My course this week focuses on early Zionism and the characters leading up to and involved in the First Zionist Congress. so I was drawn to this opinion article "The myth of Zionist imperialism" by Eli Kavon on jpost.com. Kavon argues that calling Zionist imperialists is absurd. He explains that Rabbi Yehuda Alkalai desired a Jewish homeland far before Herzl as a direct reaction to the imperialism of the Ottoman Empire. In fact, the Zionism movement in general was a reaction to the Jews inability to true members of European nations. "From the beginning, the Zionist movement has been a foe of imperialism. Rebellions of national independence against the Ottoman and Russian empires influenced precursors of the Zionist movement, such as Alkalai and Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer. Moses Hess, a socialist, looked toward Garibaldi's Italy as his inspiration for a Jewish homeland in Israel." (Kavon, 2009).
The Zionist never wished to create an empire. They wanted only a homeland for the Jews. While Zionist eventually worked with the British empire to create the state of Israel, Britain eventually turned her back on the Jews. Additionally, Kavon argues that on top of calling Zionist imperialists, they also call them racists. Again, in what way are they racists? As Kavon states in his article, "Racist hatred is not just a matter of hating a people for the color of their skin. The Holocaust is the ultimate proof of that. Europe and the Muslim world were never a home for the Jews. The empires of the Christian and Muslim world could have cared one iota about Jewish survival and the Jewish future." (Kavon) Jews were excepted by neither society and suffered at the hands of both (either by genocide or exile). Even if Jews were allowed to live within a society, like Napoleon's France, they were expected to prove themselves as citizens. Like the people of Europe and the Middle East, Jews wanted to have their own culture and their own nation. Israel gave them a land away from the crushing colonialism.
Beyond being historically connected to the land of Israel, the Jewish state was created on land that had never been a settled state. It was always the land of some foreign power. In 1948 a partition plan was offered and it was refused. Calling Jews imperialist is an excuse. It gives the anti-Israel side a "rational" reason to hate Zionism: no one can call them antisemitic. No one can assume they want the destruction of Israel. No one can wonder if they've fallen into the trap of believing there is a mass Zionist conspiracy to take over the world. They are simply racist colonizers and the only way to promote peace in the region is to take their land away.
Parashat Mishpatim: Radical Empathy
1 year ago