Zionism: Quo Vadis
This blog post was featured in the Huffington Post on August 03, 2017.
I feel that Zionism as initially conceived has run its course. It is in need for review to reconsider its mission and political platform.
Let me explain.
Zionism was created as a reaction to anti-Semitism. Theodor Herzl, the founding father of this movement, being exposed to the Dreifus trials, came to the conclusion that Jews should go back to their origins, Palestine at the time, and be like all nations, with a country of their own, and stop being dispersed in the diaspora.
From its inception the basic tenet of Zionism is the immigration to Israel.
This works well in countries where anti-Semitism is rampant. In USA and other countries where anti Semitism is not so pronounced, not all Jews feel compelled to do aliya, immigrate to Israel. This gave birth to the question: can one be a Zionist and still live in the diaspora.
Since Israel needed financial support, donations from the Jewish community abroad, pure Zionism compromised its demands on immigration – One can be a Zionist if one supports Israel by donations or politically in the country they inhabit.
This has been the first crack in the armor called Zionist political ideology.
There are more.
One major factor that kept Jewish communities Jewish in the diaspora is the religion.
Zionism negated the diaspora and thus, indirectly, not only the diaspora but the Jewish religion as such; For a Zionist one could be Jewish and not practice the Jewish religion. All that was needed for being Jewish was to just be an Israeli, i.e., living in Israel.
This is not true of Jews in the diaspora. If one does not practice the religion or identify oneself as belonging to the Jewish religion one denounces being Jewish.
The result is that Zionism separated national identity from religious identity. It had many repercussions.
First it made the secular Israeli not feel part and parcel of the world Jewry.
Israelis abroad keep themselves in a separate community from the Jewish community.
Furthermore, not having religious limitations, secular Israeli are more prone to marry out of the religion. This creates further separation of Israel vs. world Jewry.
The whole question what does it mean to be Jewish is now wide open and asking for an answer.
As long as being Jewish meant being of the Jewish religion this question did not have to be answered. With secular Zionism it IS a burning question.
Moreover, if Israel ceases to exist and nations, as different from religion, do have a shorter life cycle.
There is more to the emerging rift between Israel and the Jewish community in the diaspora.
Israeli occupation of Palestine has created a strong backlash worldwide. It has ignited long dormant anti Semitic sentiments. It is endangering the physical safety and social standing of Jews in the diaspora. Increasingly, the interests of Israel to hold on to the territories are clashing with the interests of the world Jewry to be accepted by the people they live with. It is not strange that the leaders of the BDP movement to impose sanctions on products produced in occupied territories are all Jews.
I think that a new Jewish identity is being created not related to religion. It is the identity of the Israeli.
But is that what we want? A nationalism without the religion to be like all nations?
Nations have a shorter life span than religions. No nation has the track record of two thousand years the Jewish nation has. It has it because it is based on religion.
So may be the answer is religious nationalism.
Religious nationalism has its own drawbacks. The settlers embraced it. They are the ones who are giving the headache to Israeli politics by insisting on occupying the West Bank which prohibits the Palestinians to have their own country. This is the source of rising anti-Semitism around the world and the break down of Israeli society.
What to do?
The concept of Zionism, and what it means to be Jewish needs review and redesign.
We need to extract what it means to be Jewish values wise. For instance, Tikun Olam, repair the world, is one value I cherish and consider as the corner stone of being Jewish. Mutual support is another one. One more: The commitment to seek the truth in whatever we do. High conscience is another one.
Can we extrapolate what it means to be Jewish as a value system. Then how do we reinforce it. How do we institutionalize it beyond the prayer book?
Culturally. Socially. Behaviorally.
Once that is done we can proceed to what is modern Zionism based on the new definition of being Jewish.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes
Post script to those who know Adizes theory:
Religions start with (I). That is why they are usually created in time of social crisis. Religions have a life cycle too and over time (A) is developed, rituals, prayer books. As (A) grows, (I) declines. And that is what has happened to Jewish religion too.
I am suggesting going back to the (I) component of being Jewish or we are losing many young people to spirituality away from Judaism.
Another point, with the establishment of Israel (P) became dominant in Jewish Israeli culture. Nationalism. Another reason for (I) to suffer. For religion to be rejected. Nationalist religion (PI) has political burden. The paper above suggest going back and redefine (I) in what it means to be Jewish and subsequently a Zionist.