Are you against Zionism, Sacha, simply because you are against all nationalisms? Or are you against Zionism, for the additional reason that Zionism advances a program of Judeo-ethni
c hegemony in a binational context? Yes, of course, there are a huge variety of differences in how Zionists orient to this or that Israeli government, this or that policy and this or that war. Some favor a social-democratic economy, some capitalism. Some favor a soft liberal approach, making concessions to accommodate Palestinian rights where possible, some prefer the cudgel. Some Zionists would favor making Palestinian life more bearable; some would pressure them to “voluntarily” depart.
But no version of Zionism, left or right, that I am aware of offers the Palestinians of Israel the prospects for full national equality and political integration. Zionists who seek such justice eventually break with Zionism. Some emerge as nonZionists such as Uri Avnery; some as revolutionary anti-zionists such as Matzpen.
This is indicative of the fact that Zionism is not merely a form of nationalism, but a specifically reactionary form of Israeli nationalism. It is a form that never has or will have any traction with Israeli Arabs. The AWL admirably distinguishes itself on the far left by its unique sensitivity to Jewish history and its appreciation for the understandable desire of Israeli Jews to be the masters of their fate. But this should not divert us from insisting that this desire be balanced and harmonized with the democratic demand for equal rights and justice for the other national constituency of Israel.
In every other regard the AWL implicitly realizes this. It rightfully calls for Arab-Jewish unity and for a two-state approach to reconciliation. It sees the larger picture, but evades its reflection in the Israeli microcosm. 20% of Israel’s population is Arab and that population is consigned to second-class status, both as individuals and as a national community. All Israeli workers are, of course, exploited. But Jewish workers enjoy national privileges that afford them material benefits. Embedded within the Israeli class structure is a Zionist caste system. Palestinians cannot be realistically expected to sign on to a class-struggle program that does not address the specific communal grievances that are baked into that system. That is why they gravitate to their own national parties and to the Communists. They are excluded from that Zionist consensus by design.
Zionism, therefore, requires a far more critical evaluation than Sacha’s statements seem willing to go.
Let us by all means defend Israel’s right to exist. But let’s do so without shrugging our shoulders at Jewish chauvinism. They are separable and it is our democratic obligation to point out why.