Is Zionism Under Threat of Redefinition by Non-Jews? (Part 2 of 2)
Maroun complied with Susskind-Sack’s insistence that non-Jews are pro-Zionists and can never be considered Zionists (see Part 1 of this two-part series). According to his latest Times of Israel blog post, he apparently accepted her application of replacement theory to this situation and the contention that non-Jews who call themselves Zionists are out to oust Zionists from Zion in some way. He draws an interesting parallel between Palestinian Arabs and Israel but develops it wrongly in my opinion. In doing so, he does a disservice to both and ends up with a nonsensical argument. That is unfortunate because I respect him as a man and as a writer. My critique of his article is threefold and I hope I will be able to state this clearly.
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Let me first state that this piece is written out of respect for Fred Maroun. I have seen him grow as a writer over the past year and value his input into the discussions surrounding the problems facing Israel and our neighbours. I debated with myself whether or not to rebut this piece and decided that to ignore it is to let premises I believe are mistaken remain unanswered in the public sphere. Furthermore, if we write only to have people say they agree with us and how wonderful we are, then we are not serving a useful purpose. I invite Fred and anyone else to cut apart anything I write because it is through criticism that I have been forced to dig a bit deeper, to re-examine my own assumptions and revise some of my own ideas. I hope that Fred (and anyone else whose writings I have criticized) accepts this as a contribution to our growing understandings as we battle ideas among ourselves, all the while maintaining esteem for those who disagree with us.
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Maroun first declares that the Palestinian cause is failing because it is dominated by non-Palestinians. He very rightly argues that first the Arab nations, and more recently Western leftists, have been promoting a supposedly pro-Palestinian movement that is actually an anti-Israel movement in disguise. In their hatred of Jews and enthusiasm about undermining the Jewish state, the best interests of the Palestinian Arabs have been trod upon and their hopes for a prosperous developing state undermined.
Then he praises the fact that:
The Zionist movement has benefited from being driven by Jews and not by foreign parties.
I don’t even understand this statement because the word, “benefited” implies that the Zionist movement could have been driven by non-Jews. Given all the Jew-hatred throughout our history, I cannot see how anyone other than Jews would drive Zionism, unless Zionism meant shipping us all off on the Enterprise to some other galaxy. In fact, when a “foreign party”, supposedly caring about our welfare, asked us to consider settling in Uganda and establishing that as our national homeland, we Jews naturally rejected that because Uganda had nothing to do with our peoplehood. Our sacred sites are located in Israel; our culture, traditions and language were developed here in Israel.
So Jews had to define and implement Zionism themselves, and they did it to meet their own needs, not the needs of ideology-driven (even if well-intentioned) outsiders.
Sorry Fred, we did not have to define and implement Zionism ourselves – Zionism is an integral part of our very being. Zionism is our heart and soul. Remember: every year we end the Passover Seder by calling out “Next year in Jerusalem”. Regardless of where we are in the world, we pray with our faces toward Jerusalem. Zion is Jerusalem and Jerusalem is Zion. Zionism just means that this is where we belong. Zionists, Jewish and otherwise, know that.
So my first point of contention is the suggestion that Zionism is not fundamental to the Jewish People and is instead perhaps something that arose in response to something in our environment. However, Zionism is not a response to anything in the Middle East or anywhere else on the globe. It is as old as we are a People and that is plenty old.
My second point of contention is the suggestion that we Jews are vulnerable to letting outsiders define Zionism and define our destiny. Zionism is, simply, the belief that we Jews have the right to sovereignty in our indigenous homeland. No other definition need be offered nor would it be accepted. Maroun does not seem to understand this, as he writes:
While the Palestinian cause is still today dominated by non-Palestinians, Zionism remains in the hands of Jews, and it is essential that it continues this way. Zionism is a Jewish movement to achieve their own national aspirations. Non-Jews may sympathize with their objectives and may even actively support them, but non-Jews never should dictate the meaning of Zionism or its future direction. If they did so, it would defeat the purpose of Zionism by putting the future of Jews in the hands of non-Jews.
As if there is any danger that Jews would let non-Jews take over our own self-definition!
Maroun gives an example of a right-wing Christian group that supports a continued Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank) and Gaza. This is supposed to represent the kind of imposition of non-Jewish definition of Zionism and the future of the Zionist state that he feels threatens us if we are not careful.
Why does Maroun not list, as examples of this same phenomenon, the non-Jewish organizations and world leaders who want to see us leave Judea and Samaria (we have already left Gaza)? Is their (and Maroun’s own) support for a two-state-solution not equally an example of attempting to impose a non-Jew’s definition of Zionism onto us? What if I tell you, Fred, that THIS ZIONIST (me) believes that Zionism means staying in those places that are sacred to my Jewish history and any attempt by anyone to rip me from those sites is too painful to bear. There are many other Jews who agree with me. Many who do not. And we debate it, often quite unpleasantly so, among ourselves.
And if Israel decides to give up more of our sacred lands than we already have, it will only be because Israel will have decided that that is the right thing to do. So I consider it disingenuous of you to accuse a right-wing Christian group of trying to impose its own definition of Zionism upon us Jews while giving the left-wing groups a free pass to impose their definition of Zionism upon us Jews.
I am not afraid of what others say about us. I am not afraid of criticism from the left or right external to Israel and the Jewish People. What does frighten me is those Jews who take a position regarding our future based on insufficient knowledge of history and insufficient respect for our traditions. So I say: “Go ahead, non-Jews. Say whatever you want about how you see us and what you think we should do.” I trust us to know the wheat from the chaff and to be mature enough to consider non-Jewish ideas if they truly add value to our debates along the way to making the decisions incumbent upon a sovereign nation.
Where Maroun’s Comparison Between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs Has Value
Maroun seems to think that Israel is in danger of capitulating to certain non-Jewish (right-wing) ideological groups and letting them define Zionism and our future. In this, he believes that we will become like the Palestinian Arabs.
If non-Jews take a bigger role in driving it, Zionism will suffer from some of the same ills that the Palestinian cause has suffered from, and it will become more anti-Palestinian than pro-Israel.
This is nonsense. Non-Jews can criticize and label Zionism in any way they want – the antisemites call it racist, colonialist, genocidal. These are descriptions and not definitions. Some can say Zionism is giving up J&S and others can say it is not giving up J&S – these are still not definitions of Zionism and not signs that non-Jews are taking any role, never mind a bigger one, in driving Zionism.
Instead of suggesting that Israel could follow the same unfortunate path the Palestinian Arabs have gone down, Maroun should have used this comparison to suggest to the Palestinian Arabs that they should take a lesson from Israel and assume responsibility over their own self-definition and future directions as we have.
My third point of contention with the article, then, is the parallel drawn between the Palestinian Arabs and the Jews/Zionists. It is important to identify the reason that Jews/Zionists are self-driven and Palestinian Arabs are other-driven: the Palestinian Arabs have been like putty in the hands of their Arab neighbours because, in contrast with the Jews, they never were a nation; it remains to be seen if they will be. We Jews have been hated, but we were never putty in anyone’s hands.
If the Palestinian Arabs aspire to be a nation, they need to start behaving like one. Time is running out for them; perhaps it already has run out. Perhaps not. However, I sense that even with the growing influence of writers such as Bassem Eid and Khaled Abu Toameh, the rank and file Palestinian Arabs will not dare to take their future into their own hands. Mores the pity, I suppose.
So Fred, I suggest you lament less about us Jews. I do not have to agree with you to respect you. I have heard your definition of Zionism and your ideas regarding our future – that the only good future is with a two-state-solution – and I thank-you for sharing your thoughts with us. I have enough confidence in my own powers of perception and strength of will to consider what you have to say and then decide for myself. And I have enough confidence in the will of the Jewish People to do the same.