Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Israel at 60
gil troy , THE JERUSALEM POST May. 6, 2008
Today, too many friends and foes define Israel, and Zionism, by
the Arab world's hostility. Doing so misses Israel's everyday
miracles, the millions who live and learn, laugh and play, in
the Middle East's only functional democracy. Doing so ignores
the achievements of Zionism, a gutsy, visionary movement which
rescued a shattered people by reuniting a scattered people.
Doing so neglects the transformative potential of Zionism, which
could inspire new generations of Israeli and Diaspora Jews to
find personal redemption by redeeming their old-new communal
Tragically, Zionism is embattled. Arabs have demonized Zionism
as the modern bogeyman, and many have clumped Zionists, along
with Americans and most Westerners, as the Great Satans. In
Israel, trendy post-Zionists denigrate the state which showers
them with privilege, while in the Diaspora a few Jewish
anti-Zionists loudly curry favor with the Jewish state's
Jews should reaffirm their faith in Zionism; the world should
appreciate its many accomplishments. Zionists must not allow
their enemies to define and slander the movement. No nationalism
is pure, no movement is perfect, no state ideal. But today
Zionism remains legitimate, inspiring, and relevant, to me and
most Jews. Zionism offers an identity anchor in a world of
dizzying choices - and a road map toward national renewal. A
century ago, Zionism revived pride in the label "Jew"; today,
Jews must revive pride in the label "Zionist."
I AM a Zionist because I am a Jew - and without recognizing
Judaism's national component, I cannot explain its unique
character. Judaism is a world religion bound to one homeland,
shaping a people whose holy days revolve around the Israeli
agricultural calendar, ritualize theological concepts, and
relive historic events. Only in Israel can a Jew fully live in
Jewish space and by Jewish time.
I am a Zionist because I share the past, present, and future of
my people, the Jewish people. Our nerve endings are uniquely
intertwined. When one of us suffers, we share the pain; when
many of us advance communal ideals together, we - and the world
I am a Zionist because I know my history - and after being
exiled from their homeland more than 1900 years ago, the
defenseless, wandering Jews endured repeated persecutions from
both Christians and Muslims - centuries before this
anti-Semitism culminated in the Holocaust.
I am a Zionist because Jews never forgot their ties to their
homeland, their love for Jerusalem. Even when they established
autonomous self-governing structures in Babylonia, in Europe, in
North Africa, these governments in exile yearned to return home.
I am a Zionist because those ideological ties nourished and were
nurtured by the plucky minority of Jews who remained in the land
of Israel, sustaining continued Jewish settlement throughout the
I am a Zionist because in modern times the promise of
Emancipation and Enlightenment was a double-edged sword, often
only offering acceptance for Jews in Europe after they
assimilated, yet never fully respecting them if they did
I am a Zionist because in establishing the sovereign state of
Israel in 1948, the Jews reconstituted in modern Western terms a
relationship with a land they had been attached to for
millennia, since Biblical times - just as Japan or India
established modern states from ancient civilizations.
I am a Zionist because in building that state, the Jews returned
to history and embraced normalcy, a condition which gave them
power, with all its benefits, responsibilities, and dilemmas.
I am a Zionist because I celebrate Israel's existence. Like any
thoughtful patriot, though I might criticize particular
government policies I dislike - I do not delegitimize the state
I am a Zionist because I live in the real world of
nation-states. I see that Zionism is no more or less "racist"
than any other nationalism, be it American, Armenian, Canadian,
or Czech. All express the eternal human need for some internal
cohesion, some tribalism, some solidarity among some historic
grouping of individuals, and not others.
I am a Zionist because we have learned from North American
multiculturalism that pride in one's heritage as a Jew, an
Italian, a Greek, can provide essential, time-tested anchors in
our me-me-me, my-my-my, more-more-more, now-now-now world.
I am a Zionist because in Israel we have learned that a country
without a vision is like a person without a soul; a big-tent
Zionism can inculcate values, fight corruption, reaffirm
national unity, and restore a sense of mission.
I AM a Zionist because in our world of post-modern
multi-dimensional identities, we don't have to be "either-ors",
we can be "ands and buts" - a Zionist AND an American patriot; a
secular Jew BUT also a Zionist. Just as some people living in
Israel reject Zionism, meaning Jewish nationalism, Jews in the
Diaspora can embrace it. To those who ask "How can you be a
Zionist if you don't make aliya," I reply, "How will anyone make
aliya without first being a Zionist?"
I am a Zionist because I am a democrat. The marriage of
democracy and nationalism has produced great liberal
democracies, including Israel, despite its democracy being
tested under severe conditions.
I am a Zionist because I am an idealist. Just as a century ago,
the notion of a viable, independent, sovereign Jewish state was
an impossible dream - yet worth fighting for - so, too, today,
the notion of a thriving, independent, sovereign Jewish state
living in true peace with its neighbors appears to be an
impossible dream - yet worth seeking.
I am a Zionist because I am a romantic. The story of the Jews
rebuilding their homeland, reclaiming the desert, renewing
themselves, was one of the 20th century's greatest epics, just
as the narrative of the Jews maintaining their homeland,
reconciling with the Arab world, renewing themselves, and
serving as a light to others, a model nation state, could be one
of this century's marvels.
Yes, it sometimes sounds far-fetched. But, as Theodor Herzl, the
father of modern Zionism, said in an idle boast that has become
a cliche: "If you will it, it is no dream."
The writer is Professor of History at McGill University and the
author of Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the
Challenges of Today. This is an updated version of an essay he
first wrote for Independence Day in 2001.
2. Reprint: Israel Memorial Day
(reprint from 4 years back)
ISRAEL AT 56
This week is Memorial Day in Israel and right after it is Independence
Day. I have believed for years that the best way to commemorate these days
is by turning them into a battle against the loss of perspective.
Memorial Day is the more troubling of the two days. The problem is that
Israelis have lost their sense of Jewish perspective to such an extreme
extent, and this becomes glaringly evident on Memorial Day. Israelis are
incapable of viewing their problems and that of the state within the
perspective of Jewish history, in large part because of the efforts of the
radically secularist Israeli Left, which dominates civil discourse, the
media, academia and politics, and seeks to detach all of Israel from
Jewish history and to deny any connection between .Israeli-ness. and
All of this is reflected in the whiny defeatism that dominates all
thinking about the losses of life by Jews struggling for Israel.s
survival. It is blindingly apparent on Memorial Day.
First of all, the atmosphere of Memorial Day in Israel resembles that of
Holocaust Remembrance Day . Yom HaShoah, in nearly all things: the same
siren, the same closing of cafes and restaurants, the same conversion of
the media into official mourners. The timing is also suggestive . Memorial
Day is a week after Yom HaShoah. If anything, Memorial Day is the more
dramatic of the two days, as there are two sirens sounded on Memorial Day
but only one on Yom HaShoah. And this is not because the loss of soldiers
is .more recent.. The bulk of soldiers killed in Israel.s wars, far more
than half, died in the 1948-9 War of Independence, only three years after
the end of the Holocaust.
The two juxtaposed days equate the Holocaust with a tragedy that is two
six-hundredths its size. Second, all sense of proportion has been lost. In
ALL of Israel.s wars, something like 21,000 soldiers and civilians died,
although thanks to the Oslo team the civilians have dominated the death
toll this past decade. These numbers are similar to the numbers of Jews
murdered every two days at Auschwitz at the height of its .efficiency.. In
other words, had Auschwitz operated for only two days longer than it
actually did, the losses of Jewish life would have been the same as all of
Israel.s military and civilians losses! The soldiers killed in Israel of
course died in valor, defending their people and country.
Here we are, 56 years after the Holocaust, and the country is still
gripped with the Grand Oslo Delusion, still trying to .negotiate. with the
Palestinian Nazis instead of achieving total military victory over them,
afraid to follow the lead of the Americans in Fallujah. In 21st-century
Israel, the fact that one or two soldiers got killed per week in Lebanon
was cause for total unilateral surrender to the Hizbullah and its Syrian
masters and for a panic-stricken retreat out of Lebanon to Israel.s
.international border.. Two deaths a week of soldiers in Lebanon, deaths
that indeed could have been prevented had the country.s leadership the
courage to do so, were thought to be sufficient reason for abandoning all
rationality and determination, and for putting all of northern Israel
under threat of massive bombardment from Hizbullah rockets. On the other
front, Palestinians tossing rocks at soldiers in the1980s were sufficient
reason adopt .Oslo. in the 1990s, where Israel imported an Islamofascist
terrorist army of its sworn enemies into the suburbs of Tel Aviv and
.Oslo. Israel is post-survivalist Israel, defeatist Israel, exhausted
Israel. .Oslo. was based on a total loss in the ability to reason
rationally, a total loss of historic proportion, a relinquishment of
reality for a make-pretend imaginary universe, and a complete loss in the
Jewish determination to survive as a nation. First and foremost, it was a
complete loss in Jewish self-respect and dignity in Israel. Here we had
the spectacle of Israeli leaders meeting, back-slapping and kissing the
same Arab fascists who murdered Jewish children and only yesterday denied
there had ever been a Holocaust, but at the same time insisting that if
there had been one . the Jews deserved it. The Israeli media continues to
be the occupied territory of Israel.s extremist Left; the Independence Day
issue of Ha.aretz a couple of years back featured a banner Op-Ed by
columnist Akiva Eldar entitled .To the Glory of the States of Israel and
Palestine., and explaining that Israel will never be truly independent
until Palestine has pushed Israel behind its 1949 borders and liberated
East Jerusalem. He is not even the most extremist anti-Israel journalist
in Israeli journalism.
In Orwellian .Oslo. Israel, defeatism became the greatest form of
triumphalism, cowardice became the highest form of courage, and
McCarthyism was the greatest expression of democracy, at least in the
first few years after the Rabin assassination.
The Israeli military was as blinded by the loss in perspective as the rest
of the country. The military leadership has been McClellenist since 1992,
and was . if anything . ahead of the rest of the country in saying amen to
the Left.s Vision of .Oslo. and backing the national suicidal ambitions of
the politicians of the Left. The military brass was louder than the media
in demanding a unilateral unconditional surrender of Israel in Lebanon and
relinquishing of the Golan to Syria. Military intelligence has never quite
gotten around to the point where it discovers that Yassir Arafat is a
genocidal terrorist and that there are no differences between the Hamas
and the PLO, if there ever were.
Meanwhile, even Ariel Sharon is trying to capitulate his way into
tranquility. Just what does he think the PLO-Hamas terrorists will do in
the Gaza Strip once Israel has ethnically cleansed it of Jews and