Zionism for the 21st Century

What is the role for Zionism in the 21st Century? Today’s common narrative, advanced in the American movement by its leader Justice Louis Brandeis in the early 20th Century, was a homeland for Jews in need (which, of course, does not include American Jews since we already live in “the City (Jerusalem) on the Hill”). And for a Jewish People of that period facing pogroms in the Old Word, that may have sufficed. 

And then the Holocaust.

Most Jews today see “Zionism” as supporting Israel, that 19th Century dream realized. And of course this is obvious and necessary. But Zionism in the 21st Century has a far larger responsibility even than Israel. And it is this larger purpose that is described in my most recent blog. And it was a Comment to that “blog,” Chapter 14, American Insecurity/American Zionism, that I provide the outline and rationale to Zionism in the 21st Century below.

But first the initiating Comment:

Commenter: Perfect historical summary; not a word to change.

However, history as a lesson carries a dilemma: -Ignoring it is disastrous, -Taking it at the face value is just as disastrous. I can see two points having important implications for us: A) Jabotinsky and B) Zionism.

A) Jabotinsky warning. It had only one impact, for himself; after the Shoah he could say – look how clever I was -. As for the Diaspora, the impact was null, nobody cared a damn. Its repetition at the face value by DT in his blog is like throwing a rose petal to Pacific and expecting a tsunami. Nobody will care a damn.

B) Zionism’s original definition “the Jewish national movement of rebirth and renewal in the land of Israel”, striped of reificatory “national” and poetical “rebirth’s” and “renewal’s” boils down to “Jewish movement of creating the state of Israel”. Thus, glaringly, this movement achieved its goal in 48 and does not exist henceforth in its original sense.

It clearly exists and is promoted by DT in some other sense which I don’t quite get and ask here for its brief elucidation.


DT: You kept it simple and direct, Commenter, and I will respond in kind.

“Commenter: A) Jabotinsky’s warning.”

DT: Whatever its impact in 1937 and after, and I agree it was nil (which, I suspect, will also my efforts or any other’s more eloquent effort amount to since the challenge is to the human capacity to deny that which we choose not to see). Jabotinsky stated that which is undeniably true, that the Diaspora is our graveyard. Interestingly the threat turned lethal in the age of secularism, particularly since, and here we agree, Fichte (Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German philosopher and a founder of German Idealism, considered inspiration for pan-German nationalism and National Socialism).

“Eliminate the Diaspora or the Diaspora will surely eliminate you!” is as clear and direct a warning as possible. Still deniable. But difficult to ignore.

“Commenter: B) Zionism’s original definition”

DT: The original “definition” responded to the Jewish Problem as expressed in the late 19th Century. And you are certainly correct that the goal was attained in 1948.

The 19th Century had no way of anticipating secularism’s contribution to solving the Jewish Problem, EXTERMINATION as Solution to the Problem. And so the definition of Zionism is how warn a complacent Diaspora that the Holocaust was the first such effort; provide a response, a Jewish response allowing our physical survival, to the extermination of every Jew on the planet?

This is the Jewish Problem Zionism in the 21st Century must confront.

About the Author
David made aliya in 1960 and has been active in Jewish issues since. He was a regional director for JNF in New York, created JUDAC, Jews United to Defend the Auschwitz Cemetery during that controversy; at the request of Jonathan Pollard created and led Justice for the Pollards in 1989.
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