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Monday, April 27, 2009

Why Reviving Zionism is Crucial to the Survival of Israel

A nation's integrity doesn't rest in its military, or its economy or even its self-interest. These are all dependent on its core ideology or belief system. Without that, even the strongest and most secure of nations is nothing more than a paper tiger waiting for a breeze to blow it over.

A nation's core ideology must answer three questions.

1. This is who we are

2. This is why we are here

3. This is what we plan to do in the future

Like virtually every Western country, Israel's own core ideology, Zionism, has all but withered away.

Virtually every major party in Israel is either post-Zionist, pre-Zionist or anti-Zionist. The major governing parties, Likud, Labor and Kadima, have become post-Zionist parties, occasionally dressing up in the flag and cloaking their agenda in the colors of Zionism. This leaves the pre-Zionist Haredi religious parties such as Shas and UTJ (which paradoxically would not exist were it not for Zionism), concerned only with sustaining their own particular communities from the treasury. And of course the left wing and Arab Anti-Zionist parties such as Meretz, Shinui or Balad.

Israel's crisis is not a military crisis or even a demographic crisis. Both are solvable problems, to which the solutions are fairly apparent. Israel's crisis is a crisis of faith. A crisis of its core ideology, Zionism.

The great struggle between the conservative Herut and the socialist movements, transmuted into the clash between Labor and Likud, has become irrelevant as Labor and Likud have lost any real ideology or principles. Sharon understood this reality and employed it to demolish both, creating Kadima out of the rubble, a party based purely on corruption and greed, devoid of any ideology or principles.

Labor's principles were devoured by decades of its own corruption, while the Likud lost its principles by failing to pass them on to the next generation. The link between Herut and Likud exists now only as a fiction. The middle aged Likudniks might be able to tell you who Jabotinsky was, and might even know what he stood for. The younger generation is lucky if they can recognize his name.

Labor meanwhile remains as the public face for a network of corruption carried through by the state's socialist institutions, some now privatized. Both Likud and Labor now stand on the brink of irrelevance. They are not post-Zionist so much out of ideology, as out of a lack of ideology. Sharon's creation of Kadima took into account that the bulk of Labor and Likud MK's had come to represent nothing more than corruption and greed. So he created a party just for them. Kadima, the party of post-Zionism.

How have we fallen so low?

The answer lies in a dilution of the meaning of Zionism, from a plan to build a thriving Jewish state in Israel, to fighting for its survival within increasingly shrinking borders. Israel now approaches the 1967 borders. Once it reaches those borders, the next stage will be the dismantling of Israel, perhaps to the borders of the proposed UN compromise.

Today what most people associate with Zionism is fighting for Israel's right to live. But fighting to live is not an ideology, it's a desperation strategy. If you must fight to live, then you're already on your deathbed.

When the Zionist dream turned into reality, like most realities it had plenty of warts and ugly spots. It was not a utopia and the day to day details often weren't pretty at all. Idealism gave way to naked greed, to a culture of being constantly on the make, and laughing at the folly of idealists. The Knesset, this one and so many before it, represent that ugly side. They are post-Zionist because they are post-idealistic. They are a gathering of politicians without ideas, only agendas.

Today only religious zionism remains as the largest outpost of Zionism in Israel, but even within religious zionism the death of idealism has long since set in, and the truly committed are a minority within a minority. They remain the last source of Zionist parties in Israel, but they have circled the wagons around the settlements as the last stand of Zionism in Israel. And that too highlights the same problem, to fight for your right to exist is not enough.

Reviving Zionism runs right into the vision problem again. Zionism cannot simply mean standing up to terrorists or refusing to give up land. Those are negatives. They are things that you are agaisnt. Not things you are for. To revive Zionism requires a positive vision, one that envisions Israel as it should be.

The left beginning with Rabin and Peres succeeded in articulating a positive post-Zionist vision, which took its tack from the post-Western visions that fueled the New Britain or the America of Immigrants. The New Middle East in which Israel would be simply another nation, open borders and open trade, that appealed perfectly to a generation tired of war, and eager to enjoy the good life of their European counterparts.

The post-Zionist vision has since crashed and burned, but the Likud has offered no opposing positive vision, only criticisms that it has gone too far. And that is why the left has managed to continue steering Israel from one concession to another, and from one disaster to another. When Rabin and Peres took office, they didn't simply gain control of Israel, they gained control of the nation's ideological belief system.

The Arab wars wore down Israel from without, while the left stabbed the country in the back from within. The combination paved the way for every succeeding disaster between Oslo and Hamastan. To end this reign of error, requires reviving Zionism with a positive vision.

A Zionist vision based on resisting terrorism is not enough. Instead the question must be answered, "Where do you see Israel in 25 years and what do we have to do to get there?"

Zionism gained currency once because it expressed a positive vision of collective national destiny. Because it linked the land of Israel to the Jews and the Jews to the land. Because it proclaimed that there was no solution to the Jewish problem except in Israel. Those things are still true, the problem is that too few people say these things anymore unless they're old men or wearing knitted Kippahs.

The challenge of reviving Zionism is to make it relevant again, not simply as an antidote to terrorism. What the left understood all too well, is that telling people that we must fight to hold onto the land, raises the inevitable question, why keep fighting just to hold onto the land. If Israel is nothing more than a plot of land we live in, then it has no more meaning than a plot of land in Europe or Africa. The dilution of Zionism removed that context and turned Israel into nothing more than land. Land without ideas is nothing more than dirt, and no one can be expected to die for dirt.

That means answering these three fundamental questions in a way that ties into the concerns, dreams and hopes of a new generation;

1. This is who we are

2. This is why we are here

3. This is what we plan to do in the future

The left's post-Zionist answers were, that we are just another Middle Eastern people here to make money and have a good time. And that in the future we will drive from Tel Aviv to Cairo and then to Ramallah, eat, drink and hit all the nightclubs. Israel will be Hong Kong to the Middle East's China. And there will be good times for everyone except the stuck up datim.

Simple answers that appealed to people. Those answers stopped being relevant after the first suicide bombing, but that has not stopped the trend of post-Zionism from dominating Israel's cultural landscape, because there was no renewed Zionism to displace it.

If Israel is to survive however, like the four questions asked by the sons of the parents at Pesach, a new Zionism must answer those questions.

It must answer those questions in a way that speaks to the experiences of a generation born and raised in a cynical political environment. It must answer them in positive terms, rather than negative ones. It must answer them in a cultural landscape fragmented by ethnic divisions. It must look toward the future and articulate a vision that is one part dream and one part reality.

It has been done before and can be done again. Religious Zionism has part of the answer, but only a small part of it. Its vision is too narrow and difficult for the majority of Israelis to embrace any time soon. A religious vision based on a religious life is not enough. Israel must have a vision of Zionism that appeals as much to secular Jews as it does to religious Jews.

It must begin from the premise that the land and the people are one. And it must go back to the roots and wellsprings of Jewish striving that broke forth in the 19th century, and build a new beginning for us all.

24 comments:

kahaneloyalist said...

Who would you suggest to articulate this vision?

There are few genuine secular nationalists left and as we have seen, Zionism without Torah has a shelf life of only a few generations.

Wouldnt we be facing the same problem in 40 years even if there was a Secular Zionist revival?

Keli Ata said...

It's sad to think of how the nation is unraveling after just 61 years, just two generations.

From what I recall, wasn't it the secular Jews who initially were pro-Zionists and the religious anti-Zionist, who felt the Jewish state would only be established when Moshiach comes?

How did things get turned on their head and how can the secular and religious unite? There seems to be so much antagonism

Sultan Knish said...

The problem isn't so much secular Zionism, as the left wing having hijacked and then destroyed Zionism.

And socialist ideologies have shown plenty of ability to corrupt the Torah world, witness Eastern Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Sultan Knish said...

Some religious Jews were anti-zionist, others were fervently Zionist. And many secular Jews split the same way.

Anonymous said...

What happens to the Palestinians?

Sultan Knish said...

The Palestine Mandate was divided into Israel and Jordan. They can join the rest of their brothers in Jordan, remove the Saudi Hashemite kingdom and try not to blow up the whole place.

Anonymous said...

1. What if they don't want to leave?
2. Jordan doesn't want them.
3. What about Arab citizens?

Jew With A View said...

Great article!

I have a query ( I did try emailing this to you but it apparently didn't reach you... So I'll post it here)

In view of your - justifiable - concerns about Jewish identity/Israel why do you link to a website that *promotes* the group of Christian evangelicals who pose fraudulently as "messianic jews"?

I refer to the site AmeriIsrael. Here is a link to a specific post:

http://amerisrael.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/05/jews-perpetrati.html

I'm sure you're aware of the aggressive and deceitful tactics used by these Messianics, in Israel - as well as across America, UK, and numerous other countries.

And while the Messianic movement may seem, as a threat to Jews, to pale in comparison with a nuclear Iran, they *do* undermine Jewish identity.

For anyone not familiar with the Messianic movement, here is a link to an article illustrating the deceptive tactics they have been using in the UK, to convert naive young Jews to their own brand of Christianity:

http://ajewwithaview.wordpress.com/the-missionary-position-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-messianics/

I'm guessing - maybe wrongly - that you weren't aware of the posts on this that appear at AmeriIsrael. I was very disappointed to see them there, as it's a site that otherwise offers good info on Israel.

Sultan Knish said...

They can choose to be fully loyal Israeli citizens, or they can leave for their own country

Sultan Knish said...

I wasn't aware that Amerisrael was a Messie site. I know that some like IsraelToday are. I'll review the site more fully and likely remove it.

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis, but the solution is wanting. You basically have a 3rd generation of political analphabets who have no idea what antisemitism is, only in vague theory, brainwashed from the elementary school to love the enemy and indoctrinated by universities in PC. The socialists who came to the land to build it were sons of rabbis, who knew that the land belongs to us even though they rejected the religion. So they build the mythical land that it's not connected to any root and now that it's built, prosperous and successful beyond their dreams, the ideal is gone. What is there to fight for when you have no deep roots? The draft dodger's movement is in full bloom with one difference, America was not in mortal danger 40 years ago. If you read YNEt in their "religious" rubric, look at the comments written by secular Israelis and it looks like Der Sturmer in 1930s, maybe worse. They HATE Judaism and YNET plays on that in a very crude fashion that any intelligent, open headed person can see. How are you to revive Zionism when it's missing the main ingredient Zion, Judaism, Torah, land promissed to Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov? I think G-d is trying to tell us that all the sophisticated weapons won't help us, when we are not connected to the main life line.

Jew With A View said...

I don't claim that AmeriIsrael is an entirely Messianic site.

I just know - as I have just seen it - that there are at least two articles appearing on the site that defend the lies told by Messianics.

Sultan Knish said...

Thank you for the information, I'll take another look and likely remove it

Sultan Knish said...

Well socialists always hated Judaism and religious Jews, it has gotten worse in some ways, better in others

Religion alone however is not the solution, it's an important part of the solution, but it's too inherently unstable on its own.

What we do need is a revival of basic nationalism and root connection to the land. Religious Nationalism does that for some, but not for most.

kahaneloyalist said...

Sultan, so let's say a miracle takes place and secular nationalism has a huge revival among Jews, why wont we be in the same situation in another few generations?

Sultan Knish said...

We'll always be in a variation of this situation. Problems don't really go away, they take on other forms. The point is to battle them and prevent the problems from taking over and becoming a fatal threat.

There is no perfect defense against that. Look who Peres' grandfather was. Plenty of frumme yidden or their kids went on a whole other derech.

What we're called on is to engage in a constant struggle against ideas and agendas that will demoralize and destroy us.

Bekol Dor VeDor applies in the Chanukah sense as well as in the Purim sense

Lemon said...

It is an epidemic now that nations are losing site of their own cultures and purpose and allowing anyone to come in with any agenda, any other purpose and then praising those purposes.
It rips nations apart.
Israel is not made for other people besides Jews, children of Yaacov. That's it. It was never meant to hold others who pull in an opposite direction.
Yes, Israel has to be one people with one ideal and one G-d.
Keep the messy-antics out of Israel too.

Happy-Balagan said...

Instead of trying to forge a new vision for the future, the government attempted to answer these questions by forming a "broad based coalition".

What we got was an all-of-the-above zionism.

And it is destined to fail.

Sultan Knish said...

Yes unfortunately it is

Shtuey said...

Sultan, this is a very succinct analysis of the situation in Israel. From the time of the exodus from Mitzrayim we have fallen to Golden Calf Syndrome. Even after 10 plagues, columns of fire, pillars of smoke, the crossing of Yam Suf, Moshe Rabbeinu ascends Sinai and after a couple weeks...blammo...golden calf.

It is the same today. The survival of the fight for independence, the ingathering of Jews, the reunification of Jerusalem...and within 40 years...

I believe the Torah refers to us as stubborn and stiff necked. Yeah, no kidding, but lately for all the wrong causes.

Anonymous said...

A while back I read a thought attributed to Rav Kook. I think you had it in one of your pieces. You might want to dust it off and repeat it. Basically he was somewhat supportive of secular Zionism in terms of establishing a State. However, he apparently warned that without Jewish content the following generation would abandon Zionism, and eventually turn against the State.

In past comments I have compared this to a scientist who worked on trying to create a superman, but ended up with a deformed blob. The only reasonable thing to do is clean up the mess.

Secular Jews wanted to end tradition and replace it with the superJew called Israeli. However, the byproduct of the work was the Bal Shuva movement and religious Zionism (somewhat messianic in it’s devotion). In order to destroy this monster the Left had to find some way of disabling it. That goal is more important then any State. To those people any solution that removes tradition is good, even if it means turning the State over to a foreign majority. And, if this results in a bloodbath, then this is good too since it only proves that there is no G-d. So they win either way.

This also is why the ultra Left and ultra Right can work towards the same goal for different reasons.

You have seeming left out another group. What about the pro-Zionists? Unfortunately, this group consists of mostly disorganized individuals. In terms of number they may make up the silent majority. But, they lack unity.

If their is any hope it will either come from heaven or some charismatic leader that will organize the pro-Zionist people.

Yochana said...

I suggest shoving the arabs into the sea. Those that don't want to swim can go to Egypt. Of course, the Egyptians at some point might start shooting them. That's when I finally go to Israel with my lawn chair, popcorn and Coke and watch the fun. :)

Keli Ata said...

LOL Yochana. Mind if I join you for the show?

Sigh. It seems the same problems facing Israel are also facing the US--a lack of patriotism and pride, and ignorance of the ideals the respective nations were founded upon.

GLP said...

A number of books were written on the subject 40 years ago by Rabbi Meir Kahane; Never Again, Our Challenge to name two. He had the insight and the solutions.

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