July 20, 2019

Zionism Is About Letting Jews Live (And Die) Without Humiliation

“Suppose the Exodus from Egypt had never occurred. Suppose the Romans never exiled the Jews. Suppose also that there had been no Jews in antiquity. Even then, the justification for establishing their nationhood in Israel would be valid along the lines I tried to explain in my article “From rabid Zionism to egalitarian Zionism” (November 9, 2018).

Shlomo Sand’s response to my arguments (“The twisted logic of the Jewish historic right to Israel,” November 16, 2018), misses that central point. In this sense he’s like Naftali Bennett. The education minister carries an ancient coin in his pocket in order to prove Jewish ownership of the land since antiquity. Sand’s understandable revulsion at the Jewish-national implications of Bennett’s version of nationalism, based on that coin, leads him to reject Zionism in its entirety.

The justification I tried to provide for this ideology frees us both from Bennett’s coin and from Sand’s contentions against it. It’s anchored not in the history of the Jews in antiquity, but rather in two pivotal facts regarding their history in modernity.

Fact 1: A major component of the Jews’ social profile in modernity, in their own eyes, and in the eyes of their surroundings, is that of group originating in Palestine in antiquity. It doesn’t take a historian to recognize this fact. Suffice it to read the Passover Haggadah, be a tourist in Florence or listen to the “Passions,” preferably Bach’s.”

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