Zionism, Anti-Zionism and Post Zionism
A week ago, Haaretz published an article by Shlomo Avineri, a respected professor and former Director General of the Israeli Foreign Office. I tried to refute his views in a letter to the editor.
Being restricted by the format of a letter, my remarks were necessarily brief. Haaretz cut the letter even more. I am sending here the full text of Avineri's article, and the full (unabridged) text of my letter.
The Lie of Post-Zionism
By Shlomo Avineri
In recent years a phenomenon called
"post-Zionism"has developed in the
political-intellectual discourse in
The arguments called
"post-Zionist" have various aspects - not only political but also
cultural. They view Zionism as a colonial phenomenon, not as a national
movement that is contending with another, Palestinian, national movement over
its claim to the same territory. Some of those who are called
"post-Zionists" go even further in their argument that the very
existence of a Jewish people is a "narrative" that was invented in
the 19th century, and that the Jews are at base a religious community. The
attitude of Zionism, which has most of its roots in
This approach also wants to de- legitimize
Zionism's conceptual world: Because some of the so-called
"post-Zionist" arguments are drawn from the post-modernist discourse,
their spokespersons understand that the terms they use have a force of their
own. He who controls the terms controls the debate. Therefore they insist on
referring in Hebrew to pre-1948 Eretz
At the same time, those who are careful not to accept the Zionist narrative sometimes accept the Palestinian narrative without question. To them it is clear that there is a Palestinian people, that what happened in 1948 is exactly what the Arabs say happened, and that in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there is, on the one hand, a Zionist "narrative," and on the other, "facts" that are precisely identical to the Palestinian narrative. This of course is absolute folly, and contradicts the principles of post-modernism itself.
But there is also another aspect to all
this: Those who call themselves "post-Zionists" are simply
anti-Zionists of the old sort. The term "post-Zionism" sounds as
though it is something innovative, which came after Zionism. However, here lies
a grave mistake: For the term "post-Zionism"to
be meaningful, it is necessary to start out from the acceptance of Zionism as a
fact and a reality and to try to go beyond it. Thus, for example, post-modern
criticism starts out from the acceptance of modernity, grapples with its
dialectical outcomes and its contradictions and tries to go beyond it. This is
not the case for those who call themselves "post-Zionists": They do
not see Zionism and the State of
However, in this their claims are identical to those of the old-style anti-Zionists. These were, for example, the classical arguments Communists and to some extent also those of the Bundists: that there is no Jewish people (see, for example, Stalin's doctrine), that Zionism is an ally of imperialism and that the Palestinian Arabs are victims of Zionist aggression. Not all of these arguments are entirely baseless, and those who disagreed with them also knew that the debate was a legitimate one.
There is no reason not to repeat these arguments today, if one considers them to be correct. The intellectual dishonesty is in the attempt to create a sense of something new, supposedly "post" and fashionable: This is simply an old car they are trying to sell as though it has just this minute come off the production line of the latest intellectual innovations.
Some of those who call themselves
"post-Zionists" also come from the former Communist camp. There is
something pathetic in that 20 years ago they believed in a new, just world that
was to emerge from
The anti-Zionist position has accompanied Zionism from the very outset, and it is a legitimate position even if one does not agree with it; it led some of the Communists in the Land of Israel (sorry, Palestine) to justify acts of murder of Jews in Hebron and Jerusalem, committed by Palestinians in 1929, as the authentic expression of a "popular uprising,"even if its inspiration was fanatical Islam.
There is nothing new in this moral
blindness and these historical distortions, but it is worth remembering: This
is not a matter of post-Zionists, but rather of anti-Zionists of the old
school. The absurdity is that anti-Zionists of a different breed, the people of
the ultra-Orthodox movement Agudat Yisrael, for example, have accepted the historical fact of
the existence of the State of
A letter of Uri Avnery
In response to The Lie of post-Zionism [Hebrew title of article] by Shlomo Avineri (Haaretz 4/7)
In the course of the proceedings, I
testified at length, on the basis of my book "
“Post-Zionism” in its true meaning is a
long way from “anti-Zionism”. It recognizes Zionism’s historical achievements:
the formation of a new society, the revival of the Hebrew language and the
creation of the state [of
The essence of post-Zionism lies in
recognizing that Zionism had fulfilled its role with the foundation of the
An Israeli who is asked abroad "What are you?" answers automatically: "I am an Israeli." It would not enter his mind to say "I am a Jew", unless asked specifically about his religion.
David Ben-Gurion said that the Zionist
Federation played the role of the scaffolding in the building of the state of