Liberal Zionism is dead

For as long as Liberal Zionism has existed, Jews have been writing op-eds declaring that it is dead. The truth is that the doctrine of Liberal Zionism has never been logically strong enough to withstand educated critique.

As proponents of Liberal Zionism unearth the whole truth of how the State of Israel came to exist, they come to realise that the violent actions of the State today are not unfortunate yet avoidable disasters, but calculated necessities which are absolutely essential to Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish nation-state.

The post-mortem examination of Liberal Zionism is not complicated: the creation of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state required Jews to become a majority in a land where they were not. The flight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the Nakba was not an awful accident, but a necessary chapter in Israel’s birth story. Necessary because if they hadn’t fled, Jews would not have been in the majority, and the State of Israel would not be Jewish and democratic.

Put simply, this means that for Israel to continue to exist as a Jewish and democratic state, it needs to maintain a Jewish majority by blocking the return of any Palestinian refugees.

As Liberal Zionists condemn the State of Israel’s violence towards the Gazan protestors, who are marching towards the border demanding they be allowed to return to their homes in Israel, the question that more traditional Zionists ask is ‘What else do you expect the State of Israel to do?’

“…for Israel to continue to exist as a Jewish and democratic state, it needs to maintain a Jewish majority by blocking the return of any Palestinian refugees..”

Perhaps water cannons or rubber bullets would be more palatable for the sensitivities of Liberal Zionists? Maybe tear gas would be more aligned with ‘progressive Jewish values’?

Liberal Zionism in its essence is about enabling the continued existence of a Jewish and democratic nation-state, which means that as soon as Liberal Zionists begin to consider allowing Palestinians to return to Israel their ideology collapses.

Palestinian women chant slogans as protesters burn tires near the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip, Monday, May 14, 2018.
(AP Photo/Adel Hana via Jewish News)

But Liberal Zionism is also about kindness and equality, it is about the Jewish nation-state embodying Jewish values.

So what is the Liberal Zionist answer to the question of ‘What else do you expect the State of Israel to do?’. There is none.

If the State of Israel was to hold back violence, then the Gazan Palestinians would undoubtedly cross the border and return to their homes and villages: Israel, as a Jewish and democratic state, would cease to exist.

But if the State of Israel continues with violence, it also ceases to exist as the kind and equal State that Liberal Zionists also yearn for.

Palestinians burn tires during clashes with Israeli forces n the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Tuesday, May 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed via Jewish News)

Liberal Zionism attempts to reconcile progressive Jewish values and support for the existence of a Jewish nation-state. But these two ideologies are only reconcilable if one ignores, either purposefully or for lack of education, the full history of the State of Israel.
In weeks likes these, when Palestinians loudly demand the right of return, the painful history of the Jewish state is thrust in our faces. As Liberal Zionists begin to gain a better understanding of Israel-Palestine, they are faced with a choice:

Either they can support a Jewish and democratic state with all the violence that they understand is necessary to maintain it.

Or they can relinquish the need for a Jewish majority in Israel-Palestine, and start to imagine a State which is neither Palestinian nor Jewish, but a State which gives citizenship and equal rights to all those who dwell on the land. This State would not need to use violence to prevent refugees from returning home. This State would not be a Jewish nation-state, but would embody Jewish values more than the current of State of Israel ever could.

Liberal Zionism is and always has been an impossible equation, it’s just a matter of when we realise that’s the case.

About the Author
Joely is student organiser for Jewdents, a left-wing student group
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