Zionism’s Zero Sum Game

I wish to start by trying to distinguish between different concepts of modern nationalism and to speculate on how Zionism has established its own trend. How is it that we have gotten to the catastrophe that we are facing today?

As we know, “political emancipation” was conceived by the emerging bourgeois classes in Europe at the end of the eighteenth century and began to be applied practically after the French Revolution. The new bourgeoisie demanded the abolition of monarchy and feudalism while it established bourgeois citizenship and state. Following other Renaissance principles, however, the new bourgeois nation-state was also secularized. This new structure of the state provided, at least nominally, greater participation in terms of class, ethnic, and religious minorities in civil affairs. One could say that on the whole, and specifically in Western Europe, a somewhat greater sense of democratic representation was achieved.

Nevertheless, colonialism at the turn of the twentieth century was at its height, with Great Britain as the world’s biggest power. Orientalism, the ideology of colonialism as defined by Edward Said, rationalized colonial domination through “an attitude that posits the Orient as a constellation of traits, assigning generalized values to real or imaginary differences, largely to the advantage of the West and the disadvantage of the East, so as to justify the former’s privileges and aggressions”-while at the same time maintaining a “flexible superiority,” which puts the Westerner in a whole series of possible relations with the Oriental, but without the Westerner ever losing the relative upper hand (Said, Orientalism, 1978).

At this juncture, Zionism was emerging as a Jewish nationalist movement, while adopting Orientalist ideology. It also adopted European exclusivist nationalist tendencies in approaching “the Jewish problem,” opposing more inclusive emancipatory principles; e.g., rather than opting for citizenship in countries of sojourn for Jews, it opted for separation. This approach determined national identity by blood, race, ethnicity, and religion. It rejected all “mixing” of different constituents-those whose identity attributes did not correspond to a certain catalog of exclusion (see Hannah Arendt, The Jew as Pariah: Jewish Identity and the Politics of the Modern Age, 1978). In the same vein, Zionism adopted colonialist concepts for resolving the “Jewish territorial problem.” That is, in the absence of communally held territory as base for a sovereign nation, Zionism was confronted with the need to either conquer such territory by force, obtain it by commercial transaction, or be granted a territorial domain by an imperial power. As Zionism lacked the independent power to enforce its own will, Great Britain chose to act on its behalf, assigning the territory of Palestine for the Zionist project. It offered Palestine “as national home for the Jewish People,” as stated in the infamous Balfour Declaration.

Judaism, as a religion or philosophical system, never had universal application. Jewish monotheism began with a tribal orientation, and it operated since in a strictly nationalistic capacity. If there ever was a moment in history where Judaic perceptions of creation, revelation, ethics and faith were universalized, it happened through Christianity and Islam. Fundamentalist Evangelical tendencies, and Orientalist cultural politics in the United States, have begun recently to use the term “Judeo-Christian” to signify “world civili- zation,” carefully excluding Islam.

However, since the mid-eighteenth century, many Jewish intellectuals have individually espoused profound humanist approaches in philosophy and science, and in other liberal arts. Most of them expressed their positions in secular, socially progressive terms. Their rather marginal position in society and politics, combined with their multi-lingual, multi-cultural, and rather diasporic (as opposed to nationalist) environ- ment, grounded their intellectual work as critique of exclusion. Their genuine contribution toward political emancipation and inclusion has grown out of a Jewish predicament, and as such constituted a universalist perspective.

By contrast, Zionism’s raison d’ĂȘtre required it to do away with what it called the “abnormal Jewish Exile” psychic condition, and with the “cosmopolitan” image of “the Jew.” Any universalist concept of universally equal humanness was preempted. In Israel itself, Zionism has established an extremist militaristic culture with democracy for Jews only. The worst aspect of Zionist militarism is being demonstrated now [2002] in the demonizing, brutalizing, and dehumanizing of the entire Palestinian people. By choosing not to distinguish “terrorism” from the national struggle against occupation, this militarism justifies indiscriminate killing, mass destruction of homes, bulldozing a whole agricultural economy, and battling civilian society with a heavily mechanized army.

Feigning fear of probably the weakest nation in the world, the regional Empire (Israel) denies the Palestinians both an independent state and Palestinian citizenship in a bi-national state. It claims the benefit as a moral right of a pure Greater Jewish Israel. That’s what turned the conflict into an unforeseeable madness, and an unpredictable abyss. And the United States, in a cynical pose of Supreme Judge, waits for the catastrophe to actually occur. Western Europe, in the meantime, political invalid that it is, keeps silent. And the United Nations remains paralyzed by the “New World Order.”

One would have to assume that if there were any sense of humanity left in Jewish Israel, people would be facing their own brutality, but there is no one to give them solace. Sons follow their fathers’ steps in war, for the fourth generation. Is there no one to face the light of day with regret? Is there no one crying in their dreams? Is there no one left to face the implications of living forever by the sword?

Zionism, it seems, has now exhausted its historic role; it has played out its zero sum game.

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