ibid., p. 103)) Landy notes the limitations of J Street’s “community-based criticism,” and the past “pusillanimous position” on BDS of Jewish Voice for Peace. ((ibid., p. 107, 110))

Landy’s fourth chapter, “Activists between the universal and the community,” discusses the emergence of Israel-critical Jewish activists. “In the USA, this process of coming out against the Occupation or against Israel has been compared to, and sometimes experienced as more difficult than, coming out gay or lesbian.” ((ibid., p. 125)) Human rights discourse is useful against Zionists, but also has “decontextualizing qualities” which undercut “the political aims of oppressed peoples and their struggles. ((ibid., p. 138)) Activists often adopt a position of “strategic Jewishness” and may even experience a “return to Judaism.  ((ibid., pp. 140-1)) Most agree that “community is the locus of Jewishness” and it thus follows that interventions “should be done with respect. ((ibid., pp. 144, 148)) Ultimately, “engagement with the community constrains as well as enables Israel-critical activism.” ((ibid., p. 148)) Landy’s last two chapters seek to reconcile this tension.

In “The terrain of activism,” Landy acknowledges charges that Jewish Israel-critical groups want mainly to “feel good about themselves…or ‘heal the Jews’…rather than affect the outside world,” are perhaps “backdoor Zionists” or otherwise act in “bad faith.” ((ibid., p. 153-4)) Landy argues that their concern is to be effective, and offers the debate over BDS (boycott/divestment/sanctions) as an example. Groups that feel that a reformed “community” can help Palestinians find boycott ineffective, for the opposition it arouses, while those who view the community as less important than the larger world find it successful and useful. Landy does not dispel suspicion of the opponents, who apparently oppose a broader, non-Jewish movement like that against apartheid South Africa.

A common view is that Jewish criticism of Israel discourages anti-semitism, but one activist questioned its importance in the Palestine solidarity movement. In support of one who did not, Landy could only cite Israeli ex-patriate jazz musician Gilad Atzmon, for comparing US organized Jewry to the Elders of Zion. ((ibid., p. 167)) Atzmon was in good company, with comedian Jon Stewart, the late Israeli academic and activist Tanya Reinhart, and veteran Israeli politico Uri Avnery. ((Philip Weiss, “Jon Stewart Calls AIPAC ‘Elders of Zion’”,  June 6, 2008; Philip Weiss, “Late Tanya Reinhart Reportedly Likened Lobby to ‘Protocols of Elders of Zion’”, September 15, 2008; Uri Avnery, “The Charge of the New York Times”,  CounterPunch, July 22, 2011)) A related view is that speaking “as a Jew” breaks the link between Jews and Zionism. Landy notes that this can also “strengthen the idea of a primordial link” and make Jews “gatekeepers” of criticism, but in the end accepts such ploys. The view of one interviewee that “solidarity with Palestinians has to be taken out of that [Jewish] ghetto” is an outlier. ((Landy, Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights, p. 169))

Landy’s final chapter is “Rooted cosmopolitans: participants and Palestinians.” His activists have adopted this position “to counter the characterization of an actor as being a rootless cosmopolitan,” with no “real stake in the local [Jewish] field and therefore…of no relevance.” ((ibid., p. 198)) Landy’s concern is that this self-conception “leads to a lack of contact and denial of political subjectivity of Palestinians” which “hampers movement effectiveness in achieving change. ((ibid., p. 182)) Landy argues that relating to Palestinians is a general problem for the Palestine solidarity movement; his chief example is western feminist criticism of Palestinian men and women.

Jewish activists have special difficulties. Some are jolted by political trips. “‘I felt bad for being so concerned with my own Jewishness…Here that concern feels selfishly stupid. The people of Gaza are persecuted. Full stop.’ ((ibid., p. 191)) Jewish groups, however, are limited by heavy reliance on Israeli interlocutors, and their desire to appeal to Jewish diaspora public. They tend to cast Palestinians as victims without agency and in need of charity, even as they deprecate solidarity groups as uncritical.

Landy errs in chapter two when he labels Deutscher a “Eurocentric” who replayed “the Zionist-Bundist debates of his youth.” ((ibid., p. 59)) Deutscher was a Communist, never a Bundist, and implicitly shared the Palestine Communist Party’s struggle against Zionism and British imperialism in the 1930s. The international PCP was torn apart in 1943 by the rising Arab-Jewish struggle over Palestine; after the war Deutscher accepted Israel, but did not consider himself a Zionist, and was acutely critical until his death shortly after the June 1967 war. Landy also overlooks classical Reform Judaism’s strictly religious version of the “Jewish prophetic,” and Marc Ellis’s religious notion of exile, though he is surely correct about their secular misappropriation. While tikkun olam is now interpreted as a call for social justice, it began as a prescription for social order. ((Jill Jacobs, “The History of ‘Tikkun Olam’”, Zeek. A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture. June 2007.  Jacobs points out that the term also has antecedents in an intolerant passage about the true god in a common Jewish prayer.))

Landy is correct to qualify today’s Jewish “ethnic” self-description. A century ago, many cities in western Europe and North America had districts where life was scarcely distinguishable from cities in the Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire. No amount of academic theorizing about ethnicity can equate Yiddish immigrant society and contemporary “Jewish identity.” A more fruitful branch of social theory is race theory, in the modern sense of race; e.g., “whiteness,” as a social construction. ((See David W. Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness. Race and the Making of the American Working Class, New York: Verso, 1991))  Few social artifacts today are more wilfully and assiduously constructed than “Jewish identity,” beginning with Zionism.

Zionism is not “Jewish nationalism.” That term is reserved for political movements which arose in Jewish quasi-national conditions in the Pale of Settlement, where Jews spoke Yiddish, and were a high plurality, especially in the cities. Such movements included the socialist Bund, and the bourgeois Autonomist movement. Zionism, which proclaimed a “people” speaking a vernacular language that did not exist, in a land they did not inhabit, a people descended from biblical “history,” a people alien to their societies, no matter how acculturated or assimilated, is not nationalism, but race doctrine. “Because it defines Jew not by religious observance, language, place of birth, or culture, but by descent, Zionism is an ideology of race.” ((Noel Ignatiev, “Zionism,” Encyclopedia of Race and Racism (New York: Macmillan Press, 2007), pp. 240-44. See also EAFORD and AJAZ (International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism), Judaism or Zionism: What Difference for the Middle East?(London: Zed Books, 1986)) Unsurprisingly, the biblical studies, archaeology and historiography that purport to show a “Jewish people” have been totally demolished. ((Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People (New York: Verso, 2009); Gabriel Piterberg, The Returns of Zionism. Myth, Politics and Scholarship in Israel (New York: Verso, 2008); Israel Finkelstein and Neil Ascherman, The Bible Unearthed. Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts,  New York: Free Press, 2001))  In modern terms, the “Jewish” national group in Palestine can only be Israeli Hebrew, potentially a secular nationality open to all, as Boas Evron argued in Jewish State or Israeli Nation in 1986. ((Boas Evron, Jewish State or Israeli Nation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986). The Hebrew edition appeared in 1984.))

Diaspora Zionism, the “Zionism of Jewish peoplehood,” is also race doctrine, ipso facto, no less wilfully and assiduously constructed.

We Jews form a unique entity, neither wholly a nation, nor wholly a religion, though part of us share a common faith, and all of us derive from that faith. We are a group without a common language, and with little that binds us as a common culture. What makes us a group today? It is our international character and concern; we are men and women who care deeply about what happens to Jews throughout the world. It is our historical heritage; we are men and women who together come from somewhere. It is our destiny; we are men and women who share a common fate…We are made a group…by our fathers and mothers and theirs, who constituted a people on earth, and who brought us into the world to carry on the existence of that people. ((Jacob Neusner, Stranger at Home. “The Holocaust,” Zionism and American Judaism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 135-6, Neusner, a distinguished Judaic scholar, is a loyal critic of the “people,” who considers himself “on the margins of the group.” His “Zionism of Jewish peoplehood” is descriptive, not prescriptive.))

Obviously, the racial construction of “Jewishness” excludes personal and family history. In principle it also excludes Judaism, the academic study of Jewish and Judaic subjects, and cultural and philanthropic activity. Racism begins when such activities are undertaken in the name of the Jewish people, in support of its social and political claims, or when such claims are opposed in the privileged terms of Jewish identity politics. This critique is immanent in Landy’s strained attribution of Jewish “ethnicity” to contemporary diaspora Jews, and in his critique of Jewish identity politics as, essentially, a regime of privilege. He cites one description of “ethnic community” as “an ideological claim: ‘a categorical identity that is premised on various forms of exclusion and construction of otherness.’” ((ibid., p. 67))

The left Jewish field in the US maintains its own doxa and illusio, some that Landy criticizes and some he misses, as shown by the views of Jewish Voice for Peace, the largest US group. JVP’s web site states that “Jewish ethics guide us to a belief that Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs are of equal importance and deserve equal rights; members are inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice.” ((JVP Mission Statement,”;   “Frequently Asked Questions,”)) The group has a new rabbinical council, but does not identify itself as religious. Landy criticizes this self-attribution of the universal on several grounds. One must add that in modern terms there is only Judaic religion, or secular citizenship; accepting secular “Jewish ethics” and “progressive Jewish tradition” as more than personal allusion and illusion, as collective social traits, lets identity politicians turn Jewish identity into a universal category, and claim identity prejudices as civil rights.

JVP claims that “[b]ecause we are Jews, we have a particular legitimacy in voicing an alternative view.” Moreover, “Israel claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people, and it is up to us to make sure the world knows that many of us are opposed to their actions.” ((Jewish Voice for Peace, “Frequently Asked Questions,”)) In Landy’s terms this “‘queers’ Jewish identity” from the Zionist norm, “enabling others to speak [critically] about Israel/Palestine.” ((Landy, Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights, pp. 17, 168.)) He acknowledges that “such practices can strengthen the idea of a primordial link between Jews and the Jewish state…whether…through criticism or through support.”  ((ibid., p.167)) For JVP it makes “the community” the normative locus.

While Landy testifies to the Zionist obduracy of the Jewish field in Britain, and Esther Kaplan states that “no effort tough enough to overpower that [Israeli] government’s belligerence will ever emerge from the American Jewish community,” JVP national director Rebecca Vilkomerson states: “We are trying to create a space in the Jewish world where we can express our criticism as Jews without needing to apologize for ourselves.” ((Kaplan, “‘Globalize the Intifada’”, Wrestling with Zion, p. 88; Gal Beckerman, “JVP, Harsh Critic Of Israel, Seeks a Seat at the Communal Table But Its Refusal To Support ‘Two States’ Prevents Acceptance,” Jewish Daily Forward, April 13, 2011; see Deputy director Cecilie Surasky seems anguished most of all by the hostility of official Jewry. “‘It’s very painful to do this work and it’s very hard…I do not use the word McCarthyite lightly.’” “Jewish organizations in San Francisco have ‘banned us [JVP] from the Jewish public square.’” ((Philip Weiss, “‘JVP’ takes on the ‘epic battle’ inside the Jewish community,” Mondoweiss, March 5, 2010;))

JVP pursues a Potemkin politics of “Jewish debate,” notably by organizing debates on BDS, with interlocutors who advocate arming and funding and supporting Israel politically to the hilt. J Street, the “pro-peace, pro-Israel” lobby, advocates “maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge” as “an important anchor for a peace process” along with “robust US foreign aid to Israel”. ((“The U.S.-Israel relationship and foreign aid,”)) JVP debated BDS with J Street at Princeton University, in defense of a campus BDS measure. ((Max Blumenthal, “A BDS Debate at Princeton, with J Street, JVP, and me (this Wednesday)”;)) A second debate was organized at J Street’s annual meeting in 2010, for the express purpose of discrediting JVP. ((Max Blumenthal, “JVP’s Rebecca Vilkomerson debates for BDS at J Street’s annual convention,” March 1, 2011; Philip Weiss, “J Street says it invited boycott advocate to its conference so as to pillory her,” Mondoweiss, February 10, 2011; Phil tries to say that Ben-Ami was covering his right flank, but any organization that advocates “maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge” is the right flank.)) A debate in Boston pitted Vilkomerson against a liberal hypocrite and a neoconservative, the range of Jewish communal opinion. ((Leah Burrows, “BDS backer in hot seat at shul forum,” Jewish Advocate (Boston), October 28, 2011 –  subscription only; Leonard Fein, who co-founded Moment magazine with Elie Wiesel, and Larry Lowenthal of the American Jewish Committee were the featured speakers. The AJC is a bastion of neo-conservatism, and Moment of liberal hypocrisy; also Fein’s columns)) JVP’s first attempt was to invite the Jewish Federation of San Francisco to debate; naturally the Federation didn’t show. ((Cecile Surasky, “Omar Barghouti asks Jewish Federation to a debate on BDS,” March 4, 2010)) This activity is like asking Murder, Inc. to plead guilty to manslaughter, when it commits first degree homicide with impunity. Posing the real question—should Israel be coerced by withholding US support—would reveal communal obduracy and dispel the illusion that it can be reformed.

Another disadvantage of Jewish sanction of criticism of Israel, according to Landy, is that it can lead to Jews determining what is and is not acceptable. Landy claims that activists “are alive to the problem of becoming ‘certifying authorities.’ ((ibid., p.166)) Again, JVP seems to regard this not as a problem, but an opportunity. On the origins of US policy, JVP states:

“Interest groups within the United States, such as the Christian Zionist lobby, the arms and aerospace industry lobbies, and right-leaning Jewish organizations, have a vested interest in maintaining the Occupation.” ((ibid., Jewish Voice for Peace, ?))

This is narrowly true, but very misleading. Israel exists today because the nascent Zionist lobby captured US policy 1944-48 and secured official patronage for a Jewish state, over the opposition of the military and diplomatic establishments, and amidst elite concern that national security was being affected by partisan politics. ((See Michael J. Cohen, Truman and Israel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990). On elite concern, see Walter Millis, with the collaboration of E. S. Duffield, The Forrestal Diaries (New York: Viking Press, 1951), pp. 322, 344-46, 356-65)) Today’s fundamentalist Christian supporters of Israel were far over the horizon, and US arms sales to Israel were proscribed.

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, in The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, call Christian Zionists a “an important ‘junior partner’” for whom Israel is not the sole or most important issue, and who do not have the lobbying ability, policy analysis and financial resources of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. ((John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (New York: Farar, Straus and Giroux, 2007), pp. 132-39)) Nor are Christian evangelicals united behind Israel. A film for this audience, With God on Our Side, looks “at the consequences Christian Zionism has on the local people in the Middle East, especially the Palestinians,” and leads thoughtful Christians “to question some of the things they had always just taken for granted.” ((See the film’s web site;  Professor Stephen Walt introduced a showing of the film at Harvard and moderated a discussion afterward)) Mearsheimer and Walt also show that US military aid is designed to benefit Israel, often to the detriment of US arms manufacturers. ((ibid., pp. 31-4)) They further note that “American Jews are the lobby’s predominant constituency.” ((ibid., p. 115)) All organizations represented in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations strongly support the present US-Israel relationship, including arms sales, making all of them “right-wing.”

JVP’s constrained view of history is abetted by its “core principles,” including “human rights, and respect for international law.” Landy emphasizes the inadequacy of the rights and law discourse. “Palestinians need the right to seek redress within the framework of their loss, not futile demands by outsiders that their occupier acts illegally…‘a rights discourse entails the renunciation of the frame, the historical context.’” ((Landy, Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights, p. 138, quoting Raef Zureik)) That context is the conquest of Arab Palestine by Zionist Israel, now a century old. International law and human rights are important, but omitting Zionism is like describing the Nazi conquest of Poland and the Judeocide as violations of League of Nations collective security, and the minority rights clauses of the Versailles Treaty, without mentioning Nazism.

JVP’s liberalism does not include opposing Zionism. On Zionism, JVP only states that its “members hold a wide variety of views on many issues involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict. This diversity has been a great source of strength for JVP.” ((“Frequently Asked Questions,” )) It is also a source of confusion and ignorance. JVP’s “Israel-Palestine 101” material leads the reader carefully away from, not toward, insights like Boas Evron’s noted above, away from any fundamental critique of Zionism. One “primer” states: “Zionism, or Jewish nationalism, is a modern political movement. Its core beliefs are that all Jews constitute one nation (not simply a religious or ethnic community) and that the only solution to anti-Semitism is the concentration of as many Jews as possible in Palestine/Israel and the establishment of a Jewish state there. ((Joel Beinin and Lisa Hajjar, “Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. A Primer,” The authors are academics, Beinin a historian at Stanford and past president of the Middle East Studies Association, Hajjar a sociologist at UC Santa Barbara.)) The innocuous claim of “modernity” contradicts the common view of Zionism as reactionary and pre-modern because it opposes assimilation and integration of Jews. JVP accepts secular Jewish identity, and accepts Zionism as a “solution to anti-Semitism.” Yet that secular identity was also upheld by racialist anti-semitism, of which Zionism was a fraternal twin, a role which included major cooperation with Nazism.

Zionism’s antithesis, liberal society, has proven the overwhelmingly successful “solution to anti-Semitism,” but that doesn’t interest the authors, Joel Beinin and Lisa Hajjar, American academics in Middle East Studies. They present Zionist and Arab claims to Palestine as if they cannot be adjudicated. Zionist claims are based “on the biblical promise to Abraham and his descendants” and “on the fact that this was the historical site of the Jewish kingdom of Israel.” Arab claims are based on “continuous residence in the country for hundreds of years, and the fact that they represented the demographic majority.” They note that Arabs “reject the notion that a biblical-era kingdom constitutes the basis for a valid modern claim,” as if this were a partisan view, not international law and common sense.

Beinin and Hajjar argue that Jews needed “a haven from European anti-Semitism,” as if a Jewish state in Palestine would obviously and necessarily have prevented the Judeocide. The great majority of Jews in Germany and Austria managed to emigrate before war began. ((William D. Rubinstein, The Myth of Rescue. Why the Democracies Could Not Have Saved More Jews from the Nazis (London: Routledge, 1997); see Chapter 2, “The Myth of Closed Doors”)) Most European Jews were not in Germany, but in Poland. One historian has estimated that “had the gates of Palestine been open in the 1930s…[i]nstead of 140,000 Polish olim during the entire [interwar] period, there would perhaps have been half a million who went to Palestine. (To be sure, even that figure would not have solved the Jewish question in Poland.)” ((Ezra Mendelssohn, “Zionist Success and Zionist Failure,” in Ruth Kozodoy, David Sidorksy and Kalman Sultanik, eds., Vision Confronts Reality. Historical Perspectives on the Contemporary Jewish Agenda (New York: Herzl Press, 1989), p. 205)) Had the Nazis conquered Palestine, it would have been a death trap, not a refuge. The Judeocide happened because Hitler and Nazi Germany committed it, not because there was no Jewish state; the Zionist movement in any case always subordinated rescue of Jews to its political aims in Palestine.

Beinin and Hajjar acknowledge Orthodox religious anti-Zionism, but cannot name liberal, secular anti-Zionism. “Some Jews…opposed Zionism out of concern that their own position and rights as citizens in their countries would be at risk if Jews were recognized as a distinct national (as opposed to religious) group.” For Beinin and Hajjar liberalism was apparently only an obstacle to Jewish collective destiny, not a positive program. Overall, their “primer” concedes most of the critical history of Zionism in Palestine, while defending Zionism in subtle and unsubtle ways.

Even as Israel commits genocide and foments wars, it demands recognition as the state of the Jewish people. Rejecting Zionism, not merely “the occupation,” as bellicose racialism, is a moral imperative, not a debating point. A sovereign Jewish state in Arab Palestine is inherently violent and unnatural, as the record amply shows. Full peace will arrive only when the Israeli Hebrews become another minority in the Arab and Muslim world. The historic Jewish communities would naturally revive, and Hebrew Palestine would become a source of Jewish tradition, and of cosmopolitan detachment, for the Islamic world. That is the only moral future for Zionism, whatever the path.

The “strategic asset” view of the US-Israel relationship is a staple in left Jewish thought, as developed by Beinin and others. ((Joel Beinin, “The United States-Israeli Alliance,” in Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon, eds. Wrestling with Zion. Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (New York: Grove Press, 2003).)) The “asset” view, which denies or deprecates the relationship between US policy and organized US Jewry, is the most important example of the gatekeeper effect noted by Landy, the most important question of all, and must be considered at length. Mearsheimer and Walt deprecate Israel’s “asset value” even during the Cold War; Walt states that Israel has been a strategic nemesis, an instrument of imperial decline, from the 1990-1 Gulf War to today. ((Mearsheimer and Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, Chapter 2, “Israel: Strategic Asset or Liability?”; Stephen Walt, “When did the American empire start to decline?”)) Israel’s US supporters were a decisive factor in the 1991 Gulf War. Israel had traditionally cultivated Iran against the Arab states, in its “periphery” doctrine, which did not change after the Iranian revolution overthrew the Shah in 1979. During the Iran-Iraq war, Israel’s US supporters tried assiduously to orient US policy against Iraq, most conspicuously in the Iran-contra affair. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the congressional war vote—52 to 47 in the Senate, 250 to 183 in the House—was the closest since the War of 1812, amidst dire predictions of casualties, and deprecation of war aims. ((Geoffrey Wawro, Quicksand. America’s Pursuit of Power in the Middle East (New York: Penguin Press, 2010), pp. 405, 418-21; Stephen Sniegoski, The Transparent Cabal. The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel (Norfolk, VA: Enigma Editions, 2008), pp. 62-3)) “Some of the ten Democrats in the Senate and eight-six in the House who supported the use-of-force resolution did so because of their overriding concern for the fate of Israel.” ((Elizabeth Drew, “Letter from Washington,” New Yorker, February 4, 1991)) The ultras, chiefly Jewish neoconservatives, argued for attacking Baghdad and overthrowing Saddam Hussein, but were frustrated when Bush limited the campaign to expelling Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein was elaborated in a 1996 study, “Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” published by an Israeli think-tank, but written by US neoconservatives for the new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. ((“A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies;)) The replacement of Saddam Hussein’s regime by a Hashemite monarchy was proposed, as part of a broad assault on Israel’s “enemies,” including Hizbollah in Lebanon, Syria and Iran.

When Clean Break was written, Iran had surpassed Iraq in Israel’s demonology. The US policy of “dual containment” of Iran and Iraq was an incentive for Israel to participate in the Oslo “peace process.” ((Kenneth M. Pollack, The Persian Puzzle. The Conflict Between Iran and America (New York: Random House, 2004), p. 261))  Crippling sanctions were imposed on Iraq, over the opposition of the US oil companies. ((Stephen Sniegoski, The Transparent Cabal. The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel (Norfolk, VA: Enigma Editions, 2008), pp. 335-6, part of Chapter 18, “Oil and Other Motives.”))  US-Iran trade of $5 billion was first banned by executive order, then prohibited outright by legislation. Business interests protested vehemently and later organized unsuccessfully against the legislation. ((Sasan Fayezmanesh, “The Politics of the U.S. Economic Sanctions against Iran”, Review of Radical Political Economics 35:3, Summer 2003, pp. 221-240)) Several Clean Break authors became part of the George W. Bush administration, making it then “a policy manifesto for the Israeli government penned by members of the current U.S. government. ((Sniegoski, The Transparent Cabal, p. 90.)) Afghanistan was targeted immediately after 9/11, but the invasion of Iraq followed in March, 2003, accompanied by fabrications about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and a connection with al-Qaeda.

The 9/11 attacks themselves were directed above all against US patronage of Israel. The “notion of payback for injustices suffered by Palestinians is perhaps the most powerfully recurrent in bin Laden’s speeches.” ((Max Rodenbeck, “Their Master’s Voice,” New York Review of Books, March 9, 2006.)) Bin Laden’s concern for Palestine is attested by statements from his mother about his teenage years; by accounts after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, to drive out the Palestine Liberation Organization, and intimidate Palestinians in the occupied territories; and from his first public political statement in 1994. “Speaking just before the 2004 presidential elections, bin Laden himself voiced amazement that Americans, deceived, he supposed, by their government, had yet to understand that he had struck America because ‘things just went too far with the American-Israeli alliance’s oppression and atrocities against our people.’” ((Rodenbeck, “Their Master’s Voice”)) The perpetrators of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center garage, which killed 6, shared that view. ((Mearsheimer and Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, pp. 65-5.))

Israel’s long march to war on Iran is the ultimate strategic nemesis, a nightmare from which we cannot seem to awaken. AIPAC forced renewal of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act in March 2001, over strenuous objection by business interests. Iran provided vital cooperation during the US attack on Afghanistan in late 2001, but the ultras spurned further contacts. After the US crushed Iraq in the spring of 2003, Iran proposed, through Swiss auspices, an extraordinary “grand bargain” of critical concessions, in return for improved relations, which the ultras also spurned. The ultras have also thwarted US “realist” initiatives, such as a 2004 study by the Council on Foreign Relations urging dialogue with Iran; the 2006 Iraq Study Group proposal of a gradual US withdrawal from Iraq, in consultation with Syria and Iran; and the December, 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, a consensus of the 16 US intelligence agencies, which deprecated Iran’s nuclear potential.

The ultras’ relentless campaign against Iran informs US policy in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. The “major domestic supporters of an accelerated war in Afghanistan are the neoconservatives,” wrote Stephen Sniegoski in 2009. Stabilizing Afghanistan “would involve broadening Iran’s role in Afghanistan” making it “virtually impossible for the US to treat it as an enemy. ((Stephen Sniegoski, “Afghanistan: Back Door to War on Iran,” September 7, 2009;   See also Stephen Sniegoski, “President Petraeus: The Neocons’ Choice,” July 14, 2010;  and  Stephen Sniegoski, “The Duel of the Machiavellians: Obama vs. Petraeus,” July 6, 2010)) The ultras “will be advocating a hard-line interventionist position towards Libya, in large part, because they see that such an endeavor can facilitate U.S. military intervention in Iran.” ((Stephen Sniegoski, “Neocons’ Goal: Iran by Way of Libya,” March 19, 2011))  The US is presently attempting to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria, ally of Iran and patron of Hizbollah in Lebanon, by exploiting popular protest. Manifestos such as “Which Path to Persia?” and “Toward a Post-Assad Syria,” from many of the Clean Break authors, prepare the way. ((See “Which Path to Persia?” from the Haim Saban Center at the Brookings Institution; and and “Toward a Post-Assad Syria,” from the Foreign Policy Initiative)) Recent history is following 1982 proposals by Israeli strategist Oden Yinon to balkanize the entire Arab world into ethnic and religious statelets which Israel could easily dominate. Such ideas long predate Yinon’s article in Zionist thought. ((Oden Yinon, “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties,” from Directions, a Journal for Judaism and Zionism, Issue 14, Winter 5742, February, 1982, translated by Israel Shahak;))

The Iran campaign has entered a more ominous phase. AIPAC legislated sanctions on foreign firms dealing with Iran’s central bank, a requirement in oil sales. ((See Philip Weiss, “AIPAC posterizes Obama in Senate, 100-0,”))  Iran threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, and held naval exercises. ((David E. Sanger and Annie Lowrey, “Iran Threatens to Block Oil Shipments, as U.S. Prepares Sanctions,” New York Times, December 28, 2011)) Trita Parsi warns that the “temperature between the West and Iran has increased dramatically…military confrontation is a rising probability.” ((Trita Parsi, “Reckless talk of war with Iran makes confrontation a probability,” The Independent, January 7, 2012;)) Iran has become an issue in the 2012 presidential campaign, while Netanyahu, US neoconservatives and GOP elements are plotting to prevent Obama’s re-election. ((Max Blumenthal, “The Bibi Connection,” January 12, 2012)) Roger Cohen in the New York Timeswarned Netanyahu against attacking Iran to influence the election. ((Roger Cohen, “Don’t Do It, Bibi,” January 16, 2012))  The US has cancelled military exercises with Israel and has warned Netanyahu against an attack. ((Gareth Porter and Jim Lobe, “Obama Delays U.S.-Israeli War Exercise,” January 17, 2012))  Israel insists that any attack is “far off,” and things are hanging fire more precariously. ((Isabel Kershner and Rick Gladstone, “Decision to Attack Iran Is ‘Far Off,’ Israel Says” New York Times, January 18, 2012))

In the vulgar Marxism favored by the Jewish left, this is all a capitalist master plan to seize “oil” and “resources.” Yet the capitalists, including the oil industry, opposed sanctions; indeed the ultras vilify business for selling out Israel. Capitalism requires access, not sanctions, and enough peace for trade and investment. Politics and ideology are separate domains from economics, and capitalism is a protean system that can exist under different regimes. Capitalist Germany had interests in eastern Europe under the Kaiserreich, the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, the Federal Republic during the Cold War, and in the unified Federal Republic of today. The Nazi period, and the invasion of the USSR, resulted not from a sudden interest in Russian oil and wheat, but because German elites embraced a dictatorship and its fanatical ideology, which led them to total war and genocide.

Zionism is playing that role for the US today; it is turning western Asia into the “eastern front” of the US empire, comparable to the eastern front of the Third Reich. Like the Nazi crusade against “Judeobolshevism” and the Judeocide, the US eastern front is the site of our most depraved ideologies and deeds—Islamophobia, the “war on terror,” the “clash of civilizations,” crushing attacks on Arab societies, beginning with Palestine, with more horrors threatening daily. As the 1930s wore on, Hitler consolidated his rule, outflanking elite conservatives. The struggle between the ultras and the realists over US foreign policy is like the struggle between Nazis and non-Nazi conservatives in the 1930s; it cannot be said that today’s realists are winning. The Zionist agenda of total war, which includes 9/11 and its disastrous blow to civil liberties, is the essential axis of the emerging US dictatorship.

Obviously, Israel did not invent the US empire and its military Moloch, which gave Osama bin Laden his start against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The empire also overthrew the elected government of Iran and installed the Shah in 1953, which led to the Islamic revolution 26 years later. Nor has Israel invented the rivalry of Iran and the Arab Gulf states, or the differences between Sunni and Shia Islam, or Arab monarchies, or other features of regional politics. However, Israel’s anti-gentile racialism, its boundless irredentism, and its overwhelming influence on the US government, have turned normal politics into an existential crisis, and national interest into an endless war for existence, with pyrrhic victories for winners and total destruction for losers.

Against this world-historical catastrophe, JVP offers ahistorical legalism and anti-occupation; strategic asset; and—the last refuge of the scoundrel on this topic—anti-anti-Semitism. “As Jews, we can make the distinction between real anti-Semitism and the cynical manipulation of that issue to shield Israel from legitimate criticism. [A]s long as even legitimate criticism of Israel is blocked by accusations of anti-Semitism, it is the responsibility of Jews to stand up for universal justice. [W]e also believe that actual anti-Semitism is alive and well and is mostly misunderstood both on the left and in the mainstream.”

JVP publishes an anti-anti-Semitism manifesto, its contribution to a literary genre on the Jewish left. ((Henri Piccioto and Mitchell Plitnick, eds., Reframing Anti-Semitism. Alternative Jewish Perspectives,  San Francisco: Jewish Voice for Peace, 2004))

Reframing Anti-Semitism begins by discussing “the Holocaust” as the cardinal event in Jewish history and Jewish consciousness. “Holocaust” means “burnt offering,” as in a religious sacrifice; historians prefer non-emotional, descriptive terms such as “Judeocide.” ((Arno Mayer, Why Did the Heavens not Darken? The “Final Solution” in History, New York: Harper and Row, 1988)) JVP has no interest in criticism like that of Marc Ellis, who discusses the “Holocaust and redemption” syndrome long used to defend Zionism, or of Norman Finkelstein, who describes how a rich “Holocaust industry” shakes down governments and financial institutions. JVP has its own use, to define “illegitimate” and “legitimate criticism of Israel,” and to trivialize and caricature claims of Zionist influence as “Jewish conspiracy theories,” and thus prima facie evidence of “anti-semitism on the left.” For US policy, JVP adduces the usual alternate suspects, Christian Zionism and the arms industry, and tragicomically compares the Jewish role to that of medieval Jews who were channeled into exploiting the peasantry while serving landowners and nobility.

One article charges the Allies with responsibility for the Final Solution for focusing on defeating the Nazis instead of saving Jews, as if there were a choice. “Arguably, the decision to do nothing else to save the victims’ lives can be seen as culpability akin to violence.” ((ibid., p. 75)) Historian William Rubinstein, in The Myth of Rescue, doubts that more Jews could have been saved “by any action which the Allies could have taken at the time, given what was actually known about the Holocaust, what was actually proposed at the time, and what was realistically possible.” ((William D. Rubinstein, The Myth of Rescue. Why the Democracies Could Not Have Saved More Jews from the Nazis (London: Routledge, 1997), p. x.)) He implies that the “failure to rescue” critique mainly expresses Jewish chauvinism after the June, 1967 war. “This great and profound change in the perception of the Allies and their leaders arose fairly abruptly between the late 1960s and mid-1980s.” ((ibid., p. 2. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s demotion from Jewish hero to anti-semite was unjust, according to Robert N. Rosen, Saving the Jews. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Holocaust, New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2006)) Rubinstein also reviews immigration policy and anti-Semitism in the democracies in the 1930s.

The JVP writers in Reframing Anti-Semitism generally concede that Jews live freely today, but still find pervasive anti-semitism in subtle and unique forms, and find it perpetually immanent in gentile attitudes. JVP holds an essentialist view of gentiles as inalienable anti-Semites, actual or potential, which is the inverse of anti-Semitic essentialism about Jews. Two thoughtful articles attempt to deal with Jewish chauvinism, in limited ways.

Rightward of JVP, the liberal temper is shown by the “pro-peace, pro-Israel” J Street, fulsome funders and armourers of Israel. Another example is Peter Beinart, whose widely cited 2010 article denounced “the failure of the Jewish establishment” to preserve “humane universalistic Zionism.” ((Peter Beinart, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” New York Review of Books, June 10, 2010; see also “‘The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment’: An Exchange,” June 24, 2010, Abraham H. Foxman, reply by Peter Beinart))  Beinart warned of the disaffection of young, liberal American Jews, and of the future domination of communal life by the blindly pro-Israel Orthodox. The “humane univeralist Zionism” has never existed, and pro-Israel fanaticism arrived long ago, seen today in the Iran war drive and the plotting of Obama’s defeat. Beinart is a step back from the late Tony Judt, who called for a unitary democratic state nearly a decade ago. ((Tony Judt, “Israel: The Alternative,” New York Review of Books, October 23, 2003.  See also “An Alternative Future: An Exchange,” December 4, 2003, Amos Elon, Abraham H. Foxman, Michael Walzer, and Omer Bartov, reply by Tony Judt))  The danger is not anti-Semitism but the opposite, overweening Jewish power and confidence, which make the US-Israel relationship immutable.

JVP’s outlook expresses maximum Jewish advantage and minimum Jewish obligation, a lawyerly plea bargain on behalf of Jewish identity. This is due to an exaggerated sense of Jewish entitlements, and to anti-gentilism. Philip Weiss, co-editor of the influential web site Mondoweiss, has written candidly about the Jewishness of today’s establishment, about the anti-gentilism of his upbringing, and about anti-gentilism in the left. The “bastards, the goyim in power, they always received the full measure of our scorn…the bastards had unbroken pedigree in my family’s cultural/political memory from Coolidge to Hoover to Dulles to Eisenhower to Nixon to Reagan, right on up to the Bushes and the Koch brothers. These were the real powers in political life; and I think there is some bastard-ism in Chomsky’s analysis and in the New Yorker magazine’s.” Yet: “We are wealthy and privileged in America…we are not excluded from the real sources of power. To believe otherwise is a piece of nostalgic self-service.” ((Philip Weiss, “The Bastards,” April 27, 2011))

Anti-gentilism encourages the idea that gentile criticism is, or must inevitably be, about more than Israel. Endless repetition of the truism that it’s not anti-Semitic to criticize Israelmakes anti-Semitism the overriding concern, and conceals the mortal dangers of Zionism, come what may in Palestine, in the Gulf, in Washington, or on 9/11. JVP’s “Muzzlewatch” web site seeks to expose “pressure, intimidation, and outright censorship of critics of US-Israeli policy,” anodyne terms for fanatical attacks like those on 11th-grader Jesse Lieberfeld for his prize-winning essay criticizing Israel. ((Philip Weiss, “Jesse Lieberfeld is a, a fake, b, about to be swallowed by a whale, c, the Jewish future,” January 17, 2012))  Perhaps the fact that they are Jewish, and are also directed at gentiles, prevents JVP from calling such attacks Jewish racism. Racism is instead reserved for gentile attacks on Jews.

Landy speaks of his UK subjects “‘queering’ Jewish identity.” JVP claims that “[b]ecause we are Jews, we have a particular legitimacy in voicing an alternative view,” and affirms the “responsibility of Jews to stand up for universal justice.” This accepts Zionist essentialism about “Jews.” Secular “Jewish identity” cannot be “queered” from the outside, nor can it be the basis for “universal justice,” because it is a Zionist invention, based on anti-gentilism. For Ahad Ha’am, one of its chief inventors a century ago, “assimilation, not antisemitism…threatened the Jewish people most compellingly.” ((Steven J. Zipperstein, Elusive Prophet. Ahad Ha’am and the Origins of Zionism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), p. 80)) Thus Ahad Ha’am disowned one of his daughters when she married a gentile, despite the husband’s conversion, since “for nonreligious Jews like himself…‘a goy remains a goy’” who could not “‘change [by his conversion] his soul from within.’” ((ibid., p. 289)) “The State has no daughters,’” Ahad Ha’am said sternly, and saw his daughter once in the remaining 15 years of his life. ((ibid., p. x))

Freedom is absolute and normative, not Jewish identity. The possible disappearance of the group through assimilation is a trifling price to pay for freedom and its benefits. While “Jewish Israel-critical activity” may have a role in assisting people of Jewish background to understand Israel and Zionism, mature awareness, and general public awareness, cannot be so limited. “Universal justice” cannot be achieved on Jewish terms, but only with the rest of humanity. JVP members should declare that Zionism has no claim on Jewish identity or gentile conscience, proclaim themselves liberal citizens, and join their fellow citizens in opposing Zionism, in the US and Palestine. Any Jewish Israel-critical activity must be subordinated to that. Any hypothetical anti-Semitism can be opposed only in concert with others, not by Jewish separatism. Precedents are the people in Landy’s study who work in “society-wide groups” and “the New York activist group JATO [Jews Against the Occupation]” which “now exists more or less as a paper organization, since many members have joined Adalah-NY, the wider boycott organization in New York. ((Landy, Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights, p. 105))

The chief concern of US citizens must be the US-Israel relationship and its arming, funding and political support of Israel. BDS is adopted because the formal political process is owned by the “Israel lobby,” which precludes coercing Israel by reducing US support. A narrow legal focus on particular actions and companies may sometimes be useful in pressing BDS, but asking “who profits from the occupation” implies that profits of Motorola and the like are driving US policy. This is naive if not deliberate obfuscation. Broader BDS campaigns like cultural and academic boycott can stigmatize Israel, and US support for it, like apartheid South Africa. Whatever the approach, reliance on BDS cannot obscure the fact of US support for Israel and its sources.

The Washington-based US Campaign to End the Occupation says nothing about Zionism. It has never organized a demonstration against the annual AIPAC meeting, which the president and most of Congress attend, though it did showcase a small Jewish demonstration. This is due to the “strategic asset” and anti-anti-Semitism dogmas of JVP, which has shared personnel with the Campaign. It was up to scrappy Code Pink to organize Move Over AIPAC in 2011, which the Campaign, and JVP and others “endorsed” but did little about, except to oppose Helen Thomas’s presence. ((Harry Clark, “Move Over AIPAC”))  Code Pink is organizing Occupy AIPAC in early March. ((See Occupy AIPAC)). Every year energetic and courageous campus activists organize “Israeli Apartheid Week,” which dramatizes the facts on the ground. Showing their origins requires Anti-Zionism Week.

Professors Mearsheimer and Walt, in The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, insist that the “Israel lobby” is just another interest group doing its job, when Grant Smith has shown that it has always operated on the margins of legality. ((Mearsheimer and Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, pp. 11-12. See the web site of the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy for Grant Smith’s writing, including articles and books based on documents unearthed with FOIA)) Mearsheimer and Walt accept Israel as a Jewish state, rather than discussing it as racist. ((ibid., p. 11)) These emphases reflect in part their total lack of support from elsewhere in the culture, notably the left.

The tentativeness and limitations of criticism of Israel in the US show that a general movement against Zionism is the only way of even addressing the issues and marshaling such resources as we have.

Today, Jewish identity is made to seem as timeless and monumental as the Grand Canyon, but it is really a big sand dune blown up by chauvinist winds since 1967. In the 1940s, American Jews rallied to the Zionist call, established the state of Israel—and that was that. Ant-Semitism declined rapidly, and Jews began to enjoy their just desserts in liberal society. Holocaust and Israel were not the complexes they later became. Three historians of US Jewry have called the two postwar decades a “golden age.” ((Arthur Goren, “A ‘Golden Decade’ for American Jews, 1945-1955” in Peter Y. Medding, ed., A New Jewry? America Since the Second World War. Studies in Contemporary Jewry. An Annual. VII (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), for the Institute for Contemporary Jewry, the Hebrew University; Goren cites on p. 3 a chapter in a work by Lucy Dawidowicz entitled, “The Golden Age in America,” referring to 1945-67. See also Chapter XVIII, “From Cold War to Belle Epoque,” in Howard M. Sachar, A History of the Jews in America, New York: Knopf, 1992.))

The New Left, which began in the late 1950s, had many Jewish members, though not a majority. Nonetheless, “Jewish issues in these years…were publicly invisible.” ((Arthur Liebman, Jews and the Left (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1979), p. 560. See the section “The New Left and Jewish Concerns,” in Chapter 9, “The New Left and the Jewish New Left in the 1960s and 1970s”)) Anti-Semitism was not a concern, Jews were prosperous, and Israel was neither threatened nor threatening. “The New Left was the most ‘American’ movement since the early Socialist party at around the turn of the century…made up almost entirely of native-born Americans,” and “also more American than its predecessors in terms of its ideology and dominant themes.”  This broad appeal was important to Jewish and non-Jewish members alike. Thus, like “their cosmopolitan Jewish predecessors in the pre-World War I Socialist party and in the student movement of the 1930s, the Jewish New Leftists did not desire to be tied to particularistic primordial groups and identities. They wanted instead to be part of a universalistic movement.” ((ibid., p. 561)) The contrast with today’s Jewish left could not be sharper, and compares unfavorably to the Jewish religious debate over the Judeocide in the 1960s and later.

One school in the debate held that the “‘Voice of Auschwitz… commands the survival of Jews and Judaism. Because Hitler was bent on the destruction of both, it is the duty of the Jews who survived Hitler to make sure that they do not do his work, that they do not, by assimilation, bring about the disappearance of what Hitler attempted, but ultimately failed to destroy.’” ((Neusner, Stranger at Home, p. 73, citing a review of Emil Fackenheim by Michael Wyschogrod)) Another school ridiculed the substitution of “‘the commanding Voice of Auschwitz’ for the revelation of Sinai, and Hitler for Moses.” ((ibid., p. 86)) For this view, “‘the voices of the Prophets speak more loudly than Hitler,’” and “‘the divine promise sweeps over the crematoria and silences the voice of Auschwitz.’” ((ibid., p. 77, quoting Wyschogrod.)) “Jews find in the Holocaust no new definition of Jewish identity because we need none. Nothing has changed. The tradition endures.” ((ibid., p. 81))  The secular Jewish left in the US had no such debate and affirmation. The universalism of the New Left was swept away in a tsunami of identity politics, largely, if not entirely, due to the June, 1967 war.

At the same time, for older/non-American universalists, “the tradition endured.” Isaac Deutscher, the Polish Marxist, accepted Israel after World War II, but did not consider himself a Zionist. He died on August 19, 1967, a sharp critic of Israel and its role in the origins of the June war. Rabbi Elmer Berger, who co-led the American Council for Judaism in the 1940s, at age 60 in 1968, founded Jewish Alternatives to Zionism to continue the fight, and was resolute until his death in 1996. Maxime Rodinson, the French Marxist scholar of Near Eastern languages and sociologist of Islam, remained an acute critic of Zionism and Israel to his death in 2004.

Israel Shahak survived the Warsaw Ghetto, the Judeocide, Zionism and Israel, to discover what he called “the modern, secular Jewish tradition,” which he dated from Spinoza, the most rigorous of the 17th c. rationalist philosophers. He was a chemist at the Hebrew University and a leading human rights activist and critic of Zionism and Orthodox Judaism. The Israeli Socialist Organization, founded in 1962, attempted to rebuild internationalism from the wreckage of the 1940s. The ISO, known as Matzpen (compass) for its publication, included Arab members, and Matzpen had an Arabic edition which was, however, censored. Shahak and Matzpen came of age after the 1967 war, and put Israel’s occupation on the map from the Israeli side. Shahak died in 2001; senior Matzpen alumni are still active.

All these veteran universalists knew radical evil first hand, except for Berger, who was fortified by liberal upbringing and religious conviction. It never occurred to them that, once Nazism had been totally destroyed, they were threatened by gentiles. They expressly rejected Zionism, in terms of their respective outlooks; their criticism was generally more substantive and acute than the work of the American Jewish left, and richly repays study today.

In diametric contrast, the JVP school fails to confront Zionism, in Palestine or in the US. It invokes a chimerical, liberal Palestine Zionism, or buries the subject in ahistorical legalism and anti-occupation rhetoric. It conceals Jewish power in the US with the “strategic asset” dogma, or deprecates and dismisses it. This failure to oppose Zionism with its universalist antipodes is stupendous and unbelievable, comparable to the “treason of the intellectuals” described by Julien Benda in his 1927 book about the climate that preceded World War I. ((Julien Benda, The Treason of the Intellectuals (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2007). This book has been tendentiously misinterpreted by neoconservatives, and a recent reprint has an introduction by Roger Kimball, editor of The New Criterion, but the book transcends such misuse.))

Landy is well aware of the many problems of identity politics, but his UK focus makes him like a promising minor league pitcher, who must still face the major league sluggers. In the words of a pitcher who had all the moves:

What do you want with this particular suffering of the Jews? The poor victims on the rubber plantations in Putumayo, the Negroes in Africa with whose bodies the Europeans play a game of catch, are just as dear to me. Do you remember the words written on the work of the Great General Staff about Trotha’s campaign in the Kalahari desert? “And the death-rattles, the cries of those dying of thirst, faded away into the sublime silence of eternity.”

Oh, this “sublime silence of eternity” in which so many screams have faded away unheard. It rings within me so strongly that I have no special corner of my heart for the ghetto; I am at home wherever in the world there are clouds, bird and human tears.

— Rosa Luxemburg, writing to Mathilde Wurm, from jail in 1917. ((Paul Le Blanc, ed., Rosa Luxemburg (New York: Humanity Books, 1999), p. 19))

Harry Clark is an independent student of the Palestine question. He can be reached at his website The Question of Palestine. Read other articles by Harry.