Letter: Liberal Zionism ‘Aint Over
Sandra Tamari’s recent article in these pages, “Peter Beinart’s Interrogation Signals The End Of Liberal Zionism,” was a well-written piece that I hated with the fire of one thousand suns.
I didn’t really understand why the piece was hung on the recent Peter Beinart article about his experience being interrogated by Israel. Removing the reference to Beinart’s experience does not change the overall theme or argument of that Tamari makes at all. Her argument, that Israel has, since its founding, discriminated against non-Jews and has never been truly democratic, is neither enhanced nor reduced by reference to Beinart’s recent interrogation.
Which leads to another point which is that the article plays “hide the ball.” It isn’t really an article about the end of liberal Zionism. Its an article about the illegitimacy of Zionism, at as it exists as the current state of Israel.
Tamari makes an argument about being on the wrong end of both the “Jewish” and “democratic” part of liberal Zionism, and she observes that the Palestinians don’t have the right of return to Israel, even though they may have been born on the West Bank, while Jews born elsewhere do.
Again, this is not an arguments against “liberal Zionism.” Its an argument against the state of Israel as a Jewish state. It’s fine to make that argument; it just isn’t the argument that the article says it’s making.
Finally, my strong reaction emerged because, not for the first time in the last week or so, an author is basically telling like me that we are doing our identity and values wrong. Liberal Zionists shouldn’t be fighting for a Jewish state that reflects our values; we should fight for one state that prioritizes “democratic” over “Jewish” because the two of those values can never be reconciled.
I’m not arguing that there aren’t contradictions that need to be resolved, nor tradeoffs that need to be made, but demanding that we make them to match someone else’s views of what it should be is ineffective.
Tamari’s article was a well-articulated view of the what a one-state democracy might look like. What it is not is an argument about the end of liberal Zionism. Nor is it a persuasive demand that liberal Zionists abandon the hard work of reconciling our values and fighting for what we believe in both Israel and the Diaspora.
Sincerely, Dennis Yedwab