Tsvi Bisk – Is Zionism Really Colonialism?
Gideon Levy’s article of 18/1 reprises the canard that Zionism was a European colonialist movement, and adds other misrepresentations for good measure. Let’s look at just a few differences.
- Every other colonial enterprise was initiated from an existing mother country. The Jews as a national collective were stateless, beggars at the door of other countries.
- No other colonial enterprise was a result of a stateless people that saw themselves as returning to their ancestral homeland. No other colonizers in history even claimed preexisting rights to the lands they were colonizing.
- No other colonial enterprise was driven by the desire of the colonizers to escape persecution and discrimination.
- No other colonial enterprise viewed its colonial ambition as being part and parcel of their national cultural, psychological and moral renewal. ALL other colonial initiatives were driven primarily by greed.
- No other colonial enterprise satisfied itself with only one colony.
- No other colonial enterprise desired so passionately to settle a land devoid of natural resources. ALL other colonial initiatives were driven primarily by the desire for riches and raw materials.
- No other colonial enterprise desired to create an independent state (all the others saw themselves as dependent colonies of the mother country). Even the English settlers in the 13 American colonies had no such desire at the outset. The revolt against England was initially to reaffirm their rights as Englishmen, not to create a separate country.
- No other colonial enterprise desired to create an entirely new model society.
The universal disposition of the left to view current conflicts within the provincial limitations of neo-Marxist historicist categories makes it difficult for them to deal with the unique. They are incapable of understanding that Zionism is unique (just like the rest of Jewish history) and thus the Middle East conflict is unique. Given his political biography, one would expect a more subtle and sophisticated analysis from Mr. Levy.
Levy repeats the nonsense that establishing Israel “served the imperialist West”. This ignores the opposition to Israel by the professional diplomats in the State Department. Secretary of State Marshall violently opposed Truman’s recognition of Israel and the State Department has been dominated by Arabists since WWII. He disregards the subsequent hostility of British diplomacy following the Balfour Declaration. The White Paper of 1939 favored the British promise to the Arabs during WWI over their so-called promise to the Jews in the Balfour Declaration.
He also misrepresents the Balfour declaration. It certainly did not ignore the people who lived there as he claims. It says specifically: “…nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…”
Herzl anticipated this moral condition in his futurist novel Old-New Land in which he envisioned full and equal civil rights for the Arabs. Jabotinsky supported absolute equality of Arab citizens. Envisioning a presidential system he advocated that when there would be a Jewish President there would be a Jewish Vice President and when there would be a Jewish Secretary of a Ministry there would be an Arab Under-Secretary and vice versa (thus envisioning the possibility of an Arab President). He also called for absolute equality for the Arabic language (every governmental document to be issued in both languages).
Levy would do well to read certain parts of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, every word of which was approved by David Ben Gurion.
THE STATE OF ISRAEL … will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions;
As someone who is convinced that the settlements in the occupied territories are a bigger danger to the Zionist project than the Iranian nuclear capability I can only regret Levy’s resorting to the same pseudo-Marxist characterizations of the worst enemies of the Jewish people. In doing so he only serves the cause of the Israeli right, as he does when he supports the BDS. Most of all he is guilty of the soft racism of low expectations in regards to the Palestinians. He treats them as objects rather than autonomous subjects and ignores their endless mistakes of judgement and terrible leadership.
Tsvi Bisk’s most recent book is The Suicide of the Jews