Friday, September 24, 2010

Reflections on Zionism, Islamism, Peace Talks, Identity

Disjointed reflections

I see the current waves of "Islamism" to be a non-liberal counter reaction to and an Islamic version of Zionism. Both, to me, are nationalist movements not religious. So, I, an Egyptian American and a Muslim am supposed to feel more in common with a Hui Chinese Muslim, than I do with my next door Jewish neighbors or my Egyptian Christian childhood friends. In certain respect Islamism suggests that Islam becomes the main identity I have, the “only” group I belong to. So a religious movement with nationalist soul and color…

With Zionism you see the reverse, a nationalist movement with religious wrappings. You can be an atheist "Jew" yet still belong to the Jewish people; clearly an alternate non-religious, national identity. This very point as I know causes a lot of stress in Israel between the secularists who see Judaism and Jewish more of an overarching identity that accept people of Jewish origins regardless of their religious beliefs and views. The religious clearly see it differently and for them religion is so central in their own life and some of those interpret religious text in ways that are exclusive, others accept religion in an non exclusive fashion but also adopt secular Zionism.

I see Zionism in different parts, one is the rise of the Jewish people and their identification as a nation by themselves and others, second is the claim for a homeland, third is the choice of Palestine for a homeland.

With the oppression the Jews have suffered throughout their history at the hands of whichever majority they lived under it is hard for anyone to stand against the desire to be considered as a nation. The way I see it, what right do I have telling the majority of East Timorean people they are not a distinct nation, if the majority of Texans wanted to be a separate nation that is their call. The Jews have plenty of reason to want to proclaim their own identity even before the WWII holocaust.

Second is the claim to a homeland, where never again Jews can be a minority living under the whims of the majority at times accommodating and friendly and at times oppressive but almost always suspicious and watchful. That too is understandable and again if the majority of Jews want it I am all for it. Even if a minority wants it and don't wish to impose it on others then power to them.

The third and most troubling aspect is really in applied Zionism not in Zionism itself, is the choice of Palestine for the homeland. Zionism, a secular nationalist movement, needed to capture the imagination of the non secular Jews and hence the introduction of Palestine rather than Tasmania or other relatively unpopulated piece of real estate. In doing so applied Zionism undermined a basic foundation of Zionism of never again living as a minority or even facing that possibility.

So today’s' applied Zionism has to wrestle with this sad contradiction of being a liberation movement and a colonial movement, of being a movement that is race blind towards Jews yet racist towards non Jews.

The Secular advocates of Zionism betrayed their secular principles to attract more Jews, to protect more Jews and to liberate more Jews, they mixed their secular vision with biblical history and focused on Palestine and they gained a great deal of success that would probably never been possible had they opted for any other piece of real estate apart from Palestine. The price of this success has to be either giving up the vision of never again facing the possibility of being threatened of becoming minority OR giving up Zionism as a moral liberation movement and turning it forever into a colonial supremacist movement that aims to subjugate the natives forever.

AA - updated from Feb 2, 2007

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