Israel and Jewishness

Naturally, this post will address barely a red-hair’s worth of the actual questions about Israel and Jewishness, but I happened to read Rich Cohen’s Israel is Real recently, and then stumbled across this JP article on proposed changes to Israeli law, so I had some thoughts.

Zionism, in its earliest incarnation, was about creating a place where Jews were free to be Jews. Herzl was not a religious man, but was forever set apart by his Jewishness. He covered the Dreyfus trial in France, which convinced him of the gathering storm. He wanted to create a place in which being Jewish was unexceptional.

Antizionism, in its earliest incarnation, opposed this. It felt that making aliyah, moving to the land of Israel, was nefarious, in its original sense – unholy. That it forced G-d’s hand. That it was not yet time. That the Jews were meant to be a people apart, and that nationalism would never fix that.

Orwell’s description of Britain as “a family with the wrong members in charge” is frighteningly appropriate for Israel. The devil’s deal between far-right parties that puts the most fundamentalist Orthodox rabbis in charge of conversion is the most recent example of this.  Not only are the wrong members in charge, but they have the will out of the envelope, and want to write everyone else out of it. The haredi and hardliners want to cut out the rest of the Diaspora – declare Conservative and Reform conversions invalid, severely restrict who can claim to be Jewish. In essence, they want to undo the Zionist project. They want to make it so that, even in Israel, being a Jew is exceptional. They want Israel to stop being a homeland for all Jews, and make it “holy.” They want to remove the escape pod, declare the Jews of the Diaspora lesser children. They are, basically, the worst thing that could possibly happen to Israel.

In the States, we have a similar strand. As Shas and Israel Beiteinu in Israel want to dismantle the Zionist project, we have forces in the US that want to dismantle the American project. The Republican party, especially, loves to court them – the Michelle Bachmann types, the ones who declare holy wars, or want to but birthright citizen ship. Our survival, much like Israel’s, depends on how firmly we can resist them. Once the American project, or the Zionist project, stop being universal, stop being about the better angels of our nature, it ends, it dies. All we can do is resist them tooth and nail.

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